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February 3, 2014

Canada dives head first into the "new industrial revolution"

As the Province of Alberta remains at the forefront of Canada's new industrial revolution, thanks to its work around oil and gas development in the country, the resulting economic impact on Ontario has proven to be significant.

“The construction side of oil, gas and energy extraction involves Ontario quite heavily,” said Brian Dijkema, program director, work and economics at Cardus.

Dijkema said Ontario is one of the key places that is developing parts for pipeline projects and other facilities.

Cardus recently released a paper ahead of their conference in Toronto titled Canada’s New Industrial Revolution, which aims to bring a variety of industry players together to address issues around Canada’s resource extraction sector.

“There’s been less discussion about the role of the construction industry in ensuring that those resources can be developed,” he said.

“The industry as a whole is coming together to address the challenges they can’t meet on their own.”

According to the document, oilsands investments will account for 140,000 person years of employment in Ontario from 2010-2035 — the second highest gains after Alberta.

Ontario’s own resource development future looks promising with the development of its Ring of Fire located in the northern part of the province.

The mineral deposit containing chromite, nickel, copper, zinc and gold has an estimated recoverable value of $30 billion to $50 billion and “could achieve impacts on a scale equal to, or surpassing, oil sands development”.

The paper also highlights other resource projects happening across the country, including natural gas extraction in British Columbia, the Bakken Fields of Saskatchewan, potential development of gas hydrates in the east coast and massive hydroelectric power projects in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The paper does not expect demand for Canada’s resources to drastically dip anytime soon.

This is thanks to high energy consumption from countries such as China, India, Brazil and the United States.

And, unlike other global resource powerhouses, most of Canada’s developments are privately owned and government-regulated, which is seen as a positive because it allows more industry players to get involved.

“The private nature of development within a democratically derived regulatory framework allows for a more stable, innovative, and socially inclusive development of resources,” states the paper.

The Cardus document also outlines the challenges that some of these developments face.

There are questions whether investors will be willing to throw money into developments based on prices set by customers. Another possible challenge is the limited transmission capacity that will allow resources to travel easily across the country.

A labour shortage is also a key issue which bears the question: “Can Canada attract, recruit, train, and place sufficient numbers of journeypersons and apprentices to meet the demand?”

Environmental concerns have also caused wide debate about responsible methods of extracting these resources.

Dijkema said these issues will be addressed at the upcoming conference, which will be a platform to collaborate on ideas toward potential solutions.

“What’s interesting is that what’s required now from industry is not simply a matter of getting government approval but getting people on side with their projects,” said Dijkema.

“Is it going to be perfect? Absolutely not.”

Cardus’ Canada’s New Industrial Revolution conference took place on Jan. 23.

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