Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On trade-offs

Much of the recent discussion as to how to develop a strong and sustainable Canadian economy has included absolutely no challenge to the theory that natural resource development is somehow a driver of increased jobs. So let's take a closer look at the relative economic contributions of the natural resource sector which the Cons are so determined to prioritize above all others, and the manufacturing sector that's suffering as a result.

Here are Statistics Canada's total job numbers by industry for 2011 - which lump together "Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas" into a single unit employing a grand total of 337,200 people. And even oil industry spinmeisters say the great promise arising from a free-for-all in unfettered oil sands growth is "tens of thousands" of jobs over the next couple of decades, signalling that there's no great jobs boom to be had by placing further emphasis on the sector.

By way of comparison, Statistics Canada shows that manufacturers provided 1,760,200 jobs across Canada - five times the amount provided by the entire resource sector. And there are plenty of those that stand to be lost to high resource prices: in fact the study so often cited as showing merely a "mild" case of Dutch Disease so far also points to a loss of 200,000 jobs already, with plenty more to come as the Cons push even further toward emphasizing resource extraction.

And in case there's any doubt, the massive net loss of jobs caused by focusing on resource development at the expense of manufacturing won't be made up for by higher wages. Yes, resource-sector jobs pay somewhat more than their manufacturing-sector counterparts - but the difference is on a scale of substantially less than 2-to-1, in contrast to the 5-to-1 ratio in present-day jobs and seemingly similar scale of job effects as our dollar's value is further influenced by resource extraction.

So the Cons' emphasis on resource extraction is just another aspect of their consistent goal of making sure that Canadian workers see as little benefit as possible from our country's economic activity. And citizens from all regions of Canada should be able to see how damaging that is to everybody but the Cons' corporate benefactors.

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