The Role Of Canada’s Resources In Delivering Our Modern World

By: Grant Wilde, President & CEO, Spartan Controls

This place we call home, Canada, is outstanding in so many ways. From the landscapes to the mountains to the seascapes, coast to coast to coast, we are so fortunate to live and work in such an extraordinary place. Beyond the beauty, we also enjoy a standard of living that is exceptional by any measure and unmatched by almost anywhere else in the world. In just over 150 years, we have developed from a new country with many willing and resilient new Canadians striving to build a nation, to one of the most modern and prosperous societies on earth. It has been possible only because of an abundance of Canadian resourcefulness and resources. The year 2020 will certainly be remembered by most of us as unlike any experienced before. To ensure we continue to prosper and deliver our modern world, it is vitally important that we consciously bring our collective strengths together; leveraging our resourcefulness while responsibly developing and exporting our resources.  

Growing up in a rural small town in Western Canada, the importance of ‘getting the crop off’ could not be clearer. Our small community depended on the success of local farmers. It was only when I became a young adult that I came to understand the value of our Canadian resources. As the world’s number one exporter of agriculture crops including: canola, oats, maple syrup, lentils, dry peas and fabulous blueberries, in very material ways, the rest of the world was also depending on our farmers and rural Canadians.

As a graduate engineer, I soon began to realize, beyond farming and food for the world’s tables, Canada had amazing other natural resources. As the fourth largest oil producer in the world, we have helped power our industrial complex and transportation networks from planes, trains to ships and automobiles. Our oil also contributes to the making of over six thousand other products used in our daily lives, from the clothes we wear and the phones we use, to the toys our children enjoy, and the cars we drive.

Globally, Canada is the sixth largest producer of natural gas. We fortunately have the abundance of another energy source that efficiently heats our homes, is used by some to cook their food, and helps create a wide variety of useful derivative products such as fertilizer for our crops, to plastics and other molecules, like hydrogen, essential for a greener energy source.

Canada is also a powerhouse for mining. Hard rock metals like uranium, aluminium, zinc, gold and copper have a wide variety of uses from electricity generation, to automotive manufacturing, jewelry and electronics. Significant current and future mining opportunities exist in graphite, cobalt and lithium, which are essential for battery production. We are the second largest miner in the world of niobium, used in the production of semi conductors, and essential to our world’s computer technology platforms. We are also number one in the key mineral of potash, with about 30 per cent of the world’s potash produced in Saskatchewan, another key ingredient in fertilizer which ensures successful growth of the world’s food crops.

Canada leads the world in forestry products, with the third largest forested land mass in the world. We have responsibly developed our forests over several generations now, producing a broad range of building materials for our homes, print materials for our enjoyment and many other consumer products.

Canada also has the world’s largest fresh water supply. Water is the key resource for the success of any society, including growing our food, and generating almost 70 per cent of our electricity across our great country.

I could go on, however, perhaps the point has been made. By any measure, as Canadians, we are blessed with an amazing richness of natural resources that have driven almost unmatched prosperity.

Having the resources doesn’t necessarily mean success though. That is where resourcefulness comes in. Canada boasts a world leading 57 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds with post secondary education. Additionally, with several Canadian universities in the QS World University Rankings top 40, we make the top 5 per cent in their global ranking. A well-educated population has been an essential part of nation building, creating strong vibrant communities, innovating and unleashing the bounty of resources and prosperity we have. It is also key to leveraging the latest technology to add value to those resources.

Canada is a leading exporter in so many natural resources, not just because we have them, but because we have the intellectual know-how to develop them, responsibly and competitively. High productivity often includes intensive physical, human and intangible capital. Adaption of advanced technologies and economies of scale are critical to developing strong competitively priced exportable products and services, which in turn are necessary for economic prosperity and employment. Expert knowledge is also critical to adding unique value to those resources.

Exports bring in revenue and investment to create jobs, promote further growth, and of course, pay for the outstanding social programs from health to education that we cherish and each benefit from as citizens. Exports are essential in building the Canada we know and love. In a post COVID economy, they need to play an even bigger role in crossing the debt chasm that has been created. Imports in general terms contribute to our standard of living, but they cost money. Money that is often paid to others in far away locations. For Canada to thrive again, the largest elements of our exports; crude oil/natural gas/petroleum products, metals/minerals/related products, forestry products, farm/fishing/food products, plastic and rubber products all need to take flight again.