Structural Regression, the Energy Boom, and Deindustrialization

I want to encourage folks to look through the CAW’s detailed submission to the federal government’s panel on competition policy (headed by Red Wilson).  Here is the link:

http://www.caw.ca/whoweare/CAWpoliciesandstatements/pdfs/CompetitionInvestmentPanel.pdf

I think it’s a major statement about the structural transformation occurring in Canada’s economy as a result of the global commodity boom.  Basic summary: high global commodity prices have boosted the profits (and market valuations) of Canadian resource companies, sparking a (surprisingly modest) reallocation of real production toward resource exports (especially oil).  The dollar shoots up as a result of global demand for Canadian corporate assets (stocks, and in many cases foreign takeovers of entire companies).  This sparks the decline of non-resource export industries (not just manufacturing, but also tourism and tradeable services), and a big shift toward low-productivity low-income non-tradeable services.  The government could short-circuit this whole chain by:

* regulating the pace of resource development

* taxing resource profits

* stopping the takeover of resource companies

By thus declaring that Canada’s resources are not for sale to the highest bidder, they would bring the loonie down dramatically and restore the viability of a more balanced economy (including manufacturing).

I and others have been making this argument for a year now, but just recently it has been getting some traction with reporters and others.   It certainly expands the economic case in favour of regulating foreign takeovers: not just because of the loss of control over those particular companies, but because of the negative side-effects on the whole economy.  A shorter version of the argument is contained in the industrial policy section of this year’s Alternative Federal Budget.

I’d be interested in any thoughts & feedback on the economic arguments, and ideas about how we can raise these issues politically (including in the coming federal election). 

2 comments

  • Mr. Stanford is once again showing his lack of knowledge in how financial things actually work – Manufacturing to service the booming oil field expansions is increasing as fast as workers can be found to do the manufacturing . We on the east coast have a shortage of skilled welders because of this .
    The one thing we can all be sure about – change is occurring every day , and will continue to do so . Whether the labor movement wants that change or not . they can resist that at great risk , or they can be part of the solution . The choice is up to them . There’s a saying ” you can lead the horse to the water trough , but you can’t force the horse to drink “.

    And in case you hadn’t noticed – resource companies are heavily taxed – some more than others . There are various levels of tax and royalties levied .

    Trying to regulate the pace of development is very risky business . However , better planning by provincial governments would be welcomed by all parties to a development . Fort Mc is a case in point . The developers knew how many workers were coming but Alberta did little to speed up developing the town-site infrastructure . The result is a very costly mess . Alberta shd have been spending some of the winfall royalties on this years ago .

    One of the great drivers of foreign takeovers in the oil patch was the cancellation of Income Trusts for this sector of our economy . Neither Flaherty nor Harper have ever run a successful business , nor has the bureaucrat that talked them into doing that .
    Thus the Conservatives / Reformers in charge brought about the great sale of Canadian companies that needed cash to continue expansion.

  • Don said:

    “Manufacturing to service the booming oil field expansions is increasing ”

    How delightful! Now how are things going in manufacturing outside that lucky sliver?

    “The one thing we can all be sure about – change is occurring every day , and will continue to do so ”

    My God! Such profundity! I was waiting with bated breath for “Every day, in every way, we’re getting better and better.”

    “resource companies are heavily taxed ”

    As a layman, I perforce trust Mr. Stanford as someone willing to show me the numbers. Where are yours?

    “Trying to regulate the pace of development is very risky business .”

    More profundity! No doubt leaving your home everyday is equally risky; do you have a maxim for that, too?

    “Neither Flaherty nor Harper have ever run a successful business , nor has the bureaucrat that talked them into doing that .”

    And you’re . . . wait, let me guess . . . George F. Babbit, right?

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