It's hard to have a conversation about Canada's economy these days without it touching on our natural resource wealth, and the global reach of our mining companies. But there's one part of this conversation that Canadian provinces may be missing: how they can become global leaders in a burgeoning international effort to improve governance and transparency in the extractive sector.
Gold mining is one of the most destructive things we do, and the reasons to worry about it are endless. Acid mine drainage -- a process through which non-usable materials found in gold deposits are exposed, acidified, and leached into the surrounding environment -- threatens water quality and is a common occurrence at gold mines worldwide. Other toxins like mercury are released through mining, further impacting local water systems. In a rainforest like Clayoquot Sound, water is the central element, and by jeopardizing it we jeopardize everything from salmon rehabilitation to cultural practices to recreational opportunities.
The reality is that mining is no longer about brute strength and pickaxes. It is now one of the most technologically advanced industries in the world. And as an industry that is currently pushing the boundaries of engineering and technology, we should be appealing to young women everywhere to become involved.
Amani may know nothing about the trillions of dollars' worth of minerals hiding beneath the ground of her country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). But she may reap the benefits of her country's mineral wealth in the future, thanks to a new Canadian G8 commitment announced by Harper in London last week.
Quebec's political leaders seem to have fallen for the Great Green Dream of economic prosperity without energy or natural resource production. It's a magical vision of a world powered by unicorns and rainbows, where consumer goods are somehow conjured out of thin air rather than being manufactured with resources extracted from the ground. But experience in Europe shows that chasing the green dream is a path to financial ruin, not utopia. Quebec's one-two punch to energy and natural resource production is most likely to hurt the province itself more than the industries who might invest there.
International trade will be a key growth driver for the Canadian economy this year and next. However, the distribution of export growth in Canada's provinces is anything but even. Some are leading the charge, while others are steady at the national pace. Others are lagging behind, some quite seriously. What are the key factors influencing the different growth patterns?
There is merit to Peter Munk's position. If shareholders truly believe in pay for performance, then it is equally important to attract and motivate executive talent in a downturn as it is in an upturn. This means, paradoxically, that a compensation committee will pay out more, in spite of low stock price, and rein in executive pay during an upturn.
Although industrial projects like the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline or the recently defeated mega-quarry in Ontario typically grab the headlines and bring out public opposition, it's often the combined impacts of a range of human activities on the same land base that threaten to drive nature beyond critical tipping points.
Bill Clinton at the DNC said what white- and blue-collar workers have known for 30 years: you need to invest in people to have an innovative and productive economy. My coach, used to say "you get corn, if you plant corn." Neither in government nor in business have we been planting corn. We quit planting it almost 30 years ago when we got rid of middle management in government and the private sector, and as the economy reveals, we are losing.
The new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012), which came into effect last month, allows the federal government to create mandatory timelines for assessments of even the largest and most important projects, regardless of public opposition. Last Friday the CEAA announced timelines for nine projects under review, giving us our first look at how much time the government will allow for federal environmental assessments. It doesn't look very good.
In the Congo, a small town called Bunagana is falling to rebel troops. This led to 600 government soldiers and thousands of refugees fleeing into Uganda. What does this have to do with Canada? Everything. The DRC is the stage of a violent and bloody conflict that is being fueled by a rush for resource exploitation. The conflict may seem far away but Canada is right in the heart of it all.
We've all heard the message time and time again: We need to send more people to colleges and universities, and ensure our country is well-educated. This is great in theory; after all, no one is against apple pie. But the reality is that we can't flip a switch and guarantee everyone has a university degree in 10 years. This isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Ontario and Quebec should stop badmouthing the west and demand reform to the immigration mess Ottawa has perpetuated since 1986. The burden of providing healthcare, education, and other social services for new immigrants has added more costs to their budgets than interest on their debts, the Detroit bailout, and all-day junior kindergarten in Ontario or $7-a-day daycare in Quebec combined.