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Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy

Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy

Photo by Luke Jones | CC BY 2.0

The national debate about how to get diluted bitumen to trans-oceanic markets by means of a twinning of the existing Kinder Morgan pipeline route between Alberta and British Columbia – known as the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project – illustrates the sad state of economic planning, diversification and vision in Canada.

The current policy of dependence on the sale of carbon-based energy resources, coupled with reliance on residential real estate construction and sale, is a short-sighted environmental and industrial strategy for a nation such as Canada. The country’s forecast continued dependence on the extraction of oil and gas, the burning of which our planet can no longer sustain, along with our primary devotion to the FIRE (Finance, Insurance and Real Estate) model of wealth creation does not serve the well-being of all Canadians nor preserve our natural environment. Instead, we should be considering alternative economic approaches that affirm Canadian economic sovereignty through the creation of jobs and socially re-invested dividends linked to a sustainable future.

It is time we organize our economy along different lines, putting people, communities and the environment ahead of pipeline revenues, quarterly profits, and energy stock prices. That this may pose challenges is not a matter of dispute. Nevertheless, our reluctance to revise or discard established ways of doing things has been an impediment to change in the past.  This was noted fifty years ago by the distinguished Canadian economic historian Harold Innis, who, in discussing our political culture, noted our “infinite capacity for self-congratulation.”  This complacency is perhaps not surprising when one considers our rich abundance of resources, land, and water; our good fortune to be situated next to the world’s economic behemoth which possessed an apparently insatiable appetite for our raw materials and commodities; and, finally, our small population occupying an immense landmass according each individual an almost blessed sense of space, ease and, for a time, opportunity.

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