Canada excels at cultivating unified opposition to energy initiatives but remains a laggard in developing a unified approach to energy and other national trade policies. That lack of cohesion in a vast country with a small population remains a major impediment to marketing and maximizing return on its resource riches.
Meanwhile, forces at home and abroad continue to rail against pipelines, energy export terminals and other primary infrastructure needed to get Canada’s resources to world markets without relying on the U.S. as a customer or delivery conduit.
It’s refreshing then to find advocacy for avenues that promote rather than complicate national trade development. Consider, for example, the recently released research paper from the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. It calls for the establishment of a multi-modal northern corridor right-of-way that would expedite the transportation of goods and people to all three Canadian coasts.
The corridor, according to the paper’s authors, would drive economic development by improving market access to the wider world for Canadian products. It would also help attract private investment, especially to mono-dimensional northern economies.
The 7,000-kilometre corridor would not come cheap: around $100 billion, according to the report’s estimates. But the potential long-term social and economic impact of a 21st-century version of the ambitious national railway initiative that helped create and unite Canada would dwarf that investment, especially in light of the growing protectionist sentiment emanating from the United States. As the report points out, the corridor would go well beyond patchwork regional initiatives to create “integrated economic development and more efficient movement of commodities to domestic and foreign markets.” That holistic national vision has long eluded Canada when it comes to energy and other core economic fundamentals.
The unfortunate reality is that Canada remains a big country constrained by small-time regional thinking and a negativity surplus that threatens to retard its potential when it should be poised for greatness.