Oilsands boom brings economic risks: reportGovernments should do more to mitigate risks and regional disparities associated with rapid oilsands

Nov. 13, 2013

CALGARY/MONTREAL/OTTAWA — The rapid pace of oilsands development is creating economic risks and regional disparities that need to be addressed, according to a new report released today by the Pembina Institute and Équiterre.

Booms, Busts and Bitumen: The economic implications of Canadian oilsands development looks at the side effects of the oilsands boom in uncertain economic times and presents a counterpoint to the frequently overstated economic benefits of oilsands expansion.

The report indicates that the overwhelming majority of those economic benefits — both direct and indirect — are limited to Alberta. Other provinces will benefit less: even the United States would gain more employment opportunities from the oilsands than the rest of Canada if oilsands development goes ahead as projected. Meanwhile, the economic side effects of the boom, such as a high dollar that makes it harder for manufacturers to compete globally, are being felt across the country.

These unintended consequences we're seeing today should serve as warning signs, given the rapid projected growth of the oilsands. By favouring oil and gas over other economic sectors with longer-term growth potential, the federal government is putting the prosperity of all Canadians at risk.

The report provides pragmatic recommendations to address these concerns, such as improving the management of one-time resource wealth and eliminating preferential tax treatment for the oil and gas sector.


“Oilsands production is projected to grow significantly in the years ahead. That carries risks for our environment and, as today's report shows, for our economy as well. We need responsible policies for oilsands development to protect Canadians' long-term prosperity.”
— Sarah Dobson, Oilsands Program Economist, Pembina Institute

“The manufacturing sectors of Ontario and Quebec have been, and still are, suffering greatly from the rapid increase in the value of the Canadian dollar. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to register with the federal government. A truly national economic and energy plan would benefit communities and industries across the country, not just in one region.”
— Steven Guilbeault, Co-Founder and Senior Director, Équiterre

By the numbers

  • In Canada, only 14 per cent of the employment opportunities created by oilsands development will be in provinces outside of Alberta.
  • According to the Bank of Canada, one-third of the Canadian manufacturing sector’s decline is due to a more expensive dollar. Rising commodity prices account for anywhere from 40 to 75 per cent of the loonie’s recent rise.
  • Previous research has shown that a $1-million investment in clean energy creates 15 jobs, compared to just two jobs from investing in oil and gas.




Booms, Busts and Bitumen: The economic implications of Canadian oilsands development is available in English or en français.


Julia Kilpatrick (English / français)
Communications Director, Pembina Institute
Cell: 403-953-0350

Julie Tremblay (English / français)
Media Relations, Équiterre
Cell: 514-605-2000


Report: In the Shadow of the Boom: How oilsands development is reshaping Canada’s economy (released in May 2012)

Op-ed: “Canada’s economic challenges go beyond Dutch disease” (July 2012)

Op-ed: “Vanquishing the “bitumen bubble” will require fresh ideas, not business as usual” (January 2013)

Blog: “Albertans don’t just pay to ride the resource rollercoaster — they risk having to clean up once the carnival leaves town” (April 2013)


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