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March 6, 2018 | Decisions Based on Facts or Fears?

Stewart Muir is founder and executive director of the Resource Works Society, a Vancouver-based group open to participation by British Columbians from all walks of life who are concerned about their future economic opportunities. He is an author, journalist and historian with experience on three continents including a financial editor of The Vancouver Sun responsible for mining and markets coverage. Since Resource Works was established in 2014, the group has gained international recognition for its practical approach to the public challenges of responsible natural resource development and use.

Canada’s natural resource development opponents are indicating that an increase in the number of crude oil tankers leaving the Port of Vancouver would make a catastrophic crude oil spill inevitable.  They continue to promote this position even though their evidence has been considered and rejected by the judicial bodies involved.


Our legal system relies on people giving testimony relating to facts, and occasionally on the opinions of duly qualified experts.  Having failed to achieve their objectives in Canada’s legal system, opponents now insist that social licence from the community is a prerequisite for any commercial development.  They prefer this approach because social licence does not rely on facts or duly qualified experts, but rather on the opinions of average citizens. Opponents know, that unlike actual experts, the intuition and perceptions of average citizens can be influenced with emotionally charged rhetoric and disinformation.

One strategy deployed by Canada’s natural resource development opponents is to massively inflate the associated risks, while massively understating the importance of resource development to Canada’s economy. For example, a common statement by opponents suggests that the resource sectors are responsible for only 5% of Canada’s GDP and a modest number of jobs.  This is a ridiculous argument that completely ignores the extent to which resource development drives things like secondary processing, manufacturing, construction, the service sector, public services, and innovation.  Without resource development, demand for products and services in multiple sectors would be a fraction of what they are today. The fact is that diminished resource development in Canada means a diminished future for all Canadians. It means Canada will have a diminished ability to transition to a low carbon future, or; to improve the living standards of indigenous peoples and the poor. There is no “new economy” on hand to replace the “old economy” they seek to destroy.

As for increased tanker traffic on Canada’s west coast, no one is disputing that a major spill would be a catastrophe.  However, it’s important to note that oil tankers have been moving safely and regularly along Canada’s West Coast since the 1930’s. Every single day, modern technology enables crude oil tankers to traverse ports around the world without incident.  Here in British Columbia, an independent risk analysis was conducted by Det Norske Veritas, a globally respected authority on marine safety. The risk areas they have identified have been mitigated through Canada’s new World Class Tanker Safety System.  Among the safety features of this new system, two Canadian pilots are required to be aboard every double-hulled tanker leaving port, and; a powerful tugboat is tethered to the rear of the tanker to ensure maneuverability in the event the tanker lost power and became adrift. The dedicated men and women who work within this system, many of whom are life-long British Columbians who have worked on the water for their entire career, disagree with Canada’s natural resource development opponents that a catastrophic crude oil spill on Canada’s west coast is inevitable.  Their expert opinions should carry far more weight than the opinions of the fear-mongers whose goal is to terminate resource development in our country.

If it proceeds, the Kinder Morgan Project is expected to generate $5.7 billion in benefits to the Province of British Columbia and over $20 billion to the federal government.  This revenue could immediately be used for many things, for example, the immediate construction of over 20,000 homes for less privileged people. If the pipeline does not proceed, it will serve as a tremendous blow to Canada’s reputation as a place to invest, and that together with the damage this would do to our relationships with the rest of Canada, should make us concerned for British Columbia’s future. Canadians need to decide if we’re going to make major economic decisions based on facts or fear.

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March 6th, 2018

Posted In: Resource Works

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