Just as diversity is important to healthy ecosystems, it is also the cornerstone of a healthy economy. Too often in Canada we hear about our "resource-based economy." The implication is that, while other countries can stimulate their economies through innovation and manufacturing, Canada's role is to remove materials from the ground and ship them elsewhere. This strategy not only limits our ability to develop and grow economically, it leaves us vulnerable to the whims of an increasingly volatile market.
Canadians have recently seen first-hand what can happen when volatile resource markets fluctuate. When other oil-producing countries decide to increase production, the price of gasoline can fall dramatically. This may seem like a good thing to bargain-hunting commuters at the local pumps, but it can leave our provincial and federal governments in a tight spot.
Alberta's economy is expected to shrink by 0.3 per cent in 2015 in the wake of falling oil prices, and the Conference Board of Canada has revised its estimate of national economic annual growth to 1.9 per cent, down from 2.4 per cent in November. Unemployment in Alberta is also expected to rise from 4.7 per cent to 6.8 per cent by the end of the year.
Luckily, we have better options. Rather than investing heavily in resource extraction, Canada should seize this opportunity to accelerate the growth of our clean energy economy. With its Trottier Energy Futures Project, the Foundation is working with engineers to examine Canada's clean energy potential. And Analytica Advisors reports suggest an explosion is underway in the revenue and employment potential of Canada's clean tech industry, with more than 700 clean technology companies now operating in Canada, generating over $11 billion per year. The sector grew by nine per cent between 2011 and 2012, providing employment for 41,000 people. During the same period the mining and oil and gas industries grew by just 0.3 per cent.
Clearly, it's time to invest in a greener future. As extraction projects across the country are forced to shut down in the face of plummeting oil prices, the workers they lay off (and the Canadian economy in general) can find security and growth in the green economy.