by William Kimber
In the decade to come and beyond, the policy choices at the interface of energy, the environment and the economy are of critical importance to the sustainable well-being of western Canadians, and for that matter all Canadians.
Across the four western provinces, the diversity of energy production and distribution systems, along with differing energy consumption and trade circumstances, provides a microcosm of the broader Canadian energy challenge. British Columbia and Manitoba’s large hydro resources, Alberta’s endowment of unconventional oil, and Saskatchewan’s uranium deposits are examples of the different lenses that each provincial government needs to apply to energy, environment and economic policy.
As commodity based, trade exposed and relatively emissions intensive economies, the four western provinces also face similar challenges. Western Canada’s resource endowments are substantial—but the ability to bring commodities like unconventional crude and shale or tight gas to market may be increasingly constrained by environmental and social acceptance in our primary export markets in the United States.
The challenge presented by growing populations requires a vision for western Canadian industries, cities and infrastructure that involves greater efficiency of energy use and expansion of power supply in an environmentally and socially acceptable manner. In the second half of 2010, the Canada West Foundation is launching “Powering up for the Future” which aims to assist decision makers in government, industry and the broader community to navigate the choices we face in driving Canada’s interests forward.
For example, what are the regional opportunities in the “new energy economy,” what are the risks with a business-as-usual approach to our current resource and energy consumption directions, and how committed is Canada to becoming a clean energy superpower?
Keep an eye out for the following key research outputs in the coming months from the first phase of “Powering Up”:
- a strategic overview of western Canada’s energy situation and policies including production, consumption, trade, and economic drivers for the provincial economies;
- a range of opinion survey work to identify and analyze attitudes towards energy, the environment and the economy in the West and across Canada; and
- a series of “extra-ordinary conversations” with energy leaders from across the West.
Some of the Foundations’ research highlights for the fall include:
- A study of Saskatchewan’s taxation system in partnership with the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce and a range of other funders (release date is October 14).
- The recent release of “Blackened Reputation”—an analysis of media coverage of Canada’s oil sands with some surprising results, which go to the nature of reputational risk in our export markets.
- October and November roundtables for the New Energy Economy project that will bring together thought leaders from industry, government and the community to discuss and quantify opportunities across each of the four western provinces.
- The upcoming release of “State of the West 2010,” a key reference analyzing economic and social trends across the four western provinces.
- The upcoming release of a range of reports under the “Going For Gold” project (in partnership with Western Economic Diversification) including a report on western Canada’s Asia-Pacific trade, with a specific focus on India and China in the Asia-Pacific context, and a report on the green economy in western Canada.
- The book release of “Extraordinary Conversations” which summarizes the key themes from a series of interviews with 50 western Canadian thought leaders on what it will take to make western Canada a great place to live in the 21st century.
- A range of work on the key water policy issues facing Canada, including a framework for water pricing in Canada and further work with the Alberta Water Resources Institute.
- Collaborative policy work with the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on the event series, “Changing the Climate.”
With such a range and scale of research activities underway, this is a busy time! However, in addition the Foundation is also committed to our regular economic monitoring work and our engagement with the media and other stakeholders on key policy issues as they emerge.
The Foundation’s Board is star studded and includes a range of highly accomplished leaders from industry, government and the community. Our Executives-in-Residence—Mike Cleland, Sheila O’Brien and Barry Worbets—bring a wealth of knowledge, expertise and energy. Our new and existing core research team members bring many decades of combined research and policy analysis experience, and our new Research Fellows and interns further round out the team.
Next year the Foundation will celebrate its 40th year anniversary as the only think tank dedicated to pan-western Canadian policy issues. The Foundation is well positioned to build on its track-record as a leading source of strategic insight through conducting and communicating non-partisan economic and public policy research of importance to the future of the four western provinces and all Canadians.
Thank you, then, to the Foundation’s many supporters, funders and members for your continuing support in driving the Foundation’s high impact research. As we move towards 2011 and beyond with this full and exciting research agenda, I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to drive outcomes for the benefit of Canada.