For years, Andrew Nikiforuk has warned that building an economy based on bitumen is monstrous folly. Now the folly has come home to roost. Nikiforuk reminded his readers about what the Canadian historian Harold Innis had written about resource traps:
Innis, our greatest historian, said that Canada had a resource addiction problem: it got hooked on the raw export of trees and rocks to global empires and then went on a mining binge, only to awake with no memory of the destruction and no markets.
Whether the resource was furs or lumber or asbestos, the story always ended the same way.
More recently, the American scholar Terry Lynn Karl turned her attention to what happens in petro-states:
[She] wrote that "Oil revenues are the catalyst for a chronic tendency of the state to become overextended, over-centralized and captured by special interests."
Karl herself warned Tyee readers in 2014 that if low oil prices persisted, then Canadians could expect to see "a rapidly declining Canadian dollar, greater problems over pipelines, the reduction of future investments, and a very bumpy oil ride, especially for Alberta."
And now the petro-state of Alberta, an impoverished kingdom with no savings and unrelenting deficits, has arrived at the doorstep of bitumen's future.
Stephen Harper has worked hard to make the Alberta model the Canadian model. We are now witnessing the predictable results of entrenching that model.
And Mr. Harper insists that he is a smart fellow.