Alberta oilsands will benefit all provinces, think-tank says

The economic benefits of Alberta's oilsands will be felt in all provinces and lead to billions of dollars of jobs and investment across the country, says a report from a major think-tank.

Nearly ⅓ of supply chain effects will be outside Alberta, Conference Board of Canada says

The Conference Board of Canada says while Alberta is set to reap most of the benefits of the oilsands, economic activity there will spill over to all provinces. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The economic benefits of Alberta's oilsands will be felt in all provinces and will lead to billions of dollars of jobs and investment across the country, says a Conference Board of Canada report released today.

The think-tank says it expects the province's oilsands to generate $364 billion worth of economic activity over the next two decades, and create 880,000 person-years of employment.

"The majority of the supply chain effects will occur inside of Alberta, but nearly one-third will occur in other provinces," the report found.

The notion that all Canadian provinces stand to benefit from oilsands development is far from universal. NDP and Official Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair has suggested Canada's economy is suffering from a form of "Dutch Disease" whereby other sectors are negatively hit because of a suddenly powerful resources sector.

And  B.C. Premier Christy Clark has said she will not support a pipeline to ship oilsands bitumen to the West Coast unless her province gets more of the economic benefits.

Ontario stands to benefit

The Conference Board's report attempts to put a number to the amount of economic activity that can be expected to come out of the oilsands beyond Alberta's borders.

Next to Alberta, Ontario stands to benefit the most, the conference board says. It estimates that 14.8 per cent of the supply chain employment effects of the oilsands will be felt in Ontario. Next comes B.C., which stands to experience 6.7 per cent of the economic impact, then Quebec at 3.9 per cent.

The Prairies can expect to experience 3.7 per cent of the impact, followed by Atlantic Canada at 0.8 per cent, the report says.

Much of the reason for Ontario's surprising prominence comes from the province's manufacturing sector, but the conference board also notes that the massive, multi-year infrastructure projects in northern Alberta will create demand for administrative services such as employment agencies, scientific research and design services, and computer services.

The paper also notes that a significant percentage of oilpatch workers don't hail from Alberta, and that's bound to have benefits in those workers' home provinces. 

Tax revenues spread

"In total, we estimate that there were 5,200 out-of-province workers in Wood Buffalo-Cold Lake in 2011 and that they earned $280 million in labour income," the conference board says. 

Newfoundland and Labrador, British Columbia and Saskatchewan are the largest source provinces for these workers.

As well, government coffers across the country are likely to be padded by oilsands activity, the group says. In total, it calculates that oilsands activity will generate $45.3 billion worth of tax revenue for the federal government, and $34.1 billion for various provincial governments, between 2012 and 2035.

And the sector is also drawing much-needed foreign investment to Canada. The paper notes that afull 32 per cent of total investment in Canada's oil and gas sector has been foreign-based. The largest recent example of that is CNOOC's $15 billion takeover bid for Nexen, which still need's Ottawa's approval.

"Oilsands development will have wide-ranging effects on Canada’s economy," the report says.