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Greater oil and gas export capacity will boost Canadian dollar – and productivity

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Ian Madsen

It may be overly optimistic to think that Canadian producers could reap CAD$10 in gross profit per GJ, let alone the full almost-$20 price differential.  However, even if it is just $5 per GJ, that generates $90 million per day, or almost $33 billion per year.

Canada’s productivity performance has been dismal, having not increased over the last nearly ten years. Economists calculate productivity as the value of output divided by hours worked to generate that output.  However, the numerator, being the value of the goods and services produced, has been either neglected, or, when it is actually addressed, is looked at from the perspective of new, ‘high tech’ products and services (information technology, artificial intelligence, or advanced equipment, materials and devices).  While all these industries are important, other sectors boost value, too.

Foremost among those sectors is energy – where Canada has outstanding competitive advantages, but still does not get full value for its output.  Canada’s oil exports now go entirely to the United States, mostly via pipelines from Alberta and Saskatchewan, with a small amount sent by ship from the Vancouver area to U.S. West Coast customers.   All Canadian natural gas exports go entirely to the U.S., which already has a surplus.

The situation severely harms Canadian producers’ bargaining power, which causes them to experience severe discounts on natural gas and oil (whether heavy oil sands, Western Canada Select, ‘bitumen’; or conventional crude oil).  Fortunately, the situation will change radically, either next year, or, possibly, later this year.

The reason: Canada LNG, the first of possibly several West Coast liquefied natural gas liquefaction export terminals, should soon commence shipments to foreign buyers (South Korean, Japanese utilities, and others in East Asia).  The export capacity of the Kitimat, BC, facility is 1.8 billion cubic feet daily, or 1.8 million Gigajoules, ‘GJ’.

Natural gas now sells for about $2.50/GJ Canadian in Alberta, whereas East Asian recent prices were US$16.70:  about CAD$22.25.  (It costs several dollars to liquify, load, transport and re-gasify at destination each GJ.)  Every dollar of after-cost price differential flows directly to producers, and Canada’s balance of payments.  The balance of payments determines our loonie’s value, and, thus, Canada’s standard of living (also, to some extent, inflation).

It may be overly optimistic to think that Canadian producers could reap CAD$10 in gross profit per GJ, let alone the full almost-$20 price differential.  However, even if it is just $5 per GJ, that generates $90 million per day, or almost $33 billion per year.  As total exports were $596.9 billion in 2022, this would constitute an increase of about 5.5%.  This amounts to roughly $1,610 per person in Canada’s current 20.5 million-strong labour force – a big productivity increase for ‘little’ extra work (as everything will have already been built).

Yet, that is not all.  There is also the TransMountain, ‘TMX’, pipeline expansion, scheduled for completion this year.   Its extra capacity of 590,000 barrels per day is all slated to be exported.  If ‘just’ $10 extra per barrel is garnered (the U.S. heavy oil differential exceeds that, typically), that would bring $5.9 million more per day:  $2.15 billion annually.

This would also contribute to a better balance of payments (perhaps becoming positive once more), a higher loonie, higher productivity, lower inflation, and a higher standard of living.  Australia, which now outperforms Canada, does not interfere with its own massive LNG exports.  If Canadian politicians can restrain themselves from blocking more oil or gas pipelines and LNG export terminals, a bright future awaits.

Ian Madsen is the Senior Policy Analyst at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

Watch Ian Madsen on Frontier Live on X here.

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Economy

Extreme Weather and Climate Change

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From the Fraser Insitute

By Kenneth P. Green

Contrary to claims by many climate activists and politicians, extreme weather events—including forest fires, droughts, floods and hurricanes—are not increasing in frequency or intensity, finds a new study published today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

“Earth Day has become a time when extraordinary claims are made about extreme weather events, but before policymakers act on those extreme claims—often with harmful regulations—it’s important to study the actual evidence,” said Kenneth Green, a senior fellow with the Fraser Institute and author of Extreme Weather and Climate Change.

The study finds that global temperatures have increased moderately since 1950 but there is no evidence that extreme weather events are on the rise, including:

• Drought: Data from the World Meteorological Organization Standardized Precipitation Index showed no statistically significant trends in drought duration or magnitude—with the exception of some small regions in Africa and South America—from 1900 to 2020.

• Flooding: Research in the Journal of Hydrology in 2017, analyzing 9,213 recording stations around the world, found there were more stations exhibiting significant decreasing trends (in flood risk) than increasing trends.

• Hurricanes: Research conducted for the World Meteorological Organization in 2019 (updated in 2023) found no long-term trends in hurricanes or major hurricanes recorded globally going back to 1980.

• Forest Fires: The Royal Society in London, in 2020, found that when considering the total area burned at the global level, there is no overall increase, but rather a decline over the last decades. In Canada, data from Canada’s Wildland Fire Information System show that the number of fires and the area burned in Canada have both been declining over the past 30 years.

“The evidence is clear—many of the claims that extreme weather events are increasing are simply not empirically true,” Green said.

“Before governments impose new regulations or enact new programs, they need to study the actual data and base their actions on facts, not unsubstantiated claims.”

  • Assertions are made claiming that weather extremes are increasing in frequency and severity, spurred on by humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Based on such assertions, governments are enacting ever more restrictive regulations on Canadian consumers of energy products, and especially Canada’s energy sector. These regulations impose significant costs on the Canadian economy, and can exert downward pressure on Canadian’s standard of living.
  • According to the UN IPCC, evidence does suggest that some types of extreme weather have become more extreme, particularly those relating to temperature trends.
  • However, many types of extreme weather show no signs of increasing and in some cases are decreasing. Drought has shown no clear increasing trend, nor has flooding. Hurricane intensity and number show no increasing trend. Globally, wildfires have shown no clear trend in increasing number or intensity, while in Canada, wildfires have actually been decreasing in number and areas consumed from the 1950s to the present.
  • While media and political activists assert that the evidence for increasing harms from increasing extreme weather is iron-clad, it is anything but. In fact, it is quite limited, and of low reliability. Claims about extreme weather should not be used as the basis for committing to long-term regulatory regimes that will hurt current Canadian standards of living, and leave future generations worse off.

The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational
organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global
network of think-tanks in 87 countries. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for Canadians,
their families and future generations by studying, measuring and broadly communicating the
effects of government policies, entrepreneurship and choice on their well-being. To protect the
Institute’s independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research.
Visit www.fraserinstitute.org

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Business

Doubling Down on Missing the Mark

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By Chris Gardner

President, Independent Contractors and Businesses Association

Earlier this year, public opinion research company Leger published the results of a nationwide poll. One result stood out: 70 per cent of Canadians agreed with the statement: “It feels like everything is broken in this country right now.”

To young people, families and business owners struggling to buy or stay in a home, find a doctor, pay for gas and groceries, hire people, worried about how unsafe our streets have become, or having to navigate a never-ending web of red tape to get projects approved, a deep sense of helplessness has set in.

Over the past few years, Canada’s long slow decline has become the subject of an avalanche of scrutiny and by every measure of social well-being and economic competitiveness, Canada is coming up short among its global peers. Canada’s ability to generate opportunities and long-term prosperity for its people is now at serious risk.

But anyone reading the 9th budget of the Trudeau Government looking for some relief from the big challenges that Canadian families and entrepreneurs are facing, will come away sorely disappointed.

It seems that every day there is a new report telling Canadians what they already know – buying or staying in a home has never been harder in this country. Just last week, RBC reported that it is the ‘toughest time ever’ to afford a home and that the share of household income needed to cover ownership costs is now 64% in Canada and an almost inconceivable 106% in Vancouver and 85% in Toronto.

CMHC estimates that we need to build 800,000 homes a year between now and 2030 to meet demand, while CIBC says it’s closer to 1 million. Keep in mind that in 2023 we built about 230,000 new homes.

With the shortage of people across every part of our economy now acute, a central question asked by many is ‘who will build all these homes?’. Our labour markets are undergoing a seismic shift – absent immigration, our population is flat-lining and will start to decline. Indeed, in B.C., in 2022, for the first time ever, natural births exceeded natural deaths – and it happened again last year.

Part of the answer is immigration. However, our immigration system is failing us. Last year we added a city the size of Calgary to our national population, and we are on track to do the same in 2024. Two major challenges have emerged. First, we have failed miserably to assess the skills gaps in our economy – doctors, nurses, technicians, teachers and trades workers – and attract them to Canada. Case in point: only 2% of all permanent immigrants in 2023 will pursue a career in the construction trades. Second, the torrid pace of our population growth is crushing affordability and overwhelming the infrastructure in our major centres. In 2021 there was a total of 1.3MN non-permanent residents in Canada; today we have 2.6MN. We must find a better balance – attract the people with the right skills to power our economy and in numbers that our schools, hospitals, transit systems and housing stock can reasonably absorb.

Canada has a remarkable competitive advantage in its natural resources – energy and minerals in abundance and in high demand. And, harnessing them provides some of the highest paying jobs in the country. Budget 2024 offered barely a passing reference to this enormous potential for Canada. No one should be surprised. Leaders from Germany, Japan and Greece have visited Canada and received the diplomatic equivalent of a cold shoulder at the suggestion that Canada supply their economies with much needed energy. One federal minister stated that Ottawa is ‘not interested in funding LNG projects.’ He missed the point completely – no one was asking Ottawa to fund anything; they simply want Ottawa to get out of the way.

Finally, last year, the CD Howe Institute reported that for every dollar that an American business spends on training, technology and capital – the essential ingredients for innovation – a Canadian company invests 58 cents. Business investment in Canada from 2015 to 2023 ranked 44 out of the 47 most advanced economies, according to the OECD. This matters because the more innovative Canadian firms, the more they spend on upskilling their people and on adopting new technology, the more they can increase the size of paycheques for workers. Canada’s lagging productivity is to the point where the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada said, “You know those signs that say, ‘In an emergency, break the glass?’ Well, it’s time to break the glass.”

After reading the budget it’s hard not to come away with the feeling that Canada is not a serious country, and the Trudeau Government is incapable of addressing the big challenges facing the country.

Why do so many people feel like everything in this country is broken? Because so much is breaking all around us.

Chris Gardner is the President and CEO of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association.

The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA), the largest construction association in Canada, represents more than 4,000 members and clients. ICBA is one of the leading independent providers of group health and retirement benefits in Canada, supporting nearly 170,000 Canadians, and the single largest sponsor of trades apprentices in B.C. ICBA is Merit Canada’s affiliate in B.C. and Alberta. www.icba.ca

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