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How natural gas supports one of Canada’s largest manufacturing sectors


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Worker inspecting parts from plastic injection moulding machine in plastics factory. Getty Images photo

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Deborah Jaremko

‘When you think about the demand for more sustainable outcomes: clean air, clean water, clean energy, safe, nutritious, abundant food and electric vehicles, that’s more and more and more chemistry’


Canada’s chemical industry sold a record $72.7 billion of product last year amid recovery from COVID-19 and strong consumer demand, according to the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC).  

Natural gas is a key input to the chemistry sector, the broad term that refers to manufacturing a myriad of products used in everyday items from plastics to agriculture and pharmaceuticals.   

“Chemistry products go into 95 per cent of finished goods. It’s an important sector,” says CIAC president Bob Masterson. 

“It’s a sector that can grow as long as we fancy improving our lives and building a better world for tomorrow.” 

Chemicals in Canada 

Canada’s chemistry industry is the country’s fourth largest manufacturing sector by value of sales after food ($147 billion), transportation equipment ($119 billion), and petroleum/coal products ($118 billion). 

It is primarily centered in Ontario, Alberta and Quebec.  

The CIAC publishes an annual report on the sector’s activity using Statistics Canada data, separated into two categories: chemicals overall, and industrial chemicals.  

Chemicals overall includes manufacturing of soaps, cleaning compounds, paints, coatings and adhesives, pesticides and fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, rubbers and synthetic fibres, and basic chemicals.  

Industrial chemicals refers to the manufacturing of intermediate products used as inputs by industries including plastic and rubber products, forest products, transportation equipment, clothing, perfume and cosmetics, construction and pharmaceuticals.   

Global Growth  

According to Vantage Market Research, the global chemical market was valued at US$584 billion in 2022. It’s expected to grow by more than 55 per cent in the coming years to reach US$917 billion by 2030.  

This isn’t just driven population growth, Masterson says.  

“When you think about the demand for more sustainable outcomes: clean air, clean water, clean energy, safe, nutritious, abundant food and electric vehicles, that’s more and more and more chemistry,” he says.  

“Some of the predictions are that the volumes of chemistry will double in the next 20 years. Canada and Alberta in particular are exceptionally well positioned to help meet future market demand for these products. The demand is not going away. There’s no question about that.” 


In 2022, Canada’s chemicals sector directly employed 90,800 people, or approximately the population size of Sudbury, Ontario. The industry paid about $7 billion in salary and wages.  

That’s the direct impact of employment in the chemistry sector, but the CIAC estimates the full benefit to Canadians to be much higher as a result of indirect economic activity it supports.   

CIAC estimates that every job in Canada’s chemistry sector creates another five indirect jobs in other parts of the economy. This means the sector supported 454,000 jobs across Canada in 2022.  

Industrial chemicals alone directly employed 17,100 people and indirectly supported 85,600 jobs in the broader Canadian economy last year, the CIAC says. 

Rising Trade 

At a value of $72.7 billion, Canada’s overall chemical industry sales were their highest ever in 2022 – a 30 per cent increase compared to 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Industrial chemicals sales reached a record $34.2 billion, a 32 per cent increase compared to 2019.  

Exports also increased last year, rising to a value of $52.8 billion compared to $45.9 billion in 2021. Of that, the sector exported $24.8 billion of industrial chemicals, up from $22.5 billion the previous year. 

The United States is Canada’s main customer for chemical exports, representing 76 per cent of exports or $40.1 billion in 2022. The next largest export markets are China ($1.86 billion), the Netherlands ($1.7 billion), and the United Kingdom ($1.1 billion). 

The Canada Advantage 

Canada has distinct advantages as a chemical manufacturer and exporter including growing access to global markets, CIAC says.  

In Alberta, the main advantage is access to low-cost natural gas resources – specifically valuable natural gas liquids like ethane, propane and butane.  

“The rich abundance of natural gas liquids that come out of the ground when we drill for natural gas let Alberta be a low-cost chemistry producer despite being pretty much the only large chemistry industry worldwide that’s not on tidewater,” Masterson says.  

Responsible Care 

Since 1985, Canada’s chemistry industry has operated under an initiative called Responsible Care that encourages companies to innovate for safer and greener products.  

CIAC reports that Responsible Care is now practiced in 73 countries and by 96 of the 100 largest chemical producers in the world. 

Since 2005, CIAC members have reduced CO2 equivalent emissions by 13 per cent; reduced sulphur dioxide emissions by 94 per cent, and virtually eliminated large scale safety incidents. Since 2012, CIAC members have also reduced net water consumption by 13 per cent. 

“We’re not standing in place,” Masterson says. 

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Provinces should be cautious about cost-sharing agreements with Ottawa

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From the Fraser Institute

By Tegan Hill and Jake Fuss

According to Premier Danielle Smith, Alberta will withdraw from the federal government’s dental care plan by 2026 mainly because the plan would duplicate coverage already provided to many Albertans (although she plans to negotiate unconditional funding in lieu of being in the program). Indeed, all provinces should be wary of entering into such agreements as history has shown that Ottawa can reduce or eliminate funding at any time, leaving the provinces holding the bag.

In the 1990s, for instance, the federal government reduced health and social transfers to the provinces amid a fiscal crisis fuelled by decades of unrestrained spending and persistent deficits (and worsened by high interest rates). Gross federal debt increased from $38.9 billion in 1970/71 to $615.9 billion in 1993/94, at which point debt interest costs consumed roughly $1 in every $3 of federal government revenue.

In response to this debt crisis, the Chrétien Liberal government reduced spending across nearly all federal departments and programs. Over a three-year period to 1996/97, health and social transfers to the provinces were 51 per cent ($41.0 billion) less than what the provinces expected based on previous transfers. In other words, the provinces suddenly got a lot less money from Ottawa than they anticipated.

This should serve as a warning for the provinces who may find themselves on the hook for Ottawa’s big spending today. In the case of dental care, an area of provincial jurisdiction, the Trudeau government has earmarked $4.4 billion  annually for the provinces on an ongoing basis. However, any change in federal priorities or federal finances could swing the financial burden from Ottawa to the provinces to maintain the program.

The current state of federal finances only heightens this risk to the provinces. The federal government has run uninterrupted budget deficits since 2007/08, with total federal debt climbing from $707.3 billion in 2007/08 to a projected $2.1 trillion in 2024/25. The current government—or perhaps a future reform-minded government focused on balancing the budget—could reduce transfers to the provinces.

The Trudeau government has committed to significant new funding in areas of provincial jurisdiction, but provincial policymakers would do well to understand the risks of entering into such agreements. Ottawa can unilaterally reduce or eliminate funding at any point, leaving provinces to either assume the unexpected financial burden through higher taxes or additional borrowing, or curtail the programs.

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Just in time for Canada Day weekend! Crescent Falls ready to be enjoyed again

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The new staircase structure and viewing platform are among many upgrades that visitors can look forward to at the reopening Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area. (Credit: Alberta Parks).

The popular Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area reopens following a significant capital investment to improve visitor safety and experiences.

Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area is ready to welcome visitors back to enjoy one of the most remarkable, accessible waterfall viewing opportunities in Alberta. The upgrades at Crescent Falls will help improve the park’s visitor experience. Guests can expect expanded parking, improved access roads, trails and day use areas, new and improved viewing areas to take in the falls and upgraded safety measures, including signage and wayfinding.

The Provincial Recreation Area (PRA) is reopening over the July long weekend after being closed since 2023. Visitors will notice increased public safety upgrades through additions such as new parking lots, a new stair structure to access the lower falls, new pedestrian trails, a new vehicle bridge to access the camping area and a viewing platform to enjoy the Crescent Falls.

“We are thrilled to welcome visitors back to Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area in time for the Canada Day long weekend. These additions will help visitors to safely access and enjoy the area’s natural beauty. Parks are for people and Alberta’s government will continue to invest in high-quality outdoor recreation opportunities.”

Todd Loewen, Minister of Forestry and Parks

“Today marks a significant milestone for our community as we reopen the Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area following extensive upgrades. Our province is well known for its incredible natural beauty, and these improvements will make our backcountry more accessible and ensure that Albertans and those visiting our great province can continue to explore our stunning landscapes for years to come.”

Jason Nixon, MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre
This project is part of an investment of more than $12 million to upgrade 13 sites along the David Thompson Corridor. The improvements at Crescent Falls will provide improved safety measures and better visitor access to and from popular tourist destinations in the area. Partners from Clearwater County, Rocky Mountain House and other organizations were critical in helping to move the upgrades forward. Clearwater County and its officials worked with Alberta Parks staff to advise on the upgrades needed around the area.

Alberta’s government is committed to reconciliation and acknowledges the significance of the land around Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area to the Stoney Nakoda First Nation. The completed upgrades reflect an ongoing commitment to creating more outdoor recreation opportunities while protecting the land’s natural and cultural values so it can be enjoyed by current and future generations.

“The Alberta Government’s reopening of Crescent Falls is a remarkable achievement for our region. This project not only enhances recreational opportunities, natural beauty and accessibility in our area but also means safer, more enjoyable visits for our citizens and visitors alike.”

Michelle Swanson, councillor, Clearwater County

“The Town of Rocky Mountain House is where adventure begins, and we are thrilled that Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area has reopened to the public in time for the summer adventure season. This is a wonderful day trip destination for visitors and residents alike setting out from Rocky Mountain House. The provincial investment has only improved its accessibility and safety, making it a must-see destination if you are in the area.”

Dale Shippelt, incoming deputy mayor, Rocky Mountain House

“Westward Bound Campgrounds is the proud facility operator of the Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area and we are very excited to see our campers and visitors return to its beauty. These upgrades will have a significant impact on enhancing guest satisfaction levels, providing unique and memorable camper and visitor experiences while providing a safe environment to enjoy spectacular scenery.”

Lonnie and Edena Earl, Westward Bound Campgrounds

This work is part of an ongoing commitment to creating more outdoor recreation and camping opportunities, building trails and facilities and ensuring Alberta’s provincial parks can be enjoyed by all Albertans.

Quick facts

  • The upgrades at Crescent Falls PRA include the following improvements:
    • Enlarging the existing parking area
    • Developing a new parking area for large RV vehicles
    • Upgrading the access roads down to the lower area
    • Installing a new pedestrian trail to the lower day use area
    • Installing a new vehicle crossing from the day use to the camping site
    • Upgrading and expanding the day use areas
    • Increasing signage
    • Installing additional toilets and bear-proof garbage bins
    • Developing a new stair structure to access the lower falls areas with a viewing platform
  • Enhancing safety features throughout the PRA. The upgrades were part of a significant capital investment of $12.3 million by Alberta’s government to address safety and experience opportunities in 13 key provincial recreation sites along the David Thompson Corridor. Along with Crescent Falls PRA, other sites that were upgraded include:
    • Bighorn Dam Recreation Area
    • The following 11 Public lands and parks sites:
    • Coliseum
    • Allstone
    • Abraham Slabs
    • Hoo Doo Creek
    • Coral Creek
    • Pinto Creek
    • Preachers Point
    • Cavalcade
    • Kinglet/Tuff Puff
    • Wildhorse
    • Owen Creek
  • Crescent Falls PRA is located 22 km west of Nordegg on Highway 11 and 6 km north on a gravel access road. Crescent Falls PRA has a first-come, first-served campground with 12 tent-only sites and 22 RV sites. The day use area includes multiple viewing platforms of the upper and lower falls and picnic tables with views of the river. Access to the lower day use area is available on a 0.8 km trail from the main parking area or, alternatively, from the Bighorn Canyon lookout via a 3 km trail. The lower day use area also has accessible-only parking stalls adjacent to the viewing platforms with an accessible vault toilet and picnic areas.

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