• Rob Snow

Oil and the new "ecosystem"

Ecosystem is one of the tech sector's favorite buzzwords. I guess "the economy" is out of style.

If that's the case, there's another ecosystem in the country, more critical than scraping 'likes' from a Facebook page.

Ecosystem: problems with Facebook aren't just Facebook's problems. They infect the entire "attention economy."

As a result, Shopify, Twitter and SnapChat come under closer scrutiny. Calls are renewed for a broader investigation of the almighty FAANG. (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, NetFlix, Google). From app developers to advertisers, politicians to spies, from new media to old; what happens on Facebook doesn't stop with Facebook.

It's an ecosystem.

Likening Canada's oil and gas industry to an ecosystem won't win many friends in the environmental movement. Still, the description fits well enough.

When the oil and gas industry suffers, the country suffers. In the big picture it means the economy slows, unemployment rises, the value of our exports decline. All of it is measurable and quantifiable, albeit not a very good reflection of real life.

Real life is my friend who works at a large car dealership in Halifax, N.S. For much of 2016 and a good part 2017, he couldn't sell a car. Business was awful. It wasn't because the Halifax economy was awful, but rather because the Alberta economy was in a tailspin.

Fort McMurray has always been a lure for Atlantic Canadians seeking jobs and opportunity. With jobs comes the chance to buy a new car, or more likely a new truck. The commodities collapse was more than a data point. It meant fewer customers walking the lot of my friend's car dealership, 5,000 kms away. In turn, my friend earned less in commission and complained that he couldn't buy a new snowblower.

Because it's an ecosystem.

When I was a much younger man, the airport in Sydney, N.S. would often be empty for an early morning flight. Not anymore. Flying out at 5 am, off to to Halifax, or Toronto or Calgary, you will enter a bustling airport, filled with working-aged men. They're almost all men, heading to northern Alberta for the next rotation, 9-days-in/5-days-out. Jet service out of Sydney? Yes, it's true.

Other companies have found it economical to charter its workers in and out of the vast camps of northern Alberta. This has meant a healthy jump in businesses like charter flights and charter buses, a growing need for pilots, drivers and mechanics.

It's rare to see entire families move, buy a new house, enroll in their kids in a new school. Instead, it is the bread-winner leaving for weeks. The spouse is left to tend with keeping things steady on the home front. Pay cheques are deposited into joint banking accounts. Everything from groceries to school supplies are purchased "back home."

It's the ecosystem at work.

Statistic Canada keeps very detailed information about the country's employment migration, with its Inter-provincial Workforce Database. It offers a valuable glimpse into the nationwide ripple effect of Alberta's fortune and misfortune.

  • By 2008, Atlantic Canadians comprised 26.3% of inter-provincial employees in Alberta, up from 13.4% in 2004.

  • 62.2% worked in the province for only one year, 18.9% did so for two consecutive years. 19% worked in Alberta for three or more consecutive years.

  • Earnings from Alberta have a considerable impact on family total earnings of inter-provincial employees. For 30.9% of inter-provincial employees, T4 earnings from Alberta accounted for more than 75% of total family earnings.

  • Men contributed more to their family earnings than women (21.9 percentage points).

  • In 2004, there were approximately 67,500 inter-provincial employees in Alberta. By 2008, that number grew to about 133,000.

It's folly to say the current TransMountain Pipeline controversy pits Alberta against B.C, or the environment against the economy. (The numbers show B.C. residents are the most likely to move to Alberta in search of work, because of geography.) The project's looming failure puts an entire employment ecosystem at risk, in ways too few politicians in Ottawa or Victoria seem to understand.


Toronto Star: Supply teacher shortage wreaks havoc in schools across Ontario

National Post: John Ivison: Failure to push through Trans Mountain could be the end for Trudeau

National Post: Andrew Coyne: Three ways the federal government can get Trans Mountain built

Globe and Mail: Justin Trudeau’s Trans Mountain crisis

#FossilFuels #Economy #TransMountain #Facebook #SocialMedia

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