Natural resources must be managed wisely

Published on August 1, 2014

Sun has finally kissed the pine-clad hills of Newfoundland and Labrador, and residents and tourists are flocking to the great outdoors seeking the unique adventure only our beautiful province offers.

Whether it is whale-watching, hiking miles of trails or spending a night under the stars in one of our many parks, we are lucky to be living in Newfoundland and Labrador.

My thoughts often turn to the natural resources which have helped the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador experience record growth. Our province is especially fortunate as we possess oil and gas, fish, forestry, agriculture and mineral resources which have helped ignite the boom throughout the land.

In 2013, our province produced $9.4 billion in offshore oil, $3.7 billion in minerals, $197 million in aquaculture, and the total production in the seafood industry was valued at

$1.1 billion. We experienced a 5.9 per cent growth in real gross domestic product (GDP), which was the strongest in the country — something we all need to be proud of.

Our natural resources sectors provide us with the opportunity to secure a better, more prosperous future for our children and grandchildren. We are respected as an economic powerhouse within Canada. A booming economy is sustained by continued development and many people and businesses are capitalizing on the opportunities that exist.  However, it is important for us to measure our desire for continued growth against the sustainability of that growth when it is based primarily on natural resources that may someday be depleted.

The St. John’s Board of Trade supports the Partnership for Resource Trade, a national initiative which is engaging Canadians in important discussion about the key role natural resources play in our success as a country.

About 950,000 Canadians work in natural resource sectors. As examples of the impact those sectors have here in our province, the offshore petroleum industry  provides employment for over 4,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians producing projects, and supports more than 500 companies with expertise in the areas such as offshore exploration and development, supply and service and  research.

In 2013, more than 18,000 workers were employed in the fishery. Our mining industry provides high-skilled jobs to over 8,000 people. Another 5,500 are working in the forestry sector, and our agrifoods industry employs about 6,500 people throughout the province. The economic impact is huge.  

Responsible use of our abundant natural resources has always been — and will continue to be — an important source of pride, opportunity and social and economic benefit. The burgeoning populations of fast-growing economies in the Eastern and Southern Hemispheres need what this country, and our province, produces. Our forest products, minerals, energy and food products can ensure there are jobs for future generations. But don’t be fooled that this prosperity will remain unless there is continued responsible development of our energy, mining, food, fish and forest resources.

We must work together to maximize the benefits of our natural resources through strategic investments and responsible management, and we need to invest wisely in the future by identifying and nurturing renewable industries, such as technology, manufacturing and tourism, to name a few.

In my own business I am reminded frequently that I can’t rely on only one customer to maintain my revenue stream; there is far too much risk something out of my control can change and my sustainability can become threatened.

Currently, much of our GDP growth is tied to one sector — oil and gas — and while this has been great for our economy and status here in Canada, we have to look to either increasing our knowledge within the oil and gas industry so we can export our experience, or focus on developing other renewable industries. There are numerous examples of other countries that have successfully leveraged rich natural resources into booming renewable economies, such as the United Arab Emirates, which now realizes 71 per cent of its GDP from non-oil sectors and has the most diversified economy in the Middle East.

We have a booming economy fuelled by development and investment in our natural resources, and supported and sustained by private-sector businesses. If we play our cards right, we can ensure responsible development of our resources will meet global needs while creating continued prosperity  here at home.