Canada's economy needs more diversification. Here's why.

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According to Klein, low oil prices and the dipping dollar will have a positive effect on some sectors of Canada's economy in spite of the current federal policy of single-pronged economic concentration.

 "The oil and gas industry in Canada has always been a proportionally low share of GDP and jobs," he said. The number of people in fields like education and health care, for example, by far outnumber people employed in the oil and gas sector, according to Statistics Canada. 

Klein said to continue on a track focused exclusively on natural resources cannot repair the damage done, and instead he advocated diversity to achieve growth.

Canada's technology, renewable energy and manufacturing sectors have been insulated from the waning tides of the commodity market in the oil slow-down, Klein noted, and could benefit from the failure of non-renewable resource focused development. Timber prices are up slightly while the manufacturing and tourism industries continue to advocate the advantages of a low dollar.

Yet, Harper continues to rest the national economic action plan on the harvest and export of raw materials to the international market.  

Now the US economy appears to be revived, while here the dip in oil prices has sent many provinces reeling and contributed to a cooling in relations between the United States and Canada.

"The lesson is, you must diversify," said Klein in the telephone interview. "This requires a re-think of the direction we are headed."

Klein said the Bank of Canada determines the value of a dollar, and in the long run this forced conversion of speculated oil profits could encourage advances in industries determined to address climate change— particularly in British Columbia where oil market woes may foreshadow the danger of tying the province's financial future to liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Some experts warn that continued dependence on non-renewable energy has a negative impact on the economy as a whole, particularly after last week's toxic fuel spill in English Bay.

The incident is a red flag for Ngaio Hotte, a researcher from UBC's faculty of forestry specializing in the economic impacts of oil spills and ecological catastrophes.

"We need to consider: will tourists be deterred because of concerns about diminished quality of their experience?"

In an email response to the Vancouver Observer, Hotte said the coastline is Vancouver's critical attraction and a proposed increase in vessel traffic puts many industries including tourism and real estate at risk.

"The beaches themselves attract visitors from around the world, who spend money throughout the city on shopping, restaurants, accommodations, services," Hotte said.

"The economic value of tourist spending ripples through the whole economy. It's tough to say, at this point (without thorough analysis), what the dollar value of this impact could be."

Increased attention to climate change and a move away from high carbon industries are expected to be on the table at a the Premier's climate summit in Quebec this week. Premier Clark will not be in attendance.

 

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