The feds have a new arrow in their quiver in the battle for Canadian hearts and minds when it comes to oilsands investment, building new pipelines, and developing other natural resource industries.
"Our natural resources hold tremendous potential for Canadian prosperity and security, for jobs, for hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue to support critical social programs – literally trillions of dollars of economic development," said Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver in Toronto on Tuesday.
He made the comment after releasing a new government statistical study that concludes the energy, mining, and forestry sectors drive almost 20% of Canada’s economy.
Oliver says 1.6 million Canadian jobs depend on natural resources, accounting for to about a tenth of all the jobs in the country.
The new numbers come after months of attacks by environmental activist groups, often using millions of dollars from wealthy foreign foundations to ramp up their activism and undermine the economics of the oilsands.
Greenpeace accepted funding "to create financial and political uncertainty" about the oilsands, according to a grant description by donor Oak Foundation, while the same group said it offered Forest Ethics contributions to show "a perception of economic risk."
The language of both publicly disclosed grant descriptions has since been softened.
Given the attacks, Oliver says it would have been helpful to have the study soon even if it doesn’t deal only with the oilsands.
"Clearly, if we had it before we would’ve announced it earlier," said Oliver.
The minister insists, meantime, that it’s not all about economics for him.
"As I’ve said many times, we will not proceed on any development unless it is safe for Canadians and safe for the environment," he said.
However, the economy is now the focus at the re-started hearings for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.
Two days of hearings in Edmonton will focus on the economic benefit of connecting the oilsands to a new tanker terminal in B.C.