A task force of stakeholders from all facets of Canada’s natural resource industry has been launched to explore post-pandemic economic recovery ideas.
The Task Force For Real Jobs, Real Recovery includes more than 25 industry associations, unions, professional and Indigenous organizations representing the energy, manufacturing, transportation, forestry and construction sectors. A group of 20 expert advisers has been appointed to help develop and communicate a forthcoming set of policy recommendations to help Canada emerge from the COVID-19 crisis with a strong economy.
The task force is being organized by Resource Works, a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization tasked with developing Canada’s resources with a focus on Indigenous and environmental concerns.
Stewart Muir, executive director at Resource Works, said the group began working on the idea in the early days of the pandemic.
“We at Resource Works wanted to know what we could do and wanted to get a sense of what the future might hold,” he said.
After a conducting a study, the group began to call a broad spectrum of stakeholders to form the new task force.
“We wanted to make sure we were reflecting some broad currents shared by different areas of the sector,” said Muir. “We know the dependencies that the natural resource sector has on construction and manufacturing and we wanted to be inclusive of that. Also, we wanted to emphasize the significance of Indigenous participation of the economy which is a high priority for us and central to everything we do.”
The task force also includes municipalities impacted by resource development and labour representatives.
“It was important for us to align this for the broad base of those who depend on a successful resource sector. We didn’t want to be a single industry association making its ask of government. In that way what we are doing is different and we have a unique composition,” added Muir.
Resource Works highlighted Statistics Canada data that shows the Canadian economy shrank 11.6 per cent in April — the largest monthly drop on record. That followed a 7.5 per cent contraction in gross domestic product in March.
We can create policy right away that would create thousands of jobs
— Stewart Muir
The group stated that both will result in lost tax revenue and Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s recent fiscal snapshot showed the federal government’s deficit is expected to hit $343 billion this year. Resource Works added this will likely cause poor job growth while some sectors will completely grind to a halt.
The solution, explained Muir, are real jobs and a real recovery, which means focusing on using the tools already in place, rather than starting from scratch with something unproven. The task force will complete its package of policy measures by the end of July, at which time it will present its recommendations to key federal government decision-makers, as well as to the Industry Strategy Council, a federal initiative launched in response to the economic effects of COVID-19.
“We are looking for ideas that fit their definition of what is needed right now,” said Muir. “They want it to be competitive, clean and inclusive — those are the terms they are looking for and if you can do that, I think there is an openness to hearing what you have to say. We also think in a general sense the public is ready to hear more about how natural resources can be a positive part of their world now that other economic opportunities have vaporized.”
Muir said other groups and task forces have popped up with campaigns he believes are broadly oriented with moving the country away from its traditional industry base, something Resource Works feels could be far too risky in such uncertain times.
“Real jobs to me are ones we can immediately create through things that are under our control,” said Muir. “We can create policy right away that would create thousands of jobs where we have the skill sets, trained workers and the ability to deploy capital.”
Muir also wants the task force to differentiate itself from other groups in other ways.
“We don’t want to join the long line of groups that want money from Ottawa,” said Muir. “What we really need is a hand up, not a handout. Natural resources are owned by the Canadian people and it is industry that comes to support government by creating value. I think a healthier relationship between government and industry is badly needed.”
“If you have an idea for us, send it to us,” said Muir. “We are scooping them up and putting them into the hopper. Every idea will be considered.”
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