Community Cooperation or
Community Collapse: The
Reality of 21st Century Canada
April 5, 2006
Challenge North Conference
High Level, Alberta
Canada Research Chair in the New Rural Economy
University of Saskatchewan
Outline: Why am I here?
1. Alberta in North America
2. ―Alberta Advantage‖: Not Oil, something else
1. Current strengths
2. Future challenges: Natural resource booms end!
3. Alberta-Northern Alberta
4. Rural-Urban interdependence
Need for a New Rural Paradigm.
5. Successful cooperation builds strength
6. Building our communities for tomorrow
Alberta is in North America
Success is long-run population growth
– Combines good economy & quality of life
People vote with their feet
Not subjective (not Govt $ budget surplus)
Looking E-W across Canada is simplistic
– Globe and Mail view of Alberta is ―plain lucky!‖
Look North-South to see real patterns
– Regions cross international borders
– Great Plains population loss
– Alberta and BC are in the Rocky Mtn West
1990s North American Population Growth
Source: Canada Rural Economy Research Lab, 1991 & 2001 Census – Statistics Canada; 1990 & 2000 Census – U.S. Census Bureau.
Notes: The map shows 1990-2000 percent population change for US counties using the U.S. Census of Population. The 1991 -2001 percent population
change for Canadian census divisions use Statistics Canada data and are based on 1996 consistent boundaries.
Canada‘s Unique pattern:
– Cities are Canada‘s engine of growth
Canada‘s Rural development
– Critical mass
– Threshold effects
– Growth poles
For N. Alberta, this is a challenge and why
communities need to work together.
Alberta is booming
Good times blur long-term challenges
―Natural Resources Curse‖
– Corruption, Bad Institutions, Bad Planning, Dutch
Disease (ask Alberta manufactures)
– Natural resource economies fare poorly in the long-
Nigeria, Venezuela are not growth examples
Hurricane Katrina revealed Louisiana's poverty
BC doing as well as AB despite little energy
Alberta pop. grew faster in the late 1990s
when energy prices were lower.
– Rural Canada avg: every 1% greater 1991
Other Primary Emp share implied -0.35% less
population growth in 1990s
– Source Statistics Canada & Partridge, M.D.; R. Bollman; M.R. Olfert; and A. Alasia. 2005. ―Riding the Wave of Urban Growth in the
Countryside: Spread, Backwash, or Stagnation.‖ University of Saskatchewan, Canada Rural Economy Research Lab Working Paper.
Available at www.crerl.usask.ca.
1981-2003 Total Job Growth and Share
of total employment in Mining 1981
EMP GR= 32.72 - 1.01 MinSh81
t = 1.88
1981-2003 % Total Employment Growth
60 R = 0.071
Natural Resources Louisiana
do not mean growth Oklahoma
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
% Share of 1981 Total Employment in Mining
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, http://.bea.doc.gov/bea/regional/spi/default.cfm Retrieved on February 21, 2005 8
1981-2003 Total Job Growth and Share of 1981
Employment in Other Primary Industries
EMP GR =25.2 - 0.13 MinSh81
1981-2003 % Total Employment Growth
35 BC t = 0.12
ON PE AB R = 0.0017
MB Natural Resources
do not mean growth
EMP GR = 26.0 - 0.50 MinSh81
t = 0.43
R = 0.026
0 2 4 6 8 10 12
% Share of 1981 Total Employment in Other Primary Industries
Source: Before 1987; Labour Force Historical Review CDROM 2002 Table Cd1t05an
After and including 1987; Labour Force Historical Review CDROM 2003 Table Cd1t07an
Wyoming: Alberta on Steroids!
AB 1981-2004 population growth 39.6%
AB 1981 mining share 7.13%
WY’s greater natural resource intensity did
not produce faster growth
WY 1981-2004 population growth 3%
WY 1981 mining share 14.43%
0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% 45%
What causes the Alberta Advantage?
Good business climate & entrepreneur spirit
Having two dynamic large cities:
– Calgary and Edmonton
Wonderful western amenities
Strong human capital/education base.
I think the 1st two are more important
(Note: Northern Alberta is different, but it is
< 1/10th of province‘s population)
Alberta is doing something right!
Alberta is not lucky. Booms at all times.
Globe and Mail needs an economics lesson
– Instead of ‘Alberta Envy’ the rest of Canada
needs some ‘Alberta Emulation’
Oh yeah, the Confederation is not going to
fall apart due to Alberta prosperity
– i.e., every doc is not going to move to Alberta
– Another Albertan job does not steal other jobs
But, I am not here to pander
Commodity prices are cyclical.
– What goes up, must come down.
– I remember the 1980s crash living in Wyoming
The current energy boom will end too.
We must plan for the bust today when we
have the resources.
Hardest to plan when times are sooo good.
What is Northern Alberta?
Not just a latitude: i.e. North of 55°N, but also attitude
Natural resources—oil sands
Forestry, mining, farming
Wide open spaces (lack of large cities)
Large First Nation/Aboriginal population
Many opportunities to build on
– Unique quality of life
2001 Population Density per km2
1996-2001 % Population Change
N. Alberta 1996-2001 % Pop. Change
1996-2001 Sask % Population Change
1996 Agriculture Employment Share
Sask. 1996 Agriculture Employment Share
1996 Employment Share in Other Primary
1996 Employment Share in Other Primary
What have we learned?
Northern Alberta‘s population is growing.
– Something is going right, even with low commodity
prices over ‘96-‘01 period.
Northern Alberta is reliant on natural resources
– Didn‘t Mark say that was bad
In the next decade, Northern Albertan
communities should diversify.
– If not, the next crash will be really hard!
Education and unique mgmt experience
Northern Alberta is fortunate to be tied to the
broader ―Alberta Advantage.‖
– High amenities
%Pop Share with University Degree:
Age 15 & over
%Pop with Aborig. Ethnicity
Opportunities to meet future needs
Today‘s natural resource boom means
finances are there.
Enhance quality of life
– Retain current population after boom. (not like WY)
– Attract new/different population.
Shift front-office work north from Calgary
– Unique natural resource human capital
– Become mgmt consultants for the world‘s oil sands
– Diversify to other mgmt consulting
– Can‘t be engineers living/working out of trailers
More strategic opportunities
Northern tourism is still mostly untapped
– This region is a unique jewel
– Opportunities to mkt to Americans
Better integration of First Nations into
regional development—win-win strategy.
Weakness of mine or any Northern plan:
– Not enough regional cooperation, weak
critical population mass.
– Cities are Canada’s engines of growth
Communities must band together
Canadian population growth takes place
near urban areas of at least 10,000 people
Regions can band together to achieve
– community clusters striving to attain critical
– Community clusters likely need > 10,000 people
Most growth is in the 100km circles around
1996-2001 Population Growth and Urban
Centres in the Prairie Provinces
Yellow highlighted areas are census agglomeration areas (10,000+)
or census metropolitan areas (100,000+).
How can we cooperate?
This can be formal: consolidation of gov‘ts
– Need a consensus
– Must reflect broad regional needs
Transportation of people/access to urban services--not just resources
Quality of life initiatives
Increased political clout for common interests
Alberta does this better! Sask has a major problem,
too many communities would rather die than
Overlay regional govt on top of municipalities
– Economic Development Authorities
– Transportation—critical to support the energy economy
and to begin to build community clusters
– Larger organizations such as Chambers of Commerce,
Need to build regional identity
– Despite the interdependence of communities, too many
towns think as if they are an island.
Northern Alberta Communities
There are only 3 Northern ―growth poles‖
– If broad regional mentality does not sink in, the
next commodity crash will be painful.
– i.e., inadequate institutions to address the
economic downfall and fiscal shortfall.
Alberta does regionalism better
Ft. McMurray/Wood Buffalo is a great
example of creating a region that pulls in all
In Sask., on the informal level, Action
Southwest is a proactive group that has
banded together a LARGE number of
– Greater Calgary is trying to informally cooperate
Greater Gander and N.E. Newfoundland
Outlook, Sask is a great example of 1st Nation
opportunities being integrated into regional plan.
– One hour south of Saskatoon, they see Saskatoon as an
Humboldt, Sask is an example of successfully
implementing leadership training.
– Must be ‗informed‘ action based on actual trends of
Don‘t pick examples based on media stories
– Ibbitson 2005 columns in Globe and Mail
Davidson, SK is dying and lacks leadership
Neighbouring Craik has visionary leaders and is thriving.
But, the facts are that Davidson is actually doing better in population
Northern Alberta Growth Poles
Northern Alberta has 3 natural ―growth pole‖
regions and 1 transportation corridor:
Fort McMurray/Wood Buffalo
―Cold Lake-Athabasca‖ linking to Edmonton
Grande Prairie-High Prairie-Peace River
High Level N-S/E-W transportation corridor
– Needs linkage to Northern BC
Alberta Advantage is not luck
– Don‘t lose sight of that and fritter away this
Natural resource economies do not fare well in
– Alberta and Northern Alberta must use their wealth
to build a different/diverse economy
Enhanced quality of life linked with opportunities to
integrate First Nations and upgrade oil sands
expertise presents opportunities
– This retains the high-educated workforce that has
migrated to Northern Alberta.
– Cities are Canada‘s long-run engines of growth and
– Northern Alberta communities must cooperate to build
critical mass for economic, social and political power
Transportation linkages for access to services and
markets need to be enhanced.
– Remoteness is an impediment for N. Alberta
Northern Alberta is growing and bustling
But, needs to realign itself for the future
That is why this conference can lay this
Presentation will be posted at
Canada Rural Economy Research Lab (U of S)
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