One of the least edifying spectacles of the domestic coverage of the Copenhagen conference was the pointing of fingers at Alberta, most notably by the leaders of the provincial (in every sense of the word) governments of Ontario and Québec. The tar sands are in Alberta, so the reasoning goes, and it's up to Albertans to pay for the problems they generate. The hypocrisy of this stance has already been pointed out by several commentators: as Lysiane Gagnon asks, where did the Québec government think the $8.4b equalisation cheque that it cashed last year came from?
Not enough Canadians appreciate just how much we owe our recent prosperity to the oil sands. Roughly half of the increase in real per capita income growth since 2000 can be attributed to the increase in our terms of trade, and the increase in oil prices played a key role there.
Moreover, the reduction in the unemployment rates in the provinces to the east of Alberta owes much to the fact that many of their unemployed workers moved to Alberta to find work. To illustrate this phenomenon, I calculated
- the difference between a regions's actual job growth and what it would have been if it had followed the national average, and
- net interprovincial migration
Here's what you get when you graph those numbers:
The first thing to note is that all the regions east of Alberta generated jobs at slower rate than the national average. The second is that to a rough approximation, the 45o line - which traces out combinations where the deviation of employment growth from the national trend is equal to net interprovincial migration - fits all regions other than BC. In other words, those who could not find jobs in their home provinces moved to Alberta and (and, to a lesser extent, BC) to find work.
So there's no point in pretending that we can stick one province with the costs of dealing with greenhouse gas emissions. As far as climate change policy goes, we are all Albertans.