The Keystone XL Pipeline: A Litmus Test for Canada’s Legacy as a Natural Resource Exporter

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Jeffrey Park
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Canada currently sits on the third largest proven oil reserves in the world, trailing behind only Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Although Canada is rich in resources, it is critical for the country to diversify its economy further away from the oil and gas industry, especially the tar sands, if it is to maintain a resilient, stable and sustainable economy. A low price of oil could serve to nudge the high-cost tar sands oil out of the marketplace but perhaps only temporarily. Canada needs a long-term strategy to effectively keep the carbon-intensive tar sands in the ground, both to stand a chance of meeting its climate change commitments and to maintain a resilient economy under an anticipated regulatory landscape supporting stricter emissions standards. Moving forward, how will Canada reconcile its tendency to rely on its abundance of natural resources for economic growth under a broader political, social and environmental landscape? I argue that the societal backlash and eventual rejection against the Keystone XL pipeline could help to accelerate a more long-term and permanent shift in Canada’s economic trajectory towards greater diversification.