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Concurrent session

The Changing Political Economy of Resource Extraction


November 19, 2016 at 10:45am - 12pm


Engineering Teaching & Learning Complex (ETLC), University of Alberta
with Paul Kellogg and Gabrielle Slowey

The Canadian economy is largely dependent on resource extraction. But there is growing opposition on both an environmental and cultural front to extraction and transportation of oil resources. How can the country do economics differently to include the needs of all Canadians and move past resource extraction?

Capital accumulation and the problem of the tar sands

The tar sands of northern Alberta and Saskatchewan have defined what has been called "development" in the north of Canada. These tar sands have many well-documented problems. To name just two of these problems: they pose a threat to northern ecology and to Indigenous communities on whose land they encroach. Unfortunately, this economy has deep Canadian roots. The tar sands economy is a product of extremely profitable circuits of capital accumulation centred around a newly emergent regional capitalist class. This analytic insight has strategic implications. To confront the specific issue of tar sands development, puts us into a general confrontation with Canadian-based extractive capitalism, a capitalism with deep vested interests in maintaining the status quo.

Paul Kellogg is associate professor in the faculty of humanities and social sciences at Athabasca University, teaching in the Master of Arts - Integrated Studies Program. His research and teaching interests include political economy, social movements, and global governance. He is the author of Escape from the Staple Trap: Canadian Political Economy After Left-Nationalism.

Searching for sustainability: Indigenous peoples, ecological governance and resource extraction

Across Canada the debate continues to simmer over the future development of Canada's oilsands and, in particular, the proposals to move the oil to market through various pipelines. At the same time, Indigenous peoples are working towards shaping a new economy, one that is based on sustainability. As Indigenous peoples depend on staples like forestry and fishing, the focus is not just on revenue, but improving the quality of life for the collective. For the Haida, for instance, the focus on fishing is no longer on the maximum harvest, but on ensuring maximum value. This means reducing the allowable cut of timber. Increasingly, jobs and the economic merits of resource extraction projects are falling aside as Indigenous peoples develop an economic presence, to show the world that one "can do economics in a different way."

Gabrielle Slowey is the inaugural Fulbright Chair in Arctic Studies at Dartmouth College, the director of the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies at York University, and an associate professor in the department of political science at York University where she teaches courses in Canadian, Indigenous and Arctic politics. Her current research concentrates on pressures to develop shale gas reserves and investigates the variation in response by local communities. While at Dartmouth she will launch her project: Canada on the Edge? Energy, Ecological Governance and Indigenous Peoples. She is the author of Navigating Neoliberalism: Self-Determination and the Mikisew Cree First Nation.