The Edmonton Peace Council is a member of the provincial organizations of the Canadian Peace Congress. Edmonton is the capital city of the province of Alberta which is now rapidly becoming the driving engine of the Canadian economy. Edmonton sits in what is known in Alberta as the “Industrial Heartland”.
The Industrial Heartland area is the central processing, distribution and upgrading centre for the massive Tar Sands mining operations in Alberta 500 km north of Edmonton in Ft. McMurray where bitumen is extracted from the oily sand and upgraded into heavy oils. The mining operations cover 100 of thousands of hectres of land.
Edmonton is rapidly expanding its industrial foot print and is becoming a central hub of rail, pipeline, and industrial fabrication and processing infrastructure for Canada’s export of resources to Asia and US markets.
Canada’s New Industrial Power Base – Tar Sand Oil
Once the tar sand is excavated and loaded into giant 400 ton mining trucks it is hauled to massive crushers where it is combined with steam and diluents and processed into slurry. Processing of the tar sands requires massive volumes of water, natural gas and electricity. The slurry is then transported via pipelines to upgraders that are located in Ft. McMurray and “The Industrial Heartland” – Edmonton. The “upgraders” are the single largest consumers of water, natural gas and electricity in Alberta and the largest emitters of CO2 and toxic metals in the form of tailings which are dumped in large pits the size of small lakes.
The size of these industrial projects has been compared to the modern day undertaking of the Great Wall of China. They are large industrial projects each taking millions of man-hours to construct, consuming tons of steel, copper and plastics. A typical project will require 4000 trades personnel to build with some of the largest requiring 10,000 or more.
Currently there is more then $250 billion in proposed expansion taking current production from approximately 1.2 million barrels of heavy oil a day to 5 million by about 2030. All of the oil produced (99%) goes via an enormous and intricate networks of pipelines to US refineries for final processing. Much of the production goes in to military fuels specially designed for the US Air Force and the US Navy. Most of the refinery facilities that Alberta heavy oil is transported to are located in Illinois and Oklahoma. It is then transported to the large refineries of Texas. There are now discussions occurring that will take the raw bitumen directly to Texas through new pipelines.
The majority of Canadian finance and industrial capital is now “underwritten” by the “equity” in Canada’s tar sands. The US Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency (EIA) 2006 annual report shows that “North America” is 2nd in global crude oil reserves at 317 billion barrels. North America follows the Middle East which accounts for 743 billion barrels. In a foot note to the North American reserves the report says that Alberta’s tar sands account for 174 billion barrels or 55% of the total known “North American” reserves. The US is the largest single national consumer of oil at approximately 25 million barrels per day. The largest single consumer in the world is the US military which sucks up 400,000 barrels per day, the US Air Force accounts for 40% of all US military consumption.
It is in this context that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper finds his support base and his desire to make Canada an “Energy Superpower”.
Canadian Imperialist Policy – Driven By Oil
The Harper Conservative Government came to power January 23rd 2006 with 33% of the popular vote to form a minority government representing those sections of finance capital concentrated in the energy sector. The basic mandate of the Harper Government is to protect first, the power and privileges of all those who derive their profits from the wealth generated by processing and export of Canadian oil and natural gas reserves to the US market.
The US military is heavily reliant on Canadian imports of oil. According to the US Defense Energy Support Center Fact Book 2004, in Fiscal Year 2004, the US military (Department of Defense DoD statistics) list military fuel consumption as increasing to 144 million barrels. This is about 40 million barrels more than the average peacetime military usage. 144 million barrels makes 395 000 barrels per day, almost as much as daily energy consumption of Greece. The DoD's total primary energy consumption in Fiscal Year 2006 was 1100 trillion Btu. It corresponds to only 1% of total energy consumption in USA that represents the total energy consumption of Nigeria, with a population of more than 140 million. The DoD per capita energy consumption (524 trillion Btu) is 10 times more than per capita energy consumption in China, or 30 times more than that of Africa.
October 29, 2007 in Ottawa, Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI) sponsored their annual foreign policy conference entitled “Canada as the Emerging Energy Superpower: Testing the Case”. The conference looked at Prime Minister Harper’s claim that Canada is an “emerging energy superpower”. It addressed some questions such as Life as an Energy Superpower, Implications for Canada-US Relations, Critical Energy Infrastructure Protection, and Energy, Environment and the Arctic. Jim Prentice Minister of Industry and Gary Lunn Minister of Natural Resources were keynote speakers.
On July 14th 2006 in a speech to the Canada-U.K. Chamber of Commerce on the eve of the 2006 St. Petersburg G8 summit Prime Minister said, “One of the primary targets for British investors has been our booming energy sector. They have recognized Canada’s emergence as a global energy powerhouse – the emerging ‘energy superpower’ our government intends to build.”
In a follow up speech on September 20th 2007 to the Economic Club of New York Harper said, “Canada is an emerging energy superpower, the only stable and growing producer of this scarce commodity in an unstable world. Our strong and robust economy, with its enormous energy potential, represents a tremendous opportunity for American business and a crucial element of continental energy security. And given the deep integration of our own economies, these global challenges and opportunities call for a continental response.”
Canadian foreign policy is characterized by the dominant transnational oil monopolies exploiting the Canadian oil reserves. These companies are involved in the mining, upgrading and transportation of bitumen to US refineries and downstream processing facilities.
Canadian Mining Capital as Central American Imperial Power Broker
PM Harper’s recent tour of Haiti, Columbia and Chile was a play to position Canadian mining and banking interests as dominant hemispherical players and to situate Canada as a regional imperial power broker.
While on his July tour of the region Harper made stops at Barrick Gold’s head quarters in Santiago and stopped at Scotia Bank to glad hand. In his July 17th 2007 speech to the Chile-Canada Chamber of Commerce in Santiago Chile, Prime Minister Harper indicated that Canada is willing to become a bigger player in the region and “to doing so for the long term”. Harper said, “Foreign direct investment from Canada into the Americas now stands at close to 100 billion dollars – a number that is more than twice the size of Canadian investment in Asia.”
This places Canada 3rd in direct foreign investment in the Caribbean and Latin America with banking and mining as the dominant players. Harper also expressed Canadian energy capital is ready to supply energy to South American markets and that Canada is prepared to challenge Venezuela in reversing the “return to the syndrome of economic nationalism, political authoritarianism and class warfare”. Harper’s thinly veiled warning to South American workers to abandon a path of independent socialist development and return to capitalist relations pleases his mining bosses.
Harper said, “Canada is an emerging energy superpower and is committed to working with you in addressing this challenge”.
Canada’s dominant position in mining is described by Mandeep Dillon in the April 20, 2007 Canadian Mining Watch report entitled “Canadian Mining in Mexico: Made in Canada Violence” as, “Canadian mining corporations lead the global mining industry”.
Dillon cites that, “The Canadian industry ranks first in the global production of zinc, uranium, nickel and potash; second in sulphur, asbestos, aluminium and cadmium; third in copper and platinum group metals; fourth in gold; and fifth in lead. It has interests in over 8,300 properties worldwide – 3,400 of which are in 100 foreign countries. In Latin America and the Caribbean, which have been identified as the main current geographical target for mineral exploration, Canadian mining corporations represent the largest percentage of foreign mining companies – with interests in more than 1,200 properties”.
Canada’s “Continental” Response
Canada now ranks twelfth among the world’s nations in military spending. Of NATO's 19 member countries, Canada ranks sixth in total military spending ($16 billion). For 2005 Canada’s military expenditures were $14.7 billion ($450 per capita) representing 1% of the all military expenditures. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute 2005 annual report places Canada as the 6th largest seller of military weapons in the world. Canadian defence industry is worth $7 billion (US) per year and employs 70,000 Canadian workers. Half of all sales come from the US and close to 80% is to NATO allies.
Prime Minister Harper’s decision to turn a war of occupation in Kabul into a war of aggression in Kandahar has increased military expenditures to $15.7 billion and rising. Canadian Government spending on NATO for 2005 (combined personnel and equipment) was $6.4 billion, or 60.4% of total military expenditures and an increase of 20% over year 2000. The Canadian Government spends 60% of its military expenditures on NATO and only 40% on the defence of Canadian territory, airspace and coastal waters.
Canada's Defence Budget: 1993-2007
From the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) Web site
Budget - National Defence ($B)
Fiscal Year
Main Estimates
Actual Expenditures
The US defence budget for fiscal year 2008 is $623 billion which is 21% of a total $2.9 trillion US budget. With the 2008 US defence budget, America's military budget has doubled since Bush took office in 2000 and is now higher in real terms than any other year in the last half-century
US military expenditures for 2005 were $482.2 billion ($1,604 per capita) exceeding by $116.6 billion the expenditures of the next fifteen highest nation states put together. The 2008 budget increases per capita spending to $2050.00 or a 25% increase over the 2005 levels. The US economic dependency on war and military expenditures is the Achilles heal of US imperialism not as many opine, its great strength. US military expenditures on NATO for personnel and equipment totaled $192.23 billion in 2000 and increased to $262.29 billion by 2005 a rise of 36.4% in five years.
It is clear from these figures why Canadian military decisions are taken at Brussels and not in Ottawa. The big money is at NATO. On September 18th 2006, the Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment of NATO announced that the 26 member countries have begun building a 75 million euro command and control system for missile defence. This is only the start. NATO has produced a 10,000 page report that endorses the US plan to deploy ballistic missiles to space that will increase the initial investment to unlimited heights. It is the anticipation of huge profits that has caused the Harper Government to state its willingness to re-open talks with the Bush Administration on Canadian participation in Ballistic Missile Defence.
Not satisfied with current levels of military expenditures and Canada’s current rejection of US BMD, J.L. Granatstein in the Fall 2007 CDFAI report entitled “A Threatened Future: Canada’s Future Strategic Environment and its Security Implications” recommends that “Given Canada’s impressive economic capacity, we think an overall defence budget at a level equivalent to the NATO average (2.2 per cent of GDP) would be a reasonable target. In 2007 dollars, that would generate an annual budget of approximately $25 billion, or roughly $9 to 10 billion more than the current figure.”
David S. McDonough, Ph.D. Programme, Department of Political Science, Dalhousie University in the Spring 2006/07, Volume 9, Issue 3 edition of the Journal of Military and Strategic Studies report entitled “BMD and US Strategic Doctrine: Canadian Strategic Interests in the Debate on Missile Defence” conclude that, “In the end, Ottawa should go into any deliberation on missile defence with its eyes open and recognize that a more sophisticated and ‘limited’ approach to missile defence, while having a clear relationship with an aggressive American strategic doctrine, could also be in Canada’s strategic interest.”
Harper’s Minority Government and BMD
Any debate in Canadian parliament over the Harper minority government policy of Canadian “re-engagement” into US BMD is being bypassed and slipped into Canadian foreign policy through phony sleaze campaigns diverting public attention from the real aim of Harper’s backers.
BMD is part of the strategic military policy of US imperialism which is fueling a new arms race. The defeat of Harper will forestall BMD and help prevent a new global arms race. The Canadian Peace Congress is working with all progressive peace forces in drawing attention to this dangerous escalation of a new global arms race led in Canada by the Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The defeat of Harper will strengthen the interests of anti-imperialism and send a signal to US-NATO military councils that the Canadian people desire peace, progress and international solidarity over war, neo-colonialism and imperialism.