"We champion the responsible development of the West’s natural resources, for the benefit of all."

Marla Orenstein, Director, Natural Resources Centre

Natural Resources Centre

We deliver insight into both the challenges and opportunities in the natural resources sector

2019 work plan (pdf)

Our energy future

Canada is facing an uncertain energy future. Climate change and health concerns are driving a transition to cleaner sources of energy. At the same time, our country’s wealth depends on exports of fossil fuels, demand for which is increasing globally. These two concurrent realities are playing out in an environment of increasingly strident and polarized debate. And the decisions that we make will have important and wide-ranging ramifications – for our environment, our prosperity, our quality of life and our global influence.

2019 projects


Smart energy

Our work in 2019 will help Canadians to understand the country’s complete energy picture – both what we use at home and what we can sell abroad – identify credible sources of information, and recognize the ways in which different choices result in trade-offs. Specific projects will include:

• a travelling roadshow in partnership with various other think tanks and involved organizations that brings energy expertise to university campuses (a project that was deferred to 2019 to accommodate our work on Bill C-69).

• engagement with electricity producers, transmitters and users across the West on the need for a more integrated electricity grid.

• the development of a new scorecard approach to rank the performance of Canada against other countries in terms of energy production and consumption.

Carbon and climate policies

Carbon emissions and climate change affect everything from energy development to skills training to trade. While they already receive a lot of attention in the media and among researchers, there are some important gaps in the conversation. In 2019, we will:

• tackle the issue of how responsibility for GHG emissions is attributed and the implications that follow from the current model, as well as what a more global outlook on emissions accounting looks like.

• develop a framework to identify what makes a good climate policy, including a set of metrics that can be used to rate existing or proposed climate policies using criteria such as effectiveness achieving desired outcomes, cost, equity, local impact, global impact, innovation, accountability and reporting burden.

Getting things built in Canada

It is increasingly difficult to get things built in Canada. A Globe & Mail editorial in June, 2018 stated that our society has become “too fussy, risk-averse, fractured, bureaucratic and litigious” to be able to build the type of infrastructure that originally made Canada great – and that we are falling behind globally as a result. In 2019, we will continue to analyze, report on and influence policies – such as Bill C-69 – that affect whether major infrastructure gets built in the future.

Getting to ‘Go’: Removing regulatory barriers to energy innovation

Innovation is key to Canada’s transition to a cleaner energy sector. But in many cases, regulatory processes are slowing, and sometimes preventing, the adoption of innovations that could reduce GHG emissions and lower costs. This project will analyze the nature of the regulatory barriers and recommend changes to increase flexibility and adaptability without sacrificing the environment or well-being. In 2018, we conducted interviews and undertook research to understand the scale and scope of the problem. We published our report Hot Commodity: Geothermal electricity in Alberta, as a test case of the regulatory challenges facing a burgeoning clean energy technology.

In 2019, we will continue publishing reports and case studies on this topic – we will also hold a series of workshops and roundtables to engage innovators, regulators and others who are instrumental to the successful adoption of innovation in developing solutions.

Success in the Making: Effective partnerships between Indigenous communities and resource firms

Indigenous communities are increasingly forming alliances with natural resources firms to create economic opportunity and enhance self-sufficiency. However, too often the stories of these alliances remain untold. Our Natural Resources and Human Capital Centres are working with Indigenous partners to highlight successful examples. In 2018, we completed a series of roundtables, and embarked on deep-dive case studies in Lac La Ronge (SK) and Lax Kw’alaams (BC) to document some of the ways success can happen. In 2019, we will continue working with a range of Indigenous groups across the four western provinces to help further economic reconciliation through sharing experiences, expectations and plans for resource development partnerships and projects.

Adaptation: Getting ready for the challenges of tomorrow

A number of mega-trends are shaping how Canada operates in the world. Climate change. Shifts in geopolitics and global economic power. Demographic changes and a rising – and moving – world population. Technological acceleration. How prepared are we to face these challenges? What resources are needed, or can be leveraged? What new opportunities will emerge as a result of these shifts? This project, a collaboration of all three Centres, will help to answer these questions and lead the way to a sustainable, prosperous future for the West. In 2019, we will begin by examining what these trends are, and what effects they may have. We will then focus in on identifying how selected communities and others can adapt to both the negatives and the positives that these changes will bring.

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Planned research

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