Friday, July 11, 2008

 

CANADA'S ECONOMY: PART DEUX!

In a notoriously bad decision almost 40 years ago, the government of my native province of New Brunswick invested in a sports car manufacturing venture, The Bricklin SV-1, which went bust in about 24 months.

The province's current government is now pushing to make it the energy hub of the Atlantic region. Quebec had been first to pass on the Bricklin pitch in 1970. In the years since, Hydro-Quebec has invested mightily in power generating projects in that province's north. Quebec now provides an enormous amount of electricity to the American North East.

New Brunswick's Premier, Shawn Graham, figures it is now time for his province to contribute to America's energy shortfall. He managed last week to get the U.S. Undersecretary for Energy, Bud Albright, to come see for himself.

In New Brunswick, Irving Oil operates North America's largest oil refinery and has plans underway to build a second refinery. It's been 20 years since a new refinery was built on this continent. The Irving family is also about to open the east coast's only liquefied natural gas terminal.

Further the province wants to generate about 400 million watts of electricity from wind power, and has joint research underway with Nova Scotia to generate power from the world's highest tides on the Bay of Fundy. The Point Lepreau nuclear station is being refurbished and "Team Candu", a private consortium, wants to use the Lepreau site for a second 1.1 million watt energy reactor.

Following Undersecretary Albright's visit to Saint John and Fredericton, optimistic pundits reported that the U.S.officials were impressed with what New Brunswick could offer.

Any new power capacity flowing south of the border might be useful to the American economy which has apparently recently snagged two projects away from Ontario's automotive manufacturing sector. Lest I digress: A closer look at the just released Statistics Canada employment numbers for June pretty much confirm that Ontario's economy is on a fast track to a slow-down. Although the jobless rate is down but slightly, Ontario's big problem is that last month more than 45,000 workers either lost their jobs, or were put rather on part-time employment.

Next Tuesday in Frankfurt, Germany, Volswagen AG's Board of Directors is expected to pick a southern U.S.location for a plant which will assemble models for the North American market. Chattanooga, Tennessee and Huntsville, Alabama are the front runners. If so, Volkswagen will join Honda in Lincoln, Alabama; Kia in West Point, Georgia; Nissan in Nashville, BMW in Greer, South Carolina, and Toyota which just this week announced it will be assembling Prius Hybrids at Blue Springs, Mississippi starting in 2010.

It seems it's not yet time to write the obituary for the automotive manufacturing sector in North America. Perhaps just time to write Ontario's obituary for the role it once played.

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