When you see news stories showing millennials protesting an oil and gas, mining or forestry project, note that those protesters are actually in the minority and don’t represent their age demographic.
That’s great news because Canada’s natural resource sector is very important to our economy and tremendous potential exists with continuing to develop the sector in an environmentally friendly manner.
We know young people overwhelmingly support expanding development of the natural resource sector because of new polling research conducted for the Manning Centre. The data shows that 81% of Canadians aged 15-34 support “expanding development of the natural resource sector.”
We surveyed the 15-34 age group (known as ‘millennials’) because we wanted to learn more about young peoples’ views towards politics and public policy questions. The full results from the poll, which covers many topics, will be released at the upcoming Manning Centre Conference in late February.
In the mean time, what we can note is that support for expanding the natural resource sector ranged from 78% support in British Columbia to 86% support in Alberta and Atlantic Canada.
Why do millennials overwhelmingly support expanding that sector? That’s one question our polling didn’t explore.
Perhaps millennials understand that the products and services they enjoy on a day-to-day basis all come from somewhere. For example, cell phones require plastics that are made from oil and gas products and minerals have to be mined to make their phone’s battery.
Books and newspapers require paper from trees and, as Resource Works notes, their bicycles are made entirely from products that have to be mined.
Maybe strong millennial support could be attributed to the fact Canada has a strict regulatory environment for the natural resource sector.
For example, unlike some countries, Canada doesn’t allow any old tanker ship to pull up to our coast and fill up with fuel. Our laws require tanker ships to have double hulls, a measure which can help protect the environment in the event of a spill.
Similarly, Earth Magazine notes this about the oil sands: “by law, after the oil is extracted, each section of a mining company’s lease must be returned to a state equivalent to what it was in before a tree was cut or the first shovel hit the dirt.”
The forestry industry has similar, tight regulations. For example, the federal government’s website notes that companies can’t simply head into the bush and start chopping down trees. Prior to harvesting trees, companies must develop forest management plans to ensure their activities are sustainable, protect species at risk and so forth.
Finally, one might also conclude that millennials understand the importance of the natural resource sector to our economy and their own job prospects. The federal government’s website notes that our natural resource sector represents 17% of our country’s economy and employs 1.8 million people.
In addition to those directly employed in the natural resource sector are of course people who benefit through providing that sector with parts, materials and other services. Not to mention, the government receives $27 billion per year from the sector in annual revenues.
Again, some millennials may not understand the importance of our natural resource sector, but thankfully, they appear to be in the minority.