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Average Quebecer Might Benefit More from Oil Sands than Average Albertan

Investments by Quebec-based developers, pension plans in Alberta mean the province has a large stake in the success of Alberta’s oil sands.

An overlooked factor in the current controversy in Quebec over the passage of pipelines carrying Alberta oil through the province is that, arguably, Quebec has as much to lose as Alberta if pipelines are denied. In her prize-winning book, l’Alberta autophage: Identités, mythes et discours du pétrole dans l'Ouest canadien, published by the University of Calgary Press, Calgary-based scholar Dominique Perron suggests that “il serait possible que le Québécois moyen, contribuant au Régime des rentes du Québec et en bénéficiant, en sus de son propre fonds de pension, reçoive plus d’avantages net de l’exploitation des sables bitumineux que le citoyen albertain moyen.” [“It is possible that the average Quebecer, contributing to and benefiting from the Quebec Pension Plan, in addition to his or her own own pension fund, receives more net benefits from the oil sands than the average citizen of Alberta.”]

She points out that major Quebec pension plans, managed by the Caisse de Dépôt, are significant investors in infrastructure development in Alberta. As well, these investments allowed Quebec-based companies such as Ivanoé Cambridge, SNC-Lavalin, and Desjardins Securities to actively invest during the oil boom. Ivanhoe Cambridge alone, notes Perron, was a lead developer of CrossIron Mills shopping centre, among others, as well as downtown Calgary office towers such as Dome Tower, Home Oil Tower, TD Canada Trust Tower, and the CORE complex. With this knowledge, writes Perron, “[on] doit conclure que La Caisse de Dépôt est de facto propriétaire d’une somptueuse partie du centre-ville de Calgary” [“one must conclude that the Caisse de Dépôt is the de facto owner of a sumptuous portion of downtown Calgary”]. She suggests that it is important to articulate economic as well as environmental factors when debating the fate of projects such as the pipeline.

Read more about the book here.