Oil-exporting economies and political liberalism: comparative trends and their relevance for the Canadian Political Economy
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Alberta oil has enabled Canada to become the largest supplier of oil and refined products to the United States, ahead of Saudi Arabia and Mexico. However, the largest mining operations in history, is also one of the most damaging in history. The enormous environmental impacts of water usage, land damage, deforestation, and pollution, as well as the social impact of large-scale immigration to the region are being hotly debated in this context. More recently, there have been concerns regarding the transformation of Canada into a `Petro State’, which is likely to undermine democracy in the country. The relationship between oil and democracy has been most widely tested in the context of high-income states of the Arab Middle East, to explain the lack of political liberalism in those countries. Some recent studies have compared oil-exporting countries in Latin America and Africa to explore the `oil impedes democracy’ hypothesis. This paper will apply the insights of these comparative studies within the Canadian context to explore questions such as - To what extent do the causal mechanisms of oil versus democracy apply in Canada? Is there any evidence of the phenomenon of `resource curse’ in Canada, which is offered as an explanation for the lack of democracy and development elsewhere? Finally, what is the salience of the role of Canadian oil/mineral companies abroad, on this debate?