6 Reasons Why the Natural Resources Sector is Critical for Canadian Prosperity

6 Reasons Why the Natural Resources Sector is Critical for Canadian Prosperity

six reasons why natural resources underpin Canadian economy and prosperity

This blog has been edited due to Bill C-59

Just how important is Canada’s natural resource sector to the prosperity of Canadians? Very, very important, to say the least, even for those who may not work in the sector directly (see more below).

But don’t take our word for it.

Here are several recent statistics showing exactly why the natural resource sector is critical to jobs, prosperity and the way of life for Canadians and Indigenous Peoples from coast to coast. Also see:

#1 – 1/4 of the Canadian Economy

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Canada’s natural resource sectors accounted for 17.1% of the national economy in 2021. Of this, 12.9% was created from direct industry sources [1]:

  • Energy (7.4%)
  • Minerals / Metals (3.9%)
  • Forestry (1.7%)

Another 4.1% was considered "indirect" economic activity spurred by the natural resource sectors. That’s trickle-down business and jobs for IT companies, law firms, financial institutions, manufacturers, service providers, and everything in between.

These figures do not include the roughly 7% national economic contribution the agriculture and agri-food sectors accounted for [2].

Therefore, in total, all of Canada’s natural resources account for roughly a quarter of its economy!

What would Canada do if one-quarter of its economy were erased tomorrow? Let’s not even go there.

#2 – 22% of All Jobs

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Of 17.4 million positions across the country in 2021, natural resources accounted for 1.6 million direct and indirect jobs. Of these, 867,000 were direct jobs due to activity in the following industries [1]:

  • Energy (254,000)
  • Minerals/metals (403,000)
  • Forestry (211,000)

Another 758,000 indirect jobs in other supportive fields such as those mentioned above: finance, law, IT, manufacturing, services, etc.

Let’s not forget the millions of jobs held in Canada’s agri-food and agriculture sector. In 2022, the industry employed 2.3 million people and supported 1 in 9 jobs from coast to coast [3].

Combined, that is roughly 3.9 million jobs supported by Canada’s energy, mining, forestry, and agriculture industries -- or more than 22% of all jobs found nationwide.

What would nearly a quarter of employed Canadians do without a job in the natural resource sector?

#3 – New Projects = Economic Opportunities

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As of 2022, there were 470 major natural resource projects under construction or planned in Canada over the next decade, representing $520 billion of total investment in the following industries [1]:

  • Energy – 320 projects - $427 billion
  • Minerals / Metals – 124 projects - $88 billion
  • Forestry – 26 projects - $4.1 billion

Capital investment into resource projects equates to more economic opportunities for Canadians and First Nations nationwide. Often enough, these projects create immense benefits for remote communities, creating once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for families living in Canada’s vast wilderness.

In other words, major natural resource projects equal long-term career and job opportunities in remote Canadian communities, places that often see many young people leave for urban centres in search of jobs.

Additionally, the responsible development of Canada’s natural resources is now helping underpin economic reconciliation with Indigenous communities. Coastal GasLink, Cedar LNG and Ksi Lisims LNG are all great examples of how resource projects are helping usher in own-source revenues and self-determination for First Nations in Canada!

What would rural Canadian and Indigenous communities do without the once-in-a-generation economic opportunities provided by the responsible development of natural resources?

#4 – Capital Expenditures = Economic Opportunities

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In 2021, natural resource companies invested $83 billion, representing 30% of Canada's total non-residential capital investment [1]:

  • Energy - $66 billion
  • Minerals / Metals - $14 billion
  • Forestry - $3 billion

Investment from natural resource companies creates new job opportunities and spurs economic activity across Canada. This is especially true for remote communities that often depend on the natural resource sectors as economic mainstays.

In 2021, for example, 909 communities were economically reliant on at least one natural resource sector. Of those communities, 609 were either significantly or highly reliant on at least one natural resource industry [1].

Surely, these figures increase considerably once agriculture is added into the mix.

What would Canadians and Indigenous Peoples do without the job opportunities provided by Canada’s wealth-generating natural resource sectors?

#5 – Government Revenues

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Canadian governments derived approximately $20.1 billion annually in direct tax and royalty revenues from the natural resource sectors between 2015 and 2019 [1].

What could our governments buy with $100.5 billion dollars over five years? Several new transit lines + stations, hospitals, schools, roads, police officers, nurses, teachers, doctors, and still have lots left over for critical social programs here in Canada.

Ontario’s top ten most expensive infrastructure projects in 2022 [4] - to be built over several years - could all be paid for with Canadian government resource revenues from 2015 to 2019.

  • GO Expansion – On-Corridor Works - $15.7 billion
  • Bruce Power Nuclear Plant Refurbishment - $13 billion
  • Darlington Nuclear Plant Refurbishment - $12.8 billion
  • Eglinton Crosstown LRT - $12.5 billion
  • Ontario Line - $10.9 billion
  • GO Expansion – Early Works - $10.5 billion
  • TTC Vehicles Program - $7.1 billion
  • Gordie Howe International Bridge - $5.7 billion
  • Hurontario LRT - $5.6 billion
  • Scarborough Subway Extension - $5.5 billion

Total = $99.3 billion / $100.5 billion.

Now, that’s no small chunk of change! Factoring in income tax into these revenues, and Canadian governments likely have even more funds to underpin our high standard of living and quality of life.

What would Canadian infrastructure and other public facilities such as hospitals and universities look like without resource sector revenues?

#6 – Natural Resources "Pay the Bills"

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Canada’s natural resource exports – valued at $319 billion – comprised 51% of Canada’s total merchandise exports in 2021. The United States accounted for the lion’s share of Canadian resource exports, with China and the United Kingdom in second and third.

  • United States – 76%
  • United Kingdom – 4%
  • China – 4%

In other words, natural resource exports "pay the bills" for Canada, consistently maintaining a healthy net trade balance surplus every month.

Without natural resources, Canada’s net trade balance would be severely affected. For example, the chart above clearly indicates how Canadians sell energy, forestry and mining products to pay for the import of consumer goods.

Canada Should Be Proud…

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Canada’s natural resource sectors underpin the economy and, as a result, our standard of living and quality of life. They are the single largest contributing sector to Canada’s annual GDP and – when including the agriculture and agri-food sector – employ nearly a quarter of all working Canadians and account for more than one-fifth of all jobs in the country.

Canada’s natural resource sectors are consistently responsible for the largest portion of non-residential capital investment in the country. They also represent more than half of the value of our total export merchandise and contribute tens of billions of dollars to government coffers annually.

As Canadians, we must recognize that many of us would have difficulty making ends meet without these industries. Additionally, our governments would struggle to pay for those much-needed services such as healthcare, education, and protection that play an integral role in the high standard of living and quality of life we enjoy.


1. Natural Resources Canada. (2022). NRCan key facts and figures. Retrieved from [https://natural-resources.canada.ca/sites/nrcan/files/emmc/pdf/NRCan_Key_Facts_Figures_Update_EN-2022.pdf](https://natural-resources.canada.ca/sites/nrcan/files/emmc/pdf/NRCan_Key_Facts_Figures_Update_EN-2022.pdf). Date Accessed: September 2023.

2. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. (n.d.). Sector Overview. Retrieved from [https://agriculture.canada.ca/en/sector/overview](https://agriculture.canada.ca/en/sector/overview). Date Accessed: September 2023.

3. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. (n.d.). Sector Overview. Retrieved from [https://agriculture.canada.ca/en/sector/overview](https://agriculture.canada.ca/en/sector/overview). Date Accessed: September 2023.

4. Storeys. (2023). Top 100 Canada infrastructure projects in 2023. Retrieved from [https://storeys.com/renew-top-100-canada-infrastructure-projects-2023-ontario/](https://storeys.com/renew-top-100-canada-infrastructure-projects-2023-ontario/). Date Accessed: September 2023.