I met an interesting chap last night at a BBQ for the IT industry here in Moncton. I forget his name but he has done very well for himself investing in early stage technology companies. Anyway, we were chatting about (what else) economic development and he concluded that “lots of natural resources make a province or state fat and lazy”. I thought about it and it is an interesting hypothesis. Certainly if a province has forests, fish, oil, gas or other mineral revenues coming in it doesn’t have to spend as much time worrying about fostering an environment where ideas and knowledge-based industries will emerge. But beyond the theory, I think in practice I would tweak his theory.
In New Brunswick, natural resources have made us thin and lazy. Having fish, forests and some minerals hasn’t made this province fat but it has provided enough of an economic base to allow us to survive without other industries (such as aerospace, auto, IT, film, finance, etc. etc.) that are not based on natural resources emerging here in a big way. But in recent years, much of this natural resource revenue has been ebbing away which will force us to get ‘fit’ following the metaphor. Getting in shape is a tough job.
An as for Alberta, natural resources have made that province fat but I doubt the lazy part. The province has invested hundreds of millions into cancer and nanotechnology research. It has built the most successful primary and secondary education system in Canada (maybe even North America). It seems to me fat yes, lazy no.
Newfoundland and Labrador has won the lottery of natural resource revenue and we will have to wait and see if they get fat and lazy.