Today, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and chambers of commerce from across the country are publically recognizing natural resource development as an important economic driver. A key part of Canada’s future prosperity means creating the conditions for our natural resource sectors to succeed. Nowhere is this more apparent than in New Brunswick.

The Sisson Project mine, Energy East Pipeline and natural gas development are near­term opportunities that we must seize. As a key part of Canada’s and New Brunswick’s economic mix, any serious plan for creating jobs, greening our economy and reaching out to new markets has to place the competitiveness of the resources sector at its core. These projects ­ or natural resource development generally ­ aren’t the only answer, but they are opportunities that we cannot afford to ignore.

There are risks involved with any development, but with the right regulations and enforcement, we can significantly minimize and mitigate these risks. There is no way to minimize or mitigate the risks involved with a shrinking population and unsustainable, stagnant economy. Business activity provides 100% of the funds that government has to spend on health, education, and social services. We already receive nearly 40% of our provincial budget from the federal government ­ primarily from regions that more aggressively development their resources. If not for other parts of the country, we already wouldn’t be able to provide many of these services.

Natural resources provide crucial high paying jobs for people in rural areas, but urban areas benefit as well, as evidenced by Fredericton being named a “Resource City” by the Canadian chamber in 2015. Through their extensive supply chains, natural resource firms are important customers of manufacturers and service providers in cities that are miles from the forest, farm or mine site.

Natural resources remain, by far, Canada’s largest export sector. More than that, they are an important calling card on the world stage. As we look to expand trade beyond the U.S. to Asia and Europe, our resources will be one of the key reasons why business and government leaders in these regions take our phone call.

In many ways, resource industries are leading technology innovators for Canada. Developing a global edge in clean technology, a priority for the current government, will mean leveraging our strength in resource production. One example of the linkages between resource businesses and clean tech is chamber member Green Imaging Technologies, whose innovations allow resource companies to explore potential resource­rich areas with minimal invasion.
But business can’t do it alone. Government needs to create the conditions that will facilitate Canada’s trade with the world. The Canadian Chamber has identified several areas where government action is needed to shore up Canada’s competitiveness.

Canadian fisheries are posed to seize growing advantage in the EU and Asia, but need a full court press to get trade agreements ratified that that will open up these markets.

Forest products are the largest contributor to Canada’s trade surplus, but they need a more competitive freight transportation system to get the world’s sustainably­produced forest products to market.

We need governments to make the case to get pipelines and LNG export facilities built in order to trade our oil and gas resources with the world. So long as the world relies on hydrocarbons, there’s a strong case for Canada to stand up as an ethical and responsible producer of this crucial product.

Canada could triple its clean power exports to the U.S. by 2030 as our southern neighbor moves to close down its coal plants, but taking full advantage of the opportunity will require working with the United States to remove regulatory barriers.

Economic opportunity does not just happen. It takes foresight to identify an opening and conviction to act before the chance passes us by. Now is the time for Canadians and New Brunswickers to decide. Investment in infrastructure and removing barriers to opening foreign markets is needed to preserve the competitiveness of an industry that helps to sustain our community and many others across Canada.

The Fredericton Chamber of Commerce supports our resource sectors as vital to the economy of the province. Let’s start exporting more of our products instead of our people.

Krista Ross is the CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce. With more than 950 members, the Fredericton Chamber is one of Atlantic Canada’s largest chambers of commerce. A dynamic business organization, the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce is actively engaged in policy development that affects the competitiveness of our members and of the Canadian business environment.  The Chamber’s vision is ‘Community Prosperity Through Business’.