This column originally appeared in The Globe and Mail on June 26, 2013.Money spent replacing damaged goods, rather than investments in productivity or vacations, is not what economists like to see. (NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
As the waters of the Bow and Elbow rivers slowly recede, the extent of the flood damage in Alberta is gradually becoming a little clearer. Costs will certainly run into the billions of dollars, and it has already been called the second-largest natural disaster in Canada, after the 1998 ice storm.
Aside from the reconstruction costs, economists are busy trying to estimate the cost of lost business activity. How will Alberta’s and Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) suffer? It’s a tempting question to pose, but in fact, the flood may actually stimulate the economy.
This column originally appeared in The Globe and Mail on June 19, 2013.
Like most Albertans in the 80s, I remember the question that loomed like a nasty storm cloud on the prairie horizon: What happens when we run out of oil? It was a logical question – since oil was finite, it seemed sensible to conclude that we would eventually run out. And then what?
Three decades later, that question has been answered. Alberta will never, ever run out of molecules of oil in the ground. With new technologies that have untapped the oil sands, we now have more potential resources than ever before. There’s no way we will ever run out.
But now even stormier questions bear down on Albertans: What happens if no one wants to buy it at the price we require to dig it up? Or worse, what happens if we can’t pipe it out of here? These uglier realities are creating some worry lines on the brows of the Armani-suited in downtown Calgary. (If nothing else, there should be a good future for plastic surgeons in this city).
Pipeline opposition, the war on carbon, soaring oil U.S. production – there are plenty of reasons to worry about Alberta if you’re so inclined. Fortunately, Alberta’s economic future remains incredibly bright. The future of the province isn’t just about oil.
This column originally appeared in The Globe and Mail on June 6 2013.
People love to peer into the future, and one of the hottest topics these days is the future of money. Bitcoin – an electronic cash system used predominantly for online transactions – is sending tingles of excitement down the spines of some folks. But for all its potential advantages, Bitcoin is not going to replace the U.S. dollar or other major national currencies any time soon.
The fact that Bitcoin is made up of binary code and has no physical presence isn’t what makes it unique. After all, electronic purchases made with a regular bank debit card are essentially the same thing. What makes Bitcoin unique – and perhaps more interesting – is that it isn’t issued by a national central bank and can be transferred without a financial institution acting as intermediary. Because some online vendors accept it as payment, it’s starting to resemble what we normally call money.