Chapter 8. The Economy since 1920
The first and foremost of Canada’s resource-extraction industries was the fisheries. It is the oldest export-oriented economic activity in the post-contact era that began in the 16th century. Fisheries made Canada’s sea-going traditions critically important. At the time of Confederation, the necessity of an ice-free port was one of the attractions of uniting New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to the old Province of Canada. Both of these Maritime provinces had a long and distinguished record in the production and mobilization of fleets of fishing boats and globe-ranging vessels. Prince Edward Island was not far behind. Also, Newfoundland’s orientation to the sea has been all but complete because of its very limited agricultural and forest hinterland. On the West and North coasts of Canada as well, shipping has been a means to make a living and a symbol of sovereignty. Shipbuilding and the fisheries — two primary areas of commerce, employment, and investment — are briefly explored in Sections 8.8 and 8.9.
More contemporary, the oil and gas industry is considered in Section 8.10. Supplying energy became a core element of the industrial economy in the 19th century. Canada has participated in the energy revolution(s) in the modernizing world since Basque whalers first visited the Labrador Coast in the 16th century (if not earlier). The transition from organic sources of heat and light — wood, whale oil, dogfish oil — to inorganic sources like coal, kerosene, oil, petroleum, natural gas, and uranium was relatively easy for a country that had access to all of these options. In a fuel-hungry millennial world, energy is one staple export that comes close to balancing the bulk:value ratio.