What Ever Happened to Petro Canada?

Most oil-rich countries have national oil companies. Canada doesn’t.

By: /
17 February, 2012
By: Anouk Dey
Former deputy editor of OpenCanada.org

The rich… are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessities of life, which would have been, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of society. (Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments)

This week, OpenCanada joinedThe Economist, Ian Bremmer, and the other ambassadors of state capitalism to prove Adam Smith wrong. While there was disagreement over whether only the hands of the BRICs were becoming visible, all concurred that capitalism is becoming increasingly fettered by the state: global economic freedom is on the wane, the biggest companies in the world have names like Sinopec, China National Petroleum Corporation, and Japan Post Holdings.

And yet Canada remains a striking outlier. According to the Fraser Institute, economic freedom in this country is higher than in many of our peer countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom. Among countries with natural resources, we stick out like the oil sands in an Edward Burtynsky photograph. The graph below shows the ten countries with the greatest oil reserves in the world. Canada is the only one without a national oil company.


Shortly after the Keystone XL decision, Slate published an article titled “Saudi Arabia. Nigeria. Venezuela. Canada? Is our neighbor to the north becoming a jingoistic petro-state?” This graphic suggests otherwise.

Graphic by Cameron Tulk.

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Journalism in Canada has suffered a devastating decline over the last two decades. Dozens of newspapers and outlets have shuttered. Remaining newsrooms are smaller. Nowhere is this erosion more acute than in the coverage of foreign policy and international news. It’s expensive, and Canadians, oceans away from most international upheavals, pay the outside world comparatively little attention.

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