Cardus: Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water or a Land Flowing with Milk and Honey?

The phrase “hewers of wood and drawers water” used to be bad. From its original use in the King James Bible to today, the term stood for a lifetime of economic bondage. It stood for workers subject to the whims of those who are free, whether imperial overlords or the capitalists who buy materials cheap, manufacture, and then sell them back at a premium.

But not everyone sees it that way. For some, hewing wood, and drawing water, along with oil, chromite, gold, copper, diamonds, natural gas, and potash is more like a land flowing with milk and honey than indentured servitude. As Russ Kuykendall noted in a recent Cardus Policy in Public, “Canada’s energy endowment brings new meaning to the expression ‘an embarrassment of riches.'” And, as one commentator noted, those riches have contributed not only to increased corporate profits, but also to significant wage increases across the country.

Much of the media discussion has focussed on the Alberta oil sands and its impact on the environment, the Canadian dollar, manufacturing, and jobs. Yet the Canadian economy is changing in ways that are not easily seen from the daily news cycle. Four observations in particular stand out, each of which presents significant challenges and opportunities for Canada’s economic and social infrastructure.

  • Canada’s resource economy is not contained in Alberta. It is diverse, and well established in all regions.
  • Canada’s construction sector employment growth correlates positively with losses in manufacturing sector employment.
  • Canada’s infrastructure is old, and in dire need of repair.
  • Construction’s importance for the Canadian economy will grow, not shrink, over the next decade. It will be a lynchpin for economic growth for the foreseeable future.

Read the full essay here.


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