Canada’s energy sector includes oil and gas exploration, hydroelectric, wind, solar and tidal energy, shale gas and coal, among others. Like many natural resources, speculation and exploration originally led to temporary, camp-style settlements based around an extraction site, and a harvest-and-move approach to smaller finds.
Energy resources are found across the country. Natural gas was discovered in the Maritimes and oil in Ontario in the 1850s, but the Ontario boom was short-lived: by the 1870s the first few fields were dead, and population plummeted. Intense commercialization in this region was hampered by lack of infrastructure (mainly poor roads over swampy drilling areas), which didn’t allow for large-scale machinery. By the early 1900s the focus on energy exploration shifted west, and a speculative flurry began in Alberta.
Major oil and gas fields like those found in Alberta have led to more sustained infrastructure, but the speed and scale of housing needed to accommodate sudden rushes of production often result in basic living quarters with few amenities. Single-family homes, schools and community centres are often neglected due to the risk of the boom and bust cycle that accompanies many drill sites. As communities mature, demand for more stable housing often outstrips supply, and costs can quickly become unsustainable.
Renewable energy in Canada has often avoided this boom or bust cycle, but often doesn’t lead to the establishment of permanent communities, and can also negatively affect nearby settlements: for example, major hydroelectric dams could lead to flooding, while wind farms have faced backlash from noise complaints to adverse affects on migrating birds.
Environmental concerns and First Nations land claims have shifted the landscape of many energy-based developments. Community development in the energy sector often depends upon the interplay between sustainable employment, infrastructure geared toward families, and active exchange between First Nations communities and local governments.