Crosscountry: Canada at a glance – August 2015

Quebec’s shale oil reserves could justify the development of more wells, a new report argues. Plus, Canada ranks second in the world for its support of female entrepreneurship.


Is all well that ends wells?

Heeding the warnings of environmentalist groups, the Quebec government has imposed a moratorium on the exploitation of shale oil in the province. But according to the Montreal Economic Institute, it should probably listen a little more to developers and landowners with shale oil on their property.

There are currently only 34 wells in Quebec, and more than half use hydraulic fracturing. Yet proven reserves could justify the development of more wells, allowing landowners who grant exploitation rights to benefit for several decades.

Do the risks outweigh the profits? The MEI notes that last year, 91 leaks were reported out of 260,000 gas and oil wells in Alberta. Three of these leaks affected waterways, and none had an impact on human or animal health.


The young and the richer

“The wealthiest Canadian families in their 20s have an average net worth of over $500,000 — more than Canadian middle-class families manage to save over a lifetime,” says economist David Macdonald in a study issued by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The Wealth Advantage: The Growing Wealth Gap Between Canada’s Affluent and the Middle Class points out that in 2012, middle-class families in their 20s had less than $10,000 in savings, while those in their 60s had $470,000. That same year, Canada’s most affluent families in their 20s had $540,000 in wealth, and peaked at $3.4 million in their 60s.

The most affluent families saw their wealth double in real terms between 1999 and 2012 because of high returns on assets, higher income levels and much steeper pay raises.


Keeping score for women

Canada ranks second in the world for its support of female entrepreneurship, reports the 2015 Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders Scorecard, sponsored by Dell.

With a score of 69 out of 100, Canada comes in just behind the US and is on a par with Australia. The 31 countries canvassed in the study represent 70% of the world’s female population.




A team that includes physicists from the University of Waterloo and McMaster University has proposed a solution to a mystery that has long stumped scientists: namely, how liquid turns into glass.

The theory relies on two concepts that were already known but never combined: molecular crowding and string-like co-operative movement. As Waterloo News explains, “The molecules in glasses move around like people in a crowded room. As the number of people increases, the amount of free volume decreases and the slower people can move. The more crowded the room, the more you rely on the co-operative movement with your neighbours to get where you’re going.” Similarly, molecules in glass move around, but are also confined by, weak bonds with their neighbours.

Thanks to the team’s findings, researchers can now understand how glass works at the nanoscale. This should lead to the development of new nanomaterials, such as glasses with conductive properties.