QUEBEC CITY, May 24 (UPI) -- Natural resources form "one of the cornerstones" of the Canadian federal and provincial economies, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said.
Canada is the one of the Top 10 oil producers in the world. The Canadian Department of Natural Resources said oil production from North America is expected to increase more than 10 percent to 2016 in part because of Canadian oil production. In Alberta, home to the giant Athabasca tight oil play, production should reach 170,000 barrels per day by 2014.
Oliver told an annual economic conference in Quebec that natural resources were a driving economic force in the country.
"Our natural resources are one of the cornerstones of the economic development of Quebec and Canada," he said. "They have been a key driver of the Canadian and Quebec economies since the earliest days of our country."
Last month, the Canadian government reported that its economy grew 0.3 percent in April in part because of oil and natural gas extraction. Oliver said the natural resources sector represented about 20 percent of the gross domestic product.
Oliver said expanding pipelines domestically and through the United States would drive the economy forward.
Canadian oil is the subject of environmental controversy. It's seen as more corrosive to pipelines and more carbon intensive than conventional crude.