On today’s date in 1974, Canada’s first ministers agreed to increase the price of oil from $4 to $6.50 a barrel.
That year, two Federal-Provincial Conferences were held to “deal with the energy situation,” according to the Canadian Official Publications textbook authored by Olga Bishop.
“The first was held January 22-23. A second conference convened two months later, on March 27, 1974, to discuss in particular an oil pricing policy which would last for one year.”
The oil-price increase was in accordance with rising costs around the world, according to a 2002 working paper, “Oil-Price Shocks and Retail Energy Prices in Canada,” published by the Bank of Canada.
“Government regulation of the Canadian price of crude oil was implemented by levying a charge on oil exports and using the proceeds to subsidize oil imports in oil-dependent provinces in Eastern Canada,” reads the paper.
“This revenue tax remained in place until June 1985, when domestic oil prices were deregulated.”
FIRST OIL SHOCK
In October 1973, members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries proclaimed an oil embargo, beginning what would become known as the first oil shock.
The crisis would have many short- and long-term effects on the economy in Canada and abroad.
The price of a barrel of oil soared from $3 US to $15 US. By the end of the 1970s, prices neared $40 a barrel; however, in Alberta, an oil boom was making some Canadians very wealthy. The province’s population increased significantly throughout the 1970s as about 4,000 people rushed in each month.
Last year at this time, the price of oil per barrel in Canada was sitting at nearly $50; however, with the COVID-19 outbreak wreaking havoc on the global stock markets, those prices have since fallen “to less than a Barrel of Monkeys,” according to a story published yesterday by CBC News.
“Western Canadian Select (WCS) was selling for $6.45 US a barrel Thursday, down $2.84 US from a day earlier. That’s below last week’s record when it sold for as low as $7.63 US a barrel,” reads the March 26 story.
“The WCS price averaged $36.82 US a barrel in January, according to the province. To put that into perspective, a barrel of Alberta oil is now worth $9.08 Cdn, which is less than a Barrel of Monkeys Game, a litre of Petrelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil or a 30-gram tube of Polysporin, each $9.99 at London Drugs.”
CANADA’S FIRST DISCOVERY
Canada’s first major discovery in the Northwest Territories was made in 1920.
Because of its remote location, however, the discovery was of limited value at that time.
Other smaller discoveries – such as the Turner Valley field near Calgary, Alta. – were running dry and proved unable to satisfy the appetite of Canada’s post-war economic boom.
Imperial Oil, the country’s oldest oil company, was diligently exploring Canada’s northern and western landscapes, but after 27 years and 133 dry wells, hope was beginning to fade—until the Leduc oilfield released its 200-million barrel prize on Feb. 13, 1947. This “last chance” well fuelled new confidence in the potential of western Canada and drove continued exploration, leading to the discovery of 10 additional oilfields in Alberta by 1965. The province’s economy was transformed, and Canada was positioned as one of the world’s major oil producers.
2002 $100 GOLD COIN
In 2002, the Royal Canadian Mint issued a 14-karat colourized gold coin with a face value of $100 and a sea of “black gold” featured as part of the reverse design—the first time the Mint laser-etched a $100 gold coin.
The piece commemorated the discovery of the Leduc oilfield on Feb. 13, 1947.
Designed by John Mardon, the coin’s reverse features an oilrig – a common scene in Alberta’s petroleum-rich landscape – but the coin’s focal point is a sea of blackened oil seeping from the underground bounty. The black gold, created through a process of selectively oxidizing the coin’s gold alloy, represented a technological breakthrough for the Mint.
The obverse design features an effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Dora de Pédery-Hunt.
The Proof coin is composed of 58.33 per cent gold and 41.67 per cent silver and weighs 13.33 grams. It has a diameter of 27 millimetres and a thickness of 2.15 millimetres. There was a mintage of 10,000 coins.
Born in Welland, Ont., Mardon eventually graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1962 before spending a year in London, England, at the Central School of Arts and Crafts.
Mardon prefers to work in pen and ink and watercolour. Working as a freelance illustrator, he has been commissioned by the Mint and Canada Post for various coin and stamp designs.
Mardon’s designs for the Mint include the Bobsleigh and Biathlon coins that were part of the Calgary Olympic series; the 1989 silver dollar commemorating the bicentennial of the discovery of the MacKenzie River; and the 1990 $100 gold coin celebrating the United Nations International Year of Literacy.