The forces at play in the upcoming 2019 provincial election are reflected in how you react to this banner.
The banner is a part of Calgary’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. Some people loved its edgy, self-deprecating message, others didn’t get it…at all.
Okay, hold that thought while Ms Soapbox tells you about the future…
Economic Summit 2018
Mr and Ms Soapbox attended the annual economic summit luncheon last week and discovered that Alberta’s future is much brighter than Jason Kenney and the UCP would have you believe.
- Alberta is out of the recession. Growth is expected to be 4.2% this year and 1.9% next year.
- We’re heading in the right direction, but–and this is a very important but–we need to break out of our old mind-set and recognize that the energy sector no longer drives Alberta’s economic growth.
- Energy is still important, but it’s more like a backbone supporting other sectors like technology, agri-business, financial services, renewable and clean energy, travel and tourism, logistics, and transportation.
- The biggest threat to our economy isn’t fluctuating global oil prices but the impact of a certain unpredictable American president on NAFTA.
- The biggest uncertainty we face is technology. Technological progress unlike industrial progress is non-linear and moving at lightning speed through three spheres: the physical world (eg 3D printers), the digital world, and the virtual world (eg self driving cars).
Bottom line: we need to keep the backbone (energy) strong while we fan out and diversify. We must adapt or we’ll be left behind.
Who is adaptable and who isn’t
Rachel Notley strengthened Alberta’s energy sector by creating a regulatory framework, the Climate Leadership Plan, which was critical to getting federal approval of two interprovincial pipelines. She continues to support the industry by advocating for it and intervening in applications to allow pipelines to go ahead without unwarranted interference from other jurisdictions.
Jason Kenney promises to scrap the Climate Leadership Plan, eliminate the carbon levy, and sue the feds when they replace the provincial carbon levy with a federal carbon tax, thereby creating uncertainty around the rules of the game. The UCP responds to jurisdictions interfering with pipelines by threatening to cut off oil shipments (good luck trying to convince pipeline companies and oil producers that’s a good idea) or create new tariffs which will increase the commodity price and reduce industry profits which are already low.
Notley listened to economists who warned that big energy companies won’t be the big job creators of tomorrow and is working to diversifying the economy.
Kenney is oblivious to this warning. He promises to “stand up” for the energy sector, including coal, by bringing back the Alberta Advantage (ie. lower taxes), but has yet to explain why the Alberta Advantage would incent energy companies to hire back the thousands of workers they laid off in 2014-15 when it failed to prevent these companies from undertaking massive layoffs from 1992 to 2006 when Ralph Klein, the father of the Alberta Advantage, was premier.
Notley understands that some Albertans have not yet recovered from the economic downturn. She created retraining programs and strengthened the social safety net to support them and their families. Kenney’s UCP tweets “We understand that in order to be a compassionate, caring province, we must be prosperous first.” In other words, those left behind will just have to wait.
Who will fight a bear for you?
Are you still holding on to that thought about “fighting a bear for Amazon”?
The Amazon bid package included typical bid information about crime rates, fibre networks, office vacancies, schools, airline flights, and our strong STEM workforce. It was wrapped in a Hudson’s Bay blanket (how traditional is that?), but it was supported by an edgy marketing campaign intended to impress Amazon executives and employees in the 25 to 35 year range because Calgary, once the centre of the energy industry, knew that it was competing for the jobs of the future.
Those who reacted positively to the banner understand the future is now. Those who didn’t need to catch up.
While Jason Kenney is making meaningless threats to “protect” the energy sector, promising to cut taxes and revitalize the Conservative movement provincially and nationally, Rachel Notley is working to revitalize Alberta for all Albertans.
Or to put it in terms Calgarians would understand: Rachel Notley would totally fight a bear for you.
*This blog incorporates comments made by Mary Moran, CEO of Calgary Economic Development, Glen Hodgson, senior fellow Conference Board of Canada, Todd Hirsch, ATB Financial chief economist and Mayor Naheed Nenshi at the 2018 Economic Summit held in Calgary on Oct 30, 2017. Political commentary is mine alone.