Just eight days after Alberta became the first province in all of Canada to drop every single COVID-19 health restriction, the Calgary Stampede welcomed a whopping 529,000 visitors to packed grandstands, music venues, and midway rides. If that isn’t a positive sign of how optimistic Albertans are feeling for our immediate days ahead, then I’m not sure what is. Albertans are ready to move on, take a confident and optimistic step forward into their futures, and return to their normal lives of working and socializing in-person.
As Albertans prepare to take this step, our Government has been working hard behind the scenes to diversify and strengthen our economy so that every Canadian in or outside of our province can find meaningful employment here in the field of their dreams. We were elected on a clear platform focused on jobs and the economy, and now that work can begin. By advancing a reduction of the business tax rate that transcended industry lines to give our province a competitive edge over almost all other North American jurisdictions, slashing regulatory barriers to conducting business, and making strategic policy decisions that will grow our traditional industries while diversifying into emerging sectors, Alberta is now poised to emerge from COVID 19 stronger than ever. This month’s editorial contains a lot of information on a lot of topics, squeezed into 1000 words or less, so bear with me.
Our Government knew that future economic growth would be grounded by the industries in which we are already world leaders: oil, gas, agriculture, and forestry. This is why we fought the carbon tax all the way to the Supreme Court; testified against Bill C-69 in the Senate; regularly attend OPEC meetings; proclaimed our turn-off-the-taps legislation and subsequently won British Columbia’s attempt for constitutional challenge; negotiated a caribou conservation agreement with the federal government to prevent the sterilization of thousands of acres of land and a loss of 75,000 energy jobs in northern Alberta; invested more in agricultural research than all three prairie provinces combined; established a hemp industry association; eased meat regulations to allow for direct farm-to-kitchen-table sales; and expanded Forest Management Agreements across the province. Yet we also recognized the need to diversify. That is why we have developed sector strategies for hydrogen and petrochemicals; transitioned Alberta’s film production grant into a rolling and scalable tax credit; deregulated the green energy market; introduced a new research and development tax credit for Albertan entrepreneurs; began developing extended producer responsibility framework to establish a recycling and plastics industry in the province; transformed TravelAlberta into a destination management organization, and are even considering building a train from the Calgary airport to Banff to grow our tourism industry.
The result has been over 100 announcements of companies either moving their operations from other jurisdictions to Alberta, or significantly upsizing their operations that were already here in Alberta. Primarily in the technology sectors, international companies are beginning to recognize Alberta as a business-friendly destination with a highly skilled labour pool, which has proven highly attractive as an investment proposition. As we emerge from COVID 19 and look to brighter days on the horizon, I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight some of these positive economic news stories and demonstrate just how strong our economy is looking. Endeavor, the world’s leading community of high impact entrepreneurs, launched Endeavor Canada with their new head office located in Calgary. Vancouver based mCloud Technologies, who uses artificial intelligence to monitor and mitigate energy waste, is moving their head office to Calgary and doubling their labour force. Infosys, the world’s second largest IT services firm, announced their expansion to Calgary along with the creation of up to 2000 jobs and the purchase of 50,000 square feet of AAA downtown office space. Expander Energy is constructing a $35 million, 22 million litre biomass and gas to liquids plant, which will be the first of its kind in the world producing net zero diesel fuel, jet fuel, and blue hydrogen near Slave Lake. Calgary-based Eavor Technologies created the world’s first closed-loop geothermal system to create clean energy from the natural heat of the earth. HBO will be filming all 8 seasons of their new show “The Last of Us”, expected to be their biggest hit yet with an even larger budget than Game of Thrones at more than $10 million an episode, in Alberta. India-based IT solutions provider Mphasis is establishing new Canadian headquarters in Calgary, with the creation of 1000 jobs and a new Quantum City Centre of Excellence to foster the commercial development of quantum technologies. Air Products announced the construction of a $1.3 billion hydrogen production facility in Edmonton. Shell Canada announced plans to build a large-scale carbon capture and storage facility in Alberta to capture 750,000m tonnes of CO2. Edmonton-based scheduling and invoicing software provider, Jobber, will be doubling their labour force in 2021. Alberta-based Wyvern signed a $400,000 contract with Defence Research and Development Canada to develop hyperspectral imaging satellite technology. And on a non-technological note, Spray Lakes Sawmills signed a new Forest Management Plan with the province to increase their operations by hundreds of millions of dollars upon the planting of their 65 millionth new tree in the Alberta forests.
Alberta is now the fastest growing solar market in Canada, and is expected to outpace the entire country in renewable energy growth this year. Our province doubled our previous record for venture capital investment in 2020, and had our strongest quarter in history this year. The number of tech startups in Alberta has doubled over the last two years. The price of oil is over $70/barrell and we just and our best March on record for oil production. Alberta now has the highest rate of women employed in the technology and innovation sectors of anywhere in the entire country. Calgary and Edmonton were recently ranked among the fastest growing technology sectors in all of North America, with Edmonton ranking #1. The Canadian-US border is reopening. Construction of the TransMountain pipeline continues to progress. And nearly every major bank in the country, as well as the Conference Board of Canada, are projecting our province to lead the nation in both GDP and employment growth this year. Alberta has been through a tremendous amount, not just over the past year but over the past six. It is past due for a government to take the economic interests and job security of our people as serious as they and their families do. That’s why our United Conservative government will continue to work hard and legislate policy framework that will ensure our province emerges from COVID 19 the strongest we have ever been, as the freest, fastest moving, most attractive market for business investment in North America. Our economic miracle is just around the corner.