Skyline taken from the airport control tower at the Blatchford Redevelopment in Edmonton, December 4, 2017.Ed Kaiser Ed Kaiser / Ed Kaiser/Postmedia

Two interesting reports will be coming forward in the next few weeks, one to Edmonton City Council, one to the Government of Alberta.

Whoa, don’t let your eyes glaze over! Don’t give up on Hicks on Biz!

Reports, however dry and horrible and impossible to read, can profoundly influence the economic well-being of our city and province.

And never before has Edmonton/Alberta faced such crossroads as today.

If there’s not ingenuity and leadership and innovation, we are going to see a continuing decline in our real estate prices. Our children and grandchildren will reluctantly leave Alberta for career opportunities elsewhere. A slow, steady decline in entrepreneurial spirit will infect the province, to a point, where, like too many parts of Canada, the big deal will be to get a government job and never let it go.


Within Edmonton, a re-think is going on about how the city/region can best assist little “start-up” companies grow into successful entities that provide employment, create new wealth and once in a blue moon grow to great, big companies!

City council and the business community are ready to chuck the old “economic development” model – supervised by The Edmonton Economic Development Corporation – in favour of a combined city/region delivery mechanism and strategy that’s being defined behind the scenes.

Within the provincial government, it’s dawning on the United Conservative Party that putting all its economic eggs into $2.5 billion per year of corporate income tax cuts might just not be the entire solution to kick-starting an economy that’s been on the limp since 2016.

Premier Jason Kenney has put together a small task force to come up with suggestions on what more his government can do, beyond corporate tax reductions for the Big Boys.  Tax breaks don’t do much good when a struggling company has no profits to be taxed. The task force’s report is to be released at the end of the month.

Yet more reports, sigh: But the high-tech success stories around the world — from Singapore, Israel, Holland, Austin (Texas), Silicon Valley, hundreds more – all came from sticking with long-term strategic equivalents of municipal/provincial/federal economic development plans.

Alberta has a lot going for it. Excellent educational institutions producing a skilled labour force, a still-alive entrepreneurial spirit, a still-growing (for now) relatively young population, a “critical mass” of expertise in key future-oriented business sectors.

Then there are the challenges.

First and foremost is Alberta’s image/brand. We are being seen by everybody but ourselves as tobacco-chewing, insensitive, selfish rednecks who care more about making money from spewing Earth-destroying oil into the world than we do about climate change.  Certainly, that’s what Justin Trudeau is thinking.

To the astonishment of his opponents, Premier Kenney has begun to acknowledge the need to go green, the “transition” to the last barrel of oil, and, most importantly, a non-stop emphasis on the greening of non-renewable energy extraction.

To that end, these two reports will undoubtedly frame their recommendations within a massive overall theme of rebranding  Alberta as a hotbed of enviro-tech, clean-tech, green-tech, no-more-holding-ponds-tech, cleaning-up-abandoned-oilwells-tech.

Actual recommendations will likely centre on encouraging companies/technologies that further the “greening” of oil and gas production and usage … to the extent of producing so little carbon emissions that the Gretas will turn their zeal to other ecological causes … like all the coal-burning power plants in China that ought to switch to low-emission natural gas shipped from Western Canada.

Reports set the stage for profound change: But only if there’s leadership and political will, cutting through the vested interests and bureaucratic cover-your-ass tactics that seem to always throw up barriers to meaningful change.

Mayor Don Iveson and city council, Premier Jason Kenney and your UCP MLAs, don’t let us down.