Crews walk past the polypropylene reactor and the giant crane being used to raise it into position at the Heartland Petrochemical Complex in Fort Saskatchewan on Thursday, March 7, 2019.David Bloom / Postmedia, file

Do we laugh or cry over the state of Alberta’s economy?

We are so swayed by the latest headlines, especially the enormous conflict between Western Canadian oil and natural gas versus the youthful/progressive/protest cry for a no-carbon-fuels world.

Our bitumen, and now B.C.’s natural gas, has become symbolic of a global fight to the death between unspoiled nature and evil global capitalism. The captains of Alberta’s No. 1 industry are the baddest dudes of all.

On the one hand, despair. The global energy companies, huge pension funds, and our fellow Canadians want nothing to do with our No. 1 industry, if only because they will be blocked by climate warriors and our federal government at every turn.

On the other … The Alberta government has an excellent website entitled the Alberta economic dashboard, an updated report on every major economic measurement that’s out there — unemployment, housing starts, motor vehicle sales.


The well-presented economic dashboard allows the user to make comparisons going back 10 years or more.

While the headlines push us into despair, the emotion-free numbers on the economic dashboard aren’t that bad!

Compared to the highs of 2013 and the lows of 2016, we are in a Goldilocks’ economy. Not too hot, not too cold.

Not so good — unemployment is at 7.3 per cent. For the first time, Alberta has slipped down to Maritime unemployment levels, and unemployment is way higher than our 10-year average of 4.3 per cent.

Housing starts are down year to year, as are new motor vehicle sales. Wages have been slow on the rise, an average two per cent increase per year from $990 per week in 2010 to $1,193 per week today.

But, contradictorily,  the “job vacancy” rate indicates employment opportunity. The latest is 35,800 jobs not being filled, compared to a high of 66,600 job openings in 2012 and a low of 23,000 in 2016.

Others still want to come to Alberta. The latest figure — 16,500 moving into Alberta over the last 12 months, is the second highest influx since 2013’s 28,000 new arrivals.

The actual number of working Albertans has grown over the past 10 years, from two million to 2.3 million. Our population has grown from 3.7 million in 2010 to 4.4 million today.

In that horrid energy sector, pipeline constraints and all, oil production has more than doubled since 2010, from 1.3 million barrels per day to 2.9 million barrels per day.

The huge capital-intensive oilsands projects are of the past. (You really think the Teck Frontier mine will happen? Good luck.) But the building/expansion of smaller in-situ (underground) oil projects is happening to the tune of $5 billion.

Approved pipeline building within the province is quietly generating $30 billion. That’s big bucks! Construction of new petrochemical plants around Fort Saskatchewan are adding some $7 billion to the economy.

There you have it.  The emotional feeling that Alberta is going to hell in a handbasket, versus actual numbers suggesting, in our boom-to-bust economy, that we are simply somewhere in between boom and bust.


It’s complicated, but the sale of one-half of Yardstick Software Inc. — the online testing and training products company founded in Edmonton by Chris LaBoissiere and Don Riep in 2005 — and the re-branding of the other half should ultimately be good for the city.

Yardstick’s online testing division has been sold to ProctorU, a leading American online exam security/identity management firm. It will be part of a new ProctorU subsidiary, Meazure Learning.

A key component of the sale was the brainpower within Yardstick Testing’s product development team.  Meazure will  keep that team in Edmonton. Only the name outside the 104 Street building changes, from Yardstick to Meazure Learning.

Yardstick’s remaining division, Yardstick Training, is being re-branded as We Know Training, with the intent of growing its training, and training solutions, business here in the city.

Chris LaBoissiere has sold a division of Yardstick and re-branded the balance to We Know Training.

LaBoissiere continues as CEO of We Know Training. Its offices will be moving from temporary quarters in the First and Jasper Building into the former RBC office tower once it is renovated. LaBoissiere’s Yardstick partner Don Riep is retiring.

Meazure keeps its newly acquired product development team in Edmonton. The other half of Yardstick, now re-branded as We Know Training, stays.  Both have realistic growth potential and will provide skilled job opportunities.