The great oil crash of 2014/15 sent Alberta’s economy reeling into the ropes.
Ever since, as our champ staggered back to its feet, pow! Along would come another blow.
Climate change – stop the pipelines! Bash!
A provincial NDP government – blame the rich! Spend, spend, spend! Pfffttt!
The federal government’s ecological love song – death to the carbon-based economy! Bam!
Heading into the 2020s, the kid is pretty bloodied up and still on its knees.
But it’s about to stand up. Its energy is returning. It’s gaining ground, a counter punch here, a jab there, gaining some momentum.
The debate over climate change is slowly moving from its irrational spiritual, romantic and “natural” bias to the practical.
The new federal Minister of Resources, Seamus O’Regan, actually showed up at the recent construction start of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion west of town. And the ever “virtue-signaling” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kept his mouth shut.
In a recent column, Postmedia colleague David Staples quoted clean energy expert Michael Shellenberger, touting natural gas and clean nuclear as climate solutions.
We have oodles of natural gas. We are world experts in extracting, shipping and utilizing natural gas.
It’s dawning on pragmatic environmentalists that Canada’s “clean oil” is the best oil in the world for transportation. We are world leaders in lowering emissions from oil in general, bitumen in particular.
Brain power: Alberta has done a seriously good job creating a well-trained, intelligent, hard-working work force. Most exciting, to my mind, is the creation of companies to commercialize the University of Alberta’s machine-learning expertise and research. Those new companies, in turn, are working with “traditional” Alberta firms to leap ahead of the competition. On automation does Alberta’s future depend.
I make no apologies for being a booster of Alberta’s current government. Everything it is doing is to encourage economic activity within the highest of standards for the environment, for workplace safety and prosperity. In fields like research and development, it is looking for the best bang for the buck – rather than old government habits of throwing money around left, right and centre.
A whopping annual reduction of about .05% in provincial spending this coming year has been imposed, striking a reasonable balance between fiscal responsibility to future generations and ensuring health, education and social services for all.
The sky is not falling. Civil service belt-tightening will come about through early retirement and attrition, not layoffs. Edmonton/Fort McMurray’s economy will remain much the same in 2020. Grande Prairie and the Peace Country will pick up steam as the natural gas economy gains traction.
That the Canadian Energy Centre has been set up by the provincial government to counteract militant environmental claims is a good thing. (See the swing of the climate-change debate, above.) Nobody is denying climate change – the debate is in differing approaches to its cure.
The UCP’s decision to lower corporate income tax rates has the socialists – the New Democrats and provincial unions – frothing at the mouth. The rich are getting richer. Workers are getting screwed!
But overlooked by the lefties is the need to compete. If Alberta does not offer tax incentives, private industry will go to similar jurisdictions, usually in the USA, that do. That’s how business works.
Persuading private enterprise – and investors – to a) stay in Alberta; b) return to Alberta; c) actually come for the first time to Alberta – is a long-term process. If this lower-tax strategy isn’t showing any results in two to three years, then there’s grounds for criticism.
Meanwhile, economic activity is happening.
Our pipelines are full, still exporting 3.5 million barrels of oil a day to American refineries. Oil-by-rail continues to grow, to an expected 500,000 barrels a day, the equivalent of a major pipeline.
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is actually happening! Agriculture is evolving. Cannabis is in a temporary trough, but it will recover. Against all odds, small businesses are hanging in.
A $4.5 billion petro-chemical plant near Fort Saskatchewan is halfway complete. Another is in the late planning stage. Both are the result of a good NDP business policy. They did a few things right.
If the Kenney government initiatives work out, if the Trudeau government quietly turns up the resource development dial and turns down the environmental rhetoric, if the financial gnomes of New York, London and Zurich deem Alberta worthy of investment capital, by mid-summer a true economic recovery might start.
It would be nice, wouldn’t it, to start winning more rounds than we lose.