Senator Doug Black was in Red Deer this week, where he engaged with local Rotary Club members on Alberta innovation, deregulation and the importance of market access.
Black took his opportunity to discuss the current economic crisis Albertans are experiencing, and said he is working hard to provide a new framework that could help ensure an innovative and prosperous province, with his Alberta 2.0 plan.
“The biggest question I’ve been asking Albertans over the last year is how do we become an economy of intent, rather than an economy of circumstance?” Black said.
“We know that Alberta has a long and successful history of meeting challenging circumstances – we are facing challenging circumstances today. We know that Alberta has a history of innovation, whether it’s irrigation, taking oil from sand, directional drilling, the smart-board or the Bloody Mary – Albertans innovate.”
He also addressed the economic statistics of Alberta, including falling oil prices, lack of inbound investment, loses in revenues from energy and the ever-shrinking gross domestic product (GDP). As well, Black touched on the energy projects that have been cancelled or postponed.
Black spoke about issues known to many Albertans in terms of job losses, high suicide rates and a huge increase in food bank use but said the overruling issue in Alberta is a lack of international market access for our products.
“Albertans know it is essential to build pipelines to go through the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to allow access to the global energy markets, not just the U.S. market. There are no active pipelines today that face the prospect of imminent approval that will help us get our oil to market,” he said.
He said he feels no closer to a consensus on pipelines than he did three years ago, and expressed frustration in Canada’s lack of trade among provinces and nations.
“All the time that we’re going through this discussion, Canada continues to import oil to Atlantic Canada and Quebec -approximately 700,000 barrels of oil a day,” he said.
Black also explained that a major asset to Albertans is a history of innovation – a history that Black feels needs to be revived. He said particular attention needs to be paid to the areas of health care and agri-business.
“We are not victims. If there is a challenge, we can mourn a little bit and think about our poor fortune or bad timing but we will get over it and get back to work. That’s what we’re going to have to do very aggressively over the next year or year and a half,” Black said.
He added that de-regulating the province would allow for innovative businesses to move forward on projects with ease, and this in turn would help to develop a resilient economy.
“We’re over-regulated. We are perhaps the most regulated province in the country and that needs to end,” he said.
“With our Alberta 2.0 plan, we’re asking how we, as Albertans, could once again achieve an Alberta like the one we grew up with, how we ensure prosperity, how do we ensure that our kids stay in this province and get people attracted to our province to create.”
The Alberta 2.0 document is set to be released in four to six weeks.
“These are the conversations I think we need to have, and this is why I’m speaking to Albertans around the province – to help people recognize this is where we are and we need to deal with where we are collectively and productively.”