The state of the Alberta economy over the past few years can be described simply as ‘bleh.’
As a province that is largely reliant on the export of commodities, we are of course subject to many outside forces. No doubt lower energy prices and a lack of market access along with intense competition from the United States have added to our economic woes.
Here in Red Deer we’re seeing almost no new construction projects, declining home prices, businesses closing after 32 years in operation, and significant under-employment as skilled workers resort to much lower paying jobs to keep food on their family’s table.
It can make you feel good to blame others for our problems, but ultimately the responsibility lies with our own government to create a policy and regulatory environment that does its best to ensure our businesses can be prosperous, employing our friends and families, and making positive contributions to our communities.
It is with this in mind the Alberta Chambers of Commerce has rolled out their Vote Prosperity platform; a number of policy recommendations with the goal to allow our businesses to thrive and create the foundation for healthy and vibrant communities across our province.
The first pillar is to ‘Strengthen Business Competitiveness.’ In just four short years with little to no consultation, Alberta businesses (and nonprofits) have been slammed with a series of cost-increases levied upon them by our provincial government included, but not limited to the carbon tax, minimum wage, payroll taxes, and changes to employment standards. This doesn’t include other increases from the federal and municipal levels of government. On their own, most businesses could have absorbed or passed along these increases, but layered upon one another, they’ve become suffocating to businesses ability to succeed.
Our next provincial government must reduce the cost and regulatory burden on our businesses if they wish to allow them to compete.
Second is ‘Growing Provincial Trade.’ It is absolutely perverse that for many businesses it is easier to trade internationally than with our fellow Canadians in neighbouring provinces. In 2016, the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade, and Commerce estimated internal trade barriers cost the Canadian economy between $50 and $130 billion annually thanks to burdensome regulations and a lack of trade-enabling infrastructure. This problem has been amplified with the ongoing difficulty in building a pipeline East or West and the upsettingly high oil differential that has resulted in our government’s production curtailment policy.
Addressing the foundation of our province, the third recommendation is ‘Building Healthy Communities’ and starts with our kids, our health, and the city’s we live in. The MicroSociety program at Aspen Heights Elementary School is a model program for teaching core curriculum, while developing the skills at attitude core to good citizenship, business, and entrepreneurialism. For that reason, the Alberta Chambers recommends this program be expanded to all school districts throughout the province. The second aspect is to institute the findings of the 2017 Auditor General’s report on Alberta Health Services to ensure our health delivery provides excellent care sustainably. The pillar also includes a recommendation to provide predictable and sustainable funding to our municipalities to ensure they have the ability to plan for and provide the infrastructure that makes our communities work.
Lastly, there is the need for ‘Improving Government Accountability.’ The current and past state of Alberta budgets is unsustainable with massive deficits and a ballooning debt. Our next government must establish balanced budgets and should eliminate operational spending growth to do so. They need to launch a full program and service review with external input and report the results publicly, so Albertans know they are getting the maximum value for their tax dollars.
Representing over 24,000 businesses in our province, the Alberta Chambers is comprised of over 100 community Chambers throughout the province and the largest and most influential business association in the province. These pillars are the culmination of close to one hundred grass-roots policies put forward by the community Chambers and includes significant contributions from the Red Deer Chamber. It is our belief these four pillars are the foundation to restoring our provinces prosperity and the health and vibrancy of the communities that comprise it.
As non-partisan associations, the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Alberta Chambers are advocating this platform to all parties and candidates running for election this Spring. For more information and to read the platform in its entirety, visit https://www.voteprosperityab.com/
EDITOR'S NOTE: The views expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of rdnewsNOW or the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group. Column suggestions and letters to the editor can be sent to [email protected]
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