With an Alberta provincial election set for this spring, there’s no question what the number-one topic of discussion and debate will be among politicians and the public over the coming months: the economy.
That was the message delivered at a recent event hosted by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce that featured four panelists discussing the upcoming election and the economic landscape.
“It’s about halfway back, roughly, to where it was before the recession started,” said Trevor Tombe, associate professor in the Department of Economics and research fellow in the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary. “That’s a big gap that still remains. To give a sense of scale, the recession shrank Alberta’s economy by about $75 billion just between 2014 and 2016. That’s over $20,000 per adult in Alberta.
“The scale of the recession was massive – 130,000 job losses from when the recession started to when it ended in late 2016. So to say that it’s come halfway back from such a big shock, there’s still a long way to go.”
Peter Tertzakian, executive director of the ARC Energy Research Institute and a well-known expert on the energy sector, said he would characterize the mood of the industry as one of frustration and anger.
“But I also have the sense now, as I bump into people on the Plus 15s and talk to people, it’s a sense of exhaustion – in cases, capitulation. These are not healthy symptoms for what has traditionally been an incredibly entrepreneurial (city),” he said.
“By definition, entrepreneurs are resilient. We have a 110-year history here of entrepreneurism in this province. I’ve been in it for more than 30 years and I can tell you this one’s hard. I’ve seen four serious ups and downs. This one is really taking prisoners.”
“When you ask people what’s the most important issue facing the province right now, the answers you get are predominantly economic. It’s about the economy. It’s about getting pipelines built. It’s about jobs.” – Janet Brown, pollster and political commentator
Tertzakian added the city has come into 2019 “feeling beaten up” and it’s going to take most of the year “to heal the wounds.”
Sandip Lalli, president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, said while the economy is recovering slowly, there is a great deal of frustration among business owners in the province who believe the provincial government is getting in the way of business competitiveness.
The Chamber has released its 2019 Alberta provincial election platform recommendations titled “Businesses Drive Cities That Thrive.”
Those recommendations include a cut to the corporate tax rate; a reduction of layered costs and regulations on business, including the elimination of two regulations for every one introduced; a disciplined plan to return to balanced budgets; adherence to contracts with business and the rule of law; and a commitment to prevent future free-market intervention.
Janet Brown, a pollster and political commentator, said the voting public “is still very anxious and very pessimistic” about the direction of the economy.
“When you ask people what’s the most important issue facing the province right now, the answers you get are predominantly economic,” she said. “It’s about the economy. It’s about getting pipelines built. It’s about jobs.”