Is it my imagination or did Alberta squander another boom?
During the Klein years, the focus was on slaying provincial debt and creating the Alberta Advantage, which near as I can tell was really about creating an environment for business investment (a good thing normally) in the province (low taxes, etc.), and not necessarily for having better quality of life, hospitals or educational systems. This led to a runaway provincial economy where costs were skyrocketing (too much of a good thing).
If you weren't in the Oil business, it was actually getting hard to compete outside of Alberta because of excessive rent and payroll costs. We are a software company not focused on the oil patch and our rent tripled when the lease came up for renewal 2 years ago.
Now this is not a rant about the Oil and Gas industry, it is doing exactly what it is supposed to do… get oil and gas out of the ground into the hands of consumers and make money for shareholders. This is about something bigger than one industry.
Premier Klein admitted that the government was taken by surprise and flying by the seat of its pants… playing catch-up on the infrastructure and government oversight required to run a super-hot economy.
Now the economy is in the dumps. Oil is trading at levels low enough to cause many new projects to not be worth investing in and credit is tight.
Sure, our government needs to tackle the issues of the day. We all expect this.
But to me this is the time that we need a long range plan most of all. Surviving until oil prices go up and things return to super growth mode is not really a plan.
I wonder what it is going to be like here in 10 to 20 years. Will I still want to call the province home?
What if we, as Albertans and Canadians, decided to become an energy super-house with a diversified economy?
What if in addition to the research on carbon capture and storage (which is aimed squarely at the oil sands and is still unproven), we developed Alberta as a leader in alternative energies as well? There are a lot of roof-tops in Calgary, what if they all had solar collectors installed and on a sunny day had a net positive contribution to the power grid in addition to supplying most household and industrial energy. The reduction of greenhouse gases would be huge and there would be that much more energy to sell outside the province (and Oil and Gas aren't going to last forever) assuming we keep our current output levels from conventional electric generation.
What if Alberta more strongly encourages new technology companies, including Research and Development, outside of those supporting the O&G industries? The silicon valley of the NW….
What if Canadians did something more with our resources before we export them (only to buy them back as finished products at much higher multiples)? How can we preserve our environment and health so we live longer, better lives in harmony with the planet?
What if our leadership was focussed on the big picture and not day to day (political) survival?
These are just ideas but you get the picture.
Now we take all the billions being spent on reviving the economy right now and all the billions we will make in royalties when Oil prices climb and invest them in our long-term plan and vision.
Imagine where things could go if there was a vision and long-term leadership commitment to obtaining the vision.