Alberta brings out the big gun

An economic development consultant colleague of mind has landed some work on this and is moving to Alberta for a few months.

The Alberta government has introduced a new $178-million plan intended to help the province diversify away from its dominant oil and gas industry in order to provide future economic security. The plan, announced Wednesday, includes a research and development tax credit, as well as the creation of a new $100-million enterprise corporation designed to attract venture capital to the province.

I talked with the head of an economic development agency back in the mid 1990s (when the oil in the oilsands was uneconomical to extract) and he was concerned that the oil/gas royalties were slated to run out in 20-25 years (back then). They were scrambling to get diversified but after oil went about $60/barrel, the oilsands started to make sense and the Premier announced enough oil to provide a large royalty stream for 70+ years.

However, 70 years is actually not that long in economic development terms. Think Hal Fredericks. He was doing economic development in the Maritimes in the 1950s and now 50+ years later he is still calling for more focus on it. One could easily argue that decisions could have been made in the 50s that could have tranformed New Brunswick into a leading, dynamic economy contributing to the Canadian economy (the so-called have status). But they weren’t and we’re not.

So Alberta is doing the right thing. Good luck.