Let's Look Forward, Alberta
If the goal is to save the Alberta economy, we need to look forward not back
Alberta unions release pre-election blueprint for jobs and prosperity in a changing world
EDMONTON – If Alberta voters want to use the next election to help turn the provincial economy around, they should be looking for candidates with a vision for the future, not a vision of the past.
That was the message delivered by Alberta’s labour movement today as they unveiled a “12-point plan for Alberta’s future.”
This follows the release of pre-election blueprints from business groups like the Alberta Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).
“This upcoming election will be all about the economy,” said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. “But business people are not the only ones with ideas. Working people have a different diagnosis of what ails our economy and a different set of prescriptions.”
The AFL plan starts from the premise – supported by many in the oil and gas industry itself – that what Alberta is currently experiencing is NOT another boom-bust cycle.
“The fracking-related explosion of production from the U.S. and the growing move away from fossil fuels around the world are changing everything for oil-producing jurisdictions like Alberta. The oil industry has also aggressively embraced automation, meaning that they can’t be relied upon to create as many jobs as in the past, even if investment increases,” said McGowan.
“The old policy prescriptions of corporate tax cuts and deregulation never really drove investment. But they are particularly ill-suited to the challenges we face today. And simply waiting for the next boom, as Alberta governments have done for decades, is not an option because it probably won’t happen. Like it or not, our future is going to be defined by change. So, the priority needs to be getting our people and our economy ready for that change, instead of sticking our heads in the sand.”
So, what is the Alberta labour movement’s prescription to create jobs and bring the provincial economy back to robust health? Here are their top five suggestions (this full 12-point plan can be viewed by following this link).
Support Alberta’s oil & gas industry
- We need to build new pipelines to access markets other than the US.
- We need to incentivize and support oil and gas companies in their efforts to reduce emissions so we can continue to access markets with increasingly stringent environmental standards.
- Our goal should be to make sure that Alberta is the last heavy oil producer standing in an increasingly carbon-constrained world.
Diversify the economy
- We need to diversify within oil & gas, by focusing on adding value to our resources and targeting segments of the market where demand is still strong (especially petrochemicals)
- We need to diversify beyond oil & gas, into areas like renewable energy, manufacturing and agri-business, so we don’t have all of our economic eggs in one basket.
- Our medium-term goal should be to make downstream diversification projects our next oil sands, in terms of jobs creation.
- Our longer-term goal should be to use the prosperity generated by downstream diversification as a bridge to a greener future.
Invest in infrastructure
- The record from around the world is clear: places that invest in infrastructure thrive; those that don’t, stagnate.
- Infrastructure is win-win: for workers and for business.
- We need to build resilience by building infrastructure.
Invest in people (by investing in public services)
- High-quality services aren’t just good for individuals, they’re good for the economy
- Education and training are the key to building a productive workforce.
- A healthy workforce is a productive workforce. So we need to maintain investment in health care.
- We need make it easier for citizens to face change by investing in new services that make life more affordable (Pharmacare, Child Care, Dental Care, Long-Term Care, Tuition).
Protect Workers’ Rights
- Workers’ rights are an economic issue.
- 60 per cent of the economy is driven by consumer spending.
- If wages and benefits are suppressed, the economy suffers.
- So, if governments are concerned about the economy, they need to enhance, not erode workers’ rights – and worker bargaining power.
- Minimum wage, employment standards, health & safety, union rights
- A fairer economy, characterized is a more resilient economy.