Alberta business groups fear political division 2023

Business organizations worry that political radicalism and divisiveness threaten Alberta’s economy as the election campaign winds down.

“Social and political divisiveness worries us. “It seems to have crept into North American politics,” Business Council of Alberta president Adam Legge said in an interview.

“The future of this province depends on us getting our act together and being united from a policy standpoint, public standpoint, and economic standpoint.”

Legge’s non-partisan group includes several of Alberta’s major company CEOs. It hasn’t backed any candidate or party for Monday’s Alberta election.

The non-partisan Calgary Chamber of Commerce has not either. However, Chamber president and CEO Deborah Yedlin shared Legge’s concern about increased us-against-them language this election year.

Our members seek teamwork. Yedlin said they want more problem-solving collaboration.

“Our members don’t want to see the fighting, divisiveness.”

Alberta’s election comes at a moment of economic and budgetary strength not seen since before the 2015 oil price crisis.

The province’s leading oil and gas sector is profiting from commodity prices that, while down from last year’s record highs, remain profitable. Unemployment is at a seven-year low.

Business organizations claim the province also has a labor deficit, skills and training gap, and stagnating salaries. Climate change is putting pressure on Alberta’s oil-and-gas business to decarbonize.

Yedlin said Alberta firms could lead the world in hydrogen and carbon capture and storage. She stated no time to spend.

“We need to seize the moment in terms of what’s possible, going forward,” she remarked.

“This requires deliberate, visible provincial and federal support.”

Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party and Rachel Notley’s New Democrats have made economic commitments.

The UCP has proposed a $1,200 non-refundable tax credit for skilled tradespeople and professionals who move to the province to work in fields with labor shortages, while the NDP has promised to eliminate the province’s small business tax and create a capital investment tax credit for emerging sectors.

The UCP has touted its introduction of the Alberta Petrochemical Program and the Alberta Hydrogen Roadmap, while the NDP has pledged to create a regulatory “fast pass” to help businesses with good records build well-developed projects faster.

Hyper-partisanship has overshadowed economic problems during the campaign. Tax policy and economic diversification have been overshadowed by incendiary statements about vaccinations, convoys, socialism, and genuine conservatives.

“Unfortunately this election has really been focused a lot on personality and not enough on the policy side of things,” said Alberta Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Shauna Feth.

“If we could get back to really focusing on policy, maybe we could reduce some of that divisiveness.”

Legge said political divisiveness discourages capital investment and labor recruitment. He said whomever becomes premier next week must establish “alignment with Albertans” and party alignment.

“Albertans are centrists. “Families want a good future, and that’s what we need to focus on,” he added.

“The next premier will need to decide whether we’re going to keep fighting or whether we’re going to seize the opportunities.”

Leave a Reply