By Letter to the Editor on February 15, 2020.
We Albertans have wannabe like Texans for a long time. Those famous Texas pioneer cattle drive towns like El Paso, Pecos, Abilene and Laredo we later matched with Raymond, Pincher Creek, Longview and Cochrane; Amarillo with Calgary.
Then we unveiled those memorable scenes from the iconic Texas movie “Giant,” with James Dean, Rock Hudson and Liz Taylor dancing in delight as gushers drenched them in black gold, cowboys whooping off in the distance. Again we wannabe like Texans and miraculously it happened. Leduc gushed in black gold throughout our province. Thousands of Texans poured north into Stampede City Calgary to show us the way. And overnight Edmonton became the City of the Oilers, just like Houston.
No wonder newly crowned King Jason, like King Ralph of yore, headed south to avow at the Texas shrine that we still wannabe like Texans. But for some reason when King Jason returned he didn’t tell us what was going on down there.
Alberta freelance writer Max Fawcett, former editor of the magazine “Alberta Oil,” was also down there poking around in Texas. To his amazement he discovered that Texans have reversed direction and are heading rapidly away from us. The fading oil and gas industry has fallen back to a distant third behind financial services and manufacturing.
Fawcett reports that, in fact, Texans now have the fourth-most diversified economy in the U.S., up there with those eccentric Californians and high-flying New Yorkers. In 2017 the manufacturing sector in Texas generated over $220 billion US in economic activity and over three million jobs. And the sleepy backwater college town of Austin has quickly vaulted over the Dallas cowboys and Houston oilers to become one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. – the bustling host campus to tech giants like Apple, Facebook, Google and Oracle.
So if we Albertans still wannabe like Texans, then we better shift course pretty fast. Because our finance minister has written off diversification as a luxury we can’t afford. Our advanced education minister is altering and reducing the post-secondary system to a vocational role. And King Jason has chopped promising technology initiatives like Energy Efficient Alberta and Alberta Innovates right out of his new budget.
As our Texas heroes vanish over the horizon, who do we Albertans wannabe like now?