By Lethbridge Herald on February 18, 2021.
Alberta needs to build a new economic strategy.
Rachel Notley, MLA and Leader of the Official Opposition in Alberta was the featured guest speaker as the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs met Thursday.
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect day-to-day lives and remains at the front of people’s minds, Notley noted the need to start planning for what comes next and spoke of the need to boldly move the province forward with an initiative she and her caucus created called Alberta’s Future.
“We need a vision for after the vaccine,” said Notley, Alberta’s premier from 2015 to 2019. “Our province is in the midst of a generational economic shift, one that had started before COVID. But they’ve been accelerated now and our actions at this time will actually set the stage for years, even decades, to come. We need an economic strategy and we need it now. I don’t think it’s lost on anyone that our economy post-COVID will change whether we like it or not. It’s changing as we speak. So we must build a modern, diversified economy, one that benefits all Albertans.”
That diversification, said Notley, is an urgent need.
“Which is exactly why, I would argue, my government made a good start on many important strategies to promote diversification. I’m thinking of our investments in landmark renewable energy projects and fostering local upgrading petro-chemical refining and supporting new technology and innovation startups with a suite of targeted tax credits. While I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, I know the real fix doesn’t happen overnight. When it’s the very financial and economic security or your family or your business that’s on the line, the need for solutions is personal and it’s urgent.”
Notley said she saw it every day as Premier, even as economic conditions began to improve and Alberta was once again leading the country in growth.
“We knew families hadn’t felt those gains and concerns about our economic security remained absolute top-of-mind for many, many Albertans,” she said. “So in 2019, Albertans — including those in Lethbridge and southern Alberta — told us we had to do better, that we had to be more bold and that we needed to build a stronger economic plan.”
Which is what kickstarted the Alberta’s Future initiative.
“I believe the real answers to our challenges today come from being bold enough to seek tomorrow’s solutions, not recycling yesterday’s playbook,” said Notley. “This means bringing every single Albertan into a conversation where we can chart that future together by creating a shared social and economic strategy.
“We won’t agree on everything, I get that. But I’m adamant that Albertans from all perspectives, cultures, occupations and all political persuasions need to have a place to share their ideas and hear new ones from others in conversations that are both grounded in and shaped by a clear set of principles.”
Notley said firstly in her view and that of her caucus is an economic plan must be focused squarely on the economic security of Albertans.
“That means jobs,” she said. “Economic development that comes without jobs is not the kind of economic development we need to be pursuing. We need jobs that pay the mortgage, jobs that sustain families and jobs that improve the quality of life in our communities, and most importantly, jobs that last.”
Secondly, a strategy must be developed to benefit and include all Albertans.
“We cannot have an economic recovery that leaves more and more people behind.” said Notley. “That means we have to include racialized people, women, people with disabilities and, quite frankly, all the working people who did the heavy lifting during the last boom. All of those people have to be a part of the recovery. We can’t have a strategy where anybody is left behind.”
Thirdly, said Notley, an economy must be built that stresses diversification and rejects any notion that it’s a luxury for another time.
“We have to build on our existing strengths, but we also have to forge new ones,” she said.
Notley also stressed the public and private sector working together as active partners.
“Today, (premier) Jason Kenney seems to see the public service as somehow being an impediment to economic success,” she said. “As if firing more staff will somehow help the economy. It will not. The fact is Alberta is but one player in a large, global, international economy and that means the public sector has an important role to play in marshalling our economic opportunities as strategically as possible.”
Notley said her party will not engage in a race to the bottom.
“We’ll build a path to the top and we’ll never accept any plan for economic growth that’s focused on competing for the lowest and the worst conditions for working people and the communities in which they live. That is not a race to the top, it’s the opposite. It’s a race to the bottom.
“When you compete for last place, you actually risk achieving just that.”
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