Canadian Manufacturing

Alta. election a threat to the economy, according to business groups

The Canadian Press

Human Resources Manufacturing Operations Public Sector Economy election Energy Government labour shortage Manufacturing public sector

Business groups say the province also faces problems such as an ongoing labour shortage, a skills and training gap, and stagnant wages.

As the Alberta election campaign heads into its final days, business groups are warning that increased divisiveness and political extremism poses a threat to the province’s economic future.

“We’re worried about societal and political polarization, overall. It seems to be a feature that has crept into North American politics,” said Adam Legge, president of the Business Council of Alberta, in an interview.

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

Legge’s organization, which counts among its members the CEOs of many of Alberta’s largest companies, identifies as a non-partisan group. It hasn’t endorsed any candidate or party that will be on the ballot Monday when Albertans go to the polls.


Neither has the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, another non-partisan business group. But Chamber president and CEO Deborah Yedlin said that like Legge, she’s concerned about what she sees as a heightened level of us-against-them rhetoric this election cycle.

“What we’re hearing from our members is they want collaboration. They want to see a higher level of cooperation when it comes to solving problems,” Yedlin said.

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

Alberta’s election comes at a time when the province is experiencing a level of economic and fiscal strength it hasn’t seen since before the oil price crash of 2015.

Unemployment is at a seven-year low, and the province’s dominant oil and gas sector is benefiting from commodity prices that — though down from last year’s record heights — remain at profitable levels.

But business groups say the province also faces problems such as an ongoing labour shortage, a skills and training gap, and stagnant wages. In addition, Alberta’s oil-and-gas-dominated economy faces the increasingly urgent challenge of climate change, with companies under immense pressure to decarbonize.

Yedlin said Alberta companies have the potential to be global leaders in new forms of energy such as hydrogen, as well as in emissions-reducing technologies such as carbon capture and storage. But she said there is no time to waste.

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

“We need deliberate, visible provincial support as well as deliberate, visible federal support in order for this to happen.”


Stories continue below