Vote for vibrancy in 2019 Provincial Election
January 24, 2019
Plastered along the sides of rink boards across any local Alberta hockey arena is clear evidence of the importance of commerce to community vibrancy. Whether it is big business sponsorship in NHL arenas or small business support of a local novice team, business is at the centre of healthy communities.
They create jobs, pay taxes, invest in the province and give back to our communities. As businesses prosper so do cities, households and quality of life. Much of the reason this relationship between commerce and community has worked especially well in Alberta is because this province has always encouraged and rewarded business risk.
Our frontier spirit has helped dreamers, scientists and entrepreneurs build an economy on a winning formula of ingenuity, hard work, self-reliance, independence and dogged persistence. Whether it was settlers who worked the hard soil and battled the elements to build a world-class agriculture industry, or the technology and innovation that went into turning sand into the third largest oil reserves in the world, Alberta risk takers have defied the odds.
The formula worked well because governments largely provided the conditions to enable business success. We were a stable place to invest because of strong provincial finances, low taxes, and a reliable regulatory system. The revenue generated by healthy businesses helped pay for the schools, health care, and infrastructure to attract talent. We enjoyed a competitive advantage for investors because of reputable public institutions and a stable legal system to enforce the rule of law.
Due to the actions of successive governments at all levels, many advantages Alberta businesses and communities have come to appreciate have been eroded. A lack of long-term fiscal management has resulted in credit downgrades and diminished provincial savings. This has now led to investor uncertainty and increased the temptation for governments to generate revenue through future tax increases and new tax measures. Meanwhile, other jurisdictions are improving their tax competitiveness and putting Alberta’s ability to attract investment, business and skilled people at risk.
A lack of market access is costing tens of millions a day because we cannot get access to global prices for our products. We need to be able to get our products to our customers. We are seeing changes in the regulatory environment that are putting the future of major projects being built in our province at risk. Increasing policy costs from all levels of government are putting the future of our businesses in jeopardy.
We have also seen policy changes that occurred without meaningful business consultation having consequences and further costs on business. Taken together, these have all reduced the certainty and confidence among the business community to take risks. Many investors now see Alberta as too risky.
We must get back to the basic building blocks of fiscal responsibility, regulatory and tax certainty, access to markets, good government, and smart skills training.
The Calgary Chamber’s 2019 Provincial Election Platform ‘Businesses Drive Cities That Thrive’ identifies five principles with nine recommendations that we want all parties vying to be the next government to adopt to provide the conditions for growth and community vibrancy. Our city’s businesses, entrepreneurs, dreamers and scientists will take care of the rest. We encourage Alberta residents to view our five principles recommendations at www.calgarychamber.com/Alberta. We, as citizens, need to vote for the policy we want to see govern our business climate and communities.
Sandip Lalli is the President and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce