Alberta must become the market of choice for commerce, says Edmonton and Calgary Chambers
March 25, 2019
Built into the mindset of every successful entrepreneur is a belief that they control their own destiny, that they have the solutions and ideas the market needs.
With that, there is no doubt that Alberta businesses want to grow. And we have no doubt that they will.
The only question we have is, where will they grow?
In years past the easy answer would have been Alberta, a place blessed with a long-term supply of natural resources, strong adherence to the rule of law and a quality of life second to none.
With easy access to one of the world’s largest markets, a highly competitive tax regime and outstanding post-secondary institutions it was easy for businesses and investors to say “yes” to Alberta.
We all know what came after that with the bottom falling out of global commodity prices and more than 100,000 jobs lost in the city of Calgary alone. At first, fingers were pointed at global market forces.
Sadly, however, much of the growth factors within our control have been eroded through the actions and inactions of all levels of government.
Provincially, competitiveness has been impacted by the rushed increase to the minimum wage, higher corporate taxes, the introduction of a carbon tax and employment standards and labour code changes. This eroding competitive advantage has resulted in business closures and job losses.
As investment ramps up globally, and with burgeoning economic growth in the United States and within other regions in Canada, Alberta’s recovery is moving at a snail’s pace. We are in fact seeing businesses pull up stakes and investors saying “no” to Alberta.
Unemployment in Calgary is rising once again, creeping up to 7.6 per cent in February – the highest among major cities in Canada. Unfortunately, Edmonton is not far behind currently sitting at 7.0 per cent. With a total of 16,000 public and private positions lost in January and 7,000 positions lost in February in the private sector alone, 2019 is not off to a strong start to help unemployment in our cities. We need government to implement policies that foster business growth and get the economy growing in order to get Albertans back to work in the private sector.
After the Alberta economy has suffered through five of the hardest years in a generation, and with growth forecasts expected to lag the rest of Canada this year, the Edmonton and Calgary Chambers of Commerce are uniting during the 2019 Provincial Election to advocate for policies that will generate a more certain and competitive business environment.
We are committed to advocating for policies that will give businesses a reason to grow in Alberta.
Take re-establishing a more competitive tax environment, for example.
Long-term studies by many economists show that when corporate taxes increase, wage growth is stifled. Estimates suggest that for Canada as a whole, a one percentage point increase in the provincial corporate income tax rate results in a reduction in the business tax base by almost 3.7 per cent.
The results of this and other policies end up hurting all Albertans, not just business owners. Ultimately, it’s business growth and entrepreneurial risk-taking that create jobs and help build the quality of life that Albertans have been used to.
Our businesses see themselves as part of the solution to a stronger Alberta. They are community builders, job creators and central figures who are proud and invaluable supporters of their own communities and cities.
These are the leaders that support their local theatre club, hockey rink and community school. These are the owners who lose sleep over how they will pay the invoices they received that day, and these are the leaders that understand businesses are part of a much larger community, where the successes of business and communities are intrinsically connected and co-dependent.
During this provincial election, we are looking for the next government to provide the conditions to re-establish Alberta as the place of choice for commerce.
Once that happens, businesses will do the rest.
The Calgary Chamber’s provincial policy platform can be found at www.calgarychamber.com/ABelection.
The Edmonton Chamber’s platform can be found at www.edmontonchamber.com/policy
Sandip Lalli is the President and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
Janet Riopel is the President and CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce.