Ahead of Alberta’s 2019 election, Dallas Flexhaug sat down with a panel of experts to discuss economic issues facing the province, such as slow economic growth and high unemployment rates.
Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC) CEO and former MLA Gary Mar said the economy is the “top issue” this election.
“This is a provincial issue, a western Canadian issue, an issue all across Canada,” Mar said.
Chris Massie with About Staffing says with Alberta’s unemployment rate topping seven per cent, the economy is depressed.
“There is anxiety out there from people that have been looking for work for a long time, that haven’t been able to turn hundreds of applications into interviews. And then, of course, there are people that are currently working, that are fearful of the economic viability of the career opportunity that they are in.”
As a former progressive conservative MLA, Mar said we’ve been here before.
“Don Getty, when he was premier of the province, really tried to spend his way out of an economic hole that the province had found itself in,” Mar said. “Ralph Klein, by comparison, said, ‘We need to create the kinds of economic circumstances that will allow the private sector to create jobs.'”
“So, there’s a couple of different approaches that I’ve seen in the past — one that arguably worked much better than the other — and we have that kind of choice when we look at the options, the platforms that have been put together by the two major parties in this election.”
Massie says small businesses play a big role in a healthy economy, and they aren’t feeling taken care of.
Despite that, Massie says he’s optimistic about the future.
“This area is special — Calgary, Edmonton, Alberta — we are a special place,” Massie said.
“We are a young population. We are highly ambitious and creative and innovative, and we persist through challenge.”
Mar, however, said he wasn’t as optimistic as Massie.
“I think that at our core, we have to recognize that energy is the driver of our economy,” Mar said. “Not only in Alberta but across Canada — If you look at the amount of money that’s been invested in the energy sector in the last year, it’s at an all-time low.”