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Alberta Has Many Reasons for Optimism in 2021

John Liston.

The last year marked one of the most difficult for many businesses in our community, the result of the cumulative impact of the pandemic on top of an economy already strained by various national and global factors.

Yet after a difficult 2020, the new year brings with it some signs of hope and optimism for Alberta businesses.

As of the time of writing, the newest Statistics Canada figures available from the fall show a month-over-month increase in monthly retail sales (+2.5 per cent), restaurant and bar sales (+1.4 per cent) and manufacturing sales (+3.9 per cent). While these monthly numbers with small gains still show a decrease when compared to the same time last year, there’s a 3.5 per cent increase in new vehicle sales compared to one year ago, a stat noteworthy given its comparison to a pre-pandemic period.

These are the subtle signs of a province turning the corner from a difficult time. While many concerns remain, there is indeed hope on the horizon.

While the coronavirus pandemic has been the central public policy focus for governments in Alberta and elsewhere, several recent decisions mean that businesses face significantly less tax and regulatory hurdles.

The creation of the new Invest Alberta Corporation last year, to attract and support investment in the province, is a reason for optimism given the realities about our province that the new Crown Corporation has to share.

The lowest corporate tax rate in the country, the lack of sales taxes and payroll taxes compared to other provinces, the government’s continuing focus on red tape reduction with job creators in mind, and other measures make Alberta stand out from other jurisdictions.

In 2021, Canada may finally become more competitive. Joseph Biden has proposed increasing America’s corporate tax rate by 7 per cent. If that happens, Canada, and especially Alberta, will become more competitive, a welcome change after years of losing investment to companies south of the border.

While small businesses in other jurisdictions have struggled with sudden and expansive restrictions with minimal notice, Alberta businesses have had comparable stability. More recently, new supports are available for small and medium-sized businesses through the second round of the province’s Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant, specifically aimed at helping businesses operating in areas under a watch list subject to added health restrictions.

While the consequences of the pandemic, the global drop in oil prices, and lockdowns will undoubtedly be felt for some time, there are indications that consumer confidence is returning, that Alberta remains a jurisdiction committed to supporting job creators and growth, and ultimately, that 2021 marks the beginning of the comeback.

The year that ended was difficult, there’s no doubt about it, and significant hurdles remain. However, there is reason for hope and optimism in the year to come. Our province has faced many challenges throughout our history. This too is one we can overcome.