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Another Alberta Boom

John Liston

Another Boom in Alberta? Let’s remember the past with gratitude, live the present with enthusiasm and respect, and look forward to the future with optimism and hope.

I’ve had the pleasure of attending multiple events through the second quarter of 2022. It seems many organizations missed hosting events for the past two years and were making up for lost time before summer arrives. There seemed to be a conference or two every week. I’ve attended hydrogen conferences, artificial intelligence conferences, business club meetings and more in the Edmonton region. My general take away is that Alberta is well into an awakening to a new reality, and it feels great.

The energy and enthusiasm of our young brilliant capable population is contagious. They see Alberta as a land of opportunity – one they want to plant roots in, can live an affordable life in and aspire to find the elusive work-life balance.

The brilliance of the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (AMII) is a beacon for so many tech start-ups.  The work of groups like StartupTNT and multiple others across Alberta is now producing the fruits of their efforts.

Twenty years ago, the Alberta government, and all Albertans, paid a very heavy price to get out of debt and set Alberta up to flourish. This extraordinary work through the late 1990s by the Klein conservatives created a strong financial picture that allowed visionary investment into concepts like the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute. Twenty years later, AMII is among the best in the world.

The effort through the 1990s and the early 2000s was to reduce expenses and drive revenues to pay off debt. Paying interest on debt can be such a drain on a governments’ ability to invest in the future while paying for the past. Many of the expenses were borne by our most expensive infrastructure pieces which was healthcare and education. Much of the revenue was driven by our development of Alberta’s natural resources and the royalties that came as a result of that development.

When we see the new young tech boom that is so exciting and energizing, and the resulting diversification of our economy, it would be a mistake to forget about the link to our past that allowed it to happen. The stresses and strains the healthcare system and its people experienced in the mid 1990s were very challenging. The management of expenses within our education system were borne by both the teachers and administration. It was necessary, but it wasn’t fun. That willingness of the Klein government to say “no” was based on a vision that short term pain would beget long term gain.  Fiscal conservatism places limits and when you get to the limit you have to stop.  It is no different in your businesses or your families. We define ourselves by what we are prepared to say “no” to.

When we see agritech, biotech, cleantech, aviation and logistics along with other incredible work coming out of our province, let’s remember the efforts of our resource development industries who drove incredible revenues into our provincial coffers which allowed the investments 20 years ago.

Another Boom in Alberta? We have built a diverse economy in Alberta. Let’s celebrate it, develop it and respect it. But let’s keep in mind the past and its required sacrifice. Let us also remember that we are responsible to build a legacy for the generations which follow us.

Let’s remember the past with gratitude, live the present with enthusiasm and respect, and look forward to the future with optimism and hope. As John McCrae wrote “To you from failing hands we throw the torch, be yours to hold it high.”

Alberta Enterprise Group (AEG) puts Alberta businesses first by sharing information, advocacy and building bridges to new markets. AEG members are business owners, senior executives, investors and entrepreneurs representing firms in every major Alberta Industry. AEG members employ over 100,000 Albertans and generate billions in economic activity each year.