Home Regular Contributors John Liston Embracing the Challenge – Now is the Time to Act

Embracing the Challenge – Now is the Time to Act

John Liston

As the provincial government prepares for a new budget year, it is important that they be reminded of their mandate. The voters of Alberta placed us under new management, and that should mean a different philosophy should be applied to the delivery of government services. It shouldn’t be delivering programs based on a model of government pay, government provided, union monopoly. It needs to start delivering programs based on the free enterprise principles of transparent pricing, customer choice, competition, and private sector delivery.

The government should not only be creating a policy environment that encourages a robust private sector, but it should be operating on the same principles that allow the private sector to thrive. Private sector operators build their success based on risk assessment and mitigation; bureaucracies atrophy because they operate on the basis of risk elimination. It is an adage that there is no reward without risk. The Government of Alberta should make it its mission to transform the culture of the civil service so that it is risk-taking, innovative and high performance.

Alberta’s budget challenges should be set in the framework of transforming the energy sector to embrace the challenge of implementing new carbon technologies to become emissions free. The Canadian government has committed our country to achieving net zero by 2050 with the lynchpin of the plan being an escalating carbon price that will ultimately rise to $170 per tonne. This aggressive target seems to have been a trigger than has transformed the way the industry thinks about carbon dioxide. It is now seen as a potential feedstock with value, and, in response, the business community is investing heavily in carbon tech. Give industry a problem and they will find a solution to it.

Alberta’s budget challenge involves setting the right framework to attract investment capital. That means having a credible ESG (Environment Social Governance) strategy that gives confidence to the investor community. The emerging discussion in the energy sector is not only how we can meet the challenge of net zero, but how we can get there faster than anyone else. The broader solution will be for ESG funds to look at Alberta as the ideal destination for ESG investment. The industry is making that happen. It needs the provincial government to be the champion of its successes with the federal government and abroad.

The Government of Alberta has the chance to develop a truly transformational approach to the delivery of government services by thinking like an owner and thinking like a customer. The government needs to maximize its revenues, reengineer program delivery on free enterprise principles and start saving for the future.

We have submitted 16 recommendations to the Treasury Board as they prepare for budgets. One is to establish the Alberta Sovereign Wealth Fund, save 10 per cent of all government revenues and maintain investment income in the fund with the goal of growing the Fund to $500 billion by 2050. Others points: maximize the resources we have been blessed with, own the podium when it comes to a world tech hub and allow charter surgical centres to off load system pressures. The list goes on.

Alberta can be the envy of the world in creating a legacy for its citizens, investing responsibly in the programs they hold dear, being a world leader on the environment, while realizing the lifelong dream to truly diversify our economy. Think of how great this could be. Now is the time to act.


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.