Home Regular Contributors John Liston Weathering the Storm

Weathering the Storm

John Liston

We have weathered quite a storm over the past eight years, and although it isn’t clear blue Alberta skies yet, we can see some of the clouds parting.  At the same time there is always cleanup to do after a storm, and many businesses are in the middle of that cleanup. Many did not survive the storm and losing any one of our businesses is too many. It may be time for our provincial government to survey the debris and begin to address the damage.

Some great work has been happening and you must give credit to this government for their plan and the ability to stay the course on that plan through the last two years. Calling them challenges would be underselling what our government, and all of us have endured.

Early in their tenure, the government established the current version of Invest Alberta and has been selling us to the world. Some incredible results have shown already and there is a lot more to come. The partnering of the provincial government with the city, Global Edmonton, Edmonton International Airport and our surrounding communities has really allowed potential investors to see it all as a unified team. As an example, the Hydrogen strategy penned by Associate Minister Dale Nally and team is going to establish this area as a world leader for the next 30 years and then some. A visitor to our region recently commented, “there is something special going on here, isn’t there?”

So, our international attraction game is coming into shape but as we head into an election year, this government of Alberta would be well served to show some support for the local existing businesses. These folks have borne a huge amount of stress through repeatedly opening and closing, financial pressure and emotional exhaustion as they have done everything they could to take care of their employees. As the title of the book by Simon Sinek suggests “Leaders Eat Last.” These folks were lying awake at night trying to figure out how to handle payroll, workloads, customer demands, COVID protocols; then trying to cover rent and ever rising cost for utilities, taxes and supply chain issues and expenses.

Those battles scars hurt a lot more when you see that some eat first. More than 528,000 federal and provincial government employees received a pay raise during the pandemic, while no government reduced employee pay according to a report by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF).

“We’re not all in this together,” said Franco Terrazzano, Federal Director with the CTF. “We’ve seen a tale of two pandemics: one full of private sector pain and the other full of financial gain for bureaucrats and politicians. Many Canadians outside of government took a pay cut, lost their job or business, and it’s not fair to ask them to pay higher taxes so bureaucrats and politicians can collect bigger paycheques. Politicians and bureaucrats need to help shoulder some of the burden by reversing these pandemic pay hikes.”

Some serious introspection by our provincial leaders on what the voter thought they were getting when they elected a conservative government in 2019 should be in order. Premier Jason Kenney and team have done some great work and made some missteps based on what was expected of a fiscally conservative government. If indeed the clouds are parting and there is sunshine on its way, supporting our battle-weary businesses would be welcome news.

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.