Job creation on the rebound

By Estefania Cortes-Vargas, MLA for Strathcona-Sherwood Park

December is a special time of year for family and friends to come together and celebrate the spirit of the holiday season. I know that we all value life’s blessings and the opportunity to support others in times of need. Let’s celebrate the Christmas spirit of peace, joy and goodwill, while keeping in mind those that are struggling here at home, and in our world.

It was such a pleasure this year, and so many years before, to attend the Christmas in the Country tour. To see how much this has grown over the years really inspires me and gives me an opportunity to appreciate the craftsmanship and creativity of our communities. I’d like to say a big thank-you to everyone who helped make this happen - from the bus drivers to the venues that provided space, and the community members who made hot meals for folks to enjoy and share festive time together.

Around this time of year, I also think of how challenging Christmas time can be and how devastating the drop in the global price of oil has been to fellow Albertans. Every single day that I am advocating as your MLA, in the laws and policies we create, you and your family’s wellbeing is my top priority. Through this work, investments from both our government and industry have helped cushion the blow of low world oil prices and have put the mechanisms in place to foster new economic growth.

The plan is working - we are now starting to see more and more jobs being created here in Alberta. To be precise, since the depths of the recession, Alberta has created nearly 72,000 fulltime jobs. In October 2017 alone, we added 12,000 new jobs to our economy. Alberta will lead the country in growth this year, according the Conference Board of Canada and the Royal Bank.

As we diversify our economy, we have also been working hard to rejuvenate our oil and gas sector. We secured the approval of two new pipelines, which has lifted confidence in our energy sector, and the new royalty framework is encouraging new drilling. We have also done work in the clean-up of abandoned oil and gas facilities, this has created jobs while also helping to protect the environment and landowners.

On Dec. 7, the National Energy Board ruled in favour of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion project. This is largely due to the pressures that our premier has put on the national stage, in saying that these pipelines are necessary for the prosperity of Alberta and Canada. I welcome the decisions of the NEB.

This decision gets us another step closer to shovels in the ground and more markets for our energy resources.

This pipeline comes with a world-class coastal protection plan, and the resources it carries will be produced under the strongest climate change action plan in Canada, if not all of North America. Our government will continue to make sure that the federal government knows why this pipeline matters to Albertans and the rest of Canada.

Outside of our oil and gas sector, in the last six months, we’ve seen the expansion of major companies in Alberta, including Amazon, RocketSpace, Swoop, Champion Petfoods, Pinnacle, Google and Cavendish Farms. Companies like Google could have picked anywhere in the world and they chose Alberta - and this was after we implemented the carbon levy. Forward-looking companies like these see the value in using a levy to transition economies into a greener future. In addition, our retail sales this year hit $6.8 billion - beating out the pre-recession peak of $6.7 billion. And, more than 29,000 new businesses became incorporated - 10.5 per cent higher than last year.

With those statistics and facts, I would like to personally thank you for all you do to invest into your community, your businesses and in Alberta. As we enjoy the holiday season with family and friends, we look forward to 2018, knowing that our hard work is seeing results.

First published Dec. 15, 2017, in the Sherwood Park News