NDP is focused on making Alberta's economy more diverse and stronger

By Joe Ceci, MLA for Calgary-Fort and Minister of Finance

Alberta is the best place in Canada to live, work and do business. A recent editorial (in the Calgary Herald) asked about our support for the beer and distilling industries in Alberta.

The fact of the matter is that our government is supporting businesses across all sectors provincewide, from the start-up distillery creating our first single malt whiskey to the established Alberta company investing billions of dollars in the industrial heartland.

The editorial mentions taxes, but ignores the fact that we have cut small business tax by one-third. This applies to every small business in every sector. And Alberta remains the least-taxed jurisdiction in Canada by a country mile.

The editorial also claims that Alberta’s restaurant industry is being ignored. There has been a lot of fearmongering about minimum-wage increases, which most often benefit single mothers putting food on the table for their kids. But the small business tax break also brings relief to the bottom line of the restaurants that employ minimum wage-earners. And restaurant sales are up across the province.

We are working to diversify the economy. Supporting the liquor industry is just one of many steps we have taken over the past two years.

To help Alberta companies excel, we’ve brought in new tax credits that refund 30 per cent of investments that our small businesses make in a variety of sectors, as well as a second credit that refunds part of their costs for new equipment, machinery and buildings.

Our government restored training programs for entrepreneurs. We increased firms’ ability to access capital. We raised the Alberta Treasury Board’s borrowing limits by $1.5 billion, with a clear directive to make more loans available to thousands of small businesses, the incubators of tomorrow’s prosperity.

We also worked with the Business Development Bank of Canada to establish a $1 billion fund for new loans.

These measures are paying off. Between January and August, more than 29,000 new businesses were incorporated in Alberta, a level that is 10.5 per cent higher than the same period in 2016.

And just this week, our petrochemical diversification program has resulted in a massive investment announced by Calgary-based Inter Pipeline. This will see two new facilities built in the industrial heartland, near Fort Saskatchewan, that will process propane into value-added plastics products.

At the peak of construction, an estimated 2,300 direct full-time jobs will be created, and once complete, the facilities will employ 180 people full time. This is a huge win for the value-added sector.

Here in Calgary, our headquarter and major investment attractions programs is providing $2 million to Calgary Economic Development to build on programs that are growing Alberta’s competitive advantage and attracting major firms to set up their head offices in Alberta.

Through the Alberta jobs plan, we’ve invested in our food services and beverage industries by expanding Alberta’s Food Processing Development Centre and Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator.

This facility, and its world-class equipment and staff, give entrepreneurs access to the expertise and resources they need to turn their ideas into commercial-scale success.

We’ve also provided more than $170 million in funding to Alberta Innovates for 2016-17, including $5 million in additional funding for the Enhanced Innovation Voucher and Small and Medium Sized Enterprises Support Program. These programs have proven to help high-tech small businesses grow.

Finally, our Renewable Electricity Program will add 5,000 megawatts of renewable electricity capacity by 2030 using a competitive process, administered by the Alberta Electric System Operator.

This will put Alberta on a path to achieve its target of 30 per cent renewable electricity by that time. The successful projects will be privately funded and will result in new investment of at least $10.5 billion into the Alberta economy by 2030, with at least 7,200 jobs created for Albertans.

These are just a few examples of the work our government has done to diversify the economy, support businesses and create jobs across all sectors. We’re proud of what we have accomplished, but we know there is more work to do, so we are going to keep working to create good jobs for Albertans.

First published in the Calgary Herald, Dec. 21, 2017.