April 29, 2020

A proposal for a stronger Alberta

The Business Council of Alberta sent a letter to the provincial government on behalf of over 60 Alberta CEOs to propose a three-point plan to economic recovery and to build a stronger Alberta post-COVID-19. Read the full letter below.

Dear Premier Kenney,

Thank you for your continued leadership during the unprecedented health and economic crises affecting Alberta. Your approach to protecting Albertans while also supporting the needs of our fellow Canadians through contributions of medical supplies has captured the true spirit of this province.

The health and safety of Albertans is our highest priority. At the same time, however, the economic shutdown is taking a devastating toll on the province, the duration and severity of which are still far from clear. What we do know is that only exceptional leadership, planning and execution will pull us out.

We also know that a return to “normal” activity will not be possible until a vaccine is found and widely administered. This means that any economic re-opening in the province must be phased in gradually, respecting a series of well-established conditions and protocols. Businesses are already planning for that post-crisis, pre-vaccine world. Most believe that this stage will last quite some time, potentially 18 to 24 months, and cannot begin without considerable advance thought and coordination. Our member companies are ready for the challenge. We know that through the Government of Alberta’s strength in public health and the business community’s in business operations excellence aimed at preserving health and safety, we can build the confidence of Albertans to feel comfortable adapting and functioning under a life and economy that is not quite back to normal.

Our proposal for a stronger Alberta is a three-point plan:

  1. Develop a thoughtful, safe and ethical approach to a gradual and phased-in re-opening of the Alberta economy that safeguards health, but also begins to recover lost jobs and closed businesses.
  2. Re-examine Alberta’s short- and long-term fiscal model in light of reduced revenues and increased need for government support.
  3. Re-imagine Alberta’s long-term economic opportunities and competitiveness by creating a bold and inspiring economic and industrial strategy for the province for the next 20 years.

The members of the Business Council of Alberta are here to collaborate and help lead on the execution of each element of this plan. We continue to develop ideas for the second and third points, but for the purposes of your immediate needs, allow us to elaborate on the first – the re-launch strategy.

Re-Opening the Economy

Our economy will not begin to re-open until people feel safe to interact with their fellow Albertans without fear of contracting COVID-19. We know, according to a survey by Leger, that over 50% of Albertans feel that restrictions should be lifted only after the number of new cases has fallen to zero or near zero and remains there for several weeks. Their concern is real. We wish to stress that the business community is committed not only to keeping Albertans safe and healthy but to earning their confidence that the measures we implement are rigorous and robust.

We applaud the government’s broad approach to re-opening that includes access to testing, tracing, equipment and long-term behavioral changes. We look forward to your re-launch strategy and offer our assistance and participation in its execution. We are also encouraged by the effectiveness of responses in countries like South Korea, including the deployment of widespread rapid testing, the use of technology for tracing and the use of discipline protocols with strong input from public health professionals.

We also have many terrific examples from our member companies that provide essential services; they have protocols in place that have allowed them to continue operating while keeping people safe. We offer to work with the Government of Alberta to share best practices to ensure that your re-launch strategy combines the best information and insight from your public health experts and research, as well as our own experience from a business perspective, many of whom are currently operating essential services in an effective and safe manner. Between the two, we believe that we can develop a made-in-Alberta plan to gradually re-open the economy safely in a segmented manner while we wait for a vaccine.

We believe that most Albertans would accept some limitation on personal mobility and privacy in return for staying healthy and safe. Approaches that we know you are considering, and we support, include:

  1. Rapid and widespread testing – significantly increased capacity to administer and process tests that deliver results within hours, allowing employees to work alongside one another, and for Albertans to be out, without fear.
  2. Regular temperature-checking
  3. Contact tracing which includes industrial protocols and access to mobile phone applications designed to assist
  4. Enhanced PPE including the widespread use of masks (both for the general public and at worksites), gloves and enhanced cleaning protocols
  5. Enhanced quarantine protocols for those found to be infected
  6. Continued more stringent isolation protocols for vulnerable populations and those over 65
  7. Continued support for mental health and considerations for childcare in light of school closures

A phased re-launch also raises many other important issues and questions: which activities and businesses should re-open at each stage and which should not; isolation protocols for those infected; protocols for further response should cases increase again; continued job protections and economic supports for those infected or whose jobs have not re-launched; supports for vulnerable populations; and many others. Again, we offer our willingness to work together, and alongside public health, labour and other groups to address these difficult issues.

The key for beginning the re-opening is keeping people safe as they go about their lives. We have examples of ways to do this that work and are currently in the planning phase. We believe there is much to be gained by working together to amplify efforts as we collaborate on solutions.

Alberta’s Fiscal Model Reinvented and Alberta’s Economy Reimagined

We know that the government is focused on Alberta’s immediate as well as medium-term challenges. We express our interest in working with you, and your Economic Recovery Council, on exploring both interim and permanent changes to Alberta’s revenue model. Our need to find different and more diverse revenue streams will be vital in a world where Alberta’s traditional sources of revenue are significantly impaired.

We also recognize that every place on earth will be looking not only at how to recover from the economic impact of COVID-19 but also at how they can become more resilient and more competitive. We believe that with the right policies in place, Alberta has the potential to become one of the more competitive business locations in the world post-COVID-19 – a global centre from which to feed, fuel, have fun and protect the world. We see a chance to build a plan that generates shared prosperity through two important growth pathways: clear the way for Alberta’s entrepreneurs to do what they do best – invent, innovate, invest and expand; and attract significant investment into Alberta from outside the province. We stand ready to participate in any work that you undertake in that regard.

Once again, thank you for your leadership, and we look forward to working with you and your Government of Alberta colleagues to collaborate and jointly help lead through each of these elements of the plan.

Yours truly,

Adam Legge
Business Council of Alberta

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