November 29, 2019

Letter to the Prime Minister

The Business Council of Alberta is committed to building a strong Alberta within a vibrant and dynamic Canada. To that end, we sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to share three opportunities to work with the federal government to support the advancement of national priorities, ensure the collective success of the country and begin to build bridges across a divided nation.

Read the full letter below.

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

Congratulations on your successful re-election.

The Business Council of Alberta (BCA) is a non-partisan, non-profit organization comprised of over 50 of Alberta’s leading businesses and entrepreneurs. Our membership is dedicated to making life better by building a more prosperous future for all Albertans and, by extension, all Canadians.

BCA intends to serve the people of Alberta by finding ways to progressively grow and strengthen our businesses and to demonstrate the connection between a thriving business community and improved lives and well-being. It is critical that we lead by innovating and ensuring that our work force is trained and ready for the future. We also intend to work constructively with governments and regulatory agencies to ensure that our policy environment allows us to compete on the world stage.

As you are more than aware, the outcome of the recent election highlighted the challenge of balancing economic growth and responsible resource development with climate change action. The current rhetoric has created significant polarization and is re-igniting regional tensions to a degree that we have not seen in a generation. The call for shared understanding and action has never been stronger.

Let us be clear on where we stand: We are proud Canadians and believe in a strong Alberta within a vibrant Canada. Many Albertans are frustrated about the economic challenges in this province, and they do not feel those frustrations are being taken seriously in other parts of the country. However, we believe that rhetoric about western alienation and secession is ultimately harmful not only to Alberta’s long-term prosperity, but to Canada as a whole.

We are pleased to hear that you intend to reach out and involve the West in important policy issues. We offer our commitment to work constructively and continually with you to build a Canada where all feel valued and included. We, like you, are invested in the collective success of this country.

As a first step, our senior executive team will be in Ottawa December 9th – 11th. We would be grateful for a chance to meet with you and your office to discuss how we can work more closely together on an ongoing basis on key issues. Additionally, we invite you to meet with BCA members at our General Council Meeting in Calgary on January 20th or 21st. At that meeting, we will be discussing items related to the future of Alberta and Canada: skills and people; innovation; and striking a balance between energy and climatetopics of great interest to your government.

The key to resolving regional tensions in Canada is continual engagement. For that reason, we propose ongoing engagement and collaboration with you that would serve as a direct line of communication to your office on the priorities and concerns of Alberta businesses. We do so motivated by the belief that thoughtful and regular dialogue is the only way to achieve a policy balance that unites the country around the goal of shared prosperity.

We see three broad areas where the Business Council of Alberta can work with the federal government to advance your priorities while also building bridges across a divided country.

Canadian Leadership in GHG Reductions—Achieving significant reductions in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by leveraging Canada’s natural resources and technology.

Climate change is one of the most important issues of our time. Countries around the world need to work together to reduce our collective environmental footprint while also minimizing the impact on our standard of living; and recognizing that access to energy has been the single most important factor in reducing global poverty over the last century. Access to clean and affordable energy will serve as global economic aspirations for the next century.

As leaders of Canadian companies, we are committed to playing our part in the transition to a low-carbon future. Progress is underway in Canada due to the current federal regime and the recently announced TIER program in Alberta. Aided by smart, supportive government policy, including a carbon pricing system and regulations for energy intensive, trade exposed sectors that enable domestic and global competitiveness, Canada’s energy sector can go further and play a leadership role in lowering domestic and global GHG emissions, playing a critical role in achieving your government’s pledge to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

In our view, Canada’s most valuable contribution to a climate solution comes from focusing on where it can make the biggest and most immediate impact. We see two areas where Canadian energy can play an important role:

First, we need to support Canadian innovation to reduce domestic and global emissions. We propose that the focus be on reducing emissions versus the elimination of the economic activity. End user carbon taxation is a key feature to help drive reduced emissions. In parallel, Canada’s oil and gas industry has already made considerable progress in lowering per-barrel emissions. Some leading companies have set a goal of achieving net-zero-emissions production. We believe that supportive government policy could not only assist in meeting that goal, but also create opportunities to lower global emissions by exporting the innovations, technologies, and expertise developed at home, all while enabling Canadian prosperity.

Second, Canada should leverage its relatively clean energy to displace more carbon-intensive activity around the world. Natural gas is the cleanest hydrocarbon available and, for that reason, should be considered the clean fuel standard in Canada and around the world. Developing our world-class natural gas resources can help achieve deep reductions in global GHG emissions to displace more carbon-intensive electricity generation. Each coal-fired power plant displaced by Canadian natural gas would reduce facility emissions by about 50%. Innovations implemented in Alberta like coal-to-gas conversions can accelerate the transition to lower emissions fuels around the world while working to be net zero by 2050. Deploying our clean resources in this way creates a win-win for the economy and the environment.

This kind of public policy orientation would achieve significant environmental results, support economic growth, and recognize that Alberta’s energy can be part of the solution. We look forward to working with you to realize this goal.

Building a more prosperous Canada by addressing the investment, productivity and competitiveness issues that face our business community

A thriving economy is central to the Business Council of Alberta’s vision of making lives better for Albertans and all Canadians. However, an unemployment rate sitting at near-record lows is masking the fact that the Canadian economy is underperforming relative to its global competitors. Real GDP growth over the last five years is below the G7 average and on a per capita basis, our economic performance is the worst in the entire G7.

This sluggish growth is largely the result of an unattractive business investment climate. Real business investment has fallen by nearly 13% since the end of 2014, and Canada has one of the worst records in business investment in the entire OECD over the last five years. The World Economic Forum’s 2019 Global Competitiveness Report finds Canada 38th in terms of burden of government regulation, 32nd in transportation infrastructure and 35th in adoption of ICT.

This trend needs to be reversed. Capital investment is critical not only for long-term business competitiveness, it also drives productivity growth which is the single most important determinant of future prosperity for all Canadians. Productivity is closely linked to real wage growth which, in turn, impacts poverty levels, housing affordability, life satisfaction, and health outcomes. It also affects governments’ ability to collect tax revenues to finance service delivery.

BCA would like to work with your government on public policy that creates a future-ready economy and workforce which improves the prosperity of all Canadians. This requires supporting economic growth through business investment in innovation and technology, improving labour and educational outcomes, reducing unnecessary regulations that create barriers to domestic and foreign direct investment and, above all, enhancing productivity. Connecting public policy to Canada’s corporate ESG goals creates a framework for action, a way to build trust with Canadians and a competitive brand for Canadian exports of goods and services.

Uniting the nation to take our skills, capabilities and products to the global marketplace

Canada is a small, open economy that depends on trade and market access to maintain its standard of living. However, a range of barriers are preventing Canada from successfully competing in global markets. We would like to highlight three that we see as high priorities:

The first is reducing inter-provincial trade barriers. Internal trade barriers create unnecessary costs and impediments to doing business within Canada and impede our ability to compete around the world. Alberta has taken significant unilateral steps to open its doors to goods and services from other provinces. We invite the federal government to work with Alberta and the other provinces to make similar progress nation-wide.

The second is increasing investment in trade-related transportation infrastructure. Whether it be for agriculture, manufactured goods, energy products, or even services like tourism, insufficient trade-related transportation infrastructure prevents Canada from receiving fair market value for its resources; taking full advantage of its strategic trade agreements; or leveraging those agreements to attract more foreign direct investment to our shores.

Finally, we need to ensure that Canada’s trade agreements result in meaningful market access gains. Too often, Canada’s newly implemented trade agreements result in a surge in imports but little in the way of export gains. This is the result of a combination of factors including a lack of market information and export-readiness, risk aversion, or non-tariff barriers in foreign markets that limit our ability to export value-added goods.

In conclusion, addressing these issues both requires, and is essential to maintaining, national unity. For this reason, strong federal leadership is critically important. That work will require re-establishing trust across the country, and building a better relationship between government, business, and Canadians. We are ready and willing to assist you in that task.

Prime Minister, the need is great and time is of the essence on all these matters. We welcome an opportunity to discuss them in greater detail with you and your senior officials and are hopeful for a chance to meet with you in early December. The Business Council of Alberta is committed to building a better Alberta within a more prosperous and united Canada. We look forward to working with you and your office to advance this goal.

Congratulations on your successful election and thank you for leading at a time of such significant change. By working together to strengthen additional policy levers we can achieve a meaningful balance of economy, society and environment. And we can lead on the world stage. We absolutely have the potential to be at the top of global rankings of competitiveness, quality of life and environmental health. We are ready to do our part and look forward to the work and actions that we will take together to make this so.

Yours truly,

Hal Kvisle
Chair, Business Council of Alberta

Adam Legge
President, Business Council of Alberta

CC: Ian Shugart, Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet

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