Alberta has been hit extremely hard this week. From the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the abrupt crash in oil prices, we are experiencing a very sudden convergence of rare economic and global black swan events. As these events continue to develop, we are working with businesses and the provincial and federal governments to assess the economic impact and how to mitigate the most serious implications for business and people.
Earlier this week, we met with and sent a letter to, Premier Jason Kenney to offer the full support of the business community in working together to manage this challenging economic situation. Since then, we have been talking with both the provincial and federal governments on what specific collective actions we can take to ensure that businesses remain stable, reduce the risk of major layoffs as much as possible and keep our economy strong.
We have three specific areas of focus:
Alberta businesses are doing their part to protect people as much as possible. We have engaged with many businesses who are showing leadership by trying to keep people employed, preserve their commitments to communities, and support as many people as possible in working from home – all while maintaining the services Albertans rely on.
We support governments across Canada in taking an aggressive forward-leaning stance to public health and are suggesting that governments also need to take aggressive steps to protect the well-being of people. The reality is that the people whose jobs are most at risk are among those who earn the least: hourly workers and those in part-time or precarious employment in public-facing businesses. These people make up about 22% of the workforce both in Alberta and across Canada. We are working with governments on proposals for direct assistance to help out those who need it the most.
Business is one of the cornerstones of society and will be critical for Canada’s speedy recovery. The Government of Canada’s announcement of $10B in credit available for Canadian business will help protect businesses and maintain liquidity, however more details and an immediate deployment of these funds are urgently required.
We are encouraging both the provincial and federal governments to open up the full toolbox of supports to protect businesses during this period, where they are facing challenges far beyond their own doing or control. Our aspiration is to not allow any business which would be otherwise strong, to go under as a result of this situation.
Protecting the economy
The Canadian energy industry is the single largest subsector of the Canadian economy, and in addition to the challenges being presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the energy sector is also facing the single largest price collapse in nearly 30 years. This is not about one region or one sector; this is an economic crisis for Canadians. While broad-based efforts such as the rate cut by the Bank of Canada are welcome across the country, we are communicating that the Canadian energy sector will require specific and targeted supports of the scope and scale of the 2008 financial crisis.
This is a very challenging time for Albertans – and Canadians. We feel for those who have already been deeply impacted by this situation. But we are resilient and strong. We’ve made it through uncertain and tough times before, and we will again. We are thankful for all the leaders in business, government, and communities who are stepping forward to bring out our best at this time.