By Susannah Pierce, President & Country Chair, Shell Canada and Cory Janssen, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, AltaML as published in the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald
Optimism is everywhere in Alberta these days. All around the province, there is a familiar energy and enthusiasm in the air, reminiscent of the Alberta booms of the past. And like every boom we experience, we are presented with a choice: Are we going to use this moment to build the future Albertans want, or will we let it be one more boom that comes and goes?
For years, Alberta has been a prosperous place. We have long enjoyed high incomes, low taxes, access to the bounty and beauty of our natural environment, a high-quality health system, affordable housing and so much more. Albertans have been at the forefront of some of the world’s top innovations in energy, food, health and more. We have a lot to be proud of.
We are currently seeing near-decade-high commodity prices and record provincial revenues, high employment across sectors and demographics, strong economic activity and positive migration to the province — all signs of an economy that is on the upswing and growing.
It is tempting to think all is well, Alberta.
But in reality, we can’t take boom times for granted or assume that all are benefiting equitably.
Not everyone has access to the opportunities, resources and support to thrive. Many Albertans are struggling with the rising cost of living. Despite the current boom, our economy has struggled over the past decade. Every sector, business and society overall is being asked to respond to disruption and transformation.
Doing so requires purpose, intention and strategy.
As the co-chairs of Define the Decade, a major research and engagement initiative stewarded by the Business Council of Alberta, we believe in Alberta and in Albertans. We believe in our collective ability to respond to these challenges before us and that our best days are still ahead. We need the right strategy to capitalize on the current momentum and leverage the opportunity to build a future where everyone truly has the chance to succeed here.
Aiming in every direction is not a strategy. Real strategy means making choices. After speaking to thousands of Albertans about the future of the province, we identified three focused areas where Alberta has unique competitive advantages to solve global-level challenges.
Alberta can feed the world.
The global population is set to grow by two billion people by 2050. That means we will have more people to feed and less land on which to produce the food we need.
Rising demand, climate change and geopolitical conflicts have threatened the global food supply, and we believe there is an obligation for those countries who can produce more food to do so.
Alberta is an agriculture powerhouse. Imagine the possibilities with the right investments, policy and collaborations. We could amplify our impact with new technologies, innovations and practices to lead the world in low-emissions food production, elimination of food deserts and maximizing crop yield with limited land use.
Alberta can create low-carbon energy solutions.
Access to secure, clean and affordable energy goes together with quality of life, and Alberta’s brand as an energy producer is well known across the globe.
With demand for energy rising, and climate change driving a necessary transition to lower carbon energies, Alberta’s opportunity to be a leader in developing low-carbon energies, clean technology solutions, and ways to transform hydrocarbons and minerals into the products we use every day is huge.
In fact, Alberta’s energy industry is already a leading investor in many of these areas, but we can — and must — do more. Imagine if Alberta could be a top supplier of the lowest GHG oil and gas or the world leader in developing or exporting hydrogen or carbon capture, utilization and storage capabilities.
Alberta can help people live healthier lives.
The world is getting older, and concerns over COVID, mental health and other health challenges have generated intense focus on our physical and mental well-being.
Alberta is an emerging leader in developing medical advancements, interventions and supports to enable people to live long, healthy lives. Imagine if we grew our budding asset base and expertise to develop and export solutions for issues such as chronic diseases, mental health, or long health-care wait times.
Alberta can unlock long-term prosperity for all Canadians.
Albertans are proud of the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit ingrained into the province’s DNA.
This can-do mindset has transformed Alberta into a place of opportunity that has unlocked the vast potential of the oilsands, discovered and developed treatments for hepatitis and farmed the prairies — generating shared prosperity across Canada and impact around the world. Imagine building on all this capability to tackle global problems that Alberta is uniquely positioned to solve and that generate homegrown competitiveness and prosperity.
We believe that the time is now to think strategically about our future and purposefully plan for its prosperity. By working collectively as citizens towards a shared sense of belonging, access to opportunity, and innovative problem-solving, we can achieve shared prosperity for all.
Feature image credit: Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia