Archive for May 2011

The "two" in my two-fer – is Alberta going to get a sales tax?   Leave a comment


This is, however, speculation.  Given the current economic climate – improving, but still running at a deficit – this is something that has to be considered by those who can affect such a change.  When Alberta’s premier, Ed Stelmach, steps down in October, I’m sure that this will be a hot-button topic.  A whole generation of Albertans – maybe two! – are used to enjoying economic prosperity and not paying a provincial sales tax.  How will they feel about the first politician who brings in a PST?

Here’s the article I spotted in the Calgary Herald.  Any bolding, as usual, is mine.


Alberta sales tax could help fill void of diverted royalty revenues

By Rebecca Penty, Calgary Herald / May 27, 2011


CALGARY – A new provincial sales tax could help fill the void in government coffers if oil and gas revenues are diverted under a plan for Alberta’s economic future, a Calgary audience heard Friday.


Business professor Leonard Waverman put forth the provocative method of generating new provincial funding at a morning discussion sponsored by the Canada West Foundation and Calgary Economic Development on a report authored by Premier Ed Stelmach’s blue-ribbon panel.

The Shaping Alberta’s Future document by the Premier’s Council for Economic Strategy, released earlier this month, suggests non-renewable resource revenues should be set aside in the name of future prosperity.

Money earned off oil and gas would be pumped into a fund that would support high-tech companies, projects and infrastructure – all to promote economic diversification.

But oil and gas royalties, land sales and other revenues generated fund about 30 per cent of the provincial government’s operating budget – or some $11 billion annually – and diverting these would create a “big hole,” Waverman said.

“It’s the largest revenue source,” Waverman, dean of the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, told the audience of about 150.

The report doesn’t offer ideas on how to create new revenue streams to feed the government’s piggy bank, he lamented, suggesting a provincial tax on consumption.

“The sales tax in Ontario is $17 billion (annually) and it is 19 per cent of gross revenue,” he said, comparing Alberta to the Eastern Canadian province, which has a provincial sales tax of eight per cent.

And while Waverman admitted the sales tax alone can’t cover a shortfall from the loss of oil and gas revenues, he offered in an interview that on about $60 billion in annual retail sales in Alberta, the province could reasonably raise some $4-$5 billion in sales taxes.

He called for further discussion on generating future government revenues.

Alberta is the only province in Canada without a provincial or blended value-added sales tax.

The levy might prove an unpopular campaign idea for those vying to replace Stelmach for Tory leadership after he relinquishes the position on Oct. 1 – a departure that also calls into question the implementation of the economic strategy report.

Surveys in recent years by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business show Albertans have very little appetite for a provincial sales tax.

But contender Doug Griffiths has left the door open.

Griffiths told reporters when he put his hat in the ring that he doesn’t personally favour a PST but believes Albertans need to have a healthy discussion about it, considering they want low taxes and more royalty revenues saved for the future.

And the idea isn’t foreign within the party: The introduction of a provincial sales tax was on the Progressive Conservative convention agenda for discussion last October, among various other issues.

David Emerson, the chairman of the 12-member group that authored the study, didn’t rule out a new sales tax when asked, following Friday’s presentation.

“I don’t think not having a sales tax is an Alberta advanta
ge,” said the former federal Tory cabinet minister, adding the province has a leg up due to its low income and investment taxes.

“But some of these things like low taxes on fuel, on sales taxes, on liquor and so on, it’s nice but it’s not what I would call part of the Alberta advantage in the sense of, it is preparing you in a fundamental way to be more successful going forward.”

Roger Gibbins, president and CEO of the Canada West Foundation, said his organization has suggested Alberta introduce a sales tax.

“Of all the taxes we have, that’s probably the least important in terms of our competitive advantage,” Gibbins said.

His group also previously argued that 30 per cent of oil and gas revenues to government should be diverted into the Heritage Fund.

Posted May 30, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Going for the two-fer today – first, an article about the oilsands   Leave a comment

I love where I really live, I really do.  But recent events in this province make me (A) shake my head, and (B) realize how darn big this province is.  Fires to the north, floods to the south… I know a couple of people that have been seriously affected by these events and it really, really sucks.  I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.

Well, maybe my WORST enemy.

But probably not.

I found two articles from the Calgary Herald today, but because they’re so different in tone and substance. I wanted to do two different posts.  Each will be blogged, each will be tweeted, and ideally, both will be noticed.  The first article, linked below, discusses the recent discussions between Albertan government and business leaders, and Chinese business executives.  The Chinese are very interested in investing in Alberta, and by the strangest coincidence, I am ALSO interested in investing in Alberta.  Just saying.


Trade Mission: China targeting tens of billions in Alberta oilsands investment

By Chris Varcoe, Calgary Herald / May 30, 2011

Alberta government and business leaders who sat down with Chinese energy executives this week were told tens of billions of dollars in new oilpatch investment will flow in the coming years — if export capacity issues in Canada are improved.

Finance Minister Lloyd Snelgrove said Sunday that senior officials from Chinese state-owned oil firms anticipate future investment will dwarf — potentially tripling — what they have already spent in Canada’s energy sector in recent years.

In the past 18 months alone, Chinese oil companies have pumped more than $13 billion into developing crude oil and natural gas prospects in Western Canada.

However, future spending is contingent upon Canada building new pipeline capacity to transport oilsands — such as the $5.5-billion Northern Gateway project planned by Enbridge Inc. — and natural gas to the West Coast, where liquefied gas could be shipped by tanker into the Chinese market, he said.

“They said the critical part to them was having access to the product and now it’s stranded in the North American market. They believe we need the Gateway pipeline ASAP,” the finance minister said in an interview.

“It’s absolutely massive amounts of dollars when you look at it … Between bitumen expansion and the liquid natural gas opportunities they’ve got, you’re probably talking in excess of $20 billion over the next 10 years from one of the companies — and the others all talked about investments — so it’s enormous. It’s huge dollars.”

The high-level meetings were part of a trade mission to China organized by Calgary Economic Development to promote tourism and investment with the most populous country in the world.

Officials with the state-owned oil companies weren’t available for comment, but China’s Ambassador to Canada told an Alberta audience recently that “China-Canada co-operation in energy has become a highlight of our economic relations.”

Chinese state-owned oil producers “play by the rules of global competition …. Therefore, they deserve equal treatments as other foreign companies,” Zhang Junsai said at an Edmonton address earlier this month. “With a population of 1.3 billion, China is a major energy consumer. We need fossil fuels.”

The issue of growing Chinese oilpatch investment is a complex matter that touches upon energy geopolitics and foreign investment, as well as First Nations’ rights and environmental concerns in Canada.

The debate also comes as China’s economic expansion is expected to fuel a 75-per-cent rise in the county’s energy demand by 2035, according to an International Energy Agency, and an upswing in capital flowing into Alberta.

Most of the money that has already been invested has targeted the massive oilsands reserves of northern Alberta, although Encana Corp. signed a $5.4 billion natural gas venture in February with PetroChina.

The Fort McMurray area is home to the world’s second-largest proven crude reserves, and oilsands output is projected to reach as much as five million barrels a day in the coming years, up from about 1.5 million barrels last year. To secure such growth, though, the industry needs massive amounts of capital.

A Canadian Energy Research Association study recently predicted the oilsands will require $253 billion in capital for necessary construction.

To diversify Canada’s export options for bitumen, the Alberta government and some producers are aggressively backing efforts to expand pipeline access
to the West Coast, such as the Gateway project that has stirred up opposition from environmental groups and some First Nations. Much of the line route crosses traditional First Nations territory in British Columbia that is subject to treaty negotiations.

The proposed 1,170-kilometre pipeline would run from the Edmonton area to a port in Kitimat, B.C., and is now under federal review.

“First Nation people are concerned about a pipeline going through their property,” said University of Calgary professor Bob Schulz of the Haskayne School of Business, who is on the China trip and has been following the project’s development.

“Each band has a separate territory and it’s like going through separate countries.”

There are also potential environmental issues with having new pipelines cross the area, as well as the movement of crude oil tankers off the Pacific Coast.

Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute, said governments and industry should have to produce a clearly defined development plan for all oilsands projects before approving unneeded infrastructure.

“We still have concerns with the pace and scale of development and what that means for increased pressure on … land, water, air impacts — not to mention the climate,” he said. “If they put in a new pipe, then obviously you want to fill it and we’re worried that’s going to drive production increases.”

Pipeline access is a key interest for the Canadian oil and gas sector.

Baytex Energy Corp. chief financial officer Derek Aylesworth said a new pipeline would help ship Canadian crude to Asia, where it could ultimately fetch a higher price than in the United States.

Right now, Canada only exports the tar-like bitumen south of the border, so any line that allows for Asian exports would help the industry diversify away from just one international customer, said Aylesworth, who is in Shanghai.

“Today, we’re obviously captive to the U.S. market and we sell heavy oil at a significant discount,” he said Sunday. “The industry is losing out on revenue, the government is losing out on revenue.”

Ian Wild, executive vice-president of ATB Corporate Financial Services, said he heard from Beijing oil executives this week that they are growing frustrated by delays in Canadian pipeline development and future investment is clearly at risk.

“I know they’re saying to me that their patience has run out,” he said. “They told me specifically that there’s at least $10 to $20 billion in jeopardy here for the province.”

As for promises that larger investments are coming, Schulz said no one should be shocked given the scale of recent moves.

“The amount of money is not a surprise,” said the director of petroleum land management with the university. “This is just an incremental bite and they’re ready for the next one. And each bite will be bigger.”

Posted May 30, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Link-o-Rama Friday!   Leave a comment

Because it’s a lazy, rainy day out there, and I have some other things on my plate right now – not that not providing top-notch content here isn’t important – here are a couple of articles you might find interesting.  Some are Red Deer related, other pertain to Calgary, and each is important and educational in its own way.  Have a good weekend, all!

Posted May 27, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

The MacAskill Monthly Mailer is done!   Leave a comment

Backbreaking labor, I tells ya.

Here’s the link to the newsletter:


Posted May 24, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

A short blog, but I’m hoping for two today – so check back   Leave a comment

Tough weekend… first, one of my favorite wrestlers of all time passes away.  Then I learn that my favorite baseball player ever, Gary Carter, has four small brain tumors, and will be getting checked out at Duke later this week.  All the very best to the Kid.

Doing everything humanly possible to get the monthly newsletter done today, but in the meantime, for all you Canadians out there – we’re awesome!  No, really, it’s true: cut and pasted from the Calgary Herald, link here if you must.


Canadians trail only Aussies in quality of life: Study

By Peter O’Neil, Postmedia News / May 24, 2011

PARIS — Canadians have a “better life” than anyone in the western world except — by a narrow margin — Australians, according to a new analysis released Tuesday.

Canada scored at or near the top in such areas as housing, education, health and life satisfaction, among 34 major industrialized countries.

Sweden ranked third among the members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development; the U.S. was seventh; and Turkey was a distant last.

The Better Life Initiative survey marked a major attempt by the Paris-based OECD, an economic and social policy think-tank funded by its members, to provide a broader measure of a country’s success than gross domestic product figures.

“People around the world have wanted to go beyond GDP for some time,” OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria said in a statement.

“This index is designed for them. It has extraordinary potential to help us deliver better policies for better lives.”

The index compares the 34 countries in 11 areas — housing, income, jobs, community, education, environment, governance, health, life satisfaction, safety and work-life balance.

Canada ranked first in terms of access to affordable housing, second on “life satisfaction,” and third on three categories — safety, health and education.

Canada’s worst score was in the area of governance, where it was near the middle of the pack.

While 67 per cent of Canadians trust their political institutions, well above the OECD average of 56 per cent, voter turnout in national elections was around 60 per cent — well below the 72 per cent average.

The report, in a commentary on government transparency, noted that Canadians can’t use the Internet or telephone to get information under Canada’s access-to-information laws.

“In addition, there are no provisions for anonymity or protection from retaliation.”

In its breakout analysis for Canada, the OECD tossed in a poll result from 2008 that wasn’t considered in Canada’s overall ranking but may, according to an official, help explain why many in the country have “better lives.”

Roughly two-thirds of Canadians, or 66 per cent, “reported having helped a stranger in the last month, the highest figure in the OECD” and well above the average of 46 per cent.

Posted May 24, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Randy "Macho Man" Savage   Leave a comment

This CERTAINLY isn’t the topic I had in mind when I wanted to blog today.

Earlier this morning, Randy Savage died in a car accident.  It is being reported that he suffered a heart attack while being the wheel, and after losing control of his vehicle, he crashed into a tree.  His wife suffered minor injuries in the accident as well.

What to say?  He packed a lot of life in his 58 years, and unlike several of his peers, he enjoyed a normal life after retiring.  He lived out of the spotlight, was healthy both in body and in spirit, and – at least as far as I’m aware – didn’t feel the need to get back in the ring.  Nor did he have to get back into the ring – it was a “sport” he left on his own terms.  He was a man that broke beyond the boundaries of “pro wrasslin’ ” and became a pop culture icon.

My first exposure to the high-flying, charismatic Macho Man occurred in the late 1970s, when he toured with Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling.  There was no comparison between what he did and said, and the local Maritime grapplers who were pretty much interchangeable on the circuit.  When he arrived in the WWF later on – even amongst the larger-than-life, cartoony, and seasoned athletes that made up the roster at the time – he was unique.  His battles with Ricky Steamboat, Tito Santana, Hulk Hogan, Ted DiBiase, and others were classic feuds in every sense of the word.  When he left in the mid 90s for World Championship Wrestling, it was a quiet departure, and it’s been rumored that he and his boss, Vince McMahon, did not like each other.

Today that’s a moot point.  The wrestling fraternity is collectively mourning the loss of a legend, a role model, a friend, and a husband.  And so is a legion of fans… and I’m one of them.


Posted May 20, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Harmon and the Hall   Leave a comment

Another legendary ballplayer passed away this morning.  Harmon Killebrew succumbed to cancer after a great career and by all accounts, a greater life.  Rather than try to describe what kind of a man he was – he retired a few years before I even started watching baseball – I’ll link in a few recently-published articles that will do a far better job than I ever could:


But by the way – he makes the cut for my own personal, imaginary, and special Cooperstown.  Listed below, the next ten members of a most exclusive club…

Harmon Killebrew

Charlie Gehringer

Kid Nichols

Johnny Mize

Satchel Paige

Jeff Bagwell

Robin Roberts

Tony Gwynn

Ron Santo

Robin Yount


Posted May 17, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

To blog, or to blog twice? And important Alberta news, too   Leave a comment

It’s been a week since I last put imaginary pen to virtual paper, the longest gap I’ve experienced since beginning Landing With Jason last September.  A few reasons for this… I was tied up with a few other things; I didn’t find that one keystone article that I really wanted to latch onto; also, I’m getting ready to get my next MacAskill’s Monthly Mailer out this week.  None are huge issues, but they all added up to one non-blog week.

There is one other reason that I neglected to mention above, and it is fairly important – at least, to me.  I’ve used my blog to not only discuss what I do, but who I am.  But I’m starting to wonder if I should create a second blog in order to separate business, and work, from the personal context that goes into about half my posts.  When I first started this, I wanted to let people know who I was in order to create a sort of relationship with anyone looking for investment goings-on.  After all, wouldn’t you want to know something about the fellow that you might want to discuss land investment with?

So that’s where I am with that.  If I do decide to create a second blog, I’d link them, of course.  But right now, I’m on the fence about it.

Moving on.  I did find a pair of articles today that I wanted to highlight.  I will provide the links in their respective titles, but the content will be as presented – any bolding is mine.  The first pertains to foreign investment in Red Deer, while the other discusses immigration into Alberta.  Draw your own conclusions, and have a nice day.


Cash boost to attract investors

Harley Richards – Red Deer Advocate


Published: May 13, 2011 6:29 AM

Efforts to attract foreign investment to Central Alberta have received a $1.2 million boost.

Rural Alberta Development Fund announced on Thursday that it has approved the funding for Turning the Keys on Opportunity, a project that will seek to connect foreign investment with the local business community. Slated to run until the end of 2013, it will encourage the attraction, retention and expansion of businesses in Central Alberta.

“I think it’s extremely important that we continue to have investment happen within this region,” said Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood, whose municipality made the funding application. “It allows our businesses to grow; it allows new businesses to come in; it provides jobs and helps our economy.”

Wood said the recent slowdown in the oilpatch illustrates the importance of working to diversify the Central Alberta economy.

“If we do nothing, that’s probably what we’ll achieve.”

Turning the Keys on Opportunity will continue the work of Red Deer Regional Economic Development — a partnership involving the county, the City of Red Deer, the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce and Red Deer College; and Central Alberta Economic Partnership — a regional economic development alliance consisting of 43 municipal members and 14 associate members.

The two organizations have been pursuing a number of foreign direct investment leads that were compiled in 2009 by a consultant.

The sectors being targeted are manufacturing, agri-food processing, and logistics and transportation.

“Now the next stage is to try to take those leads and find how they work within this region,” said Wood.

Deb Bonnett, the county’s economic development manager, said a website to connect Central Alberta businesses with foreign investors will be developed and communities in the region will be helped to become “investment ready,” among other initiatives.

“There’s a whole number of little projects that will take place inside this.”

A project co-ordinator, project administrator and business retention, expansion and investment officer will be hired as part of Turning the Keys on Opportunity, said Bonnett, with officials from RDRED, CAEP, the city and the county to help as well.

The goal of the project is to create a “conduit” between local business and foreign investment, said Wood.

“When you’re dealing with someone in a foreign country, you need someone with the expertise in the middle to try to facilitate it.”

He said he’s not aware of a similar project elsewhere in Alberta, and thinks Central Alberta should appeal to foreign investors.

“We’re a pretty good place to do business.”

Jann Beeston, chair of the Rural Alberta Development Fund, praised Turning the Keys on Opportunity for its broad base of support.

“One of the most innovative aspects of this project is the level of collaboration,” said Beeston, adding that the project provides a model for rural communities elsewhere.

Rural Alberta Development Fund is a not-for-profit company created by the province as part of its rural development strategy.


More immigrants sinking roots in Alberta

 By Sean Myers, Calgary Herald / May 13, 2011


CALGARY — More immigrants are moving to Alberta than ever before and the vast majority are staying, according to a new immigration progress report by the province.

Alberta attracted 120,000 new immigrants over the past five years, rising from 20,716 in 2006 to 32,640 last year. And 85 per cent of those arrivals choose to plant roots here, compared with a retention rate of about 75 per cent in 2005.

That’s a welcome trend, said Employment and Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, as the province looks to fill a projected shortfall of 77,000 workers over the next decade.

“That’s the success story here. More are staying,” said Lukaszuk.

Alberta received 11.6 per cent of all immigrants to Canada last year, up from 8.6 per cent in 2006.

“The good news is the economy is growing and will continue to grow,” Lukaszuk said, “but the bad news is we cannot supply enough workers to sustain that economy.”

The problem, he said, is the first wave of baby boomers, who reached the retirement age of 65 this year, and natural population growth that remains flat.

Lukaszuk said the solution during the boom years was for Alberta companies to bring in temporary foreign workers to fill the employment gap, but that solution won’t work now.

“Why would you be solving what appears to be a permanent problem with a temporary solution?” said Lukaszuk.

“What we need now is a permanent foreign worker solution, which means not flying workers in and out, but finding the workers that we need, trying to attract them and retain them so they can work here, invest here, buy homes here, raise their families here.”

This means taking a look at federal immigration laws and streamlining them for skilled workers recruited by Canadian employers, said Lukaszuk.

“Needing a worker here today and getting him in four years doesn’t solve the problem,” he said.

“We need to make sure we do prioritize immigrants with skill sets that are required here.”

Fariborz Birjandian, executive director of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, said Calgary is firmly on the map now as a destination for immigrants both because of available jobs and positive experiences in settling here.

“Calgary has created a reputation internationally which we didn’t have in the past,” said Birjandian. “In the past, everyone would go to Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver. In the past few years, for a variety of reasons, Alberta has become identified as a desirable place for people to go.”

He said many immigrants are moving to smaller communities outside of Calgary and Edmonton and those communities will require investment from the province to help in the settlement process.

Services that exist in the major metropolitan areas to help with issues such as registering children for school, accessing health care and navigating the community are not as readily available in rural areas and small towns, said Birjandian.

“That’s the new change I am seeing, that immigration is not just impacting Edmonton and Calgary — it’s affecting the whole province,” he said.

According to one Calgary-based employment agency, interest in foreign workers is growing.

“It’s been very slow for that past two and half years because of the economy and lots of people looking for work. In the last couple of months, it’s really picked up. We’re getting calls all the time now from people who can’t find Canadians who either want to do the work or are available,” said Fred Harvey, director of Mundo Sourcing, which specializes in finding temporary foreign workers.

He said a year ago he’d get five calls a week, now he’s getting five calls a day.

“We’re getting lot more calls for skilled workers than before,” said Harvey. “That’s been our biggest increase.”

Posted May 16, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

The triple whammy of Alberta business goodness   Leave a comment

How’s THAT for a title?

It was a busy weekend, as I suspect it may have been for many of you out there.  (Happy belated Mother’s Day, if you’re a mom.)  Two birthday parties on Saturday, baseball practice, a sleepover, Mother’s Day, housework… yeeeeeesh.  Also, now that it is spring – allegedly – baseball is going to take up a lot of evening time for the next eight weeks, but it beats the alternative of having two bored and unhappy children.  Oh, and it also makes me and several other people that love my kids very happy and proud as well.

I have not one, not two, but three links that reinforce the idea that western Canada, and primarily Alberta, is a great place to invest.  I will provide the links to each story, as well as copy them all below. I admit, I’d rather not – presenting three back-to-back-to-back articles make this blog look kind of blocky.  However, I’ve found that the links sometimes break over time, or the host source will take them down, so if you find this post weeks or months from now, you might be wasting your time looking for information that has virtually vanished.

As always, if you see bold text within the body of the article, I’m the guy that made it bold.  I found all three articles in the Calgary Herald – I hope they don’t mind me sharing this with my vast and informed reading audience.


Alberta MLS sales to top country in 2012

Forecast growth of 6.7%


By Mario Toneguzzi, Calgary Herald / May 9, 2011 9:02 AM

CALGARY — Alberta will lead the country next year in the annual percentage growth for MLS sales, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.


The association on Monday said the province will see MLS sales increase by 6.7 per cent in 2012 to 56,650 units following a 6.8 per cent gain this year to 53,100 units.

At the national level, CREA is forecasting MLS sales to decline by 1.3 per cent this year to 441,100 transactions and rebound with 2.6 per cent growth in 2012 to 452,500 units.

The association is predicting the average MLS sale price in Alberta will rise by 0.1 per cent this year to $352,500 followed by a 1.6 per cent jump next year to $358,100.

Nationally, CREA said the average price will increase by 4.0 per cent this year to $352,500 followed by an increase of 0.9 per cent in 2012 to $355,800.

“Homebuyers expect mortgage interest rates to rise and are mindful of their current and future debt levels. They’re doing their homework to better understand how their mortgage payments and family budget might change down the road before they make an offer,” said Gary Morse, CREA’s president.

Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist, said that while interest rates are expected to rise later this year they will still be within short reach of current levels and remain supportive for housing market activity.

“Continuing job growth will underpin housing demand, keeping the housing market in balance and stabilizing home prices,” he said.


Provincial plan to save energy revenue wins praise

By Sean Myers, Calgary Herald May 7, 2011

Economists and environmentalists say the Alberta government is finally discussing points regarding the province’s long-term economic health they’ve been making for years, in a new report spearheaded by Premier Ed Stelmach.

The 12-member Premier’s Council for Economic Strategy, chaired by former federal Tory cabinet minister David Emerson, has issued a report on the province’s long-term economic future that calls for the government to stop spending oil revenue and start saving it.

Royalty revenues should be put into a fund to support the creation of technology companies, economic diversification and targeted initiatives of public benefit, such as high-speed rail, said the report.

Using money from oil revenues subject to the boom and bust cycle is not sustainable, agreed University of Calgary economist Frank Atkins.

“A lot of this stuff is, l
ike, blindingly obvious,” said Atkins. “It’s not new to say, ‘you know we shouldn’t be using oil and gas revenues to pay for our day-to-day bills.’ Economists like me and several others of us at the University of Calgary have been saying this for years and years.

“The reason we’re in a fiscal mess right now is this government has a severe spending problem. They can’t seem to stop spending.”

Atkins also worries that the talk of starting technology companies sounds too much like an old program under former premier Don Getty, which invested in companies and led to financial failures.

“You don’t want the government to be in the business of doing business, this is not a good idea at all,” said Atkins. “Government should not be investing in businesses, that’s not what a government is supposed to do. That means the government’s using taxpayers money to compete with the private sector. That’s not a good plan.”

Stelmach said the plan would be to create an Alberta Institute for Advanced Technology based on the model of the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, which would spawn innovative ideas that could lead to the creation of businesses.

“Let’s face it, we’re competing against the world,” said Stelmach.

“And that world is changing very quickly and is changing dramatically. I have a responsibility to make sure the next generation enjoys the same quality of life we do. We’ve got to get off this bandwagon about we’re not bringing about change because somebody may not like it. Let’s have the dialogue and come to an agreement because it’s critically important for our children’s children.”

The report also outlines a plan for a creation of a Global Centre for Energy to accelerate innovation for better environmental and operational performance in the energy sector.

“We’ve been saying this for a while,” said Chelsea Flook, associate director of the prairie chapter of the environmental activist group, the Sierra Club.

“We want to see the creation of an environmental task force.

“What is good about this report is the government is beginning to talk about this.”

She said the only way forward is for Alberta to diversify the economy.

“If anything, the oilsands can be a transition resource for Alberta to do an economic diversification,” said Flook.

“Average citizens are tired of the boom and bust cycle of having jobs and the next generation doesn’t have jobs. It’s not very sustainable.”

Atkins scoffed at the notion of economic diversification, calling it a “red herring.”

“You have to make do with what resources you have, that’s what makes economies go,” said Atkins. “Why would we want to diversify into things that are not economically viable for us? I don’t understand that.”

Travis Davies, spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the oilsands should be providing wealth for the province for many years to come, offering a cushion while the discussion of Alberta’s future continues.

“We need to be cognizant of the fact oil and gas still play a very large role in our economy and we are endowed with some pretty incredible resources here in the province,” said Davies.

There’s a lot of capital, a lot of expertise, and there’s absolutely a huge opportunity for Alberta to be a global leader in technology and innovation.

“I believe this report is intended to be a discussion piece for Albertans. The dialogue does need to take place and we’ll certainly be a constructive participant in any of those discussions.”


Aussies court skilled workers as Alberta labour crunch looms

By Bryce Forbes, Calgary Herald – May 7, 2011

With a massive worker shortage looming over Alberta, an Australian job fair in Calgary offered a glimpse of what could be an international battle for labour.

Nine-hundred people crowded into a downtown hotel ballroom Saturday to check out the fair where oil, gas and mining companies tried to woo skilled, senior-level Alberta workers.

The fair, which continues in the city today and next weekend in Edmonton, comes on the heels of a warning from the province’s employment minister that Alberta could face a labour shortage of 77,000 people in the next 10 years.

Rupert Merrick, the organizer of the Opportunities Australia Expo, said Australia is in the midst of its own labour crunch because of booms in the mining and oil and gas sectors.

Calgary was the first Canadian city targeted for the fair because of its skills base.

“Canada, and especially Alberta, is considered world class in terms of the skills that they have and Australian employers are suffering from a skill shortage right now,” said Merrick, who added Saturday’s turnout was twice what they expected.

Richard Truscott, Alberta director of Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said the Australian endeavour is a sign a bidding war for workers is set to heat up in the next 10 to 20 years.

“This is clear evidence that we are in major competition for skilled workers,” said Truscott. “It’s another reminder that we need to get our act together and really carve out some effective strategies to attract and retain workers to Canada from elsewhere.”

Alberta Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk said his warning of a 77,000-worker shortage was conservative, based on the province’s low birth rate, rebounding economy and baby boomer retirements.

“(The year) 2011 is the first year in which official baby boomers are turning 65, so we’re looking at a large exodus of workers — not only in numbers, but in experience,” Lukaszuk said Saturday.

He said he is concerned about Australia and other countries coming to Canada and poaching skilled workers.

But, for him, the bigger concern is the whole immigration process and the delays prospective workers face before receiving visas to enter Canada.

“Our national immigration policies are not as nimble as they are in other countries, which would definitely include Australia,” said Lukaszuk.

Merrick said Australia boasts a “very refined immigration system.”

“It’s all about meeting the demands of the employers,” he said. “The government has some very clever mechanisms in place, which allow employers to go out and get the skills that they need.”

Anastasia Reyes, a job applicant who has worked in the oil and gas business in Calgary for five years, said she would fly out to Australia on Monday if offered a job.

“I got to work through the boom here, which opened so many doors of opportunities, so I would love to see what doors would be opened to me somewhere else overseas,” said the 23-year-old after setting up interviews for early this week.

Working toward her civil engineering degree, she said one Australian company said it would help pay for her remaining education as well as guarantee a job afterwards, an offer she hasn’t seen in Calgary.

There are many perks to working in Australia, said Brooke Wilson, recruitment manager with oil refiner Caltex Australia, including comparable wages, a lower cost of living, relocation packages and even surfing. Two of their oil refineries are close to surfing hot spots.

“People in our refinery in Sydney actually go down for a surf in the afternoon,” she said.



Posted May 9, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Who ELSE is feeling good about Alberta? Small business, that’s who!   Leave a comment

I have to run to a meeting in a little less than two hours, so it will be one of my famous cut-and-paste jobs.  Yes, I’m using another article that describes an increased sense of confidence in the Albertan economy… but this time, it has nothing to do with the oilpatch.  Courtesy of the Calgary Herald, a story about small business, all bolding below courtesy of me.


Alberta small business confidence soars

Back to 2007 level


By Mario Toneguzzi / May 4, 2011 8:02 AM

CALGARY — Small business confidence in Alberta in April was back to 2007 levels while nationally it hit a six-year high.

According to the latest monthly Business Barometer index from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business released Wednesday, small business confidence levels in Alberta hit 75.1 in April, matching the same mark from last November when the index rose to its highest level in four years.

“In the eyes of an increasing number of entrepreneurs, it’s full steam ahead with their businesses. Perhaps most tellingly, short-term hiring expectations are growing with each passing month, a sure sign the economy is getting stronger,” said Richard Truscott, the CFIB’s Alberta director.

Twenty eight per cent of respondents in April said they were planning on hiring full-time employees in the next three to four months, up another five points from March. There are, however, some indications labour shortages are beginning to crop up once again. When asked about the main constraints on their business, 37 per cent of small business owners surveyed in April pointed to shortages of skilled labour, a jump of nine points from the month before, said the CFIB.

On a national basis, small business confidence rose to 70.7 in April, the highest level since 2005. Optimism levels in Alberta (75.1) are second highest in the country behind Saskatchewan (76.7). Manitoba is third (74.3), followed by Newfoundland (74.1), British Columbia (72.6), and Ontario (71.0). At the opposite end of the list, entrepreneurs remain least confident in Prince Edward Island (62.5), Nova Scotia (62.9), New Brunswick (63.0), and Quebec (65.0).

The Business Barometer is a monthly publication by CFIB and is measured on a scale between 0 and 100. An index level above 50 means owners expecting their businesses’ performance to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting weaker performance. According to past results, index levels normally range between 65 and 75 when the economy is growing. The April findings are based on 743 responses, collected from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey.

Posted May 4, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized