EDMONTON – Premier Rachel Notley has struck a committee to give her ongoing advice on ways to improve and diversify Alberta’s oil-based economy.
Notley says the 10-member panel is to meet four times a year to discuss ways to better position the province to compete in the global marketplace.
“The province’s future is at stake and questions like these need very practical answers,” Notley told reporters Wednesday.
“They will advise us on identifying, promoting and developing a means of growth beyond energy, because the consequences of relying too much on just oil have become painfully clear.”
Standing beside Notley was Joseph Doucet, the head of the new premier’s advisory committee on the economy.
Doucet is dean of the School of Business at the University of Alberta.
Other members are leaders from business, labour and post-secondary institutions.
The vice chairs are Steve Williams, president and CEO at Suncor Energy, and Siobhan Vipond, secretary-treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
They will not be paid, but will be reimbursed for travel expenses.
Notley’s government has already struck a panel to review oil royalties as it grapples with low oil prices that have put the province’s books deep in the red ink.
Alberta expects to run a $6 billion deficit this fiscal year.
Diversifying the economy has been discussed and promised by previous Alberta governments for many years.
Doucet said all jurisdictions struggle with diversification because it has so many moving parts.
“Thinking about how to evolve the (economic) structure in a purposeful way is a big, big challenge, and it’s not something that gets done overnight. It’s not something that can be done easily,” said Doucet.
Can it be done in Alberta? Doucet was asked.
“I certainly believe that Alberta’s economy can become more diversified,” he said.
“We are more diverse than we were two decades ago. We see that in professional services. We see that in technology.”
He said the province must continue to adapt as technologies change and new rivals emerge.
“The global economy has become more competitive, so it’s not a fixed end point that’s going to be achieved at a certain point in time and then we’ll be OK,” said Doucet.
“It’s something we have to continue to work at all the time.”
Williams said he looks forward to working on the committee.
“Alberta’s economic progress depends on leveraging our strengths and fostering innovation to ensure Alberta’s economy remains competitive,” Williams said in a statement.
“The energy industry has long been a significant driver of the Alberta and Canadian economies.
“We know a competitive natural resources industry will help keep Canada prosperous.”