By Koleya Karringten
At the start of a brand-new year, it’s always a time for reflecting on the lessons of the past and envisioning a path to the future we want to create. If you’re like most of the people I’ve spoken to over the holidays, there’s a definite air of relief at the end of 2019, and a sense that 2020 has the potential to be a fresh start, for us as individuals and the province as a whole. I truly believe it does, and that there are a lot of reasons to back that up.
Optimism is much easier in good times, but it’s the challenging periods, like Alberta and our oil industry has been suffering through for six years now, where we most need to feel encouraged and hopeful. And there couldn’t be a better time for an emotional and cognitive reboot than right now. The year 2020 has a momentous sound to it. Not just a new year, but an entire decade stands in front of us like a clean slate, just waiting to be written on with our dreams, goals and plans.
Of course, the world outside us often has different ideas, and there will always be roadblocks that stand in our way and sometimes seemingly endless hurdles we need to overcome on the path to success. We all have practical considerations and responsibilities to live up to, and those will keep driving us forward, even when things look grim – but it’s faith and optimism that will truly inspire us toward a greater vision. We’ve just got to find these reserves within us, however buried they might be.
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”
And there are many reasons to be optimistic about Alberta – and ourselves. Looking back at the severe challenges we’ve faced and the fact that we’re still here and still pushing forward should give us all an incredible amount of faith in our abilities to endure and overcome. We’ve survived – and now it’s time to thrive. Here are some of the positive things that I’ve been reflecting on that have strengthened my belief that 2020 is going to be a game-changer.
2019 was a slow year for Alberta’s GDP growth, ending with worries of a recession and news of spending cuts and layoffs. However, projections for 2020 are much better, and give strong signs that we’re on the upswing rather than heading into an abyss. Our GDP is forecast to be as high as 2.7% in 2020, spurred by expanding domestic demand for our products, movement on pipelines and new business growth. These targets mean we’re moving beyond recovery and becoming one of Canada’s fastest-growing provinces next year, just behind BC.
There’s a definite feeling that Albertans have been yelling into the wind about the urgent need for export access for our energy sector, which not only benefits us but is a major supporter of the entire Canadian economy. It’s starting to look like we’re finally being heard. The Trans Mountain expansion to the BC coast is underway, things are looking positive for Enbridge’s Line 3 to Wisconsin, and a major survey in December found that sentiment is turning, with 3 out of 5 Canadians now supporting new pipelines. Curtailment is steadily being reduced, and as opportunities for export increase, investment will return.
“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”
With the lowering of our corporate tax rate to 8% over the next few years, Alberta is joining the ranks of states like Nevada and Wyoming as one of North America’s most attractive and tax-friendly places to do business. The tax cut might not change immediate plans for the energy majors, but it’s already sparked interest from smaller players. With a new wave of foreign investors known to be looking seriously at opportunities in our oilfields, investment in our industries is projected to significantly increase throughout 2020, bringing with it more jobs and indirect economic benefits for our service and retail sectors.
As the Executive Director of the Alberta Blockchain Consortium, I have a close-up view of the progress we’re making in becoming a leader in emerging technologies – and what we’re doing is working. Alberta is making incredible progress in IoT, blockchain applications and Machine Learning, and the world is taking notice. Over the next year, Calgary will be hosting landmark international events in fintech and digital technologies like the Alberta Technology Symposium, Blockchain in Oil & Gas and many more. Support for this sector will not only help diversify our economy but make all our key resource industries more competitive.
While we’re still facing major challenges from within and without, and employment is still lagging, there are so good many reasons to see our province as on an upward trajectory. But these economic indicators aren’t what gives me the most optimism about a brighter future for our province. It’s my faith in us. The past years have taught us all many lessons, and the biggest one is that we’re all so much stronger and more unified than we could ever have imagined.
“The greater the obstacle, the more glory there is in overcoming it.”
And now, it’s our time to shine. Maybe Alberta hasn’t made it yet – and we certainly can’t rest on our laurels – but we’re getting there. Collectively, we’ve endured the worst part of our challenges, which is that dark, terrifying place where the path ahead is confusing and unclear, and there’s not yet any sign of a light at the end of the tunnel. That light is has become ever more visible, and now that evidence is mounting that what we’re doing – whether with developing pipelines, attracting investors or supporting new industries – is starting to work, we can move forward with the hope we need to be able to accomplish incredible things.
Let’s spend these early days of 2020 envisioning the future we want to build – over this next year and the next decade. As a province, we’ve learned our harsh lessons throughout this difficult time and are coming out of it stronger, leaner and smarter. With our strengths and innate abilities, and by working together in a spirit of optimism and faith, any transformation is within our reach.