WMC Leadership Series 2016
- March 7, 2016
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Days after providing a fiscal update, the Honorable Minister of Finance, Joe Ceci, spoke to a full house at a recent Leadership breakfast hosted by WMC (Western Management Consultants) in celebration of their 40th anniversary.
Minister Ceci emphasized that in spite of the most “profound economic challenges not seen in decades”, the Alberta provincial government remains committed to its electoral promises – stabilize the public sector, set out a plan to balance the Alberta budget, take action to diversify the economy, and create jobs.
With the fall in oil prices since January 2015, the Alberta provincial government estimates a deficit of $6.3B this fiscal year. Compared to 2014-15, when the government received royalty revenues of $9B, this year the government expects only $2.6B. The continued lower price for natural gas is also a major contributor to lower revenues.
The government plans to support the economy through an expanded Alberta Infrastructure program worth $34 billion over the next five years. The recently announced Petrochemical Diversification program is another key initiative that will promote diversification and support investment in the economy. The government is supporting home-grown businesses and entrepreneurs by providing capital through ATB Financial. The government has also expanded the mandate of Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) to invest in Alberta based companies, as well as added capital to Alberta’s venture capital pool through the Alberta Enterprise Corporation.
Reviews of over 300 public sector agencies, boards and commissions will also be undertaken in an effort to streamline efforts and increase efficiency. The Hon. Minister told the audience that the government has no plans to introduce a sales tax, lay off employees in the public sector, or open up collective agreements for negotiation before their expiry dates.
Despite the grim economic outlook for Alberta, which is expected to last through the end of 2016, Minister Ceci pointed out that not all industries are struggling. Low inflation and low interest rates present opportunities. In addition, the depreciation of the Canadian dollar and strong US economy have contributed to strength in the forestry and agriculture sectors.
Members of the audience appreciated Minister Ceci’s comments on the work in progress in preparation for the 2016 budget, “Given what is at stake, we’re taking the time to get it right.” Minister Ceci was asked whether the government plans to create a “Communication Master Plan” to obtain support from various stakeholders, including collaboration across provinces and globally, to ensure timely support for projects in Alberta’s best interest, such as pipeline projects. The Hon. Minister responded that the only way to obtain buy-in from various stakeholders was to extensively engage with them in a respectful manner and to have “drama-free” discussions.
In answering questions from the floor about how the government plans to ensure that the oil sands are competitive and innovative while also reducing greenhouse gases, Ceci referred to the recent work done by the Climate Change Review Panel as an essential step in strengthening the credibility of the industry. He also noted that CEOs in the energy industry understand that innovation will help them to drive down costs and many are aggressively pursuing such alternatives daily.
When questioned regarding whether the Alberta government would match the recent announcement from the Ontario government of a guaranteed annual income, the Hon. Minister said that they are not considering implementing a Universal Guaranteed Income. However, the government is considering implementing a new Alberta Child Benefits program for families with an annual income less than $40,000, this will impact 42,000 families in poverty in one year.
Leadership in the Community
The Leadership Series is hosted by WMC to provide opportunities for clients and other community leaders to connect, discuss challenging issues and help them to be more successful. The audience was comprised of business and community leaders from the private, public and not-for-profit sector.
As part of WMC’s ongoing commitment to the community, the event was titled 4TIFY Community Leadership and the YMCA was profiled at the event. A canoe from YMCA’s Camp Chief Hector was prominently displayed, to which Minister Ceci drew a parallel between a canoeist navigating rough waters and the Alberta government’s commitment to navigate Albertans during this economic downturn. A donation was made to the YMCA to support their continued excellence in the community.
The opinions represented here do not necessarily represent WMC’s views as a whole.