The Next Chapter in Alberta’s Energy Story

The Next Chapter in Alberta’s Energy Story March 29, 2021

By Michael Stuart                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Chair & Chief Policy Advisor

Rick Peterson Edmonton Strathcona Conservative Nomination Campaign

Over the next few weeks, Michael Stuart will be outlining key policy issues in Edmonton Strathcona that are front and centre of Rick’s campaign. These issues all fit into the framework of the Conservative Party of Canada’s Recovery Plan. This plan covers five key areas: Jobs; Accountability; Mental Health; Country; Economy.

Today, Michael looks at Priority #1: How Rick Peterson would help drive Jobs into Edmonton Strathcona if elected Member of Parliament for this riding.

Over the last few years, in particular, telling Alberta’s energy story to the world has been Priority #1 for governments of all stripe. Whether it be the late Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservatives, Rachel Notley’s New Democrats, or Jason Kenney’s United Conservatives, support for our province’s traditional energy sector has been clear and consistent. There is, of course, good reason for that: Oil and gas has provided billions upon billions of dollars to Alberta’s economy, creating direct and indirect jobs, putting food on the table for families, and helping to fund vital services like healthcare and education.

Despite the efforts of those aforementioned governments to tell a positive story about Alberta energy, uncontrollable factors like global oil prices and capital market concern about climate change have made it far more difficult for the province to reap the same rewards it once did. Royalty revenues are down; job losses and office vacancies are up. As Premier Jason Kenney has rightly pointed out on numerous occasions, the economic situation in our province is dire.

The good news is that no serious commentator would suggest that traditional oil and gas doesn’t have a role in the world moving forward. Alberta will undoubtedly continue to generate at least some level of investment in its traditional energy economy, especially as the current provincial government maintains a low-tax environment and works to minimize the hurdles of excessive red tape.

With all that being said, though, it seems equally unreasonable to expect that the next chapter in Alberta’s energy story will look the same as the last boom cycle. Legitimate global concern about climate change isn’t going away. Long-term, high-dollar demand for bitumen is no longer a sure thing. As a result, we need to be prepared to expand the way we tell Alberta’s energy story. And, luckily, we’re in a phenomenal position to do exactly that, all while still supporting our traditional sectors and workers.

As Rick Peterson, candidate for the Conservative nomination in Edmonton Strathcona, has mentioned on a number of occasions, Edmonton has all the right factors in place to be a driver in the global energy transition economy. With our immense well of human capital, abundance of entrepreneurial spirit, proximity to a provincial government laser-focused on job creation, and access to world-leading post-secondary institutions, all the ingredients are here for Edmonton to write the next chapter in Alberta’s energy story. As a concrete example of that potential at work, consider the recent partnership between the University of Alberta and Brass Dome Ventures to form imYEG; this accelerator is already prepped to lead the way in facilitating development of new clean technologies.

To turn that potential into a wealth of good-quality, high-paying jobs for Edmontonians, we need policymakers to focus on attracting private sector capital to our city. That means telling Alberta’s story around the world, just as entities like Invest Alberta are doing as we speak. We have a wonderful opportunity to shift from being an oil and gas energy economy to an energy economy that includes oil and gas. If we tell that story correctly, and establish Alberta as the best place to bet on developing technologies that will help to address climate change and generate a return on investment, the inflow of private sector capital will create the next generation of those good-quality, high-paying jobs. The amazing technological developments seen in the oil sands over the last few decades prove that we’ve done it before; there’s no reason the next chapter in our energy story can’t see us do it again.