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2023 Provincial Budget Recommendations

February 22, 2023

Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton, Canada. It is the meeting place of the Executive Council and the Legislative Assembly

The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce is the official voice of business in the Edmonton region. With over 1,700 member companies that employ more than 100,000 people, we are one of the largest and longest standing chambers in Canada and among the most influential business organizations in the country. It’s with this in mind that we are pleased to share with you our 2023 provincial budget submission.

It’s important we note, our members were consulted for input across multiple sectors to inform this submission. While the Alberta economy continues to recover from the pandemic, we know that employers in Alberta continue to face many challenges. Businesses are still facing uncertainty and volatility, and supply chain disruptions appear more entrenched than ever. To ensure Alberta overcomes these challenges, the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce calls on the Government of Alberta to:

1. Invest in Innovation and Diversification
2. Foster Skills Development and Labour Attraction
3. Improve Community Safety and Wellbeing
4. Plan for Responsible Fiscal Management

The recommendations are guided by principles including (1) certainty and stability for businesses and those they serve and employ, (2) facilitating inclusive growth and expanding our economy by bringing more equity-seeking groups to the table, and (3) encouraging collaboration between all orders of government and streamlining regulatory processes to create a stronger investment climate.

  1. Invest in Innovation and Diversification
    1.1. Through innovation, Alberta can become the economy of the future and a global leader in reaching net-zero and addressing climate change. Each order of government must commit to meaningful, thoughtful policy solutions to combat the issue. The Government of Alberta should continue to invest in and promote Alberta’s responsibly produced energy including:
    1.1.1. Unlocking private sector innovation and investment by working with stakeholders and all orders of government;
    1.1.2. Ensuring strong investment programs for Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage that are competitive with other major jurisdictions;
    1.1.3. Continuing to develop Alberta’s world leading natural gas strategy, including maximizing Alberta’s hydrogen potential.
    1.2. Make investments that support provincial supply chain infrastructure and capacity including:
    1.2.1. Investing in Edmonton International Airport (YEG) and regional trade infrastructure to support excellence in logistics;
    1.2.2. Collaborating with the City of Edmonton to establish a direct bus route between downtown and the airport.
    1.3. Make health and life science innovation a priority by building on the strong foundation already established in the Edmonton region. Partner with agriculture and manufacturing leaders, post-secondary institutions, innovation centres, and municipalities to establish a Health and Life Science Strategy and promote and enhance the region’s strengths.
    1.4. Ensure Alberta’s regulations support and bolster investment by working closely with other levels of government to streamline regulations, shorten timelines, and reduce repetition.
    1.5. Foster innovation by partnering with the City of Edmonton to create an innovation fund as outlined in Edmonton City Council’s budget submission and modeled after the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF).
    1.6. Work with the City of Edmonton to expand the Clean Energy Improvement Program to meet the high demand for energy retrofits.
    1.7. Develop and execute an Intellectual Property (IP) Strategy that accelerates the commercialization of Alberta’s IP being developed by Edmonton’s post-secondary institutions and entrepreneurs.
    1.8. Consult with stakeholders to identify investment opportunities in Edmonton’s rapidly growing film industry.
  2. Foster Skills Development and Labour Attraction
    2.1. Continue Alberta’s strong leadership by reducing interprovincial trade barriers across Canada.
    2.1.1. Work with the Government of Canada, provincial and territorial governments, and professional regulatory bodies to create conditions for improved workforce transferability across the country.
    2.2. Ensure stable, ongoing investment in skills training and post-secondary institutions.
    2.2.1. Create pathways to transfer skills through upgrading, re-training, and apprenticeship programs for underemployed Albertans;
    2.2.2. Ensure that post-secondary institutions and regulatory bodies support opportunities for growth in low-carbon energy, including through certification programs;
    2.2.3. Attract international students by working with post-secondary institutions to strengthen Canada’s global brand as a study destination, especially in fields experiencing shortages.
    2.3. Change the employment requirement of the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program from six months of full-time work to a one-year offer of employment to allow more Alberta trained international students to remain in our province.
    2.4. Invest in infrastructure to support Alberta’s growing labour force, including roads and transit, trade infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and arts, cultural and recreational facilities.
    2.5. Ensure capital investments in Edmonton and Calgary are equitable and consult with the City of Edmonton to identify high-priority needs.
    2.6. Building on the success of the “Alberta is Calling” Campaign, continue to promote the province, including Edmonton, nationally and internationally.
    2.7. Support Alberta’s economy through new and existing programs that remove systemic barriers, support underrepresented groups, and increase the capacity of non-profit organizations doing this work. An inclusive economy is a strong economy.
    2.8. Work closely with the Public Service Commissioner on a transparent return to office hybrid policy including data tracking and explore ways to increase the number of people living, working, and visiting Edmonton’s downtown.
    2.9. Review programs such as the Alberta Job Grant to ensure program access is comparable to other provinces and training opportunities include owners of small businesses.
    2.10. Expand access to grants for work-integrated learning through the Canada-Alberta Job Grant or other avenues.
  3. Improving Community Safety and Wellbeing
    3.1. The Edmonton Chamber applauds recent investments by the province in housing and increased resources to support those with addictions and mental health challenges in our community. The crisis in our city requires continued efforts by all levels of government and coordination between governments to best serve those in need. We recommend that the Government of Alberta:
    3.1.1. Ensure adequate daytime and nighttime shelter spaces are available;
    3.1.2. Continue to invest in housing solutions across the entire housing spectrum;
    3.1.3. Continue to urgently address the drug poisoning crisis.
    3.2. The Chamber supports the recommendations proposed by Edmonton City Council for additional funding for business revitalization areas to reduce the significant social disorder they are facing.
    3.2.1. Support downtown Edmonton with additional investment to address the increased disorder and support the visitor economy;
    3.2.2. Enhance education about contact services, such as 211, transit safety numbers and other resources, so businesses and individuals know how to quickly find assistance.
    3.3. The Government of Alberta must urgently address the shortage of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals. Timely access to health care is fundamental to the well-being of Albertans, and the lack of timely access has an impact on businesses.
  4. Responsible Fiscal Management
    4.1. Recent budget projections have included large surpluses and Alberta is now seeing a dramatic fiscal recovery following years of pressure due to low oil prices and the pandemic. This raises the question of Alberta’s long-term fiscal planning given volatile oil and gas revenues. The Business Council of Alberta has proposed one such model that would see money invested in Advocate. Educate. Connect. the Heritage Fund, and the remaining surplus divided by directing a majority to debt repayment and the remaining to be “reserved for future strategic investment in areas of emerging opportunity.” We urge the government to adopt a concrete fiscal plan to ensure surpluses are invested in Alberta’s future.
    4.2. The Edmonton Chamber repeats its longstanding recommendation that an independent panel of experts be appointed to review Alberta’s revenue sources, including a review of current and new sources of revenue.
    4.3. Additionally, the Government should publish a rolling annual report on the long-term fiscal health of the province reaching at least twenty years into the future, including enduring performance measures and tracking. This should include:
    4.3.1. Expected demographic changes that will impact on the economy and/or the provision of government services;
    4.3.2. Projected changes related to Alberta’s major industries, and the Canadian economy.
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