Alberta needs to look forward, not back, AFL president says

Gil McGowan presents 12-point plan for Alberta's economy

AFL President Gil McGowan, at lectern, makes his proposal.
“Like it or not, our future is going to be defined by change. So, the priority needs to be getting our people and our economy ready for that change." — Gil McGowan

If Alberta voters want to use the next election to help turn the provincial economy around, they should be looking for candidates with a vision for the future, not a vision of the past, Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan says.

McGowan unveiled the AFL’s “12-point plan for Alberta’s future” to media and representatives of member unions in Edmonton Tuesday.

“This upcoming election will be all about the economy,” McGowan said, noting that “working people have a different diagnosis of what ails our economy and a different set of prescriptions” than the business groups that have been holding lunch meetings and attracting media coverage lately.

The AFL plan starts from the premise – supported by many in the oil and gas industry  – that what Alberta is currently experiencing is not just another typical boom-bust cycle. “The fracking-related explosion of production from the U.S. and the growing move away from fossil fuels around the world are changing everything for oil-producing jurisdictions like Alberta,” he said. “The oil industry has also aggressively embraced automation, meaning that they can’t be relied upon to create as many jobs as in the past, even if investment increases.

“The old policy prescriptions of corporate tax cuts and deregulation never really drove investment. But they are particularly ill-suited to the challenges we face today. And simply waiting for the next boom, as Alberta governments have done for decades, is not an option because it probably won’t happen.

“Like it or not,” said McGowan, “our future is going to be defined by change. So, the priority needs to be getting our people and our economy ready for that change, instead of sticking our heads in the sand.”

The 12-point plan includes construction of new pipelines to new markets, diversification both within and beyond the oil and gas industry, and downstream diversification for a greener future. In addition, the plan calls for investment in high-quality public services and health care, new services to make life more affordable such as child care and pharmacare, and protecting the rights of working people.

The plan can be read in detail here.

Additional links:

There’s only one election issue: energy transformation, Gil McGowan’s Postmedia op-ed.

On the world stage, Canadian oil majors promote carbon tax, from the CBC.