The Sherwood Park & District Chamber of Commerce was pleased to host Premier Jason Kenney for a special Business Round Table on Wednesday, August 12th. Premier Kenney joined a room of chamber members and business leaders from diverse sectors of industry and business to speak with them, and answer questions.

Highlighting Albertan optimism, Premier Kenney promoted the Alberta Government’s new Economic Recovery Plan that is focused on protecting Albertans, creating jobs, building core infrastructure, and diversifying our economy.

“I’ve always believed Albertans are by nature optimists, but they needed reason for their optimism. And we’re trying to offer some reasons for optimism through the Economic Recovery Plan, to give Albertan’s a renewed sense of confidence in our future, that we will through this, that we can regain prosperity, and maintain our standard of quality of life.”

The Premier spoke to the government’s approach to COVID-19, as being one that puts public health experts at the center.

“Our decision was always to follow the advice of our public health experts, not to improvise, not to think that we politicians knew the answers better than our public health experts.”

While he was proud of Alberta’s response to the pandemic, the Premier said that it was time to increasingly focus on the plan for economic recovery during challenging times, to save both lives and livelihoods.

“As I’ve said from the beginning, the goal has been to save both lives and livelihoods. And increasingly I think we need to focus on preserving [and] protecting livelihoods … that is why a month ago Alberta’s government launched our Economic Recovery plan. A bold, long term plan; to build, to diversify, and to create good jobs.”

Premier Kenney also gave a special thanks to Mayor Rod Frank and Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association for their strong advocacy for Alberta’s energy sector.

“We’ve asked that municipalities be partners with us, growing in the same direction with an obsession over job creation, and restored investor confidence and economic growth. And I want to thank Mayor Frank for having been an ally … in the fight for Canadian oil and gas… He’s been the most outspoken municipal leader in Alberta in this respect. And I appreciate all the municipalities in the Alberta’s Heartland Industrial Association [sic] for their unrelenting focus on economic growth, on investment, and job creation. I would like to replicate the spirit of that association right across the province of Alberta, so thank you for what you’re doing in this region.”

On economic diversification, the Premier spoke to the need to push “the pedal to the metal.”

“We do believe there will be a vital future for Alberta Energy… But we also need to hit the pedal to the metal when it comes to diversification… We as a government acknowledge that government policy must facilitate continued economic diversification, which is why heading up under the umbrella of the Recovery Plan we are developing sector strategies for agri-food and agriculture, for tourism, for manufacturing, for petrochemicals.”

Premier Kenney sent an impassioned message to step out, take risks, and ask for government help in securing outside investment during these challenging times.

“… I cannot be emphatic enough in saying to municipal leaders, to people in the public service, to people in every corner of Alberta’s society: these are not normal times. We have to move out of our comfort zone. We have to take some real risks. We have to be bold in our vision and in our policy actions that support it.

I implore those of you in the business community; maybe you’ve been holding back, sitting on capital, or waiting for better times; if you see an opportunity, please step forward into it.  If you are looking for external investors to come and help to capitalize new business development here, let us know. We will put the Invest Alberta Agency to work for you. I’m happy to call anybody that would want to set up a popsicle stand in Alberta, personally, to get involved.”

On municipalities, the Premier encouraged a culture that promotes growth, for example, using tools like property tax incentives as a “race to the top”.

“We gave municipalities, like Strathcona County, the ability to provide property tax in incentives for major new business investment, and that idea came out from the Industrial Heartland Association. Some municipalities didn’t like it, they said it was gonna be “a race to the bottom”. I think incentives to growth are actually a race to the top!” And, that’s the culture we need to recapture in this province.”

We offer a warm thank you to Premier Kenney for spending the day in Strathcona County and holding this special Business Round Table with us. We also thank MP Garnett Genuis, Minister Nate Glubish, MLA Jordan Walker, Mayor Rod Frank, and Councillor Robert Parks, for joining us as dignitaries at the event.