Stop worrying about the left and the right, start worrying about economic growth. That’s the message from Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) CEO Brad Ferguson.
He used his annual “Insight” speech to kick off the year to call on both the public and private sector to work more closely together on ways to make metro Edmonton a continued leader.
Ferguson told an audience of 1,100 at the Shaw Conference Centre Tuesday he’s launching a 20 year industrial growth strategy to reverse a trend that’s seeing revenue and profits dwindle because of increasing taxes, and a loss of focus on maintaining our competitive edge.
“That’s going to take multi-levels of government, it’s going to take our institutions, our private sector and our entrepreneurs to come together to map out how we’re going to get out of this mess over the next twenty years.”
What worries Ferguson is an ever growing split in left-right rhetoric, and a growing split in taxation regimes.
“You have left and right, and I think you’ll always have left and right but it’s about finding consensus in the middle,” he told reporters after his speech. “When we’re going to find solutions to move us forward as a city, a province and a country, they have to come from the middle, and that’s about compromise. It’s time that compromise gets reintroduced into the vernacular of the Canadian market.”
He also said that the oil sands should be seen as a solution as opposed to the problem.
Ferguson said it’s especially important now, that the United States is re-establishing itself as an entrepreneurial power.
“A rising tide in the United States floats all boats here, but when you have a differential on a tax system as extreme as what is about to be pronounced, then that’s going to create some challenges for Alberta based businesses and Canadian businesses going forward,” he said.
“One thing we all know about the United States, it’s an incredibly competitive entrepreneurial environment. When they turn their attention to reducing taxes and stimulating a much more entrepreneurial background there, we’re going to feel it this side of the border.”
Edmonton-Centre NDP MLA David Shephard said when the province put together its climate leadership plan, advisers like Andrew Leach warned that other tax strategies could crop up elsewhere.
“They considered the fact that we do have to be considerate of how competitiveness works between jurisdictions to make sure that we’re protecting that for Alberta, for trade exposed industries,” he said. “We’re providing them with the kind of support that they need so that we can both be responsible in reducing our emissions and at the same time allow our business to continue to thrive.”
Ferguson’s 20 year industrial strategy is in its infant days. However he said he wants it to be from the ground up, with ideas from individuals in business who are trying to grow the size of their work force from ten, to one hundred and eventually one thousand.
“These are the people that every day are going to work, starting businesses and employing people and their mouths need to be at the table,” he said. “They have to be very much a part of this right from the grass roots up.” (sj)