Written By Will Osler, Jason Roth, Enzo Barichello, Mark Kortbeek and Geoffrey Stenger
The Government of Alberta has launched its long-term plan for economic recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the historic fall in oil prices. Alberta’s Recovery Plan is the province's strategy to invest in infrastructure, diversify the economy and create jobs. The government says Alberta’s Recovery Plan is a work in progress and details of each policy initiative will be released in the coming days and weeks.
Investing in Infrastructure
Under the Recovery Plan, Alberta will be making its largest ever investment in the province’s infrastructure. In 2020, $10 billion will be spent on projects throughout the province, creating 50,000 jobs. Other highlights of the plan include:
- A series of large-scale infrastructure projects will be launched this summer, worth $612 million. Projects include the twinning of highways, supporting growth in the agricultural sector and gas line extensions for northern residents.
- Further funding will be provided to municipalities through the Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program (STIP) to fund bridge improvements, upgrades to roads and community airports and other initiatives.
- An additional $150 million is being spent on water infrastructure grants through the Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Partnership (AMWWP) and Water for Life to support 55 water and wastewater improvement projects.
- $500 million has been identified in further funding for municipalities. The Alberta Government expects this funding to be matched by the federal government.
The Alberta Government says it is developing a plan to use the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) to help rebuild the province and diversify its economy, with a particular view to growing key economic sectors like tourism, agriculture and energy.
Diversifying the Economy
Alberta’s Recovery Plan will focus on sector strategies for diversifying the economy in energy, agriculture, technology, tourism and other high-opportunity areas. The details of these sector strategies will be announced this summer and fall.
In the energy sector, actions announced in the Recovery Plan include:
- finalizing a new value-added natural gas strategy and petrochemical program focused on emerging opportunities;
- positioning Alberta among the world's top suppliers of low-emission and affordable blue hydrogen;
- developing a new mineral strategy and increasing investment interest in new emerging areas such as geothermal energy; and
- establishing a task force to work with industry and other orders of government on advancing the goal of national and regional energy and resource corridors.
The Recovery Plan's focus in agriculture includes attracting investment, expanding export opportunities and expanding irrigation infrastructure to increase primary production.
In the technology sector, actions include:
- recapitalizing Alberta Enterprise Corporation with a $175-million investment to support technology companies by providing access to capital for early stage companies;
- releasing the Innovation Capital Working Group Report;
- releasing a technology and innovation strategy in the fall of 2020; and
- establishing a new innovation employment grant to incent growth and attract new business to Alberta.
In the fall of 2020, the Alberta Government will announce a 10-year tourism strategy to support recovery and ongoing sustainable investment in tourism. The government will also advance strategic infrastructure investments, including participation in the CIB’s potential $1-billion project that would develop high-speed rail between Calgary and Banff.
Alberta's Recovery Plan reduced the province's general corporate income tax rate from 10 percent to 8 percent, effective July 1, 2020. Alberta's previously announced Job Creation Tax Cut had already reduced Alberta's corporate rate from 12 percent, and under the plan the government is accelerating the scheduled reductions by a year and half to lower the rate to 8 percent.
The Recovery Plan also announced the creation of Invest Alberta. This dedicated investment promotion agency will lead the province's investment attraction strategy in a new direction with better capital markets communications, proactive investment promotion targeting key companies and sectors, and concierge service for prospective investors seeking to navigate through regulatory and other hurdles.
Alberta's Minister of Labour and Immigration will use the province’s authority under the Temporary Foreign Worker Annex of the Agreement for Canada-Alberta Cooperation on Immigration to add dozens of additional occupational categories to the “refusal to process list,” effectively removing the vast majority of occupations from the TFW Program. A small number of specialized occupations experiencing acute and proven labour shortages will be exempted.
Alberta's Recovery Plan also includes actions to export Alberta's technologies all over the world, to remove barriers to job creation and invest in skills and training.
Bennett Jones will continue to monitor new developments in Alberta's Recovery Plan as more details are announced. Please visit our COVID-19 Resource Centre for other COVID-19-related materials.