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January 24 2022

The Calgary Chamber's Submission for Alberta's 2022 Budget

The Honourable Travis Toews, MLA, Q.C.  

President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance

Delivered via Government of Alberta submission system

RE: Budget 2022 consultation

Minister Toews:

Thank you for the opportunity to provide a written submission to the Ministry of Finance regarding Budget 2022.

Almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, and now with the more transmissible omicron variant threatening our community’s economic and physical health, the Calgary business community – no stranger to hardship – continues to face unprecedented ongoing challenges.

Despite this challenge, 0ur province continues to demonstrate grit, resiliency, and determination, coupled with an entrepreneurial spirit and deep-seated commitment to innovation.

Nonetheless, in times of sustained hardship, we need government support to ensure businesses and their employees emerge stronger. With crisis comes opportunity, and the actions taken now will be critical to building a more resilient, competitive, and inclusive future.

To that end, attached are immediate and long-term recommendations that will enable businesses to survive this latest wave of the pandemic and recover as we position Alberta for tomorrow.

Thank you in advance for your consideration and we look forward to working with you to realize a sustainable and prosperous future for all Albertans.

Immediate priorities

Keep Alberta businesses open and Albertans healthy. 

Today, especially in light of the challenging Omicron variant – and particularly for those in hard-hit sectors such as restaurants, hospitality and tourism – businesses continue to grapple with lost revenue, travel restrictions and difficulties attracting talent and ensuring proper staffing.

However, our economy and public health landscape are in a very different position today than in March 2020, at the onset of the pandemic. With credit to all levels of government, we have access to vaccines, new medications, testing, and personal protective equipment. If we equip businesses and citizens with the tools they need to stay safe, additional restrictions and lockdown measures can be mitigated.

As the context under which we are operating changes, so too must our public policy decisions.

1. ADD TO FEDERAL SUPPORTS FOR BUSINESSES WITH ADDITIONAL PROVINCIAL PAYMENTS 

2. CONTINUE OR RE-START MEASURES THAT PROVIDE RELIEF TO BUSINESSES  

3. USE ALL THE TOOLS WE HAVE TO KEEP OUR COMMUNITY SAFE AND THE ECONOMY OPEN 

4. Mitigate labour shortages & invest in productivity  

Long-term priorities

Build a resilient, competitive, inclusive Alberta. 

Our long-term recommendations reflect consultations with members, experts, and stakeholders this past year to understand the opportunities and challenges facing Calgary’s business community. Below, we outline how government can support businesses and create a thriving, sustainable future for all Albertans as we recover and progress.

1. INVEST IN OUR COMPETITIVENESS 

Alberta’s competitiveness on the world stage is critical to our prosperity in the economy of tomorrow. This is driven by creating a cost-competitive environment for businesses to prosper, avoiding red tape and duplicative regulation, and providing certainty for business. Our competitiveness is intertwined with our ability to attract investment capital and top talent. With cities that afford a high quality of living at a low cost, and as the epicenter of innovative solutions to climate change, our province need only leverage our strengths to thrive.

1. Make it easier to do business in Alberta

2. Strengthen Alberta’s position as a leader in providing solutions to address climate change through innovation.

3. Attract, retain, and invest in talent

4. Invest in revitalizing Calgary’s downtown to retain and improve our competitive advantage.

2. FOCUS ON FISCAL SUSTAINABILITY  

As we emerge from the pandemic and begin to address our debt and deficit challenges, we must review our fiscal policy and taxation system to ensure competitiveness, simplicity and fiscal sustainability. A strong fiscal strategy is critical to the long-term sustainability and resiliency of Alberta’s economy. A critical focus on fiscal responsibility should be maintained throughout the budget planning process.

1. Focus on long-term fiscal sustainability through both revenue generation and spending efficiency.

3. DIVERSIFY OUR ECONOMY  

A diversified economy is key to promoting innovation across industries, remaining competitive on domestic and global stages and attracting the best talent to our city. Diversification will increase the certainty and stability of provincial and municipal revenue. In equal measure, it offers varied economic opportunities so Albertans can contribute to the workforce in a manner better aligned with their experience, skills and interest

With an entrepreneurial spirit, access to immense natural and human resources, and one of the most educated populations in Canada, Alberta is well-positioned to thrive in areas we have succeeded in traditionally, as well as in new areas that will allow us to successfully diversify and expand revenue sources.

1. Diversify within our traditional sectors of strength.

2. Diversify beyond our strengths.

4. SUPPORT TRADE AND MARKET ACCESS 

Access to markets, internationally and within our borders, is a necessity for growth for businesses across the country no matter their size. Barriers to market access impact almost all sectors in Alberta, as many rely on our trade-exposed sectors such as natural resources. In Canada, inconsistencies in regulatory frameworks across jurisdictions create barriers to inter-provincial trade. The supply chain constraints and challenges since the onset of the pandemic have only exacerbated the difficulties of getting our goods to international markets. Removing non-geographic policy-relevant trade barriers can lead to an initial increase for Canada’s real GDP by 3.8 per cent, which is equivalent to more than $80 billion.

1. Aggressively dismantle barriers to interprovincial trade and strengthen supply chains.

2. Facilitate international market access for both traditional and non-traditional industries

5. FACILITATE INCLUSIVE ECONOMIC RECOVERY AND GROWTH  

Businesses continue to face significant challenges related to COVID-19 and many do not have the certainty or stability needed to survive nearly two years into the pandemic. At the same time, evidence shows certain segments of our population have felt the impact of the pandemic more acutely than others, particularly based on gender and race.

With all the challenges that the pandemic has wrought and exacerbated, facilitating a strong economic recovery growth will need a multi-pronged approach with a focus on inclusive and sustainable growth.

1. Expand economic opportunities for marginalized and underrepresented groups to participate in the labor force.

 ABOUT THE CALGARY CHAMBER 

The Calgary Chamber is an independent non-profit, non-partisan business organization. For 131 years the Chamber has worked to be the convenor and catalyst for a vibrant, inclusive and prosperous business community, for the benefit of all Calgarians.