Latest reports on the province’s economic performance are drawing a mixed picture, with more negative shades dominating the tone while positive colors, although solid, fail to brighten the picture as a whole.
The report issued by a commercial bank said Alberta’s oil and gas sector was making a strong comeback amid growing signs for increased thirst for oil in international markets. But the same report said Alberta’s economic recovery was still behind in many sectors, with little gain in terms of employment figures and retail sales resuming a downward trend after a pinky start to the year.
Another report, by the Alberta Federation of Labour, said actual unemployment was steadily climbing with many workers switching, involuntarily, to part time jobs from full time ones, not to mention workers discouraged to look for new positions. It says unemployment, although officially increased by only 0.2 per cent to 6.5 per cent, actually stands at 9.2 per cent by their calculations.
It is no secret that Alberta’s boom times have always been powered by oil and gas revenues.
Looking at the international picture, there is no reason to feel pessimistic as the demand for these vital ingredients is likely to increase in the short- and middle-term: US President Barack Obama has recently announced another $50 billion stimulus package and Financial Times of London says European governments are preparing to borrow from international markets to fuel their new investment programs in real economy.
Now, it is naive to state that Alberta, with its vast oil and gas reserves, should not make the best use of this bonanza because oils sands pollute the environment.
But it is rational to advise the government of Ed Stelmach that this may be a golden opportunity to focus on development of cleaner and healthier technologies to exploit the province’s mineral riches.
Mr. Stelmach has been at pains over the recent months to explain to many stakeholders, both domestic and international (the most recent interlocutor being Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives), that his government is being responsible in developing the oil sands.
But when one reads in between the lines of reports issued by the government on the safe development of oil sands, it is easy to detect many concerns on the part of many stakeholders, foremost among them Aboriginal communities, that have yet to be addressed.
Yes, it would be foolish not to take the opportunity to fill the province’s coffers with the money coming from oil and gas royalties.
Yet it will be shortsighted not to use at least some of this money for more environment-friendly oil extraction technologies.
— Mustafa Eric