Alberta goes all-in on economic diversity

Provincial government's budget facing pressure from downturn in energy sector.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Feb. 3, 2016 at 6:28 AM
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EDMONTON, Alberta, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- The provincial government of Alberta reshaped its ministerial portfolio to help usher in a new scheme for economic diversity, Premier Rachel Notley said.

Notley streamlined the Cabinet by adding five new ministers and one new associate minister to the portfolio. The premier said it allows for an even workload as most ministers are now responsible for a single segment of the provincial government, though at 20 members, it remains the smallest in western Canada.

"Together, our new Cabinet team will deliver on the government's plans to create jobs, diversify the economy during difficult times and put our province in the best position possible for future growth," Notley said in a statement.

Canada's economy relies heavily on the energy sector and nearly all of its oil and gas exports target a U.S. market less dependent on foreign reserves because of the shale boom. Lower export revenue and even lower crude oil prices are hurting exporting economies like Canada's.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci said there's "no question" the provincial economy is facing serious headwinds because of the downturn in the energy sector. Last month, the minister said that, while the government can't control oil prices, it can control its spending and has taken steps to stabilize its budget to protect vital services like healthcare and education.

This week, the provincial government unveiled a tax incentive scheme meant to encourage the development of petrochemical plants in Alberta. The facilities would turn raw resources like methane and propane into consumer goods like anti-freeze.

The government expects the incentives will help create more than 1,000 permanent jobs and attract at least $2 billion in new investments.

"This is another way to diversify our energy economy and create good jobs in Alberta," provincial Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd said in a statement.

Deron Bilous, Alberta's minister for economic development, heads Wednesday to Washington, D.C., to build stronger ties with the United States. He meets later this week with representatives from the U.S. Energy Information Administration as well as those from the World Bank.

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