+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 6-20S

Economic State of Crisis

Date:
April 24, 2020
Expiry Date:
April 1, 2023
Active Status:
Active
Sponsors:
Brazeau County
Year:
2020
Convention:
Spring
Category:
Other
Status:
Intent Not Met
Vote Results:
Carried as Amended
Preamble:

WHEREAS Alberta’s unemployment rate is trending upward and remains above the national average; and

WHEREAS consumer bankruptcies increased by 9.1% from November 2018 to November 2019; and

WHEREAS citizen dependence on employment insurance in Alberta is on the rise; and

WHEREAS consumer confidence is plunging due to sustained economic decline; and

WHEREAS rural crime, due in part to increased unemployment, has increased markedly since 2014; and

WHEREAS commercial bankruptcies are seeing a year over year increase since 2016; and

WHEREAS certain bureaucratic government policies in response to perceived environmental emergencies have resulted in actual corporate and personal financial crisis;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta advocate to the governments of Alberta and Canada to declare an economic state of crisis and work with all levels of government to develop and enact policies designed to secure investment and employment in the energy and agricultural sectors.

Member Background:

Western Canada’s resource-based communities are facing unprecedented challenges due to many factors. These factors connect western Canadians but create a disconnect from those elsewhere in the country. Such factors include a lack of awareness on the part of many Canadians about the challenges being faced in western Canada and the perceived indifference of the Government of Canada to continued attacks by radical environmental groups on the industries that are a major contributor to Canada’s economic engine.

These factors have led to one common outcome: significant financial challenges for every Canadian who is reliant, either directly or indirectly, on the energy sector for their living.  In Alberta, all business is impacted; not only direct energy-related businesses or secondary and tertiary businesses but the local grocery shops, clothing stores and other essential local businesses. Community organizations, sports teams, and schools are suffering due to a lack of membership and financial support as community members move or suffer mental/physical and emotional distress due to the loss of employment.

The energy industry’s record of environmental stewardship, Indigenous outreach policy and proven economic success is something that governments at all levels should champion. There is significant scientific information supporting the environmental practices of Alberta’s energy industry compared to other petroleum producers such as Saudi Arabia or Venezuela. Consultation and inclusion with Indigenous peoples has significantly increased as the reconciliation process has evolved.  Alberta’s Indigenous communities have played a significant role and investment in the energy sector which is a key economic driver of the Canadian economy.

RMA Background:

1-19S: Municipal Support for the Energy Industry

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta advocate for the Government of Alberta to further develop and implement a targeted, national education and marketing campaign on behalf of Albertans in order to offset foreign protectionism and de-marketing campaigns, regulatory delays, and the combined infrastructure and economic factors that are creating a significant, negative effect on Canada’s local, provincial, and national economies. The elements of the education and marketing campaign include as outlined in “Schedule A”;

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of Alberta provide resources to offset the combined negative impacts affecting the energy industry through:

  1. the continuation of the Petrochemicals Diversification Program;
  2. key energy industry-supporting infrastructure development; and
  3. a continued strong presence and advocacy with federal, municipal and foreign governments.
Government Response:

Alberta Economic Development, Trade and Tourism

Investment attraction is a priority for the Government of Alberta, and as identified in our government’s A Blueprint for Jobs Plan, we will soon be releasing an Investment and Growth Strategy. To enable job-creators in attracting investment, the Alberta Investment and Growth Strategy is an overarching framework to guide policies and programs focused on retaining and expanding domestic and foreign direct investment into the province, resulting in shared economic prosperity, using a systematic approach across the investment continuum (from identification to aftercare). This includes a concentrated effort on principal sectors like energy and agriculture, which currently have a comparative economic advantage, and tourism, as well as key enabling sectors with a high potential to fuel momentum and growth in the wider provincial economy – technology, aerospace, and financial services.

By building on our strengths in a coordinated Team Alberta approach, our investment attraction ecosystem can transform to be consistently strategic, reliable, timely and tailored. As announced in Budget 2020, a new investment attraction agency will be established to focus on high-value, high-impact investment opportunities, including new foreign direct and Canadian investment.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry

Recognizing the challenges facing our industry, Agriculture and Forestry has taken action to protect employment, support agriculture, and attract investment in Alberta’s agriculture and agri-processing sector, including new funding to support farmers, agri-businesses, and food processors. These include:

  • Enhanced business risk management programs under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership Programs to compensate producers for disruption to processing capacity in the livestock and agri-processing sector.
  • New employee support programs and training for agri-business and agriculture. The purpose of this program is to provide support to the agricultural and horticultural businesses and services to help address the impact of COVID-19. The program will provide a grant to eligible employers to offset the costs of training and ensuring safety protocols are in place for new employees hired from the available domestic labour pool. Eligible activities include training for new hire employees in the areas of COVID-19 safety procedures, training for new hire employees in occupational health and safety, and training for new hire employees in work-related duties and activities. More information on the new program is available from Mr. Drew Hiltz, Program Manager, who can be reached at drew.hiltz@gov.ab.ca or 780-427-8228. Further details can also be found by visiting https://cap.alberta.ca/CAP/program/TRAINING.
  • Launching Alberta’s Agriculture Job Connector, matching workers with employers to fill agriculture and agri-food jobs, including employer and worker resources (for details, visit https://www.alberta.ca/agriculture-job-connector.aspx).
  • Supporting the Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association to enhance connections between farms and retailers, wholesales, restaurants, the food service industry, and consumers.
  • Ensuring access to fibre to support a strong and competitive forest industry, attracting investment and supporting jobs in forest communities through the Forest Jobs Action Plan.

Alberta’s competitive agriculture sector plays a key role in supporting rural communities and the economic success of the province. As a major economic driver in Alberta, agriculture employs more than 75,000 people and generates nearly $12 billion in annual export sales. Agriculture and Forestry’s Investment Attraction and International Market Development sections have a strong mandate to facilitate expansion of the agri-processing sector and support companies seeking access to international markets. As part of this, my ministry works closely with Alberta’s international offices, economic development organizations, industry associations, and our provincial and federal partners and others on a global basis.

In addition, the Government of Alberta has launched a new strategy to champion Alberta’s agricultural sector to ensure continued growth and long-term success for the sector. As part of this strategy, I have asked senior leaders from the agricultural and agri-processing sector, including farmers, ranchers, agri-business leaders and members of the academic community to come together as an Agriculture Industry Advisory Committee to provide strategic advice and recommendations on emerging issues and priorities. These industry leaders will work to highlight Alberta’s sustainable agriculture practices and illustrate how our industry leads on a global stage to feed people around the world and inspire consumer confidence in agricultural products produced in Alberta.

Alberta Energy

  • Alberta Energy’s perspective regarding the unprecedented impacts currently facing our energy industry aligns with the RMA’s Resolution 6-20S.
  • The Government of Alberta is taking steps to ensure our energy industry is attractive to potential investors, and providing support for employment opportunities in the energy sector.
  • The Government of Alberta appointed Dr. Jack Mintz to lead the Economic Recovery Council to provide advice on how the province can fact the economic crisis related to the energy price crash and COVID-19.

Supporting Business and Employment

  • Alberta’s Recovery Plan, released on June 29, takes bold action to create jobs that get people back to work, build infrastructure and diversify our economy. Through this plan, the province will build on its economic strengths to attract investment and position the province for prosperity.
  • Alberta is financially supporting the Keystone XL pipeline by providing $1.5 billion in equity investment in 2020 and a $6 billion loan guarantee in 2021. Keystone XL is estimated to create 1,400 direct and 5,400 indirect jobs in Alberta.
  • Alberta Energy has significantly increased its proactive advocacy with the federal government to increase the province’s authority over areas of provincial jurisdiction, and advance our vital economic interests, such as building energy pipelines.
  • Alberta’s Site Rehabilitation Program launched in May 2020. The $1 billion program, funded by the federal government COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, provides funding to eligible abandonment and reclamation work on oil and gas sites in Alberta. The program will create around 5,300 jobs.
    • Alberta also extended its loan to the Orphan Well Association (OWA) by up to $100 million in March 2020 to help support energy sector job creation and clean up orphan wells.
  • As one of the cleanest carriers of energy, the natural gas value chain will play a critical and enduring role in energy security and environmental outcomes.
    • Alberta is focusing on new and expanded pathways to promote growth in industrial demand, petrochemical manufacturing, domestic and global liquefied natural gas, plastics recycling and repurposing, and the emerging hydrogen economy,
    • The Government of Alberta confirmed its $1.1 billion commitment to the Petrochemical Diversification Program in October 2019.
  • Alberta is modernizing the province’s minerals strategy to provide guidance and help establish Alberta as an attractive place for mineral investment and innovation, and to capitalize on its vast mineral resource potential.
  • In response to growing global demand for helium, on May 13, Alberta announced an effective helium royalty rate of 4.25 percent. This provides clarity for investors and ensures a fair price for Albertans. It will create both direct and indirect employment opportunities from helium extraction and processing facilities.
  • The Government of Alberta continues working to provide greater policy and regulatory clarity for proponents wanting to invest in Alberta’s geothermal energy-am area that represents a significant opportunity to support economic diversification and competitiveness.

Reducing Red Tape

  • Alberta Energy has taken steps to simplify and reduce the regulatory burden on Alberta’s energy sector, such as repealing unnecessary and outdated regulations and legislation, enabling the OWA to better manage and accelerate their clean-up of wells and sites, and reversing course on the capacity electricity market.
    • Energy’s agencies have also been directed to reduce red tape and develop work plans to address stakeholder concerns and achieve reductions.
  • As a result of the Government of Alberta’s review of the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), a number of steps were taken to improve the AER’s mandate, governance and operations to help make Alberta more competitive.
    • In April 2020, government appointed a new board of directors and CEO. On May 27,2020, government introduced Bill 7, the Responsible Energy Development Amendment Act. If passes, the legislation will provide government with the authority to establish maximum timelines for the AER to review applications.
  • Alberta successfully negotiated a preliminary equivalency agreement with the federal government on methane emissions reductions, protecting industry from onerous federal regulations. The preliminary agreement requires review and approval by federal cabinet before Canada’s regulations are stood down.

Selling Alberta to the World

  • Alberta Energy works closely with the Alberta Washington Office, and is undertaking targeted U.S. engagement to remind American audiences in oil producing and pipeline states of the importance of Canadian oil in an integrated energy market.
  • A key priority for the Government of Alberta is to inform the world how Alberta produces energy with the world’s highest environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards.
    • Alberta Energy is leading the development of a provincial ESG strategy aimed at strengthening and promoting Alberta’s position as a responsible energy producer and attracting investment to its energy sector.

Alberta is accelerating development and awareness of the provinces’ leadership in ESG performance; establishing international offices as centres for advocacy and information about our energy sector; and continuing to hold conversations with United Kingdom, European Union, and other international audiences to showcase our excellent credentials

Development:

The Alberta Energy response indicates that the Ministry is working on developing a provincial environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy that will be aimed at strengthening and promoting Alberta’s position as a responsible energy producer and attracting investment to its energy sector. In addition, Alberta Energy has been reducing red tape in the energy sector by repealing unnecessary and outdated regulations and legislation and expanding the Orphan Well Association’s (OWA) powers to better manage and accelerate their clean-up of wells and sites. RMA appreciates Alberta Energy’s efforts to attract and secure investment with these initiatives, it is too early to determine whether these efforts will attract investment to Alberta. The RMA will continue to monitor these initiatives and update members on their status.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s responses also include encouraging initiatives to support the growth of the province’s agriculture industry.

Although the investment and growth strategies and supports identified in the Government of Alberta’s response is an encouraging step toward supporting the province’s economic recovery, the response makes no reference to declaring the economic state of emergency referenced in the operative clause of the resolution, or of working with the Government of Canada to encourage increased investment and growth in Alberta’s energy and agriculture sectors.

Further follow-up correspondence on this issue from Alberta Jobs, Economy and Innovation (formerly Alberta Economic Development, Trade and Tourism) also highlights collaborative provincial-federal efforts to support Alberta’s economic recovery, including internationally-focused attempts to define and defend Alberta’s environmental, social and governance standards across all sectors as a means to attract international investment to the province, as well as matching levels of municipally-focused funding that will indirectly support the agriculture and oil and gas industries by supporting Alberta’s infrastructure.

As the provincial responses do not indicate a plan to declare a specific economic state of crisis, and RMA has not yet received a response from the Government of Canada, this resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met.

Provincial Ministries:
Agriculture and Forestry,
Economic Development and Trade
Federal Ministries and Bodies:
Industry
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