Senator Doug Black sees the 2019 Canada Winter Games as a springboard for the entire province.
“This is an opportunity, for not only Red Deer, but Alberta, to come together after what has been a number of very difficult years in this province,” said Black, shortly after meeting Games organizers in Red Deer on Friday.
“I see it as a kind of launch event for the next coming years in Alberta. That’s my hope and that’s why I’m so excited to be part of this.”
Black will be here for the opening ceremonies and has already volunteered to take a spot in the torch relay.
“I hope they don’t put me in Wawa, Ont. or somewhere in the middle of winter,” he joked.
In the next couple of weeks, Black will use his Senate pulpit to talk about the Games and ensure that his colleagues, and through them all Canadians, are aware of the big event.
Black believes one of his most important contributions will be helping find sponsors to help fund the Games.
The opportunities created by the Games do not end following the closing ceremonies. Besides the new facilities and other improvements there is a “human legacy,” he said.
“I want to be part of helping develop that,” he said.
Black also planned to meet with Mayor Tara Veer to get an update on local issues before heading over to Red Deer College.
There, he was getting a tour of the college’s Alternative Energy Lab, which has not yet been officially unveiled to the public.
Black sees the lab as a perfect example of the direction that Alberta needs to go to remain prosperous by building on its strengths.
“Clearly, the greatest strength in Alberta today is the energy industry,” he said.
But the future lies in reducing the province’s carbon footprint from fossil fuels and becoming a leader in alternative energy, he said.
It’s already happening, he said, pointing to a Thursday conference held in Calgary called Inventure$ 2018 that drew 1,700 investors, innovators, academics and business people.
“There was a buzz in that conference that I haven’t felt in Alberta in a number of years,” said Black, who moderated a panel discussion on Innovation in Canada with Alberta Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous.
The senator and Alberta School of Business dean Joseph Doucet are behind what they are calling Alberta 2.0, an initiative aimed at creating a more resilient provincial economy — what they call an economy of intent versus an economy of circumstance.
While oil and gas will continue to be a mainstay, Alberta must seek other opportunities in areas such as food and fibre, health care, artificial intelligence, agribusiness and alternative energy.
Black is bullish on Alberta’s efforts to broaden its economy.
“I think we’re on track to doing exactly that,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy, but Alberta has never taken the easy path.”