Alberta has little choice but to innovate: Senator

Innovation must become Alberta’s new advantage, says Alberta Senator Doug Black.

Innovation must become Alberta’s new advantage, says Alberta Senator Doug Black.

The collapse of world oil prices and the uncertain future of major pipeline projects crucial to getting Alberta oil to world markets means the province has little choice but to restructure its economy, Black told the Red Deer Rotary Club on Monday.

Alberta has long been an innovator, especially in the energy industry. That know-how must now be extended into the fields of health care and agri-business, said Black, who is founding president of the Energy Policy Institute of Canada, a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the development of a Canadian energy framework.

“What do we need to do in this province at this time to get this right? We have to accelerate our focus on innovation.

Much of that is happening, but much more needs to happen,” said Black, who was appointed to the Senate in 2013 after coming first in an election for the province’s Senate nominee.

There are too many entities involved in innovation and they co-ordinate too little, he said. There is also too much competition among innovators, as exemplified by University of Alberta and University of Calgary, which too often pursue the same federal dollars.

“This is not a sophisticated way to do business,” he said, adding the same competition often exists among municipalities.

“I’m advocating strongly that focus is required.”

Black is working with the chair of University of Alberta’s business faculty on a project that is dubbed Alberta 2.0. A report is expected to be released in the next month or so that will set out the steps the province can take to build a more resilient economy.

He is confident that Alberta can get through the current downturn and come out stronger.

“We are not victims. It is a challenge, right. We can learn from it a little bit,” he said.

“But get over it and get to work, and that’s what we as Albertans are going to have to do very aggressively over the next year or year and a half in order to maintain our position.”

Besides more co-operation among universities, deficiencies in the innovation culture must be identified through “innovation maps.”

Black also called for a chief innovator to oversee the province’s efforts in energy, agriculture and health care, similar to the role played by Israel’s chief scientist.

He also advocates the creation of an annual award for the most important innovation each year.

Reducing regulation to allow innovation to succeed is also a must.

“This province is tremendously over-regulated,” he said.

When oil dollars were flowing companies could cope with the amount of red tape they faced. That is no longer true in today’s economic climate.

Alberta should commit to take a regulation off the books for every new one introduced, he said.

Black said he has spoken with the NDP government and it is clearly behind efforts to create a more diversified, innovative and resilient economy.

Just Posted

Alberta hiring more paramedics and buying new ambulances, none for Red Deer

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer is not concerned the provincial government didn’t… Continue reading

‘My nightmare began again’: Close call as bus carrying Humboldt crash survivor rear-ended

CALGARY — A terrifying ordeal for Humboldt Broncos survivor Ryan Straschnitzki this… Continue reading

Halifax airport operations normalize after Boeing 747 runway overshoot

HALIFAX — The Halifax Stanfield International Airport has resumed normal operations a… Continue reading

Bentley family left without a home grateful for community support

Central Albertans are coming together to support a Bentley family left homeless… Continue reading

Red Deer RCMP ready for new mandatory alcohol screening law

Red Deer RCMP are ready to enforce a new law intended to… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer and District Kennel Club Dog Show at Westerner Park

The Red Deer and District Kennel Club is holding a dog show… Continue reading

Pence aide out of running to be Trump’s next chief of staff

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top pick to replace chief of staff… Continue reading

Swath of South faces wintry mess: Snow, sleet, freezing rain

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A massive storm brought snow, sleet, and freezing rain… Continue reading

‘I killed my best friend’: Opioids’ fatal grip on mayor, pal

MOUNT CARBON, Pa. — Janel Firestone found her son — the 24-year-old,… Continue reading

Brothers, 20, face second-degree murder charge in death of teen: police

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Police west of Toronto say two brothers have been… Continue reading

A young mayor, his friend, and a fatal attraction to opioids

MOUNT CARBON, Pa. — Janel Firestone found her son — the 24-year-old,… Continue reading

GM fights to retain key tax credit amid plant closing plans

WASHINGTON — General Motors is fighting to retain a valuable tax credit… Continue reading

TTC union asks provincial government to step in on transition to Presto

TORONTO — The union representing transit workers in Canada’s most populous city… Continue reading

Small pot growers find roadblocks on path to microcultivation licences

Yan Boissonneault’s daughter was turning blue. Without warning, his baby had stopped… Continue reading

Most Read