The federal government’s decision to spend $4.5 billion ensuring the Trans Mountain Pipeline gets built means Alberta will finally get a fair price for its oil, said Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous.
Alberta has had to sell its oil to the U.S. at a discount that reached $30 a barrel, said Bilous, who spoke at the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Wednesday.
“So, we’ve been essentially subsidizing the U.S. for a great many years to the tune of about $130 billion thus far.
“I think it’s about time we started getting world-class prices for our world-class resources,” said the minister adding Alberta is one of the most responsible energy producers in the world.
“Yesterday, was a very, very positive, significant step forward.”
Premier Rachel Notley lobbied tirelessly for the project, pitching the message that what is good for Alberta’s economy is good for the whole country, he said.
If there is a silver lining to the dispute with B.C. it is that more Canadians are aware of how critical the country’s energy industry is.
The Trans Mountain deal is more good news in the province, which is coming off a year where it led the country in economic growth. Economists are pegging Alberta for the first or second position this year, citing infrastructure spending and pipeline approvals, he said.
Bilous said Alberta led the nation in economic growth last year and economists expect it to be in the number one or two position this year.
Manufacturing is on the rise, export numbers and housing starts are up and since last year 90,000 full-time jobs have been created, said the minister.
Bilous said the province is investing to take some of the volatility out of the energy sector and to diversify the economy.
Tax credits have been a choice mechanism for the province to generate more investment. Investor and capital tax credits have proven successful leveraging $62 million in credits into $1.2 billion in new investment, he said.
The 2018 budget also includes a digital media tax credit to keep tech talent in Alberta.
Bilous said the credit will “support the growth and expansion of the digital media industry, making it easier for existing companies to hire more employees and helping local entrepreneurs open new studios and attract investment from other jurisdictions.”
Bilous was asked about the competitive challenge posed by U.S. President Donald Trump’s tax cuts.
The minister said Alberta remains one of Canada’s most competitive jurisdictions.
Tech companies are also taking a closer look at Canada because of U.S. government moves making it harder to attract foreign workers.
“There is significant interest in companies coming to Canada.”
The friction between the U.S. and China on trade also offers opportunities in Canada. Bilous said he has been encouraging the federal government to pursue free trade with China, Canada’s second largest trading partner.
“The relationship between the U.S. and China has cooled somewhat over the past six months. That provides a renewed interest on the China side with furthering and deepening the relationship with Canada.”
Alberta has three trade offices in China to ferret out investment.
“I think there are significant opportunities in China.”
Canada and Alberta’s ongoing prosperity will also be helped by negotiating a good update to the North American Free Trade Agreement, he added.