Alberta’s economy will continue to outperform the Canadian economy, according to the chief economist with the Business Development Bank of Canada.
“The Alberta economy will continue to grow because of the population growth, because of the strong energy sector and the new emerging sectors that are creating some level of economic activity in the province,” said Pierre Cléroux, who provided an economic update as part of Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce’s key speaker series luncheon at the Radisson Hotel on Friday.
Emerging sectors in Alberta include hydrogen, food processing and others. Growth is also happening in the housing sector.
“In Canada we have been building less houses in the last two years. But because the demand is strong in (Alberta) because of strong population growth and the economy is performing better, we are building more housing and there are a lot of jobs related to that.”
He said agriculture has always been a strong sector in Alberta and will continue to do very well with the world population increasing and demand for Canadian farm products growing.
Alberta’s economy was one of the best in the country in 2023, and will remain so in 2024, he added.
“The Alberta economy is going to be right at the top.”
He said the oil sector will continue to perform well in 2024, with prices expected to stay elevated, so exports will continue to grow. While there will be growing pressure on consumers to buy electric vehicles, there is not enough green energy to power them, so the transition is going to take 20 or 40 years.
“Yes this is where we’re going, but in the meantime in the next three decades, oil is going to play a major role still in the economy. The demand for oil is always increasing.”
Alberta is forecast to see 1.3 per cent growth in its economy.
“This is not as good as last year because the interest rate is still having an impact on the economy, but this is going to be the best growth in the country along with Saskatchewan.”
But he said one of the factors that limits economic growth is the labour shortage, and that’s where technology can help.
“We have more jobs than people in Canada, and it’s also very true in Alberta.
“When we compare Canada to the 30 most developed countries, we are below the average in terms of our productivity, so we can do much better. The way to do better is to invest in more technology.”
Cléroux said technology and automation can be applied in every sector, not just manufacturing. Technology has also improved, and it’s cheaper, and it will move Canada to the next level.
“We shouldn’t be afraid of technology.”