Structure Follows Strategy

It has been a long time since Alberta had a Ministry of Economic Development & Trade, and it is long overdue. The announcement by Premier Notley last Thursday brought cheers from many across the province, as we can now establish focus and resources towards our most pressing economic issues:

  1. Building a culture of risk-taking and entrepreneurship in businesses big and small;
  2. Developing revenues, trade and investment from beyond our borders;
  3. Unlocking the value of our resource assets in mutually beneficial ways; and
  4. Leading an innovation system that is relevant and respected across Canada.

We have been talking about these four simple priorities for years as part of our provincial strategy; however, the ministerial structure never followed the strategy and past ministries lived through endless leadership changes and budget uncertainty.

This was a much needed change and, when led by a strong Minister, Deputy Minister and Premier’s Advisory Committee on the Economy, I believe we are now off to a great start.

The old models of economic development, diversification and innovation have not brought success or change, and I look forward to working with this new ministry to compete and win in today’s marketplace.

I am often hard on our government because I have high expectations. This is a timely and prudent move, and I compliment this kind of thoughtful stewardship.

I look forward to helping bring back our excellence.

Why Are We Waiting?

There’s a nervousness growing on the streets and in the conversations happening in our coffee shops across Alberta. There is concern and angst among people who are typically risk-takers, adventurers and entrepreneurs.

And it’s becoming infectious. And it’s becoming concerning.

Alberta has a long history of an unusual economy – filled with highs and lows, droughts and floods, journeys and discoveries. It’s been a land of opportunity between periods of hardship, and our culture of camaraderie and cooperation has prevailed when times were most tough. And we’ve always fought through it, together.

Optimism is a key virtue of living here, as is hard work. There is no room for entitlement, and pointing fingers and complaining leaves you sitting very alone. If something needs fixing, we fix it. If something needs doing, we do it. And if someone needs help, we help them. It’s pretty simple.

So why has developing a budget and a policy framework become so difficult?

In today’s world of economic uncertainty, our individuals, families, businesses, farmers and non-profits all need some help, some guidance, some direction in terms of what they can expect … such that they can plan and make decisions that positively affect their future.

Instead, we’re playing politics and waiting for a federal election before taking care of our own?

That’s certainly not the culture that’s made us successful. That’s certainly not how we build our province. And that’s certainly not any form of leadership.

People expect more. And when you can taste fear hovering in the air … people need action.

Let’s see some leadership and some action … please.

Entrepreneurs Matter

Becoming an entrepreneur and starting a business completely changed my life. At first, it was a quest for independence and freedom … to move away from working for someone else, to take the risk, to see if I could do it on my own. But the reasons I continued ran much deeper … reasons that motivate so many business owners each and every day … reasons I respect so very, very much.

Today, in a world where many students are taught that business and capitalism are fundamentally based on the pursuit of greed, selfishness, exploitation and profit maximization … there is a need to re-introduce and re-romanticize today’s entrepreneur … the lifeblood of our communities and our economies.

Entrepreneurs start things. They try things. They see the world as a system full of gaps, of opportunities, and they set out to solve those problems by envisioning something better. They set out on a wonderful journey of purpose, adventure, risk and creativity … not to maximize profits and greed … but to see if what they imagined is, in fact, possible.

That is what fuels the hearts of entrepreneurs.

They envision new ways to deliver groceries and advanced drill bits to work in extreme climates. They suggest better ways for dentists to serve the poor and they improve the ways 3rd world countries filtrate drinking water. They imagine new video games for disinterested teens and they design new vaccines for impoverished children. They also start shoe stores and daycares and construction companies and cafes and corner stores.

Entrepreneurs Matter.

Entrepreneurs not only solve some of our most difficult challenges, but they also sign the paychecks that feed, clothe and shelter 78% of our local families. They not only represent the largest contributors to charities and non-profits, but their pursuit of free enterprise innovation and social cooperation has also led to unprecedented prosperity for humanity.

Over the past two centuries, free enterprise entrepreneurs have brought extraordinary economic growth and prosperity to hundreds of millions of people around the world. Extreme poverty has declined from 85% of the world’s population to 16%. The undernourished population has declined by 50%. Average income per capita has increased 1000x, with only 5% of that population living in North America. Sanitation, medicine and agricultural productivity have progressed to maintain a world population that has grown from 1 billion to 7 billion. 84% of the world can now read. And average life expectancy has increased from 36 years to an astonishing 86 years.

Our world is far from perfect … we have much more to improve … but we also need to appreciate the progress that has been made.

Governments didn’t accomplish these feats … entrepreneurs did. They innovated. They experimented. They took risks. They tried new things. And guess what? When their solutions worked and people derived value, their businesses grew and became profitable … which allowed them to invest in more ideas, create a broader vision, pay more taxes and extend their solutions to new markets.

That’s what changes our world. That’s what improves our communities.

That’s what matters.

So, as we move forward and continue progress on environmental, inequality, health care, animal welfare, and other global challenges …. let’s let entrepreneurs continue to be the lifeblood of innovation, our communities and our economy …. and let’s not turn them into the lifeblood of government.

Wanted: 100 of Alberta’s Best

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Wanted: Over One Hundred of Alberta’s Best Leaders

Role: Dynamic team member responsible for building a better province.

Requirements: Abundance of ideas, strategies, policy capacity, courage, accountability, transparency and urgency.

Reward: Basic pay, limited bonus and tremendous significance.

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They may not contain the same words, but Government of Alberta job postings like the above will be plentiful over the next 6-12 months, and I’d like to encourage many of our best and brightest to take a serious look, take a risk and step forward.

After 20 years working in the private sector, I took a risk, I took the challenge, and I became part of a team with the vision of transforming EEDC into a market-facing organization responsible for helping build a great city.

And nothing has been more rewarding.

The change came with responsibility. It came with accountability. And it came with a deep sense of purpose … three things that are desperately needed in our public service.

Today, our province needs to undergo the same leadership, management, professionalism and cultural transformation, and it will require a new generation of leaders and future leaders to be part of the journey.

Alberta will need you to step forward … in public service … to build a better province.

If you are stalling in your career, looking to make a contribution, wanting to leave your mark, or seeking a sense of purpose … I encourage you to take a similar risk and help accelerate our great province towards our potential.

I’ve never regretted a day in my role, and I love implementing the change that is needed.

When opportunity comes calling … which it will … I encourage you to step up and be bold.

Some of our best people are needed.

The King is Dead; Long Live the Queen

The grumpiness is deafening. The astonishment is mind-numbing. And the continued entitlement is unbelievable. No different than the morning after Iveson was elected as Mayor, no different than when snowboards were first allowed on ski hills, and no different than when women were finally allowed in the spike bar at the Mayfair.

Gasp! This place is going to hell and these young folks don’t have a clue how to run this place.

Welcome to the new Alberta. Average age, 36.

The new Alberta has come off being the strongest economic region in North America for the past ten years and a lot of people have made a lot of money – which is a good thing. We’ve been the lowest tax jurisdiction in North America, with a royalty structure that has promoted investment and the development of our resources at an unprecedented rate.

But that same policy environment has created a hyper-inflated economy when oil prices are high and a deficit-debilitated budget when prices are low – which has been confirmed through two economic summits as a bad thing. So if citizens, business leaders and economists all want to have a more balanced approach to growth and development going forward, then looking at incremental changes to these taxation and royalty policies is certainly not incomprehensible.

It just really upsets those who are used to getting their way.

Enter Kevin O’Leary, with his made-for-reality-TV personality, shouting fears that Alberta will be dragged into the abyss, will be filled with unions, and will be brought to its knees because it voted in the NDP.

While his blue suit and sharp tongue work on network TV, he embarrassingly proves himself and other crony colleagues out of touch with the fact that our resource assets remain incredibly valuable, our carpenters, electricians, plumbers, nurses, boilermakers and other unions are not invading, and we have a long history of never, ever, being brought to our knees.

The change in government was not some freak event. Over 72% of Alberta voters expressed their desire for change, expressed who they are and expressed what matters most to them – things like good governance, sustainable growth, fiscal management, transparency, and engagement.

Alberta still represents the same abundance of opportunity. And like any good company, the shareholders have expressed their desire to make incremental changes along with a restructuring to the board, in hopes of creating more value. In short, they lost confidence in the King, and they elected the new Queen. The grumpy guys may not like it, but all the rhetoric in the world won’t change a thing. It’s time now to pull together, make the necessary changes, and continue to be the highest performing economic region in North America for the next 20 years.