Why Doesn’t Alberta Diversify?


ABCtech Editorial

In 2005, the Alberta Council of Technologies Society was incorporated to advocate for “Diversifying Alberta’s economy through the commercialization of emerging technologies.” Some argued against our vision stating, “One hour spent diversifying Alberta’s economy is one hour less for producing oil revenue, providing for Alberta health and education.” – Alberta Oil Industry Executive

And as recently as this past summer, “It’s not an Innovation Zone that we need but a commitment to capitalize on the Region’s proximity to the oil sands.” – Economic Development Executive

And now in 2015 – with the price of oil collapsing again, we hear, “Our dependency on oil will be replaced by our addiction to innovation.” – President & CEO, Edmonton Economic Development, reinforced HERE as Edmonton was recognized as an Innovation Centre.

“Time to dust off the old bumper stickers promising not to piss away yet another oil boom?” Editorial: Edmonton Journal (January 7, 2015)

The sentiment was echoed in Bob Fessenden’s recent editorial HERE and repeatedly in annual assessments we have solicited since 2010 on the diversification of Alberta’s economy:

2010 – Jason Bisbois, U Alberta
2011 – Peter Hall, Export Canada
2012 – Todd Hirsch, ATB
2013 – Leo De Bever, AIMCO
2014 – Richard Truscott, CFIB

 More recently at an Edmonton luncheon of 100 engineers, not one hand was raised when the audience was asked “Do you believe Alberta’s economy is adequately diversified to weather a downturn in oil revenues?”

When we asked a former Premier for an explanation, the response was, “Downturns never last long enough to trigger a serious approach to diversification.”

And when another Premier was asked, “What process should Alberta consider to prepare for a post-carbon economy?” The answer was “We’d invest in energy, forestry and agriculture.”

What are your thoughts? Here some thought starters:


  1. First, we need a credible, data-based scorecard, an economic weather report, on the status of diversification, more than just anecdotes and publish it regularly
  2. Respect small technology enterprises. Resolve the high failure rate of the engine of innovation and the propensity to export successes. Resolve the red tape and overly aggressive taxation procedures that suffocate small business. See our 2014 Report on “Why small technology businesses fail to grow.” HERE
  3. Establish a Task Force of respected, independent thinkers in creative financing. Large investment funds and foreign financing of Alberta’s future have not stirred innovation. Explore creative financing measures and formation of a legion of brokers for engaging Albertans as investors in emerging enterprise anticipating the baby-boomers $T wealth transfer.
  4. Establish an Independent Technology Industry Advisory.  Investing in oil and oil-related industries only deepens the dependency on oil. Alberta is already well positioned to capitalize on advantages in several areas: cleanTech and alternative energies, nanoTech, healthTech and Analytics.
  5. Finally, we need sustained leadership, leadership prepared to withstand fickle markets and voters – a voice, committed to a vision founded on a policy of diversification, a vision that is more than a “fat piggy bank”.

Source ABC Tech