Ask Candidates How They Will Support Growth of Advanced Technology Industries in Alberta
Once again we are in the midst of the run up to a provincial election. Slowly, over time, we see the political parties revealing their election strategies and platforms. As an Albertan in his sixties, I have been through many an election. What I have always missed seeing since the 1970’s is a clear plan to diversify the economy. While oil, gas and agriculture will, for many years to come, be fundamental building blocks to the provincial economy, very little has been said about strategically stimulating and growing other potential mainstream contributing industries.
Lip service is often given to promoting innovation in the advanced technology industries. However, very little embellishment is offered. Perhaps, this is a result of a lack of understanding of the potential and details about technology-related industries or the lack of good advice coming from the inner circles. While Alberta continues to hold back on unleashing the potential of proven industry contributors such as information and communications technologies, life sciences and engineering sciences (e.g., nanotechnologies), other jurisdictions have moved swiftly to successfully adopt these advanced technology industries into their foundational economic frameworks.
Such industries provide high-paying jobs, access to world markets and global recognition for Alberta, as well as providing enabling technologies for existing mainstream industries. More often than not, these other jurisdictions are those that have lacked natural resources and have had to rely on human resources and intellectual capital to move their economies forward.
The question could be asked: Why can’t Alberta, at a time ripe once again for economic diversification, stop holding back and march forward to build on its comparative advantages? Why can't Alberta stimulate increased economic contributions from our advanced technology industries, while at the same time continuing to support our natural resource industries? If not now, then when?
Next time a candidate comes to your door, ask what their Party will do to truly diversify Alberta’s economy such as expanding our province’s life sciences industry.
Many people are surprised to learn that this industry is a major source of highly skilled employment, innovation and economic diversification. In 2016, this industry had nearly $700 million in revenues. It employed more than 19,000 Albertans in direct and indirect jobs in bringing to the marketplace new drugs, medical devices, natural health products, food ingredients, biofuels, green building products and more.
Ask the candidate what innovation really means to them as an MLA. Let candidates know your thoughts on what is needed. Share your ideas and the feedback you receive on social media with the hashtag #BioAlberta.
President and CEO, BioAlberta