Top CEOs call for diversification as Alberta strives to find its place in a changing world – Business News – .

Top CEOs call for diversification as Alberta strives to find its place in a changing world – Business News – .

Susannah Pierce’s children are not interested in following in her footsteps.

The president of Shell Canada Ltd., one of Canada’s largest integrated oil companies, leads a workforce of 3,500 Canadian employees, has been publicly recognized as the face of LNG Canada’s $ 40 billion project, and has lived and worked all over the world.

But Pierce’s 15-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter see no future for themselves in the industry where their mother thrived.

The oil and gas industry is just not “as appealing as it used to be” to today’s youth, says Pierce bluntly, an uncomfortable fact that she and other leaders in the energy sector are fond of. forced to cope, even within their own homes.

“If the conversation isn’t ‘I want to work at the same company as you mum and dad’ then we have to ask ourselves why,” Pierce said in an interview.

The lunchtime conversations between Pierce and his children are a scaled-down version of a larger discussion currently taking place in Alberta as an entire province tries to decide which way to go.

Although Alberta’s historic oil and gas sector still makes a disproportionate contribution to the Canadian economy, it has been battered and battered by seven years of low prices, protests and pipeline cancellations, layoffs and consolidation. The province’s unemployment rate is 8.5 percent, and nearly 30 percent of the downtown Calgary office market is vacant.

Alberta’s long-term unemployment rate – the portion of the population that has been out of work for more than a year – is 2.4 percent, well above the national average of 1.4 percent. hundred.

Even now, with crude prices higher than they have been for years, it is widely believed that the energy landscape has changed permanently.

Climate change and the shift away from fossil fuels have come to the forefront of the national and international conversation. Investment dollars are increasingly going to industries with favorable environmental performance, and companies, including Shell, are investing in green technologies and decarbonization as part of their own net zero commitments.

Over the past few years, the government has made several attempts to address Alberta’s challenges, ranging from tax credits aimed at stimulating the province’s rapidly growing tech sector to incentives for petrochemical development and investments in the province. hydrogen technology.

Recently, a group of prominent CEOs from Alberta, including Pierce, came together to form their own task force with the goal of finding long-term solutions for the Alberta economy.

“It’s a service in support of what governments might be able to do, without asking governments to do it for us,” Pierce said. “The world is changing, in terms of the energy product it needs. And therefore, we must also change. “

The task force aims to come up with a series of economic strategies, policies and incentives that will attract investment and jobs to the province. He will also look for ways to keep young people in a province that is seen by some to be stuck in the past.

Other heavyweights like Enbridge’s Al Monaco and Cenovus Energy’s Alex Pourbaix are also involved in the project, dubbed “Define the Decade”. And the task force includes executives from some of the province’s fast-growing tech companies, such as artificial intelligence company AltaML and life science company DynaLIFE.

Diversification has been a buzzword in Alberta during previous declines in commodity prices. However, it has always fallen when oil prices start to rise again, said Adam Legge, president of the Business Council of Alberta.

This time, however, it’s different, he said, and there’s no time to waste.

“Alberta’s story of boom and bust cycles… is frankly over,” said Legge. “But we think our best days are ahead of us. So much that is going on in the world, the trends, the changes that are happening – Alberta really has a chance to be a world leader. “

David Taras, a policy analyst based at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, said the idea of ​​a group of Alberta’s top CEOs coming together to push for diversification, green energy and of the startup economy would have been unfathomable 10 or even 5 years ago.

The public relations message has clearly shifted from defending traditional oil and gas, he said, to establishing Alberta’s role in the public eye as an investment destination for the future. .

“The global tide has changed, and has changed dramatically,” Taras said. “And the industry not only caught up, but realized that it had to move forward, that it had to be in a different place. “

The Calgary and Edmonton Chambers of Commerce do not participate in the ‘Define the Decade’ initiative, but recently released a joint wish list for the federal election that calls for commitments from all parties regarding the diversification of the Alberta economy.

Deborah Yedlin, president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, said the organization is calling for everything from federal investments in grants and equity deals to help grow the tech startup industry, to creation of national centers of excellence in Alberta for sectors ranging from cleantech, artificial intelligence and sport.

“We (Alberta) have the will to lead, but we can’t do it on our own,” Yedlin said. “We need federal support. ”


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