Braid: UCP says some people are writing off Alberta but ‘just watch us’

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“Just watch us. Just watch what this government is going to do in the next little while as we develop our sector strategies to compete for the future.

“Coming out of this, people are going to see a very different Alberta.”

He’s talking into powerful headwinds. Besides all the bleak numbers in Thursday’s fiscal update, Alberta’s main industry, the source of prosperity for generations, is under constant assault. The struggle over oil and gas will ignite again as COVID-19 fades.

The province has many advantages still. It’s amazing to see all the private construction projects, both residential and commercial, still going on in Calgary. Amid the economic slide, some businesses open and others expand.

But there are dangerous signs. Alberta mortgage deferrals are now at 26 per cent, second highest in the country after Quebec.

This smacks of the 1980s Alberta recession driven by the Liberals’ National Energy Program. People handed their keys to the banks in the face of mass layoffs and insanely high interest rates.

And it’s starting to happen now, when interest rates are exactly the reverse — insanely low.

The UCP government’s job isn’t just to foster economic growth and create jobs, although that’s absolutely crucial. The challenge is also to convince voters that theirs is the road back to real prosperity.

It’s no coincidence that only two days before the fiscal results came out, Kenney created the new department focused on economic growth.

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