Minister of Finance, Travis Toews faced a crowd of over 35, properly distanced, people at the Cochrane Ranchehouse on Wednesday, August 19. Cochrane was one of his stops on a mini provincial tour. "It's really a pleasure to be here, I am making a very small tour in the province right now, talking about our Alberta Economic Recovery Plan. I had a great invitation from MLA Peter Guthrie and so I took advantage of that and it's great to be here," explained Toews.
The minister started by saying that it has been a while since he had been to Cochrane and complimented the Ranchehouse venue. Then he dove into the issue of the Alberta economy saying, "The world has changed for the province of Alberta."
Toews admitted that he personally thought 2020 was going to be a turn-around year for the province as all the data was showing indications of an economic upswing, then...COVID hit.
The minister did not sugar coat the reality of the economic downturn for Alberta being hit with the triple whammy of the global contraction, the collapse of oil prices, and the pandemic. He explained that the Recovery Plan is a work in progress. He spoke to how, as a teenager, he remembered the recession of the '80s and how bleak the situation was at that time and how Alberta came out of it. He believes that Albertan's will do it again through, ingenuity and perseverance. Essentially, Albertan's are made of the right stuff to get through this tough time.
Will the government be able to deliver a balanced budget? His answer, "no". There will need to be a budget reset plan and that is coming.
The UCP government has numerous mandates to its recovery plan, but what seems to align well with Cochrane is the push for diversification to the economy and a focus on the tech and tourism industries. Toews says, "Personally, I think both of those sectors have a great future in the province. We have the youngest, most educated population in the country. We have world class post-secondary education. I'm confident the tech industry can thrive here. The Minister for Economic Development and Trade and Tourism will be rolling out a strategy for tourism and the tech industry."
Since Cochrane is already home to tech industries like Garmin, 4iiii Innovations, and a soon-to-be newly built innovation centre, our town seems to fit well with the pursuit of the technology piece of the pie. As for tourism, government incentives could be of benefit to Cochrane's economy as we are already a preferred stop on the map, as well as a possible future train whistle-stop between Calgary and Banff.
Minister of Finance Travis Toews says, "To stay tuned".