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Drawing a Clear Line in the Sand

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Brad Field

The only constant in life is change. Before 2015, however, Albertans weren’t sure if that was the case when it came to our government. Regardless of where we sat on the political spectrum, we all felt the aftershocks of 2015’s government shakeup.

In the most recent provincial election, Albertans embraced change again. Long before the election was called, clear lines were drawn. This would be an election pitting economic values against social values. This stark line polarizes a community that logically knows both must coexist to be sustainable. Regardless of the rhetoric, the change in government indicates a definitive response to the previous four years; Albertans value our ability to do business.

There were rumblings after 2015 as businesses struggled to “play” because they didn’t know the rules – especially in Calgary. The economic climate paired with an unclear rule book left businesses in limbo, or worse. This latest change in government has stirred up renewed optimism for Calgary businesses, and for good reason. This new government’s commitment to strengthening business practices, including labour laws and living wage review, were made clear during the election. We now know the commitment also extends to cutting red tape, making the rules clear, and ensuring Alberta is open for business.

Packing some weight behind that business-focused promise is a cabinet that balances experience and acumen, with the bonus of a new cabinet position dedicated to streamlining business processes and bureaucracy. Red tape is a favourite buzzword of politicians, but the new cabinet position and the confidence that this new government is serious about this file gives the business community hope.

Thinking about what this commitment can mean from a Calgary perspective, there’s a big “but” at play. “But” will it make a difference for all business? Without buy-in and complementary action from municipalities, reducing red tape at the provincial level strongly favours big business. For small and medium-sized businesses, municipal government is on the front lines of interaction, and these businesses cannot be left behind. Calgary and entrepreneurship are synonymous. Regardless of the economy, that won’t change.

The City of Calgary is not a beacon of light when it comes to red-tape reduction. In a time of fewer shovels in the ground, there is a collective understanding that getting things built takes longer and longer today. And that’s only one example of the hurdles we face in the business community, to say nothing of the massive increases in property taxes for commercial space. It is critical for our municipal leaders to match the same level of commitment to growing our economy as our new provincial government.

It bears repeating: Albertans value our ability to do business. We can agree that business and the economy factor into everyone’s quality of life. As business leaders, as Calgarians, we must pull together as a city, working in good faith with all levels of government. As we saw in some of the election coverage, the national media like to portray Calgary incorrectly as a redneck city. Business, arts, social and civic leaders must counter that perception collectively, restoring Calgary’s position as a magnet for entrepreneurs, dreamers and thinkers from across the country and beyond.

We have a clear mandate to level the playing field, make the rules clear, execute the gameplay. Time to strengthen Alberta businesses.

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