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Alberta Enterprise group

Alberta Enterprise group

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Founded in 2007, the Alberta Enterprise Group (AEG) came together with a bold vision – to improve Alberta’s living conditions and business environment, leading to prosperity for all Albertans. Throughout the years, AEG, as a collective and as individual members, has successfully promoted Alberta’s story on the global stage by effectively communicating the advantages of doing business in our province, providing valuable insights to the public and policy-makers on complex issues and driving tangible impact to meet the needs of the community. Members that join AEG gain a competitive edge along with connections and networking with influential decision-makers and stakeholders.

Its operations rely entirely on the support of members and sponsorships. AEG is not government funded. This allows the organization to remain objective, non-partisan and to focus on the activities that are key to its members’ success.

Mandates and Milestones

AEG harnesses the expertise of its members to tackle public policy challenges head-on. Through collaboration with policy experts and extensive member consultation, AEG provides invaluable advice that is heeded by our nation’s leaders. AEG is also at the forefront of spreading the Alberta business story to influential decision-makers and government officials worldwide. Outreach missions to key locations like Washington, Ottawa and Switzerland bring the value of Alberta business to the global stage.

The organization considers its members to be its greatest asset.

Catherine Brownlee, president, says, “When AEG welcomes new members, they instantly become part of the growing community which is comprised of Alberta’s most connected business leaders, owners, operators, professionals and investors. Our robust community is committed to addressing challenging policies as a collective voice and providing systemic value to our members by supporting the larger business environment. Our core philosophy is that driving change requires a vast network of influencers, successful and proven decision-makers and a membership body representative of every major Alberta industry dedicated to the unique requirements for all Albertans.”

Membership Embodies Community Spirit

Membership to the AEG community creates exceptional opportunities and direct access to the vast experiences shared by senior executives, politicians and entrepreneurs who are committed to sharing their unique wealth of knowledge, experiences and expertise to the assembly of members. The relationships within the organization have effectually shifted mindsets of other leaders and policy-makers around the globe, culminating in a brighter frontier for Alberta while casting an important spotlight on how every Canadian province warrants self-determined regard.

The AEG membership community is inclusive and welcoming. AEG spotlights members through podcasts and keynote speaker events in Calgary and Edmonton. Through these presentations, members share their unique challenges, their mandates and the successes of their industry or business with other members and the public, illustrating both the need and the effect of the community influence. These events have become extremely popular with members while providing opportunities to future investors, new members, politicians and citizens to witness and learn how they can initiate, participate in, and accelerate change. During these gatherings, which are frequently attended by provincial legislators, members converge to share ideas, establish timelines and increase opportunities to shift and shape initiatives in the areas of education, health, entrepreneurship and the province’s energy resources.

Showcasing Alberta to the World

The keynote speaker series often spawns subsequent collaborations amongst members and their own extended network. Most recently, Premier Danielle Smith and several of her cabinet ministers presented from the AEG speakers’ podiums and heard members’ viewpoints on the state of Alberta’s enterprises and economy.

AEG’s trade missions stand out as one of the organization’s most notable achievements, which have occurred in numerous places including Texas, Washington, Nevada, Montreal, Switzerland and Quebec City. Positive and measurable results have impacted all AEG members who have participated in these events.

AEG Takes on Bill C-69, Bill
C-235 and the ISSB Sustainability Financial Disclosures

AEG is committed to identifying government legislation, regulation and policy areas that could have an impact on Alberta’s businesses, and advocate for change on behalf of members. Therefore, AEG has been very vocal and influential with regards to a multitude of federal bills and initiatives, most recently Bills C-69, C-235 and ISSB Sustainability Financial Disclosures, as well as C-11, C-18 and C-234.

Of particular concern are measures that increase the burden and costs of doing business, such as Bill C-69, Bill C-235 and the proposed Sustainability and Climate-related Financial Disclosure Standards of the Canadian Sustainability Standards Board (CSSB).

In October 2022, Brownlee addressed a parliamentary committee with a speech that laid out the specific concerns Alberta’s energy industry has with Bill C-235. Her speech highlighted areas where Alberta would be stifled by a blanket policy on carbon emissions and federal oversight, and identified some of the methods that the province and the oil and gas industry have already invested in. Her speech helped to catalyze Conservative opposition to the bill and delay its passage.

The Impact Assessment Act (“IAA”) is federal legislation that purports to give the federal government control over the assessment and approval of many large-scale resource and development projects that are already subject to comprehensive provincial regulation.

AEG has intervened in court proceedings involving a constitutional challenge to the IAA in conjunction with Bill C-69.

In AEG’s view, the IAA creates a serious risk of blurred jurisdictional lines, regulatory overlap and inefficiencies and unnecessary litigation and delay in relation to the assessment and approval of large-scale projects that are of profound importance to Alberta and Albertans. Therefore, AEG intervened in these proceedings to emphasize the great importance of maintaining a clear division of constitutional jurisdiction as it relates to the regulation of such projects. This will ensure that details and requirements of the projects can be reviewed and assessed as expeditiously and efficiently as possible.

In 2022, the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the federal IAA was unconstitutional, calling the legislation “a breathtaking pre-emption of provincial legislative authority.” The Alberta Court of Appeal’s decision was appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, where AEG again sought (and was granted) leave to intervene. AEG’s counsel presented oral arguments before the Supreme Court of Canada on March 21 and 22, 2023.

AEG was also prompted to contest Ottawa’s Bill C-235 – “An Act Respecting the Building of a Green Economy in the Prairies.” This bill sought a new layer of federal oversight and regulation over any federal programs implemented in the Prairies related to Ottawa’s net-zero requirements. Other provinces would not face the same level of federal intervention.

As a collective organization, AEG formally expressed its concerns regarding the centralization of economic decision-making from the Prairie provinces to Ottawa. In addition, this proposed bill was steeped in layers of micromanagement that would entail excessive reporting accompanied by burdensome costs. AEG stepped up to argue on behalf of its members that the province and the oil and gas industry already had well-established policies, programs and active solutions in place to reduce emissions and was better suited to determine what works best within provincial borders. Notably, Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois voted against the bill, but Liberals, NDP and the Green Party supported it.

The third issue identified by AEG leadership was the forthcoming changes to financial disclosure standards. The International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) released its Sustainability and Climate-related Financial Disclosures in June, which are being considered for implementation in January 2024 by the Canadian Sustainability Standards Board (CSSB). This federally advocated mandate will likely have a profound effect on how members operate and do business. These new standards will require comprehensive Scope 3 emissions accounting, climate-risk scenario analysis and third-party verification of all reported data, along with a host of other burdensome and expensive requirements.

AEG met with Alberta’s Premier Smith to explicitly identify how the proposed standards would negatively affect Alberta’s businesses, from potential risks to accessing capital to the incredible magnitude of costs, time and manpower. A submission was also made to the newly formed Canadian Sustainability Standards Board and the Alberta Securities Commission expressing concern about the standards for AEG members and requesting consultations before the standards are implemented.

The unwavering commitment to its members and to Alberta’s business prosperity ensures that the organization will always be ready, willing and able to take on policies, legislation, acts and changes that are not conducive to the province’s growth and potential.

Reflections on AEG’s Evolution

Currently, the board members of AEG are Herve Faucher, Steven Kim, Donna Neumann, Peter Kiss, Branko Culo, Bruno Müller, Terry O’Flynn, Shane Wenzel and Tim Shipton.

AEG’s founders and board members reflect on AEG’s evolution and share their thoughts:

Cal Nichols,

Co-Founder, Board Member

Why did you co-launch Alberta Enterprise Group?

With increased collaborative thinking, there is much more value in doing it together rather than doing things on one’s own. We sought to bring like-minded businesspeople together to accomplish greater results. We are risk takers at heart and found that several people who come together to deal with a problem or look for solutions as a whole get better results than what some of the smartest people in the room might do single-handedly.

Aside from that, our goal was to promote Alberta and what the province has to offer the rest of the world, nationally and globally. We have so much to offer to all sectors. We sought the best ways to reach out and sell ourselves with what we have to offer, with the potential for encouraging investment and jobs and a better quality of life for Albertans.

What were your greatest successes?

We got out in front of a lot of people at different times, such as politicians and leaders, through our events and trade missions. That resulted in a fair bit of media interaction, which gave us positive exposure. We stepped it up with some additional ideas and demonstrated something to sell.

What do you view as opportunities for the future of AEG?

Everyone is connected to the energy business one way or another. We have lots of energy and we are good at it. When energy has a down day, it shows everywhere. The dollar goes down and it affects everything.

Agriculture is big and equally important. I feel that it is very disappointing that we have a federal government that is not supportive. The cost of electricity has gone up, inflation has skyrocketed and how much infrastructure is needed to be developed is still unknown.

Tourism is also very important and covers a wide range of service suppliers. We need to dig deeper and try harder to bring the most rational thinking forward into the future. What we have, the whole world wants.

Tim Shipton,
Co-Founder, Board Member

What was your motivation/inspiration for founding AEG?

Our group first came together during the 2005 leadership race to replace Ralph Klein. There was a lot of talk after Ralph’s successful time as premier about what was next for Alberta. The main focus was to ensure the business community was well represented in the leadership race – that the focus, rightly, should be on how we continue to grow the economy, how we create the conditions for entrepreneurs and wealth creators to be successful, thereby strengthening not only our economy but our communities as well. Together, we attracted a wide cross section of businesspeople from across Alberta to support a candidate as the party leader. Our candidate lost the leadership race, but more importantly, coming out of it we had engaged a lot of businesspeople and got them active in helping shape the direction of the province.

The idea was simple – business is a force of good in our province. We wanted to channel the collective experience, ingenuity and passion of our members to help shape the future of the province and be a voice across Canada and the world to say, “Alberta is open for business and you’re welcome to join us.”

You must remember, business owners are often consumed by the challenges in front of them – growing the business, paying the bills, keeping people employed – and that can eat up a lot of time and energy. We found that by bringing people together, we not only created a powerful movement, we also created a support network for business owners and operators to come together, discuss their challenges and opportunities, and work together with a lot of camaraderie toward the best interest of the province.

We started with members from all corners of Alberta, with our two original members being Cal Nichols from Edmonton and Murray Edwards from Calgary. We brought together people from diverse sectors, diverse sizes of business – family-owned small business, medium-sized up-and-comers and some larger big businesses as well.

Has the success exceeded your early vision? Have there been surprises along the way?

Businesspeople in Alberta are always willing to step up when asked to help, always willing to do things to help their communities and the province. So, the success of the organization has always been built on the members. The early vision was about bringing people together and working toward a common goal, about not being afraid to talk about how proud we are of the province and the many great industries and people that have built our economy.

There have been many surprises along the way. Maybe the biggest is the number of doors that have been opened by working together. We’ve met a multitude of decision-makers and have been to a lot of amazing places, such as the White House and the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. We met with prime ministers and premiers. We have met with European investors, toured world-class oilsands operations, met with business leaders across Canada and beyond – and everywhere people have been interested in the Alberta story.

What have been the biggest successes of this organization to date, in your opinion?

The biggest success has been the businesses we’ve brought together and the passion shown by our members in telling their story – their Alberta business story.

What have been the most significant challenges?

Early on, it was how best to tell the Alberta energy story. There were very well-funded organizations trying to discredit Alberta’s place in the global energy market. We saw it in 2007 in Washington, D.C. with organized protests. Our message was simple – Alberta is a well-regulated, democratic jurisdiction with world-class operators. The world needs Alberta energy. Alberta is a place you want to get your energy from; it’s a reliable jurisdiction committed to safe and steady supply and improving environmental performance.

In what areas do you see the greatest opportunity for growth in Alberta’s enterprise sector?

Alberta business has always had free market principles at its core, while also being fiercely proud and committed community builders. We need the next generation of businesses to think big about how we can grow our communities, compete on the world stage and continue to lead economic growth in our country. At the core of that are simple ideas – a competitive tax and regulatory framework for business, government getting out of the way of business, the best educated workforce in the country and entrepreneurs who are willing to think big.

How important is it to create networks and collaborative partnerships amongst business owners in Alberta?

It’s everything. Business owners are problem solvers by nature, so why not get them focused on the big ideas for Alberta?

Are there any new initiatives that you are particularly excited about in this upcoming year?

A key mandate of AEG has been telling the Alberta story on the national and world stage. It’s the perfect time for us to get out there and confidently say we’re open for business!

Steven Kim,
Board Member

What was your motivation for joining AEG?

Being a lifelong Albertan, becoming a member of AEG gave me an opportunity as a professional and as a member of the business community to make a difference and give back, as well as to allow an opportunity to shape Alberta. Being around very successful entrepreneurs, learning from them and being part of that environment was certainly of interest to me, too.

Has the success exceeded your expectations?

Definitely. The individuals who I have had frank discussions with are some of Alberta’s most successful business leaders. It is remarkable, the company I am amongst when I am doing the work at Alberta Enterprise Group.

What have been the biggest successes of this organization to date?

Some of the trade mission trips, where we bring together business leaders from all walks of life, is a place where many synergies develop. Also, the activities that break down barriers to bring together business leaders and political leaders, working on tackling problems in a non-partisan way – these have been some of our greatest successes.

In what areas do you see the greatest opportunity for growth in Alberta’s enterprise sector?

I think that the old growth area of energy will continue to be a long-term opportunity. The world will still need energy for quite some time and Alberta will have an important role in all of that. At the same time, there is a ‘can-do attitude’ with entrepreneurial roots to help solve problems and with that will come a great opportunity for energy transformation.

How important is it to create networks and collaborative partnerships amongst business owners in Alberta?

Incredibly important. When we have business leaders working together to reach common goals, it favours Alberta to make us even better in the future.

Terry O’Flynn,
Past Chair of the Board

What was your motivation for joining AEG?

We had put together a group of business folks and the initial discussions were that we wanted to have a knowledge-based approach to, “What is Alberta?” As time went on, we cultivated these thoughts and out of it came the Alberta Enterprise Group. We were able to promote Alberta businesses globally. The feedback that resulted from our trade missions was unbelievable. When we went to Ottawa, we met with all the political and business leaders. It was the excitement of the potential of the right people with the right approach – good people representing the right reasons to live, work and play the Alberta way.

Has the success of AEG exceeded expectations?

Yes, it has. Yet, back in the early days, I’d never have envisioned the organization could still maintain its original vision, having survived numerous recessions, changes in government and a pandemic. I believe this is a testament to the resilience of Alberta people and businesses.

What have been the biggest successes of this organization to date?

Without a doubt, it has been our ability to take Alberta outside of our boundaries. Our trade missions have given us the opportunity to offer Albertan businesspeople, in their own towns and cities, a chance to meet other Albertans. We advocate for Alberta and give people the real story of the province. When we show up with 100-plus people and all we want to talk about is what Alberta is all about, it is always successful. We are always met with, “This is so cool to learn about Alberta.” When we went to Montreal and Quebec City, businesspeople could not believe it. “You guys are just like us.”

In what areas do you see the greatest opportunity for growth in Alberta’s enterprise sector?

Albertans are naturally intuitive and competitive, with a thirst for knowledge; this competitiveness motivates people to do good things. There have been sectors that have emerged, such as AI since our inception, and Alberta is now a leader in AI. This is a result of the ‘Alberta way.’

How important is it to create networks and collaborative partnerships amongst business owners in Alberta?

It is paramount. To be able to share best practices with humility is so important. Plus, it’s fun! Whether it’s around a campfire or a boardroom table, it’s fun!

Are there any new initiatives that you are particularly excited about in this upcoming year?

I think the single biggest initiative is that Alberta and society recovers and finds its energy again, that it presents great opportunities for businesspeople and Albertans to reconnect. I really believe that once they get reconnected, they will all realize what they have been missing out on and we will all be better for it.

Gratitude

Founders Nichols and Shipton conclude on behalf of AEG’s board members and staff, “We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all the people who have contributed along the way. It has been a group effort since day one: members, board members, staff, volunteers, partners, friends of the organization. Every one of you contributed your time and resources to the success of AEG. For this, we thank you all.”

AEG’s Future

Since 2007, AEG has pushed Alberta forward, showing the nation – and the world – why investing in Alberta is a smart business move. The world has changed many times over in the 16 years AEG has been in motion, but the agile organization never misses a beat. The future of AEG sees even more in-depth engagement that facilitates ongoing, positive results.

Over the next two years, AEG’s focus is on five key pillars: greater transparency, food security, education, newcomer success, and law and order.

AEG will also focus on the results of its recent member survey, where it was determined that while members understand the need for collective advocacy for business in Alberta, some members struggle to find the time to participate in live gatherings due to the time constraints caused by running a business. The member survey also determined that members found great value with AEG, feeling empowered with shared insights and outcomes that could not be achieved without the support of the network.

For Herve Faucher, AEG board chair, the future of the organization will be just as impactful as its past.

“I joined 12 years ago; the main reason at that time was to join the trade mission to Washington, D.C. I have seen many benefits and networking ever since. For me, there has been no looking back,” shares Faucher.

He was named board chair in 2022.

“I am still,” he adds, “all about the networking and mentorship. That is elemental to all of what AEG provides its members. AEG has grown in involvement and we are well known for what we bring to Alberta businesses of every size, more so today than we were 10 – 15 years ago. The great benefits that AEG provides to our members centre around mentorship, networking and opening doors. For growing businesses, mentorship is key. For all sizes – startup to long-term businesses – they get exposed to different businesses and in some instances, it becomes a game-changer.”

He concludes, “What many people don’t yet understand is the power that AEG has in our functions, meetings and trade missions.”

Membership

Those interested in joining AEG will benefit from networking, services and advocacy that not only takes their business to the next level, but also helps showcase Alberta’s positive business landscape to the world. The following members are happy to share their experiences in hopes of attracting new members to the group:

“AEG membership has put me personally in touch with key businesspeople in Alberta and in particular, has kept me engaged in the political scene of the province and country.” – President of a member company

“I get the chance to do something that will make a difference for Albertans now and in the future that would be difficult to achieve as an individual.” – Rob Iwaschuk, principal, Avison Young

“It is with utmost respect and pleasure to submit this note in support of the Alberta Enterprise Group. While I had not been as active in the first year of membership as I had wanted, I have since come to realize the breadth and depth of the benefits associated with participation in this organization over the last six months.” – Stephen M. Gallivan, president, CSC Valves Canada Inc.

“AEG membership has helped me to connect with top-tier decision-makers in Alberta business. With that, I’ve gained valuable insight and local market intelligence through Alberta’s business leaders. I have become a member of AEG for business, but also because I’ve been a lifelong member of the Alberta community. AEG has given me a way to contribute to shaping Alberta’s bright future.” – Steven Kim, investment advisor, RBC Wealth Management

“I’ve been a member from the early days of the Alberta Enterprise Group. I have travelled on missions, attended meetings and work on projects and platforms. What I always tell people is ‘get involved.’ It has turned out to be a great group of connections with great people doing great things. One of the best groups I’ve ever been a part of.” – Brendan Connolly, owner, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse/Alliance Building Maintenance

You can have a hand in shaping the future of Alberta. Learn more about joining, supporting or deepening existing member engagement with AEG by visiting albertaenterprisegroup.com.

PO Box 22017 RPO Bankers Hall 
Calgary, AB  T2P 4J1

Catherine Brownlee: (403) 861-2001
Catherine@albertaenterprisegroup.com

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