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    Categories: Federal Election

How can we diversify the economy and protect jobs?

The economy is one of the top issues during this federal election campaign, and one that’s particularly salient for the rural communities surrounding St. Albert.

Many who rely on work in the energy sector, including the many within Sturgeon County who make their living in this industry, may understandably be worried about the implications of the recent drop in oil and gas prices.

While reports vary depending who you ask, Canada is either in or is very near a recession during this current federal election campaign. Conflicting reports from various think-tanks and financial institutions about the nature of the economic recovery – or lack thereof – serve to highlight the uncertainty of the current situation.

Many in this community are understandably concerned about the implications of oil prices hovering below $50 per barrel, especially as week after week major players in the energy economy announce swaths of layoffs – to the tune of more than 35,000 and counting.

While the current provincial government had campaigned last spring on the importance of diversifying the province’s economy to help mitigate the impact of fluctuations within the energy industry, economic diversification and job security have become important federal election topics as well, both in this region and across the country.

With this in mind, the Gazette asked the five confirmed candidates in the Sturgeon River-Parkland riding to answer the following question in 150 words or less.

Question: Thousands of Albertans, including many within Sturgeon County, have lost their jobs and government revenue has been significantly reduced as a result of the drop in oil prices. How can Canada diversify its economy and job market to become less reliant on the oil-and-gas roller coaster?

Rona Ambrose – Conservative Party of Canada

We know Canadians are worried about this market turmoil impacting their savings and retirement. That’s why we’re ready with a plan to keep Canada strong.

With our long-term plan of low taxes, a balanced budget, and growth, Canada is able to protect jobs.

Our responsible fiscal management means having a surplus when times are tough for programs that support or retrain those who are laid off in the energy sector.

The NDP and Liberals are proposing billions in new spending and higher taxes that will wreck our economy today and leave us exposed to these types of global economic storms in the future.

1.8 million jobs – 10 per cent of Canadian jobs – depend on resources.

Major resource projects planned over the next 10 years are estimated to represent $700 billion in investments. The Conservative Party is the only party that will stand up for the energy sector.

Ernest Chauvet – Christian Heritage Party

Economic diversification, with the proper infrastructure in place, can be rooted in the existing assets of an area and include, but should not be limited to, petroleum.

We need to increase the oil refining in Canada in an environmentally conscious manner and diversify in its by-products: plastics, rubber, cosmetics, and asphalt.

Diversification requires a positive business climate and a supporting infrastructure that includes taxes, transportation, and availability of materials required. We have most of the raw materials. Taxes have to encourage investments and we have to improve, upgrade and add to our rail and means of transportation.

Pipelines, yes, but also adding another rail line to the west coast to benefit both our petroleum and our grain industries. It is time to look at a high-speed rail connecting Edmonton to Calgary and expanding Edmonton’s LRT north and west. Let’s diversify from what we have and encourage jobs in Sturgeon River-Parkland.

Guy Desforges – New Democrat Party

For decades the oil and gas industry has been a cornerstone of the economy and we are grateful for the status as an energy juggernaut it has provided for us. However, we need to insulate ourselves from volatile market forces that are outside of our control.

With wise stewardship and with co-operation from the provincial governments and municipalities we can attract new, innovative, and accessible businesses by providing tax incentives to small and medium-sized businesses. This would stimulate the economy by providing employment in many different industries to Canadians and Albertans of all stripes.

Furthermore, I think it is critical for our economy to expand our energy portfolio to include more environmentally friendly means of production, while maintaining support for our current energy sector.

I represent people who work in the energy sector. I will work towards creating stable development in that sector because people’s jobs depend on it.

Travis Dueck – Liberal Party of Canada

Diversifying Canada’s economy is absolutely crucial for ensuring the future prosperity and security of Canadians, and the way that we can best diversify Canada’s economy is by investing in Canada’s greatest resource — Canadians.

A new Liberal government has committed to making it easier for Canadians looking to increase their job skills by investing an additional $750 million annually into training programs delivered in partnership with provinces and territories; we will invest $1.3 billion over the next three years and create 40,000 jobs per year for young Canadians giving them a stronger start in life.

Brendon Greene – Green Party of Canada

Diversification of the economy is a key election platform for the Green Party.

We will mobilize an army of trade workers to retro fit every building in Canada through a federally funded program to create thousands of jobs for electricians, carpenters and other trades workers while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent at the same time.

We intend to create a National Green Venture Capital Fund to heavily subsidize the renewable sector and provide incentives for investors to stimulate growth for solar, geothermal and other green-tech companies.

Our plan for retrofitting buildings and investing in renewables would create jobs in the short term and long term and create sustainable job security for Canadians.

Doug Neuman: