The province has unveiled a new advisory council on economic recovery for Alberta, a high-powered group that includes former prime minister Stephen Harper.
The 12-member panel, led by economist Jack Mintz, will be advising Premier Jason Kenney on issues surrounding the province’s economic recovery as it grapples with a severe downturn caused by the COVID-19 outbreak and slumping energy prices.
Aside from the former prime minister, the group will also include business leaders such as WestJet co-founder Clive Beddoe, ATCO chief executive Nancy Southern and Mac Van Wielingen, founder of ARC Financial.
Other panel members include Brent Blezberg, the founder of TorQuest Partners, Chris Fowler, CEO of Canadian Western Bank, Kevin Uebelein, CEO of Alberta Investment Management Corp., and Bob Blakely of Canada’s Building Trades Union.
Zainul Mawji, president of Telus Home Solutions, Peter Kiss, president and chief executive officer of Morgan Construction and Environmental, and Bob Dhillon, CEO of Mainstreet Equity, are also on the group.
Earlier this week, Kenney said Alberta was facing a level of adversity it hadn’t seen since the 1930s, and the panel will provide advice to the government as it faces a steep economic downturn.
“At the very minimum we will provide a sounding board to the Alberta government and specifically to the premier and the minister of finance so they can come to us with their different ideas,” said Van Wielingen.
“In Alberta, we can readily offer perspectives real time as to what we’re seeing and what’s happening …
“It’s very important that the council is looked at as offering input and advice for all Albertans and the business sector across the entire economy of Alberta.”
The group hadan initial meeting earlier this week. It comes as oil prices have plunged below US$30 a barrel.
Some sectors of the economy including tourism, air travel and restaurants have sideswiped by the fallout of the coronavirus, leading to layoffs and businesses being temporarily shut down.
“The scale of this shock is something we have ever seen before,” said University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe, noting the group can tackle broader goals about the future of the province’s economy.
“Panels like this are better placed to think about longer-term goals for the province.”