MLA Mark Smith

MLA Mark Smith

MLA Mark Smith: Things to celebrate from 2021

While 2021 has been a challenging year for many Albertans, there is a lot worth celebrating from this past year.

Alberta is leading Canada’s economic comeback. We replaced approximately 340,000 jobs that were lost due to the pandemic, and we added approximately 105,000 new jobs that will help Albertans pay their bills and mortgages. At 64 per cent, Alberta now has the highest employment rate in the nation.

2021 saw the return of high oil prices. Our province is now producing more oil than ever before in our history. According to a recent forecast from the Canadian Association of Energy Contractors, Alberta will see over 6,000 new wells drilled in 2022 – a 26 per cent increase from 2021.

In 2021, we continued our focus on diversification, with burgeoning industries like technology having banner years in our province. Alberta is now home to more than 3,000 technology companies, a 233 per cent increase since 2012. 2021 also saw Amazon Web Services recently announce that it’s building a data hub in Calgary. This $4.3 billion investment will create 1,000 new jobs and marks the largest technology sector investment in Alberta history.

Our film and television industry also had a record year in our province, with more than 50 major productions underway, supporting over 9,000 jobs. These projects include HBO’s The Last of Us, the largest production in Canadian history. With Alberta being featured in movies like Ghostbusters: Afterlife, it’s easy to understand why our province is fast becoming the new “Hollywood North.”

2021 saw historic industry investments in renewables. Air Products is investing $1.3 billion to build a net-zero hydrogen energy complex near Edmonton and Dow Chemical is investing up to $10 billion to build the world’s first net-zero carbon emissions ethylene and derivatives complex near Fort Saskatchewan, marking the biggest capital investment in the province in 15 years. This is just a couple of the exciting investments happening in Alberta that will create thousands of new jobs for our workers.

We know the pandemic has been hard on many Albertans, so we made historic investments to support those struggling with addiction. In 2021, we doubled down on addiction treatment announcing that the government will fund more than 8,000 addiction treatment spaces annually, doubling the original commitment made in 2019 and firmly establishing Alberta as a national leader in treating addiction.

In 2021, we fought for and delivered a made-in-Alberta childcare plan that protects Alberta’s mixed-market system. This new plan will make childcare more affordable for families with kids aged zero to kindergarten by reducing fees by an average of half in early 2022 and by 2026, all Alberta families will pay an average of $10 per-day for childcare. And unlike the NDP’s proposed plan, we delivered a plan that includes private operators who make-up most of our system.

In 2021, we were proud to deliver on a promise to give Albertans a say on Canada’s broken equalization system and watched as over 60 per cent of voters voted in favour of reform. We will continue to update you as we proceed to our next steps of fighting for a fair deal for Alberta within our confederation.

2021 also saw what economist Trevor Tombe called “the largest improvement in provincial finances ever recorded.” The deficit for 2021-22 is now forecast at $5.8 billion. This is $12.4 billion lower than the budget estimate and $1.9 billion lower than the first quarter fiscal update. Total revenue in 2021-22, meanwhile, is forecast at $57.9 billion, $14.2 billion higher than the budget estimate and $2.9 billion higher than the first quarter fiscal update. In 2022, we will remain focused on prudent fiscal management to ensure our province’s books are healthy.

Alberta’s Recovery Plan is working, and Albertans are going back to work. In 2022, our United Conservative government will remain relentless in delivering jobs and investment for Alberta families and businesses. Truly, our best days are still to come.

— Mark Smith, MLA for Drayton Valley – Devon