Alberta plans to spend $18 million to set up new Invest Alberta Corporation

If passed, a new bill would allow the provincial government to create a new corporation, which it plans to spend $6M a year to operate.

Bill 33, otherwise known as the Alberta Investment Attraction Act, was introduced today in the provincial legislature by Tanya Fir, the minister for economic development, trade, and tourism.

The proposed bill received first reading this afternoon, but if passed, it will allow the provincial government to establish an arms-length corporation that would focus on attracting private sector investment in Alberta.

The entity, which would be known as Invest Alberta Corporation, has the following 4-part mandate:

  1. Promote investment in Alberta, focusing on high-value or high-impact investment
  2. Identify and pursue investment in Alberta, focusing on high-value or high-impact investment
  3. Deliver and facilitate seamless and responsive investment attraction services that are targeted and customized for investors and that make the investment decision-making process as informed as possible for those investors
  4. Support the Government of Alberta in performing trade promotion and advocacy activities

Is it just me, or do the first two sound the same? Oh, well, on to the rest of the bill.

The proposed bill would authorize the corporation to take out loans, issue loans, provide loan guarantees, purchase shares in other corporations, and enter into joint ventures or partnerships.

The corporation will be governed by a board of directors of up to 7 members, including a chair and vice-chair. It also could appoint a chief executive officer.

At the end of every fiscal year, the corporation must submit a report to the minister regarding their activities and operation over that year.

There was no remuneration for the board mentioned in the bill, but the release from the provincial government stated that the province would be spending $6 million every year over the next 3 years for operations. The bill does state, however, that the board can determine how much to pay the CEO.

Invest Alberta will coordinate the work of Alberta’s current 11 international offices, as well as open new offices, starting with one in Houston, Texas.

Heading up the brand new expansion in Houston will be Dave Rodney, a former PC/UCP MLA, who stepped down in 2017 so Jason Kenney could have a seat in the legislature. According to a media release published by the provincial government, will be making $9,635 every two weeks. That works out to just under $21,000 a month, or a little over $250,000 a year. His 3-year appointment will see the province paying out a total of $751,530.00 to Rodney.

According to an article in the Edmonton Journal last summer, Alberta was already spending collectively $10.3 million a year on the international offices. If the number of offices increases, potentially the budget amount spent on them would as well.

Interestingly, a backgrounder page the province created for Invest Alberta said the following:

The proposed bill would establish the Invest Alberta Corporation to:

• instill investor confidence and drive high-impact investment in key sectors including energy, agriculture and tourism

• pursue investment opportunities in high-growth industries including technology, aviation and aerospace, and financial services

It’s interesting because the bill makes no mention of energy, agriculture, or tourism, nor does it mention technology, aviation and aerospace, or financial service. In fact, it doesn’t even mention “high-growth”. So there’s no legislated guarantee that it would focus on any of those areas.

Finally, one thing I’m curious about is that the government release said Invest Alberta will “create tens of thousands of jobs right now.” What do they mean by “right now”? 7 July 2020?

Because if they created tens of thousands of jobs today and the bill hasn’t even had royal assent, that’d be pretty remarkable.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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