Western Canada has a plentiful resource base, a highly educated population, a diverse work force, and a pro-business culture - not to mention its wondrous natural beauty. The governments of the four western Canadian provinces - Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan - are working individuallyas well as collectively to build upon these resources in order to further develop and diversify their economies. Some of these developments are highlighted below:
One of North America's leading financial institutions, TD Financial Group, has affectionately dubbed Alberta the "western tiger." The province is recognized internationally for its globally competitive tax environment, efficient and modern infrastructure, highly skilled work force, and aggressive investment attitude.
"Albertans have seized the opportunity to make better lives for themselves and their families since the early days of this land," explains Clint Dunford, minister of economic development. "Alberta's economy is strong today and promises so much for the future, in large part because of our history of rising to a challenge."
Global Insight, a national economic think tank, recently released a study finding Albertans' living standards are the highest in Canada - about 19 percent higher than the Canadian average. This explains why more people move to Alberta than to any other province in Canada, and why they stay in Alberta to make their careers, raise their families, and often to start their own businesses. And, adding to the allure of the fourth-largest province in Canada are Alberta's landscapes, which include mountain ranges, large expanses of boreal forest, and phenomenal recreational venues.
A Safe and Abundant Energy Supply
In 2005, Alberta is celebrating its first hundred years as a province. This centennial is a time to build on successes, establish new areas for future growth, and, of course, to remember significant points in the province's history.
The discovery of oil was pivotal in Alberta's history. Until 1947, Alberta was primarily an agriculturally based economy. For the first half of the twentieth century, the rich soil provided for the population in a mostly regional marketplace. With the landmark discovery of oil in a small community just outside Alberta's capital city of Edmonton, the region turned into a hub of oil and gas activity. In the years that would follow, the town and eventually the province would grow and prosper because people seized the opportunities that the discovery of energy created.
Moreover, Alberta's vast supply of energy creates a wonderful chance for other countries including the United States, India, and China to meet their own domestic energy needs. There is unlimited potential for those interested in reaping the rewards of such riches, says Dunford. "Alberta has the means, expertise, and dedication required to help solve other countries' domestic energy concerns," he adds.
"We are seeing record amounts of investment into the energy industry from around the world," explains Dunford. This is no surprise, given that Alberta has the world's second-largest proven oil reserves. The province's oil sands are located in northeastern Alberta. These precious oil sands contain an estimated 1.7 to 2.5 trillion barrels of oil trapped in a complex mixture of sand, water, and clay.
In fact, after Saudi Arabia, Canada ranks second-largest in terms of global proven crude oil reserves - about 15 percent of world reserves - and the majority of these proven reserves are found in Alberta's oil sands - over 174 billion barrels. Most of these reserves have yet to be tapped.
Alberta's vast supply of energy resources goes beyond the oil sands. Alberta also accounts for about 80 percent of the natural gas produced in Canada and approximately one half of the coal mined nationally each year.
Alberta's extensive energy infrastructure is made up of more than 300,000 kilometers of pipeline. It is long enough to circle the earth more than eight times. This network took about 60 years to build.
Trade and Investment Opportunities
Value-added industries in Alberta have been established and fostered by the province's immense energy sector and growing demand from countries around the world. Manufacturing and new technologies - such as wireless communications, global positioning systems, software, and new media - have all been built because of the critical mass of expertise that supports Alberta's large energy sector.
Additionally, petroleum from Alberta's energy sector yields many lucrative, value-added products. There are, in fact, about 3,000 products made from crude oil including gasoline, ink, crayons, bubble gum, dishwashing liquids, deodorant, eyeglasses, records, tires, ammonia, and heart valves.
An Ideal Location and High Investment Rates
No matter what goods or services a particular company provides, proximity to trade routes is essential to secure maximum profit. Alberta is ideally located for businesses that need open access to the lucrative North American free-trade market. The Edmonton-Calgary corridor (Alberta's two largest cities) has proven to be particularly valuable for both domestic and foreign investors.
Alberta is an outstanding investment destination that consistently records the highest per capita investment rates in Canada, largely driven by massive investment in the oil sands. Global investment experts predict energy sector investment will remain strong in the coming years. However, investment in information and communications technology, utilities, tourism, and business services is also expected to grow.
Increased investment in a wide range of value-added industries is expected to continue to broaden the provincial economy and keep it strong in the future. Globally, Alberta exports are strong, particularly in gas and gas liquids, crude petroleum, and petrochemicals. These goods are Alberta's three largest exports, accounting for more than two thirds of the province's export trade.
Today, the province's economy is increasingly global, focused on adding value to the goods and services it exports. Alberta is taking its place on the global economic stage.
British Columbia's $156 Billion Economy "Firing On All Cylinders"
This could well prove to be a glorious decade for British Columbia," says RBC Financial Group's Chief Economist Craig Wright. All indicators point to a continuing robust economic performance:
•The province's real gross domestic product grew by 3.3 percent in 2004, outpacing growth in the G-7 countries, and in Canada as a whole, for the third consecutive year;
•The capital cost of major projects currently under construction is estimated at $25 billion, with a further $40 billion worth of investment proposed;
• New business incorporations reached almost 28,000 in 2004, a 10 percent increase over 2003;
• International exports rose by 11 percent in 2004 to $31.6 billion. Exports to the Asia-Pacific region jumped by 17 percent to more than $8 billion;
• Employment grew by 2.3 percent in 2004 to 2.06 million, and the labor force continues to grow as result of increasing participation rates and inflows of workers from rest of Canada and the world - almost 40,000 people per year are moving to British Columbia.
A Resourceful Economy
British Columbia's major resource industries - forestry, mining, and oil and gas - are profitable and growing. Wood products companies are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the province, creating the world's largest and most productive manufacturing facilities, such as Canfor's "super sawmill" in Houston, B.C. Mineral exploration is surging, and three new mines opened in 2004 with more on the way. Natural gas and oil exploration and production are continuing at record levels.
British Columbia's tourism industry, currently serving more than 22 million visitors a year, is heading to new peaks. A $565 million expansion is under way to triple the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre by 2008. Fifty resort development projects, representing billions of dollars in new investment, are under way or planned throughout the province.
British Columbia is one of North America's leading gateways to the Asia-Pacific region, and experts are saying that China could soon become the province's biggest overseas market. Chinese visitors to British Columbia are predicted to increase from about 80,000 per year to 300,000 annually within a few years.
British Columbia is also a low-risk, competitive location for serving this burgeoning market. Soprema Inc., a manufacturer of roofing materials, recently transferred production from France to its British Columbia operation to meet unprecedented demand in China. Nisshin Flour Milling of Japan recently celebrated the official opening of its $25 million flour mill in British Columbia and has announced plans to build a third production facility in the province.
British Columbia is also gaining international recognition for its emerging technology and creative clusters, such as electronic games and computer animation, wireless technologies, software development, and alternative energy. Electronic Arts, Vivendi, Buena Vista Games (Walt Disney), Nokia, IBM, Business Objects, Honeywell, Alcatel, Intel, and Ballard have product development centers in the province; and local biotechnology companies are partnering with top industry players such as Novartis Ophthalmics, Aventis Pharma, Roche, and Boston Scientific.
Competitive Business Climate
British Columbia's record of success is underpinned by a competitive business climate, offering one of the lowest overall business tax burdens in North America, as well as a business-friendly regulatory environment - 37 percent of all provincial regulations have been eliminated since 2001. A recent survey of North American venture capitalists ranked British Columbia number four as a place to do business.
Substantial public investment in infrastructure and services are supporting expansion of British Columbia's regional economies. The 2005-06 provincial budget has committed $100 million in additional funding for health research, $6 billion over three years for advanced education and training, and $3 billion for transportation.
Investment in primary and secondary education ensures that students in British Columbia receive a first-rate public education in preparation for advanced training or employment. In math, science, reading, and problem-solving tests administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, British Columbia high school students rank slightly ahead of their Japanese peers, and well ahead of students in the United States.
In 2010 British Columbia will be in the world spotlight as host of Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Hosting the games is expected to generate $10 billion in economic activity and offers an unparalleled opportunity for British Columbia-based companies and their partners to gain international exposure.
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