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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Stephen Hawking Comes to Canada - Why Not Alberta?

This appointment of Stephen Hawking to Waterloo University Perimeter Institute is a perfect example of what Alberta ought to be doing. We have the resources and facilities to actively attract and engage the best and brightest minds in the world today to come to our universities and research institutes.

We are doing this in medicine and nanotech and some other areas but not nearly enough and definitely not aggressively enough. With the economic down turn there will be a lot of great scientists and researchers who will no longer have access to the kind of funding they need to do their work. They will be looking for new sources and new relationships. Those folks ought to be found and recruited to our province to pursue their work in this tough time.

Alberta’s hydrocarbon economy, no debt, capital investment that is in place and still being pursued, safe communities, and stable government provides us with the best prospects going forward in all of North America – at least for the foreseeable future – but not forever. We can’t presume that our growth and sustainability will be assured by continuing to try to perfect yesterday's hydrocarbon economy.

Carbon is not king anymore. There will be significant efforts to replace it and to neutralize its impacts on the planet. Albertans support those efforts because we are the highest CO2 emitters on the planet on a per capita basis and know something has to change. Alberta has a serious transition and transformation in its future that will be more dramatic and demanding than the advent of the oil sands. Are we ready for that? Are we designing our economy, ecology and society for that destiny? Are we adaptive, engaged and nimble enough to make the changes we need and to show the leadership necessary to make a difference? I think so but it is not a given…it takes an attitude adjustment. That it never easy but it will be necessary.

We now have a slowdown in Alberta, not a recession, and that is good in so many ways. The Alberta slowdown is due to the market responding to untenable high costs, lower oil price, uncertainty and turmoil in financial markets and increasing environmental regulatory requirements.

We needed a slowdown happen so we could catch our breath and to bring some cost control and sanity back into our economy and our society. We have to take advantage of this breather to reflect and rethink about what we are doing, where we are going and how we are going to get there as a province.

We still have a secure energy based economy that will serve us well for a good while longer….but not forever. So I urge the Alberta government to not only actively pursue people to come to our province to help meet the skills shortages in so many sectors of the economy. I also urge them to add a focused effort to seek out and recruit the best innovation and science minds in green industries and ecological technologies. We have the right mix of elements to entice them to come and set up shop in our universities and research institutions. We need them to also engage with our private sector corporations who are increasingly focused on profiting from sound corporate social responsibility practices.

There are going to be effective alternatives for fossil fuels in the future. Alberta better be actively creating that new future and not be passively indifferent to change. Otherwise we will be overwhelmed by it when it happens. We ought to be bring the most promising of these people from all over the globe to Alberta.

We need to prepare and position ourselves to be at the leading edge with thought leaders and leading researchers who a re crating that new world orders. We can supporting and sustain their work with our wealth and potential. That is the smartest way for us to go forward to get through these difficult economic times. We have something significant to offer them…funds and facilities through our publicly funded endowment programs.

What do you say Mr. Premier?