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Alberta Economic Outlook Isn't as Bleak as It Was Pictured in Story

November 30, 1986

A Nov. 10 article in the Business section titled, "Canada Reeling from Collapse in Price of Oil" simply must be clarified.

First, some background. The province of Alberta, with a population of 2.4 million people, produces 85% of Canada's oil and gas. The determination and foresight of Alberta's energy industry have not only made Canada self-sufficient in energy but a net exporter of both oil and gas to the United States. Due to the world price drop in oil prices, Alberta is undergoing a major realignment today. But The Times presented as bleak a picture as possible. Consider the following:

- Even though your reporter met for a considerable length of time with the Provincial Minister of Energy, he failed to quote him even once in the article, yet did quote extensively the opposition New Democratic Party spokesman.

- So-called industry spokesmen quoted were what could be categorized as "paid lobbyists" as opposed to senior officials from major oil companies headquartered in Calgary, such as Shell Oil.

- Although the present budget deficit is projected at $2.4 billion, no mention was made of a $15-billion Heritage Savings Trust Fund, which was established during the years of high energy prices to shield Albertans from circumstances such as those being experienced today.

To put the current situation into perspective, the following should also be noted:

- As many Albertans are employed full-time today as there were one year ago despite a 50% reduction in the wellhead price of oil.

- Alberta continues to have the highest retail sales per capita of any province in Canada.

- The value and volume of shares traded on the Alberta Stock Exchange have already surpassed last year's levels.

The Times article also reads: "Many fear foreign takeover of firms." Alberta and Canada welcome foreign investment, and the province continues to be a good place to invest. Alberta has no provincial sales or gasoline taxes, the lowest personal income tax rate in Canada, the lowest corporate tax rate in Canada, forgiveness of provincial corporate tax for qualifying small manufacturing business.

There is little question that current oil prices have subjected many Albertans to hardships. There is also little question that the more difficult times have made Albertans better and more efficient managers. The bottom line, however, is there is more to Alberta, Canada, than oil and gas, something that The Times either failed to discover or simply chose not to write about.

RON LIEPERT

Director

Western U.S. Operations

Government of Alberta

Editor's note: A reference to the Heritage fund in Times staff writer Kenneth Freed's story was omitted during editing, but it noted that money in the fund is "largely committed or must be saved to finance future programs ."

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