Re-framing our assumptions

On February 25, I attended Calgary’s Economic Summit. Calgary Economic Development(CED) convened the gathering to harness the collective thinking and energy to assist the city in successfully navigating the economic downturn. Building on our Energy, an Economic Strategy for Calgary served as the base and foundation for the discussion. I applaud CED for bringing us together.

This is an important conversation for all Calgarians. The downturn in the economy has created an invisible flood. Ten of thousands of Calgarians are experiencing trauma as they adjust to unemployment and the corresponding loss of income. In many ways the magnitude is no different than the one hundred thousand who were affected by the flood in 2013. Invisibly, many have fallen or are on the brink of sliding into poverty as they are forced to reprioritize their basis needs. VCC is actively engaged in this conversation.

As I have reflected on the summit discussion, I think the underlying assumption is that we need to manage the gap but eventually the price of oil and gas will rebound to their historical high levels. That we have experienced these bust and boom cycles in the past, that we just need to persevere.
I would like to challenge our thinking. Let’s reframe our assumption: suppose that price of oil and gas doesn’t rebound in the foreseeable future. This is not a farfetched notion.OPEC has indicated that they want to drive high cost producers such as Alberta’s oil sands out of business. Can our oil production ever compete with traditional extraction operating costs?

In this thought experiment, we need to develop a new vision for our future that no longer relies on oil and gas. What is our new vision for our future? Could and Calgary and Alberta become a world leader in renewable energy in 10 years? Even the question sounds absurd. And that is the reason we need to consider it.
It is only when we begin to seriously consider the impossible that we may get true innovation and diversification. As we invest time, creative thinking and money to achieve a new vision, it is our hope that we will also evolve a more inclusive community that enjoys greater equity and a reduced level of poverty.

Thank you CED for the summit. It was our introductory conversation as a community. Lets’ go deeper and challenge ourselves and the community to vision more boldly.

-Franco

franco@vibrantcalgary.com

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