In Ayn Rand’s most famous novel, Atlas Shrugged, thinkers and producers responded to a world of strangling state control by going on strike. As an ever hungrier government crushed enterprise while growing into an unsustainable size, producers vanished to a fictional hidden retreat called “Galt’s Gulch” where genuinely free commerce could be practised.
In today’s world of growing state control, Alberta has the potential to become Canada’s “Galt’s Gulch”.
While Atlas Shrugged is a work of fiction, it illustrated (at sometimes painful length) how capital and talent will migrate to friendlier jurisdictions when the state becomes too oppressive. Communist nations were aware of this, necessitating them to go to such great lengths to keep their own citizens imprisoned behind walls. Despite the iron-curtain surrounding the Soviet Union and the harsh seas surrounding Cuba, people in these slave-nations still braved the risks to escape and create a better future for themselves and their children. The truly ambitious will always find a way.
While the world has only a few iron-curtains left standing, states are still pressuring their citizens and companies to a point where they are starting to seek out better environments in which to do business.
The exodus of people and businesses from California to Texas over the last decade has been nothing short of a landslide. California used to be an economic powerhouse within the United States but now ranks just 48 out of 50 in both business climate and regulatory burden. The result is capital and people fleeing en-masse for greener pastures. It’s estimated that 13,000 companies left California between 2008 and 2016, and that trend is only accelerating
California has passed the point of no return in ‘progressive’ economic policy. The powers that be know that they are driving their most productive out of the state, but they are so ideologically blinded that they can’t can’t turn back.
While California is losing companies such as Toyota and Oracle as well as people from Joe Rogan to Elon Musk, Texas is welcoming them with open arms.
Texas has retained their frontier, enterprising attitude and it is paying off. Rather than trying to force citizens into high-density population models, they let cities grow organically. This has led to a lower cost of living with a higher standard of living when compared to California. Rather than punish their conventional energy producers, Texas has let them flourish which has helped them attract capital and skilled people from around the world. Now while energy prices lag, Texas is still booming due to an inward migration of domestic refugees from anti-business states such as California.
There is no reason that Alberta can’t do this within Canada.
In the 1990s, Ralph Klein coined the term “Alberta Advantage”. That term was not referring to the advantage of having oil and gas. Oil prices in the late 1990s hit an anemic $10 per barrel. The term was referring to Alberta being a good place in which to invest and move to. We had the advantage of low corporate taxes and a friendly-business climate. That advantage paid off as diverse industries set up shop and located their head offices in the province. We were always much more than oil and gas.
With provinces and cities across Canada embracing the self-destructive policies as we enter 2021, Alberta is well-positioned to embrace economic escapees from those places.
With our relatively low cost of living, our pro-business attitude (for the most part) and a free commercial space developed and available in downtown Calgary, we need to be reaching out and bringing in the ambitious and enterprising from across Canada and the world.
We do have some local issues to resolve first of course.
Calgary has suffered under a decade of the bungling mismanagement of Mayor Naheed Nenshi and a city council that has been driving business from the city for years. They are as responsible for the ghost town in Calgary’s core as the world oil prices are. While we can’t change the price of oil, we will have a chance to fire the mayor and his council cronies next year.
We can then disband Calgary Economic Development which squanders the $100 million taken from taxpayers. With a genuinely pro-business city administration managing Calgary, the opportunities will be myriad.
Provincially, we need to lower our corporate and business taxes even further. Yes, Rachel Notley will light her hair on fire and claim that money is being given away. So what? An influx of businesses and jobs will deflate her hysteric efforts and in the long run, Premier Kenney will be able to position himself as the next Ralph Klein.
Enterprise across Canada is suffering. As with California, governments across the country will not back off policies that cause their businesses to flee them. Bike lanes, public art and local poets do not draw enterprise. Low taxes, reasonable regulations and a business-friendly climate do.
Alberta is hurting right now but we also have a huge opportunity in front us. We can capitalize on the post-pandemic recovery and become the last great refuge of free enterprise within Canada. It will take a political battle and a lot of courage on the part of the politicians, but it can be done.
Cory Morgan is the Podcast Editor and a columnist for the WesternStandard