Many Alberta businesses recently surveyed are not hopeful about the province’s future, according to the Alberta Chambers of Commerce.
Compared to data from a survey done the same time last year, there’s been a 26-per-cent drop in business owners’ positive views regarding Alberta’s long-term future.
The province’s economy and unemployment rates are top issues for 40 per cent of the business owners that replied to the survey sent out last month, an increase from last year when 31 per cent had concerns in those areas.
The president said it’s unsurprising business confidence is decreasing considering what the province faces.
“With the twin challenges of low oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not surprising to see business confidence drop in our province,” Ken Kobly, the organization’s president and CEO said in a news release.
“However, the degree of this drop — more than 25 per cent in a single year — really underscores the fact that our business community needs our continued support as the province reopens. This crisis is far from over.”
The ACC survey was conducted between June 9 and June 30, sent to local chambers and their members. It was completed by 502 chamber members.
About half of the respondents said their perception of the province’s financial situation was very poor, with most attributing it to the oil price decline, the COVID-19 pandemic and issues around oil exports.
“It’s a very sombre presentation of data,” Wanda Costen, dean and professor at MacEwan University’s School of Business, told Edmonton AM on Friday.
“We just have the sense that there’s not a lot of confidence, people are very worried about the future of the province and its fiscal state and its economy and that means it will not continue to grow. People are not investing.”
Experts and politicians have been saying for months that Alberta is struggling.
Canada’s top central banker predicts a “prolonged and bumpy” course to economic recovery. Premier Jason Kenney concedes the pandemic-triggered recession could be more pronounced in Alberta given the collapse of oil prices. And the Conference Board of Canada forecasts Alberta will see its economy shrink by a historic seven per cent this year.
Costen said it’s no wonder that people’s confidence in the province’s economic well-being has wavered.
“There has to be some significant shift in what’s happening and there’s little confidence that’s happening,” said Costen.
She added that low confidence levels are problematic.
“When businesses are not confident, they are less likely to have a growth strategy or continue to invest in new or meaningful ways in their organizations,” she said.
Costen said the government should work with businesses and chambers across the province to “create small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs” to help boost the economy.
“Any investment government makes related to generating new businesses from entrepreneurs, not large businesses, I think that really is the future for us.”