Calgary: Embracing change and disruption

October 27, 2021
General Business In the Media New Economy

The 2022 Economic Outlook presented by ATB Financial took place virtually Oct. 27, 2021. An event replay will be available in the coming days on our YouTube channel. Media coverage: Global Calgary, Calgary Herald and CBC Calgary.

Calgary Economic Development’s annual Economic Outlook event gathers business and community leaders to provide forecasts on our city’s future and spark important conversations as we work together to create shared prosperity and opportunities for all Calgarians.  

Reflected in this year’s theme of embracing disruption and change, presenters showcased how Calgary is both changing with the world and helping to change the world, from energy and climate challenges to diversity and inclusion.  

“There's lots of reasons to be optimistic about the economy. The future of Alberta is looking bright,” said Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, Government of Alberta. “We have doubled the film and television industry. In the tech sector, from 2018 to 2020, we went from 1,200 to more than 3,000 tech companies, and we expect to continue breaking records in venture capital investment coming to Alberta.”  

In one of her first speaking engagements since becoming the City of Calgary’s mayorMayor Jyoti Gondek spoke of the importance of innovation, inclusion and sustainability in the new economy, including being a leader in the energy transition. 

“We must draw upon our own unique strengths to chart our own path forward,” said Mayor Gondek. “The seeds of our future success lies within the wealth of experience in our energy sector, technology, innovation, small businesses, women-led enterprises, and within the arts sector.”  

“We are forecasting real GDP growth in Alberta this year of 6.3 per cent and next year about 4.3 per cent,” said Todd Hirsch, VP and Chief Economist, ATB. While the province hasn’t seen growth that strong since 2012, it sustained an eight per cent drop in real GDP activity in 2020, the largest of any Canadian province. Hirsch anticipates it will take until the middle of 2022 for Alberta’s economy to return to the size it was pre-pandemic. 

“The energy sector in Alberta is taking on a different role. It’s no longer the growth engine it used to be, it is now a backbone of our economy,” said Hirsch. “It's very important, but the growth in Alberta and Calgary is going to come from other sectors.” 

These growth sectors include focus areas in the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy, like the technology and digital sectors, agriculture and agrifoods, life sciences, renewable energy, clean energy technology, tourism and creative industries. 

Addressing education and lifelong skills development, social inclusion and economic equality, and climate change were Hirsch’s key areas to build a stronger and more resilient economy for the future. 

“We absolutely have to get this right in Alberta first and foremost because it’s the right thing to do,” said Hirsch. “There’s a strong economic imperative to get this right.” 

On the national and global economy, Frances Donald, Global Chief Economist, Manulife, noted the ongoing uncertainty with the pandemic and the known unknowns missing in constructing outlooks. 

“We need to look at more of a mosaic of economic data. Diversity of data is going to lead us to better policy development and a more inclusive economy in the future,” said Donald.  

As the city forges forward on the path to recovery, Calgary Economic Development is focused on collaboration with the community for the retention, expansion and attraction of companies, capital, and talent.  

“With change comes opportunity and we have the opportunity to build communities that are more resilient, more equitable, more diverse, more inclusive, and more focused on our future prosperity,” said Brad Parry, Interim President and CEO, Calgary Economic Development.  

We need to tell our young people in Calgary and around the world that this is the place where you can build your best life and make a difference.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic and the evolving economy exposed vulnerabilities in many areas of society, including disparity in the workforce, ESG, and to the need for greater inclusion. One of the opportunities for the city is with the Indigenous economy and economic reconciliation.   

"Indigenous people are part of the solution. We're friends, we're business partners, we're community members, and we look forward to building this economy with you,” said JP Gladu, Principle, Mokwateh"The partnerships you're going to build and the impact you have to help create those partnerships with our communities is fundamentally important.” 

"Let’s lead the way forward with innovation, resilience and adaptability. Let’s work together because together, everything is possible," said Curtis Stange, President & CEO of presenting sponsor, ATB.

Announced at the event, Calgary Economic Development released its new video “Calgary. A city of innovators, dreamers, visionaries and game changers”, which will be used to promote the city to Calgarians and to attract bright minds from around the world. 

"Economic development is a 'team sport' and our Team Calgary partners play a vital role in creating a more prosperous city,” said Joe Lougheed, Chair of the Board, Calgary Economic Development.

The event was moderated by Bindu Suri, News Anchor/Reporter, Global News. Art pieces by Indigenous artists Keegan Starlight and Richard Duck Chief were also auctioned with proceeds supporting Awo Taan Healing Lodge & Women's Shelter. Thank you to our sponsors, including ATB FinancialMount Royal UniversityPostmedia Solutions and the University of Calgary. 

For more information on the economic strategy, visit the Calgary in the New Economy page.  

Calgary. A city of innovators, dreamers, visionaries and game changers.

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