Alberta votes this Monday, May 29, to decide who will lead the province for the next four years. Opinion polls currently show Alberta NDP and the United Conservative Party as essentially tied, though according to analysts, the UCP has a clearer path to victory in key battleground ridings. ICTC combed through the main parties’ platforms to see where they stand on key issues related to Canada’s digital economy. Our analysis is summarized below.

Alberta NDP

Economic Diversification and Digital Economy Growth: Alberta NDP describes Alberta as “at a pivotal moment” defined by economic change. The party plans to diversify Alberta’s economy through innovation in health, agriculture, cleantech, and interactive digital media.

Three new tax credits—a new Alberta’s Future Tax Credit and a reinstated Investor Tax Credit and Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit—would be introduced to spur investment in clean tech, carbon materials, critical minerals processing, advanced manufacturing, and interactive digital media.

A new $75-million Healthcare Innovation Challenge Fund would support the procurement and scaling of innovative health solutions. ICTC research shows Alberta has a wealth of health innovation talent, but procurement barriers often prevent health tech companies from finding customers at home.

Alberta NDP also plans to increase Calgary’s role as an innovation hub for the province. The NDP, if elected, plans to open an Alberta Cancer Innovation Hub and fund new and expanded post-secondary campuses in the city’s downtown core, which the party hopes will spur more startup companies, inventions, and licensing deals.

Alberta NDP has committed to the government’s existing plan to deliver universal broadband access to all Albertans by 2027, which the party believes will spur 20,000 new jobs and $4 billion in GDP. Broadband infrastructure is crucial to modern agri-food innovation, representing a significant sector opportunity for rural Alberta. A recent ICTC study found that a greater percentage of Alberta’s agri-food tech companies are located in small and medium population centres, unlike other tech companies such as fintech.

In addition to expanding broadband infrastructure, Alberta NDP plans to expand support for post-secondary schools with ag programs and ensure agtech is a core aspect of Alberta’s tech strategy.

Talent Development and Diversity Equity Inclusion: Better support for newcomers and racialized Albertans is a core part of the Alberta NDP platform. Newcomers account for a large percentage of Canada and Alberta’s labour force growth, yet, as explained in a recent ICTC study, they face barriers to economic participation.

Alberta NDP plans to streamline foreign credential recognition, provide more funding to racialized entrepreneurs, and develop modern and inclusive curricula, such as for the Filipino and Somali languages. The party also plans to create a dedicated ministry for immigration and multiculturalism and work with employers to address the systemic barriers newcomers face in the job market.

To promote equity and inclusion, Alberta NDP plans to pass anti-racism legislation, establish an anti-racism office, strengthen the province’s Human Rights Commission, and diversify the public service.

Finally, to reduce the financial burden of education, Alberta NDP plans to freeze tuition fees at 2022-23 levels and institute on cap on future increases. This would save 300,000 Alberta students more than $100 million in 2023-24.

Mitigating Climate Change and Protecting the Environment: Alberta NDP’s main environmental promise is to use the Eastern Slopes Protection Act to ban coal mining projects along the Albertan Rockies and surrounding areas. This would help keep mining-related pollutants out of watersheds, protecting keystone species, such as grizzly bears, elk, caribou, and wolves, as well as Albertans who rely on the headwaters of the Rockies as a water source.

While this policy showcases a commitment to protecting natural resources and biodiversity, the Alberta NDPs do not have any formal commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or mitigate climate change. As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of natural disasters, such as forest fires and extreme flooding, the provincial government will need to take additional measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

United Conservative Party

Growing Alberta’s Economy: Growing inward investment and reducing taxes for Albertans are the main focuses of the UCP’s economic platform. On taxes, the UCP has promised to not increase personal or business taxes, not introduce a provincial sales tax, create an 8% tax bracket on incomes under $60,000 (reducing the provincial tax burden for most Albertans), and extend the province’s current suspension of fuel taxes on gasoline and diesel for the remainder of 2023.

To grow inward investment, the UCP has promised to extend several industry tax incentive programs, including the Film and Television Tax Credit, the Agri-Processing Investment Tax Credit, the Alberta Petrochemical Incentive Program, and the Feeder Assistance Loan Guarantee. The party also plans to expand the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation’s loan-making capacity to $2 billion and expand its eligibility to include investment opportunities in manufacturing, forestry, health care, technology, and tourism. It has promised to allocate $100 million in funding to the Alberta Enterprise Corporation to attract more large-scale investment to the province and enhance the province’s Regional Economic Development Alliances to help Alberta communities attract smaller-scale investments.

The UCP’s platform has not made direct commitments to grow Alberta’s digital economy, however, the UCP has indicated that it will continue to work to connect all residents in Alberta to high-speed internet by 2027. The platform also notes the importance of economic diversification, highlighting the future potential in Alberta’s film and TV, agri-food processing, and renewable energy industries.

Talent and Diversity Equity Inclusion: The UCP addresses a growing need for skilled workers and plans to continue eliminating barriers to employment. Specifically, the party proposes to introduce the “Alberta is Calling” signing bonus (a $1,200 non-refundable tax credit for targeted skilled trades and professions), introduce the Graduation Retention Tax Credit (a $3,000 to $10,000 tax credit for students in qualified high-demand professions to stay and work in Alberta after graduation), and work with professional bodies to increase auto-credentialing for in-demand professions.

The UCP also commits to improving access to affordable childcare, with plans to create 68,700 new childcare spaces and establish $10-a-day daycare by 2026. The UCP highlights the success of the Alberta Advantage Immigration program, as well as its commitment to fighting racism and building inclusive communities; however, the platform does not outline how these diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives will be actioned or progressed if re-elected.

Mitigating Climate Change and Protecting the Environment: While the UCP continues to support the oil and gas industry, the party is also diversifying its investments toward the clean energy economy. The party proposes to invest $161 million in the Air Product’s net-zero natural gas to hydrogen facility in Edmonton and is committing to continue following its Albtera Hydrogen Roadmap. Taking an innovative approach to greenhouse gas emissions reduction, the UCP has committed $18 million to carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technology development and deployment.

The UCP also has plans to support the recovery of its currently endangered caribou population—which will have positive top-down ecological effects while protecting a culturally and economically significant species for Indigenous communities. Despite these commitments, the Alberta UCP states that the federal government’s climate targets are “unrealistic” and does not plan to abide by them. Instead, the party plans to take natural resource management into their own hands. While this could have economic benefits for the province’s current economy, it may have implications for the long-term sustainability of the province—especially as climate change worsens.

Green Party of Alberta, Alberta Party, Alberta Liberal Party

Despite not currently having any seats in the provincial legislature, the Greens, the Alberta Party, and the Alberta Liberals are running candidates in many provincial ridings. Readers can view platforms for the Green Party of Alberta here, the Alberta Party here, and the Alberta Liberal Party here.

This brief is part of ICTC’s policy updates series. ICTC provides timely updates on policy and political developments in Canada, including federal, provincial, and territorial elections campaigns, fall economic updates, annual budgets, and other major updates to policy and programs. Written by Allison Clark, Erik Henningsmoen, Mairead Matthews, Justin Ratcliffe, Heather McGeer, and Todd Legere, with generous support from the ICTC Research and Policy Team.