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Alberta's throne speech slammed for lack of focus on economic diversification

The Alberta government's speech from the throne was long on pledges of support for the energy sector, but neglected other key pillars of the provincial economy, says the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

'We've actually seen an uptick, we've hired 40 people,' says IT business manager

Justin Smith, policy director for the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, says he would have liked to see more in the throne speech about helping sectors of Alberta's economy aside from oil and gas. (CBC)

The Alberta government's speech from the throne was long on pledges of support for the energy sector — but neglected other key pillars of the provincial economy, says the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

The Alberta government's commitment to pushing for the Energy East pipeline and better market access for the struggling oil and gas sector is laudable, said the chamber's policy director Justin Smith.

But there are a lot of industries outside of oil and gas that are eager to diversify, and Smith says he believes they will be key to helping Alberta's economy recover.

"Again what we need from the government is clear indication that they support those efforts in industries other than energy and we didn't hear that," he said.

"For instance, our agriculture industry, our growing manufacturing base, technology and innovation firms in Calgary and Alberta overall — all need supports and all need to be a priority as we look to economic recovery and economic prosperity." 

The government says it plans to create an energy diversification advisory committee. It will advise the government on how Alberta can establish value-added initiatives like upgrading bitumen and building petrochemical plants to take advantage of the province's vast natural gas reserves.

Bill Evelyn, who manages an IT company based out of Calgary, says he wants to see more investment and government incentives for research and development in his field.

He says business is starting to pick up as companies look for ways to be innovative on limited budgets.

"And that's actually where information technology has an opportunity. We've actually seen an uptick, we've hired 40 people," he said.

With files from the CBC's Colleen Underwood

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