Albertans are incredible people. Over time we’ve built great industries, institutions and communities, with a standard of living that for many years has been a lure for entrepreneurs and anyone who dreamt big. And we did it by working together.
But we’ve had our resiliency tested over the years with the crash in oil prices and significant dissonance around our energy industry. With business thriving in some parts of Canada but low in the prairies, there’s a broad sentiment of division and growing unease around our future, especially with almost 30 per cent of Albertans struggling to provide for their families and almost one-quarter carrying financial debt and little knowledge of what to do about it.
As the CEO of Alberta Central – the central banking facility and trade association for Alberta’s credit unions – I refuse to believe Albertans can’t find a way forward. The need for resiliency has never been stronger and Albertans shouldn’t have to go at it alone. We can’t expect the provincial government to do all the heavy lifting because our fortitude can’t be looked at in isolation for one group to solve alone. It’s also incumbent upon other institutions to help navigate challenging times. In my role, I work with credit unions, and as financial institutions and individuals we have to look at our part in this. Credit unions get the value of financial literacy, prudent spending, balanced budgets, building wealth over time and getting financial incentives right to support Albertans. That’s why we support the provincial government’s decision to lower corporate taxes. It’s these reductions that will allow credit unions to return more to members through dividends and profit sharing (because our members are owners) as well as increase community investments in the rural and urban communities in which credit unions operate.
Building resiliency is the reason credit unions were created – to withstand political, social and economic dissention and find new solutions. And credit unions indeed have a long history of handling tough times with innovative action because our job is to safeguard members’ financial stability and ensure the system operates in their best interests.
As democratically run institutions, operating in 122 communities with 628,000 members and $85 million shared back with members through patronage and dividends in 2018 alone, Albertans must take the long view. Building resiliency has to be done together and in a spirit of good faith, because Alberta must continue to do everything possible to get back on our feet. We’ve done it before and can do it again.
Opinion editorial submitted to local newspapers across Alberta. Appeared in the Red Deer News Now on December 3, 2019 here.