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There are no problems, just opportunities

It’s here. So what of it? If you believe most of what you hear, 2016 is going to be tougher on Albertans than 2015. Yet there are no such things as problems, just opportunities.

It’s here. So what of it?

If you believe most of what you hear, 2016 is going to be tougher on Albertans than 2015. Yet there are no such things as problems, just opportunities.

So there should be more opportunities in 2016 than we’ve had in a long time.

Several new laws, government policies, and modifications to existing laws came into effect Jan. 1. Here’s a rundown of the provincial and federal changes delivering opportunities – in a large or small way – this year.

As of Jan. 1, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promised federal tax cut for the middle class, and tax hike for top earners, came into effect. The income-tax rate will drop to 20.5 per cent, down from 22 per cent, for taxable earnings between $45,282 and $90,563. At the same time, the rate on all income earned beyond $200,000 will rise to 33 per cent from 29 per cent. An estimated 315,000 Canadians will fall into this upper tax bracket.

The opportunity here will be for those at the top end of the income scale to earn less than $200,000 this year while ensuring that maximum $5,500 contribution for tax-free savings accounts churns harder to make up for the $4,500 contribution reduction that also came into effect Jan. 1.

In Alberta, drivers are facing the problem of stiffer distracted-driving penalties. Some will be taking the opportunity to be more creative in how they drive distracted. The incentive to become better at covert texting and driving, as of Jan. 1, is a $287 fine, up from $178, and three demerit points for being caught.

More seriously, Alberta and Cochrane-area farmers have made no bones about their displeasure of the dust storm created with the passing of legislation (Bill 6) intended to provide more oversight on farms and safety for hired farm workers under the auspices of Workers’ Compensation regulations and Occupational Health & Safety rules. A lack of consultation with stakeholders is at the core of our agriculture industry’s displeasure for the passing of the legislation Dec. 10.

The opportunity here is there appears to be a willingness in Edmonton to consult more with farmers on the initiative that could establish a greater level of trust in the process. While still suspect, there is guarded hopefulness in the ag community that more consultation will provide more clarity for farmers and ranchers under this new legislation.

In the oil patch, with Alberta’s main economic engine sputtering into 2016 after an under-performing 2015, there is an opportunity to diversify. The near-term prognostication for the oilsands economy is anemic and the long-term view nebulous, at best. The only certainty coming from the public administrative level is the policy push away from coal and oil as primary energy sources.

If ever there was a time for Alberta to investigate the economic opportunities to be had from this carbon-reduced economic model, the time is now. That opportunity trickles down to the developers and neighborhood planners in Cochrane, who are still very much engaged in developing grid-dependent “show-stopper” homes in new areas like Southbow Landing and Heritage Hills. How about they toss in some technologically advanced “game-changers,” like homes less reliant on traditional energy sources and delivery methods?

And, finally, at the beginning of any new year, there is always the renewed optimism and hope that come with the opportunistic notion of mending fences and building bridges to span the divides that separate us.

The opportunities in 2016 are boundless.