David Knight Legg, the chief executive of Invest Alberta Corp. and a key member of Jason Kenney’s inner circle, has resigned his post.
In an interview on Thursday, Dr. Knight Legg said his reasons for leaving are family-related. He hasn’t seen his 12-year-old son in Singapore for 18 months because of pandemic travel and quarantine restrictions
He also said that he had committed to two years of working for Mr. Kenney, a friend. He has now held high-profile roles for 2½ years.
He will be returning to Asia, he says, where he had worked as an investment banker before taking the roles of head of transition and then principal adviser to the Alberta Premier. He was appointed to Invest Alberta last September.
The corporation is the arm’s-length entity created by the Kenney government to promote the province’s energy, tourism, tech, aviation, agriculture and other sectors, to diversify the struggling oil-focused economy. It is also trying get more workers into reams of empty office space, especially in downtown Calgary.
Dr. Knight Legg, 51, will remain a senior adviser to the board of the Crown corporation, and said he still has a number of big projects in the works.
“Some of the smartest software firms are choosing us because they do all the analytics on the talent, the youth demographic and the postsecondary-institutions comparisons,” he said.
In a statement, Mr. Kenney said Dr. Knight Legg has been a champion for Alberta, and has worked to ensure the province is on a path to recovery as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes. “We thank him for his service and wish him well in his future endeavours.”
Mr. Kenney has lost a number of the key staff he started with when he took office in 2019, including principal secretary Howard Anglin, Jamie Huckabay – the Premier’s former chief of staff who was pushed to resign in January after travelling to Britain despite advisories against non-essential travel – and most recently, executive director of communications Katy Merrifield.
For Dr. Knight Legg, key accomplishments include helping to establish the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corp. and Invest Alberta. Through Invest Alberta, he has worked to get companies such as Mphasis Ltd. and mCloud Technologies Corp. to open offices in Calgary, and Air Products and Chemicals Inc. to invest in a $1.3-billion facility in Edmonton that will produce hydrogen derived from natural gas. He said he will push for the province to establish a larger cohort of envoys in key foreign markets.
“When some farmer creates the world’s best-tasting wild honey, and they want to do a $20-million deal to get it into the Japanese market, we need to be there for them.”
On Thursday, Dr. Knight Legg helped to announce that electric-scooter rental-service company Bird Rides, Inc. – which has e-scooters in dozens of cities worldwide – is moving its Canadian operational headquarters to Calgary. His office says the move could mean 50 new jobs in e-scooter manufacturing, assembly and repairs for the city.
He will still be working on promoting Alberta to international markets, and will continue to advocate for projects he has been close to, such as a $1-billion-plus proposal for the return of passenger train service between Calgary and Banff.
Dr. Knight Legg has faced criticism from the opposition NDP over his travel expenses to cities such as London, New York and Washington. But it’s travel he describes as absolutely necessary to get in front of investors and other decision-makers to talk about the province, including its ESG measures.
This has became especially critical work, he argues, pointing to the 2018 decision by Europe’s largest bank, HSBC, to classify greenfield projects in the oil sands as “prohibited business.”
“You can’t e-mail or Twitter your key messages into these markets. And Alberta is the most dependent economy in Canada on external sources of capital.”
Originally from Lethbridge, Dr. Knight Legg has master’s degrees in public administration and law, and a PhD in politics and sociology from Yale University. He worked at McKinsey & Co., Gerson Lehrman Group Inc. and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN abroad before coming back to Alberta in 2019.
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