Alberta slowdown is likely temporary: Industry expert
James Beaudoin of Reefs Harbour has welcomed increased house construction this summer in the Straits, which has meant he doesnt need to head west to work. He is pictured building a new home in Sandy Cove. Photo by Aaron Beswick/The Northern Pen
St. Anthony - Migratory workers are largely responsible for a modest building boom in the Straits area this year.
Houses have been going up in Castor River, Reefs Harbour, Anchor Point, Flowers Cove and Sandy Cove. But while the oil price drop means lower prices at the pump, some are concerned it will slow Western Canada's booming labour market.
"Of course I'm concerned," said James Beaudoin, a Reefs Harbour contractor who usually heads west to work. "The housing boom in the Straits means I've been able to stay home and employ local people."
Staying home this summer has allowed him the time to develop a small farm in Reef's Harbour.
"It's been so busy here that I haven't even been able to get an excavator," he said while cutting roof joists for a large home in Sandy Cove. "Oil and mining is responsible for most of this construction. If I can, I'll do it again next year - bring it on."
According to Albertan economist Ujjayant Chakravorty, he shouldn't worry about serious declines in Western labour demands.
"People need oil and there isn't enough of it," said Chakravorty. "People knew $147 a barrel oil was a little out of the ordinary - many of these projects are viable at $70-80 a barrel."
Getting oil from Alberta's tar sands is an expensive process - some projects in Western Canada were put temporarily on hold when oil went below $70 a barrel. Chakravorty explained many decision makers were waiting for markets to settle down.
"If it doesn't settle down, if more turmoil continues for a few months, then you will see effects and it will affect your area and the migration of labour. But I don't think it's a time to panic."
Anchor Point Mayor Gerry Gros said his community would be partially shielded from negative effects by the fishery - the town's shrimp plant had another busy season this year and the draggers continue to employ many residents.
"That said, we do have a few people travelling back and forth to work and a lot of fishermen that go to Alberta for the winter. I'm sure it's on everybody's mind, but I haven't heard of it impacting anybody negatively at this point."