Calgary’s mayor says plunging oil prices haven’t had as dire an effect on the city as most had expected, but many in the industry are still waiting for the “other shoe to drop.”
Naheed Nenshi says despite headlines about job losses in the energy sector, Calgary actually gained more jobs than it lost in the first half of 2015.
But he adds many expect the worst is yet to come because of U.S. President Barack Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
“With the announcement on Keystone, which I happen to think was a crass, political announcement not based on environmental or energy science, with that announcement I think people are getting even more nervous, waiting for that other shoe to drop,” Nenshi told reporters Friday.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has estimated 36,000 jobs in the oil and gas sectors have been shed so far this year.
There are also signs the Calgary economy is being battered.
Both housing prices and new home starts are down and many downtown office buildings remain half empty with Colliers International saying downtown vacancy rates jumped to 13 per cent in the second quarter of the year.
The Conference Board of Canada projects Calgary will go from having one of the country’s top performing economies in 2014 to among the worst this year — second only to Edmonton.
Nenshi said the provincial and federal governments need to capitalize on low interest rates and declining construction costs by building more.
“What we need to do is ride the cycle, take advantage of the few good things that happen at the bottom of the cycle, in short — invest in infrastructure while construction is cheap and interest rates are low, put people back to work as best we can and reap the benefits of the bad part,” Nenshi said.
Nenshi said when it comes to bolstering the energy sector Albertans are going to have to put their faith in Alberta’s NDP Premier Rachel Notley and newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“It’s very clear that the arguments that we’ve been using for the last 10, 12 or 15 years haven’t been that effective. We really haven’t got a single kilometre of tidewater pipeline built so I’m willing to give the new prime minister and the premier the benefit of the doubt on this,” Nenshi said.
“They’re going to try a new kind of argument linking our great performance on the environmental file to a more thoughtful discourse on Canadian energy. I can’t tell you if it’s going to work. I don’t have a crystal ball but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.”