Chamber CEO hits back at job claims

Red Deer unexpectedly became the poster child for Alberta’s tanking economy in a speech by Edmonton’s chief economist on Wednesday.

Red Deer unexpectedly became the poster child for Alberta’s tanking economy in a speech by Edmonton’s chief economist on Wednesday.

“Look at Red Deer,” said John Rose, at BUILDEX Edmonton, a large trade building industry show. “What a mess. Over one in 10 jobs has disappeared in 12 months.

“They’ve got real problems,” said Rose, who was drawing from a Statistics Canada employment update released last Friday.

News travels fast and it wasn’t long before Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce CEO Tim Creedon had seen a link to the speech and started doing his own investigating.

Statistics Canada’s latest numbers show Red Deer economic region’s workforce dropped to 117,500 from 127,900 over the year ending in February, a drop of 8.13 per cent. The number of employed in the region shrank 11.4 per cent from 121,600 to 107,700.

However, the number of unemployed here rose by only 3,500 workers to 9,800, said Statistics Canada.

“The numbers aren’t the whole picture,” said Creedon.

In January, local businesses were asked what kind of year they were expecting and 60 per cent said same as last year, with almost 24 per cent predicting a slightly better year than last year.

“I don’t see Red Deer as being in a huge mess at the moment. I see it as having some substantial challenges but I’m not getting the feedback that we’re in dire straights.”

Some job migration is expected in the Red Deer region, which has always had a mobile population with many workers who live here but work elsewhere.

Creedon has been hearing that some workers are moving on, and rising vacancy rates back that up.

However, that worker movement does not necessarily mean local jobs were lost.

It is difficult to say whether the bad publicity will have an impact on how the area is viewed.

Creedon said the local economic development organization Access Prosperity is getting the message out that Red Deer is a good place to invest.

“We all accept that oil and gas is in a downturn but (agriculture) is doing extremely well. We’ve been working on some major investment in the Ag sector through Access Prosperity.”

Reg Warkentin, the chamber’s policy co-ordinator, said Red Deer has long been an entry point for businesses’ new people.

“Relatively speaking, it’s always had a bit of transient workforce.”

While losing any number of jobs is not good news, there are many positive economic signs in the region, such as the recent announcement of a $30-million grain elevator complex in Innisfail and Nova’s recent plant upgrade.

Warkentin certainly wouldn’t call the economic region a mess.

“No doubt, we’re suffering from a cyclical downturn in commodity prices, but you don’t have to look too far to realize there are a lot of good things going on here too.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Red Deer dips below 300 active COVID-19 cases

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Red Deer continued to drop… Continue reading

Lyn Radford, 2019 Canada Winter Games board chair, was named 2020 Sport Event Volunteer of the Year at the Prestige Awards. (File photo by Advocate staff)
WATCH: Lyn Radford wins award for volunteer efforts

The board chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer… Continue reading

Mount Pearl Senior High in Mount Pearl, N.L., remains closed on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The provincial health authority says there were 185 cases at 22 schools, including 145 infections among staff and students of one high school in Mount Pearl that was an early epicentre of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
In Newfoundland and Labrador, three ingredients made for explosive COVID-19 outbreak

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — With her classes, three part-time jobs and a… Continue reading

A passenger places a tag on luggage at the departure terminal at Toronto Pearson Airport, in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, May 24, 2019. The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many recent immigrants to leave Canada and return to their countries of origin, where they have more social and familial connections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
COVID-19 pandemic prompts recent newcomers to leave Canada for their home countries

OTTAWA — The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Rail cars wait for pickup in Winnipeg, Sunday, March 23, 2014. The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian oil and gas on trains destined for the United States — a country experts fear is ill-equipped for the potential consequences. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

WASHINGTON — The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian… Continue reading

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

VICTORIA — Legal experts and a mother whose ex-partner was convicted of… Continue reading

Radio and television personality Dick Smyth is shown in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Dick Smyth, Canadian maestro of news radio commentary, dies at 86

TORONTO — Radio and television personality Dick Smyth, whose booming commentary filled… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building is shown in Ottawa on May 14, 2013. A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the judicial warrant process at Canada's spy agency — an issue that made headlines last summer — stretch back at least nine years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Spy warrant shortcomings stretch back almost a decade, newly released audit shows

OTTAWA — A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the estimated $29 million… Continue reading

Most Read