Alberta recession likely in 2015, Conference Board of Canada says
Published Tuesday, January 13, 2015 9:49AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 13, 2015 10:03PM EST
Alberta is “most likely” headed for a recession in 2015, if the price of oil continues its steady decline, says the head of the Conference Board of Canada.
Although key economic indicators such as employment and new housing starts have remained steady, Alberta will be headed for a recession even if oil prices rebound to about $65 a barrel, Conference Board chief economist Glen Hodgson said Monday.
Oil closed down $2.29 to US$46.07 on Monday.
“The most likely outcome we think for Alberta this year is a recession,” Hodgson told CTV Calgary.
“That’s not good for Alberta, (and) it’s also not great for the national economy. It means job loss (and) lower levels of investment across the country.”
On Monday, Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources Limited became the latest resource company to announce it will rein in spending in 2015. The company says it will spend $2 billion less this year than it had forecast back in November.
Then, Suncor Energy Inc. announced it will slash 1,000 jobs and cut $1 billion from its capital budget.
Cenovus and Husky Energy are just two other resource companies that announced cuts to their capital budgets in recent weeks.
Alberta Finance Minister Robin Campbell, however, disputes claims that the province is headed for a recession.
Campbell told CTV that, “while growth is going to be a down a bit in Alberta, no one is talking about a recession right now.”
At a luncheon event hosted by Edmonton Economic Development Tuesday, Alberta Premier Jim Prentice warned of a difficult and challenging year, but also denied that the province is headed for a recession.
Prentice said current revenue projections leave a hole in the budget roughly the size of the entire government’s payroll.
“This is not about shaking down the salaries of the top sunshine list employees of the government of Alberta,” he said. “I could terminate the employment of every single employee of the government, leaving aside healthcare, and it would not fill a six-to-seven-billion-dollar revenue hole.”
Though Prentice said he was confident about Alberta’s long-term economic sustainability, he said the province needs to rethink its current budgetary practices in the wake of evaporating oil revenues.
“We have not done a good job with our public finances. We have been living beyond our means,” Prentice said. “We can’t go on like this. We can’t continue to budget in this way.”
“In a sense, we are living on resource revenue that properly belongs to our children and our grandchildren,” continued. “I guess at the end of the day, it’s about an honest discussion we have to have as Albertans.”
The rest of Canada is feeling the impact of tumbling oil prices, too. TD Bank is now warning that the federal government could see its promised 2015-16 surplus turned into a deficit.
“Paying for Mr. Harper's very expensive promises may drive this country into deficit,” NDP’s finance critic Nathan Cullen said Tuesday.
A surplus has long been the cornerstone of the Conservatives’ election platform. In a statement issued Tuesday, Finance Minister Joe Oliver insisted that the budget will be balanced this year.
Resource companies say that the true impact of falling oil prices will be seen when the next drilling season gets underway in late summer.
“If the programs don’t come back into play for summer, as we typically ramp up to a certain degree, that’s when we’re going to sense it,” said Mark Salked of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada.
“That’s when the writing will be on the wall.”
With a report from CTV Calgary’s Lea Williams-Doherty and CTV’s Richard Madan