Fort McMurray tries to keep spirits up as oil prices fall
Published Monday, January 19, 2015 10:42PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 20, 2015 1:58PM EST
The oil boomtown of Fort McMurray, Alta., is trying to keep its spirits up as crude prices drop.
Many of the city's 76,000 people work in the oil sands. And with crude prices plummeting from more than $100 a barrel in June to less than $50 now, residents are nervous about what the future holds.
"Everybody's scared for their jobs," said Michael Provencher, a haul truck driver with a private contractor hired by the big oil companies in Fort Mac. "For right now, we were told we're okay. But in a month from now, we don't know."
At a local diner, talk of falling crude prices flows just like the coffee. Owner Elizabeth Akinjise admits she checks the prices every day.
McMurray Gospel Assembly Pastor Robert Parmenter, who has lived in the community for 31 years, says the community has been through this boom-and-bust cycle before.
"There is a few people selling right now before it gets worse, not thinking that it's going to come back up," said Parmenter.
In the past, Parmenter even saw people walk away from their homes and turn them over to the bank when times got tough.
Although Fort Mac hasn't reached that point yet, already-high house prices are said to be dipping. For instance, a 1,400-square foot house listed at $739,000 -- an average price for the city -- has dropped from an original listing price of $759,000 last summer.
While Fort Mac is still producing nearly 2 million barrels of oil per day, new projects have been put on hold or cancelled, and jobs have been cut.
“What is being impacted is the future growth for future oil sands development,” said Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce President Nick Sanders.
Although no one can say when the price of oil will bottom out, local UNIFOR treasurer Steve Kelly says the community is resilient.
"We are moving ahead as we always have. What that brings if this continues to plummet to $20 a barrel, I mean I’ll be having a different conversation then. I’m not sure.”
With files from CTV's Alberta Bureau Chief Janet Dirks