An optimistic economic forecast for Alberta by a senior economist with ATB Financial was reassuring for Rimbey’s mayor who was among around 100 people attending a presentation dealing with global and provincial economics.
“It’s always interesting to get a perspective from an expert and it looks like barring any major upsets, the economy is on an upswing. Basically we’re doing the best out of the G8.”
Mayor Sheldon Ibbotson attended the presentation by Todd Hirsch, held at The Best Western Hotel in Sylvan Lake Oct. 4.
The presentation was sponsored by the Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce and the Sylvan Lake branch of ATB.
“Albertans are spending a lot and feeling very confident,’ said Hirsch. “They are secure in their jobs. Retail is robust and the population is growing.”
Alberta is all about oil, he noted, adding tension in the Middle East has moved oil prices up.
“The Middle East is a big supply for crude oil,” he said. “I would like to say oil prices would never tumble, but they could.”
“One thing I know for sure, oil could be between zero and a million dollars a barrel,” he joked. “(It could become a) touch softer than it is now but we will continue to see investment in oil sands and conventional drilling.”
The agriculture picture is looking brighter than it has in the past, he added. “Prices are rising.”
He attributed the higher prices to a higher standard of living in China and India.
“They want more food and better quality of food,” he said. “Western Canada is situated well to take advantage of that.”
On the livestock front, Hirsch suggested the E. coli situation is not a real cause for alarm, economically.
“I don’t think there will be a real economic fallout because of E. coli.”
Mortgage rates in Canada should remain constant in 2013, he said. “There is not a whiff of inflation in the Canadian economy. I can’t see much movement in mortgage rates for 12 to 15 months,” he said.
The US economy is only OK, he noted.
“The best you can say for the US economy is they are treading water. It is not operating where it should.”
The employment picture in the US doesn’t seem to be particularly bright, he said.
“Jobs are not coming back to the US and discouraged workers are dropping out of the workforce.”
While Hirsch emphasized that locally, the economy is strong and stable, he said the global economy might feel like a mess and the traditional tools of monetary policy don’t appear to be working. Hirsch compared the global economy to eating in a restaurant where there was no utensils and no accommodating waiters or waitresses.
He said compromise and co-operating among the chefs of global economy is the only way to prevent a major economic downturn.
Tony Goode, Rimbey’s CAO, he attended the session because he thought it would be “worthwhile to get an update on the global and provincial picture.”
“It seems we’re in pretty good shape, though obviously things can change, it seems we have a good standing compared to other places.”
Goode was disappointed the economist didn’t talk about municipal debt levels.