A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘alberta

[LINK] “The Real Estate Crisis in North Dakota’s Man Camps”

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Jennifer Oldham’s Bloomberg article, looking at a real estate bust in a North Dakota that had been enjoying a boom in net migration, evokes Alberta for me.

Chain saws and staple guns echo across a $40 million residential complex under construction in Williston, North Dakota, a few miles from almost-empty camps once filled with oil workers.

After struggling to house thousands of migrant roughnecks during the boom, the state faces a new real-estate crisis: The frenzied drilling that made it No. 1 in personal-income growth and job creation for five consecutive years hasn’t lasted long enough to support the oil-fueled building explosion.

Civic leaders and developers say many new units were already in the pipeline, and they anticipate another influx of workers when oil prices rise again. But for now, hundreds of dwellings approved during the heady days are rising, skeletons of wood and cement surrounded by rolling grasslands, with too few residents who can afford them.

“We are overbuilt,” said Dan Kalil, a commissioner in Williams County in the heart of the Bakken, a 360-million-year-old shale bed, during a break from cutting flax on his farm. “I am concerned about having hundreds of $200-a-month apartments in the future.”

Written by Randy McDonald

September 29, 2015 at 10:11 pm

[LINK] “N.L. oil industry avoiding Alberta-style job losses”

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CBC News’ Terry Roberts suggests that the slowdown in the Canadian oil economy has had less of an impact in Newfoundland than in Alberta, mainly because the offshore oil of Newfoundland is less labour-intensive than Alberta’s land-based extraction.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s oil industry is cutting costs and deferring some capital spending, but has avoided Alberta-style cuts that have resulted in thousands of job losses.

A recent report estimated some 35,000 Alberta oilsands jobs have disappeared in the last year. That’s from a directed workforce estimated at nearly 150,000 in 2014.

The axe has not come down quite so hard on oil jobs in this province, where an estimated 10,000 people work directly in the industry.

“We’re talking in the 100 range as opposed to tens of thousands of [job losses] in Western Canada,” said Paul Barnes of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 10, 2015 at 5:56 pm

[LINK] “Alberta and Norway: Two oil powers, worlds apart”

Friday in The Globe and Mail, Brian Milner and Jeff Lewis compared the differing strategies of Norway and the Canadian province of Alberta to their oil windfalls. Norway banks it, Alberta spends it. Why? They do a good job contrasting and comparing.

Faced with the steepest decline in oil and gas spending in a decade and a half and the biggest job losses since the global financial meltdown, the centre-right Norwegian government is pledging to tap more of the country’s accumulated resource wealth in an effort to stanch the bleeding.

The sudden decline in its fortunes has put a spotlight on Norway’s unusual handling of its gusher of resource cash over the years, parking 100 per cent of the government’s revenue from royalties and dividends in a fund that is barred from investing a krone in the domestic economy.

It’s a vastly different approach compared with Alberta and other energy producers, which set little aside from their energy windfall and are now facing bleaker fiscal and economic conditions without much of a cushion to soften the blows of tumbling oil prices.

The Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund, the province’s rainy-day umbrella, barely has enough capital to deal with a few scattered storms. Norway’s equivalent, which was partly modelled on Alberta’s when it was set up in the early 1990s, could handle a deluge of almost biblical proportions.

Consider the fortune amassed by Norway’s prosperity fund. Norway’s petroleum treasure chest holds assets totalling some seven trillion kroner ($1.1-trillion), making it the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. It’s a potential shock absorber of a size and scope not available to any other energy producer outside the Arabian Peninsula.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 17, 2015 at 9:58 pm

[LINK] “NDP and oilpatch continue awkward first dance”

CBC’s Paul Haavardsrud and Kyle Bakx report on the state of affairs in NDP-ruled Alberta.

The dance between Canada’s energy industry and Alberta’s new NDP government is finding a new rhythm during Stampede week in Calgary.

A day after Alberta Premier Rachel Notley wooed a non-partisan crowd of energy folks and international investors with a speech that seemed straight from the Tory playbook, a pair of top energy executives took the stage across town to deliver their own message to a collection of new NDP cabinet ministers.

Top of mind on this day? Environmental policy.

“When we think of policy issues, one role the government does have is setting long-term objectives and I think sometimes where they miss the bar is when they say ‘how,'” said Encana chief executive Doug Suttles at a lunch event put on by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. “As governments set these targets, I think they need to let people go out and find the most effective way … picking winners is difficult, very difficult.”

The wants of industry, of course, are ever the same. When it comes to issues such as environmental policy, they’d like governments to lay down a broad agenda and then let market forces decide the particulars.

Whether a hands off ethos — long a given during much of the PC party’s 44 years atop Alberta politics — will continue to hold sway under the new NDP government is now an unfamiliar question mark for Canada’s oilpatch. Political stereotypes would suggest an NDP government will be more inclined to tell the industry exactly how it needs to go about meeting environmental targets. The prospects of the policymakers taking such a prescriptive approach is something that keeps energy executives up at night.

Written by Randy McDonald

July 9, 2015 at 10:37 pm

Posted in Canada, Economics

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[AH] More thoughts on Riven Lands: Canada and Laurentia from 1980

This Canada Day, I decided to revisit the OUP anthology Riven Lands: Canada and Laurentia from 1980. Back when I first posted my reaction to this book in 2008, it sparked a substantial discussion about the extent to which the dissolution of old Canada into Laurentia and the new Canadian federation was inevitable. Looking at the essays again, I’m caught by the tragic inevitability of it all. From the moment the Quiet War started, the Dominion was bound for a reckoning at terrible cost to its people. It was trapped by history.

Old Canada remains trapped. Looking south from my vantage point in Boston, there just hasn’t been much positive change in the Dominion. Laurentian nationalism remains as strong as Canadian resentment, each set of grievances distracting each country from tackling its own crying issues The economic crash hit both countries hard, though Laurentia was at least spared the housing boom. (Is it ever likely that Montréal will regain its pre-war population, or Ottawa?) The Maritime Canadian provinces continue to drift, most notable for being a source of migrant workers for anywhere that will take them: the rest of Canada, the United States, Britain and Ireland even. (Newfoundland’s separation last year wasn’t unexpected, not with oil affording it an incentive to try to start over again. Here’s to wishing them success.) In Canada west of the Ottawa, meanwhile, stagnation. Will Alberta try to follow Newfoundland? Will Premier Ford be able to save Ontario’s industry?

Maybe social democracy will rise and save everyone, uniting all of old Canada across the old borders. Who knows? By this point, I really doubt the competence of the old Canadian political classes to solve old issues, never mind resolve current problems. The world moves, and moves ahead.

I keep wondering if Canada could have survived. On a few forums today, I suggested that if not for the Social Credit governments of the post-war era and their hyperinflationary policies, there might have been enough wealth to sooth differences between Laurentians and the rest of Canada. If Spain and Yugoslavia could survive the 1970s and 1980s, could Canada not also manage? The United States was surely at least as attractive a market as western Europe, and intra-Canadian grievances until the 1960s were certainly not as deep as those in Spain and Yugoslavia. Or was the collapse of Canada preordained? Was Canada, paradoxically, not multinational enough, with a sufficiently large and united Anglo population falsely thinking itself large enough to override the Laurentians?

Written by Randy McDonald

July 1, 2015 at 9:23 pm

[LINK] “There are goldfish the size of dinner plates turning up in Alberta, biologists say”

Postmedia News’ Alexandra Zabjek writes in the National Post about invasive life in the waterways of Alberta.

The discovery of dinner plate-sized goldfish and the ongoing threat of a zebra mussel infestation has the Alberta government ramping up awareness of invasive aquatic species in provincial water bodies.

The zebra mussel, which multiplies prodigiously and can clog water pipes, has been the “poster child” for invasive aquatic species. But seemingly mundane creatures can cause problems, too.

“The mussels really scare the crap out of everyone — biologists because of the environmental impacts. And the irrigation industry, the hydropower industry, the waste water treatment industry all potentially have a lot to lose,” said Kate Wilson, an aquatic invasive species specialist with Alberta Environment and Parks.

“It’s a big, scary thing to really engage the public. I’m hoping to use that to get people to think about how … people are dumping their goldfish, which is pretty serious for a whole lot of other reasons.”

Wilson recounted the story of a fisheries biologist who last year saw two children fishing in a Fort McMurray stormwater pond. The biologist discovered they had caught two goldfish, and the municipality then hired a consultant to study the pond.

More, including photos, at the site.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 23, 2015 at 10:53 pm

[LINK] “Without Wildrose or a divided right, the Alberta NDP would have still won”

ThreeHundredEight.com’s Éric Grenier has an updated version of his post arguing that the NDP won in Alberta because they were populated, not because the vote on the right was split.

In Ipsos Reid’s final poll of the Alberta campaign, one of the questions asked voters what their second choice would be if they were forced to make such a choice.

For the most part, the results were intuitive. The top second choice option for PC voters was Wildrose, while it was the Liberal Party for New Democrats (it wasn’t all so simple, though, as a large proportion of PCs chose the NDP as their second choice, and a large proportion of New Democrats chose Wildrose).

But the results for Wildrose showed that they were not all, or even mostly, lapsed Tories. The New Democrats were the second choice of 33% of Wildrose voters, compared to just 21% for the PCs. More Wildrosers would vote for the Alberta Party (15%) and the Liberals (9%) than the Tories if forced to make a choice.

Another 16% were undecided and 5% would not vote, while 2% would support another party.

Immediately, we see that Wildrose was not an obstacle to the Tories. In fact, Wildrose potentially drew away more anti-PC voters from the NDP than they did conservative voters from the PCs.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 6, 2015 at 1:04 am


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