British Columbia

Low Canadian dollar helping film industry, manufacturing in B.C.

The loonie's deep dive is good news for B.C.'s film industry and exporters, but it's forcing consumers to change their travel plans this winter.

'We're just licking our chops,' says film agent as B.C. industry profits from low Canadian dollar

Leonardo DiCaprio's latest film The Revenant, used the modern-day wilderness of B.C. and Alberta to portray the American midwest in the 820s. (Twentieth Century Fox/Associated Press)

The Canadian dollar's fall to its lowest level in 12 years is bad news for cross-border shoppers and anyone travelling to the U.S., but B.C's film industry and some manufacturers are seeing a boost with bargain-seeking Americans.

"It's been extremely busy for the past year and a half, and it's going to get busier because of the dollar," said Eric Edwards, an agent and manager at Lucas Talent.

"While the rest of the country is cringing, people in the film industry, we're just licking our chops."

It's been a big change for an industry that feared for its future a few years ago, and lobbied for improved tax-credits under the now-disbanded Save BC Film campaign.

Edwards says there's a big demand for extras, who are landing weeks of work at a time on film and TV sets.

"They're pretty much working every day," he said. "It just saves Americans so much to shoot here. As long as our dollar stays low the film industry will continue to be strong."

Assembling jobs

Manufacturers who export to the U.S. are another group profiting from the exchange rate.

First Aid & Survival Technologies makes items needed in an emergency. It sticks to Canadian suppliers when it sources materials for its products and sells mostly in Canada.

But when the dollar dropped, they recently got a call from south of the border, says general manager Carmen Ewles.

Experts say that a continued drop in resource prices could mean continued drop in the Canadian dollar and no one is ruling out it possibly falling below 70 cents. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

"It was the U.S. Navy and they are looking for incident command identification vests," says Ewles.

The last time the dollar dropped a similar call came from the Pentagon in need of supplies for the U.S. Air Force.

"When we quote in Canadian dollars they think of it in their own U.S. dollars and, then when the actual conversion happens they get a pleasant surprise in the savings they receive."

When the dollar gets to this level it's a great time to export, but according to the manufacturers association not enough B.C. businesses take advantage of the situation.

Companies need to learn that it's not difficult to export and rise to the occasion, says Marcus Ewert-John, the vice-president of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters.

"There's approximately 100,000 businesses incorporated in B.C. and according to government estimates 43,000 should be potential exporters, yet only 5,000 businesses are exporting. That leaves a significant growth potential," says Ewert-John.

Travel bargains wanted

On the flipside, the loonie's deep dive has Canadian consumers searching for ways to stretch their dollar, particularly when it comes to winter travel plans.

At Bellingham Airport, where for years Canadians flocked to take-off in cheaper seats, flights are down 17 per cent because of the lower loonie.

Flying over, rather than to the U.S. is one of the best ways to save money on travel for Canadians right now. (Canadian Press)

Flight Centre spokesperson Allison Wallace says the low exchange rate cancels out all of the tax and fee savings that people were getting by crossing the border to catch a flight.

"So, now it's not a big difference for them to fly from a U.S. destination, like Bellingham. They're not saving that much more money." says Wallace.

Likewise the number of vehicles and people at Metro Vancouver's three major border crossings has dropped dramatically. In the peak summer months the numbers were down 25 per cent from two years ago and the slide continues.

Instead of seeking bargains in the U.S., many consumers are looking for fixed-price deals priced in Canadian dollars.

"All-inclusives have been particularly popular this year. We're already at a 10 per cent increase versus the same time last year in people going to sun destinations where everything's included."

Meanwhile B.C. ski hills have been profiting from the exchange rate, with some reporting a 35 per cent spike in U.S. visitors this season.

Thrifty consumers will have to get use to their new choices it appears. Experts say that a continued drop in resource prices could mean continued drop in the Canadian dollar and no one is ruling out it possibly falling below 70 cents.

WIth files from Belle Puri and Brenna Rose


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