The Current

Slumping Alberta oil prices could have 'dire' impact on rest of Canada, warns economist

As Alberta oil prices remain low, thanks to a backlog in exporting oil to market from the pipelines, a Calgary-based economist says the situation is teetering on becoming a national crisis.

Backlog in getting oil to market has caused steep drop in Canadian prices

Peter Tertzakian, executive director of ARC Energy Research Institute in Calgary, says there may be no quick and dirty solution to Alberta's oil woes. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

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A Calgary-based economist says Alberta's slump in oil prices is teetering on becoming a national crisis.

"This is the largest industry in the land," said Peter Tertzakian, executive director of ARC Energy Research Institute.

He told The Current's guest host Laura Lynch that dramatic discounts on Alberta oil have a ripple effect on the Canadian economy.

"It significantly affects top-line revenue, then it affects income and the taxes you get from that, the royalties, and then spreads out to all the peripheral services, including all the way from a helicopter pilot to steel manufacturing in the eastern provinces that support this industry," Tertzakian said.

Western Canadian oil prices took a sharp downturn in September, leading to a significant disparity between U.S. oil prices.

Alberta oil is selling for less than U.S. oil. (Todd Korol/Reuters)

Part of the problem is a backlog at the pipelines, which is creating a lack of capacity to export oil to the market. Meanwhile, pipeline projects like Trans Mountain and Keystone XL have seen setbacks.

Tertzakian said it the oil glut isn't rectified in "the next few weeks," workers could be slapped with layoffs and the winter drilling season could be lost.

"The effects are quite dire," he said, adding jobs could be impacted in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. "It's going to affect multiple provinces and a significant portion of spending."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has acknowledged the "crisis" in Alberta, while Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has appointed a group of experts to help fix it.

However, Tertzakian said there may be no simple solution.

To talk about the impacts of the oil slump, Lynch spoke with:

  • Don Scott, mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
  • Peter Tertzakian, an economist and executive director of ARC Energy Research Institute.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Produced by The Current's Michael O'Halloran and Ines Colabrese.


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