By Dan Walton
Cheap oil looks as though its here to stay and its garnering mixed reactions.
Its a good news-bad news scenario, but its what happens, said Susan Clovechok, executive director of the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce. There are things that go on that we dont have control over, so we have to make sure that we can respond appropriately.
Since the valley is largely dependent upon tourism, the effect of cheap oil on the local economy is uncertain.
Its making us nervous at this point, were not exactly sure what to expect, said Kent Kebe, manager of the Radium Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce. Its great for filling up your car and travelling, but of course you need to have a job to be able to have money to spend.
While there are advantages to high and low oil prices, Mr. Kebe said the Chamber prefers stability.
If its $80 a barrel, gas may cost a little more, but at least there would be some job security in Alberta too, he said.
Member of Parliament of Kootenay-Columbia David Wilks doesnt think the low oil prices will have a short-term pinch on tourism, but isnt certain about the long-term.
I dont think theres a significant impact for those in the oil and gas industry at this time, he told The Pioneer, but thats not to say that there wont be an impact.
While many families, businesses, and governments depend on a profitable energy sector, Mr. Wilks said the value of a barrel of oil isnt dictated by the oil sands in Alberta, but by producers in the Middle East.
Mr. Wilks said the federal government will forego some revenues that were expected through taxation from a stable oil price, but it doesnt appear that the financial budget will need readjusting.
Other oil-rich nations however, such as Russia and Venezuela, are feeling a stronger pinch.
Crude oil prices have a big effect on other energy producing regions, said Dan McTeague, former Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs and currently a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com. These prices are definitely a game changer.
But businesses in the valley are responding proactively, said Mrs. Clovechok.
Theyre asking themselves, how will I mitigate that impact?
Because the Columbia Valley has to compete largely for Albertas tourism dollars, we have to make sure were the best place to be, to visit and to come to when people have other choices for their discretionary spending, Mrs. Clovechok said.
While any Chamber of Commerce is limited by how it can react to crude oil prices, Mrs. Clovechok said a robust local economy is the best defence.
We really advocate for making sure our economy is as diverse as it possibly can be so that were not tied to any one economic driver, she said.
Anytime something happens that can hurt tourism, it reinforces that we, as a group of communities in the valley, need to be looking at how we can diversify our economy so that were not dependant on one industry.
Asked for a prediction, Mr. Wilks expects the market for crude oil to continue its downward trend into the near foreseeable future.