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Canada  

Stampede spirit willing but...

Calgary's economy is looking good as Stampede spirit grips Canada's oil and gas headquarters city — although not quite as good as it was a few years ago.

The annual outdoor event set an attendance record for its parade day last Friday and cumulative attendance through Tuesday is second only to the overall record set in 2012 when the Stampede celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Ben Gerwing, president of manufacturer Alberta Boot Co., says business this year is good but he's seen better, especially in 2012.

He says sales were running strong this year but have recently trailed off, adding he thinks he will wind up selling about five per cent fewer sets of his high-end boots than in 2017.

Statistics show an Alberta still recovering from a recession that technically ended in 2016, with unemployment better than in the same month last year, but not nearly as good as in 2012, and oil prices up 65 per cent from a year ago but still well below the $100-plus prices in the summer of 2014.

Steve Laut, executive chairman of oilsands and natural gas giant producer Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., agrees oil prices are good but points out that natural gas prices are terrible, creating a mixed picture for local energy companies.

Trevor Tombe, an associate professor of economics at the University of Calgary, says Stampede attendance is an indicator of the mood of the population but it's not a great proxy for the overall health of the local economy.

"Calgary is where a disproportionate amount of economic pain is felt in the province, because of the types of job losses that occurred in oil and gas during the recession," he said.

He says the province actually continued to post some of the best economic numbers in Canada even during the worst of the oil price recession of 2015 and 2016 but it still "has some ways to go" to match its own performance in 2014.



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