“B.C.’s economy is much more diversified; Alberta is really all about the oil, so when oil goes south the economy is hurt really badly,” Peacock explains of B.C.’s economic advantage. “In contrast, we don’t have very much oil in B.C. We have lumber that’s going to do well, we’ve got a fairly robust services export segment, we’ve got some film and television; tourism is going to do well this year – we believe because of the recovery in the US economy and also because the Canadian dollar is less expensive… We do export to Asia much more than the rest of the county, so it’s just this much more diversified economy means we will be more resilient and not face some of the challenges that Alberta, and Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland face.”
Peacock adds, “Forestry is an area that we expect to do quite well. It might not boast Fort St. John particularly but northern British Columbia in general.”
The boast of B.C.’s forestry industry is a result of a recovery within the U.S. housing market increasing the price of lumber, according to Peacock.
When forecasting B.C.’s economic future, the council also considers the prospect of LNG development.
“Our sense is sort of the chaos in [the] global energy market does make it more challenging,” Peacock goes on to say. “I think some of these global energy companies are going to face cash flow issues, and so we think it might postpone some final investment decisions or make companies take a harder look at their final decision.”
Peacock says given the magnitude of some LNG project, many of which range $10 – $20 billion in construction and operating costs, international energy providers are looking to secure contracts with Asian markets decades into the future and are not entirely focused on this year’s downturn in commodity prices.
“We are still fairly confident that we’re going to see a couple of LNG projects in the province.”
As for the drop in the price of gas for consumers at the pump, Peacock concedes “it might not be as clear-cut” in Fort St. John – warning of “curtailment in exploration and drilling activity,” but says “consumers will obviously benefit.”
“It’s probably a bit more nuanced in your area.”