August 30, 2008


August 6, 2008

Reporting Live From Newfoundland

I'm looking over the ocean, squinting through the fog toward Ireland. I'm on Cape Spear, the furthest eastern point in North America. For the moment, I'm alone next to the restored lighthouse. While taking pictures of my family walking up the steps, I hear a roar from the sea. Two humpback whales puff and roll hundreds of feet below me, while a quarter of a kilometre away, a minke whale entertains tourists. The foghorn wails, warning off ships approaching the St. John's narrows.

It's the perfect way to kick off my summer vacation in my homeland, and the perfect image to start my first anniversary column with.

I've read news reports while living in Lloydminster, but now I can see with my own eyes that the seeds for a boom similar to Alberta's is being experienced in the capital of St. John's. Travelling around St. John's, I've been noticing a greater number of "hiring" signs - mostly in the restaurant sector. The oil rigs are under construction, St. John's is under development, and the workers need to be fed. The mall in my hometown of Carbonear has become much busier, but other than that, I can't tell for certain yet if the effects have spread out to the smaller communities.

According to Peter Hall, Vice-President of Economics and Deputy Chief Economist with Export Development Canada (EDC): “Energy will actually subtract the province’s exports this year, largely as the result of lower production output and cooling prices before a rebounding in 2009," Hall said in a press release. "The industrial goods outlook remains solid, while seafood and forestry will get a lift from a falling Canadian dollar in 2009.”

EDC is predicting a 4 per cent drop in energy exports this year, and a slight increase of 1 per cent in 2009. Crude production hit a record 134 million barrels last year, but each of the province’s three production facilities will see lower output in 2008. Hibernia will lead the decline, but with the potential development of Hibernia South this platform should be responsible for a solid rebound in 2009. There are reasons for optimism due to future development at White Rose and Hebron, the potential addition of a second refinery and ongoing deepwater drilling activity.

The agrifood sector accounts for 7 per cent of the province’s export total, with expected increases of 1.5 per cent and 5.5 per cent in 2008 and 2009, respectively. EDC Economics anticipates no major quota adjustments for key species such as crab or shrimp, but there is some upside for landings of lesser-valued ground fish. Fishers, especially those chasing shrimp, will still find market conditions very tough, as the exchange rate and high energy costs squeeze margins. The brightest light is the aquaculture sector, which should start to pay dividends in 2008. With significant coastline, there appears to be plenty of upside for this industry.

In other words, foundations are being laid - and there is hope.

As I clew up this column, the fog is finally lifting and the sun is shining. Just down the road from my childhood house, the big blue ocean is glittering. I'm going for a walk along the coast. Newfoundland's weather can change in the blink of an eye, so I better take advantage of it!

Inkslinger over and out.