Result of wildfires on Canadian economy will be minimalStaff writer ▼ | May 18, 2016
The Conference Board of Canada released a briefing that assesses the impact of the Fort McMurray wildfires on the economies of Alberta and Canada.
Natural disaster The impact of the Fort McMurray
The impact of the Fort McMurray Wildfires to Alberta’s overall GDP will be slightly negative for 2016.
Nationally, the economic impacts will be minimal. Lost oil production will average about 1.2 million barrels per day for 14 days, translating to roughly $985 million in lost real GDP or 0.33 percent out of Alberta’s GDP in 2016 and only 0.06 percent out of Canada’s GDP.
However, there are mitigating factors, including the rebuilding effort, which are estimated to add roughly $1.3 billion in real GDP to Alberta’s economy in 2017—contributing 0.4 percent to overall growth.
The shutdown of activity in Fort McMurray and in the oil sands will have a major impact on the local economy in the short term. However, at the provincial level, much of the economic activity lost in the city of Fort McMurray will likely accrue elsewhere.
Families that have temporarily moved to other areas, mostly within Alberta, will need to spend on food and accommodations and other services.
Oil sands production will be lost for some weeks, but how large an effect will depend on the length of the shutdown. The Conference Board assumes that most facilities will be up and running by mid-to-late May and that lost oil production will average about 1.2 million barrels per day for 14 days.
This would translate into roughly $985 million in lost real GDP—or 0.33 percent out of Alberta’s GDP in 2016 and only 0.06 percent out of Canada’s GDP.
However, there are other mitigating effects; the sheer size of the firefighting, emergency and clean-up effort will generate plenty of economic activity. Insurance companies have been quick to mobilize staff and services to assess damage, provide assistance, and issue emergency cheques.
Households are also getting emergency funding from the Red Cross, while the Alberta government is also disbursing $1,250 per adult and $500 per dependent to evacuated households. These funds, totalling around $160 million, will be quickly spent to meet the immediate needs of evacuated households. These efforts will help bolster real economic activity in the province.
Overall, the net effect on the provincial economy is expected to be relatively minor, taking about 1 percentage point out of real GDP growth in Alberta in the second quarter. While this is significant, it will be temporary as real GDP growth would be boosted by a similar amount once oil sands production ramps back up.
Beyond 2016, the rebuilding effort is estimated to add roughly $1.3 billion in real GDP to Alberta’s economy in 2017—adding 0.4 percent to overall provincial growth.
Construction activity in Fort McMurray will likely return to its peak year levels as residential and other infrastructure is rebuilt. Early estimates suggest that in Fort McMurray, 2,400 buildings were damaged or destroyed, including 1,600 private dwellings that were completely destroyed.
Most of Fort McMurray’s public buildings were saved from the fire but the city will require additional sums to repair and rebuild roads and other infrastructure. Construction will likely remain elevated in 2018 and perhaps 2019 as rebuilding is completed. ■