Think globally, get used to a low loonie, Surrey businesses told

Financial experts give their take on the economy at board of trade luncheon.

The Canadian dollar will continue to slide against its American counterpart, Surrey’s business community was told Thursday afternoon.

The Surrey Board of Trade invited three guests to deliver their views on local, provincial, national and international economies at the Eaglequest Golf Course in Guildford. Roughly 100 members were told the dollar’s decline was very sudden and has hit some businesses hard. And that slide will continue.

“The loonie fell from $1 (US) to 68 cents very fast. So if you’re buying U.S. dollars, it’s a seismic change,” said Robert Levy, managing director of Border Gold Corp. “There’s a correlation between oil prices and the loonie. So I think a forecast of a 60-cent dollar will stay intact. I’d say prepare for a 60-cent dollar for the next little while.”

Ken Peacock, chief economist and vice-president of the Business Council of B.C., agreed with many experts’ assessment that oil prices have hurt the Canadian economy. The average price for a barrel of oil was almost $105 (US) in February 2014. It fell below $30 last month.

“We’ve seen the quickest decline of the Canadian dollar in the shortest period of time,” said Peacock. “The Canadian economy is expected to grow by one per cent next year, which is very low. And it is mostly due to (declining) oil prices.”

Peacock displayed a chart which showed the increase or decrease in the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of each province in the past year, noting only two were in decline. Alberta fell by 2.5 per cent, while Newfoundland and Labrador was down by 3.8 per cent. The economies of both provinces depend heavily on the oil industry.

B.C. led the country with a 2.5-per-cent increase in GDP, followed by Ontario at 2.2.

And Canada isn’t alone in its economic struggles, the panel said.

“The global economy is failing to pick up speed,” said Levy. “In B.C., where we do a lot of business with the United States and overseas, it presents a lot of challenges.”

Peacock said a struggling American economy is showing small signs of recovery.

“U.S. housing starts are up, which is good for B.C. lumber,” said Peacock, adding the economy in the United States remains the driving force globally. Several American cities, he added, have economies the size of countries.

“New York’s economy is as big as Australia’s, Chicago’s is as big as Nigeria and Houston is as big as Taiwan’s,” he noted. “The U.S. economy is a large, dominant force in the global economy.”

Eamonn Percy, founder of the Percy Group Capital and Business Advisors, suggested businesses should be looking ahead and said planning just to be competitive locally or provincially isn’t good enough anymore.

“I might not have said that 10 years ago,” he said, adding three global trends have changed his mind.

Citing advancements in technology, the changing demographics in the workplace, and the ever-expanding “greater global connectiveness,” Percy said the question for business is how to adapt to the the changing trends rather than fight them.

“If I was a competitor, what would I do to put myself out of business?” he said. “That’s what you need to ask yourself. Then you need to plan to dominate your sector globally.”


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