Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/4/2009 (3788 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The latest Jory Capital/Probe Research survey on economic outlook and job security in Manitoba, produced exclusively for the Free Press, shows that Manitobans are more optimistic than ever about the economic future of Winnipeg and the province.
While much of the global economy is either in recession or declining, the level of confidence among Winnipeggers rose a surprising 15 per cent between December and March.
Answering the question: "Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the economic future of Winnipeg/your community," 86 per cent of survey respondents in Winnipeg said "very" or "somewhat" optimistic. That's up from 71 per cent in December.
(The survey of 1,000 people conducted during mid-March is considered to be 95 per cent consistent plus or minus 3.1 percentage points of what would have been the case if the entire adult population of the province was surveyed.)
Scott MacKay, president of Probe Research said, "I have been doing this for 13 years and we run this survey four times per year asking the same core questions. If we ever had wavered more than 7 per cent that was a big deal. To go up this much is huge — just huge."
The results were so surprising he took the rare step of calling back some of the 1,000 respondents to verify their expressions of optimism and to explore further why they held such views.
"They all put it this way," MacKay said. "They said they don't see anything falling apart here but they see the car crisis in Ontario and the forestry crisis everywhere. They said it's like we're in this little island here and they're feeling good about it."
Pat Thompson, a 62-year-old retired school teacher was one of them.
"I really do think Manitoba is in better shape than other provinces," she said. "Our government had the foresight to spend money on the floodway, the real estate market is still strong, there are good projects planned. People are still making money and spending money."
Phillip Houde, the owner of River East Travel & Cruise Centres in East Kildonan, said he understands that travel spending has gone down, but sales at his firm have gone up by about 20 per cent over the fall and winter.
He said among other things, he makes sure he does not take his customers for granted and is now in the habit of calling some to make sure they still intend to go through with their travel plans.
Houde sits on the board of the Association of Canadian Travel Agents and often meets with industry peers across the country and in the U.S.
"I know we are doing a lot better than they are in Ontario and Quebec and B.C.," he said.
"It's almost embarrassing to go to meeting sometimes where we compare financials. I feel bad because they are talking about survival and we're showing really good numbers."
Most of the bank forecasts rank Manitoba at or near the top for economic growth this year. Even though the average of the forecasters is for about 0.1 per cent growth in Manitoba for 2009, it seems very strong compared to the negative growth anticipated for the national economy.
The famously diversified Manitoba economy is producing startling stability in the context of so much volatility throughout the economies of the western world.
Patrick Cooney, president of Jory Capital, which partners with Probe in producing the survey, said the sky-high optimism in Manitoba is a great story.
"Manitoba and Saskatchewan have always been seen as poor cousins in Canada but recently there has been lots of coverage about how we are in great shape relative to the rest of the country," he said.
"People in Winnipeg tend to be conservative. They don't like strapping on a lot of risk. They tend to be prudent. Now we are being rewarded for it. Finally."
But that is not to say the economic future will necessarily be better just because the people will it.
Charles Mossman, associate dean of the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba said regardless of the optimism, the province cannot expect to be immune to the global downturn.
"On the one hand Manitoba will come through this better than other places," Mossman said. "But if you look at the forecast from the banks, the province is not expected to do nearly as well (relative to the rest of the country) the next year."
But even an accounting and finance professor like Mossman understands that optimism can have a powerful effect on the economy.
"The way I put it is that there is a real economy affect and a confidence affect," Mossman said. "If people are confident they are probably going to get through this better and the economy will do better because they won't retrench their spending quite as much as they would otherwise."
"ö 66 per cent
The number of Manitobans who believe the economy in Manitoba will perform better than other parts of Canada over the next year.
"ö 17 per cent
The number of Manitobans who are concerned about unwanted reduction in working hours over the next six months, compared to 17 per cent in December 2008, 14 per cent in September 2008, 12 per cent in June 2008 and 11 per cent in March 2008.
"ö 33 per cent
The number of Manitobans who believe their family will be better off financially a year from now, compared to 28 per cent in December 2008 and 39 per cent in March 2008.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.