Weyburn – One might think that a window manufacturer doesn’t have a lot to do with the oilpatch. When it comes to Southern Glass Works Ltd. in Weyburn, you would be wrong.
“The patch has such a big impact on my business, because the residential part is huge. The residential is what feeds us,” said Cliff Anderson. “When the patch hurts, we hurt. Like every small business in a small town, you feel it.”
The family business includes Cliff Anderson and president and his wife Kelly as office manager. Their kids include Rolan, sales manager, and Brett, production manager. Brett’s wife, Halie, manages rentals.
“We have commercial and residential rentals. We have some oilfield commercial, and we have apartments, and all of those are greatly affected by the downturn,” he said.
The commercial properties are full, but bringing in half of what they used to. They have 57 residential rental units, and those have seen rents chopped about 30 per cent.
Cliff said they’re not in the oil or agriculture industry, but they’re affected by them.
“I grew up here. I’ve had a business here since 1983. I know what it’s like to live through lean times,” Cliff said. He started as a general contractor. The glass business was started in 2004, and the boys have taken over ownership.
“In the last four years, we’ve seen what’s gone on here. We feel it,” Cliff said.
Brett chimed in, saying, “Oh God.”
“I went to Ottawa with that bunch as well and supported it, because I felt, as a business, we need to support these guys,” Cliff continued.
To that end, Cliff went to Ottawa as part of the United We Roll convoy earlier this year.
Asked what are the issues in this election, Cliff said, “The is if we have another four years of what we just had, we haven’t seen nothing yet. He’s going to get way worse. That’s what I’m afraid of.
“The carbon tax has chased away the oilfield business here. We have a lot of empty commercial shops here. Commercial real is the heart of your economy, and our commercial real estate is down. I was around in the 80s, and it was bad, so you knew it. It’s back to that. We overbuilt a bit, possibly, and now there’s too much sitting. We’re that way in the residential a bit, too.
“When your own government is complicit in roadblocking your economy, you’ve got trouble.”
He referred to Bill C-48, the tanker ban, and C-69, the Impact Assessments Act, as examples.
“We’re down two or three staff from what we were,” Cliff said. It’s not about growth, but where they can cut to stay in business.
“How can we be more efficient?” Brett said.
“It’s all about trying to stay viable. As long as we’re in these conditions keep going on, it’s going to be a battle for us.”
How much do they blame on the federal government?
“As much as anything, it’s mindset,” Cliff said.
“It isn’t the price of oil that is the issue. How do our neighbours across the border seem to be doing okay, and our (oil industry) isn’t?”
“If he (Justin Trudeau) gets in again, where are we going? I don’t know where we’re going to be,” Cliff said.
“I think on a small scale, for us, because the industry is so poor, we’re not talking about businesses buying windows. We’re talking about the employee, the service rig hand coming in to buy windows. And if they kill farming, who do we sell to?” Brett said. “Generally, the government should be doing things to promote the oil industry, instead of roadblocks.”
“A change of government will not mean magic. But it’ll change the mindset,” Cliff said.
“The best case, things go back the way they were,” Brett said. Five years ago, with their rental apartments, they could post a vacancy at 6 p.m. and in a short time, have five applications. That doesn’t happen anymore.
To be fair, oil was $100 a barrel then. But Cliff pointed out they’ve seen the highs and the lows over the last 25 years, and Cliff thinks they’re at the lowest of the lows. It’s been three years since they’ve had a renter whose originally from out east.
If the Trudeau Liberal government is re-elected, Cliff said, “I think there will be a lot of questions pf what does Western Canada do?”
Is he referring to national unity?
“Absolutely,” Cliff replied.