26 Feb

Deficits Are Survivable For Canada—Economists


Posted by: John Dunford

In the wake of Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s economic update on Monday (February 22), economists remained upbeat of Canada’s prospects in the long run, despite a projected $18.4-billion shortfall this year (and another $15.5 billion next year) that has grown even before the implementation of the government’s spending plans.

“Even with such deficits, the debt-to-GDP ratio should remain low relative to other OECD economies. In our view the government has the flexibility to provide fiscal stimulus to a Canadian economy that badly needs it,” National Bank Financial senior economist Marc Pinsonneault told The Globe and Mail.

Pinsonneault said that such a move at this time “should hardly scare off foreign investors.”

BMO Nesbitt Burns chief economist Douglas Porter and senior economist Robert Kavcic concurred with this observation, saying that Ottawa can apply a moderate fiscal boost without inflicting lasting damage on its long-term debt outlook.

“The federal debt-to-GDP ratio has dipped in each of the past two years, and remains relatively low at 31 per cent. Additionally, total government debt (including other layers of government) remains comfortably below levels that prevailed during the mid-1990s when Canada’s credit rating fell under pressure,” the duo said in a report.

Porter and Kavcic added that this optimism needs to be tempered by reasonable caution, though, as an estimated $25-billion-plus every year deficit might prove to be a daunting opponent for the planned Liberal stimulus.

The shortfall has prompted various quarters to call on the Liberal government to aggressively go beyond its campaign promises. However, CIBC World Markets chief economist Avery Shenfeld assured that the 2016-2017 deficit is “hardly a blow-up,” as it would be only about 1.5 per cent of GDP.

“The only question is whether the modest dose of stimulus pledged in the campaign (roughly a half-per-cent of GDP) is enough to counter the drag on the economy from low commodity prices,” Shenfeld said.

22 Feb

Morneau to Give Stats on Canadian Economy


Posted by: John Dunford

The federal finance minister will report on the state of Canada’s economy Monday, an unusual step with the budget not far away. Bill Morneau will explain how much the economy has changed since the government set out its fiscal plans in November; oil prices have fallen further, global growth has slowed, the US dollar has strengthened and equities have dropped in the three months since.

With economists including the OECD downgrading Canada’s growth outlook for 2016, the minister is likely to focus on spending plans, especially in infrastructure, softening the blow of an increasing deficit, and rising household debt and house prices.

9 Feb

BoC Suggests Interest Rates Won’t Be Cut


Posted by: John Dunford

The Bank of Canada said Monday that a reliance on monetary policy to stimulate the economy may not be the best way forward. Deputy governor Timothy Lane was speaking at a conference in Montreal and warned that using instruments such as lowering interest rates could lead to a less stable economy with increasing consumer debt. Mr Lane said that a balance between monetary policy and government spending could be the best answer, as long as public debt was not allowed to get out of control.