Over five years ago now, March 11, 2013, I published this mayo615 blog post on the Alberta bitumen bubble, and the budgetary problems facing Alberta Premier Alison Redford, and the federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty at that time, both of whom were surprisingly candid about the prospect for ongoing long-term budgetary problems for both the Alberta and Canadian national economies. Fast forward five years to today and the situation has essentially worsened dramatically. The current Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is facing another massive budget deficit, just as Alison Redford predicted years ago, and was forced to call a new election. My most glaring observation is that despite years of rhetoric and arm-waving, almost nothing has changed. Meanwhile, the Canadian economy is on the precipice of a predicted global economic downturn which could easily become a global financial contagion.
One day after federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver deflected concerns over Canada’s poor economic showing to start 2015, the OECD announced that it now projects Canadian growth this year at about 1.5 percent, down sharply from 2.2 percent during its previous temperature reading in March and a full percentage point below its forecast last November. Oliver on Tuesday told a Parliamentary Committee that he does not anticipate a recession.
The evidence of a Canadian economic train wreck just keep rolling in. This report from CNN Money mentions last week’s Bank of Canada dismal report on the Canadian economy, and goes on to add additional economic data and comment from respected investment banks around the World. The one glaring omission is any political discussion of how Canada got into this mess, and who is responsible for it.
Over two years ago now, March 11, 2013, I published this mayo615 blog post on the Alberta bitumen bubble, and the budgetary problems facing Alberta and the federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty at that time, both of whom were surprisingly candid about the prospect for for ongoing long term budgetary problems for both the Alberta and Canadian national economies. Fast forward two years to today, and the situation has essentially worsened dramatically. The most glaring difference in my mind is that there is no Jim Flaherty, and there is no candid talk coming from the current Finance Minister, Joe Oliver, or anyone in the Harper government, on this issue or when a budget may be expected.
The Bank of Canada’s Spring 2015 Business Outlook Survey (link to complete report below) released this week, gives more reason for serious concern regarding the economic prospects for all Canada, and the widening impact of Canada’s “natural resource curse”: it’s fossil fuel based economy. The report points to a significant increase in business pessimism about the economy as a whole, well beyond the oil economy, which is causing business to significantly reduce plans for capital spending and hiring. As I pointed out previously, the impact of the oil economy collapse is likely to reverberate throughout the Okanagan. The BofC report suggests that the impacts will be even deeper and more diverse.
The University of British Columbia is following the lead of faculty and students at Harvard University, the University of California, Stanford University and many other universities across North America. Also of note, Norway’s sovereign investment fund, the largest in the World @ $1.3 Trillion, has already made the decision to divest. The current fossil fuel market collapse and likely long term instability is prima facie evidence of the need for divestment, and to prevent further increases in carbon emissions.
The growing downturn in the fossil fuels industry has extraordinary implications globally. While some are proposing theories that this downturn will be short-lived, there simply isn’t much evidence to support an optimistic forecast. Saudi Arabia is openly executing a long term strategy to squeeze “high cost oil producers,” using its unquestioned leverage and the lowest production costs in the World. Europe is facing potential deflation, and the current European recession is forcing the European Central Bank to begin “quantitative easing,” beginning this week, essentially printing money. The Russian economy is in shambles as the ruble weakens, something Putin did not plan on occurring. The Chinese economy has weakened sharply and will likely remain weak into the near foreseeable future. Meanwhile Canada is at the mercy of these global forces, with little in the way of economic reserves to defend its economy, having bet the entire Canadian economy on oil.
Report Lacks The Rigor Necessary To Give It Much Credibility. The AO report’s “economic impact” conclusions are based on 2014 Survey Monkey voluntary responses, which are problematic due to an apparent lack of critical assessment. The report does not follow the kind of rigorous industry analysis performed by leading technology consultancy firms like International Data Corporation (IDC) or Gartner.
UPDATE: May 21, 2015. Goldman Sachs has just released an oil price forecast suggesting that North…