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.
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.
Regrettably, this week’s events in the oil market, provide further evidence of the dire consequences ahead for the Canadian oil economy. Oil industry bulls who have been betting on a quick rebound in oil prices are likely to get severely burned, and the prospects for the local tourism based economy are only worsening.
Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), worth $850bn (£556bn) and founded on the nation’s oil and gas wealth, revealed a total of 114 companies had been dumped on environmental and climate grounds in its first report on responsible investing, released on Thursday. The companies divested also include tar sands producers, cement makers and gold miners.
As part of a fast-growing campaign, over $50bn in fossil fuel company stocks have been divested by 180 organisations on the basis that their business models are incompatible with the pledge by the world’s governments to tackle global warming. But the GPFG is the highest profile institution to divest to date.
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.
UPDATE: May 21, 2015. Goldman Sachs has just released an oil price forecast suggesting that North…
This is another post in my Industry Analysis series on the Alberta Bitumen Bubble and The Canadian Economy, and Canada’s strategic options. In a clear sign that the Harper government’s anxiety over the tars sands is increasing exponentially, the rhetoric from the Conservative government has become ever more shrill and less rational in tone. Rumors have abounded for some time that Harper himself is in fervent denial of climate change, but his PR handlers have cautioned him not to personally come “out of the proverbial closet” on climate change because it would cost Conservatives votes, the thing they care most about. But this stance appears to be changing, as Canada’s “natural resource curse”, consequent economic downturn, Canada’s failure to invest in innovation, and national productivity crisis converge on the Harper government. An ominous parallel can be drawn with South African President Thabo Mbeki’s official denial that HIV did not cause AIDS, which became an international embarrassment for South Africa. implications for all Canadians are immense.
Canada’s economic growth to remain weak: OECD http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/canadas-economic-growth-to-remain-weak-oecd/article9587265/?_rob_utm_medium=twitter
The Canadian media (CBC, Globe & Mail, Canadian Business) have been buzzing with analyses of Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s pronouncement last month that the “Bitumen Bubble,” is now crashing down on the Alberta economy, and potentially the entire Canadian economy. The Alberta budget released last Thursday, March 7, acknowledged a $6.2 Billion deficit from this year, and “even larger declines in the next several years,” due to forecasts for significant price decreases for “Western Canada Select” (WCS), the market term for Alberta oil sands oil. Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty echoed the impact of reduced oil sands revenue on the federal budget, by warning of significant cutbacks in federal spending as well. The impact of this sudden change in the prospects for the Canadian petroleum industry and for government oil tax revenues, will likely also have serious implications for the BC economy, jobs growth, business investment, consumer spending: essentially the Canadian economy as a whole will suffer.