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.
Canada is routinely cited as a boring backwater in financial services that has none of the scandals plaguing the rest of the industry. But in an extraordinary investigative report on The National, CBC’s Ian Hanomansing revealed an ongoing Canada Revenue Agency investigation, and a looming criminal investigation into KPMG Canada’s Isle of Man tax “haven” scheme reserved for its wealthiest clients. The report names names. Current Canadian government ministers are also implicated in apparent conflicts of interest.
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 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.
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.