OTTAWA – The International Monetary Fund has cut its growth outlook for the Canadian economy to just 1.0 […]

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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.

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.

Underscoring Goldman Sachs forecast last week of oil prices at or below $50 per bbl until at least 2020, Bloomberg News is today reporting that Iraq is preparing to unleash a flood of new oil within the next few months. This is very bad news for the price of Western Canadian Select bitumen, and Alberta oil sands producers. Saudi Arabia’s strategy, together with OPEC, to squeeze high-cost oil producers of oil sands and shale seems to be working. More pessimistic forecasts of WCS at $25 for an extended period now appear more plausible.

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.

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.

Those following international events have probably already seen the stories on Putin’s Russia, and the combined impact international economic sanctions, and now, the unexpected and unwelcome plummet in World oil prices. The Russian economy in 2015 will likely see a budget deficit of $20 Billion or more as the ruble collapses and oil prices plummet. The problem is global and expected by analysts to persist for the foreseeable future. Lesser developed countries like Venezuela and Nigeria, which are more dependent on their oil economies, are expected to see even greater impacts. Economists commonly refer to this as the “natural resource curse.”

Years ago, when Nixon ordered the invasion of Cambodia, on May 1, 1970, four students demonstrating against the war were essentially murdered by the Ohio National Guard. David Crosby, Graham Nash, Steven Stills and Canadian Neil Young were driven to record the song “Ohio,” in a rushed recording session. The song went viral before “viral” was even a concept. The Internet did not exist. In less than 24 hours “Ohio” was being played on FM radio stations all across the United States. That CSNY song, IMHO played a crucial role in Nixon’s demise, and accelerated the end of the Vietnam War. I see Yogi Berra’s “deja vu happening all over again” with Neil Young and the tar sands.

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.