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.
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.
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.
The sale and breakup of a flagship technology company is a reoccurring theme in Canadian business. But this time is different. If BlackBerry Ltd.goes, there is no ready replacement. That’s a telling switch from the situation Canada faced with the sale of Newbridge Networks in 2000 and the demise of Nortel Networks in 2009. More than a decade of declining business investment in research and development has left Canada without an obvious BlackBerry successor. Despite bright spots in Waterloo, Ont., and Ottawa, the country’s performance on most of the important benchmarks of innovation has been deteriorating for years.
In my earlier post on March 11th , “Alberta Bitumen Bubble and the Canadian Economy: An Industry Analysis Case Study,” I reported the stark facts of Canada’s current economic crisis as announced by Canada’s Minister of Finance, Jim Flaherty, and Alberta Premier Allison Redford, directly resulting from pricing forecasts for “Western Canada Select” (WCS) from the oil sands. In that post I also explored the now well-established economic conundrum known as the “natural resource curse.” This simply means that economies that rely heavily on natural resource exploitation, have historically underperformed more diverse economies. This is now most certainly the case in Canada.
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.