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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Canadian economic recovery slow but steady; quality of life not keeping pace

   Canada column published on Sunday, Oct. 23/11


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada remains on track to avoid a double-dip recession but quality of life isn’t keeping up with the pace of economic growth, two studies have found.
   The Conference Board of Canada, an independent research organization, said while averting another recession, economic recovery will be slow but steady.
   The real gross domestic product will be a slim 2.1 percent this year and grow to 2.4 percent next year, putting the recovery on a stronger footing than most other developed countries.
   Major concerns are a “sluggish outlook for the United States” that’s not good news for trading partner Canada and an uncertain debt situation in Europe, board director Pedro Antunes said.

   Canada’s employment has returned to pre-recession levels and business investment and the real estate market are strong but reduced federal infrastructure spending will knock $3 billion out of the economy, the board said.
    Another study finds that Canada is “not reaping all of the benefits of its economic growth,” said Roy Romanow of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing.
   The study based at Ontario’s University of Waterloo said quality of life has declined in areas such as environment, leisure, culture and time use, with only modest gains in health.


   Canadian soldiers are irked that home improvement retailer Lowe’s is ending a discount for the military, saying it was never intended to be offered in Canada.
   The company has given a 10-percent discount to Canadian Forces members at four Ontario stores near military bases but said the program was intended only for U.S. military families.
   The discount was a “combination of misunderstanding and miscommunication that unfortunately went undetected until now,” said Joanne Elson of Lowe's Canada.
    Lowe’s will end the program in Canada at the end of the month and plans to find another way to make it up to Canadian military customers.


   News in brief:
   -Economic protests in Toronto, Vancouver and about a dozen cities across Canada, similar to the Occupy Wall Street movement, have been largely peaceful. Thousands of people marched through downtown Toronto last weekend and planned another gathering outside city hall this weekend. They are protesting “corporate greed and the imbalance of wealth in Canada.” Groups remain camped out in parks.
   - Maple Leaf Foods is closing meat-processing plants in six Canadian cities and cutting more than 1,500 jobs to remain competitive against U.S. producers. Notably, the company will close its J.M. Schneider’s plant in Kitchener, Ont. that employs 1,200 workers along with facilities in Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Moncton and North Battleford by the end of 2014. It will build a $395-million state-of-the-art processing plant in Hamilton.
  - About 200 protesters called for the arrest of former U.S. president George W. Bush for “war crimes” when he spoke at a Surrey, British Columbia hotel. Former president Bill Clinton was also speaking at the Surrey Regional Economic Summit. Last month, protesters called for the arrest of Dick Cheney, Bush’s vice-president, when he spoke in Calgary.


   Facts and figures:
   A higher inflation rate than expected reducing the chance of a central bank interest rate cut pushed the Canadian dollar higher on Friday. It returned 99.22 cents U.S. while the U.S. greenback was 1.0079 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.
   Core inflation rose to 2.2 percent last month, the highest in almost three years, while food and gasoline prices pushed the overall consumer price index up by 3.2 percent from a year ago.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime lending rate is 3 percent.
   Stock markets were higher on Friday, with the Toronto exchange index at 11,972 points and the TSX Venture Exchange 1,532 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 9, 14, 17, 20, 44 and 45; bonus 33. (Oct. 15) 14, 24, 27, 36, 39 and 42; bonus 3. Lotto Max: (Oct. 14) 1, 3, 7, 19, 31, 39 and 49; bonus 17.


   Regional briefs:
   - Police have arrested Cody Legebokoff, 21, of Prince George, British Columbia for the murders of four women in 2009 and 2010. Investigators said they didn’t believe this case was connected to the murders and disappearances of 18 women along the “Highway of Tears” between Prince Rupert and Prince George in the past 20 years.
   - The cost of rebuilding the fabled Nova Scotia Bluenose II schooner has jumped by $1 million to $15.9 million. The restoration of the wooden ship built in 1963 is taking place on the Lunenburg waterfront near where the original Bluenose was constructed as fishing and racing schooner in 1921.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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