Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 3/16
THE CANADIAN REPORT
(c) By Jim Fox
Canada’s economy was battered in 2015, with the dollar losing 16 percent of its value against the United States currency and the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSE) down 11 percent.
With the arrival of the new year, Canadians face higher food and restaurant prices with the bite of a slumping dollar.
There was no joy in Canada’s resource rich oil patches, primarily Alberta where 63,500 jobs were lost in the first eight months of the year while the average weekly pay fell 2.6 percent to $1,129 (Canadian).
The drop in oil and commodity prices hit the dollar hard as it fell to 72 U.S. cents while pushing the U.S. dollar to near $1.40 Canadian.
BMO economist Doug Porter said the “carnage” led to the third-worst year since 1992 when the buck fell by 9 percent.
The TSE’s composite index ended the year at 13,009 points, compared with 14,632 a year ago and the worst since 2011.
The dollar’s fall has led to higher food costs since 81 percent of all vegetables and fruit consumed in Canada are imported.
University of Guelph’s Food Institute estimates the average Canadian household spent an additional $325 on food in 2015 and can expect to pay about $345 more this year.
The Canadian government is on target to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by mid-January.
Immigration Minister John McCallum said the government has “largely” met its election promise to bring that number of refugees to Canada by the end of 2015.
The timing was a little too optimistic, with McCallum extending that pledge by two weeks and restating a goal of having 25,000 refugees here by the end of February, and up to 50,000 in 2016.
So far, 6,000 newcomers have arrived of the 10,700 processed and approved, he added.
News in brief:
- While Christmas was a green one, residents of southern Ontario eastward soon after endured freezing rain and wet snow, with a couple of inches in Toronto to 16 inches of snow falling in Montreal. A winter storm dumped 10 inches of snow in mainland Nova Scotia and southeastern New Brunswick, with about six inches in northern New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton.
- Natural Resources monitors said an earthquake on Tuesday night in British Columbia measured 4.3 but didn’t cause any injuries, serious damage or spawn a tsunami. The quake was centered about 12 miles north of Victoria and felt across much of the southern part of the province.
Facts and figures:
The Canadian dollar is steady at 72.18 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.385 in Canadian funds, before bank and credit card exchange fees.
The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate remains at 0.5 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.7 percent.
Markets are mixed, with the Toronto Stock Exchange index down at 13,009 points and the TSX Venture index higher at 525 points.
The average price of gas is lower at 98.38 cents a liter nationally or $3.73 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
Lotto 6/49: (Dec. 30) 17, 19, 21, 30, 39 and 44; bonus 16. (Dec. 26) 12, 16, 22, 29, 35 and 40; bonus 8. Lotto Max: (Dec. 25) 5, 8, 9, 12, 22, 39 and 45; bonus 38.
- Twenty-one people were injured by severe turbulence on a Toronto-bound Air Canada flight that was diverted to Calgary. The injuries ranged from minor sprains to serious chest and neck trauma on the flight from Shanghai. The pilot warned passengers to buckle up and many of those who were injured hadn’t done so when the Boeing 777 went into a sudden descent.
- The “polar bears” were out in big numbers across Canada, taking a plunge into icy waters on New Year’s Day. There were 1,000 people at the Courage Polar Bear Dip in Lake Ontario at Oakville. The fun tradition ranged from 10 hearty souls braving freezing temperatures to leap off a snow-covered wharf into the Atlantic in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland to 2,500 members of the oldest club founded in 1920 plunging in Vancouver.
Jim Fox can be reached at email@example.com