Canada column for Sunday, May 29/16
THE CANADIAN REPORT
(c) By Jim Fox
The oil price shock has been compounded by this month’s devastating Alberta wildfires to hurt Canada’s economic growth.
The Bank of Canada said the fires that destroyed sections of Fort McMurray, forcing about 80,000 to flee and with the loss of 2,400 houses and businesses, are exacting a toll on the economy.
In the oil-rich province, the flames forced several oilsands operations to close and sent workers fleeing.
The central bank said the impact of the fires will cut 1.25 percent off Gross Domestic Product growth in the second quarter.
Even so, the bank kept its key interest rate steady at 0.5 percent, expecting better days ahead.
In its assessment, the bank said Canada’s economy is expected to rebound in the third quarter as oil production resumes along with rebuilding after the fires.
The economy continues making a “structural adjustment” to lower world oil prices, the bank noted.
Retail sales figures for March along with manufacturing and wholesale numbers were lower.
Statistics Canada said the annual pace of inflation rose to 1.7 percent last month, up from 1.3 percent in March.
Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper plans to leave politics this summer to pursue business interests after serving 14 years as a Member of Parliament.
Harper, 57, resigned as Conservative leader after his party suffered a devastating loss in last October’s federal election but stayed on as a Conservative member for Calgary.
The economist served as prime minister for almost a decade and it’s reported he plans to become an advocate for international causes while considering numerous job offers.
Conservatives paid tribute to Harper at its national convention in Vancouver on Thursday.
- Canada Goose, a luxury winter jacket maker whose products sell for up to $1,500, is opening its first retail stores this fall at Toronto’s Yorkdale mall and in New York City. The Toronto-based company’s jackets are currently sold online and through authorized retailers. Its parkas have graced the cover of Sport Illustrated’s swimsuit edition and are worn by celebrities and in movies.
- The rapid expansion of online banking and technological advancements is resulting in the Bank of Montreal eliminating about 1,850 jobs as it “digitizes” some of its operations. As one of Canada’s largest banks, it has about 46,000 employees. The bank reported second-quarter profit dropped 3 percent and had net income of $973 million.
Facts and figures:
The Canadian dollar is higher at 76.73 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.303 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 0.5 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.7 percent.
Markets are mixed, with the Toronto Stock Exchange index up at 14.099 points and the TSX Venture index down at 669 points.
The average price for gas nationally has risen to $1.076 a liter or $4,08 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
Lotto 6/49: (May 25) 4, 17, 18, 24, 29 and 39; bonus 21. (May 21) 6, 10, 37, 39, 42 and 48; bonus 28. Lotto Max: (May 20) 16, 17, 19, 22, 31, 47 and 49; bonus 1.
- Horse-drawn carriages (caleches) will continue on the streets of Montreal this summer. Mayor Denis Coderre said city council will reverse its recent decision calling for a year-long moratorium on the popular sightseeing coaches in Old Montreal. Caleche drivers had obtained a temporary court injunction to keep working. The city is still going to review the service that animal rights advocates say is dangerous and cruel for the horses.
- Politicians in Newfoundland and Labrador have blocked a proposed 14-percent pay raise for provincial court judges as being excessive. An independent tribunal recommended the 23 full-time judges should receive a $32,000 a year raise that would have upped their salaries to about $250,000.
- A cross-Canada tour is planned by the iconic Canadian rock band the Tragically Hip whose lead singer has been diagnosed with brain cancer. The band, formed in 1984 in Kingston, Ontario, announced Gord Downie’s illness as it told of a final tour of 11 shows this summer. The concerts start in Victoria on July 22 and wind up in Kingston on Aug. 20.
Jim Fox can be reached at email@example.com