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Canadian politicians and business leaders unite in face of trade threats

JEFFREY JONES

Who doesn’t love a good movie that features an unlikely team of misfits banding together to win out over an imposing foe, perhaps on the gridiron or the battlefield?

This week, Canadian politicians and business leaders have followed the script to a T in the trade arena as they invaded Donald Trump’s America to spread the message that punitive measures would hurt both countries.

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Trudeau talks trade under the guise of gender equality

BARRIE McKENNA

It was a classic bait and switch.

Justin Trudeau arrived at the White House Monday to meet Donald Trump along with a delegation of prominent Canadian female executives. It was billed as a roundtable discussion about women in the work force. The two countries issued a joint statement, pledging to remove barriers facing women in business, and they announced the creation of the United States-Canada Council for the Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders. The roundtable idea, apparently pitched to the White House by the Trudeau government, was a natural for both sides.

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The U.S. needs an antitrust hero, and President Trump isn’t it

CARL MORTISHED

American capitalism is in terrible danger – and Donald Trump could be its nemesis.

The scattershot policy pronouncements from the Oval Office make it clear: This President will be no enemy of monopoly; he will seek to level no playing fields; he will erect no barriers to corporate power; nor he will appoint any watchdogs with a mission to curb market abuse or predatory commercial behaviour.

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Why Trudeau’s economic policies are disastrous in the era of Trump

GWYN MORGAN

Gwyn Morgan is the retired founder and CEO of Encana Corp. He has been a director of five global corporations.

Donald Trump’s election victory set off a political earthquake that has deeply shaken Americans. Earthquakes are often followed by devastating tsunamis generating huge waves travelling far beyond the quake’s epicentre. Yet, even as those “Trump-quake” waves threaten to sink our economic ship, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems determined to maintain his pre-quake course.

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Regulation isn’t killing Trump’s ‘clean, beautiful coal,’ the economy is

BARRIE McKENNA

Among President Donald Trump’s schemes to restore U.S. economic greatness perhaps none is more misguided than his pledge to put coal miners back to work.

“We will unleash the full power of American energy, ending job-killing restrictions on shale oil, natural gas and clean, beautiful coal,” Mr. Trump told congressional Republicans at their recent annual retreat in Philadelphia.

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Canadians are generous, but government spending on charities is not

Andrew Jackson

Every year, just before Christmas, the Fraser Institute publishes a “Generosity Index,” which compares charitable giving in Canada and the United States. The widely-publicized message in 2016 was that Canadians are relative tightwads, with just 21.3 per cent of us making tax-deductible charitable donations in 2014, compared with 23.5 per cent of Americans, and total donations amounting to just 0.6 per cent of Canadian family incomes compared with 1.2 per cent in the United States.

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To lure tech talent, Quebec should cut taxes

KONRAD YAKABUSKI

When Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec head Michael Sabia this week sought to defend the pension-fund manager’s plan to build and run a $5.9-billion light-rail transit system in Montreal, he cited the city’s tech sector as the inspiration for his unconventional proposal.

From Hopper, which just clinched $61-million (U.S.) in venture capital for its airfare-prediction app, to the University of Montreal artificial-intelligence lab that’s partnering with Google to create an AI “supercluster” in the city, Mr. Sabia insisted Montreal, “is laying the foundation for its renewal thanks to a new generation of entrepreneurs and researchers who think and act differently.”

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Slow-growth fiscal reality bites Canadian health care

GLEN HODGSON

Canada’s health and finance ministers met prior to Christmas to discuss the next phase of health-funding transfers from the federal government to the provinces. After a decade during which transfers grew by 6 per cent annually, Ottawa’s last offer was to increase them by 3.5 per cent a year. The offer would also provide an additional $11.5-billion in targeted funding over 10 years, focused in areas such as mental health and home care. However, no agreement was reached on a new overarching formula to determine federal funding levels, as a series of bilateral health funding agreements have become the substitute for a national agreement.

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Ominous economic questions moving from world of hypothetical to reality

TODD HIRSCH

An old joke around university economics departments pokes fun at the hypothetical realm in which the discipline lives.

A chemist, a physicist and an economist are stranded on a desert island, with no provisions other than a case of canned beans. Lacking a can opener, the three professors set out to solve their problem. The chemist attempts to create a corrosive salt water solution to eat away at the lid of the can, but fails. The physicist devises an elaborate slingshot using palm trees to smash the cans against a boulder, but fails as well.

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Why Europe’s nasty debt crisis may be set for a comeback

ERIC REGULY

The European debt market is cracking, again. It wasn’t supposed to. The euro zone economy is on the mend and inflation is coming back. Unemployment is dropping. The region, for all its faults and mismanagement, is actually outperforming the U.S. economy.

So how can sovereign-bond yields be rising in France and Italy, the region’s second- and third-largest economies, and soaring in Greece? Leaving perennial basket case Greece aside – it’s bogged down in yet another nasty bailout problem – the spiking yield driver is political risk, and lots of it, which the European Central Bank’s endless stimulus programs can’t do anything about.

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Beyond reason? Canada’s energy sector weighs the U.S. border-adjustment tax

Jeffrey Jones

It’s no easy feat making plans in a postlogic world, but that’s what Canada’s energy sector is forced to do.

An early trade threat to emerge from Washington as Donald Trump stepped into the Oval Office was the imposition of a border adjustment tax. It’s got oil companies, investors and a large contingent of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s cabinet lying awake at night.

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Why Donald Trump’s emphasis on trade surpluses misses the point

BARRIE McKENNA

Uh oh. Canada posted another hefty monthly merchandise trade surplus with the United States in December (just as it has for decades, by the way).

This, alone, is enough to put Canada on U.S. President Donald Trump’s naughty list, along with the likes of China and Mexico, and a target of a possible border tax.

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Federal support of supply management at odds with Liberals’ economic values

BARRIE McKENNA

Canada’s dairy industry has long been the elephant – or rather, the cow – in the room when it comes to making the country a food export superpower.

And so it’s notable that a report released Monday by a panel of advisers to Finance Minister Bill Morneau gently prods the federal government to remove obstacles to growth in the agricultural and food industries, including in the highly protected supply-managed dairy sector.

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Trump condemns offshoring, but market concentration may hurt workers more

BRIAN LEE CROWLEY

After having been relatively stable for most of the 20th century, the share of national income going to labour has started being squeezed quite noticeably in the 21st. Even though the economy is growing, workers are getting a smaller share of that growth than the historical norm.

This is true in the United States, and helps explain the rise of Donald Trump, who has spoken directly to the insecurities of the American working and lower middle class. But it is equally true in the rest of the Group of 20 countries, including Canada.

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Predicting what Trump will do next: Is there a model for that?

BARRIE McKENNA

You have to feel for Stephen Poloz.

The world has been a volatile place since he took the helm of the Bank of Canada in 2013. The post-financial-crisis recovery stalled. Commodity prices collapsed. Exports sagged.

And then along comes Donald Trump.

David Parkinson: Why Poloz needs to shout louder to talk down loonie

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British PM may find Trump a fickle friend

ERIC REGULY

The photo of U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May briefly holding hands as they strolled along the White House colonnade a week ago absolutely delighted the Brexiteers. Here was proof that Ms. May had already transformed Mr. Trump into an ally at a time when Britain needs all the friends it can get as it bids an unfond farewell to the European Union.

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In Trump’s La La Land, a song and dance about Germany, the ‘currency manipulator’

CARL MORTISHED

The title of that movie tipped to win all the Oscars isn’t the nickname for the City of Angels. The real La La Land has moved from California to Washington, D.C., where the man chosen by President Donald Trump to run U.S. trade policy has produced a fantasy movie in which Germany is public enemy No.1.

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Trade isn’t a contest, Mr. Trump

IAN McGUGAN

Donald Trump is nothing if not a global thinker. Having already accused China and Mexico of being unfair traders, he’s now broadened his worldwide insult offensive to include Germany.

The head of Mr. Trump’s new National Trade Council told the Financial Times this week that Berlin was guilty of using a “grossly undervalued” euro to “exploit” the United States and its European Union partners.

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Why Poloz needs to shout louder to talk down loonie

DAVID PARKINSON

When it comes to railing against the perceived injustices of the global currency market, Stephen Poloz doesn’t have quite the theatrical bombast of Donald Trump. But he may have a more compelling case – and he has become increasingly vocal about it.

At a speaking engagement in Edmonton Tuesday, Mr. Poloz, the Bank of Canada governor, was asked about the Canadian dollar, which has become a currency darling since Mr. Trump’s U.S. presidential election win in November. Since election day, the Canadian dollar is up 5 per cent against the euro, 11 per cent against the Japanese yen, 14.5 per cent against the Mexican peso – despite little improvement in Canada’s economic and interest-rate outlook, the kinds of things that normally underpin a currency’s value.

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Canada must keep its elbows out in any NAFTA renegotiation

DON COXE

Chilling thought for a Canadian winter evening: Mexico's legitimate trade with the United States is almost identical to Canada's.

An emerging Third World neighbour that has not fought side-by-side with the United States in the wars of the 20th Century – or the 21st, and is the main supplier of illegal drugs to American users, and a major factor in big-city American drug wars has been outperforming Canada lately in the share of NAFTA revenues.

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If you have oil, pump it now because the glut isn’t over

CARL MORTISHED

The crude oil price slump has been with us for the best part of two and a half years and, if you believe in charts and cycles, we should be seeing OPEC once again imposing output cuts. Even better for Canadians, it might seem, is the oil-friendly guy in the White House, who talks about laying steel pipes across thousands of miles of North American prairie.

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Canadian provinces’ deal to slash internal trade barriers is likely to fall short

BARRIE McKENNA

It’s heartening that Ottawa and the provinces will put in place a new deal to slash internal trade barriers in time for Canada’s 150th birthday bash on July 1.

This is long overdue. The deal will replace the weak and ineffective Agreement on Internal Trade, which for more than two decades has largely failed to dismantle the economic walls that still divide the country.

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Europe must prepare for the end of economic stimulus

ERIC REGULY

Europe can be divided into two eras, the one before Mario Draghi became president of the European Central Bank, in late 2011, and the one after.

The pre-Draghi era was a nightmare. The financial and debt crises had crippled some of Europe’s biggest banks, triggered deep recessions and three sovereign bailouts, sent unemployment well into double digits and nearly saw the exodus of Greece from the euro zone.

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Trump’s stand on immigration could work in Canada’s favour

DAVID PARKINSON

Donald Trump’s war on immigration, even more than his war on trade, could prove to be his biggest economic miscalculation . Thankfully, Canada is moving in the opposite direction; in an era when demographics will increasingly shape economic success and failure, immigration could be Canada’s greatest competitive advantage.

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Cost-benefit analysis alone shouldn’t guide Olympic bid decision

Todd Hirsch

As an economist, perhaps I should find it satisfying that every public-policy decision we make demands an economic justification. What’s the cost-benefit analysis of the project? What’s the return on investment of building a new tunnel or library? Do the economics of it make sense? We obsess over these questions.

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With Keystone in play, oil may be spared from any U.S.-Canada trade spat

JEFFREY JONES

For weeks, Canadian energy looked headed for a beating in the Donald Trump era. Now, the positives for the hard-hit industry seem to be piling up.

Before The Donald was sworn in as President, there was angst in downtown Calgary about the potential for Canadian oil and gas to be taxed heavily at the border as part of an anti-trade wave. That could still happen; attempting to apply traditional logic to predicting what this administration will do is a fool’s game.

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Trump’s economic agenda: uncertainty, risks and opportunities for Canada

GLEN HODGSON

New U.S. President Donald Trump has promised to do many things to make America great again. Some of these promises have major economic flaws with negative consequences, and his ongoing comments are adding to uncertainty. What are the major risks, and opportunities, for Canada from the Trump economic agenda?

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