The Globe and Mail

Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

AdChoices

Report on Business

Economy Lab

Delving into the forces that shape our living standards
for Globe Unlimited subscribers

Entry archive:

Economy Lab has moved

Only Globe Unlimited members will now have access to a wide range of insightful commentary
and analysis on the economy and markets previously offered on this page.


Globe Unlimited subscribers will be able to read these columns,
written by some of Canada’s most deeply respected economists,
such as Christopher Ragan, Sheryl King, Andrew Jackson, and Clement Gignac,
as part of our ECONOMIC INSIGHT section.


All of our readers will still be able to browse the Economy Lab archives and read our
broader coverage of economic data and news by accessing their 10 free articles a month.


Learn more about Globe Unlimited and how to subscribe.

OECD chief gives Britain blunt warning of Brexit perils

PAUL WALDIE

As an economist, diplomat and Secretary-General of the OECD, you might expect Angel Gurria to offer a dry, academic assessment of global issues. Not when it comes to Britain leaving the European Union.

On Wednesday, Mr. Gurria used colourful flourishes, unusual examples and blunt language to argue that there was absolutely no benefit to Britain leaving the EU. “We see no economic upside for the U.K. whatsoever,” Mr. Gurria told a packed auditorium at the London School of Economics. “The only question is where, on the spectrum of possible losses, the outcome winds up.”

More »

Investors betting on energy recovery

JEFF LEWIS

Energy investors are looking past the financial carnage left by oil’s collapse to tentative signs of recovery in the sector.

First-quarter results start rolling out this week and the numbers are expected to be grim, marred by hefty losses and heightened concern over debt levels as banks trim credit lines and industry-wide cash flow remains anemic.

More »

Bank of Canada interest rate may become victim of its own success

DAVID PARKINSON

Friday’s double whammy of key economic data from Statistics Canada – retail sales and inflation – raises an interesting prospect for the Bank of Canada: Its rate policy may become a victim of its own success.

Statscan reported that February retail sales climbed a solid 0.4 per cent from January, despite a slump in the cost of gasoline that sapped overall retail prices. On a volume basis, sales were up a strong 1.5 per cent.

More »

Nobody will go to jail for Canada’s biggest stock scandal

BARRIE McKENNA

In the final frames of the movie The Big Short, the narrator laments that no one on Wall Street ever went to jail for fraud in connection with the 2008 financial meltdown.

Canada’s Sino-Forest scandal is headed for a similar denouement.

More than four years after Canada’s largest publicly traded forest products company collapsed under the weight of fraud allegations, top Sino-Forest executives are about to face the music.

More »

Why Edmonton’s unemployed are getting a raw deal from Ottawa

TODD HIRSCH

Those who have never spent much time in either Edmonton or Calgary could be forgiven if they think the two cities have identical characters. After all, on the surface they are much the same: young cities of just more than one million, fuelled by oil, rodeos, hockey and pickup trucks. (Although don’t get stuck in stereotypes. Both are also home to superb universities, arts and culture, and culinary excellence.)

More »

China may have to bite TPP bullet and open up to the world

CARL MORTISHED

Let’s be frank, trade is a bit nerdy. It’s a topic that excites people with obsessions: tariffs on textiles, phytosanitary arrangements, banana quotas. Talk for too long about this stuff and you will find yourself drinking on your own. How then do we explain why trade has become political dynamite – a trigger for explosive arguments about jobs in the U.S. presidential election.

More »

Canada’s cluttered tax system in need of reform

GLEN HODGSON AND DANIEL MUZYKA

Canada’s tax system is highly complex, cluttered and opaque to the average citizen. The system at the federal level is complex enough – even before adding an array of provincial tax systems to the mix, with remarkably little alignment among the provinces in how they tax. Forthcoming Conference Board research will provide a detailed comparative analysis of provincial taxation and the surprising lack of consistency. Such a balkanized system is not good enough for Canada’s economy in what is a period of weak growth.

More »

OAS reversal is lousy, short-sighted, dim-witted economic policy

DAVID PARKINSON

The Liberal government’s decision to restore Canada’s Old Age Security eligibility to age 65 may be shrewd politics. It may even be fiscally manageable. But it’s lousy economic policy.

Perhaps I should elaborate. It’s lousy, short-sighted, dim-witted economic policy. It ignores everything we know about the aging demographics in this country, and the things policy makers should be doing to address the economic fallout from them. It’s a remarkable step in the wrong direction.

More »

Once unimaginable, a sales tax in Alberta is getting a serious rethink

JEFFREY JONES

Time was, an Alberta finance minister could trumpet to a Calgary business audience that, under his watch, the province will stay sales-tax-free, and he could count on a raucous standing ovation.

Joe Ceci pulled out that chestnut during a speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce this week and garnered only a smattering of applause.

More »

Political falsehoods about ‘offshoring’ trump economic reality

BRIAN LEE CROWLEY

One of the dominant themes of the U.S. presidential primaries has been “the good jobs that nasty foreigners stole.” Candidates ranging from Donald Trump on the right (America doesn’t make anything any more) to Bernie Sanders on the left (Flint, Mich.’s problems are due to ruinous free-trade deals), the political myth-making machine is in high gear. Americans have been had by a traitorous political class that inexplicably and unnecessarily gave away the store in trade negotiations.

More »

Higher interest rates, slower growth may be part of Canada’s new normal

BARRIE McKENNA

It’s one of the paradoxes of a slow-growth world: Unemployment is falling in most developed countries.

To understand why, we have to look at potential output growth, roughly defined as an economy’s cruising speed. It’s a state of equilibrium where factories are humming and there’s full employment. Workers, technology and natural resources are all being put to use.

More »

The Leap Manifesto is a prescription for economic ruin

BARRIE McKENNA

The Leap Manifesto – subtitled “A call for a Canada based on caring for the earth and one another” – offers a utopian vision of the country many of us wish it was.

Canada would be free from inequality, poverty, racism and fossil fuels, according to the document’s drafters, the husband-and-wife team of author Naomi Klein and documentary filmmaker Avi Lewis. The economy would be entirely powered by renewable energy, public transit would link even the remotest places and we would all work less and earn more. Oil workers would be retrained as windmill makers.

More »

Even in bad times, Alberta can’t shake oil’s economic grip

JEFFREY JONES

Alberta’s NDP government isn’t shutting down the oil roller coaster. It’s just giving it some upkeep and a coat of orange paint.

Much of the arithmetic that goes into Finance Minister Joe Ceci’s new budget is driven by an expectation that crude prices will take years to recover. Embedded in that is hope that they won’t. Either way, crude plays a huge role.

More »

There's another problem lurking for the global oil industry

CARL MORTISHED

If you are wondering what gasoline will cost when you load the kids and the dog into the car this summer for the long holiday haul, don’t look at the price at your local gas station. Don’t even look for clues in the New York crude oil futures market. The interesting gas price is to be found in Riyadh.

More »

The Bank of Canada's economic wild card: business investment

DAVID PARKINSON

The Bank of Canada was able to fill a big hole in its economic forecasts Wednesday – namely, the contribution of the federal government’s stimulus spending to the equation. But there’s still another spending vacuum holding back its forecasts, and this one presents an even greater uncertainty for economic growth and the bank’s interest-rate policy.

More »

Rising life expectancy of the rich should not threaten pensions for the poor

ANDREW JACKSON

As expected, the federal budget delivered on the Liberal promise to leave the age of eligibility for Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) retirement benefits at 65. The Harper government had previously decided to phase in an increase to 67.

Many pundits have argued that the eligibility age should rise in line with longer life expectancy. They say that a higher retirement age would reduce the growing cost of the OAS/GIS program, and will boost the economy by pushing seniors to work longer.

More »

Alberta needs a deadline on its deficit era

JEFFREY JONES

Rachel Notley has built up some much-needed political capital at home, and she did it the old-fashioned Alberta way – hitting back at those elites out east.

The New Democrat Premier scolded factions of her own party that would snuff out any hope for an economic recovery in the province by abandoning fossil fuels wholesale. This, after her government went big on tougher environmental standards and a carbon tax.

More »

Markets await central bank’s upgraded economic forecast

DAVID PARKINSON

 

More »

Cities created conditions that made Uber inevitable

BARRIE McKENNA

Having dug themselves into a deep hole on taxi regulation, Canadian cities are now scrambling to get out.

The catalyst, of course, is Uber, the renegade California-based car-for-hire service that has barged into the market, upending the industry.

This month, Toronto and Ottawa unveiled similar responses to the Uber issue. After years of smothering the taxi business in regulation, they’re now moving to unwind many of the strict rules, while creating a parallel regime to legalize Uber and other ride-hailing services.

More »

Pieces don’t quite fit in March’s upbeat labour report

DAVID PARKINSON

The markets were certainly won over by Canada’s surprisingly strong employment report Friday. Statistical skeptics (myself included)? Not so much.

It’s not that the 41,000-job increase in Statistics Canada’s March Labour Force Survey, quadruple what most economists expected, is so unbelievable – though it takes a little mental gymnastics to make sense of it.

More »

We pay a high economic price for a society of exclusion

TODD HIRSCH

Economists love offering policy solutions. A tax cut here, an infrastructure program there – all well intended and mostly intelligent advice to politicians who are desperate to boost the real GDP. But it’s all built on a very shaky foundation. If citizens are excluded from meaningful involvement in their economic systems, none of it matters.

More »

There’s nothing wrong with using a carbon tax to generate revenue

DAVID PARKINSON

When the topic of carbon taxes comes up, the discussion often splits along two lines that resist intersection. Those on the progressive/liberal end of the political spectrum see it as a quest to save the planet. Those on the conservative side see it as a tax grab.

Why can’t it be both?

That’s kind of the point of Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission, the private group of highly respected Canadian economists and policy experts formed in late 2014 to help the country combine sound environmental policy with sound fiscal policy. The commission released a report on Wednesday that focuses on a very practical aspect of the growing desire among many Canadian provinces to introduce carbon taxes: What should they do with all the money they will make?

More »

Federal budget on path to boost short-term economic growth

GLEN HODGSON

The recent federal budget delivered a significant share of the policy-change agenda promised by the Liberals during the 2015 campaign. It also had aspirations to underpin and strengthen economic growth as the overarching objective. With that goal in mind, there are four dimensions of the budget that could potentially have a positive impact on that aim.

More »

Canadian exports face further headwinds under sluggish U.S. economy

DAVID PARKINSON

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that Canada’s export-led recovery will go only as far as the U.S. economy will carry it. Tuesday’s export face-plant was a reminder of that – as well as a timely note of caution on the Canadian economy’s jackrabbit start to 2016.

Statistics Canada reported on Tuesday that Canada’s trade deficit tripled in February, to $1.9-billion from January’s $628-million. The downturn came courtesy of a 5.4-per-cent slump in exports – the biggest single-month slump since the 2009 recession.

More »

Trudeau’s deficit plan bites the young voters who elected him

GWYN MORGAN

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s $30-billion budget deficit, to be followed by three more deficits totalling $113-billion over the government’s four-year mandate, brings to mind former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger’s famous observation that “it’s not often that nations learn from the past, even rarer that they draw the correct conclusions from it.”

More »

India boosts booming e-commerce sector

IAIN MARLOW

The foot soldiers of India’s e-commerce revolution zip around its cities on scooters and motorcycles, delivering clothes, gadgets and other goods to consumers who often pay in cash on delivery because they don’t have credit cards – or even, in some cases, bank accounts. In the course of their work, deliverymen have reportedly been beaten up and locked in bathrooms over disputes with angry customers, while others have been full-on robbed.

More »

Consolidation of government IT departments a failing experiment

BARRIE McKENNA

It was a seductively simple idea.

Take the maze of federal government databases, e-mail systems and computer networks, and put them under one departmental roof. More than 60 e-mail systems would become one, 500-plus databases would be merged into seven, and thousands of tech workers from dozens of departments would go to work for a single agency, Shared Services Canada.

More »

Jump in GDP leads to optimism ahead of jobs report

JOHN HEINZL

After last week’s surprisingly strong January GDP report prompted economists to hike their growth forecasts for the Canadian economy, this week brings a fresh batch of data culminating with Friday’s widely watched employment report.

Combined with a rebounding loonie and a Canadian stock market that has just finished its best month since 2011, the jump in GDP has contributed to an increasingly positive tone around the Great White North, raising expectations that economic data in the weeks ahead will confirm the improving trend.

More »

The false promise of a ‘living wage’

BRIAN LEE CROWLEY

The recent U.K. budget announced the government’s intention to put in place a minimum “living wage” of £9 ($17) an hour by 2020. Attentive followers of public debate will have noticed that this emotive terminology of the “living wage” is increasingly being substituted for the bureaucratic-sounding “minimum wage.” A rose by any other name: To the extent that a living wage forces employers to pay more for labour than market conditions would justify, there is little real difference between the two concepts.

More »

Business Video »