A reeling energy market, turmoil oversees and a high-flying southern neighbour are reshaping Canada’s economic prospects for the coming year.
The market watchers weighed in on these new conditions in the context of other global fiscal policy and geopolitical changes at an Economics Club of Canada event Tuesday.
Here are five key views on the factors that will shape 2015:
On Canada: Douglas Porter, chief economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns
Canada should prepare for a swing in economic strength between provinces, with Alberta taking a back seat. Mr. Porter said that Alberta’s growth would likely be cut in half in 2015, with Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador also taking hits.
“I do think Ontario and B.C will be battling it out for the fastest growing province this year and likely in 2016,” Mr. Porter said. “Unfortunately it’s a bit of a race of the turtles as we’re looking at maybe 2 1/2-per-cent growth in those two provinces.”
The good news for Canada is that its largest trading partner’s economy has finally hit its stride. Mr. Porter said the United States is set for its best performance in more than a decade, growing at a rate of more than 3 per cent.
Still, Mr. Porter said the end result of falling oil prices will be negative for Canada, as capital spending falls and hits real gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
On the U.S.: Craig Wright, chief economist at RBC Dominion Securities
The United States tends to succeed when other countries are suffering, Mr. Wright said. Now, the U.S. is benefiting from rising employment rates and consumer confidence as geopolitical threats brew in Russia, Ukraine and the Middle East, and Europe battles deflation.
And that should benefit Canada over all. “If you’re going to be tied to a horse, you might as well be tied to the fastest running horse,” Mr. Wright said.
Mr. Wright estimates that a $10 drop in oil prices translates into a $7 drop in gas prices. That means more money in the pockets of U.S. consumers, who are “the engine of the U.S. economy,” he said.
On energy dependence: Stéfane Marion, chief economist and strategist at National Bank Financial
Our country is more dependent on energy now than it was a decade ago, and Mr. Marion attributes this in part to the manufacturing capacity in Ontario that was destroyed through the financial crisis. Canada will turn again to manufacturing, but that business cannot be built as quickly as oil prices plummeted. “We do have the ability to offset the energy price declines, but it will take time [and investment],” he said. “That doesn’t happen over night.”
Still, Mr. Marion has a more optimistic view of oil prices than his peers, predicting the cost-per-barrel could go back up to $60 in the first half of the year, and hit $70 in the second half.
On Canadian competitiveness: Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC World Markets
The Canadian dollar may need to fall further to attract new investments into its manufacturing sector, and be recognized for its competitiveness by the U.S.
“We’re probably going to need to see, still, a weaker currency to make Canada – Ontario, Quebec – the place to install that next plant,” Mr. Shenfeld said. Factors such as relatively high electricity prices in Ontario could shape whether a new facility is built north or south of the border, the noted.
Even as manufacturing of products such as automobiles shifts back to Canada, it will take time to plan, build and open new plants, leaving a hole in the country’s GDP this year, Mr. Shenfeld notes.
And it’s a big hole to fill. “If you look at capital spending in Canada, nearly 30 per cent was in the oil and gas sector, so you’re going to get a pretty big blow there that you have to make up in other sectors,” he said.
On the bottom line: Craig Alexander, chief economist at TD Securities
Mr. Alexander summed up the key themes for the year, saying “the global economy is still in a slow growth, low inflation [and] low interest rate environment, dominated by the U.S. dollar.”
Outside of the United States, “the story becomes much more sombre,” Mr. Alexander said. Along with concerns over a prolonged economic slump in Europe, growth of emerging market economies has slowed.
BRICS countries, a group made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, have gone from “golden children set to take over the world,” to “problem children,” Mr. Alexander said, although India may be an exception.Report Typo/Error