Dutch Disease, Prices and Wages in Saskatchewan
Jim Stanford recently pointed out that many of the conservative economists who had defended the overvalued loonie have quickly shifted to applauding its depreciation.
The Government of Saskatchewan may be making a similar conversion on the road to Damascus. When federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair expressed concern about Dutch disease, premier Brad Wall denied that the high exchange rate was hurting Canadian-based exporters.
But on Friday, the Regina Leader-Post reportedÂ online:
[Provincial] deputy labour minister Mike Carr said that a lower exchange rate, through its ability to stimulate sales of Canadian-produced goods, including, significantly, agricultural and mineral products of the kind produced by Saskatchewan, historically has tended to help the province and its workers . . .
So, the Wall governmentâ€™s position is that the high loonie was not curtailing Canadian output and employment, but a lower loonie will help expand Canadian output and employment? It doesnâ€™t believe in Dutch disease, but it wants the cure.
While Carr is not an official Sask. Party spokesman, he is a Wall appointee rather than a career civil servant. Unfortunately, his correct observationÂ did not make yesterdayâ€™s print editionÂ (page B1).
What did make the print edition was an exchange between yours truly and the provincial government about wages and prices in Saskatchewan.
On Friday, Statistics Canada reported that, from December 2012 to December 2013, consumer prices jumped by 2.3% in the province â€“ almost double the national increase of 1.2%. The Leader-Post instead reported Saskatchewanâ€™s annual average increase of 1.5% from 2012 to 2013.
I contrasted inflation with the meagre increase of 0.6% in Saskatchewanâ€™s average hourly wage in December 2013 compared to December 2012. Unnamed government sources responded by citing the increase of 2.5% in Saskatchewanâ€™s average hourly wage for all of 2013 compared to all of 2012.
There is nothing wrong with annual averages, although their effect in this case was to downplay dismal December data by combining it with better data from earlier in the year. And after dismissing concerns about an overvalued Canadian dollar, the Saskatchewan government appears to hope that a lower loonie will help get the good times rolling again in 2014.