Ontario’s Health Premium

Yesterday, I appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs at Queen’s Park. The committee is reviewing the Ontario Health Premium, as required by the legislation that implemented this levy. My assessment of the premium starts from the premise that the Government of Ontario needs more revenue not only for healthcare, but also for industrial development, education and […]

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The OECD and the Tar Sands

The 2008 OECD Survey of Canada incorporates a long and surprisingly critical overview of developments in the energy sector, with a major focus on the tar sands. (Chapter 4). It is, in many respects, far closer to the views of the Pembina Institute and the Parkland Institute in Alberta than to those of the Alberta and federal governments, and even […]

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Investment in manufacturing vs oil sands

 A fascinating tidbit from today’s Statistics Canada release on human activity and the environment (climate change): In 2008, oilsands producers intend to invest $19.7 billion, up 23% after a 31% hike in 2007. This exceeds the total investment plans of $19.6 billion by all manufacturing industries [Chart 1.6 on page 25]. Oilsands investment has surpassed manufacturing because of its rapid […]

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Does Canada Need a Strategic Petroleum Reserve?

The International Energy Agency requires member countries to maintain emergency oil reserves in case oil imports are temporarily disrupted. Canada was exempted from this requirement because we are a net oil exporter. However, the current pipeline system and NAFTA’s energy chapter limit our ability to supply eastern Canadian consumers with western Canadian petroleum. Western Canada’s vast oil exports to the […]

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Alberta, we need to talk

Alberta’s economy looks ever more like a runaway train. Climate change raises the prospect of needing to slow this train down, something that would be advisable even if rising temperatures were not reaping havoc, because the boom has made labour scarce, housing even scarcer, and created a number of other social and environmental problems. With the difficulty of keeping up […]

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The Economist on Temporary Foreign Workers

Today’s edition of The Economist magazine includes a good article on temporary foreign workers in Canada. It extensively quotes Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. The present regime allows employers to import workers from abroad without seriously demonstrating the unavailability of Canadian workers for the job. Once the foreign workers are in Canada, it is easy for […]

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Andrew Coyne Off the Rails

Although I generally disagree with Andrew Coyne’s take on economic issues, I enjoy his commentary because it is almost always articulate and well-informed. Last Saturday’s column, which may be his second-last at the National Post before moving to Maclean’s, was a glaring exception.  In particular, it contradicted Coyne’s own previous contentions. When the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador took an equity […]

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Alberta’s Compromised Compromise on Royalties

Notwithstanding the usual doom and gloom from the oil industry and its cheerleaders, Premier Stelmach’s decision to increase oil and gas royalties by $1.4 billion in 2009 is an unduly timid move in the right direction.  The provincial NDP leader summed it up as follows: “The premier has compromised yet again a report that represented a compromise in the first […]

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Stelmach Speaks to the Empire Club

Yesterday, the Premier of Alberta addressed the Empire Club in Toronto. He said some encouraging things about Our Fair Share: “We will get a fair economic rent on the development of our resources. In fact we have recently received the recommendations of the Royalty Review Panel that I established as one of my first acts as Premier.” I am not […]

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Raising Alberta’s Royalties

Last week, the Royalty Review Panel recommended that Alberta raise its oil and gas royalties. Its 100-page final report, Our Fair Share, has generated healthy debate on a critically important subject. The basic message follows: Albertans do not receive their fair share from energy development and they have not, in fact, been receiving their fair share for quite some time. […]

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An Ambivalent Labour Force Survey

My take on today’s release follows: Job Numbers As Statistics Canada noted, “Employment was little changed in July.” Employment growth in Alberta and Ontario was largely offset by job losses in the other eight provinces. As a result, the Canadian labour market created 11,300 new positions in July, far fewer than in previous months. Some commentators argue that the Bank of […]

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Alberta Distortions

I am big on big investment spending.  I’ve argued for years that weak business investment undermines our job creation, our productivity, our incomes, and our competitiveness.  I’ve proposed lots of policy measures to stimulate more investment spending: public as well as private. But what’s happening in northern Alberta is enough to nauseate even a Soviet-esque advocate of mass capital accumulation […]

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More on the strange economics of temporary foreign workers

The Alberta Federation of Labour reports that more people now coming into province as temporary workers than traditional immigrants. From their press release: Alberta has become the first province in Canadian history to bring more people into its jurisdiction under the temporary foreign worker program than through Canada’s mainline immigration system. According to new figures from the federal department of […]

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No Increase in Consumer Prices

A month ago, I noted that if the Core Consumer Price Index remained unchanged from May to June 2007, the annual core-inflation rate would jump to 2.5% because this Index had fallen from May to June 2006. Today’s release from Statistics Canada reveals that this is exactly what happened. Since the monthly Index remained constant at 109.9, the annual rate […]

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Alberta, interest rates and RPE’s soft power

It is worth filing under the “you heard it here first” heading that both the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star have taken editorial positions similar to those proffered by Relentlessly Progressive Economics. That is, the Bank of Canada is raising interest rates because of what is happening in Alberta, and in doing so threatens to exacerbate difficulties in […]

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Profits and Investment in Alberta

In recent years, about one-quarter of Canada’s corporate profits and business investment have been in Alberta.  The following figures are from Statistics Canada’s Provincial Economic Accounts. As corporate profits have ballooned in Alberta, business investment has not increased as a share of the province’s economy. More than half of this investment has been in non-residential structures (e.g. tar-sands development), leaving […]

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Alberta Opposes Rate Hike

Relatively high inflation in Alberta seems to be the only justification for raising Canadian interest rates. In this context, it is tremendously significant that the Government of Alberta itself opposes increasing rates. Of course, higher interest rates imply a higher Canadian dollar. Alberta sells oil and gas, the prices of which are denominated in US dollars. As the Canadian dollar […]

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CIBC and Oil Royalties

More fascinating stuff from that CIBC report follows: While many of the big names in the mining and metal processing industry have been spoken for, there are even larger capital inflows potentially still ahead in the energy sector. Thanks to the oil sands, and a still laissez-faire attitude towards ownership of those resources, Canada represents anywhere from 50-60% of the […]

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The Bank of Canada and Alberta’s boom

In the Globe and Mail it is reported: A flurry of increases in the past month has sent Canadian mortgage rates to their highest level in more than five years, and consumers shouldn’t expect a return to the low interest rates they enjoyed in the first half of the decade. The story quotes Benjamin Tal of CIBC World Markets, commenting […]

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TILMA: A Report from the Front Line

On Tuesday, I testified before the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly’s Standing Committee on the Economy, which is holding public hearings on joining TILMA. The Legislative Assembly is broadcasting the hearings and promptly posting the recordings. To see my presentation, click “Video 1” for June 5 and use the bar immediately below the screen to advance the time to 48.5 minutes. A […]

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Alberta and BC elect more Conservatives than Ontario

In today’s column, Andrew Coyne examines the Conservative government’s decision to increase parliamentary representation in line with population growth for Alberta and BC, but not for Ontario. He suggests that this move is designed to appease Quebec, while steering clear of the obvious motive: additional Alberta/BC ridings are far more likely than additional Ontario ridings to elect Conservatives. PS – […]

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Alberta Municipalities on TILMA

It is good to see that the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association is paying attention to this issue: AUMA Wants Full Consultation on new Alberta-BC Trade Agreement Watch for upcoming public consultations on the recently signed Alberta-British Columbia Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA).

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Wages and Inflation by Province (Updated)

Albertans are being paid less per hour, on average, than they were a year ago. It seems that the resource boom has increased prices more than wages in that province. Relative to inflation, wages also fell slightly in Ontario. Today, Statistics Canada released April’s Consumer Price Index. Although inflation is down slightly and wages were up in the last Labour […]

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Tory Tantrum

By walking out on Gordon Laxer’s testimony about the SPP’s potential impact on Canadian energy security, the Conservatives have given him far more media coverage than he otherwise might have received. Today, the following story appeared in The Montreal Gazette, The Ottawa Citizen and The Edmonton Journal: Tory chair storms out of SPP hearing Freezing in the dark ‘not relevant’ to […]

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Four strong winds

The first cut at 2006 GDP data for the provinces is out today from Statscan. What blew me away was Alberta, with real GDP growth of 6.8%. That is not a typo, so let me repeat, 6.8%, as in, Chinese style growth, and more than double the national average of 2.7%. And I thought the past two years were blistering […]

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Internal Trade Conference

On March 30, I attended the federal government’s conference on “Internal Trade: Opportunities and Challenges,” which was hosted by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and by Industry Canada. Other attendees included academics, federal and provincial civil servants, and representatives of business and professional organizations. The academic and policy people all agreed that the material costs of alleged inter-provincial barriers […]

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Grady on the Conference Board and TILMA

Patrick Grady, a former senior Finance official and leading mainstream economist, has weighed in on the Conference Board’s estimate of TILMA’s economic benefits. He cites the paper that Marc and I wrote and reiterates the points first made on this blog. He also notes that the Conference Board’s own forecast of BC’s economic-growth rate does not seem to reflect its […]

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35,000 Manufacturing Jobs Gone in One Month

This morning, Statistics Canada released its Labour Force Survey figures for February. My analysis, which was included in the CLC’s press release, follows: Manufacturing Crisis Deepens Canada lost 35,000 manufacturing jobs between January and February. This staggering one-month decline pushes the cumulative loss to 250,000 since Canadian manufacturing peaked in November 2002. Most of February’s devastating decline took place in […]

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