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Bank of Canada keeps key interest rate on hold – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says federal aid programs won’t last forever, making the comments on the same day the Bank of Canada targeted 2022 for an economic recovery from COVID-19.

The road to recovery is dependent on the path of the pandemic, and the central bank warned the road will be bumpy over the next two years.

Some businesses may never reopen, while some unemployed workers won’t find a new job, leaving some parts of the economy and workforce behind as conditions, hopefully, improve.

In a speech Wednesday afternoon, Freeland defended the depth of that spending, which will send the deficit to a historic level.

But she said she isn’t among those who believe “that deficits don’t matter for a government.”

“Whether on Bay Street or Main Street, there are no blank cheques, and there are no free lunches,” she says in the text of her speech.

“Our fiscally expansive approach to fighting the coronavirus cannot and will not be infinite. It is limited and temporary.”

She said the federal government will impose spending limits upon itself, rather than waiting for “more brutal external restraints” from international market forces.

Freeland didn’t say what those spending guardrails will be, only that she’ll have more to say on it soon.

The central bank’s updated economic outlook released earlier Wednesday said government aid has played a key role in providing a financial lifeline to individuals and businesses.

Changes to employment insurance and new benefit programs will increase households’ disposable income, officials write, adding that the bank expects government aid to provide important support to the economy throughout the recovery.

The country has reversed about two-thirds of the economic decline seen in the first half of the year, the Bank of Canada said Wednesday, exceeding expectations.

Officials estimate the economy will still shrink by 5.7 per cent this year, but grow by 4.2 per cent next year, and 3.7 per cent in 2022, meaning gross domestic product won’t rebound to pre-pandemic levels for another two years.

The road to recovery will be uneven across sectors and choppy over time, governor Tiff Macklem said, and likely to cause long-lasting damage to some people’s job prospects.

“The effects of this have been very uneven. I think that underlines the importance of the income-support programs that the government has provided to protect the most vulnerable, and that has underpinned this recovery,” Macklem said.

As for how long the aid should last, Macklem said it was up to the government.

The bank held its overnight rate target at 0.25 per cent on Wednesday, which is where it will stay until the economy has recovered and inflation is back on target. The bank forecasts that annual inflation at 0.6 per cent this year, 1.0 per cent next year, and 1.7 per cent in 2022.

The bank also announced Wednesday that it intended to buy more longer-term bonds because those have a “more direct influence on the borrowing rates that are most important for households and businesses,” hoping to prod consumption.

James Laird, co-founder of Ratehub.ca, said the outlook suggests low interest rates until at least 2023, which is the earliest the bank anticipates the economy would be able to handle higher rates.

The projections for growth and inflation mark a return to the bank’s usual practice of giving a longer view for the economy in its quarterly monetary policy report.

The report said the six months of experience with containment measures and support programs, as well as more information on medical developments like vaccines, has given the bank a better foundation to make a base-case forecast.

Underpinning the bank’s outlook are two major assumptions: that widespread lockdowns won’t be utilized again and that a vaccine or effective treatment will be widely available by mid-2022.

The country has recouped about three-quarters of the three million jobs lost in March and April. Emergency federal aid has replaced lost wages for millions of workers, and provided loans and wage subsidies to struggling businesses.

The hardest-hit sectors, such as restaurants, travel and accommodations, continue to lag as the economy recuperates.

Workers in those sectors, as well and youth and low-wage workers, continue to face high levels of unemployment, the report says.

All may be hit hard again by any new rounds of restrictions, the report notes. Some areas of the country have already imposed such public health restrictions in the face of rising COVID-19 case counts.

“The breadth and intensity of reimposed containment measures, including impacts on schools and the availability of child care, could lead to setbacks,” the report says.

“Long breaks in employment have the potential for longer-term impacts on the income prospects of vulnerable groups.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2020

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Canada says U.S. ties could be undermined if Michigan shuts pipeline

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A day before Michigan’s deadline to close down a key crude oil pipeline, Canada on Tuesday issued its strongest remarks so far, saying the move could undermine relations with the United States, its closest ally and trading partner.

Enbridge Inc is preparing for a legal battle with Michigan and courting protests from environmental groups, betting it can ignore the state’s Wednesday deadline to shut down Line 5, which runs under the Straits of Mackinac.

The Canadian government said in a U.S. federal court filing that Michigan had no right to act unilaterally since a 1977 Canada-U.S. pipeline treaty guarantees the free flow of oil between the two nations.

“This case raises concerns regarding the efficacy of the historic framework upon which the U.S.-Canada relationship has been successfully managed for generations,” Ottawa said.

Michigan’s move “threatens to undermine important aspects of that cooperative international relationship”, it added.

The brief said Canada would suffer “massive and

potentially permanent disruption” from a shutdown. Line 5 brings 540,000 barrel-per-day of oil from western Canada to refineries and airports in Ontario, Quebec, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

In November, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer gave Enbridge six months to shut down the pipeline that runs four miles (6.4 km) along the bottom of Lake Michigan-Huron, citing fears it could rupture.

The order needs a confirmatory order from a judge to enforce it, and Enbridge and Michigan are disputing whether the issue should be heard in state or U.S. federal court.

The sides are in court-ordered mediation, with the next session scheduled for May 18.

“We will not stop operating the pipeline unless we are ordered by a court or our regulator, which we view as highly unlikely,” Enbridge spokeswoman Tracie Kenyon said in a statement this week.

Joe Comartin, Canada‘s consul general in Detroit who is arguing on behalf of Ottawa, said litigation could drag on until at least 2024.

“I don’t see a court jumping the gun and ordering it closed … until the litigation and constitutional issues are resolved,” he said by phone.

Canada has been lobbying https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/frustrated-canada-presses-white-house-keep-great-lakes-oil-pipeline-open-2021-04-26 Washington officials to keep the pipeline open in what is likely to be an election year in Canada, but the White House has so far not weighed in.

Ontario estimates the city of Sarnia, across the border from Michigan, could lose 5,000 refinery and chemical plant jobs. Industry lobbyists say thousands of U.S. jobs are in danger.

Environmentalists and indigenous groups opposed to Line 5 say the potential job losses are exaggerated. They plan “Evict Enbridge” rallies in Mackinaw City, Michigan, on Wednesday and Thursday.

“We are very hopeful to hear from the governor that there will be accountability measures for operating that pipeline,” said Beth Wallace of the National Wildlife Federation.

Michigan is reviewing what it could do if Enbridge keeps operating past the deadline, said a spokeswoman for the Michigan Attorney General.

Canadian crude market forward prices suggest most traders do not expect Line 5 to shut in coming months, but the lack of certainty is concerning, said one Calgary-based market source.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren and Nia Williams; Editing by David Gregorio and Marguerita Choy)

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Enbridge vows to keep pipeline open, girds for legal fight with Michigan

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Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Inc is squaring off for a legal battle with Michigan and courting protests from environmental groups, betting it can ignore the U.S. state‘s Wednesday deadline to shut its oil pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac.

“We will not stop operating the pipeline unless we are ordered by a court or our regulator, which we view as highly unlikely,” Enbridge spokeswoman Tracie Kenyon said in a statement this week, ahead of Michigan’s deadline for shutting the line.

Line 5 is a link in Enbridge’s network to bring oil exports from western Canada to refineries and airports in Ontario, Quebec, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. In November, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer gave Enbridge six months to shut down the 540,000 barrel-per-day pipeline that runs four miles along the bottom of Lake Michigan-Huron, citing fears it could rupture and spill.

The state’s order still needs a confirmatory order from a judge to enforce it, and Enbridge and Michigan are disputing whether the issue should be heard in state or U.S. federal court.

The sides are in court-ordered mediation, with the next session scheduled for May 18.

Joe Comartin, Canada‘s consul general in Detroit who is arguing on behalf of the country’s federal government, said litigation could drag on until at least 2024.

“I don’t see a court jumping the gun and ordering it closed … until the litigation and constitutional issues are resolved,” he said in an interview.

The Canadian government has been lobbying officials in Washington to keep the pipeline open in what is likely to be an election year in Canada, but the White House has so far not weighed in on the matter.

The Ontario government estimates that the city of Sarnia, just across the border from Michigan, could lose 5,000 refinery and chemical plant jobs. Industry lobbyists say thousands of jobs are also at risk in the United States.

Environmentalists and indigenous groups opposed to Line 5 say the potential job losses are exaggerated, and are planning “Evict Enbridge” rallies in Mackinaw City, Michigan, on Wednesday and Thursday.

“Past May 12, Enbridge will be operating illegally as per state laws. We are very hopeful to hear from the governor that there will be accountability measures for operating that pipeline,” said Beth Wallace of the National Wildlife Federation.

Michigan is reviewing what remedies would be available to the state if Enbridge keeps operating past the deadline, said Lynsey Mukomel, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Attorney General.

Canadian crude market forward prices suggest most traders do not expect Line 5 to shut in coming months, but the lack of certainty is concerning, said one Calgary-based market source.

“We are looking at all our options and we will leave no stone unturned in defending Canada‘s energy security,” Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan told an emergency parliamentary debate on the pipeline last Thursday.

“We will be ready to intervene strategically at precisely the right moment,” he continued, without giving details.

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren and Nia Williams; Editing by David Gregorio)

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U.S. State Dept approves potential sale of AEGIS Combat System to Canada

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The U.S. State Department has approved the potential sale to Canada of 4 AEGIS Combat Systems made by Lockheed Martin in a deal valued at up to $1.7 billion, the Pentagon said on Monday.

The Pentagon said the sale of the powerful missile and radar systems to the NATO ally would “significantly improve” network-centric warfare capabilities for U.S. forces operating globally alongside Canada‘s.

AEGIS systems are primarily used aboard ships though they have been adapted for land use.

The package would include four shipsets worth of the AEGIS Combat System and three shipsets of the MK 41 Vertical Launch System as well as support equipment, spares and technical support, the Pentagon said.

The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the possible sale on Monday.

Despite approval by the State Department, the notification does not indicate that a contract has been signed or that negotiations have concluded.

 

(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; editing by Grant McCool)

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