Posted on

Economists call for improved spending transparency as Trudeau again refuses to set fiscal anchor

Article content continued

The monthly fiscal monitor provided by Finance Canada outlines spending, but also doesn’t break down transactions into finer details, Page said.

His comments come after the Trudeau government had faced criticism even before the pandemic about its rising fiscal spending measures, which went toward a host of programs aimed at green infrastructure, social housing and other items. Even so, Ottawa largely kept its debt-to-GDP ratio stable as economic growth before the pandemic provided more opportunity to spend.

Rebekah Young, director of provincial and fiscal economics at Scotiabank, has recommended Ottawa set an updated fiscal anchor of 65 per cent of GDP, as well as provide itself with space to move should the economy sour amid successive viral waves.

“I would argue that because of the uncertainty, in fact, they could actually instill more confidence by providing an anchor for coming years,” she said.

“It’s another way to send a signal.”

Former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page: “Where is the policy strategy that guides us through the pandemic, and to the post COVID-19 recovery?” Photo by Althia Raj/Postmedia/File

While Canada’s federal and provincial debt levels continue to soar, however, most economists are largely in agreement that Ottawa maintains plenty of fiscal capacity to continue spending. Low interest rates have kept debt charges well below levels seen in the early 1990s.

The federal deficit in 2021 is expected to surge above $350 billion, according to the government’s last budget update.

The International Monetary Fund in its recent bi-annual economic outlook estimates that Canada’s budgetary shortfall in 2020 will reach 19.9 per cent of GDP, the highest among all Western democracies (the United States will run the second-largest shortfall with 18.7 per cent). By 2021 that shortfall is expected to fall to 8.7 per cent, but still among the largest in developed economies.

Posted on

Conservative pass motion that Liberals say will threaten Canada’s access to COVID-19 vaccines

Article content continued

Rempel Garner said the government should welcome scrutiny, which is Parliament’s responsibility, to ensure the country is on the right track in its response.

“There is no shame. In fact, it is the job of Parliament to ask these questions, we need to understand where we’re going.”

Anand said the government was willing to release details on contracts when the risk was over and pointed to $6 billion in contracts that had already been disclosed with more to come. She said the government wanted to protect its ability to negotiate while some supplies like vaccines were still in high demand.

She warned that without the promise of confidentiality, the government could struggle to secure confidentiality.

“I do not want to be back here to explain to Canadians that because of the disclosure that we were forced to make, we were not able to secure vaccines or PPE for Canadians because our suppliers chose to walk away.”

After the vote, Liberal House leader Pablo Rodriguez said he was disappointed in the outcome, but said the government would work to meet the demands the House of Commons.

“I am disappointed that the opposition parties didn’t listen to our health experts, to people from the private sector, from the companies producing the vaccine,” he said. The public servants will do their best. They are asking for tons of documents from the same public sectors workers who are delivering for Canadians.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said the questions his party was asking were non-partisan and straightforward. He said the Liberals made this a political issue and accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of wanting an election.

“When Canadians are getting rapid tests shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Canada’s place in the vaccine queue shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Improving our pandemic response shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It’s shameful that the Liberals keep trying to make them one.”

Unlike last week’s Conservative motion that became a test of confidence, the Liberals did not make the motion a confidence vote, meaning there will be no trip to the polls as a result of the defeat.


Posted on

Joe Biden seems to forget who he’s running against: ‘We need to stop four more years of George’

Article content continued

Trump has said Biden is exhibiting signs of dementia and joked that he will end up in a care home and running-mate Kamala Harris will have to complete his term. “Did something happen to Joe Biden?” an August attack ad wonders.

Appearing on CBS’ 60 Minutes earlier on Sunday, Biden, who would become the oldest president if he won the election, shook off Trump’s attacks on his mental agility.

“Hey, the same guy who thought that the 911 attack was a 7-Eleven attack, he’s talking about dementia?” Biden said.

“All I can say to the American people is watch me, is see what I’ve done, is see what I’m going to do. Look at me. Compare our physical and mental acuity.

“I’m happy to have that comparison.”

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the first 2020 presidential campaign debate, in Cleveland, Ohio, on Sept. 29. Photo by JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

To date, more than 60 million Americans have cast ballots in the race, a record-breaking pace that could lead to the highest voter turnout in over a century, according to data from the U.S. Elections Project on Monday.

The tally is the latest sign of intense interest in the contest between Trump and Biden, as well as voters’ desire to reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19, which has killed about 225,000 people across the United States.

Democrats hold a significant advantage in early voting due to their embrace of mail balloting, which Republicans have historically cast in large numbers but have shunned amid repeated and unfounded attacks by Trump who says the system is prone to widespread fraud.

Overall, Democrats hold roughly a two-to-one advantage in early voting numbers.

The high level of early voting has led Michael McDonald, the University of Florida professor who administers the U.S. Elections Project, to predict a record U.S. voter turnout of about 150 million, representing 65% of those eligible to vote, the highest rate since 1908.

U.S. voters have already cast more early votes during this presidential campaign than they did in all of 2016 when they passed the 47 million mark earlier this month, data shows.

With files from Reuters News

Posted on

Avi Benlolo: Hope for peace in the Middle East — and beyond

In world of instability and despair, the international community has a strategic interest in strengthening ties and increasing co-operation. And it seems as though everyone is talking peace these days, including Pope Francis, who gathered leaders of world religions in Rome last week for an International Prayer Meeting for Peace and to sign the Rome 2020 Appeal for Peace. Read More

Posted on

Colby Cosh: Bangladesh’s surprising success story

Article content continued

Also, the IMF figures are nominal, not adjusted for the purchasing power of the local currency. Bangladesh’s taka is neither widely traded nor totally free-floating, and its GDP figures are inflated by this measure. Indian economists, their patriotism aroused by the IMF, insist that their country is still about 20 per cent ahead on a basis of purchasing-power parity. Moreover, the IMF figures are so close that slightly different estimates of the national populations of the two countries could still leave India ahead. Neither country’s head count is known with any confidence to the nearest million.

Still, Bangladesh nipping ahead of India in nominal per-capita GDP is a sign of remarkable success for the junior member of the pair, which was typically 40 per cent poorer until recently. It’s a little like a one-off upset in a sporting competition that exposes the weaknesses of the stronger club.

What’s happening is that as China grows richer, its textile and garment jobs are flowing south to Bangladesh, where labour is still much cheaper. The Bangladeshi government saw this coming and was prepared for it, creating special development zones where Western traders and fashion firms could recruit vast armies of poor Bangladeshi women from the country’s interior. These companies don’t pay much in taxes or tariffs, but the sheer volume of labour income is enough to buoy the economy.

Textiles and clothing are about 80 per cent of Bangladesh’s exports, so the country, at the moment, has all of its eggs in one basket. (That’s nothing new for Bengal, which was already a globally dominant producer of fabrics in the time of Marco Polo.) No one likes a sweatshop, or at least no one likes thinking about a sweatshop from a distance, but Bangladesh is now characterized by low unemployment, impressive progress on human-development indicators and, by United Nations standards, no extreme poverty.

Posted on

Senior Living: 5 important questions to ask before retirement

Article content

Being financially comfortable is definitely important to a lasting retirement, but it is not the only thing.

The happiest and healthiest retirees these days are those Canadians who keep themselves busy and active. I know it has been hard to do with COVID, but as we slowly return to a new normal — how do you plan to make your retirement the best it can be?

Do you plan to learn new things, take up a hobby, go back to school, volunteer or continue working part-time? What is your social circle like? Do you have supportive and rewarding relationships with friends and family?

When you retire, you initially feel a sense of loss as you reorient yourself and then adapt to your new situation.

Essentially it is the next chapter of your life, with the most important non-financial aspects being that you embrace it with a positive attitude or mindset towards being busy, active and independent.

Preparing for this next chapter requires a plan and the resources to find the best solution that works.

Posted on

John Horgan says he will work across party lines to find ideas that work for B.C.

Article content continued

“I’m not surprised that they got the incumbent COVID-19 bump,” said Prof. Kim Speers, a Canadian politics expert at the University of Victoria. “People are tending to vote for the incumbent government if they have done well handling the pandemic.”

She said the election result appears to forecast brighter days ahead for the Green party despite winning just three seats, but a period of turmoil and introspection for the Liberals, who lost more than a dozen seats.

More On This Topic

“They have four years to figure out who they are, who they want to be,” said Speers, who expects Wilkinson to resign or face pressure to quit.

Prof. Sanjay Jeram, who teaches political science at Simon Fraser University, said the Liberals have a leader in Wilkinson who carries too much political baggage from past Liberal governments.

“He brought with him a legacy of the past and that really hurt them,” he said. “They really need to rebrand. The rebrand may start with the leader.”

He said the Green party, which increased its seat total by one with a win in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, has given itself four years to build its base after posting similar results to the 2017 election.

Adam Olsen, re-elected as the Green member for Saanich North and the Islands, said the party presented itself as a viable alternative to the traditional parties.

He said the Greens worked with the NDP minority government in the last legislature and will likely do so again, but now it will be different for Horgan and the NDP.

“For the first time in his premiership he’s going to have to take responsibility for the decisions that they make and not try to shuffle all the ones that are more difficult onto us,” Olsen said. “That’s going to be a new world for him as well.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulated Horgan on the victory, saying he is looking forward to working with the premier on the response to the global pandemic.

Posted on

Vote to review Liberals response to COVID-19 highlights showdown between politics and science

Article content continued

“In a pandemic, borders, since the Middle Ages, have been part of a stop of spreading of the virus and that was a failure of elected officials to put the health of Canadians first,” O’Toole told reporters last week.

“There has been conflicting information on masks and other things. My concern is that the Trudeau government relies more on open source data from China than our own science and intelligence experts.”

The relationship between a nation’s scientists and their senior politicians is a challenging one, said Ian Culbert, executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association.

And nothing could be further from the truth

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides the scientific evidence there is, but at the end of the day, it is the politicians who make the call, he said.

A decision on whether or not to close the borders is a good example, he said.

In the early days of the pandemic, the World Health Organization cautioned against widespread border closures. Scientific research has suggested there’s little medical benefit to them and the economic impacts can be severe and wide-ranging.

But the optics of border closures, the idea that if countries can keep out a virus out they will be immune, creates political pressure to act, Culbert said .

“The tension between what is in the public’s good, as opposed to all of the varying political considerations the politicians have to take into consideration — there’s always a tension there,” Culbert said.