Editorial: A bumpy ride ahead

Published on December 30, 2016

Oil rig Henry Goodrich in Mortier Bay, N.L.

©Colin Farrell Photo

Overall, Canadians must consider 2016 as a good year. Not great but not bad. We didn’t gain ground, but didn’t lose a whole lot either.

Canada stands out among Western nations. We are open to trade, immigration and diversity. Canada is a leading example to refute the mistakes of Brexit and Donald Trump.

A great deal of uncertainty faces our country as the new year approaches.

The biggest questions revolve around our southern neighbour and the unpredictable U.S. president-elect. How the U.S. economy performs always plays a major role in the economic health of Canada. We are heading down different paths on climate change and energy security. The U.S. is moving towards more protectionism – threatening to tear up trade deals, reducing imports and applying tariffs. All pose a serious threat to Canada.

Much depends on whether Mr. Trump is serious about his campaign rhetoric. Will the Republican-controlled Congress move forward on protectionist policies when the party has traditionally favoured free trade and capitalist ideals?

While Mr. Trump is threatening trade deals, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau eagerly signed off on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union. The Three Amigos summit vowed to enhance NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Both are in Mr. Trump’s gun sights.

The other great uncertainly for 2017 is the lingering economic tailspin from low oil prices and the negative impact on our key economic generator of Alberta. Ottawa depends on oil revenue to help provide federal transfer payments and equalization grants to fund our health, education and social systems.

It makes things difficult if oil prices are low and Alberta keeps facing roadblocks getting its product to market. When two provinces refused to sign a climate accord, Alberta – the province with the most to lose - was on board.

Canadians support actions on climate change but questions remain on the looming carbon tax. Will it place Canadian companies at an economic disadvantage? Will food prices increase, along with energy costs to heat our homes and fuel our cars?

Mr. Trudeau spent more time in the Commons answering Opposition questions on Liberal fund-raising missteps than on health accords, climate change, carbon taxes, the crisis on First Nations reserves or pipelines. Things can’t be too bad if the Liberal party’s war chest remains the focus of Question Period.

What else might 2017 have to offer? Economists predict that stock markets, which managed to perform well throughout the economic slowdown, should remain buoyant while the Canadian dollar is expected to hover in the 72 to 75 cents range. The unemployment rate is expected to remain under seven per cent. Much depends on Mr. Trump.

It’s not speaking in metaphors when we suggest, that as Canadians program their driverless vehicles and lay in a course for the trip ahead in 2017, they will sit back with nervous apprehension and hope to arrive safely at their destination.

A word of advice. Be sure and buckle up snugly. It could be a wild ride.