Another deficit prediction

This time it's from Warren Jestin, the chief economist at the Bank of Nova Scotia. Jestin and his team of Scotiabank economists updated their forecasts this afternoon. They were already among a gloomy group that was forecasting a recession.

Some numbers have been tweaked in their forecast update although the overall picture is still about as bleak.

Scotiabank though has brought out a new “Federal budget balance” figure for next year and it's a negative. Scotia is betting on a deficit of about $8-billion which, to put it in persepective, is about three per cent of the federal government's overall budget.

TD Bank's Don Drummond had a deficit estimate of greater than $10 billion next year — and that was back when TD thought Canada would avoid a recession! This afternoon, Drummond's team joined Jestin's in predicting a recession. Presumably, Drummond's deficit would also get bigger.

Good chance of "worst G7 recession since the Great Depression"

Not a lot of good news in the latest economic forecast from the Toronto Dominion Bank's economics department.

The department, headed by Don Drummond, lowered its forecasts this afternoon. It now says Canada will be in recession by the end of the year. That's a change from the forecast it issued just over a month ago when it predicted Canada's economy would grow this this year and next.

And if that's not bad enough, here's another ominous line from the report:

“We … attach a 30-40% chance to the possibility of a more pessimistic outcome, which produces the worst U.S. recession since 1982, and the worst G7 recession since the Great Depression.”

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Cabinet speculation: The Rookies

As he gets set to name his cabinet on Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a relatively strong crop of MPs who are either first-time MPs or, like B.C.'s John Duncan, returning to the Commons after sitting out the Parliament. Today, we take a look at a few of the names that keep coming up in Ottawa gossip:

Here's the short version:

Stands a good chance:

Leona Aglukkaq (Nunavut – NU)

Gail Shea (Egmont – PE)

Lisa Raitt (Halton – ON)

Bob Dechert (Missississauga-Erindale – ON)

Keith Ashfield – (Fredericton – NB)

John Duncan – (Vancouver Island North – BC)

Stands an outside chance:

Lois Brown (Newmarket-Aurora ON)
Peter Kent (Thornhill – ON)
Shelley Glover (St. Boniface – MB)

Alice Wong (Richmond – BC)

John Weston (West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea-to-Sky Country – BC)

Rodney Weston (Saint John – NB)

Inside track into new cabinet?


The Gazette

28 Oct 2008

OTTAWA – Nunavut’s Leona Aglukkaq and Prince Edward Island’s Gail Shea lead a group of rookie MPs who could join Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet later this week. Harper will name his new ministers on Thursday, Canwest News Service has…read more…

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I Don't Like Mondays: Reason 457

Bank of Montreal economic analyst Robert Kavcic has this cheery thought for us this evening:

Equity markets continued to bleed this week, with overseas and emerging markets moving to the frontline of the battle against the bears. Indeed, the 6.8% and 2.8% respective declines in the S&P 500 and TSX paled in comparison to 20%-plus shakedowns in Argentina and Korea, and the 10%-plus declines in Brazil, Mexico, Germany and Japan. With overseas markets tanking Friday morning and U.S. futures trading “limit down”, many were speculating that the NYSE circuit breakers would be used to halt trading (they were not). Whether you want to blame it on the moon—as in the 1998 Charles Dow award winning paper—or the fact that markets are digesting the increasing likelihood of a global economic and earnings recession—that’s more up our alley—the volatility is numbing.

If, however, you do prefer to look at the moon rather than underlying earnings, here’s one to keep you up this weekend: The last time the NYSE used its circuit breakers to halt trading was during the Asian financial crisis on October 27th, 1997. Monday, of course, is October 27th…

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Cabinet speculation: Gerry Ritz

This is the first of a series of posts you'll likely see related to next week's cabinet announcements. Tonight, a quick note about Gerry Ritz and why he's going to stay right where he is as Agriculture Minister.

Ritz, as everyone by now must surely know, said some pretty stupid things on a conference call in August with government bureaucrats and scientists. Someone on that call apparently had an axe to grind with either Ritz or the Harper government and, in mid-campaign, spilled the beans with a blow-by-blow account of the dumb things Ritz said on that call. We can assume that the unknown leaker probably did not vote Conservative.

Ritz quickly apologized for the remark and seemed suitably humbled.

Opposition politicians said apology wasn't good enough. They howled for his head.

And at that moment — a thoughtful Conservative source reminded me today as we ran over cabinet possibilities — Ritz's job was secured. Why, you ask?

Here's the thinking from my Conservative friend and it's thinking I tend to agree with: If you've watched Stephen Harper over the last several years, you would likely agree that that the last thing that works with him is bullying or underhanded tactics. He will conclude that someone tried to embarrass him into firing or demoting his Agriculture Minister by releasing contents of a phone call that ought to have stayed private. His Minister, Harper will conclude, did the right thing upon this revelation. Harper will also conclude that, by and large, Ritz has been a relatively competent agriculture minister. Harper will note that voters in Ritz's Saskatchewan riding handily returned him to the House. And Harper will be damned if some bureaucrat can get the idea that a minister can be felled if they reveal confidential information.

And if he sacks Ritz or demotes him, it will look like he gave in to demands from the likes of Liberal agriculture critic Wayne Easter, who Conservatives have a particular dislike for.

So Ritz is staying right where he is and that will be Harper's way of letting bureaucrats and anyone else know that there's no pushing him around.

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Conservative Co-Chair gets plum lobbyist assignment

The Canadian Wireless Telecom Association announced this evening that former New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord will become the association's new chief executive.

Lord's last major role (left) was national co-chair of the Conservative campaign. That campaign promised, among other things:

A re-elected Conservative government led by Stephen Harper will prevent telecommunications companies from charging fees to customers for receiving unsolicited commercial text messages. We will amend the Telecommunications Act to strengthen the power of the Commissioner of Complaints for Telecommunications Services, including the creation of a code of conduct for wireless services. We will also create a compliance and deterrent power that allows the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to block these and similar unfair charges in the future.

Call me crazy, but it seems to me that the CWTA's board just made a very shrewd personnel decision …

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Libs win one more …

Wow. Liberals +1. BQ -1. Judicial recount turns the results around in Brossard-La Prairie.

Elections Canada Announces Results of Judicial Recount
in the Electoral District of Brossard–La Prairie
OTTAWA, Friday, October 24, 2008 – The Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Marc Mayrand, announced today that Alexandra Mendes has been declared elected in the electoral district of Brossard–La Prairie (Quebec), following a judicial recount completed on October 24, 2008, by Mr. Justice Michel A. Caron of the Quebec Superior Court.
At the 40th general election held on October 14, 2008, the difference between the Bloc Québécois candidate, Marcel Lussier, and the Liberal Party of Canada candidate, Alexandra Mendes, was 143 votes in favour of Mr. Lussier. Following the judicial recount, the difference between the two candidates is 69 votes in favour of Ms. Mendes.

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An earlier Throne Speech than thought?

Yesterday, the parliamentary/prime ministerial calendar was starting to come into focus. It's still a bit blurry but, with the news today that the Prime Minister's Peru trip to attend the annual APEC summit will have him out of the country from Nov. 21 (a Friday) to Nov. 24 (a Monday), it's possible we could see a Throne Speech slightly earlier than I'd originally pencilled in.
I'd now say the smart money should be placed on a bet that sees the Throne Speech (and, hence, the opening of the 40th Parliament, happening sometime between Monday, Nov. 17 and Thursday, Nov. 20. One of my government-type contacts was saying earlier this week that a Throne Speech was going to be tough to do before the 20th.
So it still could be the week Harper returns from Peru, but it would not be Monday, Nov. 24 as Harper (and I, for that matter) will be on a long flight from South America.