Slow Canadian economy could be spurred by U.S., Joe Oliver says

Canadian Finance Minister Joe Oliver says growth in the U.S. economy could help boost Canada's, despite low oil prices and instability in Europe.

Canadian government awaiting latest numbers before commenting on possible recession

Is Canada heading for a recession?

8 years ago
Duration 2:49
Statistics Canada says business spending will decline this year for the first time since 2009, Terry Milewski reports

Canadian Finance Minister Joe Oliver says growth in the U.S. could help boost Canada's economy as both countries struggle against low oil prices and instability in Europe.

While the economy is shrinking and the trade deficit widening, Oliver said he's still waiting to see the most recent numbers before commenting on whether Canada is in a recession. Economists from Bank of America and TD Economics are warning Canada is heading there.

"The fact that it [the U.S. economy] was down in the first quarter obviously undermines confidence of Canadian manufacturers and other companies to make the sort of capital investments based upon export potential," Oliver told reporters in Vancouver.

"But if they see the U.S. economy in particular growing, then I think that will be a positive sign for them to start investing more and that of course means more jobs and economic growth."

Both TD and Bank of America are speculating the possibility of a recession will lead Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz to cut the bank's rate as early as next week.

"It is likely that the Canadian economy was in recession in the first half of the year," TD senior economist Randall Bartlett wrote in the report released Monday.

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A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. The report said the Canadian economy fell by one per cent in the first quarter of 2015 and predicts it will fall 0.6 per cent in the second quarter.

"The second half of the year is also likely to be weaker than previously expected, reducing annual real GDP growth to around 1.2% in 2015. This would mark the weakest pace of real GDP growth outside of a recession in over 20 years," Bartlett wrote.

Oliver awaiting 2nd quarter results

Oliver wouldn't speculate on what he might do to bolster whatever move Poloz makes.

"The numbers aren't out yet and when the numbers are out then we'll see what they have to say. But the issue really that's important to emphasize is we are in a fragile economic environment, we've been talking about this for some time, and we're getting repeated evidence of that," the finance minister said.

But he allowed that some of the private-sector economists on whose forecasts he relies have changed their outlooks.

"There have been a number of those economists that have readjusted their numbers down and so that's part of the picture," Oliver said.

"Virtually all the economists that I've talked to see positive growth for the Canadian economy for the year overall."

The Canadian economy will see growth overall this year, Oliver said. He also stuck to his commitment the federal government will end the fiscal year with a $1.4-billion surplus.

Oliver spoke to reporters following a speech in Vancouver at the Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum. The speech touched on Canada's participation in ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks and bilateral relations between Canada and Australia.

Oliver said trade is worth $1 trillion of Canada's nearly $2-trillion economy. He also referenced the 1988 federal election in which the North American Free Trade Agreement was a major issue.

"We have come a long way from the free trade boogeyman of the 1980s," Oliver said in a prepared text. "NAFTA proved unequivocally that opening markets builds a more prosperous Canada. The path forward for all Canadians was made clear: more trade deals and a more open economy."