David Dodge, former Governor of the Bank of Canada and former deputy ministers in a bunch of different ministries in Ottawa, gave a great speech to the Canadian Association for Business Economics (CABE) on Tuesday, March 29th at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. VERY CANDID. What’s on his mind these days?
So I’ve been in the Lethbridge area for the past couple of days, speaking in places like Picture Butte and Coaldale. There are a few things I really like about Lethbridge. Here are my TOP FIVE favourite things:
#5. The graceful old post office building in downtown Lethbridge. One of the few remaining examples of the traditional clock tower that marked the prairie town’s central post office. Beautiful.
#4. The donuts in Picture Butte and Coaldale. Apparently, I’ve started a bit of a feud. I Tweeted this morning about how great the donuts were at a presentation I made in Picture Butte (population: 1,700). By the time I had arrived in Coaldale, about 20 minutes away, word had spread through the Twittersphere about Picture Butte’s donuts. Not to be outdone, I was presented with a BOX of donuts from the Coaldale Bakery. I have to admit… the competition is CLOSE!
#3. Miro Bisto, a lovely restaurant in one of the historic (at least it LOOKED historic) old buildings downtown. One of the best filet mignons I’ve had in recent memory. Great wine selection, too.
#2. The trestle bridge spanning the coulee. Where else can you see a structure of such size? It must have been a feat of engineering when it was built… like a ga-jillion years ago.
#1. And the Number One reason I like Lethbridge: it sounds cliché, but the people are great. In all three presentations I made, people came up and expressed how thankful they were that I had come out to their community to give a talk about the economy. Like everywhere, Lethbridgians (sp?) are feeling better about their economy… but a lot of question marks linger. The world feels like an uncertain place at the moment, and people here feel that too. They were so gracious in coming to hear me speak, and had the extreme good manners to go out of their way to thank me for coming. Sigh!
Some call it a sport. Others consider it a form of therapy. But whatever Albertans call it, even the most enthusiastic shopper eventually has to take a break—and that’s exactly what happened as 2011 got started.
Total retail sales in Alberta slipped to $5.165 billion in January, down 0.5% from December. Compared to January of 2010, shoppers still racked up sales that were 5.5% higher. The figures are adjusted for seasonal variation.
Total Canadian retail sales also slid in January, but by a smaller percentage amount (-0.3%). That was in sharp contrast to a consensus of economists’ expectations, which had called for a gain of 1.0%. A drop in new auto sales nationally was the primary reason. The lower retail figure in Alberta breaks a 6-month upward trend in sales that marked the second half of 2010. Even with the dip in January, though, the value of retail sales remains much higher (+11%) than the low point hit during the pit of the recession in March 2009 (see graph).
It’s improbable that January’s drop in retail sales signals anything more than a pause. With Alberta’s economy strengthening and employment rising, retailers should see sales continue to improve in 2011, although perhaps at a more moderate pace than the rise enjoyed last year.
The year got off to a very promising start for Alberta’s economy. Steadily rising oil prices were lifting drilling activity, sufficient snow pack was easing farmers’ worries, and even employment was roaring back to life with big gains in January and February. But two global events—which by their very nature were entirely unpredictable—are throwing a monkey wrench into the economic forecast for the rest of the year. Not all of the news is bad.
Ah, Alberta. Back in the middle part of the last decade, it was the place to be for Canadian job-seekers. Young graduates had their choice of plum positions as employers were competing against each other for talent. Then it all fell apart – at least temporarily. After peaking at nearly 2.1 million people employed in October of 2008, the economy shed 92,000 jobs. Many of the remaining workers were thrown into less-desirable part-time jobs. Others without work struck out on their own and became self-employed. In percentage terms, Alberta’s job market was hit harder than any other province.
Is Alberta back?
As printed in the Globe and Mail, Monday, March 7, 2011
For decades, North American manufacturing has been in upheaval due to the forces of globalization. Thousands of traditional blue-collar jobs are vanishing because of lower costs in Asia. Union representatives understandably call on politicians to “level the playing field.” But even these advocates know that a lot of these jobs cannot be saved.