The countdown is on for Bill Morneau’s best opportunity to recover from his controversy-plagued 2017. The finance minister will deliver the 2018 budget on Feb. 27, leaving less than two weeks for stakeholders to speak out with their wish lists. While much of the attention will fall squarely on whether Morneau can finally sketch a path back to balanced budgets, there’s no doubt that the small business community and others who feel jilted by last year’s controversial policy moves will be looking for some relief. Over the next couple weeks we’ll canvass policy experts and corporate decision makers to find out what they want from Morneau.
And perhaps the most important question of all: why now, Mr. Morneau? Why go early with a budget when nobody knows the fate of NAFTA negotiations (which will be into their seventh round on budget day)?
CANADA’S TOP NAFTA NEGOTIATOR TEARS A STRIP OFF U.S.
Steve Verheul isn’t pulling any punches on his disdain for proposals tabled by his American counterparts at the NAFTA negotiating table, slamming their procurement proposal as “the worst ever”, and warning it would leave Canada in a weaker position for government contracts in the States than Bahrain. Hard to believe those comments, as reported by The Globe and Mail, were accidental or off the cuff – particularly considering how U.S. President Trump has been talking down Canada in recent days. Will be interesting to see how this goes over during Chrystia Freeland’s trip to D.C. today.
SHAW BUYOUT DECISION DAY
Eligible Shaw Communications employees have until 11:59p today to decide whether they’ll take the company up on its voluntary buyout offer. To say the messaging around this campaign has been difficult would be an understatement. As first reported by our Tara Weber, the company initially took the approach of warning workers about its “intentionally disruptive program”; then it spoke about Shaw being “an exciting place to be”; and in the latest memo to staff that our Tara obtained, the company admits it “made a big mis-step” in the buyout program’s rollout. Keep in mind that Shaw said it expected 10 per cent of the 6,500 eligible employees would accept the offer; now the question is whether that target will prove accurate. Watch for updates from Tara today.
U.S. INFLATION ON THE RISE
It’s all about U.S. inflation for investors today. The latest consumer price index shows the cost of living south of the border rose 2.1 per cent year-over-year in January, a bit above estimates. That sent futures tumbling, pointing to a weak open on Wall Street at 9:30 a.m. ET ET as investors continue grappling with inflation fears and the knock-on effect for interest rates.
B.C. TAKES AIM AT HOUSING SPECULATORS
The B.C. government is planning to take down housing speculators. “We see the results of speculation in all parts of our province,” Lieutenant General Judith Guichon said in yesterday’s throne speech, “…government will introduce legislation to crack down on tax fraud, tax evasion and money laundering in B.C.’s real estate market.” We’re expecting more news on this file when the province’s finance minister delivers the 2018 budget next week. In the meantime, we’ll try gathering insight on whether the government’s warning will scare off speculators.
OTHER NOTABLE STORIES:
-The discount on Western Canadian Select oil prices has shrunk to less than $21. Lots of speculative forces at play here, as reported yesterday by Andy Bell. Also worth pointing out that WTI oil prices have sagged below US$59 per barrel, marking a nearly-11 per cent since the start of the month (good enough for correction territory).
-Edelman's annual trust barometer shows Canadian companies are most trusted in the world, while 68% of Canadian respondents say CEOs should be more outspoken.
Notable earnings: Teck Resources, Barrick Gold, Goldcorp, Kinross, Agnico Eagle, Canopy Growth, Home Capital Group, Sun Life Financial, West Fraser Timber, Aimia, Cisco
Notable data: U.S. CPI, U.S. retail sales
10:30 a.m. ET: Canadian Taxpayers Federation announces annual waste Teddy Awards in Ottawa
4:00 p.m. ET: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley delivers remarks at photo op in Edmonton with Market Access Task Force
-Deadline for Shaw Communications employees to apply for voluntary buyout program
-Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland in Washington, D.C., for meetings with U.S. administration and Senate representatives
-U.S. ITC to release reasons for decision in Boeing-Bombardier dispute (previously scheduled for last Friday)
Every morning BNN's Managing Editor Noah Zivitz writes a ‘chase note’ to BNN's editorial staff listing the stories and events that will be in the spotlight that day. Have it delivered to your inbox before the trading day begins by heading to www.bnn.ca/subscribe.