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July 31, 2015 | If He Asked Me

A best-selling Canadian author of 14 books on economic trends, real estate, the financial crisis, personal finance strategies, taxation and politics. Nationally-known speaker and lecturer on macroeconomics, the housing market and investment techniques. He is a licensed Investment Advisor with a fee-based, no-commission Toronto-based practice serving clients across Canada.

HONK

It’s a day etched in my memory. The prime minister called me into his office on the third floor of Centre Block, with the big wooden door guarded by two beefy guys with wires in their ears.

He said a few things that pissed me off, so I got up to leave. He ordered me to sit. Like a poodle. Then this: You were a journalist, he continued. Journalists make lousy politicians. They think they always have to tell the truth.

And that was the moment I knew this was going nowhere. So I left. A few weeks later my derriere was punted from the Conservative party, even thought I’d been elected a Con MP. The PM sent his caucus chairman out to tell the media it was because I had blogged about matters the public had no right to know. (By the way, that guy was later arrested by the OPP with drugs in his vehicle.)

See how much fun politics is? Mr. Harper knew that by running me out of the party I’d be finished. I knew it, too. And that’s exactly what happened. I became a pathetic blogger, sleeping in ditches and underpasses, stealing food scraps from feral dogs, selling financial advice in bath houses and brothels, until rescued by a kindly nun who turned out to be an Amazon. But that’s another story.

I mention this because we’re at a new intersection of economics and politics. Sometime this weekend, it seems, the Big Guy will drop the writ for the autumn election. The supposed date is October 19th, but if he asked me (lol) I’d suggest Monday the 14th of September. There are a few reasons for this.

First, the Bank of Canada is set to make its next interest rate announcement at 10 am on Wednesday, September 9th. This is a tricky situation for the governing Conservatives. With the economy now in negative growth every single month so far in 2015, the price of oil mired in the mid-$40 range, our trade numbers in serious deficit and job losses looming, there’s a growing chance the BoC could cut again. On one hand, voters love cheap money and free mortgages, believing it will keep their houses going up forever. On the other hand, this will hurt the dollar and underscore our economic woes, creating a sense of crisis.

That is eerily similar to the vote of October 14, 2008. The stock market was crashing, the credit crisis was expanding, companies were slashing payrolls and fear gripped the land. Is this, Stephen Harper asked, the time to let some tree-hugging, tax-increasing untested leftie take the reins of power? And he won, defeating Jack Layton and Stefan Dion.

Of course, if the central bank does not drop its rate in early September, then the government will point to it as evidence the economy is recovering and we should all get over ourselves.

Second reason for an early election: the Fed. If you believe Janet Yellen, the US central bank boss, instead of all the Nobel-winning macroeconomists who read this blog, the first rate increase in ten years will take place on September 17th. That will dramatically highlight the disparities between the two economies – theirs which is healthy enough to end excessive monetary stimulus and stand on its own and ours, which sucks bad. Besides, if the BoC cuts one week and the Fed raises the next, you can kiss the dollar (now at 76 cents) goodbye.

Third, we’re in the ninth inning for housing – a fact which will be a lot more evident to people once they stop drinking Red Bull and return to autumnal sobriety. With the Canadian economy entering a technical recession, amid lousy commodity prices, rising unemployment and off-the-chart household debt it’s only a matter of time before most people sweat. Greed can turn to fear in a few days. When it happens, folks need somebody to blame, since they themselves are utterly blameless. Remember that Canadians do not vote for a new politician. They just punish the old one.

As we head into this election-call weekend, a new report from TD is warning of “cautionary yellow” flashing over the housing markets in YVR and 416. “When we put it all together, key housing indicators on balance continue to highlight the vulnerability of the Toronto and Vancouver housing markets to a significant correction in activity and prices,” says the bank. In a departure from the past, we now have a major Bay Street outfit using words like “a steep and painful price adjustment,” which the economists are giving a “moderate” chance of happening.

So there it is. That’s why I’d call this election early, and not risk waiting until October – also traditionally the most volatile month for financial markets and the value of your TFSA. But if I were Stephen Harper, I’d have retired long ago, paving the way for a charismatic new star to grab the party horns with a fresh alternative to the leftist hordes.

Isn’t ego interesting?

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July 31st, 2015

Posted In: The Greater Fool

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