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April 19, 2016 | Crispy

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.


Last year my first ride was on my birthday. Mid-March. This year I rode in January, February, March and, yeah, yesterday. In Ontario. This is not right.

No wonder. This week came news that last month was the hottest March in the 137 years people have been writing this stuff down. It’s the eleventh month running that a new global temperature record has been set. Science guys are already forecasting 2016 will be the hottest year of all.

Ever since Blondie topped charts there’s been a new world temperature record set every three years. Fifteen of the warmest have occurred in the last sixteen. Dispute climate change all you want, but it’s time to load up on the SPF 30.

So why’s this news in a financial blog?

Simple. If you’re investing for a long time, say a decade or two before you need the retirement income, think hard about how much maple (or energy) you want to hold. Oil used to make up half of all this country’s exports, and that’s since plunged. While we’re the biggest supplier of black stuff to the US – and crude has recovered to more than $41 a barrel (pushing the dollar to 79 cents) – the days that Canada could dig stuff up and get by are coming to an end.

Pushed ahead by a new generation of energy-conscious, environmentally-aware lefty voters (with their irritating bike lanes and car-sharing) our own governments are starting to wage war on oil. Alberta, Ontario, BC, Quebec – they’re all on the carbon tax/cap-&-trade bandwagon, soon to be joined by the feds. The current oil collapse meanwhile has hollowed out the energy workforce, with workers drifting back home to the Maritimes, BC or elsewhere, selling their duallies with nutz and finding meaningful work building condos.

Meanwhile the World Economic Forum says oil demand will fall steadily over the next few decades as countries tax carbon and shift to green tech. So even if oil recovers to double today’s price, it would make a lot of Canada’s pricy oilsands bitumen barely worth digging up and cooking. In short, one of our major industries may end up gutted. Bummer.

At the same time, the nation’s long-term finances could deteriorate given the spending habits of the crew now managing the place. Late on a recent Friday the Department of Finance released docs showing at least $125 billion in red ink over the next four years as the federal Libs turn on the taps. Now the Parliamentary Budget Officer says T2’s decision to restore OAS funding to age 65 (instead of 67) will add another $11 billion in annual red ink. And did you catch the interesting factoid that most of those 25,000 refugees we graciously accepted arrived on commercial flights? That was a $30 million bill. No, they have not been asked to repay it.

So what?

Hmm. So we’re busy building a condo economy where a big share of GDP comes from all of us borrowing a boatload of money so we can buy inflated properties from each other. Some proof is below, courtesy of a chart maintained by blog dog Shawn. You can see ‘real estate’ segment now makes up about 13% of our entire GDP, which does not even include residential construction. This is twice the level experienced in California (about the same size economy as Canada) before it hit the real estate wall a decade ago, and started issuing IOUs.


For the last few years this blog’s suggested you hold a minority of your portfolio’s growth assets in maple – actually with twice the exposure to US and international markets. In a 60/40 account, that would amount to about 17% in beaver and moose bits. The logic is simple. Never exit an asset class – since you have no idea what’s coming next – but also don’t overweight Canada just because you know the place. Given the fact the world’s getting crispier, voters are swinging left, the economy is being dangerously skewed to an inflated asset class and we’re embracing debt, the future is definitely not going to resemble the past.

And then there’s the wrinklie thing. Over 30% of  the population is entering their thirsty underwear years, ending careers, reducing consumption and about to suck up huge amounts of health care dollars – while collecting all that CPP and OAS. If you ever wonder what having too many old farts around will do to an economy, ponder Japan.

Conclusions? Draw your own. In the short-term, Canada has a nice bounce coming (already well in evidence). But if I were a moister, I’d be hitching my stars more broadly. That, and slathering sunscreen.

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April 19th, 2016

Posted In: The Greater Fool

One Comment

  • Avatar Fred Roberts says:

    But don’t forget oil is the input to a whole load of non energy industry like polymers plastics chemicals fertiliser etc. In fact we may look back at the 20th century With disbelief how we squandered such a valuable resource by burning it.

    We may yet end up cooking your target Sands using wind and hydro power ….

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