Don’t believe what most economists say. The economy is not rebounding.
Canada just turned 150 years old, and the future couldn’t seem brighter. After all, Canada’s economy is “firing on all cylinders,” officials say. Newswires are abuzz with the latest, thrilling statistics about the economic forecast of the Great White North. “[T]he data are all but overwhelming at this point,” said Bank of Montreal economist Benjamin Reitzes. “It’s time to drop any negativity around the Canadian economy.”
Looking at the stats that are being circulated, you can understand why so many are so positive. The Canadian economy added 54,500 new jobs in May, far outpacing the 11,000 that some economists thought the market would produce. The Canadian economy has grown 3.5 percent in the last three quarters, a rate that hasn’t generally been seen since before the 2008 financial crisis. Nationwide there were 1.8 percent more jobs at the end of May than there were at the same time a year ago, which is well above population growth. Meanwhile, manufacturing, retailers and shopping outlets have all posted increases over the last three months. Added to that, the International Monetary Fund (imf) forecast that Canada’s economy is set to grow 2.5 percent this year, leading all other G-7 nations in economic growth.
Because of all this apparent good news, the Bank of Canada announced on July 12 that it was raising key interest rates from 0.5 to 0.75 percent. After cutting rates twice since 2010, the country raised its rate for the first time in seven years. Following the announcement, the Canadian dollar rebounded and hit 80 cents to the United States dollar for the first time in two years. Certainly seems like a lot of great news, right?
Dig beneath the surface of all these statistics, and you’ll see that Canada’s economy couldn’t be in a more precarious position.
If you work in the Canadian housing industry or if you own a home you bought 10 years ago, your life is probably pretty good. The housing market is booming—still. It is now in its eighth straight year of growth. And it’s also at the point where many economists are saying that it looks a lot like the U.S. housing market did in the mid-2000s. That was right before the bubble burst.
Gluskin Sheff chief economist David Rosenberg told Business News Network, “This bubble is on par with what we had in the States back in ’05, ’06, ’07. We have to actually take a look at the situation. The housing market here is in a classic price bubble. If you don’t acknowledge that, you have your head in the sand” (emphasis added).
Canada’s housing prices have ballooned—and fast. Right now, home prices at the national level are up 14.2 percent over this time last year, and 76 percent since the global economies began their recovery in March 2009. Wages, of course, have nowhere near kept up with that rate.
What makes this so problematic is that Canada’s housing industry is practically the only thing that’s fueling its economy. Earlier this year, Statistics Canada reported that the economy didn’t grow in February. According to Huffington Post, this wasn’t a surprise to economists who said the economy was just “taking a breather.” When you consider what was propping up the economy as it took a breather, though, it’s pretty alarming. They reported that “virtually all of the strength in February’s numbers comes from industries related to the housing boom—construction, finance and insurance, and real estate. Had it not been for strength in those areas, the economy would have shrunk in February.” The only thing keeping Canada’s economy afloat right now is its housing market!
In 2016, Canada’s dependence on real-estate investment reached a record high, according to global banking firm Macquarie. The exact same thing happened in the U.S. in 2005, just before its housing bubble burst. Macquarie showed that the path that Canada has followed from 2001 to 2016 is nearly identical to the path America traveled from 1991 to 2006, just before everything fell apart.
There is great danger in having a single sector of industry producing the lion’s share of the nation’s economy. Canada has already felt the sting of that and should have learned its lesson. Much of Canada’s economy is tied to the price of oil, since it is one of its main exports. Since oil prices are so low, Canada’s economy has already taken a beating over the last two years.
Now, Canada is making the same mistake with its housing market. If that sector collapses, what will generate Canada’s economy? At the end of 2016, real-estate selling, managing, renting and leasing made up 13 percent of Canada’s gross domestic product and was the largest segment of the economy. Construction was the fifth-largest contributor to Canada’s gdp at 7 percent. Those are huge portions of the economy. Twenty percent of the economy is tied directly to housing.
Added to that, 7 percent of those employed in Canada are employed in the construction industry. That’s a large part of the workforce to be in the industry when you consider that only 4 percent of the U.S. workforce is employed in construction.
Not only is it a large part, but it’s an older part too. In 2016, the average age of a construction worker in Canada was 41 years old. These aren’t young people who can go back to college for a few years to learn a new skill if they lose their jobs. If the economy starts shedding thousands of jobs in a downturn, these are working dads and moms with families to support who will be out of work.
So consider the bind that policymakers in Canada are in right now. Housing prices are running away, and if nothing is done, a serious crash could result, resulting in tens of thousands of people being out of work. At the same time, any effort to rein in housing prices is going to slow the very thing that is fueling Canada’s economy, causing an economic downturn and resulting in tens of thousands of people being out of work.
How close, then, could we be to a housing bubble burst? Canadian Business said that economists at the Bank of Montreal recently scrutinized mortgage payments as a percentage of income in Ontario, the province where Canada’s hottest real-estate market is located. It said:
That figure is rising fast. bmo estimates that at this pace, mortgage payments as a percentage of income will hit 1989 levels within 24 months—the same year the Toronto real-estate market crashed.
Wages Aren’t Growing, Debt Is
Another factor to consider in Canada’s economy is that of wages and debt. Here again, Canada is looking a lot like America did just before its housing bubble burst.
Canadians are led to believe that the economy is booming. Then it follows that people ought to be making more money. If there is economic growth, that means more goods are being sold, because people have more money, meaning higher profits for companies. That means higher wages. The only problem is, wages aren’t growing. They’re actually shrinking.
On July 7, Statistics Canada released its latest job report with all the great growth news. “Buried” in the report, as the Huffington Post stated, is a troubling stat: Wages only increased by 1 percent. That’s the smallest growth rate since 1998. When you take into account that inflation was about 1.3 percent over the same time frame, the purchasing power of their wages actually shrank by 0.3 percent over the last year.
To remedy that, the Ontario provincial government is following the trendy liberal philosophy of raising minimum wage from the current rate of $11.40 per hour to $15 per hour. The plan, which has yet to pass the legislature, is to take effect in two stages—to $14 per hour on Jan. 1, 2018, and then $15 per hour on Jan. 1, 2019.
The idea of raising minimum wage sounds great, but businesses can already see where this is leading. For companies to stay afloat, they will need a corresponding increase in sales to pay their staff. Otherwise they need to reduce staff, or increase the price of their goods. James Rilett, vice president of the Ontario branch of Restaurants Canada, told Huffington Post, “In a survey to food-service operators, they have told us they will respond by reducing employee hours, cutting staff and raising prices. Given the price sensitivity of customers, operators will try to keep menu prices from soaring too high. In some cases though, prices may increase by as much as 8 percent.”
Many Ontario businesses are already asking the government for corporate tax breaks to lessen the blow to their bottom lines. But consider where that would lead. Rather than companies finishing the year with less profit, the provincial government would take the hit. The province is already $312 billion in debt and that is expected to grow to $336 billion by 2020. Having the government take the blow would only end up burgeoning the massive debt it already has.
Consider too what industries would be most affected by a minimum wage increase and the ramifications to all Canadians. Industries like agriculture, accommodations, food services and retail all employ the largest percentage of minimum wage employees. Those are industries that provide everyday necessities. If companies are forced to raise prices on basic commodities like food and clothing, that will only devalue peoples wages even more. It would also pose a danger to those on fixed incomes. Suddenly their pensions and benefits would have less buying power. Here again, it’s undoubtedly going to be the government that will have to start doling out more to help them make ends meet.
So because income isn’t growing, debt is, and it’s sending Canadian households into what Conference Board of Canada chief economist Craig Alexander is calling “an endless debt cycle.” Right now the Canadian debt-to-income ratio is 167.3 percent. That means for every dollar of disposable income, they owe $1.67. Comparatively, when the housing bubble burst in the U.S., the debt-to-income ratio in America was only 130 percent.
Once again, it’s Canada’s ballooning housing market that’s causing so much of the problem. People are spending more and more of their income on housing. David Rosenberg went on to tell Business News Network, “Where home prices are in Toronto, they absorb 13 years of average family income. That is completely abnormal. We’ve never seen this before.”
So many Canadians can’t afford the homes they live in, and so many don’t have the money to maintain them after they buy one. Individuals are having to turn more and more to non-trackable sources for additional income to make ends meet. This makes trend watchers nervous, because it skews the truth about the affordability of Canada’s housing market, making it look better than it is. Canadian Business reported:
A recent survey commissioned by hsbc [a financial services company] found 37 percent of millennials turned to their parents for financial assistance to cover housing costs. That trend isn’t captured in the income data.
Still, should that provide assurance about the sustainability of the market? Only if incomes catch up down the road. Or if Mom and Dad are ready with their checkbooks to help their indebted children when interest rates—and mortgage payments—inevitably rise. The hsbc survey found that 21 percent of millennials do exactly that when unexpected costs arise after purchasing a home.
Canadians, especially young Canadians, are piling on more and more debt that they can’t afford. Many have no financial reserves, are maxed out on debt, and have nowhere to turn but their family. This eats into their parents’ cash reserves, putting them at a greater financial risk.
At the same time, policymakers look at the collectable data and see that Canadian millennials are wealthier than their American counterparts, and more than half of them own their own home. Policymakers look at the millennials’ salaries and decide that if they can afford houses, the housing market isn’t too bad. As those hsbc surveys show, though, they can’t afford their houses.
Despite all this explosive debt, some Canadian economists say this level of debt isn’t a problem. Some have even said that the U.S. housing market crashed because people didn’t have enough debt. They reason that much of the debt is mortgage debt, and that doesn’t have to be paid off in a year, so why worry if you accumulate some credit card debt as well.
In the modern age of artificially low interest rates, debt doesn’t really matter much. However, Canada’s central bank just raised its rates, so people ought to sit up and take note. It’s what Bloomberg View calls “The Inconvenient Truth of Consumer Debt”:
Is it a surprise that economists today are equally dismissive of households’ heavy debt burdens? Mortgages take a lifetime to expunge; incomes flow in every year.
That myopic mindset best captures the shackles that bind today’s global economy. Of course it’s acceptable to build infinitely high levels of debt—as long as rates never rise. But then there’s the inconvenient truth that when the price of the collateral backing those millions of subprime mortgages cratered, those irrelevant debt loads became relevant overnight.
The same can be said of today’s delicate dynamic. Australia and Canada will be just fine so long as they don’t suffer a shock in any form to their respective economies.
That shock is coming. The Bank of Canada has raised rates, and there is talk it will raise rates again in the fall. So many Canadians are already maxed out on debt with no money to spare, and the cost of servicing their debt just went out. With mortgages up for refinancing every five years because of Canada’s mortgage system, higher prices are going to be hitting people sooner than they think. Something will have to give.
The Illusion of Wealth
This is the actual reality of Canada’s economy: out-of-control housing costs, ballooning debt, sluggish wages and a single-industry economy. If Canada’s economy is really firing on all cylinders, why are some news outlets running articles with titles like “Canada’s Housing Bubble Will Burst,” “Does Canada 2017 = U.S. 2007?” and “Canada’s Housing Bubble Looks a Lot Like the U.S. Around 2007”?
They do it because Canada’s economy is not strong. In fact, it’s dangerously weak and showing signs of buckling.
Canadians all over the country ought to be asking, What is happening to this country? The housing crisis almost appears to be a no-win situation: If you raise interest rates to slow down the housing development, the market slumps and the economy buckles. If you stop foreign home buyers, sales will slump and the economy buckle. Or you can do nothing, and the markets will balloon and burst and the economy buckle. That may be an oversimplification of the complex housing market, but the problem remains: Canada’s housing market is on the verge of busting the entire economy!
Since the U.S. housing market bubble burst in 2008, the Trumpet has continually sounded the alarm that Canada is on course for a similar burst. In 2012, Robert Morley wrote that the rush to buy up real estate in Canada had to be “the definition of insanity—piling into the very investment that made your neighbor and most important economic partner virtually collapse.” It’s been five years since then, and the insanity hasn’t stopped. Canada has surpassed nearly all the 2007 U.S. levels: debt-to-income ratio, cost of servicing debt, real housing prices. How can a crash not happen?
The Trumpet makes such a bold prediction based on Bible prophecy. God warned the end-time nations of Israel, nations that include Canada, that if they did not continue in His laws, curses would ensue (for more information, be sure to request The United States and Britain in Prophecy). We constantly point back to passages in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, which outline these curses.
The skeptic could laugh at such a notion, but consider what Deuteronomy 28:43-44 state, “The foreigners living among you will become stronger and stronger, while you become weaker and weaker. They will lend money to you, but you will not lend to them. They will be the head, and you will be the tail!” (New Living Translation). Is this not an apt description of the housing crisis in Canada? The reason for the skyrocketing house prices, and thus debt, is foreign investment.
For years, cash-laden foreigners came in search of property. Suddenly, middle-income properties became high-end properties! The market ballooned. Regular Canadians were shut out of the housing market in those cities almost entirely because they didn’t have the money. To help with the problem, the cities of Toronto and Vancouver both implemented a foreign-buyer tax. Both cities posted slight drops in houses sold following the tax, but Vancouver’s market has rebounded, and analysts suspect Toronto’s market will as well.
Canadian policymakers are realizing more and more that foreign investments are having an impact on the market. Statistics Canada recently felt compelled to begin creation of a real-estate database so that more informed decisions could be made on how to solve the housing crisis.
What about Leviticus 26:20: “All your work will be for nothing, for your land will yield no crops, and your trees will bear no fruit” (nlt). Canadian wages shrank 0.3 percent last year when you factor in inflation. Imagine working for an entire year, just as long and hard, and making less money than you did the previous year. Or imagine investing year after year in your house—only to see all that value wiped out in the inevitable crash.
These are just a few of the many calamitous events prophesied to befall Canada in the near future. If you want to understand more, you need to request a free copy of The United States and Britain in Prophecy. Canada’s economy is not rebounding. In fact, it’s headed in the opposite direction. A crash of epic proportions will affect every Canadian. You can understand if your eyes are open, and if you’re willing to believe what God reveals in His Word. The decision is yours.