Corpcentre's Blog

January 3, 2010

Three Cheers for Canadian Finances

Filed under: Bank of Canada,banks,canada economy,recession,world economy — corpcentre @ 4:37 pm

Let’s face it – Canada’s reputation is not one of the glitzy stars of the world. It is rather conservative, moderate, and perhaps even a bit dull at times. But, those exact qualities allowed the nation to remain strong and secure during the recent recession. At the same time that the U.S. economy has been floundering with no end yet in sight, Canada weathered the storm that lasted just eight months.

Canada’s well managed banking sector was a key factor in saving the day. The country’s strict regulatory system, combined with a conservative banking culture and superior credit conditions, paved the way for stability. The recession saw the loss of more than 122 banks in the U.S. Not a single Canadian bank closed and none needed bailouts.

Certainly there has been Canadian unemployment. But, our workforce shrinkage of 2.5% was half of our American neighbours.

Let’s look at the GDP. Canada’s fell 5.4% but that’s far less than other nations like Germany’s 14.4% fall or Japan that plummeted by a whopping 15.2%.

Sub-prime mortgages dealt a death blow to U.S. banks, comprising almost 20% of the mortgage market. Canadian banks were a lot more cautious and only 7% of the market was comprised of sub-prime mortgages. Furthermore, banks in Canada rarely sold their mortgages and kept a tight reign, thus reducing the risks of default.

Conservative Canadians are more reserved? Quite possibly so, if one considers personal finances. Canadian household debt measures approximately 102% of income while the U.S. ratio is 114%. When Americans had to start repaying their debts, Canadians were able to take advantage of low borrowing rates and boost consumer spending.

Do Canadians have the last laugh? Not really. The recession has hurt everyone and is far from over around the world. But, whereas the great credit bubble burst in other countries, and many are still reeling from the effects of the recession, Canada has shone brightly as a model of fiscal prudence and responsible financial management.
 
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December 23, 2009

Web 2.0: The Evolution of Advertising

Filed under: advertising,small business,social networking,world economy — corpcentre @ 8:10 pm
Everyone is aware of the power of communication. And, perhaps one of the most influential modes of communication is none other than advertising. Similar to many other trends of the modern world, advertising has undergone considerable change in order to maintain its position of influence vis-à-vis modern society.
 
Advertising, by definition, is a sub-section of public relations (PR). PR has its origins in the early 20th century. Edward Bernays is generally credited with coining the term and concept of PR. He viewed it as an applied social science to manage and manipulate the thinking and behaviour of the public.
 
Early television advertising concentrated on promoting products by bombarding the consumer. Fill the screen and fill the mind. However, the evolution of modern communication has given way to new methods of influencing the public. It would seem that mega-budgets of advertising creating “in your face” ads may not always be the most effective.
 
The Internet dominates our lives like no other media before it. Instant communications are a way of life. In fact, much of our communication today takes place via the Internet. Therefore, logic would dictate (applying the wisdom of Mr. Bernays) that dominating the Internet is the best way to manipulate public thinking.
 
Advertisers today have learned that their products and services must appear prominently on Internet sites. In this way, we will come to accept, almost naturally, that a certain product or service is part of our daily lives. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter serve as powerful advertising venues. In order to achieve a position of influence, advertisers have to bring their merchandise to the people and make it part of their everyday psyche. Rather than just glamour and glitter, advertising must speak to us on our modern terms so that we, in turn, can continue the chain of communication. As Bernays wrote in his book Propaganda (1928), manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is “the true ruling power of our country.”
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December 15, 2009

Harmony in B.C.? The implementation of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST)

July 1, 2010 is rapidly approaching in British Columbia. While it will be a national holiday as it is every year, it is also the date that the province will implement the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). The jury is still out on whether it will be good for the province or not.
 
The answer, at this point, depends solely on who is asked. There are clearly going to be winners and losers in this new tax. The decision to implement the new tax is final. The actual impact is still theoretical.
 
It seems that the majority of the B.C. business community is clearly in favour of the HST. With 130 jurisdictions around the world using an HST style tax, B.C. simply cannot ignore joining the fray, if it wishes to compete for business investment. The province must offer the same tax advantages to the business community, lest businesses move elsewhere to obtain the benefits. Similarly, with e-commerce on the rise, retailers and manufacturers are competing with provinces like Ontario, which voted to adopt the HST.
 
A major challenge lies with the hospitality industry and other business sectors that currently don’t have to charge PST, or services that don’t have to charge GST. Under the new HST, these businesses and services will have no way getting back the HST. In essence, here will be the new tax burden with no relief in sight. Also, the average consumer will pay more taxes. Consumers cannot claim any portion of the HST but will pay more for products and services that are currently tax exempt but will not be so under the new HST.
 
Economists claim that implementing the HST is the right move for B.C. Come July 2010, B.C. will see if the economists are correct.
 
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October 13, 2009

Common Mistakes of a Start Up

Most of us dream of becoming an overnight success. We have thought of the greatest business idea that will lead us to riches. It may happen. Then again, it may require good, old-fashioned hard work and dedication to make that first million. No doubt, though, that self employed entrepreneurs have that desire and drive to give it a try. By avoiding some common startup mistakes, the chances of success increase greatly.
 
It is vital to set yourself apart from others. You have to convince customers that your business is the right choice. What is your specialty that will entice business to come your way? Being the same as others in the trade won’t cut it. Also, copying someone else’s idea because they were successful at it won’t bring you long term success.

You have to sell your service or product to the public. Don’t expect a colourful flyer or flashy website to do the work. Similarly, your credentials are important for your credibility. But the bottom line is demonstrating what you can do with those credentials.
 
Did you start out with a business plan? Use this document to chart your business and don’t be afraid to alter the plan as necessary. Many new businesses realize in the first few months that change is essential. Although you probably want to see your business in print, don’t sink money into advertising until you’ve worked out the initial kinks and have settled on the long term version of your business.
 
Be sure to advertise your business where it counts. Get out and sell your service or product to the appropriate crowd. Also, don’t let hecklers or criticism deter you. Setbacks happen. Don’t let them overwhelm you. Marketing must be ongoing. Don’t stop after a few tries. You want the public to identify you with your business. Continue the marketing and be persistent and convincing!  Motivate yourself and you’ll succeed in motivating others. 
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October 11, 2009

Looking for Startup Money?

Money makes the world go ’round. It also gets your startup business up and running. Many a new business venture has failed due to a lack of cash to get the operation off the ground and get through the initial difficult months until the business starts generating revenue. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees as to where you will find the necessary capital. Many entrepreneurs tend to follow a similar path in seeking funds.
 
The most popular place to look is your own pocketbook. Often, people will mortgage their homes or sell property and possessions. Certainly, there is risk involved but business involves risk and personal commitment to the venture is crucial. Of course, “personal” funds may also extend to family and close friends. Most likely, they will be far more supportive than commercial lenders and their terms are likely to be far more favourable.
 
Next in line is your neighbourhood bank. Assuming that you have a creditworthy relationship, this may be the ideal place to secure a startup loan. Also, a line of credit is most important for your business. You may not need these funds initially but they may come in handy down the line.
 
Do your research well. There are numerous loans and grants available for new small businesses from government agencies and business associations. Your local banker or your accountant may be able to help direct you to sources of funds. Similarly, professional organizations may have helpful information.
 
Investors may be the right answer for you. Although many investors prefer to become involved with established businesses, the right idea at the right time may attract investment funds to you. Your business plan should be designed with investors in mind. Be prepared to change the business plan as necessary in order to interest a potential investor.
 
Finally, don’t limit yourself to one source of funds. It may be possible for you to finance your startup form several sources. Decide what is best for your needs and don’t be afraid to seek advice from professional advisors. 
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October 4, 2009

Joint Canada/B.C. Jobs Program

British Columbia has been seriously affected by the global recession. As a province with many communities heavily reliant on resource-based industries such as mining, agriculture and fishing and manufacturing, the job market is in a severe crisis. Responding to the needs of these western communities, the federal and provincial governments have banded together to create immediate jobs and help workers impacted by the recession.

A $14 million investment has been made recently through the Community Adjustment Fund and the Job Opportunities Program. 45 new projects will be funded, creating more than 470 jobs for laid-off resource workers. The projects are endorsed and supported by local communities. The programs are not stop-gap measures but will hopefully create foundations for long-lasting prosperity.

However, this is but one phase of a much larger program. The Job Opportunities Program was first announced in May 2008 with an initial investment of $25 million. In July 2009, the federal government and the B.C. provincial government, both committed to maintaining financial stability and keeping Canadians working during this recession, each committed an additional $30 million to the program. The Community Adjustment Fund, part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan, is a two year, $1 billion nationwide program to support job creating projects and maintain employment in rural communities. Nearly one third of the program’s funds, $306 million, are being directed to the four westernmost provinces of Canada. The impact of the recession has been felt much more in the west than other provinces across the nation.

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September 2, 2009

Breaking the Arctic Ice

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been investing time, money, and energy to assert Canadian sovereignty over Arctic territories that are sparsely populated yet richly endowed in natural resources.

The Prime Minister recently visited the community of Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut. Nunavut’s population is thinly spread over a territory equal in size to both Alaska and Texas combined. Poverty and suicide are quite rampant in these northern communities, as are serious problems of substance abuse. Unfortunately, there are limited resources available for treatment centres. This issue was one of several discussed with the Prime Minister on his visit.

Canada is not the only nation looking towards these northern regions. The area is rich in natural resources, including huge oil deposits. The U.S. Geological Service estimates that the Arctic regions contain enough oil to supply global demand for three years. Global warming has contributed to an erosion of sea ice thus making passage to the Arctic via the Northwest Passage easier. Canada claims that the Northwest Passage is sovereign Canadian territory while the U.S. claims that it is an international waterway. Joining the U.S. claim are other countries with eyes trained on the Arctic and its treasure trove of natural resources. Russia and Denmark have been heard to lay sovereignty claims to areas in the Arctic in recent years.

Prime Minister Harper’s move to enhance the communities of the Arctic is intended to spur economic and social growth, thus creating a contiguous territory. His government intends to relinquish much regional economic planning to local regional councils. Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak has called on Ottawa to give the Arctic region more control over its offshore energy resources as well as its derived benefits.

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September 1, 2009

Is a Second Round of the Recession on the Horizon?

Speculation has been growing in some economic circles that a “double-dip” recession – a second wave – is a distinct possibility. Some investors and economists fear that the government stimulus programs in various countries have managed to stabilize economies but have failed to jump start any long term growth.

Countries like Japan, Germany, and France have recently posted positive growth figures for the second quarter. However, world stock markets have remained fairly volatile.

The growing fear is that growth generated by the trillion of government stimulus dollars is only temporary and will cease as soon as the governments cease funding the various programs, most probably within the coming year. Thus, the term “double-dip” has come into use.

In order to truly declare an end to the recession, countries should be experiencing substantial sustained growth in consecutive quarters. This has failed to materialize yet in any significant fashion. Certainly, there is reason to be optimistic but consumers have yet to display a return to a strong buying mentality. Many are still in a savings mode, particularly in the United States. Even though interest rates are at an historic low in the U.S., many consumers fear taking on any more debt. Canadians are faring better than their neighbours in the U.S., but they, too, are still leery about the economy, as unemployment is still rampant in the nation, especially in the manufacturing sectors.

Economists hope that governments will not make the mistake of ending the stimulus packages too early. A good beginning can lead to a stable financial future if the elements of recovery are managed properly and timely.

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August 31, 2009

Is Deflation Good for Business?

Filed under: Bank of Canada,canadian business,deflation,world economy — corpcentre @ 7:11 pm

Energy prices have truly influenced the global economy over the last couple of years. As gasoline prices have moved down in 2009, one result, in June 2009, was a negative annual inflation rate in Canada. This was the first time this has occurred since November 1994. Similarly, the country’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) is expected to be down, marking a decline for the second consecutive year. Overall, though, core inflation is expected to remain fairly stable and close out the year at or near two per cent, as predicted by the Bank of Canada.

Analysts predict that this period of deflation is merely transitory and will likely be take in stride by markets. The Bank of Canada is expected to maintain its promise to keep interest rates at a floor of 0.25 per cent until next year, assuming that inflation remains stable.

As the deflation is attributed to the movement in gasoline prices, the effects are not considered to be ominous. The Bank of Canada had predicted that there would be a period of falling prices, but also predicted that the effects would taper off towards the end of the third quarter of 2009.

When the rather volatile gasoline prices are removed from the inflation index, the country’s economic factors are fairly stable. During the recession, some economists described to the core inflation rate as “sticky.” Despite the weakening of the economy, the Canadian dollar was fairly strong and food prices were slow to come down. Thus, the core inflation rate did not vary much. As food costs begin to drift down in the coming months, they are expected to bring down the core inflation rate.

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August 25, 2009

Global Business Outlook: Canadian Economy Ranks High

While the global recession is still a major economic factor in many countries, the Canadian economy is rebounding very well. A stable banking sector combined with lower employment, have contributed to Canada’s recent rise in global economic standings.

According to annual rankings by the Conference Board of Canada, the Canadian economy ranked 11th of 17 developed countries in 2008. However, based on current forecasts by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the country’s ranking is expected to catapult to 5th place in 2010. The OECD’s forecast for growth, unemployment, and various other economic factors revealed that Canada is expected to rebound from the global recession at a rate that far exceeds many other developed countries.

Both the United States and Belgium are also expected to rise in global economic rankings. However, Switzerland, Britain, and the Netherlands are expected to fall. Norway was ranked in first place in 2008 and is predicted to remain in first place through 2010. This high ranking is attributed to the country’s large petroleum sector as well as its resilient economy. At the bottom end of the scale is Ireland whose 17th place economic ranking is expected to continue into 2010.

Although Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney recently announced that the recession is over, many unemployed Canadians would disagree. On the other hand, consumer confidence has displayed an upward trend since the beginning of 2009. As well, investment portfolios have begun to recover, housing prices have risen, and the key lending rate in Canada is at an historic low.

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