Five things that will shape Canada's economy in 2014 - Macleans.ca

Five things that will shape Canada’s economy in 2014

The country’s fragile recovery extends into 2014

by

The invisible hand of the market isn’t the only thing that’s going to shape the economy next year. Here are five factors in Canada’s continuing economic recovery.

1. John Chen

To say a lot is riding on Chen’s shoulders in 2014 would be the greatest understatement in corporate Canada. BlackBerry’s new chief executive must prove to investors (and potential buyers) within the next few months there’s something worth saving. For BlackBerry to survive intact Chen must halt its market-share slide, refocus the company on its enterprise business and slash the workforce to manageable levels, all while out-innovating much larger rivals. It’s far more likely BlackBerry will cease to exist sometime in the next year, having been bought out, broken up, or gone bust.

2. Canada Post

The writing is on the mailbox. Before 2014 is out, Canada Post Group will face an existential crisis. Plummeting mail volumes led the Crown corporation to lose $129 million in the third quarter, while facing a $5.9-billion solvency deficit in its employee pension plan. The company said it will need financial aid (read: a bailout) from the Harper government to help restructure its business. Riiiiiiiight. Expect instead for Ottawa to steer it down the path of Britain’s Royal Mail (led, incidentally, by former Canada Post CEO Moya Greene). The U.K.’s 500-year-old postal service was privatized and raised $2.8 billion in an IPO in November. It’s unlikely investors will be as eager for a piece of a broken Canada Post.

Editor’s note: This prediction has already come true, at least in part. Less than a week after the magazine with this prediction went to print, Canada Post announced a cost-cutting plan that includes the end of door-to-door mail delivery. But will the drastic changes to Canada Post go far enough to take the Crown corp into the digital age? Charlie Gillis examines that question over here.

3. Stephen Elop

Once a rising star at Microsoft, the Ancaster, Ont.-native left to turn around Nokia. There he talked about the need to leap away from the company’s “burning platform” and embrace Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system. Those who accused Elop of being a Trojan Horse sent from Redmond, Wash., felt vindicated when he negotiated a deal to sell Nokia’s handset business to Microsoft in September. Days earlier Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer announced his retirement from a company that itself has lost its way. Elop is now seen as one of two top candidates to replace Ballmer at Microsoft’s helm (Ford CEO Alan Mullally is the other). If Elop gets the nod, it will be one of the highest perches any Canadian has ever reached in corporate America.

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

4. National securities regulator

After a defeat at the Supreme Court, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s bid to establish a national securities regulator switched gears. B.C. and Ontario agreed to pass uniform securities rules yet maintain control over their markets. It’s hoped other provinces will follow suit. Ottawa wants to launch the new regulator by 2015, meaning the provinces must pass their legislation by December 2014. Expect hyperbolic opposition from Quebec along the way.

5. Exchange rates

A big question facing the global economy next year is whether conflict will break out—not with guns, but with currencies. In times of sluggish growth weak currencies are seen as a quick fix to boost exports, which suddenly are cheaper for other countries to buy. That is, until those countries drive down their currencies. The European Central Bank’s rate cut in November, followed by Thailand’s and similar moves by the Czech Republic, have many worried the world is on the cusp of a massive currency war. Given the delicate state of the recovery, it would be mutual assured destruction for all involved.