31 Jan

Canada Comes Up Short On Jobs


Posted by: Mike Hattim

OTTAWA — Canada can no longer brag that it recouped all the jobs lost during the recession. The economy is roughly 30,000 jobs short, according to Statistics Canada.

The data agency revealed Friday it has revised its labour data to reflect 2006 census figures, as opposed to using 2001 population data. The new census data suggest the labour force is not as large as previously assumed.

As a result, “the employment increase from July 2009 to December 2010 based on the new estimates was not as strong as with the old estimates,” Statistics Canada said in a paper discussing the changes.

However, it added the unemployment rate, at 7.6% as of December, remains unchanged.

Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC World Markets, said the changes are largely “trivial,” other than the politicians losing some bragging rights about the economy’s strength.

“This is not a material change in the direction of the economy,” he said. “There is some symbolism in getting back the very last job, but part of the explanation is that the population hasn’t been growing as quickly so there are not as many people to be employed as earlier assumed.”

Based on the revisions, the agency says 428,000 jobs were lost between October 2008 and July 2009. From July 2009 to last month, the revised data suggest 398,000 net new jobs were created – meaning there is 30,000-job gap.

Previously, Statistics Canada had declared the economy recouped the recession’s job losses by last August, a data point oft repeated by the federal Conservative government in defending its record on the economy.

The data, prior to revisions, had indicated the economy lost 417,000 between October 2008 and July 2009, whereas between July 2009 and last month roughly 463,000 net new jobs had been generated.

Statistics Canada said the new estimates of employment are slightly lower overall due to the lower population estimates. “Despite the slightly lower levels, however, the new (revised) and old (unrevised) employment estimates track closely, following the same trends,” it said.

“You can say Canada hasn’t created as many jobs,” Mr. Shenfeld said, “but we also don’t have as many people to be employed.”

For the provinces, employment levels were revised downward by 1% or more for New Brunswick (-2.4%); British Columbia (-1.9%); Newfoundland and Labrador (-1.8%) and Prince Edward Island (-1.1%). The only upward revision was in Alberta (+0.8%).

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said revisions to Statistics Canada data are “routine,” and estimates for Canadian economic performance have not changed.

“The economy has grown for five straight quarters, and the unemployment rate remains 7.6% as previously reported,” Mr. Flaherty said in a statement. “We know that there are still too many people looking for work. Our government is working on their behalf to create jobs and economic growth across Canada.”

The federal government’s two-year $48-billion stimulus program, aimed at generating economic growth and jobs, will largely come to an end as of March 31, although money will continue to flow for infrastructure projects that started before that date.

Meanwhile, Statistics Canada released other labour-related data on Friday, suggesting average weekly employee earnings rose 4.4% year-over-year in November. Economists at Moody’s Analytics said the result indicates the earnings growth reported is the fastest in more than two years.

“The strong wage growth also supports projections for healthy GDP growth in the fourth quarter, as rising incomes continue to support spending,” said Adam Goldin, economist at Moody’s.

On Monday, Statistics Canada releases GDP data for November, and the market consensus is for a 0.3% month-over-month gain. Fourth-quarter figures will be available on Feb. 28.

31 Jan

Canadians Better Off, Even If They Don’t Feel It


Posted by: Mike Hattim

Jan. 23 marks the fifth anniversary of Stephen Harper’s 2006 election victory and in early February, he will pass Lester B. Pearson’s time in office to become Canada’s 11th longest-serving prime minister. As Mr. Harper told Postmedia News this week, it has been a roller-coaster ride: “Some days it feels like five months, and other days it seems like 50 years.”

The five-year milestone has presented the Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, with his latest electoral gambit — to ask middle-class Canadian families whether they are better off after half a decade of the Harper government?

In fact, by almost every pocketbook metric, Canadian families are better off than they were five years ago –even if they don’t feel it.

The new strategy emerged from research carried out by the Liberals’ pollster, Michael Marzolini, as part of his firm Pollara’s annual nationwide poll of Canadians’ personal financial expectations. He found a new sense of caution and retrenchment, after optimistic expectations for 2010 were not met.

According to the Pollara poll, middle-class Canadians feel themselves under siege, with four in 10 claiming their incomes are failing to keep pace with the cost of living. They are anxious about their retirement, family debt and the value of their investments. Many Canadians believe every step forward they make is being hampered by assaults on their incomes such as new taxes and user fees. Ominously for the government, they appear less than impressed about claims Canada is doing better than its international competitors — the economy may be improving but they feel their own situation is not.

Mr. Ignatieff has leapt on the survey’s findings on his current 20-event, 11-ridings winter tour, making the claim that Canadians are worse off and the economy is weaker.

He is gambling that voters look at their own situation and calculate whether they have done well over the past five years. If the answer is yes, they will vote for the party they voted for before but, if not, he hopes they can be persuaded to switch.

Mr. Ignatieff’s central contention is that Canadians’ standard of living — as measured by GDP per person–has fallen 1.3% since the Harper government came to power.

The only problem with this for the Liberal leader is that it isn’t true — real GDP per capita did fall between 2005 and 2009, the trough of the recession, but has since recovered. If you annualize the first three quarters of 2010, the numbers show real GDP per capita is up

0.2% over the 2005 figure.

Other indicators are similarly positive.

Average hourly wages have outpaced inflation, especially for men, who now earn $4 an hour more than they did at the end of 2005.

The fiscal and monetary response to the recession has created one very real problem identified by Mr. Ignatieff — an extremely high level of indebtedness. Encouraged by cheap interest rates, Canadians now owe $1.50 for every dollar of disposable income, up from $1.08 in 2006.

Yet, national net worth per capita, which measures the health of assets like homes and investments, stood at a record high of $179,000 in the third quarter of 2010, up from $155,000 five years ago. Even at the bottom end of the socioeconomic ladder, the number of children living in low-income families fell by 250,000 between 2003 and 2008.

Retirement income is another leading concern raised by the Liberals but many more Canadians are now members of registered retirement plans than in 2005.

And the feeling that the tax burden is growing is also illusory, at least according to the Fraser Institute’s Tax Freedom Day, the day on which the average Canadian family has earned enough money to pay all taxes imposed on them by three layers of government. It advanced to June 5 in 2010, from June 23 in 2005.

These bald statistics don’t tell the whole story, of course. In the intervening years, there was a painful recession that saw unemployment spike at 8.7% in August 2009 (it is now sitting at 7.6%, still higher than the 6.8% in 2005).

Canadians remain anxious. According to Mr. Marzolini’s research, two-thirds of the population thinks we’re still in recession.

Yet, crucially, voters do not seem to blame the federal government, perhaps accepting that, if things are not noticeably better than they were five years ago, they could have been immeasurably worse.

Non-Conservatives can claim with some justification that the Harper government’s record of achievement is pretty penny ante when compared with other five-year-old administrations.

But the picture improves when you consider what didn’t happen. Mr. Harper is an incrementalist who agrees with Canada’s longest-serving prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, that “it’s what we prevent, rather than what we do, that counts in government.”

The pressures of power have forced Mr. Harper, by his own admission, to make compromises he never thought he would have to make. “We spent the first three years of our government in a situation where people were saying, ‘Why don’t you take more risks? Why don’t you make more grandiose commitments? Why don’t you have a bigger more ambitious agenda on anything?’ And then all of a sudden, we’re spending the next two years dealing with a crash in the global economy and trying to operate a situation where we’re trying to protect what everybody has. So things just change constantly and you do have to be adaptable,” he told Postmedia’s Mark Kennedy this week.

There appears to be some appreciation that the Conservatives have provided solid, if stolid, government through the recession.

An Ipsos Reid poll before Christmas suggested six in 10 Canadians believe the political process is operating well and there is no need for an election. They may not vote Conservative, but they are not so disgruntled they are demanding change — at least not to the extent they have coalesced around Mr. Ignatieff or any of the other opposition leaders. This bodes well for Mr. Harper, sincegovernmentstraditionally find themselves in real trouble when the time-for-change number rises above 60%.

“Every election comes down to that — continuity or change,” said Darrell Bricker, president of Ipsos Public Affairs. “Mr. Ignatieff is trying to increase the desire for change that is a pre-condition [for a Liberal government]. But Canadians are not overwhelmingly concerned about the economy and even if they become more concerned, his opponent is leading him on the issue by 20 points.”

The Liberals insist that stress about the future has created enough volatility to give them a fighting chance. “Perceived reality is often a self-fulfilling prophesy,” said Mr. Marzolini, the Liberal pollster, as he unveiled his New Year’s poll to the Economic Club of Canada.

Mr. Ignatieff had best hope so, otherwise Mr. Harper will pass both R.B. Bennett (five years and 77 days) and John Diefenbaker (five years and 305 days) to become Canada’s ninth-longest serving prime minister before the end of this year.

28 Jan

Bank of Canada urged to cut inflation target further


Posted by: Mike Hattim

OTTAWA — Should the Bank of Canada tinker with success?

A leading economist says yes and is asking the central bank to change a policy that most consider has been an unqualified success for almost two decades — targeting annual inflation at two per cent.

University of Toronto economics professor Angelo Melino has issued a report for the C.D. Howe Institute arguing that the bank should lower the inflation target to 1.5 per cent when it comes time to sign a new five-year agreement with Ottawa later this year.

And five years from now, Melino says the target should move south further to one per cent.

Melino, who is a member of the C.D. Howe Institute monetary policy council, agrees that the current framework “is not broken” and has proven its worth in both good and bad times. But, if keeping price gains at two per cent has been good for the economy, then one per cent would be better, he argues.

“There’s nothing magical about two per cent,” he said. “We all see that having inflation at 10 per cent is lousy and at five per cent is also lousy, so the direction to lower inflation is the way we should go.”

The central bank has been thinking hard about what it should do when the current agreement with the federal government runs out at the end of this year almost from the moment it signed the last deal in 2006. At that time, it renewed an understanding in existence since 1991, that the central bank would seek to corral inflation within one and three per cent, aiming for two per cent.

It has not always managed to do that every year, but a look at inflation over the past 15 years shows prices have averaged a two per cent annual rise for the period.

It is that success that many believe will result in bank governor Mark Carney likely recommending that nothing be changed, particularly in the current climate of economic and financial uncertainty.

Merrill Lynch Canada chief economist Sheryl King, who is also on the C.D. Howe policy council, says there are some at the Bank of Canada who agree with Melino, but she adds that it is likely the bank will say it needs more time to study the issue.

“I think the bottom line is they are not going to do anything, it’s still too early,” she says.

On the other hand, some analysts suggest Carney may want to leave a lasting mark on the bank’s history by seeking to improve on a good record.

In speeches the past few years, bank officials have been running ideas up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes, without tipping their hand about which way they may be leaning.

The bank has posed three alternatives. The first is lowering the target as Melino suggests.

Another is moving toward what is called “price level targeting,” which basically means making up for misses — if inflation is three per cent one year, the aim should be to reduce it to one per cent the next so as to arrive at the proper average.

However, that’s exactly what has happened the past 15 years without resorting to price level targeting, so the bank may see this as a moot point.

The third is something officials had given little thought to before the most recent financial crisis — whether the Bank of Canada should use monetary policy to burst asset bubbles and maintain financial stability.

In a speech last August, deputy governor John Murray found some merit in all three options, but also highlighted deficiencies and wondered if the gains were large enough to tinker with a proven system.

“A final factor that must be considered before any decision is made is the proven track record of the present system. This represents a relatively high bar against which any future changes must be judged,” he concluded.

That argues against making dramatic changes, says Melino, but not against trying to improve the system incrementally, especially since there are very few risks.

Lowering inflation would better help individuals on fixed incomes, like seniors, keep up with a rise in the cost of living. Economists say businesses also operate more efficiently if they can count on stable prices.

“My recommendations have only a small upside potential for improving welfare, but the downside risks are even smaller,” Melino says.

And there’s a good reason to experiment, he adds. Canada may one day want to move the target closer to zero, and only by taking baby steps is it possible to test in the real word whether such a goal is desirable.

28 Jan

Migration at 20-year high


Posted by: Mike Hattim

MONTREAL — The number of Canadians moving to another province has punched to a high not seen in 20 years as people pack up in search of better jobs and salaries elsewhere.

Roughly 337,000 Canadians were on the move in 2010, says a report on interprovincial migration published Thursday by TD Economics. That’s 45,000 more than the year before and the most since the late 1980s. It also represents the largest share of the overall population since 1998.

“It’s a good sign in the sense that whenever you see that kind of movement, it’s an expression of a labour market that’s healing after a pretty severe recession,” said TD senior economist Pascal Gauthier, who wrote the study. “People are either returning home or moving to areas that didn’t have employment before. For those that are already employed, they’re finding potentially better prospects.”

Interprovincial migration matters because when there is a net movement of people to higher-employment and higher-productivity areas, that generates net economic output gains on a national basis. It’s also crucial for businesses because people often make big-ticket purchases when they move, which can have a significant impact on local housing and retail markets.

Canada’s situation lies in stark contrast with the United States, where census data show long-distance moves across states fell last year to the lowest level since the government began tracking them in 1948. Americans used to be a nation of big movers, with as many as one in five relocating for work every year in the 1950s. Now, experts are debating why they’ve become a nation of “hunkered-down homebodies,” as the New York Times put it.

Richard Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto, says the United States is experiencing a new kind of class divide now between “mobile” people who have the resources and flexibility to pursue economic opportunity, and “stuck” citizens who are tied to places with weaker economies.

He argues the U.S. housing crisis is a big factor slowing mobility down. When the housing bubble popped, it left millions of Americans unable to sell their homes. “It’s bitterly ironic that housing, for so many Americans, has gone from being a cornerstone of their American dream to being a burden,” he wrote in a recent opinion piece.

Mr. Gauthier agrees that the housing crash is partly to blame for keeping Americans put. “There’s such a glut of supply that it’s just difficult to sell your house. In Canada, that’s not been an issue.”

In Canada, the biggest impediment to the free flow of labour between provinces and territories remains regulation as occupational requirements fall under provincial jurisdiction.

Workers in regulated professions and skilled trades, such as teachers and engineers, still face major barriers trying to work in provinces other than their own. Solving that problem will be key ahead of the looming labour force crunch, Mr. Gauthier argues.

Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan have seen the strongest net inflow of people of all provinces for the past three years and that will not change in the short term, the TD report forecasts. The three jurisdictions are working to implement a newly signed trade and labour mobility agreement between them that could eventually see seamless movement of workers between their borders.

TD says Ontario and Quebec will continue to lose residents to other provinces on a net basis, but the bleeding will be at a slower pace than in previous years. It says Manitoba and Prince Edward Island will be the only provinces still shedding a significant share of residents through the end of 2012.

In Manitoba’s case, it’s not that there aren’t any jobs. The province’s unemployment rate has been consistently lower than that of the rest of Canada since the 1990s. It’s that people are being lured by the prospect of higher-paying jobs in neighbouring provinces.

27 Jan

Message heard? Canadian household debt growth slowing…


Posted by: Mike Hattim

Message heard? Canadian household debt growth slowing Tal believes the Bank of Canada interest rate  move will come early, possibly in May

OTTAWA – Canadians may be starting to get the message about the perils of mounting debt, suggests a new report from CIBC.

A new analysis by the CIBC shows that many measures of household debt moderated in the third quarter of 2010, just as the often-quoted indicator of debt-to-disposable income hit a record 148 per cent.

The paper says that alarming number was due to falling incomes in the July-September compared with the April-June quarter — when Canadians were getting juicy tax refund cheques from Ottawa — not because debt levels were rising.

In fact, behind the scenes, credit growth was already falling.

Household debt in the third quarter grew at the slowest pace in nine years, while in the last month for which there is data — October 2010 — it was the softest in 15 years.

As well, lines of credit are now rising at a monthly clip of 0.3 per cent, the slowest pace since 2007.

While the mortgage market expanded by seven per cent year-over-year — still faster than income growth — mortgage debt was a small portion of household assets, a function of improved stock market portfolios and better home values.

“I’m not saying debt is not a problem. What I am saying is the problem is getting smaller,” said economist Benjamin Tal, author of the CIBC report.

“Everybody is assuming debt is rising like crazy, but the reality is that if you look closely you see that the rate at which debt is accumulating is going down notably. We should not get panicky because it seems the system is starting to correct itself.”

The Bank of Canada and the federal government have been warning Canadians about their debt exposure for well over a year.

But the hectoring picked up in recent months after the debt-to-income ratio rose to a record high in the third quarter, even beating out the U.S. indebtedness ratio.

In mid-January, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced new measures to rein in borrowing, including reducing the amortization period on mortgages from 35 to 30 years, limiting the size of home-equity loans and removing government insurance on lines of credit secured on homes.

Responding to the report at an event in Oshawa, Ont., Flaherty said he acted because he was seeing some “excesses” in borrowing and was concerned a minority of homeowners would not be able to make their monthly payments once interest rates start rising.

“Moderation is the key,” Flaherty said.

Tal said Canadians got the “message” from the warnings of policy makers, but also that there was a natural exhaustion with borrowing.

Other economists, including Scotiabank’s Derek Holt, have also talked about the Canadian consumer entering a new phase in which pent-up demand, particularly for housing, has been exhausted.

Still, Tal believes Flaherty acted correctly in tightening credit conditions, and also in keeping those measures modest and targeted. He estimates that when the new rules take effect in March, they will curtail new mortgage credit by between two and three per cent over the next 12 months.

“They chose an almost surgical approach where it hits where it hurts without causing too many side effects,” Tal said. “They targeted marginal borrowing … they will not derail the housing market.”

The latest downward trend on credit will take some pressure off Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney to raise interest rates to keep Canadians from loading on too much debt.

Economists are divided as to when Carney will move off the super-low one per cent policy rate.

Some argue that uncertainty over the recovery, risks in the global economy and fear about stoking the dollar — more that debt levels — may be more decisive in convincing Carney to stay on the sidelines until at least the third quarter.

Tal believes the move will come early, possibly in May. He said while the central bank’s 2.4 per cent growth forecast for 2011 is modest, the composition of that expansion is superior to what occurred last year.

Last year’s recovery was bolstered by consumer borrowing and government stimulus, he said, while future growth will be anchored by “a vibrant business sector.”

Tal said he does not believe higher rates, when they come, will cause a major panic among borrowers or disruption in the economy.

He notes that personal bankruptcies are already on the way down, and that all expectations are that Carney will be raising rates in a slow, measured way, rather than in large increments.

“The overall speed and magnitude of future rate hikes will be limited by the growing effectiveness of monetary policy and a modest recovery,” he said.

27 Jan

Three million Canadians cash in on home reno tax credit, short of target


Posted by: Mike Hattim

Three million Canadian cash in on home reno tax credit, short of target

OTTAWA – Ottawa says over three million Canadians took advantage of the temporary home renovation tax credit, on average pocketing about $700 each.

But that is less than what Finance Minister Jim Flaherty targeted when he introduced the one-year program in 2009 as part of the government’s stimulus package.

The government had estimated in the budget that about 4.6 million Canadians would take advantage and claim on average about $650 in credits each.

In total, the program was to cost the government $3 billion, but appears to have topped out at over $2.1 billion.

Still, National Revenue Minister Keith Ashfield called the program a success, saying it increased spending on home renovations by about 18 per cent.


26 Jan

The Power of Facebook’s "LIKE" button


Posted by: Mike Hattim

When the new Kanye West/Jay-Z single H.A.M. made its debut on Facebook recently, I went in for a listen and clicked play. No music. Instead, a polite little pop-up: “Click the ‘Like’ button to play this track.”

My finger hovered, hesitant to click.

When I finally did, I was rewarded with the operatic drama of West and Jay-Z’s song, an explosive, testosterone-fuelled running commentary about “going H.A.M.” (an acronym for “Hard As A Motherf—–,” if you will pardon their French).

But after the last strains had faded away, I continued to think about that Like button. I had enjoyed the track, but I also felt manipulated, like a big bully had taken my hand, rendered weak by my overpowering curiosity, and forced it to click on Like.

To “like” something in real life is a plain-Jane sentiment. On Facebook, though, “like” has a much more complex meaning. Call it the power – or the tyranny – of the Like button. Clicking Like ensures that your entire network knows about it. It is also the key – the only key – to gaining access to groups and fan pages and the discussions therein. On Facebook, you can either Like something or … nothing. The door remains closed. And there is certainly no Dislike button.

“You can’t dislike something on Facebook because liking it isn’t about enjoying it or appreciating it or wanting it,” explains Max Valiquette, a Toronto-based youth market and innovation expert. “Liking something is about allowing that particular thing to be a part of your network. Therefore, you don’t dislike something: You ‘unlike’ it, meaning you take those permissions away.”

In other words, “the word ‘like’ on Facebook doesn’t mean what it does in real life,” Valiquette says. Citing recent application developments such as the one I used to listen to the new track (BandPage by Root Music, a California start-up that launched it less than a year ago), Valiquette suggests that Facebook may soon be a way to experience all media – not just new music, but commercials and our favourite TV shows, too.

Since marketing, at its core, is about harnessing the power of word of mouth, the viral opportunities afforded by social networks such as Facebook can be limitless for those seeking to promote their band, brand or other wares. All it comes down to is the continued development of enabling applications. And the creative usage, of course, of that seemingly innocuous but oh-so-powerful little Like button.

26 Jan

Canadian, U.S consumers more hopeful about jobs, finances, purchases


Posted by: Mike Hattim

Canadian, U.S. consumers more hopeful about jobs, finances, purchases

By Julilan Beltrame, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – North American consumers are starting to feel better about their personal finances and the economy, a hopeful sign for the still fragile recovery.

Two fresh surveys, one by the Conference Board in Canada and another from the International Monetary Fund in the U.S., detected an identical pattern of rising confidence in January, although relative optimism continues to be stronger north of the border.

Canada’s confidence index rose 7.1 per cent this month to 88.1 points, the highest since the initial optimism coming out of the recession in the latter half of 2009 and early 2010.

Overall, the U.S. measure still lags Canada but in January it reached its highest level in eight months, rising to 60.6 from 53.3 in December, according to a Conference Board survey there.

Releases from both the IMF and the Conference Board note that levels are still below what would be considered positive, although they are improvements over recent months. Analysts generally welcomed the stronger consumer sentiment.

“In all, better consumer expectations in January bode well for a continued upturn in consumption…which will in turn prove supportive of overall economic activity,” said Martin Schwerdtfeger and economist with the TD Bank.

The increases follow a month of generally more upbeat economic news, particularly in the U.S., which has seen the early stages of an employment recovery and strong manufacturing activity.

But Conference Board of Canada economist Pedro Antunes said while positive news played a part, both in Canada and the U.S., there is also a predictive element to the surveys.

“This is really about looking ahead…and people are a little more optimistic,” he said.

Still, some economists cautioned against reading too much into surveys — for instance, whether more upbeat consumers will translate into more sales of homes, cars and appliances.

“It’s actions that speak louder than words,” said Scotiabank economist Derek Hold. “The way people manage their money and spend can be very different from how they say they will.”

While conditions appear to be improving, that comes after last year’s summer period faced generally downbeat news, when Canada’s recovery slowed to one per cent and the U.S. became so weak both the central bank and the government launched a second round of stimulus measures.

On Monday, the International Monetary Fund gave a modified thumbs up to the global recovery, while noting that advanced countries, including Canada and the U.S., will continue in the slow-growth lane for the next two years.

The IMF predicted Canada’s growth will average 2.3 per cent this year and 2.7 per cent in 2012 — one-tenth of a point less than the Bank of Canada’s estimate of the previous week. The U.S. will grow by three per cent and 2.7 per cent in the next two years, largely thanks to stimulus, the Washington-based financial institution said.

Both countries will get a better measure on how their economies are progressing in just over a week’s time when employment figures for January are released.

Canadians’ rising confidence was seen across a range of measures, but not uniformly across the country.

One of the clearest signals was that 28.1 per cent of respondents said they expect their financial situation to improve in the coming six months, up 3.3 percentage points. The number who felt the next six months looked worse, dropped by 0.7 point to 15.1 per cent.

The respondents were also more confident about Canadian labour markets, with those who felt job opportunities would increase over the next six months rising 1.4 percentage points, while those who felt conditions would get worse falling 2.7 points.

There was also a clear signal that more respondents felt good about making a major purchase, although the optimistic camp and pessimistic group each represented about 44 per cent of respondents.

“Whether this sudden improvement on the major purchases question can be sustained remains to be seen. But, coupled with the increasing optimism about future employment opportunities, it does suggest healthy consumer consumption going forward,” the Conference Board said.

Regionally, confidence rose the strongest in Ontario and the Prairies. Quebec registered a modest increase and British Columbia and Atlantic Canada were slightly less optimistic than they were in December.

The Canadian finding is based on the result of over 2,000 interviews conducted between Jan. 6 and 17. The margin of error is estimated at plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.