Legislative Update: The View from Ottawa

Legislative Update: The View from Ottawa
Michael Hatch, Senior VP at Impact Public Affairs, and Chief Economist for the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association (Photo: Jack Kazmierski)

Politics, legislation, and the economy. Canadian fleet professionals get an insider’s view of all things government.

The Canadian Legislative Update, which takes place during NAFA’s annual I&E, offers fleet professionals an opportunity to catch up on laws and policies that may impact them and their businesses.

This year Michael Hatch, Senior VP at Impact Public Affairs and Chief Economist for the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association, gave the audience an overview of the situation in Ottawa.

He began with an overview of the federal government under Prime Minister Trudeau. “The defining characteristic of the current federal landscape is that everyone is still very new,” Hatch said. “Of the 338 members of parliament 199 are first-time members of parliament. They woke up on October 20th, 2015 as rookie members of parliament. Many weren’t expecting to win.”

The fact that so many rookies are in government, Hatch said, really coloured everything that has happened in the past year and a half.

“Now that they’re no longer rookies, they’re starting to push back,” he said. “They figured out what the job is, what the role is, and they figured out that they have an active role in policy making and that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet have to have the support of Caucus.”

Trump vs. Trudeau

Hatch also explained the impact Trump has had on the Trudeau Government. “It’s hard to overstate the degree to which the election of President Trump is dictating what’s going on in the Canadian political and legislative landscape,” he said. “Basically, it interrupted the entire domestic agenda of the Trudeau Government. There were waves of senior government officials going down to Washington to reassure the people who spent their careers managing the Canada/USA political and economic and trading relationships that it was still the status quo.”

That said, when Trudeau went down to Washington to meet Trump face-to-face, Trudeau got high marks, Hatch explained, being seen as having done all he could before the election to deal with the possibility that Donald Trump might become the President, and that he might “turn the screws a little bit harder, perhaps, than some of his predecessors in terms of trade.”

Economic snapshot

Hatch also offered the audience an overview of the current economic situation. “Last year was the fourth straight record year in Canada for new vehicles sales of1.95 million units sold,” he said. “That’s roughly 75 percent consumer and 25 percent fleet. Fleet sales have also been very strong for the past few years. This year has been strong as well, and we’ll likely reach the two million mark.”

Debt growth is slowing, but not reversing, Hatch explained. Consumers are trying to shed debt, and the debt to income ratio has been growing less rapidly recently.

As far as the economy goes, Hatch explained that Canada doesn’t really have a “national economy.” Instead, we have regional economies, “and there has been a very stark east/west divide in terms of growth this year,” he said.

“Ontario and pretty much every province west has been growing positively, while Quebec and every province east has seen the opposite.”

Legislation

Hatch ended his presentation with a quick look at some of the legislation that’s in the pipeline currently, including a new bill that gives the Canadian Government the power over vehicle recalls, which doesn’t exist right now in Canada.

The legalization of cannabis is also in the works, and the legislation is expected to pass by the summer of 2018.

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