PM Trudeau says weak Canadian dollar, oil hurting large parts of economy

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Canada, on Dec 16, 2015.
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Canada, on Dec 16, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

SAINT ANDREWS, NEW BRUNSWICK (REUTERS) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday (Jan 19) struck a more downbeat note than typical on the weak Canadian dollar as well as low oil prices, saying they hurt large parts of the economy.

Mr Trudeau, pressed about the currency's new 12-year low against the US greenback on Monday, told reporters at a Cabinet retreat in Atlantic Canada: "Obviously the dollar and falling oil prices have a negative impact on parts of our economy, on broad swathes of our economy in many cases."

The Canadian dollar's speedy plunge to a 12-year low has fueled calls from some market and industry players for the country's central bank to hold interest rates steady, even as traders increase bets on a cut this week.

The Bank of Canada is due to announce its latest interest rate announcement on Wednesday.

BMO Capital Markets chief economist Doug Porter said Mr Trudeau's comments "certainly thicken the plot" for the rate decision. "The inclusion of the currency in (his) sentence is notable - obviously there is now official concern in Ottawa about the seeming one-way move in the Canadian dollar," he said in a note to clients.

A senior government official, asked later about Mr Trudeau's comment, said the weak dollar brought both challenges and opportunities - a phrase the Prime Minister usually employs when asked about the currency.

Mr Trudeau came to power vowing his Liberal government would boost the economy by running budget deficits of C$10 billion (S$9.89 billion) a year for three years to fund infrastructure spending. Pressed on Monday as to whether Ottawa might run deficits much larger than promised, he said his party was fiscally responsible.

Privately, Liberals concede the deficits will be bigger than C$10 billion, but say no final decision has been taken.

Mr Trudeau made his comments when asked whether Ottawa might run annual deficits as big as C$30 billion.