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June 05, 2021

Loonie's rise may give reason to affix it to U.S. buck

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

“Business loves stability and we don’t have any right now.” – Rick Jamieson, Canadian businessman, to the Globe and Mail

Yesterday in this space, we opened a hearty debate about what is to be done with the soaring loonie. As the Canadian dollar skyrockets compared to its U.S. counterpart, should we simply hop across the border in search of cheaper retail prices or feel the obligation to spend inside the country, pumping much-needed money into a domestic economy being sapped of millions in tourist cash?

It was a moral question as much as one of opportunity, yet today it’s certainly important to take a look at some of the more vital, long-term consequences of our rising currency.

In what the Bank of Canada called an “unprecedentedly rapid rise,” the loonie has climbed almost 20 per cent from its level in March. Depending on what happens today, the Canadian buck is likely to close the weekend somewhere around 91 cents (U.S.).

The growth obviously has Finance Minister Jim Flaherty spooked while, outside Parliament Hill, manufacturers are surely feeling the pinch. Canadian exporters are finding now their rising prices aren’t too attractive to U.S. trading partners trying to fight off their own stinking economy.

Yet among signs the loonie’s rise will only offset any positive growth our economy can show, the Globe’s Konrad Yakabuski makes an intriguing proposal.

Citing an economy “running at two speeds,” Yakabuski wonders if hitching the loonie to the U.S. dollar at a fixed rate might be the kind of patch to offer the best long-term solution to the disparity in oil and manufacturing exports.

(Oil prices, says the Globe, are set to rise extensively by 2010. At the same time, manufacturing business is contracting and, according to a B.C. economics professor, would be better suited at an 80-cent dollar, not one 11 cents higher.)

“There is no assurance that the volatility won’t continue in coming years,” says the newspaper, noting the big swoons in the loonie’s value over the past year-and-a-half. As a result, Yakabuski argues policy makers might be better to consider attaching the Canadian dollar to the USD at a fixed rate as was done with great success in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Under Diefenbaker in 1962, the loonie was pegged to the U.S. dollar at 92.5-cents. Similarly attached under Pearson in the ‘70s, it’s argued, the manufacturing boom in the auto industry soon followed.

There are sure to be detractors from the proposal (like, say, Albertan oil interests), but it is at least a fresh take on the issue. Whatever happens with the current loonie’s wild fluctuations, it's probably best if something changes quick.

“The exchange rate is generating such a high degree of uncertainty,” says Queen’s University professor Thomas Courchene, “that capital is just not going to locate here.”



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...