Poloz delivers cautious message of prosperity at Durham College

Photo by Austin Andru

Poloz speaking to Durham College students.

Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz says the economy is improving, and he is cautiously optimistic about the future for Canadians.

Poloz was at DC as part of the college’s 50th anniversary. He was impressed by the school’s growth.

“From 205 students in 1967, Durham has flourished,” said Stephen Poloz in a speech at the Student Services building on March 28. “Today, Durham College has well over 50,000 alumni.”

Poloz also praised Durham’s partnership with Trent and UOIT.

In his speech to several dozen staff and students, he stressed the importance of immigration to sustain population, open markets and foreign investment.

His talk focused on putting openness over protectionism.

Poloz was uncertain if developments in the U.S. and president Donald Trump’s plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would affect the annual policy review coming up for the Bank of Canada in April.

“We’re uncertain about lots of things,” said Poloz adding it’s important to be mindful of that uncertainty before coming to any conclusions on possible policy changes.

NAFTA was crafted “a long time ago,” and there are things in the arrangement that are incomplete, said Poloz. He would welcome a “dust off.”

Since NAFTA has been around for more than 20 years, it would have a significant impact if it was reversed, Poloz said.

“It’s not specific to developments in the U.S.,” he said. “It’s a part of a global retrenchment that openness isn’t for everyone.” Poloz thinks that’s not the case. He said people often forget the benefits of openness and protectionism is not the answer.

“Responding to tough economic times by turning inward rarely succeeds,” Poloz said.

It’s technology that displaces jobs and causes stress, not openness, said Poloz.

He said it’s important to look at the differences between Canada and the U.S. He added Canada has a lot more room to grow geographically.

Canada hasn’t fully recovered from the oil price shock and is just coming out of a recession, Poloz described the economic recovery as riding a bike up a hill. However, he said we can still grow faster than the U.S. for awhile.

Even with positive financial data for the Bank of Canada over the past few years, Poloz said there was risks associated with the potential financial output and employment rates.

“I think it would be odd to forget the downside risks just because a couple data points came in better than expected,” Poloz told reporters at the press conference.

He was encouraged by the college’s diverse student population as an example of the benefits of openness.

“There’s plenty of foreign students here,” said Poloz. “Openness has helped build the best nation in the world to live.”