Canada’s GDP growth is up, our bonds are rated triple A, the U.S. economy is improving and even the eurozone is in recovery, but Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is still urging caution.
"We live in a tenuous world. It's a difficult world. I know the eurozone had a positive quarter, but I think that's really tentative. The U.S. recovery seems modest at best," he said in an interview with Amanda Lang of CBC's The Lang & O’Leary Exchange.
"Our recovery is solid, but it’s modest so we have to be cautious, and we are being cautious in terms of our spending," he said.
Flaherty was speaking after meeting with a group of CEOs, academics and non-profit leaders in Wakefield, Que., an annual tradition for the finance minister and a means for him assess the mood in the business community and hear new ideas. Lang was the only media representative at the meeting.
But there was little new in the budget priorities Flaherty outlined after the meeting. He said the key to giving Canada room to manoeuvre is still balancing the budget.
"First of all, stay the course, which means we have to balance the budget in 2015. We really need to do that in order to have the confidence of Canadian business and to have Canada in the position where we can respond to crises that come from outside Canada," Flaherty told Lang in the video interview Thursday.
"So we were in that position back in 2008 when our great recession started, and we will be in that position again."
Flaherty said he would like the provinces, particularly the eastern provinces, to move more quickly to balance their own budgets and bring down public debt.
He also said he would like to lower taxes.
"We have low taxes, low corporate taxes, which is good. I think I'd like to lower taxes more overall, but we have to at the same time balance the budget," Flaherty said.
Flaherty added that he does not believe it is the right time to stimulate the economy in the hopes of spurring job growth and investment.
"We have to be wary of inflation. I think the Americans are taking a big risk in terms of quantitative easing, so-called. We have not gone down that path in Canada. I don't believe in it. We've had those debates internationally," he said.
The U.S. is keeping its rates low by buying back bonds and mortgage-backed securities in a program that costs $85 billion a month.
Though Flaherty's approach sounds very like the cautious economic plan he has followed over the last two years, the finance minister said he did get some new ideas from the Wakefield confab.
"To hear from CEOs, top people, academics, people from the private sector about what they're concerned about is very helpful to me in preparing the budget for next year," he said.
Earlier on HuffPost:
30: Paul Sobey - CEO, Empire Co.
Empire Co. expanded its Sobeys chain of supermarkets this year, buying up the Safeway stores in Western Canada and the making the chain truly nationwide. The move came months before Loblaws snapped up Shoppers Drug Mart, and an argument could be made the Sobeys deal spurred the Loblaws deal.
29: Michael Sabia, CEO, Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec
The head of the Caisse de depot, one of Canada's largest institutional investment firms, previously held positions at Bell Canada and CN and "ranks among Canada's elite investors," Canadian Business reports.
28: Hunter Harrison - CEO, Canadian Pacific Railway
The Tennesse-born head of CP Rail has seen such success operating a railway that he is emulated by his competition across the continent, Canadian Business reports.
27: D'Arcy Levesque - VP, public affairs, Enbridge
Interestingly, Enbridge's VP for public relations ranks higher among influential Canadian business people than does its CEO, Al Monaco, who didn't make the cut. That has everything to do with the public relations struggle the company is involved in over its proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to the B.C. coast, which could signifciantly alter the shape of the Canadian energy industry (and Canada's west coast), if the company can overcome all the negative publicity surrounding the project. (No picture of Levesque was available.)
26: Ian Anderson - President, Kinder Morgan
Like Enbridge's Levesque, Anderson is involved in a battle to win the hearts and minds of Canadians — or at least those living in the path of the company's plans to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline network. Canadian Business reports he plans to spend two years selling the idea to the public before he applies to the regulator.
25: Jim Pattison - CEO, Jim Pattison Group
One of Canada's wealthiest people, Jim Pattison owns recognizable brands like GoldSeal canned fish and SunRype juices, among many other things. Canadian Business reports his company employs 22,000 Canadians, three-quarters of them in British Columbia. (File photo)
24: Heather Reisman - CEO, Indigo Books
The CEO of Canad's near-monopoly Indigo Boos (which also owns Chapters) sits on the boards of Onex Corp., which is run by her husband, Gerald Schwartz. But maybe it isn't all the books she sells that got her on this list -- maybe it's the fact she's one of very few Canadian business leaders to be a member of the secretive Bilderberg Group, which if you believe some people's claims, runs the global economy from behind the scenes.
23: Jeffrey Orr - CEO, Power Financial
Orr runs the company owned by the Desmarais family of Montreal, one of the country's richest families. Among the company's investments are the inurance giant Great-West Lifeco. Canadian Business describes him as "a youthful outsider with a decidedly boyish mien."
22: Paul Browning - CEO, Irving Oil
Browning runs Irving Oil on behalf of the wealthy Irving family of New Brunswick, who control the country's largest oil refinery. Browning is among the leaders of the movement to start shipping more Western Canadian oil to refineries and ports in eastern Canada.
21: David Rosenberg - Chief economist, Gluskin and Sheff
Rosenberg is credited with predicting the U.S. housing market collapse a decade ago, back when he was chief economist at Merrill Lynch and no one wanted to listen. Now that he's the top economist at Toronto-based Gluskin Sheff, he's denying that Canada is facing the same problems — "a message worth paying attention to," Canadian Business argues, given his track record.
20: Frank McKenna - Chair, Brookfield Asset Management
The former premier of New Brunswick and Canadian ambassador to the U.S. is now the head of Brookfield Asset Management, which manages a portfolio of more than $180 billion.
19: Greg Boland, CEO, West Face Capital
The head of Toronto-based West Face Capital, an investment management company, has developed a reputation as an "activist investor" who invests in troubled companies with the aim of turning them around.
18: Ian Telfer, Chair, Goldcorp Inc.
Canadian Business magazine credits Telfer with making Vancouver-based Goldcorp the largest gold company in Canada, by market value.
17: Jim Leech, CEO, Ontario Teachers Pension Plan
The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan has some $130 billion in assets, following a strong 13 per cent spike over the past year, Canadian Business reports. That's a far cry from 2008, when the global financial crisis saw the pension plan lose nearly $20 billion.
16: Pierre Beaudoin, CEO, Bombardier
The head of one of the world's most prominent civil transport manufacturers is struggling to get the company's next mid-sized jet, the CSeries, off the ground amid delays. But when it finally comes, the plane will put Bombardier in direct competition with global aircraft leaders like Airbus and Boeing.
15: Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance
You'd think the finance minister would be somewhat more prominent than number 15 on the rankings of most influential business leaders, but Canadian Business magazine actually credits Flaherty for being as influential as he is. The magazine notes Flaherty is among the longest-lasting cabinet ministers to hold a single portfolio in Canadian history, and has had notable influence internationally.
14: David Thomson, Chair, Thomson Reuters
The heir to one of Canada's largest private fortunes, Thomson is a reclusive figure who rarely speaks to the press, Canadian Business reports. Through his company, Thomson controls the Reuters news service, the Globe and Mail and numerous other assets.
13: Gerald Schwartz, CEO, Onex
The husband of Indogo CEO Heather Reisman owns two-thirds of Onex, the private equity firm he founded. His net worth is estimated at $1 billion.
12: Stephen Poloz, Governor, Bank of Canada
You'd think the man who sets Canada's interest rates would rank higher than 12th, but Canadian Business magazine disagrees. Poloz is still basking in the afterglow left behind by superstar bank governor Mark Carney, the magazine says.
11: Jean-Pierre Blais, Chair, CRTC
As head of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Blais is a crucial figure in determining many economic issues of concern to Canadian consumers. Since taking over at the CRTC last year, Blais has shown an activist streak, implementing a new code of conduct for wireless companies and planning an overhaul of cable TV regulation for this fall.
10: Robert Pritchard, Chair, Torys LLP
The head of corporate law firm Torys LLP has been around the block, having held the position of president of the University of Toronto; CEO of Toronto Star publisher Torstar, and now head of Metrolinx, the regional transit agency tasked with expanding greater Toronto's public transportation system.
9: Galen Weston Jr., Chair, Loblaw Cos.
The heir to the Loblaws fortune saw his public profile shoot up this year after pulling off the purchase of Shoppers Drug Mart by his company, Loblaws. "When the companies merge, [Weston] will have the power to put his products in front of more customers than almost any of his competitors do," Canadian Business reports.
8: Darren Entwistle, CEO, Telus
Entwistle is becoming almost a household name, thanks to his vocal championing of the wireless industry's move to stop Verizon from coming to Canada. Entwistle has warned that allowing the U.S. wireless giant to set up as a new competitor in Canada would mean a "bloodbath" in the industry.
7: Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
The head of Canada's government is only the seventh most important person when it comes to business.
6: Julie Dickson, Superintendent, OSFI
OSFI is the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, the federal agency that oversees Canada's banks. Though Dickson and her agency have a low public profile, the agency is arguably the most powerful financial regulator in the country. That's enough to place Dickson ahead of the prime minister and finance minister in terms of influence over the economy -- at least according to Canadian Business.
5: Prem Watsa, CEO, Fairfax Financial Holdings
Prem Watsa is now "Canada's most influential investor," Canadian Business declares. His company, Fairfax, is worth $8.5 billion and has holdings in insurance companies, as well as stakes in East Side Mario's and Casey's restaurant chains, William Ashley and Thomas Cook India. But he is best known for revealing a five-per-cent stake in BlackBerry earlier this year, and taking a seat on the board, a move that made many investors take a second look at the struggling Canadian tech company.
4: Murray Edwards, Chair, Canadian Natural Resources
Though a Liberal by political affiliation, Edwards is influential enough to have had the prime minister's ear on foreign ownership rule changes following CNOOC's purchase of Nexen last year, Canadian Business reports. Canadian Natural Resources is one of the world's largest independent crude oil producers.
3: Bruce Flatt, CEO, Brookfield Asset Management
Brookfield Asset Management is one of Canada's most-watched institutional investors, with $175 billion in assets. The company controls 300 million square feet of real estate around the world, including more than 100 malls, 50,000 apartment units, and some 8,000 acres of land in the U.S., much of it ready to develop, Canadian Business reports.
2: Gord Nixon, CEO, Royal Bank of Canada
The head of RBC is the only bank CEO to have made the top 30 of this list, but Canadian Business notes Nixon is doing something other CEOs aren't: He's launching a new stock exchange that plans to compete against the Toronto stock exchange.
1: Mark Wiseman, CEO, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board
It might be strange to think of the guy who runs your public retirement plan as the most influential business leader in Canada, but when you think about how important your retirement pension is, and how much retirement savings this guy is investing, it makes sense. Wiseman manages a portfolio worth $183 billion, "more than the annual GDP of Ukraine," Canadian Business notes. "His decisions affect the fate of 18 million Canadians, many of whom are counting on him for their retirement incomes."