Corporate Canada have January 20, 2017 marked on their calendars with a massive smiley face. While Inauguration Day is something many of us are trying to pretend will never happen, an overwhelming majority of Canadian business executives are pumped up at the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency.
That’s according to a survey conducted by public opinions research company, The Gandalf Group. Between November 16 and December 8, they conducted phone calls with 155 Canadians executives at the largest 1,000 companies in the country to assess the implications of a Donald Trump presidency on the American and Canadian economies.
Surprise, surprise, 85 percent of C-Suiters said the transition to a Republican Trump administration will have a positive impact on the U.S. economy over the next two years. More than half — 52 percent — expect their businesses to benefit from Trump’s policies, and almost two-thirds — 65 percent — believe the political climate in the U.S. will be better for business over the next five years, than it was in the last five years, where unemployment rates fell from 9.9 percent to 4.9 percent under the Obama administration.
Canadian businesses, says the Gandalf Group survey, love Trump, the billionaire businessman, who successfully wooed working class America into believing that he was out to get tough on Wall Street but then promptly hired a slew of former Wall Street executives to fill key positions in his cabinet.
I mean frankly, this is far from shocking. Trump is a Wall Street man through and through, just one who has a chameleon-like instinct to mould his beliefs to whatever audience he’s speaking to. A salesman, who craftily tells people exactly what they want to hear.
During the 1990s, some of the biggest Wall Street banks like Deutsche Bank, UBS AG, and Lehman Brothers benefitted heavily from loaning money to Trump’s various casino and hotel businesses. While the Donald has pledged to “drain the swamp”, he’s also thrown in a couple of treats for corporations — a vow to slash corporate taxes in the U.S. from 35 percent to 15 percent, and scale back Obama-era policies that were designed to protect workers. Heck, he’s even backtracked on what American companies were so terrified of — the threat of a 40 percent tariff for U.S. corporations who move their businesses abroad.
While Donald Trump’s actual economic policies (except on trade) might not have a direct impact on Canadian businesses, who are after all subject to the Canadian law and tax system, the Trump hype in corporate Canada comes from the fact that it’s a business guy that became President. A lover of money and profit. A friendly, reassuring face in the post-recession world of corporate haters.
Indeed, 69 percent of C-Suite executives surveyed either somewhat or strongly agreed with the statement that “Canada’s best days are ahead”. When asked if the result of the U.S. election changed the way in which they planned to do business in the short-term, a third of respondents who answered “yes”, said they aimed to “increase business and investment in the U.S.”, a confidence that surely comes from the Trump administration’s jovial approach to big business.
It’s also worth mentioning that a large number of Canadian executives believe that the Trump administration will be a “boon for energy markets”. 88 percent say that Trump will approve the Keystone XL pipeline by 2018, and 69 percent believe that Trump will be supportive of Canada’s oil and gas sector — somewhat strange, considering the fact that he’s pledged to access “50 trillion in untapped shale, oil and natural gas reserves”, which is bound to impact the global competitiveness of Alberta’s oil sands sector.
The only reservation corporate Canada seemed to have with Trump was when it came to trade. According to the survey, most executives believe Trump will forge ahead with his threats to renegotiate or withdraw from NAFTA and that his administration will make other moves that could hamper global trade, which would not bode well for the Canadian economy. Their suggestion? That the Canadian government return to the basics of capitalism by “preserving free trade, tariff levels and market access” — ideas that Trump’s Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross might have some opposition to.
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