The Canadian Economy, is it really that bad?

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Looking at the job numbers that just came out for December: Ontario’s manufacturing base seems to be back and has now offset some of the job losses the oil patch has been experiencing. Ontario’s net gain of 34,900 jobs accounted for an addition of 22,800 jobs overall to the Canadian economy. It had to happen with the cheap Loonie continuing to shrink. One positive indicator is that the ¬†film business has been slowly rolling back into Hogtown, but it’s not yet like old days when it seemed like there was a film shoot going on on just about every street corner. The momentum takes time to build, and many of these productions are planned years in advance. But a $0.70 cent dollar and lots of studio space and qualified people must look good right now to the moguls south of the border.

A better indicator of positive change might be what’s going on in Ontario’s heartland. Driving around Guelph the other day I was surprised at the number of Help Wanted signs I was seeing on the lawns of manufacturers, both for skilled and general labour positions. Now I heard there was some uptick in Guelph, especially after Jim Estill, president and CEO of Danby the appliance maker, made a proposal to sponsor 50 Syrian refugee families, and mentioned in an interview on the CBC that there are jobs waiting in this community. But I was frankly surprised to see so many “We’re Hiring” lawn signs.

So if Guelph is on a comeback, perhaps the same will soon be true for some of Ontario’s other “B” cities, sprinkled along the 401 from the 401 to Cornwall. Workforces ready to be tapped and waiting for something to do. Unemployment is 7.1% right now but the falling loonie and cheap fuel prices are good news for this part of the country.

Trucking, of course, likes to be busy and service lots of transportation niches. But Canada is a large country with diverse geographies and economies, and as is often the case, growth in one part of the dominion is often offset by hard times in other areas.  Getting paid in US greenbacks is a bonus for Canadian carriers crossing the border and some are making out all right. But I was curious to see how the big transportation giants are doing, at least the ones that are publicly traded.

Bulk carrier Trimac trades as TMA on the Toronto Stock Exchange and is sitting at $5.35. It’s been a rough year for Trimac investors with its shares losing 24% of their value. And the last week hasn’t been kind either with a 7% drop in a jittery market where everyone was affected. The pundits say hold, but it’s probably a good buy at this price. Pays dividends and a solid company with good equipment that will be around forever.

Mullen trades as MTL. Well-managed oil patch transport provider that has substantial trucking and logistics holdings. Has been walloped this past year with its shares losing 32%. It’s getting hit as I write this down 6.5% over the past five days at $13.24. Pays dividends, the company is playing turtle right now and will be a great player in the future. Don’t count them out.

Transforce owns a little of everything and its sprawling tentacles continue to snatch up carriers. The stock value is down 22% this past year and 2.5% in the past week. Pundits say buy this one, but I think it might go lower. Currently sitting at $23.12

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Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.

With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude.

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  • Great article, I agree with what you’ve observed. We’re seeing a lot of manufacturing as well as truck driving jobs especially in Ontario. We’re also noticing an uptick in truck driving school registrations perhaps a coincidence or a result of the demand.