When giving a speech near the end of a year, it is common practice to look back over the past 12 months, consider what we have learned from the events and experiences of the year, and think a bit about what might lie ahead. I became Governor of the Bank of Canada in 2001 and, since that time, I have found myself saying at the end of each year, "Well, we won't see another year like that again."
The goal of Canadian monetary policy is to contribute to solid economic performance and rising living standards. The best way we can do this is by keeping inflation low, stable, and predictable. This has important implications for labour market performance.
It is certainly nothing new to say that economies have become increasingly globalized. In his 1962 book, The Gutenberg Galaxy, Marshall McLuhan observed that the electronic mass media were collapsing time and space barriers. This enabled people to communicate on a global scale. He coined the term "global village" to describe this change.
The program this evening focuses on the value of public service and the importance of economic and financial literacy for the well-being of Canadians. These two themes have special significance for me, as my career has involved time spent in the public service as well as teaching.
The last time that I appeared before this committee was after the release of our April Report. Since then, our economy has been hit by a number of unusual shocks. Because of these shocks and other factors, growth has been weaker than expected. We now estimate that there is more slack in the economy than we had projected in April.
Since our April Report, the Canadian economy has been hit by a number of unusual shocks: SARS, BSE, the Ontario electricity blackout, and the severe forest fires in British Columbia. Inflation has also fallen faster and further than expected.
The last time that Paul and I appeared before this committee was after the release of our April Report. At that time, inflation was well above its 2 per cent target, and short-term inflation expectations had edged up. Although inflation was being pushed up by special factors, there were also signs that strong domestic demand was working to broaden pressures on prices.
It's great to be back in Vancouver and to renew acquaintances at the Board of Trade. I'm going to spend some time today discussing the Bank of Canada's outlook for the Canadian economy and inflation, and how we are responding. But in order to understand the current economic situation, we need to look at some of the extraordinary events of the past year or so and how those events have affected the economy.
Canada's reliance on foreign trade has required us to be active internationalists for decades. Louis Rasminsky, who went on to become Governor of the Bank of Canada, was one of Canada's delegates at the Bretton Woods Conference that led to the creation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Rasminsky played an important role, formal and informal, at the talks.
For more than 70 years now, the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs has been bringing Canadians together with the purpose of asking some thought-provoking questions and encouraging lively, stimulating debates and action on a variety of key public policy issues.
Today, we released our Update to the April Monetary Policy Report. The Update reviews economic and financial trends in the context of Canada's inflation-control strategy.
It's been a year since I last spoke in Halifax, and a lot has changed since then. We've witnessed some extraordinary events, both in Canada and around the world. On the whole, Canada's economy has withstood the turmoil quite well. The impact of some more recent events is not yet clear.
I want to talk to you about the Canadian economy—how it has evolved over the past few months and what are the prospects ahead. In doing so, I will review the economic forecast from our latest Monetary Policy Report, which we published in April. Then I will talk about what has changed since that time.
Our statistical needs are fundamentally shaped by what we are expected to do under our mandate. The primary goal of most central banks today is to conduct monetary policy so as to achieve and maintain price stability. Low, stable, and predictable inflation is the means to our ultimate objective of solid economic performance over time.
It is an honour and a privilege to address the German-Canadian Business Club of Berlin-Brandenburg at its inaugural meeting. Groups such as this one serve many important purposes, not the least of which is the development of trading links that help to strengthen the economies of both our countries.
I have been looking forward to coming to Amsterdam since Governor Wellink extended the invitation last year. I must say that when you consider what has been happening in the world economy, it is certainly an interesting time to be a Canadian at international meetings such as the BIS meeting I attended yesterday.
The last time I testified before this committee was in the spring of 2002, because we were unable to arrange our regular meeting last fall. You will recall that following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, we quickly and aggressively cut our policy interest rate to shore up confidence and support domestic demand. By last spring, evidence had already started to build that demand was growing faster than the economy's production capacity.
Last week, we released our spring Monetary Policy Report, in which we discuss economic and financial trends in the context of Canada's inflation-control strategy. I last testified before this committee in October, following the release of our autumn Monetary Policy Report.
Since our October 2002 Monetary Policy Report, both core and total CPI inflation have been well above the 2 per cent inflation target. In this environment, inflation expectations have edged up.
It has not been an easy year. All of you have been running companies and making decisions under very uncertain conditions. You have had to deal with corporate and accounting issues. Markets have been volatile. And geopolitical events have shaken confidence.
Canada and Italy share many similar characteristics. We both belong to the G-7, and we are among the smaller members of that group. Our two economies vary greatly from region to region, both in terms of structure and strength.
It has become almost a cliché to point out that "Internet time moves faster than normal time." But I'm reminded of that observation as I accept this award—an award for achievement in a medium that barely existed ten years ago.
We are facing a time of great economic and political uncertainty. While economic activity is close to potential in Canada, most other countries are facing very weak demand and lacklustre economic prospects. And, of course, there is the overriding prospect of a war in Iraq.
I'll discuss what's happening to prices in the economy and how Canada's macroeconomic policy framework protects it from the risks of persistent inflation or deflation. Finally, I will update our outlook for the Canadian economy.
Core inflation has been higher than anticipated in recent months. This reflects not only a stronger-than-expected increase in premiums for auto and home insurance, but also some broadening of price pressures resulting from strong demand in the economy.