Fitch downgrade is a 'symbolic move' that will not significantly impact Canada: CIBC's Tal
Canada’s downgrade by Fitch Ratings is a reminder that there are limits to what the country can do in fiscal policy, according to Mark Wiseman, the former global head of active equities at BlackRock Inc.
Fitch stripped Canada of its AAA status on Wednesday because of a spike in emergency spending for COVID-19, making it the first top-rated country to be downgraded by the ratings firm during the pandemic.
“We did exactly the right thing at the beginning, we threw everything, including the kitchen sink, to make sure that we kept that heart beating — to make sure that the economy was in a position to recover,” Wiseman, who starts as chairman of Alberta Investment Management Corp. next week, said in an interview on BNN Bloomberg television.
“However, as this goes on, we have to start thinking longer term,” he said. “How effective are the programs that we put in place, do we need to adjust them and, ultimately, how are we going to pay for all this?”
The country is expected to run a record deficit this year and emerge from the recession with much higher public debt ratios, Fitch said Wednesday. It cut the country’s rating one notch to AA+. Canada’s parliamentary budget watchdog has estimated the deficit will be $256 billion in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021.
Now is the time for Canada to reassess what it should do, having acted so quickly in the face of the pandemic, Wiseman said, though government stimulus should continue.
AIMCo has appointed Wiseman as chairman just as Alberta’s government is considering withdrawing from the national pension plan run by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, where he was chief executive officer for four years until 2016.
“Albertans also deserve to have a world-class investment manager to manage their pensions and to manage things like the Heritage Fund in the province,” Wiseman said.