Would be surprised by BoC rate hike, need to 'move decisively' to stop inflation: Jean Charest
Former Quebec Premier Jean Charest is urging Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem to act prudently and decisively when it comes to tightening financial conditions.
In an interview Thursday, Charest, now a partner at law firm McCarthy Tétrault LLP, said that the unprecedented nature of executing a smooth fiscal and monetary transition back to more normalized conditions requires a deft touch.
“Everything we’re doing right now – since the beginning of this pandemic – with fiscal policy, monetary policy is experimental. We’ve never done this before, we’ve never come out of a pandemic before,” he said.
“So the landing, the soft landing we’re looking for, is going to be tentative.”
There’s been a growing chorus of voices in the economics community calling for the Bank of Canada to begin raising rates starting at their policy meeting next week amid inflation running at its highest level since 1991 and speculation the disruptions stemming from the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 could be short-lived.
At the same time, employment has exceeded pre-pandemic levels, suggesting some traction in the overall economic recovery even as the world navigates pandemic hurdles.
While the Bank of Canada previously communicated that it intended to begin raising rates as early as the second quarter of this year, market participants are now eyeing a more aggressive pace and magnitude of increases, pricing in at least six hikes this year, as of Thursday afternoon.
Among the most hawkish forecasts came from Scotiabank Chief Economist Jean-François Perrault, who predicted five 25-basis-point hikes, and one half-point hike, by year’s end. That would bring the benchmark policy rate to two per cent.
While Macklem – among other central bankers in the western world – has repeatedly said the current bump in inflation should prove to be short-lived due to transitory factors including pent-up demand among consumers and supply chain disruptions, there are some concerns it could persist for longer than originally thought.
Charest said that early, decisive action to quell inflation could help Canada avoid repeating policy errors from the past.
“They need to stop inflation before it [runs] its course, otherwise they’ll have bigger problems down the road,” he said.
“That’s the lesson we learned from the 70s and the 80s: if you don’t move decisively at the beginning, you pay a very, very high price later on.”