The Economic Costs of COVID-19 for Ontario: How bad is it so far and how bad could it get?

By Huw Lloyd Ellis, Queen’s University

Huw Lloyd Ellis is a Professor of Economics at Queen’s University. Here, he discusses the new STUDIO model developed by Queen’s University economists and Limestone Analytics for assessing the impact of COVID-19.

We all know its bad. COVID-19 and the lockdowns needed to counter it have created a global economic storm whose impact on Ontario since mid March has been more disruptive than any downturn that most of us have seen in our lifetimes. We’ve seen large downturns in the level of employment. A large fraction of those still employed are working from home and many of those still employed were working reduced hours.

Understanding the economic costs in terms of lost production from these adjustments is important for many reasons. Firstly, these costs translate into major losses in household incomes that may never be recouped. These losses are far from equally distributed and depend crucially on where people live and the industries in which they work. Secondly, the resulting loss in the tax base adds an additional strain on government finances over and above those created by increased spending to offset the size and impacts of layoffs and business distress. The ongoing losses in production today represent a permanent loss in economic wealth that will impact our future after-tax incomes for many years.

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Shutdown policy ignores economic consequences in order to minimize Covid-19 infections at any cost

By Christopher Cotton

Christopher Cotton, Ph.D., is a Professor of Economics at Queen’s University, where he holds the Jarislowsky-Deutsch Chair in Economic & Financial Policy and is the Director for the John Deutsch Institute for the Study of Economic Policy.

Before deciding whether we should start to reopen the economy, we need to understand what it is that we are trying to accomplish through the shutdown. If the shutdown is intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed, then we have room to start slowly loosening shutdown restrictions today. If, however, our objective is to minimize the number of Canadians that become infected or die from the disease, which seems to be the objective of public health officials today, then the shutdown may need to continue indefinitely.   Read More »

Dear Florida, Can NY borrow some ventilators? The U.S. needs better coordination of medical equipment across states

By Christopher Cotton and Neil Renwick

Christopher Cotton, Ph.D., is a Professor of Economics at Queen’s University where he holds the Jarislowsky-Deutsch Chair of Economic & Financial Policy and is the Director of the John Deutsch Institute for the Study of Economic Policy. Neil Renwick M.D., Ph.D, is a Clinician Scientist and Head of the Laboratory of Translational RNA Biology at Queen’s University and an Associate Attending Physician at The Rockefeller University Hospital in New York City. 

Last week, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a plea to the rest of the country: “Help New York. We’re the ones hit right now… We need relief. We need relief for nurses working 12-hour shifts. We need relief for doctors. Help us now and we will return the favor.”

This request is based on the fact that states like New York, New Jersey, and Michigan are being hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic now, and are likely to see their apex in the next week or two, while other states are unlikely to reach their peak until later this spring. Today, as New York faces a shortage of health care workers, there are other places in the U.S. with excess medical capacity, where doctors and nurses not yet being pushed beyond their breaking point.

We claim such an argument not only applies to doctors and nurses but also applies to life-saving ventilators as well.Read More »

We Hit the Brakes. So, What Now?

By Thorsten Koeppl

Thor Koeppl is a Professor of Economics and RBC Fellow at Queen’s University. He also serves as a Scholar and member of the National Council and Monetary Policy Council at the CD Howe Institute. 

Imagine you are driving your car on an alpine road.  You see some rocks starting to fall, a rockslide!  What do you do? Slam on the brakes.  Stop.  You take a deep breath and, after a sigh of relief that you kind of dodged it, you think: So, what’s next? How do I get past that rock slide?

This is where we are at in Canada in our response to the current CoVid-19 pandemic.  We brought the economy pretty much to a full stop.  It is fair to say that this reaction will likely save Canadians being fully engulfed in the rock slide.  We yet do not know how big the benefit will be in terms of lives saved or how large the costs will be on the economic side, but we did the right thing.  Act on the side of caution and hit the brakes.

Soon, hopefully, there comes the time to catch a breath and look forward to see how we can navigate the medium-run fall out from the pandemic.  And this is where economists and the way they tend to think can help us a lot.  After all, economists are “social engineers” that deal with problems where individual behaviour needs to be steered in the right direction to achieve better outcomes for society.Read More »

Citizenship: Signaling Tool from Immigrants to Employers

By Isabella Mira, Queen’s Law & Economics

Canada is a country built by immigrants. It is known for its multiculturalist approach to welcoming these newcomers and uses a points system to select immigrants. This method of screening has received much praise from economists and policy-makers alike for its ability to identify applicants that will answer the varying demands of the labor market. As an immigrant myself, this initial description is both reassuring and inspiring.

Yet a component often forgotten is that attracting and screening immigrants is only half the battle. Once they arrive, it is just as important to ensure immigrants’ skills and assets are properly integrated into the labour market and the Canadian economy.  Reports on Canada’s immigration policy reflects this gap in analysis by offering both positive and negative accounts of immigrant success in Canada. Statistics and articles such as OECD report a positive picture by stating that employment of foreign-born Canadian citizens has increased since 2008, and in 2012 Canada had the third highest employment rate for immigrants among the OECD member countries (Canada, 2014). In sharp contrast, articles by Ley and Smith (2008) discuss extensive immigrant poverty in gateway cities, Bloemraad (2006) speaks to non-economic factors such as possession of cultural knowledge as barriers to immigrant success, and Derwing et al. (2000) present the now-familiar issue of foreign credential recognition. These conflicting accounts invite questions as to the true success of Canada’s immigration policy.

In my M.A. essay, I propose an approach to reconcile these different accounts of immigrant labour market integration. I posit that the decision to ascend to citizenship acts as a signaling tool for employers.Read More »

Why is the Canadian dollar a commodity currency?

By Gregor Smith, Queen’s University

The Canadian dollar (CAD) often is described as a ‘commodity currency’ or even as a ‘petrocurrency’.   The correlation between commodity prices and the value of the CAD features in daily commentary but you can see it in data at any frequency.

The figure below shows monthly data for the CAD/USD exchange rate along with the Bank of Canada’s commodity price index (reported in real USD) over the past thirty years.  Clearly, these two things tend to move together.Read More »

What can we Learn from Historical Economic and Financial Crises?

These notes form a short extract from the forthcoming monograph by John Crean and Frank Milne, The Anatomy of Systemic Risk, (2017a); and a shorter working paper, The Foundations of Systemic Risk (2017b).

By Frank Milne, Queen’s University

There are many historical financial crises that resemble the recent crisis of 2007-9. Crean and Milne provide a summary of various banking crises, discuss their similarities, provide a theory integrating their observations and examine the implications for Risk Management systems and financial regulation.

Here we will restrict our discussion to two major banking crises that should be of interest for Canadians. There are clear parallels with current Canadian banking and regulatory risks. We will draw some conclusions that are supported by the Crean-Milne framework.

The first example is the Australian Banking Crisis of the 1890s, and the second example is the Texas Banking Crisis of 1980-89.Read More »

Do longer license suspensions decrease impaired driving?

By Dayna Bartlett, Queen’s Economics M.A. student

In 2015, according to Statistics Canada, there were 72,039 police reported impaired driving incidents and 122 of those leading to death. Further, MADD Canada reports that on average, four people are killed daily by alcohol-related or drug-related traffic collisions. It is, therefore, no surprise that the concern regarding impaired driving is a subject that has continued to bring a range of heartaches and considerable debate. As it has been and remains one of the leading causes of death in Canada, there has been a great deal of research conducted, policies proposed, and laws implemented in the attempt to reduce the fatal collisions arising from impaired driving.

Under the Criminal Code of Canada, an individual is considered impaired and is subject to criminal charges if they drive while having consumed an amount of alcohol in which their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level exceeds the legal limit of 80 milligrams per 100 milliliters of blood. In addition to the per se legal limit set by the Criminal Code of Canada, different provinces have also implemented warn ranges, in which penalties and sanctions may be applied even if an individual is driving below the 0.08 legal limit. One of the more recent laws that has been adopted by most Canadian provinces aimed to deter drunk driving are longer license suspensions that offenders face if found driving with BAC levels between 0.05 and 0.08.  Specifically, license suspensions have recently increased for first-time offenders past the initial 24-hour period to a minimum of 3 days, and even longer in certain jurisdictions.Read More »

Economic historian Frank Lewis retires after 44 years at Queen’s

By Nora Ottenhof, JDI undergraduate research assistant

After 44 years at Queen’s University, economic historian Frank Lewis has retired. Prof. Lewis has contributed immeasurably to the Queen’s University community through both his groundbreaking research and passionate teaching style. His research legacy has provided countless insights into First Nations economies in Canada, the fur trade, slavery, and migration, among many other topics.

Throughout his career, Lewis has devoted a great deal of time to the study of trading between First Nations people and European colonizers. Lewis’s 2010 book Commerce by a Frozen Sea, written in partnership with Ann Carlos, delves deeply into the subject matter and is what Lewis considers his greatest professional accomplishment. As Lewis explains, the goal of this research was to understand the exact nature of this relationship. Such questions were posed as: Was the correspondence strictly commercial? Who had the bargaining power and by what degree? How did both the Europeans and First Nations people respond to changes in the market given their limited access to information?Read More »

Canadian Public Economic Group to meet at Queen’s

By Nora Ottenhof, JDI undergraduate research assistant

The 2017 Canadian Public Economic Group Meeting (CPEG2017) will take place on the Queen’s University campus in Kingston on November 2 – 4. This year’s meetings are being hosted by the John Deutsch Institute (JDI) and the Department of Economics. “We are very excited for the conference, which will feature presentations by some of the leading public economists in Canada,” said Dr. Christopher Cotton, the conference organizer and the Director of the JDI.

For more information on the conference, see the CPEG website.

Here, I review a handful of the papers that will be presented and discussed during this year’s conference.Read More »