March 2017 edition

This module provides a concise summary of selected Canadian economic events, as well as international and financial market developments by calendar month. It is intended to provide contextual information only to support users of the economic data published by Statistics Canada. In identifying major events or developments, Statistics Canada is not suggesting that these have a material impact on the published economic data in a particular reference month.

All information presented here is obtained from publicly available news and information sources, and does not reflect any protected information provided to Statistics Canada by survey respondents.


  • Calgary-based Cenovus Energy Inc. announced it has agreed to acquire Texas-based ConocoPhillips' 50% interest in the Foster Creek Christina Lake (FCCL) Partnership, the companies' jointly owned oil sands venture, as well as the majority of ConocoPhillips' Deep Basin conventional assets in Alberta and British Columbia, for a total consideration of $17.7 billion. The company said the transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2017, subject to customary conditions including regulatory approval.
  • Netherlands-based Royal Dutch Shell plc announced that it will sell to a subsidiary of Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources Limited its entire 60% interest in the Athabasca Oil Sands Project, its 100% interest in the Peace River Complex in-situ assets, including Carmon Creek, and a number of undeveloped oil sands leases in Alberta, for approximately USD $8.5 billion. Royal Dutch Shell also announced that it and Canadian Natural Resources Limited will jointly acquire and own equally Marathon Oil Canada Corporation from an affiliate of Texas-based Marathon Oil Corporation for USD $1.25 billion each. The company said the transactions are expected to close mid-2017, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.
  • Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources Limited announced its annual 2017 capital expenditures are targeted to be approximately $3.9 billion. The company said its net capital expenditures in 2016 were $3.794 billion.
  • Calgary-based TransCanada Corporation announced the conclusion of a long-term, fixed-price Open Season to transport natural gas on the Canadian Mainline from the Empress receipt point in Alberta to the Dawn hub in Southern Ontario. The company said that the Open Season resulted in binding, long-term contracts from Western Canada Sedimentary Basin gas producers to transport 1.5 PJ/d of natural gas. TransCanada said the term of the contract is 10 years and the targeted in-service date is November 1, 2017.
  • TransCanada also announced it had filed a variance application with the National Energy Board to proceed with construction of the North Montney Mainline (NMML) Project in northeast British Columbia. The company said the requested variance would allow it to move forward with construction of the majority of the NMML Project, at an estimated cost of approximately $1.4 billion, prior to a final investment decision on the Pacific Northwest LNG project. TransCanada said that, subject to regulatory approvals, it plans to begin construction in the first half of 2018, with facilities being phased into service over a two-year period, beginning in April 2019.
  • TransCanada announced that the U.S. Department of State had signed and issued a Presidential Permit to construct the Keystone XL Pipeline. The company said it will continue to engage key stakeholders and neighbours throughout Nebraska, Montana and South Dakota to obtain the necessary permits and approvals to advance the project to construction.
  • Fort McMurray-based Syncrude Canada Ltd announced on March 16th that it had extinguished a fire in the hydrotreating area of the Mildred Lake Upgrader that had started on March 14th. On March 27th, Calgary-based Suncor Energy Inc. announced that Syncrude has advanced a planned eight-week turnaround originally scheduled to begin in April in order to mitigate the impact of the unplanned outage.


  • California-based BCBG Max Azria Group, LLC announced it had filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The company said its Canadian affiliate is commencing a separate filing for voluntary reorganization proceedings under Canada's Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, and is taking steps to close its freestanding stores in Canada.
  • Toronto-based Reliance Comfort Limited Partnership announced that Cheung Kong Property Holdings Limited of Hong Kong, via its subsidiary CKP (Canada) Holdings Limited, had entered into a definitive agreement with investment funds managed by Connecticut-based Alinda Capital Partners LLC to acquire Reliance Home Comfort for an equity purchase price of $2.82 billion. Alinda said the acquisition is expected to take place before the end of the first half of 2017, subject to approvals under the Investment Canada Act and the Competition Act.


  • A number of Canadian banks and insurance companies announced their intent to create the Canadian Business Growth Fund which will make minority equity investments in small and medium-sized Canadian companies seeking to grow their businesses. Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) said that initial participants in the fund include: BMO Financial Group, CIBC, Royal Bank of Canada, Scotiabank, The Toronto-Dominion Bank, Manulife, Sun Life Financial, Great-West Life, National Bank of Canada, HSBC Bank Canada, ATB Financial, Laurentian Bank of Canada, and Canadian Western Bank. RBC said the fund is expected to have initial capital commitments of over $500 million, with the possibility for future contributions of up to $1 billion in future years. RBC also said the fund will operate as an independently managed entity, with its own board of directors and management team, and that the intention is to have an executive team in place to start deploying capital within the next 12 months.
  • Toronto-based Onex Corporation and its affiliates announced they had agreed to sell USI Insurance Services to an affiliate of KKR & Co. L.P. of New York and Montreal-based Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec for an enterprise value of USD $4.3 billion. Onex said the transaction is expected to close during the second quarter of 2017 subject to customary closing conditions including regulatory approval.
  • Toronto-based DH Corporation and Vista Equity Partners of Texas announced they had entered into a definitive arrangement agreement under which Vista will acquire all of the outstanding shares of DH Corporation for a total enterprise value of approximately $4.8 billion. DH Corporation said the completion of the transaction is subject to DH shareholder and court approval, and that the transaction is expected to close prior to the end of the third quarter 2017, subject to customary closing conditions.

Other news

  • The Bank of Canada announced that it was maintaining the target for the overnight rate at 0.5%. The last change in the target for the overnight rate was a 25 basis-point reduction announced in July 2015.
  • The Government of Canada tabled Budget 2017 on March 22nd which included investments in skills training, clean technology and community infrastructure. The Budget also included measures to improve access to mental health and home care services, and to address tax evasion and close tax loopholes. The Government forecasts a $28.5 billion deficit in 2017-2018 and real GDP growth of 1.9% in 2017.
  • The Government of Canada announced an investment of $102.4 million to Ford Motor Company of Canada Ltd to help transform the company's Windsor operations and establish a new Research and Engineering Centre in Ottawa, with additional locations in Waterloo and Oakville. The Government said the Government of Ontario will contribute an additional $102.4 million in support of this project and that these investments will attract an additional $1.0 billion in research and development spending from Ford of Canada.
  • The Government of Ontario announced that, starting this summer, it is lowering electricity bills by 25% on average for all residential customers. The Government said these measures include an 8% rebate introduced in January.
  • The Government of Alberta tabled Budget 2017 on March 16th which included a $1.4 billion increase, to $29.5 billion, in the province's Capital Plan to support infrastructure investments in education, health care, environmental protection and sustainability, community services and housing, and public capital. The budget also introduced a ceiling on electricity prices to be implemented in June 2017, along with a reduction in school fees and a continuation of the current freeze on post-secondary tuition fees. The Government forecasts a $10.3 billion deficit in 2017-18 and anticipates economic growth to be 2.6% in 2017.
  • The Government of Saskatchewan tabled Budget 2017-18 on March 22nd which included: an increase in the PST rate from 5% to 6%, effective March 23rd 2017; reductions in Personal Income Tax rates and the general Corporation Income Tax rate; a 0.7% increase in health spending and a 1.2% reduction in education spending; and $3.7 billion for infrastructure investment. The Government said it expects a $685 million deficit in 2017-18 and economic growth of 0.8% in 2017.
  • The Government of Québec tabled its March 2017 Québec Economic Plan on March 28th, a third consecutive balanced budget, which included $3.4 billion in additional investment over five years for education; nearly $3 billion over two years to improve access to health care; and close to $1.2 billion to stimulate economic development in the regions. The Budget also confirmed support for three major rail projects and increased funding for public transit throughout Québec. The Government said GDP growth is projected to be 1.7% in 2017.

United States and other international news

  • The UK Government announced on March 29th it had invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to formally begin negotiations to exit the European Union. The Government said it aims to reach an agreement by the time the 2-year Article 50 process has concluded. Separately, Scotland's Parliament voted in favour of giving First Minister Nicola Sturgeon a mandate to formally seek permission from the British Parliament to prepare for a Scottish independence referendum.
  • The U.S. Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) raised the target range for the federal funds interest rate 25 basis points to 0.75% to 1.00%. The last change in the target range was a 25 basis point increase announced in December 2016.
  • The European Central Bank (ECB) left the interest rate on the main refinancing operations of the Eurosystem unchanged at 0.00%, and the interest rates on the marginal lending facility and the deposit facility unchanged at 0.25% and -0.40%, respectively. The ECB also confirmed that it will continue to make purchases under the asset purchase programme at the current monthly pace of €80 billion until the end of March 2017. From April 2017, the net asset purchases are intended to continue at a monthly pace of €60 billion until the end of December 2017.
  • The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee voted to maintain the Bank Rate at 0.25% and to maintain the stock of UK government bond purchases, financed by the issuance of central bank reserves, at £435 billion. The last change in the Bank Rate was a 25 basis-point reduction in August 2016.
  • The Bank of Japan (BoJ) announced it will continue to apply a -0.1% interest rate to the Policy-Rate Balances in current accounts held by financial institutions at the BoJ. The BoJ also said it would continue to purchase Japanese government bonds (JGB) so that 10-year JGB yields will remain at around zero percent.
  • The Reserve Bank of Australia maintained the cash rate at 1.50%. The last change in the cash rate was a 25 basis point reduction in August 2016.
  • The Reserve Bank of New Zealand left the Official Cash Rate, its main policy rate, unchanged at 1.75%. The last change in the Official Cash Rate was a 25 basis point reduction in November 2016.
  • Texas-based Exxon Mobil Corporation announced it is expanding its manufacturing capacity along the U.S. Gulf Coast through planned investments of USD $20 billion over a 10-year period. The company said the expansion program consists of 11 major chemical, refining, lubricant and liquefied natural gas projects at proposed new and existing facilities along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. Exxon said the investments began in 2013 and are expected to continue through at least 2022.
  • ExxonMobil also announced that it anticipates capital spending of USD $22 billion in 2017, an increase of 16% from 2016. The company said it expects the startup of five major upstream projects in 2017 and 2018, including the Hebron project in Eastern Canada by year-end.
  • Michigan-based General Motors Co. and PSA Group of France announced an agreement under which GM's Opel/Vauxhall subsidiary and GM Financial's European operations will join PSA Group in a transaction valued at €2.2 billion. The transaction is subject to various closing conditions, including regulatory approvals and reorganizations, and is expected to close before the end of 2017.
  • California-based Intel Corporation and Mobileye N.V. of Israel, a maker of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems and autonomous driving technology, announced a definitive agreement under which Intel would acquire Mobileye for an enterprise value of USD $14.7 billion. The companies said the transaction is expected to close within the next nine months, subject to the receipt of certain regulatory approvals and other closing conditions.
  • Pennsylvania-based Westinghouse Electric Company, LLC announced it had filed voluntary petitions under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code seeking to undertake a strategic restructuring as a result of certain financial and construction challenges in its U.S. AP1000 power plant projects. The company said it had obtained USD $800 million in debtor-in-possession financing to help fund and protect its core businesses during the reorganization.
  • Michigan-based Ford Motor Company announced it was investing USD $1.2 billion in three Michigan manufacturing facilities: USD $850 million for retooling at the company's Michigan Assembly Plant; USD $150 million to expand capacity for engine components for several vehicles at its Romeo Engine Plant; and USD $200 million for an advanced data center to support the company's expansion to an auto and mobility company at its Flat Rock Assembly Plant.

Financial market news

  • Crude oil (West Texas Intermediate) closed at USD $50.60 per barrel on March 31st, down from USD $54.01 at the end of February. The Canadian dollar closed at 75.19 cents U.S. on March 31st, similar to the closing value of 75.30 cents U.S. on February 28th. The S&P/TSX closed at 15,547.75 on March 31st, up from 15,399.24 at the end of February.
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