the wilt is on

Well, the writing’s on the wall. And Canadians see graffiti, not flashy corporate logos. According to a national Nanos Poll, 48 per cent of…

Well, the writing’s on the wall.

And Canadians see graffiti, not flashy corporate logos.

According to a national Nanos Poll, 48 per cent of Canadians believe the economy will weaken over the next six months.

Only 13 per cent believe it will get stronger.

Similarly, 43 per cent believe interest rates will increase over the next six months. Only 19 per cent believe they will drop. (The poll is accurate to within plus or minus three per cent, 19 times out of 20.)

Why?

April’s numbers from Statistics Canada provide a clue.

Stuff is getting expensive. Very expensive.

Last month, consumer prices rose 1.7 per cent largely through hikes to gas and food costs. Economists had expected them to rise 1.3 per cent.

Take energy and fuel out of the mix and you get what the number crunchers call the core inflation index. It rose 1.5 per cent — again, higher than expected.

These are the “official” numbers. But many Canadians believe the federal government is making the statistics dance for political purposes.

Bottom line: the inflation trajectory is up, not down.

And so far, things have been relatively mild.

Canadians have been protected from inflation because of the strength of the loonie.

Take oil prices. Though the cost of a barrel of oil has skyrocketed, the price is pegged to the US dollar and, because the loonie has achieved parity with the greenback relatively quickly, it has, so far, shielded Canadians from the worst of the sticker shock.

But that bonus has now worked itself out. Unless the dollar continues to rise, the price of fuel will start to accelerate.

Simply put — SUV owners ain’t seen nothing yet.

Yet another indicator is total inflation. According to government statisticians, it rose .8 per cent, double what economists predicted.

It was, er, fueled by gas prices and less-generous discounts for new cars.

Those are the economic numbers.

There are other things making Canadians edgy.

The national tourism numbers are dismal. They have fallen to their lowest level since 1972 —  that’s when Statistics Canada first started keeping track of such things. It’s also when North America was rocked by the so-called energy crisis.

This time, Americans are facing a new crisis.

Their dollar is foundering and fuel prices are rising.

That means consumer deals are no longer a draw, and it costs a lot more to get to Canada to shop.

And they need passports.

Consequently, they aren’t driving north very much anymore.

And they make up the bulk of our tourists — in Canada and the Yukon.

So, the grim tidings are starting to pile up.

It’s time to prepare for bad weather. (RM)