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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Bank of Canada boosts trendsetting interest rate

   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 21/18

   (c) By Jim Fox

   The cost of borrowing has gone up again as Canada’s central bank raised its trendsetting interest rate.
   The jump by one-quarter percent by the Bank of Canada is the third increase since last summer and the highest rate in nine years.
   An impressive increase in economic numbers led the bank to raise the rate but it warned of the potential impact of uncertainties about rewriting the North America Free Trade Agreement.
   There’s speculation the bank will increase the rate at least twice more this year but potential negatives about the agreement’s outcome could affect its outlook.
   The bank said “some continued monetary policy accommodation will likely be needed” to keep the economy operating close to its full potential.
   “We can't just relax and assume that it would be a small shock,” said bank governor Stephen Poloz.
   Trade impacts of the deal’s demise might not have such a major impact on Canada but would likely impact the amount of investment in the country.
   Canada’s major banks almost immediately raised their prime lending rate by 0.25 percent to 3.45 percent.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Protests over Tim Hortons shops cutting employee benefits over $14 minimum wage

   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 14/18

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Protesters have gathered outside the iconic Tim Hortons coffee shops encouraging a customer boycott.
  They’re upset that some of the chain’s franchisees have eliminated paid breaks and reduced health benefits for employees to compensate for having to pay a higher minimum wage.
   That was explained as a way to cope with higher costs with the Jan. 1 increase in Ontario’s minimum to $14 an hour from $11.60 and to $15 next year by the provincial government.
   Parent company Restaurant Brands International denounced the action against the workers, saying it doesn’t reflect its values.
   Many franchised owners say, however, they have “no alternative” but to implement such cost-saving measures “in order to survive.”
   Restaurant Brands has confirmed that some Hortons locations as well “in select markets have slightly increased prices for some breakfast menu items.”
   The Canadian-based multinational fast food restaurant, founded by Horton, the late Toronto Maple Leafs’ hockey player, has more than 4,600 outlets in 90 countries.


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Baby it's cold outside; Canada caught in the deep freeze

   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 7/18

   (c) By Jim Fox

   They’re talking about the weather in eastern Canada but unable to do much about it aside from keeping warm and away from blizzard “bombs.”
   Unrelenting frigid air has much of Canada in its grip, setting record low temperatures in Toronto and many places.
   In Atlantic Canada, a ferocious storm cut power to 150,000 customers, flooded coastal roads, battered sailboats and downed trees with hurricane-force winds.
   Affected by the “weather bomb” with up to 20 inches of snow were Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
   Just as things appeared to be warming after Toronto set a record -23 C (-10 F) overnight Friday, plus wind chill, Environment Canada issued a province-wide warning to prepare for more cold and snow.
   Toronto has opened additional warming centers and is using armouries as shelters for the homeless.
   The so-called polar vortex with frigid Arctic air has turned the usual free-flowing Niagara Falls into a frozen spectacle.


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Cold snap alters plans for outdoor activities, New Year's Eve on Parliament Hill

   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 31/17

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Cold enough for you?
   An unusual long-lasting cold snap has put much of Canada under a wave of frigid Arctic air.
   Environment Canada’s Alexandre Parent said the polar vortex is being felt across Ontario, the Prairies, Quebec and the Maritimes with overnight temperatures hitting -40 Celsius/Fahrenheit.
   It is so cold it’s causing havoc with New Year’s Eve festivities on Parliament Hill in Ottawa where the outdoor show is being shortened.
   It is the grand finale for Canada’s 150th anniversary year but with temperatures to be about -28 Celsius (-18F), it’s too much to take.
   While the show must go on, musical entertainment and DJs have been canceled but there will be still be fireworks and a laser show at midnight.
   Heritage Minister Melanie Joly said there is a concern for people being outside for a long time in the cold.
   Toronto is among other cities cutting back on New Year’s Eve outdoor parties where the temperature there is to be -14C (7F).


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Canada's Prime Minister broke conflict laws with vacations: Ethics commissioner

  Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 24/17

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been found to have violated conflict-of-interest rules by accepting family vacations from an Islamic leader.
   Federal ethics commissioner Mary Dawson said this concerns vacations at Bells Cay, a private Bahamian island owned by Imam Aga Khan, last Christmas and in March 2016.
   Dawson said it can be seen as a gift to influence Trudeau with the billionaire philanthropist and spiritual leader and his charitable foundation.
   The commissioner also said Trudeau didn’t recuse himself in 2016 from private meetings about the Aga Khan and a $15-million grant to his endowment fund of the Global Center for Pluralism.
   “I’ve always considered the Aga Khan a close family friend, which is why I didn’t clear this family trip in the first place,” Trudeau said.
   At the same time, John Kerry, then U.S. Secretary of State, was also a guest on the island.
   Dawson said a monetary penalty was “not relevant” for Trudeau who will be spending the holidays in Canada this Christmas.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Deaths of billionaire Barry and Honey Sherman considered "suspicious"

   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 17/17

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Police say the deaths of the billionaire founder of Canadian generic drug firm Apotex and his wife are “suspicious.”
   The bodies of the philanthropist couple Barry and Honey Sherman were found about noon on Friday in their home in Toronto’s North York.
   Barry Sherman’s net worth was estimated at $4.77 billion, making him the 15th richest person in the country and he had recently put the house up for sale, asking $6.9 million.
   Constable David Hopkinson said police were called in response to a “medical complaint” and autopsies this weekend will determine the cause of death.
   Barry Sherman founded Toronto-based Apotex Inc. in 1974 and turned it into the largest Canadian-owned pharmaceutical company, producing more than 300 generic drugs and employing 10,000 people.
   The company has manufacturing and research facilities in the Toronto area and Winnipeg, and fills 89-million prescriptions a year, exporting to 115 countries.
   Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins said the Shermans were “generous philanthropists, kind and compassionate individuals, devoted to their family, their friends, their community, this province and this country.”

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Bank of Canada keeps interest rate steady; dollar drops against U.S. currency

   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 10/17

   (c) By Jim Fox

   For people with money in the bank or invested, Canada’s central bank decision to keep interest rates steady wasn’t encouraging.
   However, for those with loans and mortgages, fees will remain unchanged as the Bank of Canada opted not to raise its trendsetting “overnight” rate for the third time this year.
   So, the rate will stay at 1 percent and the commercial bank prime lending rate at 3.2 percent for now.
   “The current stance of monetary policy is appropriate,” the bank said, adding that it will be “cautious in making future adjustments to the policy rate” with less monetary policy stimulus required over time.
   The bank raised its rate by 0.25 percent in July and that amount again last month after no movement in the previous two years.
   A surprise for economists was the Canadian dollar losing about one cent against the U.S. currency to 78.15 cents after the bank failed to increase rates.