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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Canadians need to be wary of mounting debt, central bank warns

   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 26/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians who have taken advantage of record-low interest rates must moderate their debt load or possibly face “substantial negative economic consequences,” the Bank of Canada warns.
   In a research paper, Canada’s central bank said many Canadians have constructed their finances on a “house of cards.”
   This could come crashing down once interest rates start increasing or if housing prices fall, it said.
   The bank cautioned that families have taken on too much debt but didn’t expect there would be a U.S.-style housing meltdown as banks have more stringent credit regulations in Canada.
   Debt loads have been rising, with a typical 31- to 35-year-old now owing $120,000 compared to $75,000 a decade ago, the report said.
   Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said interest rates have “nowhere to go but up," although economists don’t suggest that will happen for more than a year.
   “It isn’t necessary for everyone to have the most expensive house they can buy," he said.
   The concern is that house prices have risen sharply in the past decade and continue to do so along with debt for to pay for larger mortgages and home equity loans to finance other purchases.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Justin Trudeau suggests possible Quebec separatism interest

   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 19/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians are bristling after the son of late prime minister Pierre Trudeau suggested he might someday support separatism for Quebec.
   Justin Trudeau, 40-year-old Liberal Member of Parliament from Montreal, was commenting on the “values” of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper in an interview.
   “I always say that if I ever believed Canada was really the Canada of Stephen Harper . . . maybe I’d think of wanting to make Quebec a country,” he said.
   In explaining his remarks later, Trudeau said it is “ridiculous” to question his devotion to a united Canada.
   It was merely the "tone and the values" of the Conservative government that pushed him to say what he did, he said.
   Independence-seeking Bloc Quebecois politicians were pleased by Trudeau’s “realization” that Quebec’s values are not shared by the federal government or the rest of Canada.
   Other federalist party members recalled that his father had been an archenemy of Quebec separatists.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Canada pushes ahead with talks to sell oil to China after lack of approval for a U.S. pipeline to Texas

   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 12/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada has taken the first step toward a trade deal that could send massive amounts of crude oil to China instead of the United States.
   As Prime Minster Stephen Harper was holding talks in Beijing with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Newt Gingrich, Republican presidential candidate, urged Canada not to send its oil to China.
   "My message to the people of Canada is don't cut a deal with the Chinese, help is on the way," Gingrich said, condemning the U.S. administration for not approving the $7-billion Keystone XL pipeline.
   The project by TransCanada would have created 20,000 construction jobs and shipped about 700,000 barrels of crude a day to Texas refineries from Alberta.
   Environmentalists say the oilsands crude is “dirty” and the potential of a pipeline rupture would create an environmental disaster.
   Canada is now considering building a pipeline to British Columbia to deliver its oil to Asia by ship.
   "We'll get none of the jobs, none of the energy, none of the opportunity,” Gingrich said, vowing to approve the pipeline immediately if he becomes the next president.
   Harper’s visit led to a series of agreements that are expected to lead to free-trade talks with the “potential of greatly expanding Canadian growth and job creation.”

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Winter is far from typical across Canada

   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 5/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   “Winter, are we there yet?” is being asked by many Canadians this year.
   Dire predictions by Environment Canada of a “typical” winter with a lingering deep freeze and the Weather Network's expectation of temperature swings and fierce storms so far haven’t happened.
   Even Ontario’s Wiarton Willie and Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam, the weather-prognosticating groundhogs, didn't see their shadows with the folklore meaning there will be an early spring.
   An exception has been a week-long freeze in the Prairies last month where overall it’s been 10 to 14 degrees F above normal this winter.
   Much of Southern Ontario remains green with showers replacing snow storms and temperatures about 7 degrees above normal.
   Meteorologists say an "arctic oscillation" has kept the jet stream relatively stationary and blocked frigid temperatures from moving south.
   The government weather office says about 80 percent of the country will continue with above-normal temperatures this month.
   “We're almost ready to send out a search party to look for winter," said senior climatologist David Phillips.