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Sunday, October 30, 2016

No plans yet to eliminate Canada's 5-cent coin

   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 30/16

   (c) By Jim Fox

  First it was the $1 bill and then the $2 note switching to coins in Canada, followed by the elimination of the penny.
   So, could the nickel be facing retirement next?
   Not so fast, the government insists as an internal analysis on the pros and cons of keeping the nickel says it will stay for now.
   There are “no plans to discontinue the nickel,” said David Barnabe of the finance department, even though New Zealand and South Africa have eliminated the coins over the past decade.
   Even as the purchasing power of the nickel “has eroded over time (down 40 percent over 25 years) relative both to prices and incomes,” the analysis found it is still cost effective to mint them.
   “As there are virtually no goods or services that can be purchased for a nickel, or several multiples thereof, the coin is generally used only to make change as part of larger transactions,” the study reported.
   The nickel entered circulation in 1858 while the penny was dropped in 2013, leaving businesses to round up to the nearest nickel amount.
   Some Canadian bankers suggest the nickel won’t be around five years from now.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Gloomy economic outlook: Bank of Canada confirms

   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 23/16

   By Jim Fox

   Canada’s central bank has presented a gloomier picture of the country’s economic growth.
   The Bank of Canada downgraded economic predictions noting an expected drop in housing sales due to new government rules and a lingering decline in exports.
   Bank governor Stephen Poloz said the economy also continues to struggle from the plunge in oil prices that began two years ago.
   The economy isn’t expected to return to full capacity until mid-2018 instead of the late 2017 time frame it had expected a few months ago, he said.
   The Gross Domestic Product is expected to expand by 1.1 percent this year, down from the July projection of 1.3 percent, with growth of 2 percent next year, down from 2.2 percent.
   Bank members considered lowering the trendsetting key interest rate of 0.5 percent where it has been since July 2015 but has again kept it there for now.
   Finance Minister Bill Morneau will deliver his fall economic update to the House of Commons on Nov. 1.
   There are indications it will include ways the Liberal government can stimulate the stalled economy.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Canadians don't like Trump's remarks about their health care program

   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 16/16

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians are taking issue with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for referring to their health-care system as being “catastrophic.”
   Canada’s “mostly free” publicly funded doctor and hospital services can’t cope with demand, resulting in people going to the U.S. for treatment, Trump said.
   The Fraser Institute said 45,619 people sought non-emergency medical procedures outside of Canada last year largely because of long wait times at home.
   The number is about 1 percent of the patients of physicians who responded to a survey, the report said.
   Data from doctors gives a “general estimation” of the number of “medical tourists,” said Bacchus Barua of the Vancouver-based institute.
   The numbers are then applied to the total number of medical procedures carried out in Canada, as recorded by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, he added.
   Some critics are skeptical of the institute’s methodology.
   Even so, Ron Labonte, a health-sciences professor, said the number of people leaving for hospital care is very small.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Mortgage finance rules could force some Canadians into less expensive houses

   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 9/16

   (c) By Jim Fox

   First-time home buyers might have to settle for less expensive houses than previously with a tightening of Canadian mortgage lending rules.
   The federal government is moving to protect buyers from getting too deeply into debt should interest rates begin rising.
   New rules to take effect on Oct. 17 will limit the amount home buyers can borrow so they can keep up with their payments at higher rates.
   A “stress test” will be used for all buyers putting down less than 20 percent of the cost of the house – a condition that previously applied only to those opting for variable or fixed rate mortgages with renewable terms of less than five years.
   It’s aimed at ensuring buyers can make their mortgage payments and cover other costs related to home ownership.
   This happens at a time when single detached houses in Vancouver sell for an average of $1.5 million and $1 million in Toronto.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Canada's Liberals spending their way to economic growth: Finance minister says

   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 2/16

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Spending by the Liberal government elected last October has hit an “unprecedented rate,” a report by the “budget watchdog” says.
   Jean-Denis Frechette, parliamentary budget officer, found that expenditures were nearly $3.4 billion, or 5.7 percent, higher in the first quarter of the fiscal year compared with a year earlier and the biggest increase in six years.
   His report notes the cash included an additional $1.22 billion for infrastructure-related spending along with some leftover commitments made by the previous Conservative government.
   First-quarter spending was $62.9 billion and also included more than $1 billion extra for higher child-benefit payments to families.
   Finance Minister Bill Morneau said this has led to economic growth as the government promised to spend to stimulate the economy after a Conservative decade of low growth.
   “We will continue to make those investments,” he said.
   Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi said 729 projects have been approved for funding and more than 60 percent of them are underway.