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Canada’s House Prices Spike, But Economists Call It A ‘Soft Landing’

Canada’s House Prices Spike, But Economists Call It A ‘Soft Landing’.

The Huffington Post Canada  |  Posted: 03/17/2014 11:14 am EDT

house prices canada

Some economists are calling it a “soft landing,” because sales volumes have fallen and aren’t coming back up, but house prices in Canada showed no signs of easing up in February.

Prices for sales of previously owned homes jumped 10.1 per cent in the year to February, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) reported Monday.

The average price for a re-sold house in Canada in February was $406,372, up from around $368,000 in February of last year.

But CREA trimmed its sales forecast for the rest of the year, noting that a slump in sales volumes isn’t showing signs of rebound. It now expects 463,000 sales this year, compared to 475,000 forecast in its December outlook.

TD economist Diana Petramala noted that the number of sales is down 9.3 per cent from its peak last August, and picked up by just 0.3 per cent in February.

Those are “signs of a soft landing,” Petramala wrote in a client note.

“The performance of Canada’s housing market over the last few months is largely reflective of a cooling in Canadian housing demand. Sales are moving at a pace that is neither too hot, nor too cold,” Petramala wrote.

She noted that the one thing that hasn’t happened is a slowing in house price growth, “but that too will likely come.” She says house prices are rising because of a shortage of supply in some cities, but that will be solved as new homes come online.

But she suggested prices of single-family homes could still keep going up.

“Most of the overbuilding occurred in the multi-unit segment of the market and will likely not help alleviate some of the supply constraints building in the more popular single-family home market,” Petramala wrote.

— With files from the Canadian Press

Ontario's Job Market Squeezing Out Middle Earners: Report

Ontario’s Job Market Squeezing Out Middle Earners: Report.

The Huffintgon Post Canada  |  Posted: 03/16/2014 1:11 pm EDT  |  Updated: 03/16/2014 1:59 pm EDT

ontario jobs

Ontario’s job market is shifting away from full-time, permanent work and towards part-time and temporary work, and middle-wage jobs are being squeezed out in the process, says a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

According to CCPA economist Kylie Thiessen, middle-skilled jobs are disappearing and are being replaced by both high-skilled and low-skilled jobs.

“More Ontarians are earning either below $30,000 per year or above $60,000 compared to 2000, while the share of workers earning between $30,000 and $60,000 (in 2011 constant dollars) has shrunk from 31 per cent in 2000 to 26.5 per cent in 2011,” the report said.

Some of that has to do with the rapid erosion of manufacturing jobs, the report argues.

“At the turn of the century, manufacturing jobs made up more than 18 per cent of Ontario’s labour market. By the end of 2013, after shedding 290,000 jobs over 13 years, the manufacturing sector represented only 11 per cent of the jobs in Ontario.”

The big shift to part-time and temp work began long before the recession of 2008-09, the report notes, with those types of jobs outgrowing full-time jobs since the start of the century.

Service jobs and construction jobs — the product of Ontario’s ongoing housing boom — have picked up the slack from manufacturing.

The report notes “a dramatic increase in service-related jobs and precarious work,” with service jobs now accounting for 79 per cent of all jobs up from 73 per cent in 2000. In all, one million service jobs have been created in Ontario since the start of the century.

But the province still hasn’t fully recovered from the recession. Because of population growth, Ontario would need another 270,000 jobs to get back to employment levels seen in 2008, before the recession.

ccpa employment rate

Ontarians are spending more time unemployed when they lose their jobs. The average duration of unemployment is now at 22 weeks, a 50-per-cent increase since 2009, the report says. Only Quebec has longer unemployment duration.

The province’s ongoing housing boom has picked up some of the slack from disappearing manufacturing jobs, with some 140,000 new construction jobs created since 2000.

But about 55 per cent of those new jobs are in Toronto alone, highlighting the fact that inequality among regions is growing.

While job losses have been spread fairly evenly across the province, job gains have been concentrated in certain areas, such as Toronto, Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo and Barrie, which all saw more than 20-per-cent increases in jobs since 2000. Hamilton-Niagara, London, Windsor-Sarnia and northwestern Ontario have seen net job losses in that time.

The report said that government austerity at both the federal and provincial level has also contributed to lacklustre job growth in recent years.

ccpa unemployment

Ontario’s Job Market Squeezing Out Middle Earners: Report

Ontario’s Job Market Squeezing Out Middle Earners: Report.

The Huffintgon Post Canada  |  Posted: 03/16/2014 1:11 pm EDT  |  Updated: 03/16/2014 1:59 pm EDT

ontario jobs

Ontario’s job market is shifting away from full-time, permanent work and towards part-time and temporary work, and middle-wage jobs are being squeezed out in the process, says a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

According to CCPA economist Kylie Thiessen, middle-skilled jobs are disappearing and are being replaced by both high-skilled and low-skilled jobs.

“More Ontarians are earning either below $30,000 per year or above $60,000 compared to 2000, while the share of workers earning between $30,000 and $60,000 (in 2011 constant dollars) has shrunk from 31 per cent in 2000 to 26.5 per cent in 2011,” the report said.

Some of that has to do with the rapid erosion of manufacturing jobs, the report argues.

“At the turn of the century, manufacturing jobs made up more than 18 per cent of Ontario’s labour market. By the end of 2013, after shedding 290,000 jobs over 13 years, the manufacturing sector represented only 11 per cent of the jobs in Ontario.”

The big shift to part-time and temp work began long before the recession of 2008-09, the report notes, with those types of jobs outgrowing full-time jobs since the start of the century.

Service jobs and construction jobs — the product of Ontario’s ongoing housing boom — have picked up the slack from manufacturing.

The report notes “a dramatic increase in service-related jobs and precarious work,” with service jobs now accounting for 79 per cent of all jobs up from 73 per cent in 2000. In all, one million service jobs have been created in Ontario since the start of the century.

But the province still hasn’t fully recovered from the recession. Because of population growth, Ontario would need another 270,000 jobs to get back to employment levels seen in 2008, before the recession.

ccpa employment rate

Ontarians are spending more time unemployed when they lose their jobs. The average duration of unemployment is now at 22 weeks, a 50-per-cent increase since 2009, the report says. Only Quebec has longer unemployment duration.

The province’s ongoing housing boom has picked up some of the slack from disappearing manufacturing jobs, with some 140,000 new construction jobs created since 2000.

But about 55 per cent of those new jobs are in Toronto alone, highlighting the fact that inequality among regions is growing.

While job losses have been spread fairly evenly across the province, job gains have been concentrated in certain areas, such as Toronto, Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo and Barrie, which all saw more than 20-per-cent increases in jobs since 2000. Hamilton-Niagara, London, Windsor-Sarnia and northwestern Ontario have seen net job losses in that time.

The report said that government austerity at both the federal and provincial level has also contributed to lacklustre job growth in recent years.

ccpa unemployment

Corporate Tax Avoidance ‘Scheme’ Hurting Canada, Expert Says

Corporate Tax Avoidance ‘Scheme’ Hurting Canada, Expert Says.

 

offshore tax havens

As Canadians dutifully file personal income tax returns during the coming weeks, consider this: many profitable companies pay little or no tax.

In an interview this week on The Sunday Edition, Dennis Howlett, executive director of Canadians for Tax Fairness, says these multinational corporations set up subsidiaries in tax havens such as Ireland, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands and devise ways to transfer profits there from Canada. There are no laws to prevent this.

“There’s been a proliferation of tax havens,” Howlett explains to host Michael Enright. “Now, a quarter of all direct Canadian foreign investment going abroad is going to tax haven countries. That’s about $170 billion sitting in tax havens, so it’s become a huge problem.”

An additional concern for Howlett’s organization is Canada’s low corporate tax rate, which the Conservative government established with no guarantee or requirement from corporations that they spend it on job creation or other benefits to the country.

Currently, the rate is about 25 or 26 per cent, depending on the province. It’s so low that Howlett has actually heard complaints from the U.S.

“I was in Washington a year or so ago when I met with some of the congressional staff there, who were complaining about Canada becoming a tax haven,” he says, “because our corporate tax rates are now 10 points below the U.S.”

Culture of ‘secrecy’

He reveals that according to Bloomberg LP, few multinationals even pay that low rate. Of the TSX 60 – the top 60 companies trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange – only four paid 25 per cent tax or more between 2007 and 2011.

Thirteen per cent of these corporations paid less than 5 per cent in taxes and more than half paid less than 10 per cent. Much of this tax evasion is done secretly.

“The secrecy allows people to open shell companies or trust accounts where they don’t have to identify who the ultimate beneficial owner is,” Howlett explains. “So an account can be opened up in the name of a local lawyer or some other person who acts as an intermediary. That way they can hide the fact that they’ve got money sitting in an account and it’s very hard for the Canadian Revenue Agency to figure out who’s got money hiding in Barbados or Cayman Islands or wherever it is.”

He adds that severe cuts at Revenue Canada – more than 3,000 public servants, more than any other government department – have hampered the government’s ability to investigate cases of corporate tax avoidance: “The problem is unless there is some credible threat of being caught, more and more people get into this tax-haven, tax-avoidance scheme.”

He says the situation has become so serious that some corporations are trying to “put the brakes on” tax cuts, as they witness the effects on critical areas of the Canadian economy, such as education, health care and infrastructure.

Global efforts are underway for reform. The G8 and G20 summits asked the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to devise a new international corporate tax system.

“Ultimately, I think we need a unitary taxation system where multinational corporations have to report their global profits, and the profits should be taxed where the economic activities occur and the value is created,” Howlett says. “If the corporations aren’t paying their fair share, ordinary taxpayers are shouldering more of the tax responsibility.”

Corporate Tax Avoidance 'Scheme' Hurting Canada, Expert Says

Corporate Tax Avoidance ‘Scheme’ Hurting Canada, Expert Says.

 

offshore tax havens

As Canadians dutifully file personal income tax returns during the coming weeks, consider this: many profitable companies pay little or no tax.

In an interview this week on The Sunday Edition, Dennis Howlett, executive director of Canadians for Tax Fairness, says these multinational corporations set up subsidiaries in tax havens such as Ireland, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands and devise ways to transfer profits there from Canada. There are no laws to prevent this.

“There’s been a proliferation of tax havens,” Howlett explains to host Michael Enright. “Now, a quarter of all direct Canadian foreign investment going abroad is going to tax haven countries. That’s about $170 billion sitting in tax havens, so it’s become a huge problem.”

An additional concern for Howlett’s organization is Canada’s low corporate tax rate, which the Conservative government established with no guarantee or requirement from corporations that they spend it on job creation or other benefits to the country.

Currently, the rate is about 25 or 26 per cent, depending on the province. It’s so low that Howlett has actually heard complaints from the U.S.

“I was in Washington a year or so ago when I met with some of the congressional staff there, who were complaining about Canada becoming a tax haven,” he says, “because our corporate tax rates are now 10 points below the U.S.”

Culture of ‘secrecy’

He reveals that according to Bloomberg LP, few multinationals even pay that low rate. Of the TSX 60 – the top 60 companies trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange – only four paid 25 per cent tax or more between 2007 and 2011.

Thirteen per cent of these corporations paid less than 5 per cent in taxes and more than half paid less than 10 per cent. Much of this tax evasion is done secretly.

“The secrecy allows people to open shell companies or trust accounts where they don’t have to identify who the ultimate beneficial owner is,” Howlett explains. “So an account can be opened up in the name of a local lawyer or some other person who acts as an intermediary. That way they can hide the fact that they’ve got money sitting in an account and it’s very hard for the Canadian Revenue Agency to figure out who’s got money hiding in Barbados or Cayman Islands or wherever it is.”

He adds that severe cuts at Revenue Canada – more than 3,000 public servants, more than any other government department – have hampered the government’s ability to investigate cases of corporate tax avoidance: “The problem is unless there is some credible threat of being caught, more and more people get into this tax-haven, tax-avoidance scheme.”

He says the situation has become so serious that some corporations are trying to “put the brakes on” tax cuts, as they witness the effects on critical areas of the Canadian economy, such as education, health care and infrastructure.

Global efforts are underway for reform. The G8 and G20 summits asked the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to devise a new international corporate tax system.

“Ultimately, I think we need a unitary taxation system where multinational corporations have to report their global profits, and the profits should be taxed where the economic activities occur and the value is created,” Howlett says. “If the corporations aren’t paying their fair share, ordinary taxpayers are shouldering more of the tax responsibility.”

Are We Fully Understanding the Consequences of Oil Transit Accidents? | Nick Martyn

Are We Fully Understanding the Consequences of Oil Transit Accidents? | Nick Martyn.

Recent events in Canada’s rail transport network have prompted a much-needed national debate about the risks of energy transport and rail safety. No matter our personal stance regarding climate change, we all live in an oil dependant society and until we find another way to power the global economy and our civil society, oil and gas will have to move from where it is found to where it is used. In Canada that largely means it will move either via pipeline or rail. But when a pipeline leaks or oil tankers derail, the risks of oil transit are thrown into stark relief; especially for the residents of communities in the immediate vicinity and the ecosystems affected.

Broadly speaking, risk is thought of as the “possibility of loss.” It is generally viewed as the combination of the likelihood of loss and the consequences of that loss. Likelihood, otherwise known as the “probability of occurrence”, is the foundation of actuarial science; which underpins the insurance industry. Probability suggests that if historical trends continue and the future cooperates with the past, then the likelihood of something occurring can be calculated to a sufficient degree that insurance against the event could be issued with a reasonable chance that it would not have to be paid. In essence a bet is laid against the event. If the event occurs then the insurer has to pay out. If it does not then the insurer makes money.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada declared 2013 the worst year on record for insurance related payouts, meaning that insurers will pay out a lot of money because the future did not cooperate with the past and the unlikely happened. The object lesson here is that while likelihood is interesting, consequences are costly.

As we seek export markets for Canadian energy products, so the volume of those products in transit increases. Eric Sprott, the renowned Canadian resource investor notes in his January 27, 2014 newsletter that by the end of 2013 Canada’s rail industry was shipping 375,000 barrels of oil per day and that figure is expected to each 900,000 barrels per day by the end of 2014. As for a pipeline, Sprott believes the Energy East pipeline will get the go-ahead and will increase Canada’s export capacity by 800,000 barrels. Since Canada has not added significantly to its pipeline infrastructure in decades, there is little choice but to ship it via the rail network, which coincidentally has not been significantly increased in decades. When both the nature and the volume of rail traffic increases on a network that has not appreciably increased in size or capability the “likelihood” of failure events also increases, as do the consequences.

To date consequence has been considered somewhat subjective and therefore less quantifiable than likelihood, partly because each stakeholder sees consequence differently. For instance the Mayor of a community thinks of the consequence of a train derailment and spill in the community in a much different way than the CEO of the rail company or the owner of the shipment. The cold hard reality is that no matter how small the statistical likelihood that derailments will happen, the consequences when derailments happen are significant. As events increase in frequency and it seems severity, it is clearly time to rethink our evaluation of risk in rail transport.

While the probability that a train-load of inappropriately classified oil products would careen down a hill in rural Quebec and explode, killing 47 people and contaminating a fragile lake ecosystem was so infinitesimally small as to be almost incalculable, the consequences were devastating and will be felt for generations. The policies that drive rail system regulation (or any system for that matter) are driven by the likelihood of a failure not the consequences. In part this is because it is difficult to foresee every event and frame a regulation to prevent it, but also because the risk analysis techniques to quantify consequence in a useful way, to date, have not existed.

Risk analysis techniques have improved markedly in recent years, to the point that networked risk analysis tools can fathom the pathways of exposure to risk in models containing thousands of entities. Given the complexity and importance of the energy transport question in Canada and the severe and sometimes tragic consequences of failure, it seems time to revisit the question of energy transport risk with modern tools so that no matter which side of the energy debate we stand on, we have a safer, cleaner Canada to live in and to pass on to our children.

Are We Fully Understanding the Consequences of Oil Transit Accidents? | Nick Martyn

Are We Fully Understanding the Consequences of Oil Transit Accidents? | Nick Martyn.

Recent events in Canada’s rail transport network have prompted a much-needed national debate about the risks of energy transport and rail safety. No matter our personal stance regarding climate change, we all live in an oil dependant society and until we find another way to power the global economy and our civil society, oil and gas will have to move from where it is found to where it is used. In Canada that largely means it will move either via pipeline or rail. But when a pipeline leaks or oil tankers derail, the risks of oil transit are thrown into stark relief; especially for the residents of communities in the immediate vicinity and the ecosystems affected.

Broadly speaking, risk is thought of as the “possibility of loss.” It is generally viewed as the combination of the likelihood of loss and the consequences of that loss. Likelihood, otherwise known as the “probability of occurrence”, is the foundation of actuarial science; which underpins the insurance industry. Probability suggests that if historical trends continue and the future cooperates with the past, then the likelihood of something occurring can be calculated to a sufficient degree that insurance against the event could be issued with a reasonable chance that it would not have to be paid. In essence a bet is laid against the event. If the event occurs then the insurer has to pay out. If it does not then the insurer makes money.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada declared 2013 the worst year on record for insurance related payouts, meaning that insurers will pay out a lot of money because the future did not cooperate with the past and the unlikely happened. The object lesson here is that while likelihood is interesting, consequences are costly.

As we seek export markets for Canadian energy products, so the volume of those products in transit increases. Eric Sprott, the renowned Canadian resource investor notes in his January 27, 2014 newsletter that by the end of 2013 Canada’s rail industry was shipping 375,000 barrels of oil per day and that figure is expected to each 900,000 barrels per day by the end of 2014. As for a pipeline, Sprott believes the Energy East pipeline will get the go-ahead and will increase Canada’s export capacity by 800,000 barrels. Since Canada has not added significantly to its pipeline infrastructure in decades, there is little choice but to ship it via the rail network, which coincidentally has not been significantly increased in decades. When both the nature and the volume of rail traffic increases on a network that has not appreciably increased in size or capability the “likelihood” of failure events also increases, as do the consequences.

To date consequence has been considered somewhat subjective and therefore less quantifiable than likelihood, partly because each stakeholder sees consequence differently. For instance the Mayor of a community thinks of the consequence of a train derailment and spill in the community in a much different way than the CEO of the rail company or the owner of the shipment. The cold hard reality is that no matter how small the statistical likelihood that derailments will happen, the consequences when derailments happen are significant. As events increase in frequency and it seems severity, it is clearly time to rethink our evaluation of risk in rail transport.

While the probability that a train-load of inappropriately classified oil products would careen down a hill in rural Quebec and explode, killing 47 people and contaminating a fragile lake ecosystem was so infinitesimally small as to be almost incalculable, the consequences were devastating and will be felt for generations. The policies that drive rail system regulation (or any system for that matter) are driven by the likelihood of a failure not the consequences. In part this is because it is difficult to foresee every event and frame a regulation to prevent it, but also because the risk analysis techniques to quantify consequence in a useful way, to date, have not existed.

Risk analysis techniques have improved markedly in recent years, to the point that networked risk analysis tools can fathom the pathways of exposure to risk in models containing thousands of entities. Given the complexity and importance of the energy transport question in Canada and the severe and sometimes tragic consequences of failure, it seems time to revisit the question of energy transport risk with modern tools so that no matter which side of the energy debate we stand on, we have a safer, cleaner Canada to live in and to pass on to our children.

It Wouldn't Be Canada Without Quebec | Cynthia Reyes

It Wouldn’t Be Canada Without Quebec | Cynthia Reyes.

If you’re not Canadian — and even if you are — you might wonder why some people are fretting about the potential break-up of our country — yet again.

You may be surprised to learn that some of the Canadians most concerned about this are immigrants. People like me.

I came here in the 1970’s. Went to university, launched an award-winning career, married a great guy, bought our first house and raised our children together — here, in Canada. I’ve worked in every province, and the Northwest Territories, of Canada. I have relatives and friends here.

Canada is home.

Most of the places and people I write about in my book, A Good Home, are right here in Canada.

Even now, when the winter has finally driven me crazy and I’ve been making up silly poems beginning with lines such as: “No ifs, ands or buts, This winter has driven me nuts…” Even now, I love this country. It’s not where I was born, but it’s where I will be buried.

My love affair with Canada ignited, not in Ontario, where I landed, but in the history of French Canada — particularly Quebec. I experienced it only in the books I studied at university. I’d never even been to Quebec.

“New France”, the French called their new outpost. Settled in the 1600′s by French soldiers, priests, woodcutters — and the destitute orphans, peasants and street women who came to the new colony to marry them (except for the priests!) and populate the colony.

In 1759-60, British forces defeated the French, formally taking over New France in 1763. But even in the 1980′s – when I worked as a journalist and producer for Canada’s public broadcaster — Quebec’s early history, and that historic loss, seemed present.

“Je me souviens”, Quebec license plates read, starting in 1978. “I remember.”

Fast-forward several years, and I’m now an executive producer/ head of journalism training for the CBC. On the international front, I’m also Secretary General of INPUT, a public television organization based in Italy and Canada.

Back home in Canada, the province of Quebec was threatening to separate from Canada. But it was in Italy — while having supper in a Florence restaurant with an international group of TV luminaries — that I was confronted with the real likelihood of it.

My favorite person at the table was Helene, a passionate and outspoken producer from Quebec.

An Irish colleague asked Helene: “Would Quebec really separate from Canada?”

Helene didn’t miss a beat. “We have to go,” she said.

Helene was my closest friend in INPUT. But realizing her dream of a new country meant tearing my country apart. I, who had felt the pain of the conquered Quebecois, was now solidly on the other side of this fight.

“My Canada includes Quebec,” I said, reduced by shock to talking in slogans. “I don’t want you to go.”

“I know, Cynthia,” she said, pronouncing my name Cyn-te-ah. “I’m really sorry. But we have to go.” The words flew from her mouth like bullets to my heart.

My Canada included Quebec. It also included the Aboriginal peoples, the original inhabitants of Quebec. They, too, had suffered historical losses. My Canada included English Canada and French Canada and the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.

On October 30, 1995, I was in downtown Montreal, where many of the shopkeepers are immigrants. Rue Ste Catherine; St. Dennis: I wandered these streets and others whose names I was too upset to notice. It was Referendum Day. Quebeckers were voting. By day’s end, Canadians would know if we were still a country.

The streets were almost deserted that day, the shopkeepers downcast. It was as if the mourning for Canada had already begun.

Surprisingly, the separatists were defeated. Narrowly. Some blamed Quebec’s immigrants for the loss. They’d voted overwhelmingly against separation.

I imagined Helene’s grief, her dream denied. But for the first time since I’d met her, I didn’t know how to console her. Because Canada, my adopted home, would stay together. At least for now.

There is separatist talk again in Quebec. And it scares me. Again.

It Wouldn’t Be Canada Without Quebec | Cynthia Reyes

It Wouldn’t Be Canada Without Quebec | Cynthia Reyes.

If you’re not Canadian — and even if you are — you might wonder why some people are fretting about the potential break-up of our country — yet again.

You may be surprised to learn that some of the Canadians most concerned about this are immigrants. People like me.

I came here in the 1970’s. Went to university, launched an award-winning career, married a great guy, bought our first house and raised our children together — here, in Canada. I’ve worked in every province, and the Northwest Territories, of Canada. I have relatives and friends here.

Canada is home.

Most of the places and people I write about in my book, A Good Home, are right here in Canada.

Even now, when the winter has finally driven me crazy and I’ve been making up silly poems beginning with lines such as: “No ifs, ands or buts, This winter has driven me nuts…” Even now, I love this country. It’s not where I was born, but it’s where I will be buried.

My love affair with Canada ignited, not in Ontario, where I landed, but in the history of French Canada — particularly Quebec. I experienced it only in the books I studied at university. I’d never even been to Quebec.

“New France”, the French called their new outpost. Settled in the 1600′s by French soldiers, priests, woodcutters — and the destitute orphans, peasants and street women who came to the new colony to marry them (except for the priests!) and populate the colony.

In 1759-60, British forces defeated the French, formally taking over New France in 1763. But even in the 1980′s – when I worked as a journalist and producer for Canada’s public broadcaster — Quebec’s early history, and that historic loss, seemed present.

“Je me souviens”, Quebec license plates read, starting in 1978. “I remember.”

Fast-forward several years, and I’m now an executive producer/ head of journalism training for the CBC. On the international front, I’m also Secretary General of INPUT, a public television organization based in Italy and Canada.

Back home in Canada, the province of Quebec was threatening to separate from Canada. But it was in Italy — while having supper in a Florence restaurant with an international group of TV luminaries — that I was confronted with the real likelihood of it.

My favorite person at the table was Helene, a passionate and outspoken producer from Quebec.

An Irish colleague asked Helene: “Would Quebec really separate from Canada?”

Helene didn’t miss a beat. “We have to go,” she said.

Helene was my closest friend in INPUT. But realizing her dream of a new country meant tearing my country apart. I, who had felt the pain of the conquered Quebecois, was now solidly on the other side of this fight.

“My Canada includes Quebec,” I said, reduced by shock to talking in slogans. “I don’t want you to go.”

“I know, Cynthia,” she said, pronouncing my name Cyn-te-ah. “I’m really sorry. But we have to go.” The words flew from her mouth like bullets to my heart.

My Canada included Quebec. It also included the Aboriginal peoples, the original inhabitants of Quebec. They, too, had suffered historical losses. My Canada included English Canada and French Canada and the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.

On October 30, 1995, I was in downtown Montreal, where many of the shopkeepers are immigrants. Rue Ste Catherine; St. Dennis: I wandered these streets and others whose names I was too upset to notice. It was Referendum Day. Quebeckers were voting. By day’s end, Canadians would know if we were still a country.

The streets were almost deserted that day, the shopkeepers downcast. It was as if the mourning for Canada had already begun.

Surprisingly, the separatists were defeated. Narrowly. Some blamed Quebec’s immigrants for the loss. They’d voted overwhelmingly against separation.

I imagined Helene’s grief, her dream denied. But for the first time since I’d met her, I didn’t know how to console her. Because Canada, my adopted home, would stay together. At least for now.

There is separatist talk again in Quebec. And it scares me. Again.

RBC Among 16 Banks Sued By U.S. Over Rigging Of Key Interest Rate

RBC Among 16 Banks Sued By U.S. Over Rigging Of Key Interest Rate.

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is suing 16 big banks, including the Royal Bank of Canada (TSX:RY), for alleged rigging of a key global interest rate.

The FDIC accuses them of fraud and conspiring to keep the rate low to enrich themselves.

The banks, which also include Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase in the U.S., are among the world’s largest.

The FDIC says it is seeking to recover losses suffered from the rate manipulation by 10 U.S. banks that failed during the financial crisis and were taken over by the agency.

The civil lawsuit was filed Friday in federal court in Manhattan.

The banks rigged the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, from August 2007 to at least mid-2011, the FDIC alleged. The Libor affects trillions of dollars in contracts around the world, including mortgages, bonds and consumer loans.

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