Slowdown in economic growth expected for most of Ontario in 2018

Apart from Greater Sudbury and St. Catharines-Niagara, Ontario’s medium-sized metropolitan areas can expect economic growth to moderate this year, according to The Conference Board of Canada’s latest Metropolitan OutlookStill, Oshawa and Guelph are expected to boast the fastest growing economies among the 16 cities covered in the report, with growth of 2.6 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively.

“In most Ontario metropolitan areas, economic growth is slowing in line with the national economy. Rising interest rates, newly implemented tariffs on Canadian exports, and stricter mortgage rules are limiting growth across a number of sectors,” said Alan Arcand, Associate Director, Centre for Municipal Studies, The Conference Board of Canada. “In fact, most Ontario cities covered in this report can expect to see their economies expand by less than 2 per cent this year.”

Highlights

  • Oshawa and Guelph are expected to boast the fastest growing economies this year among the 15 Canadian cities covered in the report.
  • Most of Ontario’s medium-sized cities will see real GDP growth come in under 2 per cent this year.
  • Rising interest rates, newly implemented tariffs on Canadian exports, and tougher mortgage rules are limiting growth across a number of sectors.

Oshawa’s economy is forecast to cool slightly with real GDP advancing 2.6 per cent in 2018, following 3.2 per cent gains in the last two years. Robust non-residential construction, together with output strength in wholesale trade, education, health care, and finance, insurance, and real estate will more than offset the fourth annual contraction in manufacturing this year.

Guelph is poised to see continued, albeit moderating, economic growth of 2.3 per cent in 2018, after a 3.1 per cent gain last year. The city’s manufacturing sector will continue to benefit from a below par Canadian dollar and solid demand from the United StatesGuelph’s trade sector saw an impressive 7.3 per cent output gain in 2017, but a more sustainable 2.7 per cent expansion is in the cards this year.

Windsor’s economic growth exceeded 3.0 per cent in every year between 2014 and 2017. But that streak is expected to end this year. Local economic growth is slowing in tandem with U.S. light vehicle sales and is expected to reach 2.0 per cent in 2018. Higher interest rates and tougher mortgage rules are also putting a damper on the metro area’s previously hot housing market.

After posting a strong gain of 3.0 per cent last yearKingston’s economic growth will moderate to 1.9 per cent in 2018. The public sector—the city’s biggest economic driver—is forecast to experience cooler growth over the near term. The slowdown will not be confined to public sector, as wholesale and retail trade, construction, and manufacturing are also expected to see growth decelerate.

London’s real GDP is set to rise 1.9 per cent in 2018 furthering a string of economic gains going back to the end of the 2009 recession. While overall services growth is set to ease this year, two key industries in London—education and health care—are set to post solid advances of 2.1 per cent and 3.1 per cent, respectively. At the same time, although retail trade output growth is on track to decelerate sharply, this year’s projected gain of 2.3 per cent is consistent with the industry’s historical average annual growth.

KitchenerCambridgeWaterloo’s economy is poised to expand by 1.6 per cent in 2018. The area’s economy remains diverse and broad-based, but strength in manufacturing and the services sector will lead the charge. The finance, insurance and real estate industry has slowed due to housing market cooling measures and growth hit a post-recession low of 1.3 per cent last year. Transactions are expected to edge higher later in the year and the industry should see a slight rebound in output growth at 1.9 per cent.

The Greater Sudbury economy will continue its recovery and expand by 1.2 per cent this year, on the heels of a 0.5 per cent increase in 2017. A decent outlook for nickel is fostering hope for the primary and utilities sector which is set to expand 1.6 per cent in 2018 following four straight annual contractions.

Another year of moderate economic expansion is in store for Thunder Bay, with real GDP slated to slow slightly to 1.2 per cent from 1.3 per cent last year. Manufacturing output growth continues to inch higher this year, mirroring last year’s advance. Meanwhile, a weakening housing market is expected to be partly responsible for limiting growth on the services side of the economy this year.

St. Catharine’s-Niagara’s economy will continue to grow at a moderate but steady pace over the next two years, with real GDP forecast to expand by 1.2 per cent in 2018 and 1.4 per cent in 2019. Decent non-residential activity will offset declining new home construction, allowing the overall construction sector to grow at a healthy rate this year.

SOURCE Conference Board of Canada

For further information: Yvonne Squires, Media Relations, The Conference Board of Canada, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 221, E-mail: corpcomm@conferenceboard.ca; or Juline Ranger, Director of Communications, The Conference Board of Canada, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 431, E-mail: corpcomm@conferenceboard.ca

Related Links

http://www.conferenceboard.ca

Canada’s Newest Bank – Haventree Bank

Equity Financial Trust continues operations as a federally regulated Schedule 1 Bank and is changing its name to Haventree Bank. The name Haventree Bank represents a distinct new positioning in the Canadian lending market where customers can plan their financial future with confidence.

“Over the last twelve months, we have invested in research to identify not just how others saw us but how we saw our future selves,” said Michael Jones, President and CEO of Haventree Bank. “Focus groups were conducted with our brokers, borrowers and employees. The product of that exercise has led us on a new strategic path that begins with the rebranding of our company.”

“Operating as a bank will provide us with a significant competitive advantage. Haventree Bank will continue to innovate new products and deliver a digital presence to clearly identify our company to its customers, the deposit broker channel and the mortgage brokerage community.”

Haventree Bank continues to be a member of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (“CDIC”).

About Haventree Bank

Haventree Bank is a federally regulated Schedule 1 Bank that provides residential mortgage solutions and GIC investment options. Haventree Bank originates mortgages through the mortgage broker channel and is a member of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (“CDIC”). Our goal is to become Canada’s alternative mortgage lender of choice. We truly believe our current and future success is based on one factor – our people.

SOURCE Haventree Bank

Hart Real Estate Academy Fills Void Left by OREA College

The Hart Real Estate Academy has officially launched with the mandate of helping new and existing real estate professionals satisfy their educational and professional requirements, thereby raising the bar in Ontario.

The academy will provide interactive in-class sessions both face-to-face and online as REALTORS® learn the business and partake in pre-registration and articling courses, ensuring a higher calibre of graduate.

Effective, July 1st, 2018, The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) is no longer offering in-class learning sessions for many of its registrant and articling courses through OREA Real Estate College. Students will only be able to take these courses via correspondence or online self-study, with no interactive instructor and peer component.

Surina Hart, Gino Schincariol and Lorne Andrews, certified real estate instructors and industry professionals, spearheaded Hart Real Estate Academy in response to OREA’s decision to ensure class sessions are available for students who prefer to learn in an interactive live or online setting.

“Hart Real Estate Academy classes are designed to provide students with useful content to ensure that the material is not only covered to enable a passing grade on the exam, but also to provide practical information to enhance participants’ real estate skills,” Andrews explains.

“We’re educators who are making a difference in the lives of real estate sales professionals, brokerages, buyers and sellers,” says Hart. “We believe in helping students acquire the knowledge, skills and resources they need for the future, now – so they save money and time – and, most important, are well equipped to overcome the challenges often presented within the earlier months of their careers.”

Classes offered by Hart Real Estate Academy are facilitated by certified real estate instructors and industry professionals, with the face-to-face sessions being held at York University’s Aviva Tennis Centre.

“There has been a lot of discussion in the real estate industry about the need for increased educational requirements and more practical training to effectively raise the professional bar in our industry, and I believe that the Hart Academy has timed its entry into the market perfectly,” states Don Kottick, Past President of the Real Estate Institute of Canada (REIC) and a Director with the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). “I’m confident that graduates of the Hart Academy will enter the market better equipped for success and work to a higher standard of professionalism – just what the industry needs.”

For more information, please contact:

Hart Real Estate Academy
1-877-404-8307 | info@hartrealestateacademy.com

www.hartrealestateacademy.com
www.facebook.com/hartrealestateacademy

Credit Rebound Observed in Canadian Oil Regions

Spurred by improved economic conditions and the continued recovery in oil prices, TransUnion’s latest Canada Industry Insights Report found that oil producing regions such as Alberta and Saskatchewan are beginning to experience improvement in their respective consumer credit markets.

Improving credit performance in these provinces comes nearly four years after the start of rapid oil price declines at the end of 2014. Lower oil prices negatively impacted the local economies heavily tied to the energy industry. In the summer of 2015, TransUnion published a report that projected credit product delinquencies in these regions to deteriorate at a faster rate than the rest of the country as a result.

Delinquencies did, in fact, rise in both Alberta and Saskatchewan. However, Q1 2018 may be a turning point. The first significant annual decline was observed during the first quarter of the year since 2015. TransUnion found that serious consumer delinquency rates (90 or more days past due) dropped by 15 basis points in Alberta and 39 basis points in Saskatchewan.

Signs of Recovery: Delinquency Rates Declining in Oil Provinces

Consumer 90+ Day
Delinquency Rates
CanadaAlbertaSaskatchewan
Q1 20185.43%6.50%6.54%
Q1 20175.71%6.65%6.93%
Q1 20165.70%6.39%6.53%
Q1 20155.79%6.15%6.26%

“We may be seeing the beginning of the consumer rebound in the oil producing regions out west.  Economic conditions have been improving for a few quarters, as employment improves across the country,” said Matt Fabian, director of research and analysis for TransUnion Canada. “This is particularly good news for consumers in Alberta and Saskatchewan, as they were most negatively impacted by the oil crash from a few years ago.”

Oil prices reached $100 in Q1 2014 (WTI Crude price in U.S. dollars, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration) before declining to $48 in Q1 2015 and even further to $35 in Q1 2016.  However, oil prices are back on an upswing and reached $63 as of Q1 2018. At the same time, unemployment levels in both Alberta and Saskatchewan have improved over the last few years. Alberta’s unemployment rate continued a strong downward trend to 6.3% in Q1 2018 from 7.9% in Q1 2017, while Saskatchewan dipped slightly during that same timeframe – from 6.0% to 5.8% (Statistics Canada, CANSIM, tables 282-0002 and 282-0022).

TransUnion also found that consumers in these regions also are limiting their debt exposure. Average non-mortgage debt balance per consumer in Alberta and Saskatchewan grew below the national average in Q1 2018 from the previous year, at 1.9% and 2.5% respectively. The national average rose 4.5% in that same timeframe to $29,181. “In times of crisis, we often see debt balances on products such as credit cards rise at greater rates, as consumers use credit increasingly to make ends meet. It is therefore a positive sign to see to see the use of credit in the oil provinces actually grow more slowly than the country overall rate,” said Fabian.

Debt Levels Rising, But Slowing in the Oil Patch

Average Non-Mortgage
Debt Balances Per
Consumer
CanadaAlbertaSaskatchewan
Q1 2018$29,181$37,075$31,453
Q1 2017$27,923$36,358$30,688
Q1 2016$27,047$35,824$30,079
Q1 2015$26,192$35,261$29,200
Q1 2014$25,730$35,340$28,709


Mortgage Market Resetting

Despite new mortgage qualifying rules that came into effect in January 2018, TransUnion observed a slowing in origination volumes in Q4 2017. Originations are viewed one quarter in arrears to account for reporting lag. Between Q4 2017 and Q4 2018, mortgage origination volumes were down by 8.8%.

“We observed a slowdown in originations everywhere except in British Columbia, while balances continued to grow nationwide,” said Fabian. “This dynamic begs a few questions. Are consumers taking a wait and see approach to the new qualifying rules that came into effect? Are they pausing to measure the effect on home prices?  One might have thought that consumers would rush to purchase homes before the new rules come into force to ensure they qualified for the highest loan amounts, but they don’t appear to have done that. TransUnion will be monitoring the mortgage market closely in the coming quarters to assess the impact of the new rules.”

The average new mortgage originated in Canada in Q4 2017 was $284K, up 3.5% from the previous year.

TransUnion’s most recent report also found some interesting mortgage origination trends from a life stage perspective. Specifically, mortgage balances for the Pre-war/Silent generation grew at 7.8%, while balances for mortgages issued to Millennials fell 19.5%.  “This dichotomy might suggest two very different phenomena—the older generation may be leveraging the equity in their homes for miscellaneous financing purposes, while Millennials may find themselves unable to afford more expensive housing, and hence are opting for lower-value homes,” added Fabian.

Serious mortgage delinquencies (60+ DPD) continue to remain low and stable, with minimal volatility over the past two years.  Unit-level serious delinquency was 0.5%, a decrease of seven basis points between Q1 2018 and Q1 2017.  Balance-level mortgage delinquency concluded Q1 2018 at 0.2%, which is five basis points lower than the previous year.  “With the recent increase in interest rates, we will continue to observe these trends, but generally do not expect a material impact on mortgages,” said Fabian.

Steady Open to 2018

The first quarter of 2018 was highlighted by continued solid performance by Canadians in most parts of the country. The number of consumers with access to credit increased by 1.2% on an annual basis to close Q1 2018 at 28.6 million. The 90+ DPD average consumer delinquency rate also dropped on an annual basis by 28 basis points to 5.4% in the same timeframe. Accounts entering collections status also declined by 21% to 0.7 million between Q1 2018 and Q1 2017.

The overall risk tier mix of Canadian consumers in TransUnion’s national consumer credit database improved in Q1 2018, with 68% of consumers considered Prime or better—a 2.2% increase over last year. The Super Prime (i.e., lowest risk) segment grew the most with a 76-basis point increase, while the proportion of subprime (highest risk) consumers in Canada declined by 36 basis points from last year.

“We continue to see strong consumer credit performance over the past year, with apparently limited impact due to the rising interest rate environment. This dynamic is something we will continue to monitor,” concluded Fabian.

Q1 2018 Canadian Consumer Credit Debt/Delinquency Picture

 Average BalanceAnnual
% Change
Serious
Delinquency Rate*
Annual
Basis Point
Change (bps)
Credit Cards$3,970+2.7%3.2%-5
Installment Loans$31,175+10.7%4.1%+14
Auto Loans$20,786+3.5%1.7%-12
Lines of Credit$35,764+1.3%1.1%-11
Mortgage Loans$257,814+4.9%0.5%-8

*Serious delinquency rates are 60 days or more past due for all credit products except for credit cards (90+ DPD)

True North Commercial Real Estate Investment Trust Acquires 5775 Yonge Street Toronto

True North Commercial Real Estate Investment Trust is pleased to announce it has closed the previously announced acquisition of a 274,500 square foot Class “A” LEED Gold office building located at 5775 Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario.

Situated on 1.23 acres of prime real estate in North Toronto, this Class “A” office building fronting Yonge Street, includes a striking façade spanning 18 storeys and has achieved LEED Gold and BOMA Best Level 3 certifications. The Yonge Street Property boasts unparalleled multiple regional transit accessibility, including a direct underground connection to the Finch TTC Station, GO Transit and YRT/VIVA bus terminals. The Yonge Street Property is also easily accessible from the 400 series highways via Yonge Street and Finch Avenue. The Yonge Street Property provides tenants with direct access to numerous amenities including restaurants, retail shopping and a fitness centre.  With an average remaining lease term of 4.3 years, the building is 92.4% occupied, with 74% of its revenue generated by government and credit-rated tenants. The $85.15 million purchase price for the Yonge Street Property was satisfied by: (i) mortgage financing in the amount of approximately $55.0 million, with an interest rate of 3.68% for a five-year term; and (ii) cash on hand.

About the REIT

The REIT is an unincorporated, open-ended real estate investment trust established under the laws of the Province of Ontario. The REIT currently owns and operates a portfolio of 41 commercial properties consisting of approximately 3.3 million square feet in urban and select secondary markets across Canada focusing on long term leases with government and credit-rated tenants.

The REIT is focused on growing its portfolio principally through acquisitions across Canada and such other jurisdictions where opportunities exist. Additional information concerning the REIT is available at www.sedar.com or the REIT’s website at www.truenorthreit.com.

SOURCE True North Commercial Real Estate Investment Trust

Equitable Group Reports First Quarter 2018 Earnings

Equitable Group Inc. reported financial results for the three months ended March 31, 2018 that reflected continued profitable growth of its wholly owned subsidiary, Equitable Bank, and on the basis of that performance increased its common share dividend.

FIRST QUARTER HIGHLIGHTS

  • Net income was $40.2 million, down 7% from $43.4 million in the first quarter of 2017
  • Diluted earnings per share (“EPS”) were $2.34, down 8% from $2.54 in the comparative quarter of last year
  • Return on Shareholders’ Equity (“ROE”) was 14.5% compared to 18.4% in the Q1 2017
  • Mortgages Under Management (“MUM”) were a record $23.8 billion, up 9% from $21.7 billion at March 31, 2017 and 2% up from December 31, 2017
  • Book value per common share was $67.14, up 16% from $57.73 at March 31, 2017

Of note, Equitable took various actions in the second quarter of 2017 to successfully manage through funding market disruptions. The cost of these actions reduced first quarter 2018 earnings by $0.27 per share and ROE by 1.6 percentage points. These actions are discussed in the Company’s 2017 annual Management’s Discussion and Analysis.

DIVIDEND INCREASE AND DECLARATIONS

The Board of Directors today declared a quarterly common share dividend of $0.27 per common share, payable July 5, 2018, to common shareholders of record at the close of business on June 15, 2018.  This represents a 17% increase over dividends declared in May 2017 and a 4% increase over the dividend declared in February 2018. This increase reflects the Board of Director’s belief that the Bank’s capital position is more than sufficient to support future asset growth. The Board also declared a quarterly dividend of $0.396875 per preferred share, payable June 30, 2018, to preferred shareholders of record at the close of business on June 15, 2018.

CEO’s COMMENTARY

“Equitable produced solid first quarter results by leveraging its diversified business model and status as Canada’sChallenger Bank™ to successfully adapt to changing market conditions,” said Andrew Moor, President and Chief Executive Officer. “Mortgage assets, the source of most of our earnings, continued to grow despite challenging market conditions in the Single Family Lending business.  As a planned offset, management deployed more capital into the Commercial Lending business and grew that portfolio by 6% in the quarter.   As well, single family renewal rates increased in response to B-20 and the Bank’s attentive customer service, which helped to support single family portfolio growth in the quarter.   Deposits grew to record levels as the EQ Bank digital platform surpassed 50,000 customers.  Asset growth, in concert with continued low loan losses and tight expense control would have produced record first quarter EPS had it not been for the cost of our 2017 liquidity actions.  The Bank’s continued strong performance and capital position supported our fourth common share dividend increase in the past year, and enabled us to finish the quarter as we started: with a capital position that exceeded all regulatory and internal requirements by a reasonable margin.”

OPERATING HIGHLIGHTS

  • Single Family Lending mortgage principal was $9.5 billion at March 31, 2018, up 16% from $8.2 billion a year ago, aided by higher renewal rates.
  • Commercial Lending mortgage principal was $3.1 billion at March 31, 2018, up $122 million or 4% from Q1 2017, supported by record quarterly origination levels in Q1 2018.
  • Securitization Financing MUM increased 6% to $11.2 billion at March 31, 2018 from $10.5 billion a year ago on higher multi-family volumes.
  • Deposit principal outstanding amounted to $11.9 billion at March 31, 2018, up 19% from $9.9 billion relative to Q1 of last year.

Equitable’s credit metrics reflect the high quality of the mortgage portfolio. Net impaired mortgage assets at March 31, 2018 were 0.13% of total mortgage assets compared to 0.21% at March 31, 2017. The allowance for credit losses represented 0.13% of total mortgage assets at March 31, 2018, in excess of the Bank’s average annual loss rate of 0.04% over the past decade.  This allowance represents the amount that the Bank has reserved on its balance sheet to absorb credit losses. As a result of the adoption of IFRS 9 on January 1, 2018, the allowance for credit losses decreased $8.5 million due to a transitional adjustment.

The Provision for Credit Losses (“PCL”) was $0.8 million or 0.02% of mortgage principal in Q1 2018, which is $0.4 millionor one basis point higher than last quarter but stable compared to Q1 2017.  IFRS 9 is based on an expected loss concept compared to an incurred loss approach under the previous IAS 39 and as such, IFRS 9 incorporates forward-looking economic forecasts. Management’s analysis, based on extensive back testing, suggests that IFRS 9 will not have a material impact on the average PCL over a long-term horizon but may result in greater quarterly volatility.

CAPITAL

Equitable Bank’s Capital Ratios continue to exceed minimum regulatory standards and remain above the levels of most other publicly listed banks. At March 31, 2018, the Bank’s:

  • Common Equity Tier 1 Capital Ratio was 14.7%, surpassing the Basel III minimum of 7.0%, and up from last year’s level of 13.9%
  • Total Capital Ratio was 16.0%, above the regulatory requirement of 10.5%
  • Leverage Ratio was 5.5% and as such the Bank was fully compliant with the target that OSFI sets on a confidential, institution-by-institution basis

STRATEGIC UPDATE

Equitable continues to push forward with key strategic initiatives that are designed to further its status as Canada’sChallenger Bank™ and improve the value of its franchise for shareholders:

  • EQ Bank introduced GICs to its platform, enabling Canadians to access an important savings vehicle straight from any mobile device, further diversifying EQ Bank’s deposits, and lengthening the term of those deposits. EQ BankGICs offer a competitive rate of interest for various terms of up to 5 years.
  • EQ Bank finished the first quarter with $1.7 billion of deposits, 42% or $515 million higher than a year ago, primarily reflecting the growing popularity of the EQ Bank Savings Plus Account and more generally, the convenience, control, and performance provided by an all-digital demand account. This growth complemented a 23% or $1.7 billion year-over-year increase in brokered term deposits (GICs) placed by deposit agents, investment dealers and financial planners on behalf of Canadian savers.
  • Equitable introduced its PATH Home Plan™ offering through mortgage brokers in major urban centres in OntarioBritish Columbia and Alberta. The PATH Home Plan™ reverse mortgage solution provides Canadians over the age of 55 with a cost-effective way to unlock equity in their homes – without downsizing or incurring monthly charges – to fund their preferred retirement lifestyles. While this product will not make a material contribution to asset growth or earnings in 2018, management is pleased with early market receptivity and believes PATH has the potential to create meaningful long-term value.
  • Equitable successfully introduced digital functionality within its Single Family business that provides residential customers with the option of 24/7 self-service, a development that is consistent with the Bank’s objective of providing simple, convenient service in its chosen markets.
  • Equitable’s productive workforce and branchless business model produced an Efficiency Ratio of 37.7% in the first quarter even as the Bank continued to invest in future growth and improve operational effectiveness.

BUSINESS OUTLOOK

Equitable expects that its strategy, including its disciplined approach to capital allocation, will continue to deliver value to shareholders and protect the money that depositors have trusted to the Bank.  Asset quality remains high and the Bank’s diversified business model continues to present meaningful opportunities.  Management expects earnings to continue growing in 2018 but that ROE will be below the Bank’s 5-year average of 17.2% due to the costs associated with successfully navigating through funding market disruptions that affected a subset of financial institutions in 2017. The assumptions used in formulating these expectations can be found in our Management’s Discussion and Analysis available on the Company’s website and on SEDAR.

Canada’s housing market is adjusting to more restrictive B-20 underwriting guidelines implemented on January 1st by Canada’s federally regulated financial institutions,” said Mr. Moor.  “We believe this period of adjustment will last several quarters as home buyers change their behaviours and lenders update their competitive strategies.  We continue to expect our alternative single-family portfolio to grow modestly in 2018 despite dampened demand for new single-family mortgages due to improved mortgage renewal rates and the fact that even at reduced levels, originations should still be higher than our attrition.”

To offset slower portfolio growth in Single Family, Equitable intends to continue deploying more capital into other businesses, including Commercial Lending and reverse mortgages. The diversification of the Bank’s lending book continues to be both a strength and an objective for the future. Equitable has deep expertise and experience in secured lending and believes it can grow Commercial Lending and PATH reverse mortgage assets within its current risk-return appetite. Considering all factors, management believes that year-over-year growth in MUM and balance sheet assets could be in the range of 6% to 8% in 2018, although significant uncertainty remains in this outlook due to unsettled market dynamics.

“As we move forward and as part of our normal planning activities, we will evaluate whether the Bank is carrying the appropriate amount of common equity capital given evolving market opportunities,” said Mr. Moor. “While we are pursuing exciting new Challenger Bank growth avenues – each with opportunities to deploy capital at high ROEs – we will take actions to adjust our equity base if we have more capital than we can use effectively. We will determine the best course of action for shareholder value creation once the true impact of B-20 is clarified. In the meantime, as Canada’s Challenger Bank™, we remain squarely focused on making banking better for Canadians across all of our business lines.”

“In support of our growth initiatives, we plan to continue investing in the Bank’s franchise, adding more features and functionality to our EQ Bank platform, and reinforcing our high-level of customer service, all of which will cause non-interest expenses to increase at year-over-year rates slightly higher than the growth rate of the overall business,” said Tim Wilson, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. “That said, if actual growth in our lending markets is different than anticipated, we will manage our expense levels accordingly. All things considered, we expect our Efficiency Ratio will be in the high 30% range this year, a level that will define Equitable as one of Canada’s most efficient banks.”

PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY STATEMENT

Equitable also announced the release of its first Public Accountability Statement, highlighting the Bank’s commitments as an engaged and accountable community member dedicated to enriching the lives of Canadians. The report contains information on Equitable Bank’s initiatives to develop its workforce, make financial services more accessible across Canada, improve financial literacy, support the arts and minimize its environmental impact.  All Canadian Banks with Shareholders’ Equity of more than $1 billion are required by the Bank Act to issue such reports annually.

“As Canada’s Challenger Bank, we identify with helping Canadians build resilience whether it be on an individual level, or within our shared communities,” said Mr. Moor. “Our first annual Accountability Statement provides a fantastic opportunity to report on what the Bank has accomplished hand-in-hand with our employees and community partners. I’m proud of what our small, but dedicated team has done and excited by all that we have planned to keep growing together in the years ahead.”

A copy of the Public Accountability Statement is available online at www.equitablebank.ca.

ABOUT EQUITABLE GROUP INC.

Equitable Group Inc. is a growing Canadian financial services business that operates through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Equitable Bank. Equitable Bank, Canada’s Challenger Bank™, is the country’s ninth largest independent Schedule I bank and offers a diverse suite of residential lending, commercial lending and savings solutions to Canadians. Through its proven branchless approach and customer service focus, Equitable Bank has grown to over $25 billion of Assets Under Management. EQ Bank, the digital banking arm of Equitable Bank, provides state-of-the-art digital banking services to more than 50,000 Canadians. Equitable Bank employs more than 600 dedicated professionals across the country, and is a 2018 recipient of Canada’s Best Employer Platinum Award, the highest bestowed by AON. For more information about Equitable Bank and its products, please visit equitablebank.ca.

SOURCE Equitable Group Inc.

MBRCC Releases New Guide For Mortgage Licensing

The Mortgage Broker Regulators’ Council of Canada releases guidance on licensing education standards

The Mortgage Broker Regulators’ Council of Canada (MBRCC) has released a new Mortgage Education and Accreditation Standards User Guide (User Guide) to help providers of courses in the mortgage broking industry achieve consistency in licensing education across the country.

The User Guide is an important step in the MBRCC’s efforts to foster a comprehensive accreditation process for mortgage professionals across Canada. It is based on identified learning outcomes and competencies required for all mortgage broking licensing courses across the country.

“Each province establishes the licensing requirements for mortgage brokers within their jurisdiction, including education requirements,” says Cory Peters, Chair of MBRCC.

“The harmonized standards outlined in our User Guide will help ensure licensed mortgage brokers across Canada are equipped with the skills, knowledge and competency levels needed to better protect the interests of consumers and strengthen industry integrity,” he added.

The User Guide outlines requirements related to curriculum, course exams, course administration and infrastructure. It also promotes:

  • Instructional design, development and delivery of mortgage education;
  • Regulator’s course accreditation requirements; and
  • Expectations for licensee competency and professionalism.

The User Guide will not supersede existing legislation or regulatory requirements in any jurisdiction. The MBRCC has recommended that the Standards be implemented over a period of up to four years to provide regulators and course providers ample time to prepare.

Going forward, jurisdictions will report courses they have accredited to the MBRCC, which will maintain a roster of approved courses and their providers.

“Mortgage broker” is a widely used term. Depending on the type of licence and the province in which it was issued, the licensed professional brokering a mortgage transaction may be a mortgage broker, sub mortgage broker, associate mortgage broker or mortgage agent.

About the MBRCC:

The MBRCC is comprised of regulators across Canada responsible for administering mortgage broker legislation and regulating the industry in their respective jurisdictions. The MBRCC provides Canada’s mortgage broker regulators with a forum to work cooperatively, better share information and coordinate engagement of stakeholders to identify trends and develop solutions to common regulatory issues.

SOURCE Mortgage Broker Regulators’ Council of Canada

Canadians choosing fixed-rate mortgages in 2018 as mortgage rates expected to increase

Today, LowestRates.ca, an online rate comparison platform for auto insurance and mortgages, released a report showing that the number of Canadians who applied for a fixed-rate mortgage in January and February saw a substantial spike. Of LowestRates.ca users applying for a mortgage, 64.4% in January and 54.6% in February opted for a fixed-rate mortgage over a variable-rate, increases of 20 percentage points and 10 percentage points, respectively. The spike comes after the Bank of Canada increased their interest rate to 1.25% on January 14 of this year.

In the past, trends have shown that the majority of users on LowestRates.ca, who process tens of thousands of mortgage quotes annually, have gone with a variable-rate mortgage. However, since July 2017, when the Bank of Canadaannounced a 25 basis point hike, the number of consumers locking in a fixed-rate mortgage has been consistently increasing.

“The key for Canadians is not to panic. For the past 30 years, mortgage rates have been trending downward,” said Justin Thouin, Co-founder and CEO of LowestRates.ca. “There have been brief periods of increase over that time, like we’re in right now, but a mortgage is a long-term investment and the long-term data tells us that a variable-rate mortgage is the best option.”

Historically, the majority of Canadians who shop for mortgage rates on LowestRates.ca opt for variable-rate mortgages. Since January 2014, an average of 56.56% of users have gone variable, compared with 43.44% who chose a fixed-rate mortgage. The increase in fixed-rate mortgages locked in by Canadian consumers is seen by LowestRates.ca as a response to rate hikes, and fear of higher rates in the future.

Understanding The Impact of Rate Hikes

If a consumer purchases a home for $750,000 (with a down payment of 10 per cent amortized over 25 years), at a five-year, variable rate of 2.20%, they would have a total monthly mortgage interest payment of $3,025. If the Bank of Canada increases its overnight rate by 25 basis points, that homeowner’s monthly interest payment on their mortgage would be $3,111 — an increase of $86 per month.

That same homeowner using a fixed mortgage rate — the most competitive fixed product on LowestRates.ca last month was 3.03% — would have a total mortgage payment of $3,315.  While they can lock in that rate for five years, they’re still spending $290 a month more in interest when compared to the variable product, even after variable rates go up. A total of $3,480 a year in increased costs.

About LowestRates.ca

LowestRates.ca is an online rate comparison site for insurance, mortgages, loans and credit card rates in Canada. The free, independent service connects directly with financial institutions and providers from all over North America to provide Canadians with a comprehensive list of rates. LowestRates.ca wants to help everyone become more financially literate, with a goal of saving Canadians $1 billion in interest and fees.

SOURCE LowestRates.ca

BMO Extends Mortgage Rate Guarantee Period for Home Buyers

BMO Bank of Montreal announced today that it would be increasing the rate guarantee period for mortgages from 90 days to 130 days – the longest among all Canada’s major banks – amidst expectations for continued Bank of Canada rate hikes in 2018.

The change will benefit home buyers navigating an increasingly complicated market, and provide them additional time to finalize their mortgage plans with their guaranteed pre-approved rate.

“This change in our mortgage rate guarantee period could not be timelier for our customers,” said Martin Nel, Head, Personal and Small Business Banking, BMO Financial Group. “As always, we are listening and responding to their needs to help make their financial dreams a reality, while removing friction and uncertainty from the home buying process.”

Forecasting for the housing market also suggests why those looking to enter the market, or get into a new home, could benefit from the extended timeline.

“In the coming year, home buyers face tougher mortgage rules, a rising interest rate environment and uncertain housing markets in high-priced regions,” said Sal Guatieri, Senior Economist, BMO Bank of Montreal. “After pulling the rate trigger on January 17, we expect the Bank of Canada to raise policy rates two more times this year by a total of 50 basis points to address potential inflation risks stemming from an economy pushing against capacity limits.”

Mr. Guatieri noted that a tighter monetary policy, together with interest rate pressures arising from a stronger U.S. economy, will likely lift longer-term interest rates in Canada by one-half percentage point this year. An extended rate guarantee would give buyers more time to assess the impact of new mortgage rules on house prices in high-priced Toronto and Vancouver before making a decision.

For more information on BMO mortgages, please visit https://www.bmo.com/main/personal/mortgages/, or connect with a BMO Mortgage Specialist or visit your nearest BMO Branch.

About BMO Financial Group
Serving customers for 200 years and counting, BMO is a highly diversified financial services provider – the 8thlargest bank, by assets, in North America. With total assets of $728 billion as of January 31, 2018, and a team of diverse and highly engaged employees, BMO provides a broad range of personal and commercial banking, wealth management and investment banking products and services to more than 12 million customers and conducts business through three operating groups: Personal and Commercial Banking, BMO Wealth Management and BMO Capital Markets.

SOURCE BMO Financial Group

Four people arrested in Project Bridle Path, Mortgage Fraud Investigation

In Spring of 2013, members of Toronto Police Service Financial Crimes became involved in a sophisticated and complex mortgage fraud investigation into several high-end properties, the value of the fraud is estimated to be $17 million.

It is alleged that:

– mortgages were to be secured on properties, however they were never registered and were misrepresented to the lenders

– individuals and companies who were introduced as owners of the properties were not in fact the real owners

– false title insurance certificates and property insurance certificates were introduced, in part, to convince the legitimacy of the transactions

– multiple false title and home insurance policies were given to the lenders before the funds were released

After a lengthy investigation the following individuals were located and arrested by the Toronto Police Service Financial Crimes Unit.

On Tuesday, February 13, 2018, Arash Missaghi, 48, of Richmond Hill was arrested. He is charged with:

1. Fraud Over 5000
2. Conspiracy to commit and indictable offence
3. Accessory after the fact to an indictable offence
4. Uttering forged documents

On Monday, February 12, 2018, Grant Erlick, 45, of Toronto was arrested. He is charged with:

1. Fraud Over 5000
2. Conspiracy to commit and indictable offence
3. Accessory after the fact to an indictable offence
4. Money laundering

On Tuesday, February, 20, 2018, Masumeh Shaer-Valaie, 48, of Richmond Hill was arrested. He is charged with:

1. Fraud Over
2. Conspiracy to commit and indictable offence
3. Accessory after the fact to an indictable offence
4. Money laundering

On Wednesday, February 28, 2018, Bob Bahram Aziz Beiki, 53, of Toronto was arrested. He is charged with:

1. Forgery

They are all scheduled to appear in court at Old City Hall on Tuesday, March 6, 2018, in court room 111.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-7300, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at www.222tips.com, or text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637). Download the free Crime Stoppers Mobile App on iTunes, Google Play or Blackberry App World.

For more news, visit TPSnews.ca.


Constable Jenifferjit Sidhu, Corporate Communications, for Detective Alan Fazeli, Financial Crimes Unit – Corporate Crime Section

 

Canadian housing starts trend stable in January

The trend in housing starts was 224,865 units in January 2018, compared to 226,346 units in December 2017, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). This trend measure is a six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR) of housing starts.

“The national trend in housing starts held steady for a third consecutive month in January, remaining near the 10-year high set in December,” said Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist. “This reflects higher starts of multi-unit dwellings in urban centres in recent months, which has offset lower starts of single-detached homes.”

Monthly highlights

Vancouver

Starts for all home types in the Vancouver CMA trended up in January, reaching a pace nearly double that of the same month last year. There were 2,599 housing starts across the region in January of 2018, as opposed to 1,334 in January of 2017. The North Shore was a particular hotspot for activity this month as a number of condominium and rental multi-family units got underway.

Kelowna

Housing starts in the Kelowna CMA saw an increase in January 2018, totaling 87 units, compared with 51 units in the same month last year. The increase was supported by new rental units getting underway, continuing with the trend seen throughout 2017. New housing construction, particularly for multi-unit dwellings, continues to be supported by strong population growth and a robust labour market.

Edmonton

Housing starts in the Edmonton CMA have been trending lower since peaking in July of last year. On a month-over-month seasonally-adjusted basis, single-family starts were up 2% in January compared to December while multi-family starts were up 38%. Much of the increase in multi-family construction was due to an increase in the apartment segment where inventory levels remain elevated.

Lethbridge

Total housing starts in Lethbridge increased in the first month of 2018 compared to January 2017 with gains in both the single-detached and multiples segments. However, despite the year-over-year increase, both the trend and the SAAR recorded declines in January compared to the previous month. Declining employment in the region through 2017 has reduced demand for housing and has impacted the pace of new home construction.

Guelph

January 2018 saw the highest number of apartment starts for any January since 1991. Since 2012, the proportion of single-detached and row starts lessened on a year-over-year basis as more apartments were built. Strong starts for apartment units in recent years can be partly attributed to rising costs of homeownership, rising immigration of young professionals to the area, and strong employment.

Toronto

For the second month in a row, housing starts in the Toronto CMA trended slightly lower. An increase in apartment starts partially offset the decline in single-detached housing starts. Increased supply in the resale market has resulted in less demand for new single-detached homes. Meanwhile new condominiums remain in high demand as home buyers flock to relatively lower priced homes, and investors seek to capitalize on low vacancy rates and increasing rents.

Barrie

Total starts trended higher in January, driven primarily by an influx of row unit starts in both the Town of Innisfil and the City of Barrie. Land scarcity in popular areas and affordability concerns have encouraged row unit construction, which saw the highest starts in 2017 since 1999. Strong labour market conditions and population growth remain supportive of the demand for new housing units going into 2018.

Kingston

The trend in Kingston CMA total housing starts has declined slightly for four consecutive months, after having been pulled up by high numbers of rental apartment starts in June 2017. This pullback is likely temporary, since high demand in the resale market and robust demand for rental accommodations point to a need for new supply.

Gatineau

In January, the number of new housing units that got under way was fairly high relative to the last few years, thanks to the construction of many units intended for the condominium market. The stronger housing demand and tighter resale market are therefore continuing to support residential construction in the area.

CMHC uses the trend measure as a complement to the monthly SAAR of housing starts to account for considerable swings in monthly estimates and obtain a more complete picture of Canada’s housing market. In some situations analyzing only SAAR data can be misleading, as they are largely driven by the multi-unit segment of the market which can vary significantly from one month to the next.

The standalone monthly SAAR of housing starts for all areas in Canada was 216,210 units in January, essentially unchanged from 216,275 units in December. The SAAR of urban starts increased slightly by 0.2% in January to 198,400 units. Multiple urban starts essentially held steady at 134,685 units in January while single-detached urban starts increased by 0.6% to 63,715 units.

Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 17,810 units.

Preliminary Housing Starts data are also available in English and French through our website and through CMHC’s Housing Market Information Portal. Our analysts are also available to provide further insight into their respective markets.

As Canada’s authority on housing, CMHC contributes to the stability of the housing market and financial system, provides support for Canadians in housing need, and offers objective housing research and information to Canadian governments, consumers and the housing industry.

Bridging Finance Inc. Announces the Launch of the Bridging Real Estate Lending Fund LP

Bridging Finance Inc. (“Bridging Finance“) is pleased to announce the launch of its latest product, the Bridging Real Estate Lending Fund LP (the “Bridging Real Estate Lending Fund“) which will be available for sale as of March 9, 2018 through the IIROC dealer channel on FundSERV and to institutional investors.

The investment strategy of the Bridging Real Estate Lending Fund will be to invest in an actively managed portfolio of first and second ranked mortgage loans that are secured by real property used for commercial purposes in Canada. At the onset, the target market will be the Province of Ontario and will expand throughout Canada thereafter.

In addition, Bridging Finance is pleased to announce that it has entered into an agreement with MarshallZehr Group Inc. (“MarshallZehr“), a licensed mortgage brokerage (#12453) and mortgage administrator (#11955), to act as the mortgage administrator of the mortgages.

“We are very pleased to continue our growth and broaden our relationship with the team of professionals at MarshallZehr. We have been able to experience first-hand the quality of their work and integrity and are eager to work in collaboration with them on growing the Bridging Real Estate Lending Fund,” said David Sharpe, Chief Executive Officer of Bridging Finance.

“Bridging Finance has established itself as a leader of private debt financing in Canada and have built a great reputation with both investors and borrowers alike. We are thrilled to expand our relationship with Bridging Finance and look forward to working together on numerous projects,” said Gregory Zehr, Chief Executive Officer of MarshallZehr.

About MarshallZehr Group Inc.
Established in 2008, MarshallZehr is a privately held real estate lending firm formed under the laws of Ontario. Along with its principals which have a combined 50+ years of various experience in the real estate industry, MarshallZehr possesses expertise and experience in originating, underwriting, servicing and syndicating mortgage investments. MarshallZehr brings a fresh perspective, financing efficiency and active administration, to elevate opportunities and attract the right capital to enable business success for both borrowers and lenders. For more information, please visit marshallzehr.com

About Bridging Finance Inc.
Established in 2012, Bridging Finance is a privately held Canadian company providing middle-market North American companies with alternatives to the financing options offered by traditional lenders. Lending proceeds, typically ranging from $3 million to upwards of $50 million, are used by companies to address needs such as restructuring existing debt, providing working capital for growth, supporting inventory purchases and financing expenditures and acquisitions/buyouts.  Bridging Finance is the co-manager of the Sprott Bridging Income Fund LP and the Sprott Bridging RSP Fund, which invest in factoring/private debt loans that have a low correlation to traditional asset classes. Bridging Finance also offers portfolio management services for institutional clients and currently manages approximately $700 million of assets. For more information, please visit bridgingfinance.ca.

The units of the Bridging Real Estate Lending Fund (the “Units”) will not be qualified for sale to the public under applicable Canadian securities laws and, accordingly, any offer and sale of the Units in Canada will be made on a basis that is exempt from the prospectus requirements of such securities laws and only through registered dealers.

This news release shall not constitute an offer to sell the Units or the solicitation of an offer to buy the Units, nor will there be any sale of the Units, in any jurisdiction where such offer, solicitation or sale is not permitted.

SOURCE Bridging Finance Inc.

For further information: on Bridging Finance Inc.: David Sharpe, LLB, LLM, MBA, Chief Executive Officer, Bridging Finance Inc., C: (647) 981-5658, dsharpe@bridgingfinance.ca

NAI Terramont Commercial Announces Merger

In a merger of equals, NAI Commercial Montreal and Terramont Real Estate Services Inc., two of Montreal’s top commercial real estate firms, will join forces and beginning March 1 will operate as NAI Terramont Commercial. With the merger, the official NAI Global office in Montreal enters the top 5 firms serving the office, industrial, retail, tenant and investor market in Canada’s second biggest city, announced Paul-Eric Poitras, President of the newly formed entity NAI Terramont Commercial.

Poitras was President of NAI Commercial Montreal, which began operations in 2005 and as a company has primarily served industrial property owners and occupiers, as well as local, national and international commercial property investors and sellers. Since 1998 Terramont has been providing corporate real estate solutions for some of North America’s leading companies locally, nationally, across the U.S. and around the world. Terramont’s strength has historically been in the tenant representation and office leasing arenas. For international client services, Terramont had formerly been affiliated with Cresa Partners and later, TCN Worldwide.

NAI Terramont Commercial will initially consolidate offices into NAI Commercial’s location at 615 René-Lévesque Blvd W, Montreal, QC H3B 1P9, Canada. Combined, with 22 brokers NAI Terramont Commercial becomes the 5th largest commercial real estate services firm ranked by the number of brokers in Montreal.

“The combined firms are complementary in so many ways and the primary beneficiaries of the merger will be our respective clients, which will now have a single resource to provide all of their real estate needs regionally as well as nationally, and with NAI Global’s backing, globally,” said Paul-Eric Poitras.

Added Jean-Marc LeBlanc, who had been a Senior Vice President and co-founder of Terramont and now assumes the role of Senior Partner at NAI Terramont Commercial: “The strength and operating efficiency achieved by blending two great and entrepreneurial commercial real estate businesses will not only enable us to pursue new business that may have otherwise been out of reach for our firms individually, the merger also gives us fresh opportunity to consider acquisitions of other local and boutique commercial real estate companies and grow throughout Northeastern Canada.”

Other goals of the new company, according to Poitras, include establishing an alliance with a strong and local firm offering building management, project management, lease administration and legal services. The firm also intends to invest in technology on a regular basis to offer its clients and brokers the most advanced and mobile experience in the commercial real estate industry.

Michelle Moller, a former principal of Terramont, is one of the three managing partners of NAI Terramont along with LeBlanc and Poitras.

Jay Olshonsky, FRICS, SIOR and President of New York-based NAI Global, said he was thrilled to have an even better and bigger presence serving the Montreal marketplace.

“NAI Commercial Montreal has historically been one of the most active participants in our leadership groups and at global conferences, as well as being one of the most active trading partners in deal generation out of Canada with U.S. and other NAI firms worldwide. Adding the quality and depth of personnel that Terramont represents for us in Quebec Province is an absolute win-win for NAI Global,” Olshonsky said.

About NAI Terramont Commercial

NAI Commercial, under the banner of the NAI Global network, is one of the largest commercial real estate brokerage firms in Canada with nine offices spread across the country providing leadership and market insight to local, pan-Canadian and international investors. The newly formed NAI Terramont Commercial based in Montreal, Quebec, boasts an experienced and energized team of brokers, offering tailored brokerage services in the leasing and disposition of office, industrial and retail properties, as well as servicing the real estate investment market. To learn more, visit www.naiterramont.ca.

About NAI Global

NAI Global is a leading global commercial real estate brokerage firm. NAI Global offices are leaders in their local markets and work in unison to provide clients with exceptional solutions to their commercial real estate needs. NAI Global has more than 400 offices strategically located throughout North AmericaLatin AmericaEuropeAfrica and Asia Pacific, with over 7,000 local market professionals, managing in excess of over 425 million square feet of property.  Annually, NAI Global completes in excess of $20 billion in commercial real estate transactions throughout the world.

NAI Global provides a complete range of corporate and institutional real estate services, including brokerage and leasing, property and facilities management, real estate investment and capital market services, due diligence, global supply chain and logistics consulting and related advisory services.

To learn more, visit www.naiglobal.com or www.naiglobalnewslink.com

SOURCE NAI Terramont Commercial

For further information: Denise Parent, NAI Terramont Commercial, 514.866.3333 ext. 224 or dparent@naiterramont.ca; Gary Marsh, NAI Global Consultant, +1 415.999.3793 or gary@marshmarketing.com; Lindsay Fierro, NAI Global, +1 212.405.2474 or news@naiglobal.com

Daniel Drimmer Acquires Shares of True North Commercial REIT

Daniel Drimmer announced today that D.D. Acquisitions Partnership (the “Acquiror“) has acquired beneficial ownership of 78,500 trust units (“Units“) of True North Commercial Real Estate Investment (the “REIT“) pursuant to a public offering of 6,325,000 Units of the REIT at a price of $6.37 per Unit (the “Offering“) for gross proceeds of $40,290,250. The Acquiror is an Ontario general partnership, the principal business of which is to make investments with its head office at 1400-3280 Bloor Street West, Centre Tower, Toronto, ON M8X 2X3 and controlled by Mr. Drimmer.

The Acquiror acquired an aggregate of 78,500 Units for aggregate consideration of $500,045 representing approximately 0.15% of the issued and outstanding Units based on 51,964,097 Units outstanding as of March 1, 2018, following the completion of the Offering and after giving effect to the exchange of all outstanding class B limited partnership units (“Class B LP Units“) of True North Commercial Limited Partnership (a limited partnership controlled by the REIT) for Units on a one-for-one basis. After giving effect to the Units acquired by the Acquiror pursuant to the Offering, the percentage of Units owned and controlled by the Offeror decreased to approximately 9.15% of the issued and outstanding Units (based on 51,964,097 Units outstanding as of March 1, 2018, after giving effect to the exchange of all Class B LP Units on a one-for-one basis).  Because the Acquiror now exercises ownership and control over less than 10% of the issued and outstanding Units, it is no longer subject to ongoing early warning or insider reporting requirements in respect of its ownership of Units.

The Acquiror, together with Daniel Drimmer and Drimmer Holdings Ltd. and PD Kanco LP (each controlled by Daniel Drimmer and having the same principal business and head office, and collectively, the “Offeror“), owned and controlled 3,849,180 Units and 828,123 Class B Units representing approximately 10.25% of the issued and outstanding Units based on 45,639,097 Units outstanding as of February 28, 2018 prior to the completion of the Offering and after giving effect to the exchange of all outstanding Class B LP Units for Units on a one-for-one basis.

The Units are being acquired for investment purposes. Subject to various factors including, without limitation, the REIT’s financial position, the price of Units, market conditions, the Acquiror’s determinations from time to time as to whether the trading price of the Units adequately reflects the value of the Units in relation to the REIT’s activities and future prospects, and other factors and conditions the Acquiror deems appropriate, the Acquiror may acquire additional Units or may dispose of any or all of its Units, from time to time through, among other things, the purchase or sale of Units on the open market or in private transactions or otherwise, on such terms and at such times as the Acquiror may deem advisable. The REIT’s address is 1400-3280 Bloor Street West, Centre Tower, Toronto, ON M8X 2X3.

For further information and to obtain a copy of the early warning report to be filed under applicable Canadian securities laws in connection with the foregoing matters, please see the REIT’s profile on SEDAR at www.sedar.com or use the contact information below.

SOURCE Daniel Drimmer

For further information: Daniel Drimmer, 1400-3280 Bloor Street West, Centre Tower Toronto, ON M8X 2X3, (416) 234-8444

1 in 4 Retired Canadians living with debt

A worry-free retirement may be a thing of the past as Canadians struggle to manage debt. From living with a mortgage to unpaid credit cards, retirees can find themselves facing financial challenges in their golden years.The Sun Life Financial Barometer, a new national survey, found that one-in-four (25%) retirees are facing such challenges and living with debt.

Baby boomers are no stranger to today’s increased financial demand; in fact, one-in-five (20%) retirees are still making mortgage payments. The financial strain doesn’t stop there, the survey results reveal that retirees still use credit in some of the same ways they did before retirement. Mortgage aside, here’s where they still owe money:

  • 66% have unpaid credit cards;
  • 26% are making car payments;
  • 7% have unpaid health expenses;
  • 7% owe money on holiday expenses or vacation property; and
  • 6% haven’t paid off home renovations.

“Through our national survey, we took a moment to check-in with Canadians and gauge how they are stacking up when it comes to their finances,” said Jacques Goulet, President, Sun Life Financial Canada. “From credit card debt to a mortgage, retirees are faced with a list of expenses in life after work. We recognize that managing finances can be overwhelming, particularly for those who are no longer working. Seeking sound advice and working with a financial advisor can help you reach your goals.”

At the same time retirees face lingering debt, almost one-quarter (24%) of working Canadians are dipping into their retirement savings. Canadians pulled cash for the following reasons:

  • 63% did so because they needed to (e.g., health expenses, debt repayment);
  • 24% as part of the First Time Home Buyers’ Plan; and
  • 13% because they wanted to (e.g., vacation, car purchase).

“Our survey results highlight the importance of getting ready for retirement,” explains Tom Reid, Senior Vice-President, Group Retirement Services, Sun Life Financial Canada. “Although it can seem far away, retirement creeps up faster than you think – building a financial plan and making meaningful contributions will pay off in the long run. There are helpful tools and resources you can tap into to get on the right track to building the income you want and need to retire.”

The following tips can help Canadians save for a bright retirement:

  1. Start now. Begin saving and investing as early as possible to set yourself up for success.
  2. Don’t leave money on the table. If your employer offers a pension plan and will match your contributions, contribute the maximum amount possible.
  3. Invest wisely. If you do not have access to a defined contribution plan, RRSPs and TFSAs are other great vehicles to consider.
  4. Have a plan and stick to it. It’s never too late to build a financial plan that will get you where you want to be.
  5. Seek valuable advice. A financial advisor can help you create a financial plan, set achievable goals, and guide you through each life stage.

 

About the survey
The Sun Life Financial Barometer is based on findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between October 13 and October 19, 2017. A sample of 2,900 Canadians was drawn from the Ipsos I-Say online panel: 2,900 Canadians from 20 to 80 years of age. The data for Canadians surveyed was weighted to ensure the sample’s regional, age, and gender composition reflects that of the actual Canadian population.

The precision of Ipsos online poll is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/- 2.1% at 95% confidence level had all Canadian adults been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to methodological change, coverage error and measurement error.

About Sun Life Financial
Sun Life Financial is a leading international financial services organization providing insurance, wealth and asset management solutions to individual and corporate Clients. Sun Life Financial has operations in a number of markets worldwide, including Canadathe United States, the United KingdomIrelandHong Kongthe PhilippinesJapanIndonesiaIndiaChinaAustraliaSingaporeVietnamMalaysia and Bermuda. As of December 31, 2017, Sun Life Financial had total assets under management (“AUM”) of $975 billion. For more information please visit www.sunlife.com.

All figures in Canadian dollars except as otherwise noted.

SOURCE: Sun Life Financial Canada

Equitable Bank launches PATH Home Plan

Equitable Bank, a subsidiary of Equitable Group Inc., announced today the launch of its PATH Home Plan, an equity release solution that gives Canadian homeowners, aged 55 and over, a new option to unlock the equity in their homes.

With continued retirement income uncertainty amongst a growing population of aging Canadians, the PATH Home Plan provides a solution to maintain their financial security.

“Canadians deserve options when it comes to their financial well-being as they age, and we want to help homeowners stay in control, while still living in their homes,” says Kim Kukulowicz, Vice President of Residential Sales and Partner Relations, Equitable Bank. “The PATH Home Plan allows homeowners to access the equity out of their greatest asset – their home – to continue enjoying life’s precious moments and to maintain the lifestyle that they are accustomed to.”

Equitable Bank’s PATH Home Plan will initially be available to homeowners in AlbertaBritish Columbia and Ontariothrough mortgage brokers.

“For a long time, Canadians have had limited choices to access the equity in their homes,” says Kukulowicz. “Now, they can sit down with an experienced and well-established mortgage broker network, and get the right guidance and personalized options that meet their needs.”

Equity release solutions, also known as reverse mortgages, are widely used in other countries, such as the United KingdomAustralia and the United States, and with a rapidly-growing senior segment in Canada, Equitable Bank believes that it can help more Canadian homeowners maintain their financial security, while staying in their homes.

Consistent with Equitable Bank’s strategic vision of being Canada’s Challenger Bank™, the PATH Home Plan will continue to diversify the business, while helping more Canadians reach their financial goals. “We have been studying the equity release market with interest for several years,” says Andrew Moor, President and Chief Executive Officer, Equitable Bank. “With the combination of favourable demographics, increased home equity values and less support from traditional defined benefit pension plans, we believe that the PATH Home Plan will provide a valuable option to Canadian seniors, generate attractive returns for our shareholders, and further strengthen our business.”

Visit www.equitablebank.ca/path to learn more and speak with a mortgage broker to assess if the PATH Home Plan is the right solution for you.

About Equitable Group Inc.
Equitable Group Inc. is a growing Canadian financial services business that operates through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Equitable Bank. Equitable Bank, Canada’s Challenger Bank™, is Canada’s ninth largest independent Schedule I bank and offers a diverse suite of residential lending, commercial lending and savings solutions to Canadians. Through its proven branchless approach and customer service focus, Equitable Bank has grown to almost $23 billion of Assets Under Management. EQ Bank, the digital banking arm of Equitable Bank, provides state-of-the-art digital banking services to more than 43,000 Canadians. Equitable Bank employs nearly 600 dedicated professionals across the country, and is a 2018 recipient of Canada’s Best Employer Platinum Award, the highest bestowed by AON. For more information about Equitable Bank and its products, please visit EquitableBank.ca.

SOURCE Equitable Bank

HomEquity Bank Posts Record 2017 Growth in Reverse Mortgages

HomEquity Bank, the national provider of the CHIP Reverse Mortgage™, posted record mortgage growth in 2017 with 32.5 per cent year over year growth. Reverse mortgage originations of $608MM for 2017 were driven by increased consumer familiarity with HomEquity Bank’s flagship product as well as the growing need for consumers to finance their retirement in new ways.

HomEquity Bank’s record results also reflect a strong partnership with Canada’s mortgage brokers. In 2017, brokers were the bank’s fastest growing referral source increasing by 55 per cent. HomEquity Bank also doubled the number of consumer product inquiries that came in through their website and call centers.

“The sustained strength of Canada’s real estate market has increased the confidence of Canadian homeowners in reverse mortgages,” said Steven Ranson, HomEquity Bank’s president and CEO.  “That means proactive equity release is a more attractive solution than ever for Canadians planning for retirement.”

“2017 was an exceptional year for our bank and for our clients,” Ranson added. “As the Canadian population continues to age, there is clear demand among Canadians aged 55 and older, to unlock the equity they’ve accrued in their homes. We are continuing to change the conversation about how reverse mortgages fit into Canadians’ comprehensive retirement plans and have a positive outlook for continued, long-term growth in 2018 and beyond.”

About HomEquity Bank

HomEquity Bank, a federally-regulated, Schedule 1 Canadian bank, is the only national provider of the CHIP Reverse Mortgage™ solution. Founded 30 years ago, HomEquity Bank has been helping Canadian homeowners aged 55+ access the value of the equity they have in their homes, maintaining ownership of their home, until they make the decision to sell.

HomEquity Bank has partnered with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) Canada’s largest non-profit, non-partisan advocacy association for Canadians As We Age. CARP now recommends HomEquity Bank’s CHIP Reverse Mortgage™ as a smart and comprehensive solution for Canadians planning for retirement.

HomEquity Bank has ranked on the Canadian Business and PROFIT’s 28th and 29th annual PROFIT 500 list, the definitive ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies.

HomEquity has also been recognized as an Aon Best Employer – Canada 2017.

SOURCE HomEquity Bank

Mortgage Professionals Canada discusses negative impact of new rules on canadian housing market

Members of Canada’s national mortgage industry association were pleased to have had the opportunity to meet with over 50 Members of Parliament and senior government officials over the past two days. Members discussed issues of housing affordability, availability and accessibility as well as the negative impacts that the recent mortgage rule changes are having and will continue have on Canadian consumers.

“We are concerned that the cumulative impact of recent mortgage changes are slowing housing market activity, decreasing competition and increasing costs for consumers,” said Paul Taylor, President and CEO of Mortgage Professionals Canada. “That said, we have been encouraged that Members of Parliament are listening to our concerns, and we continue to inform them of the positive role mortgage brokers play in the market”.

Mortgage Professionals Canada acknowledges that the initial objective of the changes was to cool down certain markets and there are signs that this is being achieved, at least in the Greater Toronto Area and to a lesser extent the Greater Vancouver Area. However, there is evidence of reductions in housing activity, both sales and housing starts, in areas of the country that were already moderate, flat or even declining.

CMHC’s insured volumes fell 34% in the first six months of 2017. This number is indicative of a reduction in home purchases by young Canadians from middle and low income families, and first time home buyers. As the voice of Canada’s national mortgage industry, the association is concerned that the combination of the changes, and the speed with which they have been cumulatively implemented, have created some adverse effects which could cause a potentially significant decline in housing activity nationally. This will be accelerated by the recent OSFI decision to add a stress test to all uninsured mortgages.

Mortgage Professionals Canada is the national mortgage industry association whose members include mortgage brokers, mortgage lenders, mortgage insurers and industry service providers. The association represents over 11,500 individual members and over 1,000 businesses across Canada.

SOURCE Mortgage Professionals Canada

MPAC Delivers Nearly 900,000 Property Assessment Notices Across Ontario

The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) will begin mailing nearly 900,000 Property Assessment Notices to property owners across Ontario to reflect changes in assessment that have taken place over the last year.

While 2017 is not a province-wide Assessment Update year, MPAC continues to review properties and is legislatively responsible for updating property information in order to return an accurate Assessment Roll for 2018 taxation.

This year, property owners will receive a Notice from MPAC if there has been:

  • change to property ownership, legal description, or school support;
  • change to the property’s value resulting from a Request for Reconsideration, an Assessment Review Board decision, or ongoing property reviews;
  • property value increase/decrease reflecting a change to the property; for example, a new structure, addition, or removal of an old structure; or
  • change in the classification or tax liability of the property.

“Assessing all properties in a fair and consistent way matters to us because we know how important this information is to the communities we serve,” said Rose McLean, MPAC President and Chief Administrative Officer. “The Property Assessment Notices we begin mailing today will help ensure property information is accurately reflected on municipal assessment rolls.”

MPAC encourages property owners who receive a Notice this year to login to aboutmyproperty.ca by using the Roll Number and unique Access Key on their Notice. Aboutmyproperty.ca provides easy access to the information MPAC has on file for a property and can help owners compare their assessment to others in their area.

Property owners who receive a 2017 Property Assessment Notice and disagree with their assessment have until April 2, 2018 to submit a Request for Reconsideration (RfR) with MPAC – free of charge. For greater convenience, RfRs can also be filed directly through aboutmyproperty.ca.

Quick Facts

  • In 2016, every property owner in Ontario received a Property Assessment Notice as the result of a province-wide Assessment Update, reflecting a January 1, 2016 valuation date. The 2016 assessed value will be the basis for property taxes for the 2017-2020 property tax years.
  • MPAC continues to review and update property assessment information in non-Assessment Update years. Properties change ownership, new homes or additions are built, structures are removed or demolished and properties change use. Notices are mailed each year to reflect these changes.
  • In 2017, MPAC delivered more than $37 billion in taxable assessment growth to municipalities across Ontario.

About MPAC

The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) is an independent, not-for-profit corporation funded by all Ontario municipalities, accountable to the Province, municipalities and property taxpayers through its 13-member Board of Directors. Our role is to accurately assess and classify all properties in Ontario in compliance with the Assessment Act and regulations set by the Government of Ontario. We are the largest assessment jurisdiction in North America, assessing and classifying more than five million properties with an estimated total value of $2.4 trillion.

MPAC’s province-wide Assessment Updates of property values have met international standards of accuracy. Our assessors are trained experts in the field of valuation and apply appraisal industry standards and best practices. Our assessments and data are also used by banks, insurance companies and the real estate industry.

For more information about 2017 Property Assessment Notices mailed this fall, visit mpac.ca.

SOURCE Municipal Property Assessment Corporation

Bank of Canada’s Poloz – Three Things Keeping Me Awake at Night

Remarks
Canadian Club Toronto
Toronto, Ontario

Introduction

The holiday season is traditionally a time to reflect on the events of the past year, and to look ahead at what may be in store for next year. Speaking from an economic perspective, I think we can look back at 2017 with considerable satisfaction. And 2018 is looking positive, too.

The Canadian economy is on pace for about 3 per cent growth in 2017, which would be the strongest among the Group of Seven economies. Most sectors and regions are now participating. Over 350,000 full-time jobs have been created so far this year, and wages have recently shown signs of picking up. This is supporting robust consumer spending.

Exports and business investment have long been the laggards in our recovery story. Encouragingly, though, business investment has grown for the past three quarters in a row. As well, the government’s infrastructure program is becoming increasingly evident in the data. In contrast, exports have not been stellar. They started the year strong, but faltered during the summer. Nevertheless, the most recent data show a broad-based upturn, supporting our forecast that—after looking through all the noise—exports will continue to be pulled along by rising foreign demand.

That brings me to inflation, our policy anchor. Inflation spent the year within our
1 to 3 per cent target band, although it has tended to fall a little short of the 2 per cent midpoint. We did a lot of work this year to satisfy ourselves that our fundamental understanding of inflation remains valid. It does, once you take account of short-term effects in the data.

I have talked before about the process of bringing the economy back home—at the intersection of full capacity and 2 per cent inflation. Our return home was made even longer by the detour we took when oil prices collapsed back in 2014. But, today, we find ourselves quite close to home, and getting closer, with the economy now running close to full output and inflation expected to be around 2 per cent later in 2018.

That is all good. But as an economist, and as a central banker, I find myself preoccupied with a number of slower-moving, nagging issues that I expect will be with us for a long time. They keep me awake at night because I wonder if we have done all we can to address them. I have chosen three of these things to talk about today.

These personal preoccupations are a little different from the more pressing, immediate risks to the economy that economists usually think about. I can assure you that the Bank is fully engaged on a wide range of such issues, from the effects of technology on inflation to uncertainty over the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the response of housing demand to mortgage rule changes, to cite just a few.

I am not trying to spoil everyone’s holiday cheer with my topic today. Rather, I have found over the years that issues that appear daunting often become less so when we understand them better. What is more, a better understanding of the issues helps everyone—from the various government authorities to the public at large—determine what should be done to resolve them.

So, with that, let me share with you three things that are keeping me awake at night, and bring you up to date on developments surrounding them.

Cyber Threats

The first issue I want to touch on is the potential for a cyber attack that leads to a major disruption of our financial system.

People take for granted the efficiency and convenience of today’s financial system, as they should. It was not all that long ago that your choices for making a retail purchase were a personal cheque, a credit card or cash—and cash was an option only if you remembered to get to your bank branch before it closed. Today, e-commerce is pervasive. People can have electronic access to their accounts instantly, almost anywhere. The infrastructure that underpins our financial system is a public good, every bit as important to the health of Canada’s economy as our roads, bridges and airports.

I am not exaggerating. Every day, Canada’s major payments systems process millions of transactions, large and small, and billions of dollars change hands. These transactions happen so routinely and with such accuracy that it is easy to overlook how critical these systems are. The process looks completely risk-free, but it is not. And to be without these systems for any length of time could have a significant impact on the economy.

Our financial system is as good as it is today because of major advances in communications and financial technology, and a high degree of connectivity between institutions. However, this connectivity also creates a vulnerability. It means that a problem in one institution may spread to others and be amplified. As such, a successful cyber attack on one institution can become a successful attack on many. These attacks can be launched from anywhere and spread across global networks.

The good news is that all the major participants in the financial system are taking this threat very seriously. They are collaborating with each other by sharing information and best practices. As for the key payments systems that connect everyone together, the Bank of Canada has the legislative authority to oversee them and to ensure that they follow strong risk-management practices, including those aimed at preventing cyber attacks. We are also collaborating with partners in the federal government who are working to ensure that Canada is resilient to cyber threats.

However, we cannot assume that our financial system is immune, despite best-in-class cyber defences. We need to be prepared to recover our systems should a cyber attack succeed. The Bank is working closely with our financial institutions and payments systems to ensure that we have robust joint recovery plans in place. Further, the Bank is making significant investments in its own operational redundancies, increasing the resilience of our systems and our people. It is vital that we be able to “fail over” quickly so our key functions will be maintained in the event of a major disruption, be it a cyber attack, natural disaster or some other crisis. This is a matter not just of operational continuity, but of maintaining confidence in our financial system in stressed situations.

The bottom line is that I am confident that we are doing everything we can on this issue. Still, the system may be only as robust as its weakest link, and that keeps me thinking.

High House Prices and Household Debt

My second preoccupation is the state of Canada’s housing markets and the associated level of household debt. The Bank said in last month’s Financial System Review that these vulnerabilities are showing early signs of prospective easing, which is good. However, these vulnerabilities are elevated, and are likely to remain so for a long time. Remember, it took years for these vulnerabilities to build up in the first place.

It is not just the amount of debt; it is also its composition and distribution. More than 80 per cent of household debt is composed of mortgages and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs). Increasingly, mortgages are being combined with HELOCs, to the point where about 40 per cent of all housing-backed loans are blended with a HELOC component.

HELOCs have been a very convenient tool for many households. They give borrowers flexibility to finance renovation projects or handle emergencies—such as when your furnace dies on a cold February night. Their popularity shows how useful these lending arrangements are. However, there are some potential risks that borrowers need to manage.

HELOCs usually allow the borrower to pay only the interest on the loan each month, leaving the principal amount unchanged. Indeed, about 40 per cent of HELOC borrowers are not regularly paying down their principal, which means that debt loads may persist longer than in the past. Furthermore, some may be using their HELOC to speculate—for example, to fund a down payment on a second house with the intention of flipping it. Given the potential for volatility in house prices and for higher interest rates, such activity may be adding to the overall vulnerability of the system.

We have seen several rounds of macroprudential measures to tighten mortgage finance rules. These include measures last year that were aimed at high-ratio mortgages—those where the down payment is less than 20 per cent of the value of the home. Since then, there has been a sharp drop in the number of highly indebted Canadians obtaining these mortgages—and by highly-indebted we have in mind people with a ratio of debt to income that is more than 450 per cent. But we have also seen an increase in low-ratio mortgages with risky characteristics, such as extended amortization periods. New lending guidelines for low-ratio mortgages, which will come into effect next year, should work to limit the number of low-ratio mortgages going to highly indebted households.

These mortgage rule changes will help build up the resilience of the financial system over time, as each new mortgage will be stress-tested to ensure that the borrower can manage a higher interest rate at renewal time. It is important to remember that the purpose of these rule changes is not to control house prices. Ultimately, the laws of supply and demand will determine the direction of house prices.

At the same time, there is little doubt that these rule changes will mean less growth in our housing sector. In the wake of the global financial crisis, ultra-low interest rates have helped our economies weather the storm, but an important by-product has been exceptional growth in housing. For some time now we have been expecting a rotation away from housing and toward other engines of growth, such as exports and investment. We are seeing signs of that fundamental rotation now.

A key issue for the Bank, then, is understanding how people will react when they are told that, under the new rules, they do not qualify for the mortgage they would like. Staff examined data from new mortgages issued last year by federally regulated lenders. They found that about 10 per cent of low-ratio mortgages—around 36,000 loans, representing about $15 billion worth of borrowing—would not have qualified last year under the new stress test.

Of course, there is more than one way for people to respond. The most likely response is for people to look for a less-expensive house with a smaller mortgage so they qualify under the new rules. Others might try to boost their down payment, or delay the purchase until they can do so.

But people might also look for a lender that is not bound by these new mortgage rules so they can avoid facing the stress test. No doubt, certain non-federally regulated lenders will step up to compete for that business, although other regulators may choose to impose the same guidelines. In any event, to those people who hope to avoid the rules, I offer this advice: testing yourself to make sure you could handle your mortgage payments if interest rates were higher at renewal is a very good idea, whether it is a rule or not.

One final issue related to indebtedness—we expect that high levels of debt will make the economy as a whole more sensitive to higher interest rates today than in the past. This issue has obvious implications for monetary policy, so we have done a lot of work this year to enhance our models to capture it. As we said in our October Monetary Policy Report and in our interest rate announcement last week, this is one of the key issues we will be monitoring in real time as we consider the appropriate path for interest rates.

The Tough Job Market for Young People

My third long-term preoccupation is the state of our labour market; specifically, how hard it has been for so many young people to find work. I mentioned earlier that more than 350,000 full-time jobs had been created this year. However, only about 50,000 of those have gone to young workers.

A decade ago, the proportion of people aged 15 to 24 participating in the workforce peaked at almost 68 per cent. That figure hit a trough earlier this year at nearly five percentage points lower—the lowest in almost 20 years. If we could return the youth participation rate to its level before the global financial crisis, more than 100,000 additional young Canadians would have jobs.

Of course, this is not only a problem for youth. We know of people in all age groups who are working part-time when they would prefer a full-time job. We also know people who cannot find jobs that match their skill set and are underemployed. And we know there are people who have lost the job they held for years when their factory closed, and have faced extreme difficulty in finding new work in a similar field. These are all serious concerns. But I want to concentrate on young people, for whom a long period of unemployment can leave a scar that could last a lifetime.

I know there are legitimate explanations for why more young Canadians are staying out of the labour force. Enrolment in post-secondary schooling has increased in recent years, and we expect some of this rise will be permanent. Some of these youth are looking to gain the skills that will match what employers are demanding. There are more than 250,000 job vacancies in the economy today, the highest on record. Canadian business leaders say that most of these vacancies are unfilled because they cannot find workers with the right skills.

Let me suggest that responsibility for addressing this skill mismatch rests with all of us, not just the students and the education system. There surely is room for more ambitious on-the-job training programs in this picture.

This issue is taking on greater urgency because the economy is reaching the stage where more-efficient job matching and increased workforce engagement will be our main means of building economic capacity. With more economic capacity comes the opportunity for more non-inflationary growth and a permanently higher level of Canadian GDP, and more income for everyone. Clearly, that is something worth having.

Let me elaborate. Right now, we are at a point in the economic cycle that I think of as the “sweet spot.” We know that a majority of Canadian companies are running flat out. They may have been hesitating to invest in new capacity until now, perhaps because of lingering economic uncertainty, or concerns over the future of NAFTA, for example. But, despite these uncertainties, companies are moving to expand their capacity now, which augurs well for the future.

Most expansions of capacity have two elements—more capital equipment, and more people. Attracting the right people to new jobs may require higher wages, and this in turn can cause people to re-enter the workforce. We may be seeing early signs of this happening. I mentioned earlier that measures of wages have turned higher over the past couple of months and, in November, the participation rate for young people jumped back to more than 64 per cent. These are encouraging signs, but it will take awhile before they become trends.

The Bank is watching these indicators very carefully at the moment, for they will help us manage the risks that monetary policy faces at this point in the business cycle. Our current policy setting clearly remains quite stimulative. With the economy operating near potential, a mechanical approach to policy would suggest that monetary policy should already be less stimulative. However, as we said in last week’s interest rate announcement, we still see signs of ongoing, albeit diminishing, slack in the labour market.

Fundamentally, this is an exercise in risk management. The facts that the economy is operating near its capacity, and that growth is forecast to continue to run above potential, together pose an upside risk to our inflation forecast. At the same time, our belief that there remains some slack in the labour market poses a downside risk to our inflation forecast. Given the unusual factors at play, the Bank is monitoring these risks in real time—the term we use for this is “data dependent”—rather than taking a mechanical approach to policy setting.

And One More Thing…

So there we have it, three preoccupations that are keeping me awake at night. I could give you even more, but these are my top three, and you do not have all afternoon.

Actually, there is one more thing keeping me awake at night, which perhaps I should mention, and that is all the noise I keep hearing about cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin. There is a lot of hype around Bitcoin, and markets are evolving quickly to allow wider access, including to retail investors. So perhaps you will allow me to make a couple of points.

To begin with basics, the term “cryptocurrency” is a misnomer—“crypto,” yes, but “currency,” no. For something to be considered a currency, it must act as a reliable store of value, and you should be able to spend it easily. These instruments possess neither of these characteristics, so they do not constitute “money.”

So, what are cryptocurrencies, exactly? Characteristics vary widely but, generally speaking, they can be thought of as securities. The Canada Revenue Agency agrees. That means, if you buy and sell them at a profit, you have income that needs to be reported for tax purposes. What their true value is may be anyone’s guess—perhaps the most one can say is that buying these things means buying risk, which makes it closer to gambling than investing.

To be absolutely clear, I am not giving investment advice. I never do. All I will say to people intending to buy a so-called cryptocurrency is that you should read the fine print and make sure you know what you are getting into. The Bank of Canada does not regulate these instruments and their markets, just as we do not regulate traditional securities and their markets.

But one question that does preoccupy me is, what does the arrival of cryptocurrencies mean for the cash in your pocket? Supplying the Canadian dollars you need to carry out your business is one of the Bank’s most important mandates.

It is often forgotten that the cash provided by a central bank is the only truly risk-free means of payment. With cash, buyers and sellers can be certain that payment is final. This is an absolutely vital public good, which has always been provided by the central bank. All other payment types, from debit cards to credit cards to cheques, work through intermediaries in the financial system. Yes, of course, they are safe. But, fundamentally, they can never be quite as risk-free as cash. Just ask yourself—if you were concerned that an imminent cyber attack was about to hit the financial system, would you not want to carry some extra cash until everything was back to normal?

Nonetheless, it is natural that transactions using electronic payments, such as debit and credit cards, continue to grow in volume and value relative to cash. It is certainly possible that the demand for digital cash could grow over time. If so, there could be very strong arguments for the central bank to provide it, given its obligation to fulfill the public good function. Bank staff are exploring the circumstances under which it might be appropriate for the central bank to issue its own digital currency for retail transactions. All central banks are researching this. We will have more to say about the subject in the months ahead.

Conclusion

Now I am ready to conclude. Cyber threats, elevated household debt, youth underemployment—these are all long-term issues that will continue to be major preoccupations for myself personally, and for the Bank of Canada.

I hope I have not spoiled your festive, pre-holiday mood by talking about my preoccupations. In case I have, let me repeat that the economy has made tremendous progress over the past year, and it is close to reaching its full potential. We are very encouraged by this, and we are growing increasingly confident that the economy will need less monetary stimulus over time.

Nevertheless, a number of uncertainties remain around our outlook, many of which I have touched on today. As Senior Deputy Governor Carolyn Wilkins said in an important speech last month, it is critical that we take these uncertainties on board in our policy-making. So, allow me to repeat what we said in our interest rate announcement last week: We will continue to be cautious in our upcoming policy decisions, guided by incoming data in assessing the economy’s sensitivity to interest rates, the evolution of economic capacity, and the dynamics of both wage growth and inflation.

By sharing my preoccupations with you today, I hope that I have also raised your understanding of them, so that they appear somewhat less daunting. The Bank will continue to work on these issues while doing our part to help bring about a strong and stable economy. This has been the Bank of Canada’s role since our beginning. And it will remain our role for years to come.

Let me wish you all the best for the holidays, and for a prosperous 2018.