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Globe’s Economy Lab forecasts an imminent rise in interest rates; Toronto housing market waits with bated breath

One thing that could spark a big sell-off in Toronto’s real estate market is a sharp rise in interest rates, as homeowners that were previously on the fence about selling try to cash in before the market softens. So, naturally, anyone looking to sell (or, for that matter, buy cheap) would like to get as much advance notice as possible that an interest-rate hike is coming. Well, economist Stephen Gordon issued such a warning yesterday, suggesting that the interest rate is set to increase much sooner than most observers thought.

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How the music now ruling the rap charts became so decidedly middle-class

Organzied Rhyme

(Image: Gluekit; D-Sisive by Melanie Moore; Shad by Christine Lim; Drake by Christian Lapid/CP Images; Airplane Boys by Justin Create)

At 3:46 a.m. on December 12, 2010, a post titled “Introducing The Weeknd” appeared on the blog of Toronto’s most famous rapper, Drake. Two songs—“What You Need” and “The Morning”—revealed a new R&B singer to the world and kick-started a rabid following. The Weeknd’s free nine-song release House of Balloons garnered 200,000 downloads in its first three weeks, and his videos have been watched on YouTube hundreds of thousands of times. It’s been a rapid rise, like that of his mentor, Drake, whose 2010 full-length debut Thank Me Later went platinum in the U.S. just over a month after its release. This is Toronto’s hip-hop moment, and the city’s steadfast identity as safe, stable and middle-class—once the basis of its lack of rap credibility­—is the reason.

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Star investigation warns that home prices could drop by 25 per cent—we’re starting to miss 2010’s optimism

Image: George Kelly

Not that we want to be accused of looking for clouds behind every silver lining (and yes, just today CIBC reported that Toronto’s economy is leading the country), but we’re still a little concerned about the Toronto Star’s weekend story on home prices. Economists interviewed by the Star agree that next year is going to be a bad one for home prices—it’s just a question of how bad.

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Why the proposed “merger” between the TMX and the London Stock Exchange is bad news for Bay Street

(Illustration: Dan Page)

One morning in late January, 1998, the Bank of Montreal CEO Matthew Barrett and Royal Bank chief John Cleghorn paid a visit to the editorial board of The Globe and Mail. They were there to sell us—a small group that included reporters, columnists, editors and me, then the Globe’s editorial page editor—on the new, borderless future for financial services, of which the proposed merger of their two banks was but the first step. They didn’t have to sell very hard.

All of us in the boardroom knew what was to come. As sure as the Railway Lands across the street would soon be filled with condo towers, so the map of global banking was about to be redrawn. Deregulation was picking up speed. Borders were going to be erased. Rules, such as the one preventing foreign ownership of Canadian chartered banks, would be rewritten. A handful of giant transnational banks would soon be headed for our shores. “We want to try to survive in the next century,” Cleghorn told us. RBC and BMO couldn’t afford to be “standing on the sidelines, watching the parade go by,” added Barrett. We all know how the story ended: then–finance minister Paul Martin didn’t let anyone join the parade, including intended partners CIBC and TD, a decision that infuriated the banks, but one they’d thank him for when the financial crisis hit.

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50 Reasons To Love Toronto: No. 3, Jim Flaherty saved Bay Street

No. 3: Jim Flaherty is the saviour of Bay Street

(Image: Philip Burke)

Jim Flaherty is a pugnacious little jerk. Short in stature, he has the cruel eyes of a fighter, and the bent nose to go with it. Torontonians never warmed to him as a Harris-era minister at Queen’s Park, and many were unpleasantly surprised when, in 2006, he was elected to Ottawa and became Stephen Harper’s finance minister. Then he weasled his way into our good graces.

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Kissinger versus Ferguson: three things we hope to see at the next Munk Debates

It’s interesting—in the “kind of weird” sense of the term—that an academic debate hosted by the University of Toronto garners the attention that it does. Nonetheless, the Munk Debates have somehow managed to make a splash on the international scene (which is exactly the sort of splash Toronto cares about). Whether the subject is the environment or atheism, the foreign press corps takes note, and the next debate should be no different, as Henry Kissinger and Fareed Zakaria square off against Niall Ferguson and David Daokui Li over whether the 21st century will belong to China. Given the stodgy, prim and proper environs, those in attendance will probably be painfully polite—but we’re still holding out hope for some fireworks. A small wish list after the jump.

1. Someone brings up Rising Sun
It may be a distant memory now, but back in the early 1990s, plenty of smart people thought that Japan would supplant the U.S. as the world’s biggest superpower. One real-estate bubble—and resultant economic collapse—later, and Japan’s economy has spent nearly 20 years underperforming. It makes the entire genre of Japan’s-coming-to-eat-our-lunch fiction look rather silly.

2. Someone brings up Wilfrid Laurier
If the supposed best and brightest couldn’t predict the future two decades ago, they probably shouldn’t attempt a century’s worth of guessing. Seriously: predicting how the 21st century is going to pan out in 2011 is about as hubristic as saying, in 1904, that Canada would “fill the 20th century.”

3. Someone goads Henry Kissinger
It’s a shame the debate is likely to be so gosh-darn polite, because we’d be awfully tempted to give Kissinger a poke and a prod. Say, if he claims China can’t sustain its power without respecting human rights, or if he argues that China needs to respect the rule of law. Or better yet, if he says he’s worried about China’s treatment of other, smaller Asian countries around it.

Be it resolved the 21st century will belong to China [Munk Debates]

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Politics

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Remember that high-speed train from Windsor to Montreal? Here’s where the federal leaders stand on it

Imagine, imagine, we can imagine (Image: Jon Curnow)

Finally, transit infrastructure has made it into the federal election news cycle. NDP leader Jack Layton was in Quebec today, where he told an audience that he supports federal funding for high-speed rail along the Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Windsor corridor. Ontario and Quebec have had this on their wish lists for some time. The Liberals have put it in their platform, Dalton McGuinty and Jean Charest both support it, and now an ascendant NDP is getting behind it as well. Apparently the only one who isn’t a fan is Stephen Harper.

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Politics

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Gerard Kennedy versus Peggy Nash in Parkdale-High Park: the huggiest grudge match ever

Gerard Kennedy and Peggy Nash are slugging it out in Parkdale-High Park (Images: John Michael McGrath)

Like so many ridings in the 416, Parkdale-High Park is hosting a showdown between the Liberals and the NDP while the Tories and the Greens duke it out for third place. What’s odd about this district, however, is that it might actually change hands on May 2—and both of the viable candidates have “re-elect” signs (the NDP put orange tape over the “re-” without being forced to the way the Liberals were elsewhere). Liberal incumbent Gerard Kennedy took Parkdale-High Park from the NDP’s Peggy Nash in 2008 by 3,000 votes, and Nash is back for a rematch. Like in Trinity-Spadina—the one other downtown riding that may swing—this is a fight between the left and the really left. The knives aren’t out, but the fight is interesting nonetheless, especially with the NDP’s numbers on the rise across the country. Here, we talk to Kennedy and Nash about what’s at stake for Parkdale-High Park.

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Politics

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The four vital issues that won’t be discussed in the upcoming election

For all intents and purposes, tomorrow is the expiration date for the 40th Canadian Parliament. This means that, for the next six- to eight-week election campaign, there will be plenty to talk about. There will also be plenty not talked about. Some issues are so politically radioactive that, no matter how vital they may be to the health of the nation, no leader will touch them. Here, we speculate on what we won’t be hearing from Iggy, Harpy and Lay this spring.

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Politics

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What would budget proposals look like if Ottawa made sense? Two think tanks’ adventures in coherence

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) today released the Alternative Budget, its annual exercise in make-believe, where the left-wing group conjures up a budget that the government of the day—be it Liberal or Conservative—regularly ignores. This year’s alt-budget is, we’ll wager, likely headed for the same fate as all the previous ones, given what the details are: rolling back corporate tax cuts, establishing two new tax brackets for high-income earners, cancelling the F-35 fighter jets and imposing a national carbon tax and a new 28 per cent tax rate for the oil sands. “The money saved and generated could go into programs that would create new jobs, reduce income disparity, rebuild infrastructure, improve pension benefits and help the environment,” reports the Globe and Mail.

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Culture

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Sarah McLachlan says so long and farewell to Lilith Fair

Sarah McLachlan is bidding farewell to Lilith Fair (Image: skinnylawyer)

It seems as though no one could make audiences love Lilith Fair in 2010: in the wake of spotty attendance and numerous cancellations this past summer, Lilith Fair is officially no longer. Sarah McLachlan, the festival’s founder, told The Globe and Mail, “It’s done … And that’s okay. It’s actually a really good thing.”

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Not Asian enough: Jan Wong on the phenomenon of “Tiger Mom” parenting

The furor over Tiger Mom parenting ignores one awkward fact: academic success doesn’t guarantee a sparkling future. Confessions of a delinquent mother

(Image: Peter Arkle)

I freely admit that I’m a bad Chinese mom. I do not whack my sons with chopsticks; neither of them speaks Chinese; and a couple of years ago, I was thrilled when one of them doubled his math mark (at summer school—don’t ask). Which is why I’m bemused by all the angst, outrage and uproar over super-achieving Asian kids and their Genghis Moms.

Culture and competition make for a volatile mix, especially in Toronto, where we come from every part of the world, and especially during uncertain economic times, when people are worried about job security and who’s outperforming whom. It’s at moments like these that politicians and the media, consciously or unconsciously, tend to exploit the West’s simmering insecurities about The Other. They hint, for instance, that we are losing ground to China and even to our own Chinese-Canadian population.

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The great burnout: recession survivors didn’t count on the surge in workload, the smaller paycheque and the all-consuming resentment. A story about workplace hell with no escape

It’s been three years since the mass cull of the Great Recession began.

Three years since all those jobs were zapped into oblivion, and the people who remained employed were left to shoulder double, triple or quadruple loads.

For my generation, the timing couldn’t have been worse. My close friends and university classmates are exiting their 30s and have mortgages and kids and barely enough minutes to shovel the driveway. They’re entering the phase that used to be called “mid-life,” which in the best of times is a moment for evaluation and maybe even reassessment. But after the worst economic upheaval we’ve ever known, they’re reeling. A financial analyst in her early 40s tells me how 12-hour days—which used to be the exception—are now the norm: she puts in full and breakless stretches at the office, then keeps the laptop burning for hours every night after her two young kids have gone to bed. Another executive was burned out after her company took on dozens of new projects and she was left to run everything. She now works up to 100 hours a week and gets phone calls from friends she hasn’t seen in months, asking if she’s moved or died.

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Not safe for work: Why cyberslacking makes you the company’s most valuable employee

Your boss is reading your e-mail, spying on the sites you visit and recording your keystrokes. The biggest time wasters used to be punished, but the newest management philosophy says they should be rewarded. Why cyberslacking makes you the company’s most valuable employee

If wasting time at work is an art form, then we are all artists. We each compulsively engineer our own system of self-reward, refined through repetition: 15 minutes of data entry buys you five minutes of Angry Birds. Upon release from an intolerably long meeting, surely you’re owed 10 minutes on Facebook.  Now respond to at least four work e-mails before checking to see if anyone has noticed the hilarious comment you left on your cousin’s vacation photos. Then quickly visit your favourite Finnish design blog. We all share a common goal: the avoidance of detection.  We memorize keyboard shortcuts to toggle between apps, and we keep our IM windows slyly minimized. We fancy ourselves, each one of us, a swift ninja of procrastination.

I regret to inform you that your employer knows exactly how much time you waste. They track your security card swipes, own your e-mails, record your browser history and log your keystrokes. If they give you a phone or a car with GPS, they can follow your whereabouts. They may employ human spies, spybot software or both to run productivity assessments. Your secret is out.

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Real Estate

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Toronto condo prices may or may not fall, and Canada may or may not be facing a housing bubble: reports

Condo-on-condo action (Image: Neil Ta, from the Torontolife.com Flickr pool)

The Bank of Nova Scotia wants you to know that condo prices are going to drop in Toronto—well, kind of. Sort of. Maybe. The bank released a report that the Canadian condominium market is showing signs of “oversupply,” but no harbingers of a crash. According to the Toronto Star, Adrienne Warren, a senior economist at the bank, told a real estate forum yesterday that “the current stock of unsold new homes is higher than average,” and that there’s “a situation of rising multi-housing unit inventory which has been trending up.” Though it sounds a bit dire, the translation is simply: there are slightly more condos out there than there are people who want to buy them.

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