To The Pointwith Boris Bozic
Commentary, Opinions, Thoughts and Discussion on Current Events, Politics and The Mortgage Industry

0 Comments Choices We Make – Elections

Article written by on the 16 Oct 2015 in Canada,Current Events,Politics

On October 19th, Canadians will choose who will lead this this country going forward. Assuming there’s a majority, a rather large assumption given current polls, Canadians will have to live with their decision for four years. Irrespective of the choice Canadians make the world will not come to an end the day after the election. The leaders of the three major parties would try to have believe otherwise, but the truth is there is very little truth in politics, and even less so during a campaign.

I was eligible to vote for the first time in 1978, and since then I have never missed the right to exercise my franchise. I never understand when people say, “What’s the point of voting, it’s not going to make any difference”. To me the point is that we have the right to vote, and that never should be taken for granted. To illustrate how precious the right is; take a moment to take stock of the oppression and brutal disregard for basic human rights around the world today. In parts of the world the oppressors will allow access to Facebook, but allowing an election which will determine who the leader of their country will be?  Well, that’s just a notion too far. Technological advancement is a by-product of society’s enlightenment, and nothing contributes to that more than the simple act of marking an X on a ballot. 

I do understand why voter cynicism and apathy exists. We all know, or least came to expect that politicians are less than truthful. They will say whatever is necessary to get a vote. Therefore, many voters to decide who to vote for based on whom they dislike the least. I must confess, (more…)

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0 Comments A Summer of Discontent

Article written by on the 03 Jul 2015 in Current Events

This is the time of year when people start to think about vacations, children going to camp, enjoying a beverage on a patio, late evening strolls and a bunch of other activities that one associates with summer. It’s a great time to shut out the real world, for a little while at least, but the noise level may be so high it may be difficult to do so. It’s so much easier to suspend reality when it’s someone else’s reality. It’s hard to point fingers when you have your own troublesome issues to deal with.

Firstly, there’s a country in Europe that’s in a deep mess, and we’ve become so accustomed to hearing about their “challenges” that we’ve learned to ignore Greece.  Well, Greece is back in the news, with all its drama, twists and turns. This time stakes are little higher. There’s a referendum this weekend in Greece, one which is ill timed and could be political suicide for the Greece’s reigning president, Alexis Tsipras. In nutshell, Greeks are going to vote on the most recent austerity package being offered by the European Union. The Greek president doesn’t think much of the terms that the Euro Zone is attaching to handout, so he wants his people to decide. And if Greeks vote yes, he’s promised to resign. If one doesn’t learn from history, then one is doomed to repeat it. History has taught many European leaders that upsetting German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is detrimental to one’s political career. So to Greek president, Mr. Tsipras, we barely knew you. (more…)

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0 Comments FIFA: Too Big to Care

Article written by on the 05 Jun 2015 in Current Events

I think we’ve all heard the term “To Big to Fail”. The term became fashionable at the onset of the sub-prime crisis in 2008. Some financial institutions were deemed too vital and important to the global economy, therefore, they would be provided with a safety net by governments. Other institutions which were deemed NOT to be “Too Big to Fail”, Darwin’s theory applied – it was survival of the fittest.  We could debate the fairness of the “Too Big to Fail” classification, but that will have to wait for a future post. Based on what has transpired over the last two weeks I really do believe there’s another subset of characterization for handful of organizations, like FIFA.

FIFIA has been in the news for last few weeks, and even non-soccer fans can’t help but be drawn to all the stories off corruption, bribery, kickbacks and basic flaunting of international law. To be fair, FIFA, the world’s governing soccer authority, is not alone. My definition of “Too Big To Care” is fairly simple; “no action is so abhorrent that it will impact us financially”. What other entity fits that category? How about the NFL? Before you suggest that I should take a saliva test, here’s the simple truth. The NFL – National Felons League is not impacted financially even though it employs murderers, drug dealers, drug addicts, wife beaters and child beaters. The NFL has demonstrated that it is bullet proof, apologies for the poor choice of words. Rocked by scandal? Not a sponsor lost or decline in viewership. This year’s Super Bowl set a viewing record. The NFL is a money making machine, and sponsors and fans are willing to set aside their moral outrage every Sunday, or when filling out their office pool. The NFL has got this down to a science. When scandal hits, they pretend they care, for a couple of weeks, and then it all goes away. (more…)

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0 Comments What does this mean for the Mortgage Industry?

Article written by on the 24 Apr 2015 in Current Events

There’s been a tsunami of economic data released over the last two weeks; couple that with the new Federal Budget, as well as musings from the Bank of Canada, there’s a lot to chew on.  I’m always on the lookout for the “nugget” as it relates to the mortgage industry.  Be it data or something said. 

The Bank of Canada is still predicting that if there is a price correction it will be a “soft landing”, but with an interesting caveat.  According to the Bank of Canada, “The adverse impact of the oil price shock in Alberta, along with robust price growth in Toronto and Vancouver suggests a correction in these markets” – nothing really new here.  I think we all know there are two very distinct real estate markets, Toronto and Vancouver on one hand, and the rest of Canada on the other. As for Alberta, once again nothing new. But what I found interesting was that the Bank of Canada suggested that the Toronto and Vancouver marketplace may have to be dealt with separately from a regulatory or pricing standpoint if home values continually rise. Well, this is different. For now it appears to be a warning or simply a heads up to the two respective market places, but it would be naive to think this is just bluster. The Bank of Canada is concerned that a significant correction in home prices in Vancouver and Toronto could spill over to other regions. For all my friends and colleagues in Vancouver, you’re used to this type of chatter. For decades you’ve been hearing, “Here it comes, get ready to create tents cities in Stanley Park because the market is going to crash and you’ll be out of your homes”. I get it, you roll your eyes when you hear this. But for us in Toronto it’s fairly new.  Toronto has been this countries piñata for the last decade so leading in any category is fresh. So you’ll have to excuse us here in Toronto if we become skittish by threats. It’s only from of our lack of experience dealing with predictions of the apocalypse.

Helping to ease some of our angst in Toronto, and Ontario, was the most recent federal budget.  Yes, Ontario is the pretty girl, and federal Tories want to take us to the prom.  The most recent federal budget was skewed to help the manufacturing sector in this country.  Trouble in the resource sector? No problem, the federal Tories looked to Ontario and pulled a Joey Tribbiani from Friends and just said “how you doin?”  Worry not Alberta. The Tories are not saying “goodbye”. They’re simply saying “we’ll see you again” – like right after the next election.

Until next time,

Cheers.

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0 Comments Talent Is Overrated

Article written by on the 10 Apr 2015 in Book Review,Business,Merix Financial,Sports,World Events

That’s the title of a book I came across while wandering around an airport a few years ago.  The title of the book was such a contradiction of my own personal belief that I was left with no choice but to pick up the book and read the overview inside the book jacket.  I’m not sure if the author, Geoff Colvin, came up with the tittle or not.  Whoever it was, kudos.  It made me pick up the book, and eventually buy it.  It’s an interesting and fairly simple read.  The book is based on research, and Colvin’s interpretation of the data.  His findings and conclusions are based on empirical data, and there is not a single suggestion that to be great at what you do is easy.  On the contrary, Colvin concludes that to be great requires painstaking work and dedication. 

 The reason the book came to mind was because of the Masters Golf Tournament.  Golf enthusiasts know that the Masters is being played this weekend, actually, Thursday through Sunday.  The Masters is a unique tournament.  Its mystique is unparalleled.    Augusta National, where the Masters is played, is sacred soil for golfers.  Golfers would pay a “stupid” sum of money for the privilege of playing that course, just once in a lifetime.  It would be the ultimate bucket list experience.  I’ve had the privilege of attending the Master’s on a few occasions.  The first time I walked on the grounds I was mesmerized.   It was one of those rare moments where you can say the experience was better than what you anticipated it would be.  So, what does this have to do with a book entitled Talent Is Overrated?  The author dedicated a chapter to Tiger Woods, who just happens to be playing at this year’s Masters golf tournament.

Tiger Woods is one of those rare athletes who transcends a sport.  People who don’t even like golf know who Tiger Woods is.  He is one of the most recognizable athletes in the world.  Many people adore him, and many people dislike him.  But there’s no denying that everyone has heard of him, and can recognize Tiger Woods.    That’s a result of being a generational athlete, who is responsible for a transformational change of a sport.  Some know him more for his personal shortcomings, which I could care less about, but everyone knows him because he was that damn good at his chosen profession.  Colvin posed the question, “why was Tiger Woods that good?”  Is it a God given talent?  Does he possess a golf gene that no others have?  How many times have we explained extraordinary results by simply  saying, “he/she was born that way”.  Colvin debunks that myth, and I think he’s on to something.

SPOILER ALERT –  I’m going to share some of his findings so stop reading if you want to pick up the book and be surprised.  Tiger Woods was programmed to be a golfer, specifically by his father.  Earl Woods, Tigers father, served in the military.  He did two tours in Vietnam, the second tour as a member of the United States Army Special Forces.  In other words, a bad ass you didn’t want to mess with.  He knew all about structure and discipline.  He also had a teaching background.  His background was the perfect for molding and programming his son to become one of the greatest golfers of all time.  Example, when Tiger was an infant, his father would take him into the garage, put him in a high chair, and make him watch his golf swing for hours on end.  Tiger’s father loved golf, and he was determined to make his son love the game even more.  At four years of age Tiger and his father appeared on the Mike Douglas Show, a well-known TV Talk Show back in the day, to demonstrate his golfing prowess at such an early age.  Tiger’s entire life was golf and school. Apparently the focus on education was his mother’s doing.  Tiger was programmed to think, eat, drink and practice golf.  Thousands and thousands of hours dedicated to hitting a little white ball.  The dedication to practice, to sacrifice “normal” child experiences, created a golfing virtuoso.   So is Tiger’s mastery of the sport nature or nurture?  After reading Talent Is Overrated, I lean more towards nurture.

Everyone knows about Tiger’s personal challenges.  Golf fans know that Tiger’s body is breaking down, and his age is becoming a factor.  The hundreds of thousands of violent swings, which is the only I can describe Tiger’s golf swing, has to eventually take a toll.  The golf world so badly wants Tiger to be Tiger of old.  Everyone was surprised to see Tiger embracing other golfers  on the practice range at this year’s Masters.  Tiger joking around with the media, spending time with his children.  Everyone is saying it’s a new Tiger Woods.  The Tiger of old had little time for comradery, kibitzing with the press, and family was used as a prop.  Can he ever win again with this new found attitude?  I think it might be a matter of too little, too late.    As the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect”.  But perfect has a price. 

Until Next Time.

Cheers,

 

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2 Comments Real Estate: Worlds Apart

Article written by on the 27 Mar 2015 in Current Events

From Toronto one can visit another world with relative ease. No space flight training required. It’s a simple as gassing up the family chariot and driving west on the 401.  After 3 hours and 55 minutes of driving, some 371 km, you should hit Detroit.  Within minutes of crossing the border in Windsor, Ontario, you will ask yourself, “where the hell am I?” Sure the navigation display in your car says Detroit, but you’ll be hard pressed to believe it’s not another planet.

The city of Detroit has been in decline, and decay, for a number of years now. The how and why has been debated for many decades. And I can’t speak to the specifics of the root causes of Detroit’s plight, but what I can say with some certainty is that the residents of Detroit would gladly trade their circumstances and problems for ours. I was struck by some statics that I just came across. It’s been well publicized that the average home price in Toronto jut hit $1 million recently. In Detroit, some sixty-two thousand homes will go into foreclosure for unpaid taxes this year. The homes will be auctioned off for an estimated $500. That’s right, for the cost of two grande lattes at $tarbucks, you can buy a house in Detroit. Sure you might have some issues to deal with if you end up with the winning bid. Like the current owners still living in the house, but they stopped paying taxes because the city can no longer provide basic services. There’s a chance they might be gun owners, and now that they’re not paying property taxes, they have extra cash to buy more ammo. Let’s not forget about squatters (more…)

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1 Comments Bank of Canada: One Change and Done.

Article written by on the 06 Mar 2015 in Canada,Current Events

That’s not exactly what we have come to expect from the Bank of Canada.  For years it’s been none and done.  Historically when the Bank of Canada makes an adjustment to the overnight lending rate, up or down, it’s not normally a one shot proposition.  So why the change?  Well, for now there was no need to lower the overnight lending rate.  Financial and economic conditions have improved since the last rate cut.  Still somewhat tenuous but not as dire as some were suggesting.  Here’s how the Bank of Canada rationalized not making a change to the overnight lending rate, “The oil price shock has had a modest early impact on aggregate demand, and a larger effect on income.  The Bank continues to expect that most of the negative impact from lower oil process will appear in the first half of 2015, although it may be even more front-loaded than projected in January.  Nevertheless, data for 2014 as whole suggest the anticipated rotation into stronger growth in non-energy exports and investments”.

One doesn’t require expertise in breaking ciphers to decode the Bank of Canada’s position. Simply stated, there’s still concern about Alberta, relative to the price of oil, but the fallout and pain may be contained.  Also, there are always winners and losers when markets sectors fluctuate. So Alberta’s short term pain may be Ontario’s gain. Yes, it appears that the “have not” province may be in a position now to tuck away their tin cup and pencils – not for a moment do I think politicians at every level in Ontario will cease being the country’s most organized panhandlers, but the justification for handouts may become more difficult. (more…)

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1 Comments Time For A Deep Breath

Article written by on the 06 Feb 2015 in Canada,Current Events,Economy,World Events

One of the unfortunate by-products of the “information” age is that content is required, every minute of the day.  Be it 24 hour news stations, sports stations or online publications etc.  There’s no time to think things through.  In-depth research and analysis takes times, and nobody seems to have it today.  We live in a 24 hour news cycle, and the competition is fierce.  The more salacious or provocative a story is, the greater the chance that eyeballs will be directed to it.  Case and point, Alberta.  Our friends and colleagues in that province must feel like they’re under siege.  It’s a constant bombardment of the “sky is falling” narrative. This is not an “it’s not fair” sentiment an eight year old says that when you make them go to bed by 9:30 pm.  The shame is that there does not appear to be much balance in the news with respect to the price of oil, and the impact it will have in Alberta.  There are contrary opinions in this regard, but you have to look for it.

I came across an article which suggests that the price for a barrel of oil has hit bottom.  This is not a lone opinion, and one individual who is suggesting this has a wee bit of knowledge and credibility in this regard.  (more…)

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1 Comments BOC Rate Cut & Loonie Heads South – What does it mean?

Article written by on the 23 Jan 2015 in Canada

And if you’re a snowbird or you planned on spending March break in the U.S., it’s going to cost you a lot more.  The Canadian Dollar’s decline does not come as a surprise. The Loonie may be worth 82,81,80,79, 78 cents – it will all depend when and what time of day you read the blog.  The Loonie is referred to as the petro-dollar, so when the price for a barrel of oil falls by 51%; it shouldn’t come as surprise that the Loonie moves in lockstep.  What did come as surprise is the Bank of Canada’s decision to cut the overnight lending rate.  Some had predicted this could happen in 2015, but no one saw this coming so soon into the New Year.  It’s bit of shock to the system because the overnight lending rate has remained unchanged for over four years.  Every announcement from the Bank of Canada has been the same; “move on folks, nothing to see here”.  Well, there’s something to see now.

The cut to the overnight lending rate is not good news.  The cut was necessitated because of the fragility of the Canadian economy.  The Canadian economy grew by 2.4% in 2014.  The Bank of Canada has now re-forecasted its growth for 2015 to 2.1%, and 1.5% in the first six months.  Ouch!  Our economies dependence on natural resources has far reaching consequences. Oil equals jobs, jobs equal consumer spending, and consumer spending equals healthy real estate values. It’s a game of dominoes that the Bank of Canada would like to avoid.  So, a way to offset the some of the oil risk is to support other sectors, like manufacturing and exports.  Some pundits are suggesting that the Bank of Canada is manipulating our currency to make our products more affordable to external markets.  Others are suggesting that the Bank of Canada does not have the ability to manipulate our currency. For the benefit of doubt… let’s call it coincidence. The Canadian dollar decline came just in the nick of time to support other sectors of our economy, and to minimize the potential of oil becoming a contagion.  Whew, we sure got lucky.

Back in early December I posted a blog entitled,Move aside Mortgage, There’s a New Worrisome Word”. I’m paraphrasing, but the gist of the blog was that 2015 was going to be all about oil, all the time. However, I assumed that we would have some time to ease into the consequences of cheap crude. I assumed wrong. It’s here now, and we all have to deal with it. One of the first things we as consumers should do is maybe alter our way of thinking.  I know this may seem counter intuitive, but lower interest rates and falling gas prices may make you feel good today, but it may end up making you much poorer in the future.  If you’re looking for one stat to follow, try the unemployment rate. It’s the number that tells all.

Until next time,

Cheers.

 

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0 Comments 2015, A Fresh Start

Article written by on the 09 Jan 2015 in Current Events,World Events

A belated Happy New Year – here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2015. The beginning of a new year brings freshness and hope that “things” will be better.  It would be nice if we could bundle up the previous year’s trials and tribulations and say, “abracadabra…disappear”.  Don’t bother trying, it doesn’t work.  Flipping the calendar over doesn’t mean there’s no carryover of issues and problems.  Don’t know about you but to me the world seemed to become a nastier place in 2014.  We Canadians will always remember the terrorist attack on Parliament Hill in 2014. The carryover from that incident into 2015?  I think most of us believe it will happen again, it’s just a matter of when; and now we deal with the images in Paris.  Innocent people were slaughtered because of political cartoon in a newspaper.  I think it’s going to take a real effort in 2015 to maintain a positive outlook, and shut out the madness and evil. 

The New Year is all about a positive outlook. Resolutions are made, only to be abandoned by mid-February. I don’t make any resolutions because I know February is coming. No, what I do is go into every year with a theme. That gives me a lot of wiggle room.  It’s a macro approach versus micro.  Example, contemplating losing 15 pounds, while elbow deep and family sized bag of Lay’s salt and vinegar potato chips, is a fool’s errand. The resolution shouldn’t be to lose 15 pounds…the theme should be “overall wellness”.  See – all kinds of wiggle room.

Since there’s no way to shut out the world you’re left with no choice but to look at the issues through a dispassionate lens.  Fact – China’s economy is contracting, as is Brazil’s and India’s.  Not long ago the emerging markets were going to be our economic saviors; today, not so much.  Fact – Europe is once again a bit of a mess.  The Greeks, they’reeeeeeee back, are talking about leaving the Euro Zone.  Empress Merkel of Germany said that it’s okay if the Greeks leave. That means we can all raise a glass of Ouzo, and toast the Greeks a safe avito (Greek for goodbye). If Merkel says Auf Wiedersehen, it’s time for the Greek’s to put on their Sunday best Lederhosen, and look smartly when exiting. Fact – Russia’s economy is in a mess.  Putin still has popular support in Russia, but let’s see what happens when cells phone, Benz’s and Prada bags started being repossessed with greater frequency in Russia.  And what happens if Putin gets really mad?  We just might find out in 2015.

Closer to home, the giant is back. The U.S economy is arguably one of the most robust economies in the world today. The U.S greenback is soaring, Americans are spending, which helps Canadian exports. The price of oil impacts both the American and Canadian economy. The way it’s going now it’s just a matter of time that our credit cards will be credited 10 cents a liter at the pumps. As for interest rates?  I now believe we’ll see a rate increase in the U.S. in 2015.  Will Canada move in lock-step?  Doubt it, the Canadian economy is still too fragile, but who can say with any certainty. 

So, there are a lot of issues – hot spots – in the world that will impact us in 2015.  Hopefully 2015 won’t result in us looking back on 2014 with fondness.  Time will tell. 

Until then, anyone want a salt and vinegar chip?  Oh, sorry, all that’s left are those tiny little pieces in corner of the bag.

Until Next Time,

Cheers.

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0 Comments Cross Border Shopping

Article written by on the 12 Dec 2014 in Canada

For those thinking of doing some last minute Christmas shopping south of the 49th parallel, the “deals” have become just a little less attractive.  The Canadian dollar has now hit at a five year low.  The Loonie is now worth 86.70 U.S. cents.  Ouch!  That’s not to suggest there aren’t some folks cheering.

Since 2008, the manufacturing sector in Canada has taken its fair share of lumps, especially in Ontario and Quebec.  Given the value of our Lonnie today there’s less need for innovation and efficiency.  Not optimal from a long view standpoint but short term it will give many the opportunity to say, “hey world, buy our stuff because it’s cheaper”. Hmm, that sounds vaguely familiar.  Going forward chances are that export numbers will appear to be positive. That makes the Bank of Canada happy.  Now they can say they had nothing to do with value of Loonie, as some have suggested. Now they can point to one sector and say, “it’s because of what is happening in the oil sector”.  Right now oil is the new ugh!  The oil sector is getting hammered and it’s an integral part of our economy.  So for every yeah, there’s a yuck!

 The economic data suggests that the overnight lending rate is not going up, anytime soon.  That’s not to suggest that consumer rates won’t be increasing.  Just last week CMHC announced that the cost to securitize, CMB/NHA/MBS is going up.  So who’s going to eat the cost?  Spreads and margins are already compressed. So it might be difficult to rationalize further compression.  The most recent bank earning, with the exception of one bank, did not meet market expectations. Bank stocks are contracting, and they may be challenged to meet net income targets in 2015.  The dots are becoming a little clearer, making it easier to join them.

So if you are heading across the border this weekend to do some shopping, and the U.S. Custom Official asks you, “purpose of your trip?”.  Your response might be, “just want to say goodbye to my friends working at the outlet mall”.

Until next time,

Cheers.

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1 Comments Move aside “Mortgage”, There’s a new Worrisome word

Article written by on the 05 Dec 2014 in Current Events

It’s OIL!  Let’s be nostalgic for a moment and think back to the days when every headline screamed “Mortgages are responsible for all things that could go wrong”.  Words such as Bust, Household Debt, Hard Landing, and a multitude of other adjectives that would lead you believe that the four horseman of the apocalypse were on the way .  If I’m not mistaken, I think I read somewhere that the former mayor of Toronto was driven to smoke crack cocaine because he had a mortgage.  Okay, I’m making that up, but I suspect former mayor may be annoyed because that excuse didn’t dawn on him.  In no way am I suggesting that today the word “mortgage” is out of the woods, it’s just that “mortgage” has company now while traipsing through the evil forest.

Get ready; it’s going to be all oil, all the time. Oil, like mortgages, has tentacles that reach far beyond our borders. Mortgages nearly brought down the global economy, see sub-prime crisis of 2008, but the new partner in crime can have devastating consequences as well. OPEC, meaning Saudi Arabia, decided not to cut oil productions. The net result is that there’s a glut of oil today.  Ah, simple economics – supply and demand. Too much supply means a drop in prices. We’ve all seen it at the pumps, and given that Saudi’s said they’re comfortable at $60 a barrel, don’t be surprised to see a liter of oil sell for less than a dollar. I don’t remember the last time I saw a liter of gas for less than a buck. Gosh, it must be 15 or 20 pounds ago. 

The plight of oil today is so juicy, and would make for a good Robert Ludlum novel. There’s speculation that the Saudi’s are targeting the booming U.S. oil market. It’s like they’re saying, “you wanna play?…frack this”. Then there’s the other geopolitical conspiracy theory that the Saudi’s and the U.S. are in cahoots, and they’ve aimed their laser at Russia, in particular Russia’s lovable teddy bear, Putin. Hmm, how are things going in Russia today? Let’s see, the Ruble has plummeted, their foreign cash reserves are being depleted, inflation is on the rise, and they’re on the verge of deep recession. Putin’s wondering eye, neighboring countries to annex, may have cost Russia dearly. 

The political gamesmanship aside, we’re going to feel this at home. The obvious being that projects in the oil sands may be delayed or halted altogether. That impacts jobs. Federal Tories will have their hands full with problems, due to the timing of the oil prices plummeting. We’re not far away from an election, which means the Tories were banking on revenues from oil to build as bigger surplus when they drop their next budget. Wonder if the B.C. Government is regretting not cutting a deal to run pipeline through its province. They weren’t morally opposed to the idea; they just wanted more money by way of fees.  I’m reminded of what a very successful entrepreneur once said to me, “pigs get fat…hogs get slaughtered”. A lesson for all.

Interesting times ahead of us.  The Bank of Canada Governor, Poloz, used stronger than normal language regarding his concern at the amount of household debt this week.  So mortgages will continue to get its fair share of air time. But for those of us in the mortgage industry, we should whisper a thank you to the gas pump the next time will fill up. It’s nice not to be alone. Just thought of something, If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer this Christmas, why not a barrel of oil?  Nah, wait till Boxing Day, it will be a lot cheaper.

Until next time

Cheers

 

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