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Amid growing criticism, Macklem says Bank of Canada’s independence not under threat

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OTTAWA –

As criticism piles on from politicians, pundits and interest groups, Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem says he’s felt no threat to the institution’s independence.

“I do not have any concerns about the bank’s independence being under threat,” Macklem said in an interview with The Canadian Press on Wednesday.

Over the last year, the central bank has been under intense scrutiny for both its policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the extraordinary steps it has taken this year to clamp down on decades-high inflation.

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“Yes, we’re getting lots of tough questions. People should be asking those tough questions. But I have felt no threat to our independence,” Macklem went on to say.

Since March, the Bank of Canada has raised its key interest rate six times consecutively, embarking on one of the fastest monetary policy tightening cycles in its history.

The rate hikes have been in response to inflation reaching levels not seen in nearly four decades. Canada’s annual inflation rate was 6.9 per cent in September. It has been steadily declining since reaching its highest rate this year of 8.1 per cent in June.

The ongoing rate hike cycle has sparked loud criticism from progressive voices concerned about the effect it is having on employment, as forecasters are increasingly expecting higher interest rates to trigger a recession.

In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Oct. 21, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that while he supports the central bank’s independence, he warned that another rate hike will have a “serious impact on families.”

When asked by reporters Tuesday about the letter, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland acknowledged the economic pain Canadians are facing but noted that institutional stability is important during challenging economic times, with the Bank of Canada’s independence playing an important role in ensuring stability.

Singh’s criticism didn’t stop the Bank of Canada from announcing a half-percentage point rate hike on Wednesday and signalling it wasn’t done raising rates just yet.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Macklem said the Bank of Canada is facing tough decisions, and when decisions are difficult, the central bank’s independence becomes more important.

He later echoed that message in his interview with The Canadian Press.

“Lots of people are giving us advice on what we should do,” Macklem said.

However, there’s a reason why central banks are independent institutions, he added.

“The reason is that there are tough decisions to take, and you do have to look longer term. And it’s at times like this, that when it’s difficult, that you see the value of the independence of central banks.”

Criticism of the Bank of Canada in Ottawa most notably began with official Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre, who has heavily criticized the central bank’s government bond purchase program at the start of the pandemic.

He’s claimed the bank printed money to enable federal spending, thereby fueling inflation. While running to be leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Poilievre vowed to fire Macklem if he became prime minister, though he has not explained how he plans to get rid of the governor given the Bank of Canada Act would not give him that power.

Macklem was appointed by the bank’s board of directors with the approval of the governor in council for a seven-year period. His term runs to June 2027.

In response to claims that the Bank of Canada printed money, the central bank took to social media this summer to try to set the record straight, though that has not stopped members of the Conservative party from attacking the central bank.

Many economists and market watchers have criticized the Bank of Canada for not raising interest rates earlier, and the central bank itself has indicated that stimulus measures went on for too long.

Last month, Bank of Canada deputy governor Paul Beaudry said in hindsight, governments and central banks should have withdrawn stimulus measures earlier as economies recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic, which likely would have kept a lid on inflation.

Now, the Bank of Canada has swung in the other direction this year, raising rates aggressively and triggering new criticism.

In its latest monetary policy report, the Bank of Canada revised its economic projections, now accounting for a significant economic slowdown.

It expects economic growth to stall by the end of this year and in the first two quarters of 2023, with growth somewhere between zero and 0.5 per cent, before gaining ground in the second half of next year.

The Bank of Canada has indicated repeatedly that it intends to fulfill its mandate and that restoring price stability is its primary focus.

Singh’s recent letter to the prime minister is part of growing calls for the central bank to stop raising interest rates, or to at least take a more cautious approach with its rate hikes.

Labour groups in particular have been vocal on the issue.

“The Bank of Canada is determined to push the economy into a recession, no matter the impact on individual Canadians who could lose their jobs, their homes and their quality of life,” Bea Bruske, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, said in a statement after Wednesday’s rate decision.

“Canada’s unions are calling on the Bank of Canada to pause interest rate hikes until the impact of previous policy interventions is clear.”

Macklem said the central bank is aiming to balance the risks as it raises interest rates, but said if it’s half-hearted in its decisions, Canadians would suffer from high inflation for longer.

“I am acutely aware that the Bank of Canada, particularly right now, is having a lot of effect on the lives of Canadians. And that’s a big responsibility,” Macklem said.

With Canadians feeling anxious, the governor said the central bank has a responsibility to be transparent with the public and instill confidence that inflation will come down.

“I’d love to get there faster, but it’s going to take some time.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 30, 2022.

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Canada’s ‘most beloved’ restaurants: OpenTable

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A new list by OpenTable shows the 100 “most beloved” Canadian restaurants in 2022, based on more than one million reviews.

The restaurant reservation company says it analyzed reviews and ratings by diners who used its service from Oct.1, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2022. The list was determined by overall rating, user-based “klout,” total number of reviews and regional overall rating.

“We’re seeing a strong interest in a variety of dining establishments and experiences this year, and strong representation from traditional continental to diverse international cuisines,” said Matt Davis, Country Director at OpenTable, in a news release.

Ontario dominates the list with 49 restaurants, followed by Alberta with 23, British Columbia with 18, Quebec with nine and New Brunswick with one.

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These are top 100 restaurants featured by OpenTable, listed in alphabetical order:

  1. 1 Kitchen – Toronto, Ont.
  2. Akira Back – Toronto, Ont.
  3. Alloy – Calgary, Alta.
  4. Amal Restaurant – Toronto, Ont.
  5. Anejo Restaurant – Toronto (King St) – Toronto, Ont.
  6. Auberge du Pommier – Toronto, Ont.
  7. Bar George – Montreal, Que.
  8. Bar Isabel – Toronto, Ont.
  9. Baro – Toronto, Ont.
  10. BLOCK ONE Restaurant at 50th Parallel Winery – Lake Country, B.C.
  11. Blu Ristorante – Toronto, Ont.
  12. Bocado Restaurant – Prince Edward County, Ont.
  13. Bonaparte – Montreal, Que.
  14. Botanist – Vancouver, B.C.
  15. Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar – Vancouver, B.C.
  16. Bridgette Bar – Calgary, Alta.
  17. Byblos – Downtown – Toronto, Ont.
  18. Bymark – Toronto, Ont.
  19. Café Boulud – Toronto, Ont.
  20. Cano Restaurant – Toronto, Ont.
  21. Canoe Restaurant and Bar – Toronto, Ont.
  22. Capocaccia Trattoria – Toronto, Ont.
  23. Cardinale – Calgary, Alta.
  24. Carisma – Toronto, Ont.
  25. Chairman’s Steakhouse – Calgary, Alta.
  26. Charcoal Steak House – Kitchener, Ont.
  27. Chuck’s Steakhouse – Banff, Alta.
  28. Crossroads Restaurant – Rousseau, Ont.
  29. Cucci Ristorante – Oakville, Ont.
  30. D.O.P. – Calgary, Alta.
  31. Damas – Montreal, Que.
  32. Dolcetto – London, Ont.
  33. Don Alfonso 1890 – Toronto, Ont.
  34. Earth to Table: Bread Bar – Guelph – Guelph, Ont.
  35. Elora Mill Restaurant – Guelph, Ont.
  36. Estiatorio Milos – Montreal – Montreal, Que.
  37. Gibbys – Old Montreal – Montreal, Que.
  38. Giulietta – Toronto, Ont.
  39. Grey Gardens – Toronto, Ont.
  40. Haven Kitchen + Bar – Langley, B.C.
  41. Hello Sunshine Japanese Restaurant + Private Karaoke Rooms – Banff, Alta.
  42. Home Block at CedarCreek Estate Winery – Kelowna, B.C.
  43. Homer Street Cafe & Bar – Vancouver, B.C.
  44. Hoogan & Beaufort – Montreal, Que.
  45. Hy’s Steakhouse – Toronto – Toronto, Ont.
  46. Ibérica – Montreal, Que.
  47. Italian by Night – Saint John, N.B.
  48. Joe Fortes Vancouver – Vancouver, B.C.
  49. Ki Modern Japanese + Bar – Toronto – Toronto, Ont.
  50. Kitchen76 at Two Sisters Vineyards – Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
  51. La Vecchia – Marine Parade – Etobicoke, Ont.
  52. Lee – Toronto, Ont.
  53. Locale King City – King City, Ont.
  54. Lonely Mouth Bar – Calgary, Alta.
  55. Lulu Bar – Calgary, Alta.
  56. Lupo Restaurant & Vinoteca – Vancouver, B.C.
  57. Maison Boulud – Montreal, Que.
  58. Maison Selby – Toronto, Ont.
  59. MAJOR TOM – Calgary, Alta.
  60. Marked – Toronto, Ont.
  61. Mercato – Mission – Calgary, Alta.
  62. Miku Restaurant – Vancouver – Vancouver, B.C.
  63. Minami Restaurant – Vancouver, B.C.
  64. Modavie – Montreal, Que.
  65. Model Milk – Calgary, Alta.
  66. MODERN STEAK – Southport Rd – Calgary, Alta.
  67. Morton’s The Steakhouse – Toronto – Toronto, Ont.
  68. Osteria Giulia – Toronto, Ont.
  69. Osteria Savio Volpe – Vancouver, B.C.
  70. Pepino’s Spaghetti House & La Tana – Vancouver, B.C.
  71. Raven Bistro – Jasper, Alta.
  72. REIGN – Toronto, Ont.
  73. Riviera – Ottawa, Ont.
  74. Sabor Restaurant – Edmonton, Alta.
  75. Sassafraz – Toronto, Ont.
  76. Scaramouche Restaurant – Toronto, Ont.
  77. Shook Kitchen – Toronto, Ont.
  78. Sofia – Toronto, Ont.
  79. Sorrel Rosedale – Toronto, Ont.
  80. St. Germain’s – Casino Rama Resort – Orillia, Ont.
  81. Sukiyaki House – Calgary, Alta.
  82. Tableau Bar Bistro – Vancouver, B.C.
  83. Tea at The Empress – Victoria, B.C.
  84. Teatro Restaurant – Calgary, Alta.
  85. Ten Foot Henry – Calgary, Alta.
  86. The Bauer Kitchen – Waterloo, Ont.
  87. The Bison Restaurant – Banff, Alta.
  88. The Butchart Gardens – The Dining Room – Brentwood Bay, B.C.
  89. The Good Earth Vineyard And Winery – Beamsville, Ont.
  90. The Keg Steakhouse + Bar – Oshawa – Oshawa, Ont.
  91. The Lake House – Calgary, Alta.
  92. The Nash – Calgary, Alta.
  93. The Story Cafe – Eatery & Bar – Richmond, B.C.
  94. Three Bears Brewery – Banff, Alta.
  95. Trattoria Timone – Oakville, Ont.
  96. Treadwell Farm-to-Table Cuisine- Niagara on the Lake – Niagara-on-the-lake, Ont.
  97. Tutto Restaurant & Bar – Vancouver, B.C.
  98. Vineland Estates Winery Restaurant – Vineland, Ont.
  99. Vintage Chophouse & Tavern – Calgary, Alta.
  100. Zarak by Afghan Kitchen – Vancouver, B.C.

Reporting for this story was paid for through The Afghan Journalists in Residence Project funded by Meta. 

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Alberta NDP says premier’s rejection of federal authority lays separation groundwork

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Alberta’s NDP Opposition leader says Premier Danielle Smith‘s comments rejecting the legitimacy of the federal government betray her unspoken plan to lay the groundwork for eventual separation.

Rachel Notley cited Smith’s comments to the house just before members passed her sovereignty bill earlier Thursday, in which Smith rejected the federal government’s overarching authority.

“It’s not like Ottawa is a national government,” Smith told the house at 12:30 a.m. Thursday.

“The way our country works is that we are a federation of sovereign, independent jurisdictions. They are one of those signatories to the Constitution and the rest of us, as signatories to the Constitution, have a right to exercise our sovereign powers in our own areas of jurisdiction.”

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Notley, speaking to reporters, said, “At 12:30 last night when she thought nobody was listening, the veil was lifted and Danielle Smith’s interest in genuinely pursuing initial steps toward separation were revealed.

“(They) demonstrate that her view is actually that which is aligned with these fringe separatist wannabes like folks who drafted the Free Alberta Strategy.

“Those comments are utterly chaos-inducing.”

Free Alberta Strategy was a 2021 policy paper drafted in part by Smith’s current top adviser Rob Anderson.

The authors of the paper argue that federal laws, policies and overreach are mortally wounding Alberta’s development.

They urge a two-track strategy to assert greater autonomy for Alberta within Confederation, while simultaneously laying the policy and administrative groundwork to transition Alberta to separation and sovereignty should negotiations fail.

The strategy was the genesis for Smith’s controversial sovereignty bill that stipulates the Alberta legislature, rather than the courts, can pass judgment on what is constitutional when it comes to provincial jurisdiction.

The bill also grants cabinet the power to direct municipalities, city police forces, health regions and schools to resist implementing federal laws.

During question period, Smith rejected accusations the bill is a separatist Trojan Horse, noting its intent is contained in the title.

“The name of the bill is Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act,” said Smith.

“The (act) has nothing to do with leaving the country. It has everything to do with resetting the relationship (with the federal government).”

Political scientist Jared Wesley said it appears constitutional chaos and baiting the federal government are the actual aims.

“When you start to deny the legitimacy of the federal government, that is part of the worrying trend that ties all of this to the convoy movement and the separatists,” said Wesley, with the University of Alberta.

“Albertans need to know those comments are inappropriate and misleading at best and sparking a national unity crisis at worst. Sooner or later, someone’s going to believe her.”

Wesley added that there is a sentiment among a small group of people in Alberta, including the premier, who “are just tired of losing and don’t want to play the game anymore,” he said.

“The sad thing is that that game is democracy and the rule book is the Constitution, and they’re just ignoring all of it now.”

Political scientist Duane Bratt said Smith was not describing Canadian federalism.

“She is confusing the European Union with Canada,” said Bratt, with Mount Royal University in Calgary. “Canada is not made up of sovereign provinces. We share sovereignty between orders of government.”

Political scientist Lori William, also with Mount Royal University, said the comment “betrays a profound lack of understanding of Canada, of federalism, of what powers belong to the federal and provincial governments.”

During question period, Smith waved away Opposition demands that she refer the bill to Alberta’s Court of Appeal to determine if it is onside with the Constitution.

Smith told the house that Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, a lawyer, wrote the bill and that the government received independent advice from constitutional lawyers to ensure it was not offside.

“The constitutionality of this bill is not in question,” Smith said.

The bill was introduced by Smith a week ago as centrepiece legislation to pursue a more confrontational approach with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government on a range of issues deemed to be overreach in provincial areas of responsibility.

It was a short, brutish ride for the bill.

Smith’s government, due to a public outcry, had to bring in an amendment just days after introducing the bill to reverse a provision that gave it ongoing emergency-type powers to unilaterally rewrite laws while bypassing the legislature.

Alberta’s First Nations chiefs have condemned the bill as trampling their treaty rights and Smith’s Indigenous relations minister has said more consultation should have been done.

Smith told the house she met with Indigenous leaders just hours earlier to discuss concerns and shared goals. She rejected the assertion the bill doesn’t respect treaty rights.

“There is no impact on treaty and First Nations’ rights. That’s the truth,” she said.

Law professor Martin Olszynski said the bill remains problematic because it must be clear the courts have the final say on interpreting the Constitution in order to stabilize the checks and balances of a democratic system.

He said Smith’s bill threatens that, perhaps putting judges in the awkward position of having to decide whether they are the ones to make those decisions.

“Can that judge exercise their judicial function without being affected by that very politicized context?” said Olszynski, with the University of Calgary.

“It essentially politicizes the judicial process.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.

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At least five B.C. children died from influenza last month, as mortalities spike

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At least five children died last month in British Columbia from influenza as a rise of early season respiratory illnesses added strain to the beleaguered healthcare system.

The figure marks a departure from the average of two to three annual flu deaths among children in the province between 2015 and 2019, data from the BC Coroners Service shows.

“Public health is monitoring the situation closely and is reminding people of the steps they can take to protect themselves, their children and their loved ones against the flu,” the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said in a statement.

“It is important to know that death associated with influenza in previously healthy children continues to be rare.”

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The centre said it is aware of a sixth reported flu death among children and youth under 19, but it was not immediately clear why the sixth wasn’t included in the coroners’ figures.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the children who died included one who was younger than five years old, three who were between five and nine, and two adolescents who were between 15 and 19.

“Early findings indicate some of the children experienced secondary bacterial infections contributing to severe illness, which can be a complication of influenza,” Henry said in a statement Thursday.

The deaths in British Columbia suggest figures could tick up across the country given the common challenges facing health systems this respiratory season. Alberta has also recorded the deaths of two children with influenza so far this season.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, an average of five to six kids died per flu season across Canada, data collected from 12 hospitals across the country shows.

The national data was collected between 2010 and 2019 by IMPACT, a national surveillance network administered by the Canadian Paediatric Association. It was included in a research paper published in March in “The Lancet Regional Health — Americas” journal that also found no deaths from the flu among children in either 2020 or 2021.

No one from either IMPACT or the B.C. Centre for Disease Control was immediately available for an interview.

On Monday, Henry said that after two years of low flu rates, mostly due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the province is seeing a “dramatic increase” in illness and it arrived sooner than normal.

She urged parents to get their children vaccinated against the flu.

On Thursday, British Columbia’s Health Ministry announced a “blitz” of walk-in flu clinics that will open across the province Friday through Sunday. Flu vaccines are free to all kids aged six months and older in B.C.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control said getting the shot is particularly important for those at risk of severe outcomes, including those with chronic medical conditions like heart, lung, kidney or liver disorders and diseases, those with conditions that cause difficulty breathing or swallowing, those who need to take Aspirin for long periods of time and those who are very obese.

The BC Coroners Service said its data is preliminary and subject to change while investigations are completed.

The cases include those where influenza was identified as an immediate, pre-existing or underlying cause of death, or as a significant condition.

Henry said updates on pediatric influenza-related deaths will be posted weekly as part of the respiratory surveillance summaries on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.

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