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Consumer debt loads drop for first time in a decade in Canada – BNN

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A sharp decline in the use of credit cards at the end of March led to the first drop in consumer debt balances in more than a decade, according to Equifax Canada.

Average balances on debt excluding mortgages dropped 0.5 per cent to $23,386 (US$17,200) in the first quarter from a year earlier, the country’s largest credit reporting firm said Tuesday.

With stores and restaurants closed in March due to the coronavirus, consumers cut back on credit card use, leading to the decline in balances.

The trend gained momentum in April, “with few signs that consumers are looking to debt for support in the early days of the pandemic,” Bill Johnston, vice president of data and analytics at Equifax, said in a statement.

Massive cash injections from the federal government and the Bank of Canada, along with deferrals on mortgages and other loans appear to be helping consumers stave off difficulties, for now.

Consumer insolvencies plunged to the lowest since 2007 in April, the country’s bankruptcy office said this month. And household debt-service ratios, a key measure of financial strain, declined in the first quarter, Statistics Canada said last week.

Equifax said the biggest decrease in debt loads was in the youngest cohort. Average balances on non-mortgage debt for those 18 to 25 years old fell 1 per cent to $8,588, the data show.

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Trump donors among the first U.S. companies awarded with coronavirus relief loans – Globalnews.ca

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As much as $273 million in federal coronavirus aid was awarded to more than 100 companies that are owned or operated by major donors to U.S. President Donald Trump’s election efforts, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal data.

Many were among the first to be approved for a loan in early April, when the administration was struggling to launch the lending program. And only eight businesses had to wait until early May before securing the aid, according to the AP’s review of data released Monday.

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The Trump-connected companies obtained the aid through the Paycheck Protection Program, which extends a lifeline to small businesses struggling to navigate the pandemic. Fast-food chains like Muy Brands, oil and gas companies and white-collar firms were all granted a slice of more than $659 billion in low-interest business loans that will be forgiven if the money is used on payroll, rent and similar expenses.

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All told, the Trump supporters who run these companies have contributed at least $11.1 million since May 2015 to Trump’s campaign committees, the Republican National Committee and America First Action, a super PAC that has been endorsed by Trump, the AP review found. Each donor gave at least $20,000.

There is no evidence the companies received favourable treatment as a result of their ties to Trump, and the businesses account for just a fraction of the overall spending under the program.






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But the distribution of relief money is coming under heightened scrutiny after the Trump administration initially refused to reveal which companies received loans, only to cave under growing bipartisan pressure from Congress. On Monday, the Treasury Department released the names of companies that received loans that were greater than $150,000, though they didn’t release specific dollar figures and instead gave ranges for the dollar value of the aid.

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Among the recipients named Monday was the conservative website NewsMax, which was approved for a loan up to $5 million on April 13, the data shows. NewsMax CEO Christopher Ruddy has donated $525,000 to political committees supporting Trump, records show. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Muy Brands, a San Antonio, Texas-based company that operates Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Wendy’s franchises, was approved for a loan worth between $5 million and $10 million. Its owner, James Bodenstedt, has donated $672,570 to Trump since 2016, records show. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

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Irving, Texas-based M Crowd Restaurant Group, which owns 27 Texas restaurants including the Mi Cocina chain, was approved for between $5 million and $10 million. Ray Washburne, one of the company’s founders, was vice chairman of the Trump Victory Committee in 2016 and donated $100,000 to the PAC last August. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

“The PPP was a huge success and saved 51 million American jobs, including at Joe Biden’s old law firm and many companies associated with Obama Administration alums,” said Trump campaign spokeswoman Samantha Zager. “When the rent or mortgage was due, tens of millions of Americans kept receiving paychecks thanks to President Trump’s leadership.”

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Government watchdog groups say they have little faith in the administration conducting oversight of the program, noting Trump has ousted numerous inspectors general and has broadly resisted efforts to add transparency.

“When you don’t have proper safeguards, such as timely disclosure and effective inspectors general, then all these things look more suspicious and raise more questions,” said Larry Noble, a former general counsel at the Federal Election Commission. “When you see these people getting assistance quickly and they have contributed to the campaign, then it is going to raise questions.”






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Companies typically must have fewer than 500 workers to qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program. About $130 billion was unclaimed as the application deadline closed June 30.

With money still available, Congress voted to extend the program just as it was expiring, setting a new date of Aug. 8.

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The public may never know the identity of more than 80 per cent of the nearly five million beneficiaries to date because the administration has refused to release details on loans under $150,000 _ the vast majority of borrowers.

That secrecy spurred an open-records lawsuit by a group of news organizations, including the AP.

Still, the release of the data is the most complete look at the program’s recipients so far.

And Trump donors aren’t the only people with ties to the president who have benefited.

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The Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in New Jersey, which is named after Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner’s grandfather, was approved for a loan in the range of $1 million to $2 million on April 5. Jared Kushner’s parents’ family foundation supports the school, NBC News reported.

Kasowitz Benson Torres, the law firm founded by Trump’s longtime personal attorney Marc Kasowitz, was approved for a loan worth between $5 million and $10 million.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s family’s business, Foremost Maritime Co., was cleared for a loan valued between $350,000 and $1 million. She is married to the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

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Broadcasting company Patrick Broadcasting, which is owned by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a firebrand conservative and former talk radio host, received a loan of $179,000, according to Patrick’s senior adviser Sherry Sylvester. Patrick is the Texas chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign.

The money was used to cover the payroll and expenses of 13 employees.

“The loan did not cover his salary, but he was able to save the jobs of all his employees, many of whom have been with him for decades,” Sylvester said.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Buffet decision shows LNG on shaky political, economic ground – Canada News – Castanet.net

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Legendary investor Warren Buffett’s decision to walk away from a proposed export terminal for liquefied natural gas in Quebec is being held up in a new report as a sign that the LNG sector in Canada and elsewhere is on shaky ground.

The Global Energy Monitor report released Monday says Buffett’s move in March underscores the growing political and economic uncertainty that LNG projects are facing even as governments around the world tout liquefied natural gas as a clean alternative to coal power.

Canada has emerged as a major proponent of expanding liquefied natural gas as a way to fight climate change abroad and create jobs and revenue at home, with numerous multibillion-dollar projects to facilitate LNG exports to Asia and elsewhere in the works.

Yet Global Energy Monitor suggested Buffett’s decision to withdraw investment firm Berkshire Hathaway’s planned $4-billion investment in an LNG export terminal in Saguenay, Que., is a sign of things to come.

Neither Buffett nor Berkshire Hathaway explained their reasons for the move, but the company behind the terminal project blamed “the current Canadian context” — an apparent reference to nationwide rail blockades and protests against the Coastal GasLink pipeline in B.C. at the time.

“While many projects face opposition from local communities, the case of the Energie Saguenay LNG Terminal in Quebec shows the potential for a local protest to galvanize a national movement,” said the Global Energy Monitor report.

Global Energy Monitor is an international non-governmental organization that catalogues fossil-fuel infrastructure around the world and advocates for more investments in renewable energy.

Monday’s report goes on to suggest that political opposition is only one of many new challenges to the LNG sector, with another being a dramatic drop in the price of gas due to an oversupply at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has sent demand plummeting.

The result: plans to build pipelines, terminals and other infrastructure in Canada and around the world have been put on hold — or dropped entirely.

The report lists 13 LNG projects in Canada alone that have been cancelled or suspended in recent years. That includes a $10-billion LNG export facility in Nova Scotia, which is now in limbo as the company behind the project tries to decide whether to move ahead or not.

Pieridae Energy, the company behind the Nova Scotia project, announced in May a delay in making a final decision on proceeding. Spokesman James Millar said that was due to technical obstacles created by COVID-19, not market conditions.

One project apparently not affected is LNG Canada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline, which was the target of this year’s protests and blockades over a route that crosses traditional Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia. The company said last month that it plans to have 2,500 people working on the 670-kilometre pipeline from Dawson Creek to Kitimat by September.

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How home buyers are competing in the GTA's fired up market amid COVID-19 pandemic – CTV News

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TORONTO —
People looking to buy a home in the Greater Toronto Area are facing stiff competition to secure their purchase.

Peter Yu and his wife are currently learning what it’s like to be buyers in the Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue area.

“There’s a lot of competition still in the market. It’s not what we were anticipating, but it’s a process we’re working through,” Yu said.

The couple started looking into purchasing a home in the city in May. They missed out on one house already after they were out bid by five per cent.

As COVID-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions have lifted, findings from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board show a fired up market.

Sales in the month of May compared to June spiked up to 89 per cent, and the average selling price for all homes in June was $930,869 — up 11.9 per cent compared to last year.

house

Bosley Real Estate Broker Davelle Morrison told CTV News Toronto Tuesday that there are many people who have decided they want to buy a home after being cooped up for months.

She said people living in condos are looking for homes, and people with homes are looking for cottages.

Morrison said she’s aware of several properties in the GTA which received multiple offers and is aware of one place in Toronto’s west end that received dozens of bids before it sold over the asking price.

“We got a bit of pent up demand and now the number of showings is basically back to pre-COVID levels. Everybody is ready to get out of their house and they want a new home,” Morrison said.

Morrison’s advice for buyers is to get a mortgage broker, have finances lockdown and do research.

Toronto couple with $1.1M budget looking to buy a home for a year

Together for a decade, Grégory Thinet and husband Jason Chow would love to upgrade from their two bedroom condo and buy a house.

couple

They want a backyard, and have more space for pets and family.

“It’s been very frustrating to find our little piece of heaven because of how crazy the situation is in Toronto,” Thinet said.

The couple both have steady employment, but said they have yet to put in an offer because many properties sell for two to three hundred dollars above the listed price and therefore are out of reach.

“We’re hopeful. We’re always hopeful,” said Chow.

“This is our next step in our life, and we’d like to take it, but we can’t right now.”

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