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Inflation: From missing family time to making food, Canadians are cutting back

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It has not been an easy year for Canadians financially.

Decades-high inflation and soaring interest rates have led many to take a closer look at their spending habits and, consequently, make some tough choices.

On Wednesday, the Bank of Canada hiked its key interest rate for the seventh time in a row, bringing it to 4.25 per cent – the highest it’s been since January 2008.

The central bank’s aggressive rate hike cycle, which began in March, is in response to Canada’s drastically high inflation rate. After peaking at 8.1 per cent in July, the annual inflation rate has slowed to 6.9 per cent in October – still well above the Bank of Canada’s target rate of two per cent.

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These economic trends are affecting everything from gas prices to grocery bills to mortgage payments.

And in an effort to cut costs, Canadians coast-to-coast are making sacrifices and changes to their lifestyle.

‘A real kick in the face’: First-time homeowners face mortgage crunch

Former Olympic wrestler Colin Daynes and his partner, mixed martial arts fighter Lupita (Loopy) Godinez, describe paying eight per cent interest on the mortgage for their new condo as “a real kick in the face.”

The pair secured the financing they needed to buy their first home together just a few weeks ago after a stressful, months-long search coinciding with rising inflation and interest rates.

They closed on their one-bedroom unit in a newly built condominium in Burnaby, B.C. on Nov. 28.

“It’s a beautiful view. I love it,” said Daynes.

The couple’s offer to buy the condo was accepted at the end of July and their first broker indicated they might pay interest of around 4.5 per cent, Daynes said.

The 48-year-old wrestled for Canada at the 1996 Olympics and now works in the film industry, while Godinez competes in UFC bouts.

Daynes said they both earn “good money” and they’re putting at least $200,000 down on a $525,000 condo, so thought it wouldn’t take long to secure financing.

It ended up taking three months and two mortgage brokers, while interest rates rose in the meantime.

After two months without success, he said they switched brokers and ended up securing a mortgage through a non-bank lender at 7.99 per cent. He said Godinez’s income from fighting doesn’t follow a typical weekly schedule, which may have been an issue for some lenders.

“With all the stress and headache that we went through to get a mortgage, we’re really just signing on to make the transaction.”

He said they will be free to search for a better rate once 90 days have passed.

Daynes said it doesn’t make sense that it was so hard for them to secure financing for an entry-level condo given their earnings and substantial down payment.

“If we’re having a hard time borrowing $300,000, what kind of situation is everybody else in?”

— By Brenna Owen in Vancouver

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‘There’s no big fix for all this’: Ottawa resident bakes bread to save dough

The price of a loaf of bread at grocery stores these days is too much to justify for Ottawa resident Jeff Lowe.

So, he’s brought out the baking supplies.

“Instead of $5 for a loaf of bread, I’m making bread,” he said.

Lowe said he can bake about three loaves of bread for the price of one at a grocery store.

In the face of decades-high food inflation, he and his wife are finding ways to trim their grocery bills.

From baking their own bread to buying cheaper cuts of meat, Lowe said they’re doing what they can to limit wasteful spending.

“We’re not cutting our grocery bill in half, but we’re cutting out all the surplus,” he said.

The cost of food been rising at the fastest pace in decades. In October, grocery prices rose 11 per cent compared with a year ago, down slightly from 11.4 per cent a month prior.

And food prices are expected to continue rising next year.

According to the 13th edition of Canada’s Food Price Report released Monday, the total cost of groceries for a family of four is expected to be $1,065 more in 2023 than it was this year.

In the meantime, Lowe will be making more frequent trips to the grocery store, looking for savings and ways to keep his budget in check.

“There’s no big fix for all this,” Lowe said. “It’s small wins.”

— By Nojoud Al Mallees in Ottawa

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‘Travelling would be a luxury at this point’: International student stays local for the holidays

Sarah Jourdain typically heads back home to the Dominican Republic for the holidays.

But the international student, who has been living in Montreal for the past four years, said the costs are too high for her to justify the travel this year.

When looking for a plane ticket last month, Jourdain said she was shocked to find prices for the normally $500 round-trip flight had skyrocketed to around $1,200.

It is generally advised to purchase an international plane ticket from Canada two months in advance of a departure, yet two months out, Jourdain said she was still met with unprecedented high prices.

“Given that [the Dominican Republic] is a very touristy location, you would always find tickets under $1,000,” said Jourdain.

Jourdain said she knows a number of other international students opting to not go home this holiday season because of the pricey plane tickets and overall increased cost of living.

Many students have other day-to-day expenses to consider before travelling internationally, Jourdain said.

“Travelling would be a luxury at this point,” she said.

Instead of celebrating the holidays abroad, Jourdain will stay in Montreal and spend time with extended family and friends.

She plans to make her next trip home outside of a peak travel time.

— By Caitlin Yardley in Montreal

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‘Everything is expensive here’: Mom of two adjusts to life in Canada

Misha Subramanyam wishes she could further indulge her nine-year-old son’s love of museums and art galleries.

The Toronto-based graphic designer said her family has an annual membership to the Royal Ontario Museum to make it more affordable, but can’t consider visiting others. Maybe next year they’ll get a membership for the Art Gallery of Ontario. Last year, they had one for Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.

“It’s not like we can go to all of them at the same time,” said the stay-at-home mom of two.

“My son keeps asking to go back to the aquarium and I’m like ‘No. We’re not paying. Our membership’s over so forget about the fishes.'”

Clothes and groceries also have less room in the budget for the family of four, who moved to Toronto from Brisbane, Australia in February 2020.

Subramanyam said Toronto was more expensive than Brisbane to begin with and expenses rose further over the past year, with the cost of dairy products a particular blow for her mostly vegetarian household.

“Just to buy a box of yogurt would be like five bucks,” says Subramanyam. “I make a big pot now.”

She said they’ve come to terms with “the fact that everything is expensive here, starting with kids clothes.”

“(We’re) definitely buying less … I can’t remember buying anything for myself this season. I just decided to concentrate on the kids and what they need.”

She’s continued swimming, skating and flute lessons for her nine-year-old, fearing that otherwise “he would miss out.”

But Subramanyam said he did not get a big birthday bash this year, daycare for her 15-month-old son is on hold until she finds a $10-a-day spot and a hoped-for family trip to her native India this winter is postponed to the spring.

— By Cassandra Szklarski in Toronto

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‘It’s influenced me to travel less, or visit home less’: Montreal resident makes fewer trips to see family

When Craig Fisher moved to Montreal in August 2021 after living in Winnipeg for a decade, he was eager to make regular visits to family in London, Ont.

At first, he expected to make the trip about once a month. But now that inflation has sent transportation costs skyrocketing, he said those trips are becoming less frequent.

“I do consider inflation to be a big factor,” the 31-year-old said during a layover between the two cities at Toronto’s Union Station. “It’s influenced me to travel less, or visit home less.”

It’s also changed how he gets there.

The first few trips, he took a plane. He was able to cash in on one-way budget airfares between Montreal and Toronto, sometimes for as low as $70. But as inflation started to take hold of the economy and travel restrictions lifted, he said those affordable airfares dwindled.

Air travel recorded the most dramatic year-over-year transportation-related inflation increase, jumping 18.5 per cent in October compared with a year ago.

When air travel no longer seemed viable, Fisher said he opted to drive his car. But then the increase in gas prices – a 17.8 per cent jump between October 2021 and 2022 – dissuaded him.

Finally, he decided to start making the trip by bus in early 2022. Since then, he said the cost has remained relatively flat. But, these days, he’s noticed an increase in ridership.

“I think that just goes along with people doing what I’m trying to do; save a little money while getting to the place they need to be.”

—  By Jordan Omstead in Toronto

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2022.

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FTX founder Bankman-Fried objects to tighter bail, says prosecutors 'sandbagged' him – Reuters

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NEW YORK, Jan 28 (Reuters) – Lawyers for Sam Bankman-Fried on Saturday urged a U.S. judge not to ban the indicted FTX cryptocurrency executive from communicating with former colleagues as part of his bail, saying prosecutors “sandbagged” the process to put their client in the “worst possible light.”

The lawyers were responding to a Friday night request by federal prosecutors that Bankman-Fried not be allowed to talk with most employees of FTX or his Alameda Research hedge fund without lawyers present, or use the encrypted messaging apps Signal or Slack and potentially delete messages automatically.

Bankman-Fried, 30, has been free on $250 million bond since pleading not guilty to charges of fraud in the looting of billions of dollars from the now-bankrupt FTX.

Prosecutors said their request was in response to Bankman-Fried’s recent effort to contact a potential witness against him, the general counsel of an FTX affiliate, and was needed to prevent witness tampering and other obstruction of justice.

But in a letter to U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers said prosecutors sprung the “overbroad” bail conditions without revealing that both sides had been discussing bail over the last week.

“Rather than wait for any response from the defense, the government sandbagged the process, filing this letter at 6:00 p.m. on Friday evening,” Bankman-Fried’s lawyers wrote. “The government apparently believes that a one-sided presentation – spun to put our client in the worst possible light – is the best way to get the outcome it seeks.”

Bankman-Fried’s lawyers also said their client’s efforts to contact the general counsel and John Ray, installed as FTX’s chief executive during the bankruptcy, were attempts to offer “assistance” and not to interfere.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in Manhattan declined to comment.

Bankman-Fried’s lawyers proposed that their client have access to some colleagues, including his therapist, but not be allowed to talk with Caroline Ellison and Zixiao “Gary” Wang, who have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with prosecutors.

They said a Signal ban isn’t necessary because Bankman-Fried is not using the auto-delete feature, and concern he might is “unfounded.”

The lawyers also asked to remove a bail condition preventing Bankman-Fried from accessing FTX, Alameda or cryptocurrency assets, saying there was “no evidence” he was responsible for earlier alleged unauthorized transactions.

In an order on Saturday, Kaplan gave prosecutors until Monday to address Bankman-Fried’s concerns.

“The court expects all counsel to abstain from pejorative characterizations of the actions and motives of their adversaries,” the judge added.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Gold declines in light of the report that revealed inflation continues to decline – Kitco NEWS

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As of 6:00 PM EST, the February contract of gold futures has fallen for the second time in the last seven trading days. Currently, gold futures are fixed at $1927.60, a decline of $2.40 or 0.12%. Gold traded to a high of $1935.40, and a low of $1916.50.

The key takeaway from today’s PCE inflation index report was that the core PCA index declined in December by 0.3%. The preferred inflation index used by the Federal Reserve was at 4.7% year-over-year in November and declined to 4.4% year-over-year last month.

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Both reports will influence decisions made by the Fed at next week’s FOMC meeting.

They will be critical components used by the Federal Reserve next week and will most likely strengthen the conviction of hawkish Fed officials to maintain their extremely aggressive monetary policy. Currently, the Federal Reserve’s forward guidance is composed of additional rate hikes and maintaining elevated rates for a longer time.

The most likely outcome is that the Fed will raise the rate by ¼% at the next two meetings. The Federal Reserve has stated they continue to work to reach its inflation target of 2%. A vast majority of market participants continue to believe that the Fed will backpedal on its commitment to keep rates elevated through 2023.

I will be speaking at the VRIC 2023 (Sunday, January 29-30) at the Vancouver Convention Center. Both Kitco News and I wish to welcome you if you’re available.

For those who would like more information simply use this link.

Wishing you as always good trading,

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Afraid to check a bag? Canada's missing baggage woes explained – CBC News

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Deborah Cleary was exasperated.

When she landed in Montreal on Dec. 19, following a trip to Italy, she discovered her suitcase was missing. More than a month later, Air Canada still hadn’t found her bag. 

“I’ve spent so much time thinking about it, worrying about it, checking online, calling Air Canada,” said Cleary from her home in Plattsburg, N.Y., on Tuesday. “I’m just sort of desperate to get my bag back.”

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The post-pandemic return to travel has been turbulent, plagued by mass flight disruptions and missing baggage piling up at airports. That has led to calls for airlines to improve their baggage delivery systems.

“It’s broken, so I think they need to fix that,” said Cleary, who visited the Montreal airport two weeks ago to search for her bag amidst a sea of unclaimed luggage. She didn’t find it.

However, following a CBC News inquiry to Air Canada, Cleary learned on Friday that her suitcase is being shipped to her home. 

“I’m very, very happy,” she said. “I had almost resigned myself, I was never going to see it again.”

Deborah Cleary and Dan Albert of Plattsburgh, NY pose for photo during their vacation to Italy.
Deborah Cleary and Dan Albert of Plattsburgh, N.Y., are still waiting to be reunited with their missing baggage that disappeared on their return flight from Milan to Montreal. (submitted by Deborah Cleary)

Canada’s first round of missing baggage chaos erupted in the summer, largely sparked by staffing shortages as airports and airlines scrambled to ramp up operations. 

There were high hopes the holiday travel season would go more smoothly — until severe winter storms hit much of Canada, causing hundreds of delayed and cancelled flights, plus a backlog of lost luggage.

“In the airline industry, a delay of greater than 15 minutes generally results in missed connections,” said former Air Canada executive Duncan Dee. “Delays equal missing bags.”

Former Air Canada executive, Duncan Dee.
Former Air Canada executive Duncan Dee says airports need more infastrucutre funding to keep operations running smoothly during bad weather. (CBC)

Dee said airlines need to do a better job keeping track of luggage, and the federal government also needs to invest more in airports.

In late December, cold weather caused a baggage belt to freeze at Toronto’s international airport; a fierce snow storm caused widespread flight delays and cancellations at Vancouver’s international airport.

“There’s obviously a need for better infrastructure, better resources for airports … to make them more resilient to these weather events,” said Dee.

What about the airlines?

When asked this week about recent travel chaos, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said airports will get the tools they need, but did not elaborate. 

On the baggage issue, he pointed the finger at airlines. 

“I find it extremely frustrating when I hear stories of people not having their luggage for days on end,” he said during an event in Hamilton. “Airlines should be doing more.”

His comments follow several recent media reports about air passengers’ struggles to find their missing luggage

They include the saga of Nakita Rees and Tom Wilson of Cambridge, Ont., who battled with Air Canada for more than four months to retrieve Wilson’s missing suitcase. 

WATCH |Ontario couple told their luggage was lost — but it wasn’t: 

Air Canada said this couple’s luggage was lost. AirTags showed otherwise

5 days ago

Duration 2:18

A couple says Air Canada donated their luggage to charity just a month after it got lost en route to Toronto’s Pearson Airport. They tracked it to a storage locker.

The bag vanished during their flight home from Greece in September. Because the couple had put an air tag tracker inside the suitcase, they were able to track its journey to a storage facility in nearby Etobicoke, Ont. 

Even though Rees shared with Air Canada the whereabouts of the bag, the airline deemed it lost. 

“The most frustrating thing about it was we had no way of getting it, even though we knew the location and we told the airline so many times,” said Rees. “Because the air tags are newer, I just don’t think airlines know how to even use that information.”

The couple finally got the suitcase back this week — after their story was picked up by the media.

Airlines respond

Other passengers have also complained about similar experiences when tracking their lost luggage with air tags. 

Former Air Canada executive Dee said airlines typically track luggage by scanning their baggage tags and that their systems currently can’t accommodate air tracking technology.

“That’s something where airline processes have not caught up to the technology that’s available,” he said. “No airline in the world has the ability right now to accept information from travellers.”

Alghabra suggested airlines need to change with the times. 

“We hear about how Amazon is able to identify where their items [are at] every moment,” he said. “It’s frustrating that airlines still have not modernized their luggage handling system.”

Air Canada told CBC News it’s constantly exploring new technologies. The airline added that its baggage delivery rate has returned to normal, following the stormy holiday weather. 

Air Canada said that in Rees’ case, the baggage tag had fallen off the suitcase. The airline didn’t say how it eventually located the couple’s bag, but did indicate that they get to keep the $2,300 in compensation they received for lost luggage. 

WestJet said it has launched a strategic review to fine-tune its baggage systems. “[We] are committed to working together with our third-party service partners … to ensure we improve in this area,” said spokesperson Madison Kruger in an email. 

Baggage compensation

Travellers can claim up to approximately $2,350 for luggage that is lost or delayed on an international flight. For delayed baggage on domestic flights, the airlines design their own rules. 

Alghabra’s office told CBC News this week the government is exploring ways to strengthen rights for air passengers, including for delayed and lost baggage.

As for passenger Cleary, she had applied for compensation for a lost bag, but said getting it back is a better outcome. 

“I would much prefer to have my bag back than any money from Air Canada.”

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