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Investment giant's move toward sustainability offers hope for climate activism: Don Pittis – CBC.ca

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One of the reasons people are worried climate change will be almost impossible to stop is that pumping carbon into the atmosphere is simply way too profitable.

Even as new reports yesterday from NASA and the British weather service showed climate change had created the hottest decade in history, according to the traditional rules of capitalism, if companies make fortunes from digging coal and building pipelines, then nothing is going to stop them.

With so much money at stake, not only do shareholders and employees get onside, but governments may often be persuaded to actively back increased carbon output, even when they have evidence it will ultimately damage the local and global economy.

That’s why this week’s announcement by BlackRock — often described as the world’s richest money manager, with about $10 trillion to invest (no, the T is not a mistake) — is both surprising and encouraging.

All just talk

Although it is easy for climate activists to insist BlackRock has not gone far enough, the moves it has made — seen partly as a response to outrage that the company’s previous green talk was just that, talk — appear to offer evidence that business can be swayed by public pressure.

The news is especially interesting because, while global in scope, BlackRock is a U.S. company — a country where the Trump administration seems to be doing everything it can to stand in the way of climate action, from defanging the Environmental Protection Agency to withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.

Australia’s government supports increased coal production from places like the western coalfields in New South Wales, though recent bushfires in the state have caused widespread devastation, with many pointing the blame at a changing climate. (David Gray/Reuters)

That is not the way things are supposed to work, and according to people like energy economist Mark Jaccard, it is governments that must be forced by public pressure to take the lead on climate change.

“You need to get climate-sincere politicians in there; you have to be able to identify them and you have to keep them there,” Jaccard said in a recent interview. “And it turns out with something like climate change, that’s really difficult.”

Jaccard is the kind of guy who supports anything that works to solve the climate problem, but, as he contends in his book The Citizen’s Guide to Climate Success, we must not depend on the motive of profit.  

Because of the low cost and high commercial efficiency of continuing to use fossil fuels, the only effective climate action entails voters forcing governments to change the rules.

BlackRock and coal

While most climate advocates say that remains true, BlackRock’s moves to cut investments in companies that earn more than 25 per cent of their revenue from fossil fuels, get out of coal, and require companies in which it invests to reveal their level of climate risk (sometimes called climate transparency) seem to belie the idea that corporations have no morals.

Many commentators scoff at that idea, including Ian McGugan, who writes in The Globe and Mail that “BlackRock’s Green Investing Strategy is Not a Moral Awakening.” Like many others, however, he concedes that huge protests specifically naming the company have likely influenced its change in focus.

It may be that coal is simply a bad investment today. But the fact that “the world’s most powerful investor” says so too makes it harder to ignore.

And while it is easy to say that green credentials are just an exercise in public relations, expressions of public morality, such as the campaign against blood diamonds, have had a real business impact.

As with all moral questions, the argument over whether business leaders are merely parroting a growing public anxiety to earn greater respect applies just as well to the rest of us. On the other hand, companies are not just machines. They are organizations made up of people, some of whom worry about the world their children and grandchildren will inherit.

And even in giant corporations, opinions on climate change matter. 

Also this week, James Murdoch, son of global media mogul Rupert Murdoch (and a company board member), made global headlines when he criticized News Corporation’s influential media outlets for promoting climate denial during Australia’s recent fires.

A BlackRock executive rings the opening bell above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange last summer. The company wields enormous clout in the U.S. financial community. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

BlackRock’s new position on climate is no reason for activists to stop worrying; as Jaccard insists, government rules and public pressure remain crucial. 

And as the company has outlined, one of the reasons to begin adjusting its portfolio now is that a groundswell of public and (some) government support for climate action means climate-unfriendly businesses will no longer be good investments.

For a company investing for the future, that matters.

“Awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” said BlackRock CEO Larry Fink in a letter to company executives.

Yesterday, the World Economic Forum, whose annual Davos gathering of the very rich and powerful which begins next week, released its latest annual risk report, titled 15 Years of Risk: From Economic Collapse to Planetary Devastation. Four of the Top 5 worries delineated by the world’s business and political elite had to do with climate.

In the past, the activist group BlackRock’s Big Problem have accused the investment giant of being “the biggest driver of climate chaos you’ve never heard of.”

And while it remains to be seen whether the company’s efforts will truly make a difference, at the very least, its latest move means a lot more people now have heard of them.


Follow Don on Twitter @don_pittis

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Ontario Investing $8.7 Million to Expand Quinte Health Care Network – Government of Ontario News

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Ontario Newsroom | Salle de presse de l’Ontario

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Car Insurance for Canadian

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Car insurance is vital, like snow days and maple syrup. Part of the Canadian experience. Not all countries need insurance policies by regulation as Canada does; the concept of a pay-as-you-go fuel tax has also been used as a substitute for traditional auto insurance in some areas. But, no matter how important it is, investing in the service is never the wrong decision. Insurance will save motorists from the economic burden of the ultimate inevitability of the road: accidents. They’re going to happen to everybody, no matter their experience or ability. Driving, like every other aspect of human life, is naturally a human mistake.

Also, the most experienced driver can be distracted in our current driving climate. With a reputable insurer, financial stability is only one thing to think about. Between the radio, the billboards, and the careless children thrashing around in the back seat, a few minutes on the road will provide more means of diverting someone’s attention than a few hours in front of the TV. All it takes is a misconstrued stop on a slippery day or a neglected shoulder search to cause thousands of dollars of harm to your property or the property of others. If the accident’s cost exceeds the price of the vehicle that caused it, auto insurance will save the driver from financial ruin. The protection in an appropriate strategy protects drivers in ways that the airbag has never been able to do.

The security provided by insurance is so vital that it has been obligatory for any Canadian who hopes to get behind the wheel. However, some jurisdictions offer consumers a preference as to who is protected by their auto insurance. Coverage is always mandatory, but the strategy is malleable. The right of motorists to monitor their plans and coverage does not end with the business either. Car insurance premiums are affected by a variety of factors. While some of these items are beyond the control of motorists, such as age and gender, they can still make many choices to lower their prices. Choosing a reliable vehicle, traveling shorter distances, and having fewer tickets are items drivers can do to keep their car insurance premiums as low as possible.

Some drivers, particularly new ones, are wary of individualized rates – paying different amounts for other people. Insurance firms, though, are not swindlers or profit-seekers. They’re just trying to keep auto insurance prices as reasonable as possible. A car that leaves the garage twice a week is less likely to have an accident than a car that goes twice a day. Station wagons are more comfortable to fix than imported sports cars. Every person has different driving habits, so it only makes sense to have a foreign car insurance policy. Acquiring a car insurance policy is more than just making a deal; it is the start of a friendship that will help the driver out in the toughest of times.

Some provinces in Canada, where motorists have too many car insurance options, any additional information could save the insured motorist thousands of dollars. It pays to be updated. The right strategy will keep you safe when anything else doesn’t matter where you’re in Canada.

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When it comes to investing, don't believe everything you see on TV – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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Interest in investing is hitting new highs. Discount brokers are flooded with applications and trading volumes are surging. Despite this renewed focus, some misunderstandings persist about the realities of investing.

To illustrate, let’s deconstruct an investment conversation that you might have with a friend, colleague, or advisor. It goes like this.

“A guy on TV says the economy is strong and stocks are going up. It seems like a good time to invest. I don’t see much downside so I’m buying high-dividend stocks for my RRSP.”


A guy on TV

Many investors think there are people who know where the market is going. Experts who know something the rest of us don’t. The reality is, they don’t. Their insights may be interesting and unique, but any conclusions related to market timing aren’t worth the cup of coffee you’re drinking. It’s impossible to call the market level a week, month or even year from now with enough consistency to be useful. Stock prices are determined by a myriad of factors, many of which we’re unaware of until after they’ve emerged.


The economy looks good. I’m buying.

At the core of most market calls is an economic forecast. This is unfortunate because the connection between what the economy is doing and where the stock market is going is flimsy at best. It’s true that economic activity affects corporate profits, which ultimately drive stock prices, but the relationship is sloppy and unpredictable. Consider the last decade — we had the slowest economic recovery in history and yet profit margins were at or near record levels throughout, as were stock prices.

It bears repeating. Mr. Market is not paying attention to today’s economic headlines. He’s focusing on what the news might be in 12 to 18 months. The corporations you’re investing in aren’t reading the headlines either. They’re too busy trying to move their businesses ahead.


A good time to invest

For an investor with a multi-decade time frame, anytime is a good time. Some points in time, however, will be more prospective than others. These are periods when returns are projected to be higher based on fundamentals like rising profitability, low valuations and/or extremely negative investor sentiment. To be clear, these factors won’t tell you what’s about to happen, but will provide a tailwind over the next three to five years.


Not much downside

When you own a stock, the range of possible outcomes is always wider than you expect. It’s hard to conceive of a holding going down 20, 30 or 40 per cent, especially when things are going well. Unfortunately, recent price moves have no predictive value, they just provide false comfort.

The future for a stock that has recently done well is just as uncertain as one that hasn’t. Indeed, it may be riskier because its price-to-earnings multiple is higher (if profits haven’t kept up with the stock price), its dividend yield is lower and shareholders’ risk aversion, a necessary ingredient for good returns, has melted into complacency.


The higher the better

We all love dividends, but too many investors choose stocks based solely on yield. This is a problem because yield is not a measure of value for a stock like it is for a bond. A company’s worth is derived from it’s potential to earn profits into the future. Dividends are simply the portion of those earnings that get distributed to shareholders.

Yield-obsessed investors often downplay the importance of the stocks’ second source of return — price appreciation. Ask yourself the question: What would you rather have, a $10 stock yielding five per cent that’s worth $8, or a $10 stock with a three per cent yield that’s worth $12?

If you want to focus on dividend income, start with a list of stocks that have an acceptable yield. From there build a diversified portfolio of holdings that are trading at or below what they’re worth.


In your RRSP?

When asked, “What should I do in my RRSP (or TFSA),” I have only one answer. The most important thing driving your RRSP strategy is the strategy you’re pursuing for your overall portfolio (including other registered accounts, taxable accounts, pensions and income properties). Anything you do in your RRSP has to roll up into your household asset mix. In that vein, RRSP contributions are a wonderful tool for adjusting your overall portfolio because transactions have no tax consequences.

Investing is hard enough without basing decisions on false premises. If you find yourself listening to someone pontificate about where the market is going, try to change the subject or look for an escape.


Tom Bradley is


chair and chief investment officer


at Steadyhand Investment Funds, a company that offers individual investors low-fee investment funds and clear-cut advice. He can be reached at

tbradley@steadyhand.com

.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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