Ontario’s most stolen vehicles in 2021 were named, and SUVs are the most sought-after in car thefts.
Équité Association, an organization with the goal of reducing crime and insurance fraud, released its list of the top 10 most stolen vehicles in Ontario and across Canada.
“The metropolitan areas of Toronto and Montreal are rich hunting grounds for organized auto theft crime rings that funnel stolen vehicles overseas to sell for profit,” a news release reads.
“With Canada becoming a source country for the lucrative export trade in stolen vehicles, the Honda CR-V tops this year’s list.”
In October, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) held a news conference highlighting the dramatic rise in carjackings in the city, with 182 incidents that have happened so far.
Insp. Rich Harris of the TPS Hold Up Squad noted carjackings have been targeting high-end and average vehicles for criminal activity or resale purposes.
Even though Honda CR-V was Canada’s most stolen vehicle with 4,117 thefts across the country, the Lexus RX series had a higher chance of getting stolen in Ontario.
Across the province, 2,083 Lexus RX Series SUVs were stolen last year, which is roughly twice the number of stolen Honda CR-Vs with 1,150 reported thefts.
Ford F-150 pick-up trucks were also among the top three most stolen vehicles in Ontario last year.
Compared to 2020’s list, Honda Civics rounded up the top three list with Lexus RX Series and Honda CR-Vs still remaining in the first two spots.
These are the top 10 most stolen vehicles – including the make, model, and vehicle type – last year in Ontario:
1. Lexus RX Series (2016-2021), SUV, 2,083 thefts
2. Honda CR-V (2016-2021), SUV, 1,150 thefts
3. Ford F150 Series (2015-2020), Pick-up, 613 thefts
4. Toyota Highlander (2013-2019). SUV, 575 thefts
5. Honda Civic (2016-2021), Sedan, 380 thefts
6. Land Rover Range Rover Sport (2014-2020), SUV, 264 thefts
7. Honda Accord (2018-2021), Sedan, 220 thefts
8. Chevrolet/GMC Silverado/Sierra 1500 Series (1999-2006), Pick-up, 169 thefts
9. RAM 1500 Series (2009-2018), Pick-up, 147 thefts
10. Toyota Tacoma (2016-2021), Pick-up, 144 thefts
With files from CP24’s Kerrisa Wilson
U.S. Federal Reserve delivers small interest rate hike, signals a ‘couple’ more increases necessary to tackle inflation
The U.S. Federal Reserve increased its benchmark interest rate by a quarter percentage point on Wednesday and signalled that a “couple” more rate hikes are still needed to bring inflation under control.
The widely anticipated announcement lifted the federal funds rate to a range of 4.5 per cent to 4.75 per cent. The quarter-point move is the smallest increase since the central bank began ratcheting up borrowing costs last spring in an effort to curb surging prices.
After a string of oversized rate hikes, the U.S. economy has begun to slow and inflation is showing signs of easing. Fed chair Jerome Powell said on Wednesday that “the disinflationary process has started,” although he warned that it would be “very premature to declare victory.”
“While recent developments are encouraging, we will need substantially more evidence to be confident that inflation is on a sustained downward path,” he said in a news conference after the rate announcement.
While the Fed was unambiguous that “ongoing increases” in borrowing costs are still necessary, financial markets responded positively to Mr. Powell’s relatively optimistic comments about inflation and the U.S. economy.
The S&P 500 finished the trading day up 1.05 per cent, while the Nasdaq Composite surged 2 per cent. Bond markets also rallied, with the yield on two-year U.S. government bonds falling around 0.1 per cent. Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.
“While previous statements said the Fed would have to determine the pace of future rate rises, today’s statement indicated it will now have to determine their extent,” Desjardins economist Francis Généreux wrote in a note to clients. “Rate hikes aren’t over, but it may be the beginning of the end.”
Members of the Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed’s highest decision-making body, which sets U.S. monetary policy, signalled in December that they expect the fed funds rate to exceed 5 per cent by the end of the year. That would imply at least two more quarter-point hikes.
Mr. Powell reiterated this forecast, although he said future rate hikes would be conditional on incoming economic data. He also pushed back against market expectations that the Fed could start cutting interest rates this year. Interest-rate-swap contracts are pricing at least two rate cuts before the end of 2023.
“The historical record cautions strongly against prematurely loosening policy. We will stay the course, until the job is done,” Mr. Powell said.
The Fed’s insistence that more rate hikes are still needed puts it on a different trajectory than the Bank of Canada.
Last week, Canada’s central bank increased its benchmark rate to 4.5 per cent, but said it expects to hold off further rate hikes. This “conditional pause” suggests that Canadian rates have reached a plateau while U.S. rates will keep marching higher.
The Canadian economy is generally seen as being more sensitive to interest rates than the U.S. economy, given how much of the Canadian economy relies on the housing sector. Canadian mortgages also tend to have five-year terms, compared with 30-year terms in the United States, making homeowners more susceptible to rate increases.
What happens next to U.S. interest rates will depend on the trajectory of inflation as well as the strength of the country’s labour market.
There are plenty of signs that inflation is trending in the right direction. The annual rate of consumer price index inflation in the U.S. was 6.5 per cent in December, down from a 40-year high of 9.1 per cent in June.
Prices for many goods, such as used vehicles, have fallen in recent months, as supply chains have improved and consumer demand has shifted back toward services. Mr. Powell said he also expects housing-related inflation to diminish in the coming months.
The challenge is service prices, excluding housing, which show few signs of decelerating. This is tied in part to rapid wage growth, which is being driven by the ultralow levels of unemployment, which stood at a record low 3.5 per cent in December.
Mr. Powell said unemployment will likely need to rise to slow the pace of service price growth. He expects this to happen in the coming quarters as higher rates work to slow the economy. Although, he suggested that a soft landing was still possible.
“There’s a path to getting inflation back down to 2 per cent without a really significant economic decline or a significant increase in unemployment,” he said.
The European Central Bank and the Bank of England will announce their latest interest-rate decisions on Thursday. The central banks are behind the Bank of Canada and the Fed when it comes to tightening monetary policy, and both are expected to announce further half-point rate increases.
ChatGPT to launch paid version of AI tool for $20 US a month
The intelligence embedded in ChatGPT may be artificial, but the creators of the wildly popular chat bot are hoping it can do something humans strive for all the time: make money.
OpenAI, the company that created ChatGPT, will soon roll out a paid version of the service in a pilot project, where people willing to spend $20 US a month will get a premium version of the product.
Starting soon, customers in the U.S. who sign up for the program will get preferential access to the service, even at peak times of demand, when many users are currently locked out.
They’ll also get faster response times for their queries, and priority access to new features and improvements as they roll out.
The subscription service will only be available to U.S. users for the time being.
Wildly popular service has its critics
The service has taken the world by storm since its launch in November, becoming the first viral mass-market artificial intelligence tool.
In a blog post, the California-based company says it is also exploring other options for its business, including lower-cost plans, communal subscriptions for corporate clients and data packs.
But the free version is here to stay, they say.
“We love our free users and will continue to offer free access to ChatGPT,” the company said. “By offering this subscription pricing, we will be able to help support free access availability to as many people as possible.”
The grocery price freeze is over — so brace yourself for even bigger food bills soon
The holiday price freeze put in place by some of Canada’s biggest grocery chains has hit its expiry date, so shoppers should brace themselves for news that could be hard to swallow: get ready for your food bill to go up. By a lot. Again.
Loblaws made headlines last fall when it announced it would freeze prices on hundreds of its in-house No Name brand through the holiday season. The grocery chain pitched the plan as a salvo for cost-conscious shoppers hit hard by high inflation, but people in the industry quickly panned it as little more than a publicity stunt, since grocery chains typically implement similar price freezes over that period, refusing to accept any price hikes from their suppliers during the critical shopping season.
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Loblaws pledged in October that No Name-branded grocery staples wouldn’t see price increases until the end of January at least. It’s now February, and the chain told CBC News in a statement this week that it plans to keep prices where they are “wherever possible” but warned that many prices may well go up in the coming weeks.
“Once the price freeze ends, customers can expect some prices may increase, but as mentioned originally, we will continue to hold most of our No Name prices flat,” spokesperson Catherine Thomas said. “The cost to stock our shelves has gone up, month after month.”
Montreal-based chain Metro sang a similar tune at its annual general meeting last month, with CEO Eric La Flèche telling reporters that the chain had received more than 27,000 requests from its suppliers last year to raise prices by more than 10 per cent. That’s more than three times the normal level.
“There are cost increases coming, and we expect that some of these cost increases will be reflected at retail,” he told reporters at a media briefing on Jan. 24. “We are going to do our best to make sure that price increases are gradual and progressive to protect prices as much as possible [but] unfortunately, inflation is continuing.”
Frito-Lay hiking prices in Canada by 10%
Snack giant Frito-Lay is among those upping the pressure. The U.S. company, which is owned by Pepsi, has raised the prices on its products in Canada by 10 per cent, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers.
Spokesperson Gary Sands told CBC News in a statement that though he doesn’t speak for major chains like Metro, Loblaws and Halifax-based Sobey’s, the nearly 7,000 small businesses the group represents are in no position to swallow that cost increase.
“If you are an independent grocer on very tight margins, around two per cent, and you get handed double-digit increases in any product, you have no choice but to pass it on,” he said.
Shoppers like Palaash Tiwari know all too well that prices keep going up. Shopping for food in Toronto on Wednesday, Tiwari told CBC News that he’s made major changes to his diet in recent months, like buying less and cheaper types of meat, trying to save money where he can. He’s also basically stopped going out to restaurants because of the prohibitive cost.
“People have to make choices on what they want to consume,” he said. “People need to find their own alternative.”
Why fresh produce is so pricey
Of course, not every type of food is going up at the same pace.
Statistics Canada data released this week shows that a slew of grocery items have seen double-digit price increases, beyond what is normal during winter months. The retail price of tomatoes has gone from $4.57 a kilogram in October to $6.99 in December — an eye-watering increase of more than 52 per cent in just two months.
Celery and grapes are almost as bad, with price increases of 49 and 46 per cent, respectively, in only two months. And foods like apples, broccoli and iceberg lettuce aren’t far behind.
Most of the biggest increases right now are in fresh fruits and vegetables, and there’s a very good reason for that, according to Mike von Massow, a food economist at the University of Guelph.
“If you look out your window there’s snow on the ground [so] we’re not producing … fruits and vegetables to a significant degree.”
Almost all the fresh produce Canadians consume in the winter comes through the U.S. either directly or indirectly, so that makes them subject to higher costs all along the supply chain. The transport costs alone are significant, but this year has seen major price hikes for things like tomatoes and lettuce because of what’s happening in the Salinas Valley in California.
Much of the North American lettuce crop comes from the region, which was hit by a virus in November that took a bite out of supply. Record-setting drought in the area in the fall was then followed by flooding last month, which played havoc on the supply of all kinds of water-intensive crops like celery, broccoli and grapes.
“What’s happening now is almost this perfect storm of issues which are creating upward pressure on almost everything,” von Massow said.
Relief in the spring?
It may be hard to see while perusing the aisles of the local grocery store, but von Massow can see relief coming just over the horizon for some of those relentless price increases.
“We’ll probably start seeing some relief in the spring as we get to the Canadian production season,” he said. “We won’t be as susceptible to imports which are being punished by the exchange rate and other things.”
Until then, shoppers like Ethena Dennie in Toronto will keep doing what they’ve been doing, shopping around for bargains, and replacing their usual staples with cheaper alternatives where possible.
“One lettuce is so expensive,” she told CBC News outside her local grocery store on Wednesday. “The doctor didn’t tell me to eat lettuce so I don’t have to buy it, so I just left it.
“The price is going up [but] my pay is not going up. It’s just staying at the same level.”
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