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The truth behind empty grocery shelves; rental client hit with surprise bill: CBC's Marketplace Cheat Sheet – CBC News

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Miss something this week? Don’t panic. CBC’s Marketplace rounds up the consumer and health news you need.

Want this in your inbox? Get the Marketplace newsletter every Friday.

Are grocery stores really running out of food? Here’s what you need to know

We’ve all seen the headlines.

But just how much should we be worrying about the long-term security of our food supply? 

Turns out there are three big factors making it harder than usual to get some food products on shelves across the country: winter weather, the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and the trucker vaccine mandate. 

Industry experts say that Canada’s food supply is nowhere close to collapse — despite dramatic photos of empty shelves you may see on social media. So rest easy, you may not always find what you’re looking for at the grocery store right now, but this, too, shall pass. Read more

WATCH | Experts say numerous factors behind reduced supply:

Trucker vaccine mandate blamed for empty shelves as convoy heads to Ottawa

6 days ago

Duration 1:59

As a convoy of protesters heads toward Ottawa, the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for cross-border truck drivers has been blamed for empty grocery store shelves. But experts say there are numerous factors, including extreme weather, contributing to reduced supply. 1:59

She rented a truck on a perfectly sunny day. Why was she billed for more than $5,500 in hail damage?

Hail, no. 

Keli Chick wants answers after a one-day rental from Enterprise Rent-A-Car devolved into a year-long saga over a damage claim worth more than $5,500.

She says she drove her rental truck from Dawson Creek, B.C., to Red Deer, Alta., on a sunny day at the end of 2020, but six weeks later, was on the receiving end of a letter from Enterprise stating she was on the hook for $5,578 for hail damage. 

“I thought, ‘This cannot be possible,'” she said

Chick later sent Enterprise a link to a local TV weather report that said there had been clear skies during her rental period, which was later confirmed by a meteorologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada contacted by Go Public.

But it didn’t make a difference. It was only after Go Public requested an interview with Enterprise that the company dropped its claim against Chick. Read more

Keli Chick spent almost a year fighting allegations that she was responsible for hail damage to a truck she rented from Enterprise, despite having driven through clear weather. (Colin Hall/CBC)

Condo owners fear losing their homes after being hit with $14M in repair costs

It’s not always true that owning your own home protects you from the threat of losing it, which is something Wendy Thomas, who has owned a condominium in the same Toronto building for the last 42 years, is learning the hard way. 

Thomas and hundreds of others in her building were recently given 15 days to pay between $30,000 and $42,000 in special assessment fees after the condo’s board determined the building was in desperate need of repairs. 

If residents weren’t able to pay, a lien was slapped on their unit, which under Ontario’s Condominiums Act allows the condo corporation to sell the unit to recover the amount owing. It also means those residents can’t vote in future board elections.

“How could they do it? We’re in the middle of a pandemic,” Thomas said through tears. “For most people, this is their retirement home. They were looking for a peaceful time.”

Many condo owners in the building are seniors on fixed incomes who now worry that if they can’t pay their share of the fees, they’ll risk losing their homes. 

Thomas said she’s had to come out of retirement and return to her customer service job to afford the payments. Unable to secure a loan from her bank, she said she had no choice but to take out a high-interest loan from a private lender. Read more

Wendy Thomas has owned her unit at 4645 Jane St. in Toronto for 42 years and says she has no intention of giving it up. (Samantha Beattie/CBC)

What else is going on?

Feeling anxious and lonely as the pandemic drags on? You’re not alone
Nearly one in four respondents to CAMH survey said they needed — but could not access — mental health support last year.

Crossing the border can take forever. But Canada says it’s planning new technological fixes to change that
Facial recognition, advance customs declarations, electronic gates are among the planned changes.

This Carrément raincoat has been recalled for being an entanglement hazard
Immediately remove the drawstrings from both sides of the raincoat waistband, cutting and removing all cords, to eliminate the hazard.

Smoothie product sold online recalled for potential cyanide poisoning
Evive Nutrition Inc. smoothie contains raw elderberries that can release cyanide when eaten.

Marketplace needs your help

Do you get regular phone calls claiming there’s a package being detained for you by Canadian authorities? Or demanding you owe money in unpaid taxes? Maybe someone claiming you’ve got a virus and need tech support? If so, we want to hear from you! Send us your name and phone number and we may get in touch with you. Email us at marketplace@cbc.ca

Have your batteries leaked or stopped working before you expected? We want to hear from you! Send us your photos and tell us more at marketplace@cbc.ca

Watch this week’s episode of Marketplace and catch up on past episodes anytime on CBC Gem.

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Oil drops as hawkish Powell testimony amplifies recession fears – BNN

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Oil dropped as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s testimony before a House committee heightened concerns of an impending recession.  

West Texas Intermediate dropped to near US$104 a barrel, with prices having shed more than 10 per cent in the last week. Powell said his commitment to fight inflation is “unconditional.” Warnings about a potential recession and economic slowdown have overshadowed oil market fundamentals that indicate a growing supply crunch. Crude’s recent swings have been too volatile for many traders. Open interest across the main futures contracts has fallen to the lowest since 2015 in recent days.  

“Future demand destruction from a possible looming recession is countering near-term real demand that remains very strong,” said Dennis Kissler, senior vice president of trading at BOK Financial. “As long as the fear of a recession remains, the near-term strong demand is keeping crude choppy.”

Updated statistics on the state of US inventories won’t be released this week. The Energy Information Administration’s stockpile report is delayed after a power disruption damaged some of the agency’s hardware.

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As a result, markets will have to rely on a US industry report to parse out weekly inventory data. The American Petroleum Institute reported crude holdings rose by 5.6 million barrels last week, while gasoline holdings also climbed, according to people familiar with the data.

Over the past two weeks, oil has been rapidly giving up gains in what’s been a volatile quarter as investors attempt to gauge the trajectory of the global economy and its impact on raw materials. There’s about a 50 per cent chance the world economy will succumb to a recession, according to Citigroup Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG.

Prices:

  • WTI August delivery fell US$1.92 to settle at US$104.27 in New York.
  • Brent for August settlement declined US$1.69 to settle at US$110.05 a barrel.

There’s still little consensus among major banks on the outlook for oil. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a note Tuesday that demand is still running ahead of supply, while warning that the Fed “cannot print commodities.” Citi sees crude dropping through this year and beyond.

So far, there’s only been limited relief in refined product markets — where bigger surges have occurred. Diesel futures in Europe closed Wednesday at more than US$57 a barrel higher than crude, a record in data since 2011.

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Technology layoffs show high-flying sector not immune from slowdown – CBC News

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Canada’s technology sector has grown rapidly in recent years, as homegrown startups and foreign giants set about hiring hundreds of thousands of well-educated and talented workers. But that expansion has recently slowed to a crawl, as high inflation, interest rate hikes and a downturn for cryptocurrency have taken a lot of optimism out of the sector.

Chris Albinson, CEO of Waterloo-based incubator Communitech, says the pullback in the U.S. is more pronounced because there are more of what he calls “go for the moon” companies with dubious fundamentals suddenly finding themselves unable to adapt to the new reality.

Canadian tech companies are faring comparably better at the moment because generally speaking they are much better stewards of capital, he says, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anxiety.

“There are some founders that were 18 years old when the last recession happened,” he told CBC News. “There’s going to be stress on the system, but I think they’re ultimately going to come out of that much stronger.”

Valuations for tech giants like Meta, Amazon, Apple and Netflix have cratered in recent weeks, and where once there was a fierce war for talent, many tech giants are implementing hiring freezes and even cutting staff.

U.S. streaming giant Netflix announced Thursday it’s cutting another 300 jobs, the second time in as many months it has announced layoffs of that size.

Crowdsourced website layoffs.fyi has documented more than 20,000 tech job cuts in the past two months alone, mostly in and around major U.S. technology hubs like Seattle and San Francisco.

While cutbacks in Canada are less dramatic, they are happening.

Canadian financial tech unicorn Wealthsimple laid off 13 per cent of its staff last week, citing “unprecedented” levels of volatility in explaining the cut of roughly 160 positions. “Many of our clients are living through a period of market uncertainty they’ve never experienced before,” CEO and founder Michael Katchen told staff in announcing the news.

Silver lining

Jacqueline Au was among those let go from the Toronto-based business. She suspected something might be up when she noticed the company started spending less on her department, marketing, earlier this year. “When that happens … it’s natural for the team to think, well, what’s gonna happen to my job, if we’re not spending any marketing money?”

It was her first time being laid off, and while she said it was unpleasant, she’s enjoying the time off to think about what her next career move may be. She enjoys the technology sector, she said, but she knows that more job cuts are coming so she’ll be choosy about who she signs on with next.

“I think that this is just the beginning, I think the industry is going to have to keep trimming the fat to stay afloat,” she told CBC News. “I think there’s going to be ups and downs, but winter is here to stay.”

Jacqueline Au was one of dozens of people who got laid off from fintech firm Wealthsimple earlier this year, and she thinks more layoffs are coming for the tech sector. (Jacqueline Au)

Vancouver-based Thinkific laid off about 20 per cent of its staff in April, and Sumeru Chatterjee was one of the 100 or so people let go. Originally from India, Chaterjee came to the U.S. to attend university and worked in various tech jobs for about a decade before making the leap to come to Canada in 2020.

“Last year, the general sentiment across the industry … was we need to grow, we need to rapidly expand our market lead to hire lots of people,” he told CBC News. “So the layoff was sort of a dramatic turn of events.”

He says the technology sector grew so quickly in the past decade largely by burning through venture capital cash to gain market share without having to worry about things like profits. “Normal business metrics like profitability and cash flow were … frowned upon almost, and I think a lot of people are reawakening to the fact that if you if you want to run a business, you need to have some fundamentals like a profitable business and customers that pay you.”

‘Surviving so you can thrive’

The mood from the stage of the Collision Conference in Toronto, where tens of thousands of technology lovers from more than 100 countries converged in person to discuss all things digital, was unabashedly positive this week. But on the sidelines, there were whispers of bursting bubbles.

Sumeru Chatterjee recently lost his job at a Vancouver-based technology company, and has since turned his attention to helping other technology workers network with each other. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

“Right now everyone who is innovating and/or investing in tech or in startups is trying to understand what exactly is happening in this moment,” said Deena Shakir, a partner at venture capital firm Lux Capital, based in Silicon Valley. “We’re the topic of conversation at every partner meeting, and every lunch and coffee.”

While she pushes back on the notion that the tech sector is back in a bubble, she adds one thing that’s clearly bursting are expectations of endless growth at the expense of profitability — which is a good thing, she says.

“We’ve been advising … our companies to think long term to make sure that they have enough capital reserves to weather this storm,” she said. “Surviving so you can thrive is an important mindset to think about.”

Survival is key in the cryptocurrency space, which was rocked when a $12 billion trading platform known as Celsius froze withdrawals earlier this month. That impacted major companies like Crypto.com and Coinbase. Though they ramped up during the pandemic, they’re now laying off thousands of workers in the U.S. and Canada, and rescinding job offers.

Deena Shakir is a partner at venture capital Lux, which invests in technology companies. (CBC)

Many crypto companies were scheduled to attend Collision in person, but Paddy Cosgrave, the conference’s founder and CEO, said many of them pulled out at the last minute. Celsius CEO Alex Mashinsky was one of those slated to attend, but didn’t.

“I can understand why [he] had to pull out,” Cosgrave said. “I think he’s got a major fight on his hands to sort this situation.”

Whatever dark cloud may be overhanging the crypto space, Cosgrave says it had no impact on overall attendance, which topped 35,000 — a zeal that makes perfect sense to him.

WATCH | Cryptocurrencies are in a freefall:

Bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies collapse as investors flee risky assets

11 days ago

Duration 1:55

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are in freefall as investors flee risky assets amid rising interest rates. The world’s largest cryptocurrency trading platform, Binance, has also temporarily suspended cryptocurrency withdrawals.

“When things become uncertain, everybody goes searching for answers,” he said. “And certainly in the last few weeks, there’s been a lot of big questions about what exactly is going on in technology and in particular in crypto.”

While layoffs may be on the short term outlook, Cosgrave says the future for technology in Canada and abroad still looks bright.

“What happens when you lay off very smart software engineers? Many of them go and start new companies, and some of those companies are already here,” he said.

WATCH | Tech sector hit with layoffs, cutbacks:

Uncertainty hits big tech with downturns and layoffs

12 hours ago

Duration 2:03

After years of steady growth, global tech stocks and cryptocurrency prices are on a downturn, leading to layoffs and hiring freezes at notable companies.

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Is Canada heading into a recession? Here is what you need to know. – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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As gas prices and food costs continue to escalate and another interest rate hike is expected next month, many Canadians are wondering if a recession is coming and how to prepare for a possible economic downturn.

Sixty-eight per cent of Canadians believe the country is heading towards a recession, while 17 per cent believe it has already arrived, according to a new survey from Yahoo Canada/Maru Public Opinion released earlier this week.

However, 15 per cent of Canadians believe the concern about a recession happening now or later is exaggerated.

But if a recession were to occur, what does that mean for Canadians and how should they prepare for it?

 

WHAT IS A RECESSION?

A recession can simply be defined as a sustained decline in economic activity for at least six months. This could result from a decline in consumer spending, which in turn could cause sales to drop, businesses to cut costs and ultimately more layoffs.

Toronto shopping

“I think the simple rule of thumb is two straight quarters of economic contraction and production of goods and services,” Derek Burleton, deputy chief economist for TD Bank Group, told CP24.

“So we tend to refer to gross domestic product (GDP) as being that overall measure of activity. If we have two straight quarters of decline that passes the simple litmus test of recession.”

The country’s last recession was in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

IS A RECESSION COMING?

With inflation at a nearly 40-year high and the Bank of Canada expected to raise its key interest rate next month, these factors could kick start another recession.

Statistics Canada said its consumer price index in May rose 7.7 per cent compared with a year ago, the fastest pace since January 1983.

“It’s not an oil price issue or food price issue, it’s widespread inflation across the economy, that tells us and that tells policymakers the economy has just been running too hot for too long. We have an inflation issue rooted in the psychology of Canadians and among businesses, and it’s going to have to be dealt with,” BMO Senior Economist Robert Kavcic told CP24.

Toronto gas

The Bank of Canada has said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, COVID-19 lockdowns in China and backlogged supply chains are fuelling “uncertainty” and higher prices for energy and food, prompting a need to increase interest rates to control inflation.

The central bank has hiked its key interest rate three times so far this year to bring it to 1.5 per cent.

But many economists, including Burleton and Kavcic, expect the central bank to raise its key rate once again by at least three quarters of a point next month to mirror the U.S. Federal Reserve’s recent interest rate hike.

Burleton said this hike could dampen consumer spending, which in turn could eventually ignite a recession.

“I mean as rates go up, the bigger the chance that economic activity will weaken next year but the Bank of Canada feels from a longer-term perspective if they can bring inflation down to their target that will serve Canadians the best over the medium to longer run. So unfortunately, it’s going to come at the cost of some output foregone over the next four to six quarters,” Burleton said.

BMO is not forecasting a recession but Kavcic said if “sticky price pressures” continue and the central bank has to continue raising rates then it will be a “big pill for the economy to swallow.”

“Our view on this is that we’re going to see economic growth really stall out through the latter stages of this year and the first half or so of next year.”

TD Bank is also not predicting a recession but said in its quarterly economic forecast that “there is a very thin margin for error if another shock hits economies.”

Burleton noted that Canadians are currently experiencing an unusual recovery after the recession in 2020 and that nothing “is a given at this stage.”

“The economy has shown me real resilience. We saw it with the April retail spending numbers. Our own high-frequency data internally…still shows resilience through May. So the economy is holding up in the first half. I guess the question is, to what extent it softens going forward.”

Burleton added that although risks are rising, he thinks a recession does not seem imminent.

 

HOW CAN CANADIANS PREPARE FOR A RECESSION?

In anticipation of a possible recession, 56 per cent of the respondents from Maru Public Opinion’s survey said they have set stricter priorities and reduced their spending in the past month.

Eighty-six per cent said they spent more on food this month compared to last month, while 82 per cent also said they spent more on gas.

grocery shopping

Burleton said it’s a smart move to put away additional savings in preparation of a potential recession.

“It’s probably not a bad thing to kind of start thinking about ways to protect yourself as a household in the event (of a recession). I think the good news is that based on aggregate data of the Canadian economy, a lot of households are holding on to additional deposits and savings…and we’re counting on some of that cushion to help defend against deeper outcomes in the economy going forward.”

Sixty-three per cent of survey respondents said food is the biggest expense that they have cut down on in the past month, followed by entertainment and clothing and footwear.

The Yahoo Canada/Maru Public Opinion survey was conducted between June 17 and 19 among a random selection of 1,515 Canadian adults who are Maru Voice Canada panelists. The survey has an estimated margin of error of +/- 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

With files from The Canadian Press

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