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February 21, 2019 | Sad

A best-selling Canadian author of 14 books on economic trends, real estate, the financial crisis, personal finance strategies, taxation and politics. Nationally-known speaker and lecturer on macroeconomics, the housing market and investment techniques. He is a licensed Investment Advisor with a fee-based, no-commission Toronto-based practice serving clients across Canada.

My, my. In Canada, you say? Political assassination?

Eyebrows flew when our top civil servant (Privy Council head Michael Wernick) told MPs on Thursday he thinks somebody could be offed during the coming election campaign.

“I worry about the rising tide of incitements to violence when people use terms like ‘treason’ and ‘traitor’ in open discourse. Those are the words that lead to assassination. I’m worried that somebody’s going to be shot in this country this year during the political campaign.”

This little shocker took place during the biggest political scandal to hit the Trudeau government. Likely no coincidence. Rumours are flying this isn’t just about trying to save the corporate butt of SNC Lavalin, nor a tiff between T2 and his former justice minister Jody W-R. It goes deeper, say the wags. The hasty retreat from Ottawa of cabinet minister Scott Brison is part of the story. So is BMO (where Brison landed). And Gerald Butts, of course – Trudeau’s fixer and No.1 political hack who just took a bullet of his own. Fraud. Bribery. Obstruction of justice. Political overreach. Yikes! Canada is supposed to be nice. That Trump stuff is so icky.

Anyway, amid this unfolding mess an election campaign is about to start. Scheer is trending. Trudeau descending. Jagmeet missing. But it’s a long eight months until voting day, and lots can happen.

Probably no surprise that as chaos reigns, the next federal budget date has been announced. March 19th. Expect Bill Morneau to reveal some shiny things to take moister eyes off the tawdry underbelly of politics and focus that gaze squarely on their own navels. The two centrepieces will be a plan to help pay for everybody’s prescription drugs, plus a set of reforms to “give some optimism” to Millennial homebuyers.

The drug plan comes at an awkward time, since it’ll be expensive and the T2 government is already drowning in red ink. If you remember back to 2015, the Libs promised a temporary deficit of $10 billion for two years, followed by a budget that ‘would balance itself.’ Well, the deficits have added up to about about six times that amount, with another $18 billion this year and a projected $76 billion in new debt over the next five years. Now we’re about to get more spending.

And the moister house strategy? Yup, it’s coming. Maybe 30-year mortgages again. Perhaps removal of the $1 million CHMC price cap. Likely some changes to the stress test, or an enriched tax credit to help cover closing costs. Whatever it is, the logic is flawed. The best way for first-timers to buy houses is to make them cheaper – which Mr. Market is doing. The best way to thwart that is political interference.

But here we go again. The only question is whether the kids will fall for it, voting back a government that’s adding huge dollops of debt, jacking up spending over revenues, and guaranteeing they’ll be paying fatter taxes down the road. Likewise, will the wizened, pill-popping wrinklies cheer politicians who subsidize prescriptions with their own tax dollars?

Of course. This is Canada. We’re special. All of us. Why should we expect the government to live within its means, when so many voters have decided to be reckless? Here’s some new evidence: HELOC borrowing has mushroomed again. We now owe not only $1.2 trillion in mortgages on our houses, but also another $243 billion in floating-rate loans against our home equity. And remember that about a third of this money is not being repaid. Not a sous. Borrowers have been making interest-only payments or actually increasing the HELOC size to cover interest.

It makes you wonder what kind of personal finance crisis we might be in if the economy tanked. Or someone got shot.

Well, this is going to be one interesting year. Royal LePage is saying that nice houses in Vancouver will lose more than $400,000 in value this year – yes, that’s coming from a real estate company. The oil patch is a mess, and low prices have seriously nicked national revenues. The federal government has failed its fiscal test and is clearly on the path to significantly higher taxes, if returned to office. And all this has happened when there was no recession, robust global growth and an economic renaissance happening with our largest trading partner.

Now, scandal and assassination talk. Did you see this coming?

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February 21st, 2019

Posted In: The Greater Fool

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