Friday, February 19, 2016

Hamilton Already Has Fourth Homicide of 2016

Hamilton Police have reported that a man in his forties was shot to death outside a barbershop on Upper Wellington between Queensdale and Brucedale yesterday afternoon. No name has been released yet. Police report four black males were seen running from the scene, but there have been no arrests.

That's the fourth homicide of 2016 in the city and the first in the three Mountain wards. Hamilton had only six homicides in all of last year. Tomorrow I'll make a post breaking down the four murders so far. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ontario Finance Minister Sousa to Balance Budget in 2017-2018? Some Skepticism

Is Ontario going to balance its budget in 2017-2018 like they promised? In the Ottawa Citizen, reporting on Sousa speaking to the Empire Club:

"Ontario’s economy is doing so well, thanks to our wise and prudent Liberal government, that our provincial government is going to balance its budget by next year and, er, delay its signature pension plan, Finance Minister Charles Sousa said Tuesday."

I'm a little skeptical of this considering without counting sales of Hydro One shares, Ontario's 2015-2016 budget deficit was around 8.5 billion. Now it is possible that the province could sell more shares in the 2017-2018 budget year to get to balance, although I would find that quite dubious.

On the other hand, the dollar being totally in the tank (with its effects on a moribund manufacturing sector and helping with reducing the tourism deficit) and gasoline prices being by modern levels, incredibly low has a strong stimulus effect on Ontario. Plus if the federal Liberals dole out a lot of stimulus spending in the 2017-2018 fiscal year that can only help provincial GDP.

However US GDP growth of late hasn't looked strong of late (and below 1% in the fourth quarter of last year) and any recession there between now and the 2017-2018 fiscal year would likely torpedo any chance of a balanced budget in Ontario. So wait and see.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Ontario and Canada January 2016 Jobs Numbers

I've been meaning to get around to covering the Statscan employment report for January. The tl;dr is Canada poor Ontario good. Although I think there's more to it than that.

Canada overall lost 5,700 jobs, with Alberta losing 10,000 which is a large number for one month for a province the size of Alberta.

Ontario on the other hand Ontario gained 19,800 jobs which is impressive. Full-time jobs were up 16,300 while part-time jobs were up 3,600. What I wonder is how many of those full-time jobs were people declaring themselves self-employed and full-time. That often isn't the sign of a strong economy. Year over year, in Ontario jobs were up 100,200 which is reasonably, although not amazing given population growth. Full-time jobs however were up 180,600 while part-time jobs were down 80,400. I wonder if over the year, people declaring themselves self-employed was a factor for the full-time job growth. Potentially though the rapid fall of the dollar could be resulting in companies increasing their demand for labour and moving people from part to full-time hours. Overall in Canada, employee jobs increased by 89,400 while self-employed jobs increased by 36,200 jobs. I'm surmising that some of those jobs were in Ontario.

February's numbers should also be interesting. One would expect Alberta to continue to shed private sector jobs as oil hovers around US$ 30 per barrel and Ontario to pick up jobs due to the low dollar

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Markets Crash and Bond Yields Down, What About Ontario's Public Sector Pensions?

World stock exchange indexes including the Toronto Stock Exchange index are well down from their recent peaks. Government bond yields are down, even for longer duration bonds. Funding defined benefit pension plans like that for Ontario teachers and OMERS has become considerably more problematic of late.

This Toronto Sun article from May last year, has some interesting information on the funding situation of the Ontario teachers pension plan:

"A $6.8-billion surplus in the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan will be used to restore partial inflation protection for teachers who retired after 2009.

“Pensioners who retired after 2009 will receive a one-time increase in January 2016 to restore their pensions to the levels they would have been at had full inflation protection been provided each year since they retired,” a news release says. “They will also receive a slightly higher inflation increase next year for the portion of their pensions earned after 2009.”"

It is probably likely that the 6.8 billion surplus no longer exists. That's going to be problematic for both the teachers and the province who funds it. If the stock markets bounce back, then it won't be such a big deal, but if Ontario heads into recession things aren't going to be pretty. Given the close ties between the Ontario Liberal government and the teachers' unions this is a file that Ontarians need to watch.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Hamilton Has Third Homicide of 2016, Only Six All 2016

A man has been shot to death in Glanbrook early this morning. No name yet. Not a great start for 2016 considering that's the third murder in only six months.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Air Canada Back Servicing Montreal from Hamilton Munro Airport

Air Canada announced today that they are back serving Hamilton, with two flights per day to Montreal. Certainly a good thing for Hamilton and the somewhat beleaguered airport, especially after New Leaf, the new discount carrier after announcing service seems to have hit a fairly significant bump in the road.

Ottawa would have been nice too, but with basically only service to Frankfurt and London, it doesn't provide the possibilities of flying on to Europe from Montreal. Would a Hamiltonian rather fly from Hamilton to Montreal and then on to Europe or go to Pearson and fly direct? Depends on the person and where they live in Hamilton. If you live on the Mountain and only fifteen minutes away by car, then maybe.

Hopefully the service does well and Air Canada expands to Ottawa eventually as well. That's pretty much all one can hope for in terms of Air Canada at Hamilton airport.

Canadian Pension Funds Not Doing Well, Will Ontario Have to Cough Up for Teachers, OMERS?

With the stocks markets around the world and especially Canada's being down and government bond yields abysmal, that's generally not a good recipe for Canada's defined benefit (public sector) pension plans. I'm surprised that the media hasn't made more of a big deal about it, but I suppose the possibility of a snap back in stock values kept articles from being written.

The Globe has now put out on article on the problems. Noteworthy quote:

"Pension consulting firm Aon Hewitt said the median solvency ratio for pension funds it tracks fell by more than 3 percentage points in January alone, ending the month at 82.9 per cent, a sharp drop from 87.6 per cent in mid-December."

That's a sizable decline for one month, when the number wasn't great to start with. Also important for Ontario is this:

"Pension plans are fully funded when the ratio of assets and liabilities is at 100 per cent, which means they have enough assets to cover their long-term funding obligations to plan members. Plan sponsors do not have to immediately cover shortfalls, but they must eventually make up the difference with cash contributions if the shortfalls continue."

With Ontario already having a large deficit, having to make a cash contribution to the Ontario Teachers pensions or OMERS isn't going to be fun (or popular but I wouldn't expect there to be a lot of media publicity about it).