In The News for Jan. 20 : Will the Bank of Canada raise its interest rates again?

Although headline inflation slowed noticeably last month, Royce Mendes, Desjardins managing director and head of macro strategy, said the labour market is still hot and underlying inflation pressures are still “sticky.”

“I think (the bank will) use all of that to justify the further rate increase,” Mendes said. 

Last month, the unemployment rate fell to five per cent, slightly above the all-time low of 4.9 per cent. 

After raising rates again in December, the Bank of Canada signalled it was open to pressing pause on its aggressive rate-hiking cycle, depending on upcoming economic data releases. 

The Bank of Canada is likely encouraged that headline inflation is slowing. After peaking at 8.1 per cent in the summer, the annual inflation rate has cooled to 6.3 per cent in December.

The Bank of Canada will also release its quarterly monetary policy report on Wednesday, which will provide updated forecasts for economic growth and inflation.

Also this …

The number of commercial pilot licences issued in Canada has declined by more than 80 per cent since 2019, even as aviation experts warn of an ever-growing labour shortage that threatens to disrupt Canada’s airline industry.

Transport Canada numbers show that the number of commercial pilot licences awarded each year was relatively consistent for much of the past decade, averaging 1,116 licences annually between the years 2012 and 2019.

With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, however, those numbers fell off a cliff — to 474 licences that year and then declining even further to 293 in 2021 and 238 in 2022. Thousands of pilots across North America were laid off or took early retirement as air travel ground to a halt.

A commercial pilots’ licence is needed to legally work as a pilot in Canada, and getting one requires a combination of ground school study as well as a minimum of 200 hours of flight training. 

Experts say that industry turmoil combined with the high cost of getting a licence, and low starting wages may have scared prospective students away from pursuing a career as a pilot.

They warn Canada’s aviation industry is facing a shortage of pilots that threatens to become more severe within the next three to five years.

And this too …

The owner of a Toronto condo is warning fellow property owners not to fall victim to fraudsters after her home was sold without her knowledge while she was out of the country. 

Documents provided by Moffy Yu show the two-bedroom downtown apartment was listed for $978,000 last May 11, then sold for $970,000 nine days later, near the height of the pandemic property boom. Ontario land title documents show ownership was transferred for that sum on June 15 to a new buyer who took out a mortgage with the Bank of Montreal.

But Yu, a former international student who now lives in China’s Hubei province, said she never put her home in the Aura skyscraper on Yonge Street up for sale. 

Instead, she said, the property was listed by an impersonator who gained access to the vacant home, staged the photo shoot, listed it and sold it, all without her knowledge, she said. In the process, the impersonator appears to have duped the buyer, two sets of property agents, lawyers involved in the sale, a major bank and the Ontario land registry.

Toronto police confirmed there was an “active investigation” into the case but would release no further details. Bank of Montreal says it’s standing by to help police, while the director of land titles placed a “caution” notice on the property title on Aug. 31.

On Jan. 5, Toronto police asked for the public’s help to solve a different case that closely resembles Yu’s. It said that in January 2022, a man and woman listed a Toronto home for sale by using fake documents to impersonate the true owners. It was several months before the real owners, who were out of town, realized the property had been sold without their consent, police said in a news release.

Yu’s experience is part of what fraud investigator Brain King calls “total title fraud,” in which thieves impersonate true property owners by using fake identification.

He says it’s extremely problematic because it victimizes both the true homeowner and the unwitting purchaser. 

What we are watching in the U.S. …

NEW YORK _ A Florida judge sanctioned former U.S. president Donald Trump and one of his attorneys Thursday, ordering them to pay nearly $1 million for filing what he said was a bogus lawsuit against Trump’s 2016 rival Hillary Clinton and others.

In a blistering filing, U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks accused Trump of a “pattern of abuse of the courts” for filing frivolous lawsuits for political purposes, which he said “undermines the rule of law” and “amounts to obstruction of justice.”

“Here, we are confronted with a lawsuit that should never have been filed, which was completely frivolous, both factually and legally, and which was brought in bad faith for an improper purpose,” he wrote.

Citing Trump’s recent legal action against the Pulitzer Prize board, New York Attorney General Letitia James, big tech companies and CNN, he described Trump as “a prolific and sophisticated litigant” who uses the courts “to seek revenge on political adversaries.”

“He is the mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process,” he wrote.

The ruling required Trump and his attorney, Alina Habba, to pay nearly $938,000 to the defendants in the case.

Middlebrooks in September dismissed the suit Trump had filed against Clinton, former top FBI officials and the Democratic Party, rejecting the former president’s claims that they and others conspired to sink his winning presidential campaign by alleging ties to Russia.

The lawsuit had named as defendants Clinton and some of her top advisers, as well as former FBI Director James Comey and other FBI officials involved in the investigation into whether Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign had co-ordinated with Russia to sway the outcome of the election.

He said then the suit contained “glaring structural deficiencies” and that many of the “characterizations of events are implausible.”

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

TOKYO _ Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday announced plans to downgrade the legal status of COVID-19 to the equivalent of seasonal influenza in the spring, a move that would further relax mask wearing and other preventive measures as the country seeks to return to normalcy.

Kishida said he has instructed experts and government officials to discuss the details on lowering COVID-19’s status. A change would also remove self-isolation rules and other antivirus requirements and allow COVID-19 patients to seek treatment at any hospital instead of only specialized facilities.

“In order to return to our ordinary daily life in Japan while pursuing measures to adapt to living with the coronavirus, we will study concrete measures to gradually move on to a next step,” Kishida said.

In Japan, COVID-19 is currently categorized as a Class 2 disease, along with SARS and tuberculosis, and is subject to restricting movements of patients and their close contacts, while allowing central and local governments to issue emergency measures. Downgrading it to Class 5 would mean scrapping those rules.

The planned change would mark a major turning point in Japan’s COVID-19 policy toward normalizing social and economic activities.

The move, however, comes as Japan faces widespread infections and record levels of deaths in what is considered its eighth wave of outbreak since the pandemic began three years ago.

According to the Health Ministry, daily deaths totalled a record high of 503 last Saturday. Experts say the latest increase could be linked to worsening chronic illnesses among older patients.

On this day in 1994 …

Anik E-1, one of Canada’s main communications satellites, spun out of control. It forced newspapers, radio and television broadcasters to scramble to jerry-rig systems to get their material out.

In entertainment …

LOS ANGELES _ Film production and firearms experts say movie sets probably changed permanently when cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot and killed on the remote New Mexico set of the Western “Rust” 14 months ago, leading to the announcement from prosecutors Thursday that Alec Baldwin and the film’s weapons supervisor will be charged with involuntary manslaughter later this month.

“The gun safety experience on set has become more vocal, it’s a lot louder,” said Joey Dillon, an armorer who has overseen the use of firearms on television shows including “Westworld” and movies including “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” “I make it a lot louder myself.”

Baldwin was pointing the gun with a live round inside that killed Hutchins as they set up a shot for an upcoming scene. People at several levels of production are determined to assure it never happens again.

That has meant the increasing use of digital and other technology that could make gunfire of any kind obsolete. It has also meant more simple things, like shouting when using the same safety protocols long in place to make clear to everyone when a gun is present and what its status is.

Actors and others are more interested when the gun is handed over.

“Now people want to check because people are a little gun shy,” Dillon said. “I’ll stop the whole process just to show them so that they feel comfortable with it.”

While checking a gun themselves may be in the best interest of actors, how much responsibility they bear for doing so remains in dispute, and will be a central question for jurors should Baldwin’s case go to trial.

His union, and his lawyer, say this onus can’t be placed on performers.

“An actor’s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert,” the Screen Actors Guild said in a statement Thursday. “Firearms are provided for their use under the guidance of multiple expert professionals directly responsible for the safe and accurate operation of that firearm.”

Did you see this?

Nunavut’s energy corporation says cybersecurity experts are investigating after it was targeted in a cyberattack over the weekend.

The Qulliq Energy Corporation says its network was breached, but it’s too early to determine whether the attackers accessed customer information.

It says anyone affected will be notified as the investigation continues.

Power plants in the territory continue to operate as usual, but computer systems and the corporation’s customer care and administrative officers are currently unavailable.

The Nunavut government’s IT system was the target of a cyberattack in 2019.

The Northwest Territories Power Corporation was hit by a ransomware attack in 2020.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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