In Canada, Luxury Retailers Rule as Inequality Rises

HSBC making ‘big bet’ on Canada in bid for market share

HSBC Bank.
Alastair Grant / AP File Photo

By Doug Alexander

HSBC Holdings Plc is getting aggressive in Canada – and one needs to look no further than its latest mortgage rate for proof of broader ambitions.

HSBC Canada is offering five-year fixed-term mortgages at 2.39 percent, undercutting the lowest discretionary rates at the largest domestic lenders including Toronto-Dominion Bank and Royal Bank of Canada.

“I want to be more competitive,” Sandra Stuart, chief executive officer of the Canadian unit of London-based HSBC, said in an interview from her Vancouver office. “I will never be as big as the Big Five, but I certainly want to have our share of market, and I want to be out there with good competitive products.”

The mortgage push is part of Stuart’s strategy to expand HSBC Canada across its main businesses of commercial lending, capital markets, retail banking and wealth management. Stuart, who became head of the Canadian operations in June 2015, won the backing of HSBC, which she said has made a fourfold increase in annual investment in the Canadian operations to gain market share.

“HSBC globally is making a big bet on Canada, and they’re investing in us to do that,” Stuart said. “There’s a handful of priority markets that are going to get continued investment and our job is to develop the strategy, to execute and of course deliver the returns.”

HSBC has been in Canada since 1981, expanding through takeovers of domestic lenders and the Canadian operations of foreign banks to become the seventh-largest lender in the nation with $95.7 billion ($71 billion U.S.) in assets. Commercial banking accounts for 60 per cent of the firm’s Canadian profit, while its global banking and markets operations contribute 30 percent and retail banking and wealth management represent 10 per cent.

Canada Growth

“Canada is a great place to do business,” Stuart said, citing the nation’s growing economy, geographic stability and international trade ties that dovetail with HSBC’s global reach. “Canada is the No. 2 export partner for the U.S. and we’ve got the gateway to the Pacific, and we’ve got a real focus now on China, a great corridor with Hong Kong. We’re really well positioned.”

The Canadian operations are a “Top Five” producer of profit before taxes, contributing 7.6 per cent of total earnings for Europe’s biggest bank last year, up from 4.4 per cent in 2015. HSBC Canada had profit before tax of $715 million last year and revenue of $2 billion.

HSBC Canada is revamping its operations, spending more to update technology and rolling out new offerings for customers. Stuart, 53, added 60 commercial bankers in the last year and aims to hire up to 40 more by year end to the division’s 1,000-strong workforce. In investment banking she’s added a dozen professionals in the past 12 months to lift staffing levels to about 180 people. She’s repositioned the firm’s retail and wealth offerings to draw a broader clientele of Canadians to compete with the other big banks.

“We’re an international bank in the country and we have to compete on that basis, but we have to be good competition for any bank in the country – whether it’s the Big Five or a small regional player here in the west,” Stuart said. “Our job is to compete and to do that, you have to be certain that your product offerings are competitive, and what’s the right market share for you.”

Retail Expansion

On retail banking and wealth, which has about 2,400 employees, HSBC has made some key changes. Last October, the lender recruited Larry Tomei, a 22-year veteran from Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce to head up the business. The bank, which previously targeted a more affluent clientele for its mortgages, has “broadened its strategy” to woo a broader range of customers leading with that mortgage offering, according to Stuart.

“HSBC has had market-beating rates for over a year now,” said Rob McLister, founder of the mortgage comparison website “HSBC is on a market share binge.”

HSBC is looking to tap into new customers by opening more branches in cities including Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto within the next 12 months, adding to its current network of 129 locations across the country.

“They won’t be the big heavy branches with a vault,” she said. “There’ll be a couple of ATMs, a place to get cash, someone to help you get a mortgage, there’ll be wifi, computer terminals and it’ll be more digital, and it’ll be a smaller footprint.”

More Deals

She’s even open to the idea of acquisitions.

“If there was something that made sense for us, we’d be open to it,” Stuart said. “There’s not too much out there to buy, but if a portfolio became available or something made sense for us, we’d absolutely take a look at it.”

That doesn’t include looking at Home Capital Group Inc., the struggling mortgage lender facing a run on deposits.

“This isn’t something for us right now,” she said.

Half-Indian, gay and 38: Ireland’s next PM

There have been plenty of international headlines about Leo Varadkar’s rise to the top of Irish politics.

Almost all focus on the fact that the Republic of Ireland is set to have a half-Indian, openly gay prime minister.

Mr Varadkar has come to embody the liberalisation of a country which was once regarded as one of the most socially conservative in Europe.

But, in Ireland, Mr Varadkar’s sexuality and ethnic background have not been particularly prominent.

He has won the race for the leadership of Fine Gael – the biggest party in the country’s ruling coalition – meaning he is in line to take over as taoiseach (Irish prime minister) in the next few weeks.

The leadership contest focused primarily on socio-economic issues and the defining challenges for Mr Varadkar will be how to build on the Republic of Ireland’s recovery from the financial disaster of several years ago, and how to manage Brexit.

Celtic Tiger

Mr Varadkar was born on 18 January 1979 in Dublin.

His father Ashok – a doctor from Mumbai – met his mother Miriam, an Irish nurse, while they were both working in Slough in Berkshire.

They settled in Ireland in the 1970s.

The country Mr Varadkar grew up in was very different to today.

Until the 1990s, homosexuality and divorce were illegal.

There were few immigrants, and the Republic of Ireland was one of the poorer members of the EU.

Mr Varadkar followed his father into medicine.

He became a councillor aged 24 and, in 2007, he was elected to the Irish parliament, Dáil Éireann.

‘Straight talker’

The so-called Celtic Tiger was a global phenomenon – low corporate tax rates brought massive investment to the Republic of Ireland, which became one of the richest countries in the world.

But the economy crashed amidst the worldwide financial crisis – and Ireland had to accept a £71bn international bailout.

In the aftermath, Fine Gael came to power at the head of a coalition in 2011.

Mr Varadkar was appointed minister for transport, tourism and sport – and then health minister.

More recently he has run Ireland’s welfare system.

He has built up a high media profile – descriptions of him as a “sharp-shooter” and “straight-talker” are common.

In 2015, he came out as gay in an interview with the Irish national broadcaster, RTÉ.

He said: “It’s not a big deal for me any more. I hope it’s not a big deal for anyone else – it shouldn’t be.”

A few months later, Ireland voted in a referendum to legalise same-sex marriage.

When Enda Kenny announced his retirement as taoiseach and Fine Gael leader, Mr Varadkar’s supporters launched a “shock-and-awe” strategy which saw most of the party’s parliamentarians endorse him within 48 hours.

His opponent, Housing Minister Simon Coveney, was never able to recover.

Benefit cheats

But he did express “deep concern” at the direction in which his rival would take Fine Gael – suggesting Mr Varadkar’s economic policies would pull the party to the right.

Mr Varadkar said Fine Gael should represent those “who got up early in the morning”.

He went on to say he was talking about “people working in the public and private sector, the self-employed, carers getting up to mind loved ones, parents getting up to mind children”.

But Fine Gael’s political enemies have tried to portray him as a rightwing ideologue – pointing to a recent campaign against benefits cheats.

Mr Varadkar’s predecessor, Mr Kenny, stood down a year after an election result in which Fine Gael lost seats, and could only form a minority government.

When Mr Varadkar is officially installed as premier in the next few weeks he will be, at 38, the country’s youngest prime minister.

He will face what Mr Kenny has described as the biggest challenge the Irish state has ever had – the departure of its nearest neighbour from the EU.

But Mr Varadkar has an internationalist outlook – seeing himself in the same mould as the French President Emmanuel Macron or the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – a youthful, dynamic, centrist leader.

His potent political brand has taken him far- but his toughest tests are still to come.

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Strong Canada trade, productivity data reflect economic recovery

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian exports climbed to a record in April and first-quarter labor productivity approached a three-year high, further evidence that the economy is recovering after a long slump caused by low oil prices.

Statistics Canada said on Friday that the April trade deficit narrowed to C$370 million ($274 million) as exports outpaced imports for a second straight month on shipments of motor vehicles and parts.

After struggling for years to adjust to sharply lower prices of crude oil, Canada’s economy appears finally to be on a sustainable path to recovery.

In particular, the export sector, long a cause of concern for the Bank of Canada, is showing strength.

“The Bank of Canada has been looking for that for the length of 2016 but has been largely disappointed, but maybe it is starting to materialize as we move into 2017,” said Paul Ferley, assistant chief economist at Royal Bank of Canada.

Exports, which jumped 3.2 percent in March, increased by 1.8 percent in April to C$47.69 billion. Exports of motor vehicles and parts grew 4.4 percent while energy shipments posted a 2.5 percent gain.

“It’s a very strong trend… we see this continuing because there is strong U.S. growth,” said Ross Prusakowski, a senior economist at Export Development Canada.

Imports also hit a record high, edging up 0.6 percent to C$48.06 billion – the fifth consecutive monthly increase – thanks in part to increased inflows of consumer goods, electronic and electrical equipment and parts.

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Canada’s Conservatives look to Scheer as leader to rebuild party

Canada’s Conservatives are looking to Andrew Scheer to rebuild the party that was swept aside by the Liberals in the 2015 vote.

It took 13 ballots for party members to select Scheer, 38, a Saskatchewan Member of Parliament and former Speaker of the House of Commons, as their new leader.

In a narrow margin, he was declared the winner with 50.95 percent over leadership front-runner Maxime Bernier of Quebec with 49.05.

Scheer told cheering supporters the goal is for the Conservatives to form the government in 2019 by defeating Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

In promising “renewed hope for Canada,” Scheer said that the “pain and hardship the Trudeau Liberals are causing Canadians is just temporary.”

Scheer said he will balance the budget within two years, ending the Liberal job-creating spending spree, and provide tax credits for home-schooled children and those attending private schools.

The victory makes Scheer, who with wife Jill has five children, the Opposition leader in the Commons.


Ontario’s minimum wage will jump to $15 an hour in 2019, Premier Kathleen Wynne said.

The raise will be phased in over 18 months, rising to $14 an hour next Jan. 1 and to $15 the next January.

After that, the minimum will rise annually based on the inflation rate.

The current Ontario minimum wage is $11.40 an hour and ranges across Canada from $10.72 in Saskatchewan to $13 in Nunavut.

Alberta’s rate will rise to $15 hourly in October of next year.

The increase, which is a concern for small business owners, is part of a bill that aims to better protect part-time and contract workers, Wynne said.

News in brief

▪ Prime Minister Trudeau said he told U.S. President Donald Trump he is “deeply disappointed” with his decision to pull out of the Paris agreement on climate change. “Canada is unwavering in our commitment to fight climate change and support clean economic growth,” Trudeau said. “Canadians know we need to take decisive and collective action to tackle the many harsh realities of our changing climate,” he added.

▪ The Canadian government is providing an aid package of $867 million in loans for the forestry industry, workers and communities impacted by softwood lumber tariffs recently imposed by the United States. The aid includes support to expand overseas markets and to help affected workers upgrade their skills and find new opportunities. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said she is confident a fair agreement on softwood lumber can be reached.

Facts and figures

Canada’s dollar is lower at 74.14 cents U.S. as the U.S. dollar is worth $1.348 Canadian before exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 0.5 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.7 percent.

Stock markets are mixed, with the Toronto exchange index up at 15,452 points while the TSX Venture index is down at 802 points.

The average price for gas in Canada is down at $1.11 a liter or $4.21 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.

Lotto 6/49: (May 31) 1, 3, 8, 9, 12 and 40; bonus 2. (May 27) 7, 15, 25, 26, 27 and 36; bonus 12. Lotto Max: (May 26) 14, 16, 18, 21, 38, 44 and 49; bonus 15.

Regional briefs

▪ Public outrage has resulted in a Montreal private elementary school no longer allowing convicted sex killer Karla Homolka to help with kids. The school run by the Seventh-day Adventist Church is where Homolka’s kids attend. She and ex-husband Paul Bernardo were convicted in the rape and murder of Ontario teenagers Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy. Homolka was released after spending 12 years in prison in 2005.

▪ Nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer has admitted killing eight elderly patients with insulin overdoses because she was “overwhelmingly angry” about her life and saying God urged her to do it. She will be sentenced June 26 for the deaths at three long-term care facilities in Woodstock and London, Ontario. She also pleaded guilty to attempting to kill four seniors and to two counts of aggravated assault.

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Canada’s Buchanan makes history in Lyon’s Champions League win over PSG

Kadeisha Buchanan made soccer history Thursday, becoming the first Canadian to hoist the Champions League trophy as Lyon defeated Paris Saint-Germain 7-6 in a penalty shootout in the final of European women’s club soccer showcase.

The triumph came at the expense of fellow Canadian Ashley Lawrence, who played the full 120 minutes for PSG and converted her penalty in the shootout.

The two 21-year-olds, best friends who have 121 caps for Canada between them, met at the Brams United Girls Soccer Club in Brampton, Ont., at the under-nine level. Apart from their under-14 and -15 seasons in youth soccer, the two West Virginia University grads have always played together prior to joining the rival French clubs this season.

Lyon goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi scored the winning spot kick, immediately after PSG counterpart Katarzyna Kiedrzynek sent the ball wide on her penalty attempt. Kiedrzynek buried her head in her goalkeeper gloves and then fell on her knees.

Both goalkeepers made saves as the shootout went to eight rounds.

Both teams had chances in a scoreless regulation 90 minutes. While Paris was on the front foot in the first half, Lyon began to press as the second half wore on.

The 30 minutes extra time was a tight affair.

Lyon, which had already captured the French league title and Cup, won the treble for the second year in a row. It beat Germany’s VfL Wolfsburg 4-3 on penalties in last year’s European final.

Lyon has now won four of six European finals (2011, ’12 , ’16 and ’17), matching Frankfurt’s record for appearances and titles. PSG lost to Frankfurt in its only other European final in 2015.

It marked the first time that two teams from the same country had contested the European club championship.

It was a painful loss for PSG, beaten by the same penalty shootout score in the French Cup last month.

Buchanan started in the heart of the Lyon defence, paired with Lyon captain Wendie Renard. Lawrence started at left wingback for PSG.

“No words just action from here on out !!!!!!!,” Buchanan tweeted ahead of kickoff.

“We are ready – Nous sommes prêts,” Lawrence tweeted.

The game was played before 22,433 at Cardiff City Stadium, just three kilometres from Principality Stadium, which will play host to Saturday’s men’s Champions League final between Juventus and Real Madrid.

The two Canadians crossed paths in the 15th minute, with Buchanan winning the contest.

Lyon’s U.S. star, Alex Morgan, who has been nursing a hamstring injury, was forced to go off in the 23rd minute.

PSG captain Shirley Cruz came close in the 33rd minute, but Bouhaddi made the save and the Lyon defence cleared away the rebound.

Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg had a glorious chance for Lyon in the 52nd minute, with two tries in front of goal. But she hit the first straight at Kiedrzynek and then fired the rebound wide.

PSG survived the pressure and nearly went ahead in the 63rd when Cruz carved open the Lyon defence with a fine pass to Marie-Laure Delie as Buchanan stepped forward to close Cruz down. Delie beat the goalkeeper but sent her shot just wide of the post, looking up to the sky in disbelief afterward.

Kiedrzynek’s weak punch, thanks in part to a physical challenge from the 6-foot-2 Renard, cleared a Lyon free kick in the 83rd.

Lawrence played her part at both ends of the field, winning a free kick in her own penalty box deep in second-half stoppage time to end a Lyon attack.

Thursday marked the fourth meeting between the French rivals this season, with Lyon winning three with one loss.

PSG, which finished third in the league, needed to win in Cardiff to qualify for Europe next season.

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CANADA STOCKS-TSX ends lower as weaker oil prices pressure energy stocks

Canada’s benchmark stock index
finished lower on Friday as energy stocks, depressed by falling
oil prices, led the market lower.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index
close 27.16 points down, or 0.2 percent, at 15,442.75.
Of the index’s 10 main industry groups, six were in negative
(Reporting by Solarina Ho)


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Labour will seek a minority government in event of hung parliament

Labour will not seek any coalition with other parties and will attempt to form a minority government if it comes out of the general election as the largest party in a hung Parliament, Emily Thornberry has said.

The admission from the Shadow Foreign Secretary – just one week before the election – comes after a polling company’s model suggested Britain could be heading into hung Parliament territory, with the Conservatives losing their majority and Jeremy Corbyn’s party gaining seats.

Her comments amount to a firm rejection of Prime Minister’s repeated claim that a vote for Mr Corbyn’s party in next week’s election would result in a “coalition of chaos” with Labour propped up by MPs from parties like the Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party or Greens.

In an address to the party faithful in Basildon – as the Labour leader outlined his plans for Brexit – Ms Thornberry said: We’re fighting to win and we’re fighting to win with a majority and that’s what we’re fighting to do. If we end up In a position we’re In a minority, we will go ahead and we will put forward a queens speech and a budget“ 

“And if people want to vote for it then good, and if they don’t want to vote for it they’re going to have to go back and speak to their constituents and explain to them why it is that we have a Tory government instead 

“If we are the largest party, we go ahead – no deals – with our manifesto and our budget and our queens speech. And that’s the conversation we’ve had, isn’t it? That’s it. “

Mr Corbyn said: “We are fighting to win this election”. 

When asked if there would be a future deal after polling day, he added: “we’re not doing deals, we’re not doing coalitions, we’re not doing any agreements. We are fighting to win this election on a manifesto I’m very proud of. 

It comes after the Labour leader told The Independent only “winning the election” will be a good result for his party next week, as polls showed his party closing the gap on Ms May’s stuttering campaign. 

In the last fortnight Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey said if Labour wins as few as 200 seats – a loss of 29 – it would be a “successful campaign”, while allies have suggested the party is heading in the right direction if Mr Corbyn matches or increases the 30.4 per cent vote share won by Ed Miliband in 2015.

But asked what would mark a “good result” next week, Mr Corbyn replied unequivocally: “Winning the election”.

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Canada’s Quebec wants constitutional talks despite Trudeau opposition

MONTREAL (Reuters) – The mainly French-speaking province of Quebec, which came close to voting to leave Canada 22 years ago, said on Thursday it wants to reopen constitutional talks and be recognized for its distinct linguistic and cultural character.

The issue is a new headache for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is gearing up for the renegotiation of NAFTA with the United States and Mexico and saw his pipeline policy thrown into disarray this week by election results in the west coast province of British Columbia.

Trudeau threw cold water on the proposal from the vote-rich province, saying on Thursday he would “not reopen Canada’s constitution.”

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, whose provincial Liberal Party is federalist and does not support secession, said “Canada can be improved upon” and his party would proceed with its plans.

“We are Quebecers. Our nation is the founder of the country,” he told reporters. “We will engage in dialogue with other Canadians.”

Critics have said Couillard may be trying to drive political support for his party ahead of a provincial election in 2018 against the separatist Parti Quebecois.

Trudeau’s late father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was prime minister in 1982 when Quebec opposed passage of Canada’s Constitution Act, arguing it lacked sufficient guarantees to protect the province’s identity as a French-language jurisdiction in a mostly English-speaking country. Quebec has not signed on to the constitution

Besides being recognized as a distinct society, Quebec also wants a constitutional veto right, increased control over immigration, a guaranteed spot on the Supreme Court and a curb on federal spending powers.

The province holds 78 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons and Trudeau’s Liberals need to win extra seats there to offset expected losses elsewhere in 2019.

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Canada gives $640m aid to lumber sector

Canada has announced C$867m (US$640m/£500m) in relief for the country’s lumber industry.

The aid comes after the US slapped hefty tariffs on the import of Canadian softwood lumber in April.

The US Commerce Department claims that Canada is improperly subsidising its exports of the forestry product.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said the aid measures will come mostly in the form of loans made at commercial rates.

The funding, which will be dispersed over a three-year period, includes $605m in expanded financial products and services, including loans and loan guarantees. Forestry companies can apply for those funds to make capital investments and diversify into new markets.

Other funds will support employment in affected communities.

Canada’s softwood lumber producers face between 3.2% to 24.12% in US countervailing duties, which are meant to level the playing field between domestic producers and government-subsidised foreign producers of an item.

In early May, Canada said it was considering multiple trade actions against the US in response to the softwood tariffs, which it calls “unfair” and “baseless”.

The federal government said it was considering a ban of US coal exports and duties against several Oregon industries. The west coast US state has been one of the loudest supporters of the lumber tax.

This is the most recent flare-up in a long-running dispute over softwood lumber between the two countries.

Federal Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday that Canada’s preference is for a negotiated softwood lumber agreement that is settled quickly.

“But wanting something is not the same as getting something,” she said, adding that talks are ongoing.

The US Commerce Department valued softwood lumber imports from Canada at US$5.6bn (C$7.6bn/£4.3bn) in 2016.

About 200,000 Canadians work in the forestry sector.

The Conference Board of Canada recently projected “substantial employment losses” at Canada’s sawmills, with a net loss of some 1,100 workers forecast for 2017, due to the tariffs.

Softwood lumber, made up of spruce, pine and fir, is used primarily for framing in construction.

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