The News Rundown
- B.C. drivers are going to get a partial refund on their car insurance, the province announced Tuesday, with the rebates coming from the hundreds of millions ICBC saved during the pandemic. The average rebate will come out to $190 per driver, but could be as high as $400.
- Premier John Horgan said the one-time rebate, which should begin rolling out by cheque in mid-March, is drawn from net savings of $600 million ICBC saw from April 1 to Sept. 30. As people continue to work from home and socialize less, there have been fewer cars on the road and "a major decrease" in crashes.
- The rebates are available to those who held policies during that six-month period, except customers with short-term, storage or distance-based policies "whose premiums already reflect lower usage."
- Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the $600-million is the largest COVID-19 rebate offered to date in Canada, but it has taken far longer to roll out than those other provinces. The idea of a rebate has been floating around in B.C. for at least six months, after savings added up during the first round of restrictions in the spring.
- Farnworth said the province delayed the rebate because it wanted to be sure ICBC was on steady ground before giving away its savings, given its history of serious financial disaster. Farnworth said that the government has been "prudent and cautious" with the rebate, and Horgan said "We wouldn't be here if we didn't think this was achievable."
- ICBC saw 35% fewer claims from April to September, saving the corporation $720 million. The net savings only came out to $600 million because ICBC also lost $120 million in its usual revenue from premiums. There are roughly 2.8 million people in B.C. eligible for the rebate.
- The partial refund is about 19% of the premium customers paid for their coverage during the six-month period. It is also separate from the average 20% in savings drivers have been promised when ICBC moves to an enhanced care model on May 1.
- The BC NDP went out of their way this week to suggest that British Columbians can expect a ballpark $190 rebate on their auto insurance. They mentioned $190 three times in the news release announcing the rebate on Tuesday.
- Not until halfway through the question and answer with reporters did Farnworth get around to disclosing the fine print on the rebate.
- “Depending on the nature of your policy, 80% will have between $50 and $300,” he told reporters. “It could go from as low, though, as $25 to about $400, but the average is $190.”
- An average is just that: an average. But you have to wonder why the government tried so hard to plant the notion of a $190 cheque. For those expecting $190, a rebate of $300 or even $400 will come as a pleasant surprise. But nothing like the letdown for those on the receiving end of a mere $50 — or worse $25 — when they’d been led to expect a lot more.
- The ever-optimistic premier gave one of his take-it-to-the-bank promises that the rebate cheques will be mailed out starting in mid-March. It prompted a question as to why he could be so sure, given that 300,000 British Columbians still haven’t got the economic recovery benefit he promised during the election.
- Horgan was on the defensive over his biggest election promise: “1.8 million British Columbians have received this pandemic benefit. I appreciate that 300,000 people is a lot of people, but again, without a calculator, I think we can all appreciate that 1.8 million is a lot more.”
- The holdup on the cheques — $500 for individuals, $1,000 for families — is mainly a matter of paperwork errors according to the premier.
- “I ask for patience for those final 300,000 British Columbians who are frustrated by delays. But there are legitimate reasons for that. There are 300,000 applicants that have made an error somewhere or it has been transposed by staff incorrectly, and it will take some time to correct that. That is not passing judgment on anyone,” he hastened to add, not wanting to further tick off those who had been led to believe during the election that the cheques would be in the mail by Christmas.
- As to why there could not be the same kind of holdup on the rebate cheques, Horgan suggested it came down to ICBC being more on the ball: “The difference between the COVID benefit and the ICBC rebate is ICBC engages with their policyholders annually,” the premier explained. “They have a lot of information. They know where people live. They can send cheques seamlessly.”
- Clearly, the need for seamless delivery was not foremost among the NDP leader’s priorities when he put the entire government into caretaker mode for an election, then concocted a half-baked promise of cash before Christmas.
- The NDP are playing politics with the rebate again, but at least this time, the cash will end up in the hands of the people who buy auto insurance, where it belongs.
- Jason Kenney has returned to doing almost weekly live Facebook Q&A sessions with his supporters.
- First let’s talk about why this is important: in the digital era there is no excuse as to why every elected official can’t set aside an hour at least once a month to do something like this online.
- Jason Kenney does it almost weekly and it’s a great opportunity to take the pulse of any politician's core base.
- Justin Trudeau could do it, Erin O’Toole could do it to great benefit, and it highlights just what the true mood of the population is.
- In Alberta, questions range from when are we getting vaccinated to whether or not COVID-19 is actually a threat.
- City News reported this week on one Jason Kenney’s Q&A sessions saying that he needs to be “crystal clear” and could be “even more clear” in discrediting misinformation.
- First, he was asked a question about what he’s going to do to battle the Great Reset, which is an idea that the IMF actually mentions.
- He said that he would do everything politically and from an ideological perspective to fight what Justin Trudeau has in mind for a Great Reset and he categorically disagrees with Great Reset proponents.
- He was also asked if he thought COVID-19 was a conspiracy to train the population to accept future demands by a socialist government.
- “It’s not Justin Trudeau, it’s not the great reset, it’s not QANON, it’s not a conspiracy. It is just a reality. And folks, for those of you who are in deep denial about this, wake up and smell the coffee. Alright? That is not a conspiracy, it is not politics, it’s not a preference, it’s not fake news. It’s cold, hard numbers.”
- He also jokingly said, “You have the luxury of circulating the conspiracy theories, and hey, everyone needs a hobby, so go for it.”
- This is the passage that Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair of Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta took issue with and said he needs to go further and not leave any ambiguity.
- We've linked to the relevant section of the Q&A in our supplementals.
- Now, we can also talk about the pandemic, the number one question that comes up is when are things going to open up?
- Jason Kenney was panned in late 2020 for not acting quick enough or drastic enough in the eyes of many but he also addressed why he’s not adopting an approach of total openness like South Dakota in the United States.
- He said that it boiled down to ensuring that everyone else who is not sick can still access healthcare and that as Premier, he’s trying to keep as many people alive as possible.
- He said that while yes, South Dakotans have their freedom, their per capita death rate is almost 5x higher than that of Alberta.
- That would mean 8,000 deaths in our province.
- Jason Kenney is in a precarious position because there are many people in rural Alberta who do favour this approach and politically are further to the right than Jason Kenney.
- There are also those in the cities who are further to the left than Jason Kenney.
- Albertans can decide for themselves if 8,000 deaths compared to the 1,700 or so we have currently would be worth our freedoms.
- Jason Kenney and the UCP need to hope that the pandemic is well in the rear view mirror by 2023 as running in the centre in Alberta helps no one.
- Put simply he can’t anger Calgary should they decide to go back to the NDP and he needs to hope that those to the right stick with the UCP and not move to the Wildrose independence party.
- We hope that when the time comes, people will make the choice that puts the NDP and Rachel Notley back in opposition or back to third party status come 2023.
- These Facebook Live Q&As also need to serve as a reminder about what the media likes to call Trumpism in Canada.
- It’s widely thought that Canada could never go down that path and that we need to seek out those with Trump-like views, bring them in, and re-educate them but that will only cause further alienation as Justin Trudeau has proven.
- The media and our politicians should be very worried because these Facebook Live Q&As (conspiracy theories and all) show that we’re already at that point and the only thing missing is a leader who wants to tap into that sentiment and knows how to control the news cycle.
- While the People’s Party tries to tap into that sentiment it has zero media sway. Erin O’Toole doesn’t tap into that sentiment nor can he control the media news cycle.
- That person likely exists in Canada, they just haven’t entered the political arena yet.
- This is what should worry everyone, not that Jason Kenney didn’t go far enough, in denouncing conspiracy theories.
- Politicians of all stripes need to ensure that they are putting out substantial policy that addresses constituents concerns and doesn’t marginalize anyone.
- If they fail, our Donald Trump will emerge.
- The pandemic of the past year has hit all Canadians in different ways. From family members or friends that might have succumbed to the horrible virus, to those who have died of drug overdoses, to the increasing number of people committing or even attempting suicide in a misguided way to escape, to the survivors of all of this going out every day to work under much greater stresses than ever before, no one has been spared.
- Whether it's grandparents becoming more lonely from having to stay segregated, to teenager's education getting disrupted and economic opportunities stunted upon entering the workforce, to middle aged breadwinners of families getting laid off, age has not been a discriminating factor with regards to who has been impacted. Sure, people over the age of 80 are much more likely to die from the virus, but restrictions and uncertainties affect us all, young and old.
- Probably the biggest detriment that the pandemic has caused is on younger Canadians, aged 20-35. After entering the workforce into the midst the great recession of 2007-2009, opportunities for younger Canadians to get ahead in life were slimmer than ever before. Many young families were behind the economical 8 ball already, and the pandemic has just made things worse.
- For prospective homebuyers, the time has never been worse to buy a house, as prices in the Canadian housing market as a whole continue to rapidly climb. The threshold every buyer has to meet to own a home ― the minimum down payment ― has reached Canada’s highest level on record, a new report says.
- With house prices rising at their fastest pace in 11 years, it would take a median-earning household 60 months to save up a minimum down payment on a house today, according to National Bank of Canada’s latest housing affordability monitor. National Bank’s estimates assume a 10-per-cent savings rate, and a 6-per-cent down payment.
- That’s the longest it has been in 40 years of home-affordability records, topping the previous peak at the height of the 1990 housing bubble. At a national level, there has never been a worse time to accumulate the minimum down payment.
- Broken down by city, famously unaffordable Vancouver takes top spot for the country’s least accessible housing market. At the median household income, it takes 58 months to save up for a condo down payment there, or 409 months for a detached home ― roughly 34 years. In Toronto, it would take 51 months to save up for a condo or 289 months (roughly 24 years) for a detached house.
- Not even the top 20% of Canadians can buy a non-condo in Vancouver these days. Economists estimate a household needs to earn $230,488 to carry the mortgage in Q4. This is 222.8% higher than the median household income. I guess we’ll soon find out if a city can exclusively be populated by wealthy households.
- If you’re already in the market, you may be finding it easier to pay your mortgage these days. Thanks to falling interest rates in the pandemic, mortgage payments have come down for three straight quarters.
- But what these numbers really mean is that you can’t actually buy a home in these markets on an average income, unless you are trading up from a home you bought when prices were lower, or get help with the down payment. And the forecasts aren’t calling for much relief for homebuyers soon. In a report in mid-January, Royal Bank of Canada predicted that the benchmark price of a home in Canada will rise another 8.9 per cent this year, to $669,000.
- Compare this to the United States: real estate prices in Canada have grown 25 times faster than U.S. home prices since 2005. COVID-19 was not enough to overcome the housing market’s resiliency. According to Bank of Montreal, Canada’s average home prices are now more than 40% above the U.S. levels.
- RBC economist Robert Hogue wrote: “The pandemic changed some dynamics — it drove many buyers to the suburbs, exurbs and beyond, ground immigration to virtual halt, triggered a downturn in big cities’ rental markets and caused households to build up their savings—but it didn’t dial down the market’s heat. We expect this to largely continue in 2021.”
- Hogue is wrong on at least one thing: the pandemic did not bring immigration to a halt. Sure, it slowed it, especially through the spring and summer of last year, but numbers resumed at a high rate by the fall. In 2020 in total, Canada welcomed around 190,000 immigrants, compared to 341,000 in 2019. That doesn't look like a "halt" to me, nor does having a high rate of immigration at a time when housing prices have exploded and wages have been steadily going down due to inflation, sound like a good idea at all.
- In late October, we discussed the 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan, set out by Immigration Minister Marco Mendocino, where the Trudeau government wants to bring in 400,000 immigrants per year. Immigrants to Canada aren't necessarily low-income. For instance, investor-class immigrants are usually wealthier than the native-born population, and could have a more substantial effect on housing prices.
- We see this most often in Vancouver, with its world class facilities and weather, favourable location on the coast and also the biggest Canadian city closest to China. China, whose economy has not suffered at all in the last 20 years, has more money than ever to buy up Canadian houses, further driving the price of homes up.
- Unless a government does something to change the market completely, we will either head steadily towards a collapse, or risk middle income Canadians deserting the unaffordable cities completely.
- We don’t know.
- This is the current response of our federal government when it comes to how many doses of the vaccine we can expect this coming month.
- In particular, Canada doesn’t know how many doses of the Modern jab will arrive in February and we also don’t know why shipments are being reduced.
- The government would like 2 million Moderna doses by the end of March but the Public Health Agency of Canada has already advised provinces to expect disruptions with the next shipment set to arrive on February 22nd.
- For those wondering by how much we’re being shorted, that answer is 20-25%.
- The provinces are upset. In a first minister’s call tensions were reportedly high with almost all premiers critical of the response of the federal government.
- The premiers also have requested that the federal government release details of the vaccine contracts, the federal government has no plans to release these details.
- Instead it’s said that the Prime Minister wanted the Premiers to help restore faith in Canada’s vaccination plan.
- We started in the top 15, 12th overall in terms of vaccines administered, last week we fell into the top 20, and now we are 48th overall and falling fast.
- Countries like Turkey, Belgium, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Cyprus, and the Czech Republic are doing better than us.
- In a consistent effort to distract and move away from this, Justin Trudeau treated us with yet another announcement this week.
- 2 companies will start producing COVID-19 vaccines in Canada. One company will produce the Novavax jab in Montreal and the other is the Vido-InterVac project that is based out of the University of Saskatchewan that can produce 40 million doses annually.
- The catch though is that the Novavax jab isn’t approved yet and construction on the facility that will produce the Novavax vaccine won’t be complete until the end of the summer.
- Despite the announcement, this is more money being spent on vaccine projects that still may not be approved by health Canada.
- Instead, a government with foresight would’ve partnered with our biggest and best ally, the United States, to start construction on a facility to produce the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines in Canada.
- The government is scrambling and has gone to extraordinary lengths to cover up this massive blunder.
- Canada has even dipped into the COVAX program to even out our vaccine supply shortage.
- The COVAX program puts together funds from wealthier countries to help buy vaccines for themselves and 92 other low and middle income companies that can’t afford to buy the vaccine on their own.
- Canada is the only G7 country to dip into this supply. The bulk of the countries are middle and low income countries, other wealthy countries using this program are New Zealand and Singapore.
- Vaccines from the COVAX program are slated to arrive by the end of June.
- OXFAM Canada expressed concern that Canada was sing this program, OXFAM Canada’s Directory of Policy and Campaigns, Diana Sarosi said, “Canada should not be taking the COVAX vaccine from poor nations to alleviate political pressures at home. Receiving one or two million doses isn’t going to solve Canada’s vaccination challenges and it is going to cause harm elsewhere in the world for the poorest and most marginalized people. Purchasing more vaccines, when Canada has already purchased enough to vaccinate the entire population four times over, is not a viable solution.”
- The vaccine we will receive from the COVAX program is the AstraZeneca vaccine, which still needs to be approved in Canada. If approved by health Canada we’ll receive 1.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the COVAX program that’s designed to help low and middle income countries.
- The mess continued on Friday as Justin Trudeau claims to have misspoke in saying that all 20 million of AstraZeneca’s promised doses to Canada would arrive by the end of June.
- That is a lie and the deal states that the 20 million AstraZeneca doses will arrive by the end of September.
- To top it all off Justin Trudeau at his Friday press conference told Canadians that “our plan is working” and that they should tune out the "noise" from some circles about the vaccine effort.
- There was an excellent summary in today’s National Post chronicling how we got here, first Canada bet China’s vaccine plan with the CanSino vaccine, second we were late to secure contracts for the vaccines developed by our allies, third, instead of going with PnuVax (a Montreal based vaccine company) the government built their own vaccine manufacturing plan that won’t come online until 2022, Pnuvax could’ve manufactured millions of doses by the end of 2020.
- When the rubber hits the road this government can’t deliver. The sunny ways talked about only materialize as a result of favourable media coverage and the platitudes the government can offer.
- When it comes to real world action, their record varies greatly and while Justin Trudeau is eager to take jabs at his opponents, Canadians are wondering when they’ll get their COVID jab.
Word of the Week
Jab - to poke someone or something roughly or quickly, especially with something sharp or pointed. Also, a quick, sharp blow, especially with the fist.
Quote of the Week
“1.8 million British Columbians have received this pandemic benefit. I appreciate that 300,000 people is a lot of people, but again, without a calculator, I think we can all appreciate that 1.8 million is a lot more.” - BC Premier John Horgan
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Scary Numbers
Teaser: ICBC gives back a rebate average of $190 per driver, the media thinks Jason Kenney enables conspiracies, and saving for a house has never been more difficult. Also Canada’s vaccine rate is falling fast while Trudeau says to trust his plan.
Recorded Date: February 5, 2021
Release Date: February 7, 2021
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes