Business news

February 17, 2022

Internet policy review threatens higher cable bills

By Deirdre McMurdy, Sympatico / MSN Finance

The federal broadcast regulator has launched extensive hearings that explore whether the internet has become another channel for broadcasting and need to have its own Canadian content rules and other guidelines for its future evolution.

It all sounds sufficiently high concept and non-threatening, but for consumers - specifically the millions of cable customers in Canada - this process has a potentially pricey outcome: if a tax is imposed on cable companies to help pay for the production of new Canadian content, that will almost certainly be passed along to end users. That means internet access will become more expensive at a time when few households are able to pay more for anything.

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February 09, 2022

A watchdog needs to bark at price-fixing in this economy

Deirdre McMurdy, Sympatico / MSN Finance

One of the more startling lessons of life in Ottawa is how often it turns out that seemingly-small, bureaucratic points have remarkable consumer resonance.

Take, for example, the current situation at the federal Competition Bureau.
Before your eyes glaze over altogether, bear in mind why this watchdog is so important: in good times, everyone merges and acquires. In bad times, everyone price fixes. And lets also not overlook the fact that the proper, legal term for "monopoly" is "abusive dominance." Ouch!

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February 05, 2022

Madoff's client list grows

Madoff By James Havers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

What do Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, actor Kevin Bacon and Larry Silverstein, the developer of the World Trade Center, have in common?

They all appear on a list of clients who lost money investing with embattled Wall Street kingpin Bernie Madoff, and made public in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court filing in Manhattan on Wednesday.

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February 03, 2022

Does foreign ownership threaten Canadian jobs?

By Deirdre McMurdy, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Well played, General Motors.

Taking a page from the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, the cash-strapped automaker has done the 21st Century equivalent of crying wolf. And the timing of its subtle suggestion that it may have to close its operations in Canada could not have a more compelling backdrop.

Here's the thread: GM maintains that if it doesn't get the bailouts it needs, it may not be able to sustain its presence - and about 12,000 jobs - in Canada. To even qualify for consideration for a bailout, it needs to get its labor costs down.

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February 02, 2022

CEO salary cuts: a political dilemma

By Deirdre McMurdy, Sympatico / MSN Finance

It's standard procedure - especially during hard times - for politicians and consumer groups to bash Big Banks. After all, all that profit made from all those ATM fees warrants some kind of backlash, right?

The only thing tougher for bankers, who allegedly have very thick hides, is when one of their own turns on them. And arguably, that's what RBC chief executive officer, Gord Nixon, has just gone and done: he's slashed his own pay on top of accepting a 30 per cent reduction in his cash compensation following a 17 per cent drop in the bank's profit.

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January 16, 2022

New investor protection a political master-stroke

By Deirdre McMurdy, Sympatico / MSN Finance

There's been an awful lot of clatter about the recently-released Expert Panel on Securities Regulation, the latest federal push to get a single securities regulator in place.

But for all the provincial posturing about lost power and the insensitivity of a central agency - some of which is quite legitimate - there remains one huge point that's been largely overlooked: the solid consumer protection measures.

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December 18, 2021

Banking on goodwill

By Deirdre McMurdy, Sympatico / MSN Finance

One of the biggest challenges for business leaders these days is to stay engaged and closely attuned to what's going on outside their immediate circle. It's human instinct, after all, to turn inward during times of trouble and to focus on the urgent matters at hand.

The perils of succumbing to that, however, are splashed all over the front page: chartered banks, which have no shortage of their own concerns, are coming under fire for being self-absorbed. Given the potentially steep cost of grassroots backlash against them, it might be a good idea for the bank chairs to listen up.

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December 17, 2021

News you can no longer afford to ignore

By Deirdre McMurdy, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Time was we could all afford to yawn or change the topic when we heard such news as the federal finance minister is meeting with his provincial counterparts in Saskatoon.

The economy being what it is, however, we no longer have the luxury of plugging our ears and humming: these are pre-budget consultations which have a direct and immediate bearing on our respective bottom lines - not to mention the political and economic consequences that hang in the balance.

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December 16, 2021

A Facebook friend you may not want?

By Deirdre McMurdy, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Trust the Aussies to set a precedent as new adaptors: an Australian court has ruled that it is acceptable to use social media - specifically, in this case, Facebook - to serve legal notice.

This is a move that's going to be tracked in quite a few jurisdictions because to date, there's been considerable ambivalence about how to treat this newfangled technology. Many companies and most levels of government in Canada have prohibited or strictly limited access in the workplace. The underlying belief is that employees will spend all day poking each other instead of working and productivity will suffer.

That conviction, however, can come at a cost. Social media are an important way to keep in touch with what others are saying, doing, thinking. It's an important, if non-traditional, window into emerging trends and the collective unconscious.

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Banking on you and me

by Deirdre McMurdy, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Go figure.

Brokerage profits are expected to be off about 31 per cent (or $1.5 billion) for the first nine months of this year, hitting the apparently shocking levels last seen only in 1998 - a paltry $3.37 billion. This dreadful state of affairs has jolted chartered banks - all of which have been greatly enriched by both their brokerage and investment banking arms - into re-focusing on a long-neglected part of their business: you and me.

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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...