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morning business briefing

Briefing highlights

  • Affordability worsens
  • The toll of workplace harassment
  • Economy expands 0.3 per cent
  • Markets at a glance

Affordability worsens

Housing affordability in Canada is now at its worst level in almost 30 years, Royal Bank of Canada says.

And “the outlook isn’t promising” as interest rates are expected to continue to rise, RBC chief economist Craig Wright and senior economist Robert Hogue said in their latest study.

“Are only the rich able to buy a home these days?” Mr. Wright and Mr. Hogue asked.

“That certainly looks like it in Canada’s most expensive markets,” they added.

“Buyers in Vancouver, Toronto and Victoria needed between two and three times the median household income to qualify to purchase an average home.”

Here’s what Mr. Wright and Mr. Hogue found in their report on the third quarter: Affordability is now at its worst since 1990, Canadians need almost 54 per cent of their income to cover the cost of ownership.

That’s actually nothing compared to Vancouver, at almost 87 per cent, Toronto, at more than 75 per cent, and Victoria, at more than 65 per cent.

Affordability is at “crisis levels in Vancouver and Toronto but eroded most in Montreal,” where prices are rising rapidly.

Don’t expect this to change next year, though there could be some respite.

“Those hoping to get a meaningful break in 2019 will likely be disappointed,” Mr. Wright and Mr. Hogue said.

“We expect the Bank of Canada to hike the overnight rate two more times next year, which will sustain upward pressure on ownership costs,” they added.

“Still, we don’t think that affordability is set to erode significantly, either. A generally soft environment for prices and rising household income will contain some of that pressure.”

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Harassment’s toll

Workplace harassment in all its ugly forms is taking a heavy and crushing toll in Canada.

And women are suffering abuse more than men across all categories, a new study by Statistics Canada researchers warns.

Verbal abuse is the most prevalent, senior research analyst Darcy Hango and senior researcher Melissa Moyser said in their report.

Mr. Hango and Ms. Moyser based their study on the results of a 2016 General Social Survey on Canadians at Work and Home, when people were polled on five categories, including verbal abuse, humiliation, threats, physical violence and sexual attention or harassment.

Among their findings:

One: Nineteen per cent of women and 13 per cent of men said they had suffered workplace harassment over the last year.

Two: Verbal abuse was most common, reported by 13 per cent of women and 10 per cent of men.

Three: Verbal abuse was followed by “humiliating behaviour,” suffered by 6 per cent of women and 5 per cent of men.

Four: About 3 per cent of women and men said they were subject to threats.

Five: Sexual harassment affected 4 per cent of women, and less than 1 per cent of men. And among the women, the researchers said, “more than half were targeted by clients or customers.”

Six: Health care workers were “most likely” to have been harassed, and “the differences between those in health and other occupations are more pronounced for women than men.”

Seven: Almost half of the men and 34 per cent of the women harassed by a manager “had a weak sense of belonging” to their employer. That compared to 16 per cent among both women and men who had not been harassed.

Obviously, this takes a heavy toll.

“Workers who reported workplace harassment were more likely to be dissatisfied with their current job, have low motivation to do their best work, be more likely to say they are planning to leave their current work, and have a weak sense of belonging to their workplace,” Mr. Hango and Ms. Moyser said.

“These workers also had worse health – general and mental – as well as higher levels of reported stress, and a less hopeful view of the future,” they added.

“Harassment in the workplace therefore has a considerable impact not only on people’s lives, but also on employers.”

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Markets at a glance

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Economy expands

Canada’s economy turned in a better-than-expected performance in October, kicking off the fourth quarter with a gain in gross domestic product of 0.3 per cent.

A jump in manufacturing was a major reason for the showing, Statistics Canada said today, with expansion of 0.7 per cent “almost fully offsetting” the drops in August and September.

“Canada's economy was in bad need of a Christmas present, and October's return to growth was at least something to put under the tree this week,” said CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld.

“The data are in line with our 1.7-per-cent estimate for Q4 GDP, but we’ll need decent news outside the energy sector to hit that mark,” he added.

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