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Politics Ottawa not planning ‘immediate action’ on housing market, Harper says

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announces a government initiative to help assist small and medium-sized businesses to open new markets abroad, in Mississauga, Ont. on Wednesday, March 18 2015.

Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Ottawa is not planning any "immediate action" related to the Canadian housing market, though he acknowledges his government is watching developments closely.

The Prime Minister made the comments during an appearance in Mississauga, Ont., where he was announcing support for Canadian exporters.

Several banks moved this week to lower rates on five-year, fixed rate mortgages to 2.79 per cent.

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That's below the 2.99 rate announced by the Bank of Montreal in 2013 that led to a rare public warning by then-finance minister Jim Flaherty, who urged lenders against "race to the bottom" practices. Mr. Flaherty's successor, Joe Oliver, declined comment on the issue Tuesday.

Mr. Harper was asked for his thoughts on the issue during a question-and-answer session with the media Wednesday.

"I'm not saying I'm unconcerned. But we are watching it. We're not planning to take any immediate action," the Prime Minister said.

"We continue to watch the housing market and the lending and borrowing situation very carefully. We have taken some steps over the past several years to cool the market somewhat. That said, in this country our financial institutions remain very strong and very well-capitalized and in terms of owners and those who hold the mortgage debt, debt servicing costs continue to fall and are at record levels and default rates are extremely low."

A report released Wednesday by TransUnion found that Canadians are taking on more non-mortgage debt.

The average balance per consumer – excluding mortgages – rose 2.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2014 to $21,428 from $20,945 in the year-earlier period.

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