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How the U.S. midterm elections could shake up Canadian business: Don Pittis

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Canadians who thought political and economic turmoil south of the border had reached a peak may be in for a surprise after tomorrow’s midterm elections.

Until all the votes are counted, no one can be sure where the chips will fall, but there is increasing evidence that President Donald Trump’s Republican Party could lose control of the House of Representatives.

Anti-Trump Canadians may be breathing a sigh of relief at the prospect, but some Canadian policy experts say a Democratic win is not necessarily better for the Canadian economy or Canadian business.

And even if the Republicans manage to hold on to both the House and the Senate, the increasing clash of ideologies stoked by the bitter campaign could create lasting divisions that will continue to plague Canada-U.S. economic relations.

Clashing ideologies

Those who find the current election process confusing would do well to read CBC Washington correspondent Matt Kwong’s “primer on why November’s elections matter.”

But the shorter version is that in an already fractured U.S. political system, there is a good chance the body that passes the laws — the House of Representatives — will flip from Republican to Democratic Party control and thus be in direct opposition to Trump’s executive branch, which runs the country and enforces the laws.

A nation, even households divided. Campaign signs for both a Republican and a Democratic Party candidate on the same front lawn in Chatham, N.J. (Nancy Lapid/Reuters)

If that outcome actually materializes, with the Democrats in control of the House and the Republicans the Senate, historian and former Canadian trade negotiator Michael Hart says there would be little chance of compromise between the two bodies.

“In earlier days, until about the 1980s, it was possible for Democrats and Republicans to form a coalition and pass legislation,” says Hart, Carleton University’s former Simon Reisman Chair in trade policy and author of A Trading Nation: Canadian Trade Policy from Colonialism to Globalization.

No centrist left

He says we should expect another budget impasse, and with a swollen deficit and the prospect of social service cuts to balance the accounts, there will be little room for coaxing centrist Democrats onside with new costly initiatives, including the mooted middle class tax cuts.

In an integrated North American economy, not knowing whether U.S. spending is on or off can make a big difference to Canadian suppliers, too. U.S. spending and borrowing policy affects bond rates and the value of the dollar.  

“There may be centrist legislators left but they dare not admit it,” says Hart, who believes Democrats are raring for a fight.

“If Congress does go Democratic and they select Nancy Pelosi again, you have someone who,” Hart pauses, “lacks wisdom, let’s put it that way.”

Democratic supporters would no doubt beg to differ, but the discord that Hart predicts could spell the end of not only any future pro-Trump legislation, but also the end of the new U.S-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) that Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has been struggling over since Trump threatened to throw out the North America Free Trade Agreement.

After more than a year of negotiating, the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement was finally reached. But experts say a divided Congress might fail to approve it. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)

“Now that we have this replacement agreement, it’s not a sure thing it will pass through Congress,” Hart says.

Besides the possibility anti-Trump Democrats see USMCA as the president’s baby, Hart says the new deal is actually more restrictive on trade than NAFTA.

Oddly enough, the effect of rejecting USMCA would be to keep NAFTA in place. But University of Saskatchewan public policy expert Daniel Béland, who has worked and studied in the U.S., says that ostensible trade continuity may be of little reassurance to business if it merely raises the ire of Trump and his supporters.

He says the inflamed rhetoric of the campaign is pulling the two sides into more radical opposition, adding to the business uncertainty of where the U.S. goes next. 

“It’s really a division that’s not just political anymore,” says Béland, Canada Research Chair in public policy. “You watch MSNBC and Fox News and you think you live on two different planets.”

He is worried that growing anger over issues such as immigration and trade could exacerbate the kind of violence we have already seen, as each side speaks exclusively to its own supporters, leading to yet greater uncertainty. In the case of Trump, unlike in the campaign that elected him, he does not have Hillary Clinton as a focus for his attacks.

“His foe is quite abstract,” Béland says. “It’s liberals or immigrants or specific target groups.”

And with a Democrat-controlled House, frustration could push more zealous Trump devotees into greater extremism against their adversaries, real or imagined.

Oil and gas backlash

Another area where Canadian business interests could suffer is on environmental issues, says Bessma Momani, a specialist in financial and foreign policy at Waterloo’s Balsillie School of International Affairs.

Appealing to a more environmentally conscious, urban electorate, a Democratic House could lead to a backlash against Canadian oil and gas projects, including the oilsands and pipelines such as Keystone, which are necessary to get Canadian oil to market.

“I think there’s a risk there,” Momani says.

U.S. President Donald Trump at a rally in Illinois last week. Intense rhetoric intended to galvanize his base could be exacerbating the political divide in the U.S. (Al Drago/Reuters)

Of course, for many Canadians, increased environmentalism, including support on climate change and automobile fuel-efficiency standards, would be seen not as a risk but a benefit.

A less controversial positive outcome for Canada is that a Democratic majority could help defuse the U.S.’s growing trade conflict with China, which Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz has called one of the biggest risks to the Canadian economy.

Momani also says that increased Democratic power could mean Canada and the U.S. could move ahead on what’s called the “gender dividend,” where increasing the percentage of women in businesses is calculated to increase revenue by more than three per cent and boost an economy struggling from a shortage of talent.

She says the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, has been pushing the gender issue in the U.S. but has had little backing from the Republican administration or Congress. 

“There might even be, dare I say, bipartisan support.”

Follow Don on Twitter @don_pittis

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Couple from Toronto buys dream home in Mushaboom

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MUSHABOOM – A couple who lived and raised a family in downtown Toronto developed a five-year plan in 2015 to purchase their dream home.

In September they moved into the home – located on Malagash Island in Mushaboom on Nova Scotia’s stunning Eastern Shore – that met and exceeded their best dreams for their retirement.

The Camerons, Bruce and Tanya, decided in 2019 they would explore the Maritimes to see what real estate was available to become their potential retirement home. In the spring of 2020, during a global pandemic, the real estate boom hit their city, and they were hearing the same for Nova Scotia. Our province was their first-choice for attaining their desire for an entirely different lifestyle – away from the busyness of the city.

“We had $300,000 to $350,000 as a home value in mind to buy. Our semi-detached located off Danforth in Toronto was priced at $850,000. We wanted to come out ahead, so we would be secure in retirement,” Tanya said.

Their century-old home had prime location near the subway and GO Transit Line for a great 13-minute commute downtown.

“We enjoyed our community,” explains Bruce “… we had great neighbours, young children around and street parties – lots of social activity.”

Bruce says, “Our agent suggested a starting quote of $899,000. We did not do any renovations and only some staging. Fifty couples went through and we received four significant offers. Six days later we sold – with zero conditions – and a price of over a million dollars. We just requested a closing of September 2020 to get the kids off to school – which we got.”

The couple got more than they had anticipated.

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Rabobank Announces Leadership Changes in U.S., Canadian Offices

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NEW YORK, Dec. 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Rabobank, the leading global food and agribusiness bank, has appointed two of its top executives, Tamira Treffers-Herrera and Robert Sinescu, to become Co-Heads of North American Client Coverage, positioning the Bank for future growth in the region.

Treffers-Herrera has also assumed the role of Vice Chairperson and Head of the Atlanta office, where she additionally oversees Rabobank Mexico, which is led by Eduardo Palacios. Sinescu is the Head of the Chicago office, and also oversees Rabobank Canada, led by Marc Drouin, who was recently appointed as Canada’s General Manager.

Treffers-Herrera and Sinescu report to David Bassett, Head of Wholesale Banking North America, the Bank’s corporate and investment banking business for the region based in New York.

“Both Tamira and Robert have a demonstrated history of strong leadership, operational excellence and passion for our clients,” Bassett said. “Their broad experience and deep sector expertise will be invaluable in delivering dynamic results for clients while accelerating our growth trajectory in North America.”

Each office will have an even greater focus on key Food & Agribusiness sectors and clients: The Chicago office will drive growth in sectors including Dairy, Farm Inputs and Grains & Oilseeds, which are also key areas of focus for the Canada office. The Atlanta office will focus heavily on sectors such as Animal Protein, Beverages, Sugar, and Supply Chains, which are important sectors in Mexico as well.

“Rabobank is fully committed to our clients throughout North America, and we believe our new sector-focused coverage will improve our ability to provide knowledge-based, value-added solutions that benefit our clients,” Bassett said.

Treffers-Herrera was most recently based in London as CEO of Rabobank’s European Region from 2016-2020, where she took the organization through Brexit. Prior to that, she worked in the Atlanta office from 2002-2016. During her tenure in Atlanta, Treffers-Herrera served as Global Sector Head – Consumer Food & Beverages, and prior to that she was a senior banker for a portfolio of large beverage and consumer foods clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kentucky, a Master of Arts from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and has studied at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Harvard Business School.

Sinescu has been with Rabobank for over 21 years and was previously General Manager of Rabobank Canada, where he oversaw all operations, business development, commercial strategy and relationships with regulators. In addition, he continues to serve as CEO of Rabo Securities Canada Inc. Prior to Canada, he was a senior banker, Head of Corporate Banking, European Sector Head for Sugar, and a member of the Management Team for Rabobank France. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from the Bucharest School of Business, a Master of Business Administration & Management and a Master of Science in Banking and Corporate Finance from Sorbonne University in Paris, and has studied at Brown University.

Drouin has worked with Rabobank’s Canadian team for more than nine years and most recently served as a senior banker, Head of Rabobank Canada’s AgVendor Program and a member of Rabobank Canada’s Management Team. He brings extensive wholesale banking experience within the Dairy, G&O, CPG and Supply Chain sectors. Drouin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University and a Master of Business Administration in International Finance, Marketing and Management from the Schulich School of Business at York University.

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Real Estate

Greybrook Realty Partners & Marlin Spring Brand Jointly Owned Asset Manager – Greyspring Apartments

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TORONTO, Dec. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Greybrook Realty Partners and Marlin Spring are pleased to announce the new branding of their jointly owned investment and asset management firm, Greyspring Apartments. With a portfolio of more than 2,000 units and CAD$375 million in assets under management, Greyspring Apartments is focused on the acquisition and repositioning of multi-family assets throughout Canada.

The new name and branding is an important step in Greyspring’s evolution as an independent operating business. Formed in 2018 by long standing-partners Marlin Spring and Greybrook Realty Partners, Greyspring Apartments was established with the goal of building a leading asset management firm with a robust portfolio of residential rental real estate assets in primary and secondary markets across Canada.

Greyspring’s talented team of real estate, asset management and finance professionals is overseen and guided by the Management Board, whose members include Benjamin Bakst, CEO, Marlin Spring; Elliot Kazarnovksy, CFO, Marlin Spring; Sasha Cucuz, CEO, Greybrook Securities Inc.; Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Chris Salapoutis, President & COO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Ashi Mathur, President, Marlin Spring; and Karl Brady. In addition to his role on the Management Board, Karl Brady leads Greyspring Apartments as its President. 

“We are pleased to announce the official name and branding of a business we formed with our partners at Marlin Spring a few years ago,” said Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners. “Greyspring has been diligently focused on the execution of strategic value-add programs across its portfolio that are improving the quality of housing for tenants and overall asset values. For Greybrook investors, expanding from our core business in real estate development to the value-add space through Greyspring, has allowed us to provide our clients with investment opportunities that diversify their real estate investment portfolios.”

“Marlin Spring and Greybrook have partnered on many residential real estate projects in recent years,” said Benjamin Bakst, CEO and Cofounder, Marlin Spring. “To a great extent, Greyspring illustrates our approach to partnerships. We believe in, and strive for, responsible growth through deepening our relationships with our trusted partners. With Greyspring, we’ve formalized our focus on providing better and more affordable living experiences for Canadians. This vision aligns with our mission to deliver exceptional real estate value to all our stakeholders with an uncompromising adherence to our core values.”

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