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Canada Letter: Mortgages on the Rise and a Massive Ice Chunk

Will his rate increase slow housing prices? Shortly after it was announced, my inbox was flooded with takes from economists. In his note, David Madani, the chief economist at Capital Economics in Toronto, argued that Toronto’s real estate market was already heading for a fall before Wednesday’s announcement. More expensive debt, he added, will only accelerate that drop — and if that happens, it will drag down the rest of the economy. The result, Mr. Madani said, is that the rate increase may be a “gamble that might have to be reversed before long.”

Like most things in economics, however, others disagree. Several economists predicted further increases, perhaps as soon as September. Either way, anxious days could await householders holding large mortgages with variable interest rates or anyone currently house hunting.

As for foreign buyers, no one in the past had tracked where buyers lived, making it difficult to assess how non-Canadian money affected prices. But Ontario has a new law covering the reporting of sales in and around Toronto. It shows that in the city, just over 7 percent of house sales went to foreign buyers, and they accounted for 4.7 percent of sales in Toronto’s broad region. While not insignificant, the figures suggests that Canadians should be mostly looking at themselves as they search for the people behind rising housing costs.

Read: Canadian Nursing Home Deal Spurs Questions About Chinese Money

In the Bush

Canadians know all about vast areas that are sparsely populated and rarely visited. Australia’s equivalent of the north is the outback or the bush. Adam Ferguson, an Australian photojournalist, spent three months traveling 12,000 miles through a part of his country that was largely unknown to him. The result is a dazzling array of photos and an essay on the limits of conventional or easy explanations.

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Nancy Jackson, an Australian-Aboriginal elder from Warakurna Community, Ngaanyatjarraku Shire, Western Australia, picks wild tobacco. Credit Adam Ferguson for The New York Times

Read: Through The Outback

Read: A Photographic Odyssey in the Australian Outback

Bigger Than P.E.I.

Many of you may know that a chunk of ice bigger than Prince Edward Island broke away from the Antarctic Peninsula. In a rich and sweeping package with helpful graphics, Jugal K. Patel and Justin Gillis explain the consequences of the break and what it portends.

Daniel Victor also surveyed how news media around the world expressed its scale: anyone for “half the size of Qatar”?

Read: An Iceberg the Size of Delaware Just Broke Away From Antarctica

Read: How Big Is the Iceberg? That Depends on Where You Live

Doing the Books

Warren Buffett recently came to the rescue of the Home Capital Group, a struggling Canadian mortgage company. His move was seen as a general recommendation to invest in Canada. Mr. Buffet’s investment decisions are not usually challenged. But Al Rosen, a forensic accountant and stock analyst in Toronto, suggested to Gretchen Morgenson, a financial columnist for The New York Times, that others may not want to follow the so-called sage of Omaha by putting their money into Canada. In Mr. Rosen’s view, Canadian accounting rules make it far too easy for executives here to hide bad news from investors.

Read: Warren Buffett Invests in Canada, but Should You?

A Powerful Voice Gone

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Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate who died of cancer under guard in a hospital, was mourned in Hong Kong on Thursday. Credit Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

This week, Liu Xiaobo became the first Nobel Peace Prize laureate to die while imprisoned since Carl von Ossietzky perished under the Nazis in 1938. Mr. Liu, 61, was perhaps China’s best-known dissident and had developed liver cancer. His decision to leave New York to protect students at Tiananmen Square in 1989 and his later promotion of a pro-democracy charter led to long spells in jail. Here is a quote from a speech that Mr. Liu was unable to deliver as a defense at one of his trials. It became his address during the presentation of his Nobel Prize, an event he could not attend:

“Hatred can rot a person’s wisdom and conscience. An enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation and inflame brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and hinder a country’s advance toward freedom and democracy.”

Read: Liu Xiaobo, Chinese Dissident Who Won Nobel While Jailed, Dies at 61

Read: The Spirit of Liu Xiaobo

Read: Liu Xiaobo’s Fate Reflects Fading Pressure on China Over Human Rights

Read: The Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo, in His Own Words

Imported From Canada

Canadian factories play an outsize role when it comes to building some of most popular vehicles in North America: compact crossovers. The Honda CR-V rolls off an assembly line in Alliston, Ontario. In Woodstock, Ontario, Toyota makes its RAV4. And just down Highway 401 in Ingersoll, Ontario, General Motors builds the Chevrolet Equinox. The overwhelming majority of what comes off those assembly lines heads to showrooms in the United States.

For his final “Driven” auto review for The Times, Tom Voelk took the latest version of the Equinox out for a spin. He came away impressed.

“The all-new third generation Chevrolet Equinox crossover is more proof that under Mary Barra, General Motors has found its footing,” Mr. Voelk wrote. “The Equinox takes care of five people, does the chores, doesn’t drink to excess and looks good.”

Read and Watch: With Tough Competition, Chevrolet Equinox Holds Its Own

Your Comments

The Times opens many of its stories to comments from readers, and here we introduce a new occasional feature of the Canada Letter: top Canadian comment. That is, the week’s most recommended comment from a Canadian reader on The Times’s site.

This week, it comes from a story by Jo Becker, Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, who reported that Donald Trump Jr. not only attended a meeting to get dirt from the Russian government about Hillary Clinton, but that he was delighted by the prospect. “This is good. This is very, very good. Pity it will result in President Pence,” wrote a reader from Ottawa using the name Dudeist Priest.

And in Other Newsletters

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With Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in Season 7 of “Game of Thrones.” Credit Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones returns for its seventh season this weekend on HBO Canada. Since I’ve never watched even a single episode or read any of George R. R. Martin’s novels, Canada Letter has little to offer about this widely anticipated event. But my colleagues at Watching, The Times’s guide to television and film, are genuine experts. And they’ve prepared a newsletter devoted to the new series which you can subscribe to here.

Subscribe to: Watching Presents: Your ‘Game of Thrones’ Guide

Source: NYT > World

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