Entries from December 2018 ↓


Predictions are so 2016. When the world’s rocked by a single tweet and relevance is measured in clicks, nobody knows what’s coming. So why pretend? So let’s just focus on what’s reasonable to expect.

More volatility, not more losses.
The Vix spiked at the end of 2018 in a prelude of what could lie ahead, starting next week. We’ve seen more 2% and 3%-per-day moves than when Bill Joel had hair (and wasn’t fat). In fact, just a few days ago the Dow moved a thousand points for the first time in a single session. Combine high-frequency trading with wonky politics, record profits and record debt, central bank tightening plus an aging population shoveling money into financial assets and you get moments like that. More are coming. But ignore them. It’s noise. Day-trading stuff. Not for us.

But markets may hit fresh highs.
Think rationally, not emotionally. The greatest economy on earth is growing at more than 3%. Unemployment’s at a half-century low. Inflation is pffft. Rates are still reasonable. There are more jobs available than people to fill them. Corporate profits have been at double-digit levels. Technology is changing the world and goosing productivity. There is no recession on the horizon (although one will eventually come). It’s year 3 of a presidential cycle, so is the guy going to mess up the markets? And, yes, a trade deal with China is in the cards. There’ll be new highs hit. Whether they hold or not is unknown. But if you have a properly-weighted and balanced portfolio, sell nothing.

Rates are going up. Gently.
Yeah, things are more dovish after the market mayhem and Trump tweetstorm of the last six weeks. But even withering presidential scorn did not stop Fed boss Jay Powell from doing the right thing before Christmas and raising the benchmark rate. The bank’s job is to keep the economy going and employment plump but at the same time prevent a wage-price spiral. So far, so good. Count on two rate hikes instead of four in 2019, but it could more. It won’t be less. And definitely no cut. Not here, either – unless the wheels come off.

Mortgages on sale soon.
At 2018 ended, bond yields plunged. Massively. Unexpectedly. Decisively. Government of Canada five-year debt toppled from almost 2.5% to the 1.9% range. Normally this would result in a nice drop in fixed-rate mortgage costs. But not yet. It’s coming. The banks have seen their mortgage originations dry up and blow away thanks to the stress test, while low home loan rates and teensy spreads mean they make less money. That hurts, which has been reflected in the price of bank stocks (and banker bonuses). But with borrowers still straining, real estate markets wobbly and the all-important (competitive) spring market now just six weeks away, change is in the air. So take advantage of it. And borrow long.

Trump is toast.
Despite his legions of foamy followers, the guy’s rabidly loyal base has no growth. Over the course of two years the most unpredictable and iconoclastic president of our times has gone through cabinet ministers like facial tissue, increased business costs (with tariffs) as much as he lowered taxes, pissed off traditional allies and mocked anyone who worries about environmental, social or human rights issues. Walls, tariff barriers and jingoistic nationalism are 19th Century relics he has resurrected, and in so doing torn America – a progressive country – in half. The Republican Party is not the Trump Party. Even if Mueller ends up with nothing on the president, it’s virtually impossible for him to be the next nominee. 2019 will make this obvious. Markets will ultimately lap it up.

So long, Rachel.
Premier Kenney by a wide margin in May. Big alliance with Doug Ford. Trudeau will hate it.

More real estate diddling.
Housing markets have a profound weakness as the stress test has reduced credit by a fifth, prices have not dropped enough to stimulate demand and rents are rising as a consequence. It’s a mess. Government diddling has only made things worse, as the latest RBC affordability study showed. Nowhere have government policies backfired more than in Vancouver and those areas of BC where the new anti-real estate tax has been levied. Houses nobody can afford now cost less. Homes people could possibly afford now cost more. Offshore and out-of-province investment has withered. Sales are plunging. Everyone is paying a price for electing people with moronic ideas. And now, more. 2019 will likely see the stress test capped, and 30-year ams reinstated. Realtors will scream ‘buy.’ The hard landing draws inevitably closer.

Vote Max, get Justin.
In 2019’s federal election Canadians are about to get a lesson in Math. The Libs have screwed up federal finances, run a deficit every year, swelled the debt and presided over a real estate debacle while focusing on gender politics. Lots of people dislike that and crave a fiscally responsible alternative. But along comes Max Bernier, Canada’s wannabe Trump, with a new right-wing party, channeling Preston Manning’s Reform. Of course every ballot cast for the People’s Party is one less for the Conservatives. So, vote Max and get Justin. Mean the NDP’s giant mistake – Jagmeet – pretty much guarantees the far-left vote will collapse. And those folks are not going for Andrew Scheer. Math. Only so many votes. Split them, and the man that two-thirds of people don’t support becomes the PM. Again.



Some days ago this blog went furry (and slobbery – more than usual) with an update on Bandit. Now past 13 he struggles, yet throws off a love and loyalty greater than the care he needs. Dogs, as written here, depict goodness. The bond with humans must be the truest in creation. We provide for them. They teach and improve us. At a time when hate and prejudice are rising, the world need more dogs.

Some of you asked if your canines could join Bandit. My pleasure. Here’s a sampling.

Walter and Vinny (owner – Mark from Windsor)
Attached is a picture of my two mutts! (Walter and Vinny). The one on the left is a chihuahua/we don’t know that came from a puppy mill down in Indiana. The right is a mini schnauzer who was spoiled and from a breeder.

I’ve followed your blog for years and look forward to continuing that habit. Your advice is what prompted me to transfer to Windsor 5 years ago and buy a house at a mere 2x my income – an important decision that resulted in being able to have our 3 now 3 year old daughter comfortably on a single income while saving lots. Which, looking around, is increasingly uncommon – so I thank you for that!

DJ (owner – Rural Rick)
This is my late partner DJ. He was a great one. For sure all dogs go to heaven. All the best in the New Year.

Junior (owner – Chris Bodnar)
Hi Garth. Further to your blog response earlier today, here is a pic of my boy Junior. I met him in 2011 east of Parry Sound. He was living in a flea market, chained to a bed in a garage with no light at night. Often left alone I was told. Emancipated and thought to be deranged. Since that’s not contagious and the owner clearly was, I got him out of there. His tag said Dog, and it had a serial number. Turns out he had a record in Huntsville. First owner had passed, left at a pound. Second owners moved and gave him back. The flea market owner picked him up and offered him to a woman who he fancied, but she rejected both of them. I took him to Toronto and now he owns Liberty Village, takes an elevator to his palace and has a large social pack he see’s almost daily for their walk. He’s a local celebrity and has been for years. Years of neglect and abandonment, I hope, are faded memories over written with years of love and mutually beneficial cohabitation.  I caught him mid grin, ear to ear. Still reading daily. Thank you.

Kia (owner – Barb Mitchell)
She was a gift from H and arrived at 4 months of age to begin her life as Greeter at our little Par 3 golf course.  From day one, she loved everyone….and would sit at the patio looking toward the parking lot, wagging her tail as she heard golfers approach.  A small shepherd, she could still intimidate newcomers with young children.  She appeared to anticipate the reluctance of both the youngster and his parents that a “fearsome dog” was present, and instinctively walked a short distance to lay down and continue the tail wagging.  Her eyes smiled constantly, and she soon gained the trust of parents and children.  Of everyone.

One miserable weather day when I was alone in the clubhouse, I heard her bark—almost uncontrollably—I had never heard her bark like that.  I stepped outside to see Kia circling a man—who appeared not to be here for golfing—and whose demeanor frightened me.  I demanded he leave immediately and he swatted the air near Kia as she continued to bark and circle him.  He left the property, Kia guiding him halfway with her barks.  She snorted her disapproval of him as she returned to sit by me.

Less anxious moments were always the day after the season ended, when she would stand at the residence sliding door, looking up the hill, then back at me as though to ask “shouldn’t we BE somewhere?” For the next six months, she revelled in winter’s downtime and long walks up the mountain until it was spring and time to resume her duties.

The end came three months shy of her 14th birthday when a stroke paralyzed her…those gentle smiling eyes were unaffected and H and I held her and consoled our dear friend until the travelling vet had helped her breathe her last.  I posted the R.I.P. photo at the front desk so regulars could immediately understand why Kia wasn’t on the patio to greet them.

One, with tears in his eyes, laughed and admitted she had helped his game.  I hadn’t been aware that she had picked up his ball on #9 green when she was still young.  He approached the green and said “drop it”, and she spat the ball onto the green.  He said she dropped it closer to the hole, and he sank the previously unlikely putt.

I recall an internet photo of a shepherd with a small child.  The caption read:  “they’re not dangerous if you raise them correctly…and neither is the dog.”  The bond is love.

Posh (owner – Tom Parkinson)
I have forwarded your words on to all our dog owner friends.Our Sheltie, Posh was a successful show dog, but a failure in the breeding department.  So we got her when she was three.

She ensures that we get exercise several times a day and herds us in the interim. She is the third pooch to teach us the importance of canine values.

Sonnyboy (owners – Jack & Eileen Reilly)
Hi Garth. Jack wants to brag about his boy and asked me to send these. A lot of them are Sonny with our Dad as they are joined at the hip. Sonny has been an excellent nurse and caregiver to dad in his final few months. You email about your love of your dogs made me cry. I wish you all the best in 2019 and hope your beautiful boy fills you with love.

Mengu (owner – Aclyeh)
Thanks for sharing something about Bandit, it really teaches us to appreciate family and friends around us – nothing is permanent. Looking at Bandit reminded me of my wife’s dog, a Yorkshire Terrier and something combination. When I knew my girlfriend he was already 9ish.

We live in Japan so only get to see him when we go to Sydney once a year, he got increasingly blind and deaf with every trip down under, but always comes to find my wife even based on scent alone. Last year he died in his sleep at the ripe age of 15 (we think). We were in Japan and her parents couldn’t tell her until a couple of weeks later.

The picture was taken 2 years ago, him relaxing on a nice summer around Xmas timing in the parent’s kitchen. That fav spot keeps him nice and cool during the hot days – blocks the kitchen and carport entrance a bit, but nobody complains of course.

Mitz (owner – Mitzerboy)
This is a picture of our two canine companions. Mitz was 15 before the surgeries to cut out the cancer on his leg and pain meds weakened him too much. He was stoic to the end. Sammy aka Rambo the cockapoo is still kicking at 18 …

Hoping to be able to keep reading your words into 2019. Love is Love and hate is hate …

Sophie (owner – Paul Shepherd)
Your piece today on Bandit struck a chord. I am 81, have an 11.5 year old sheltie, Sophie, who like me is failing.  She is deaf, lost most of her teeth but has been an incredible companion. Average life span for a Sheltie, 14 to 15 years.

Like you, I have been a dog lover all my life and have had several.  Saying good bye is so so hard to do. I read your column daily and have never written to you. God bless, and give Bandit a hug from me.

Libby (owner – Scott Nystrom)
You’ve made me cry. Your picture of Bandit today made me think of a pic I took of the best dog that ever lived, Libby. My wife and I adopted her from the Winnipeg Humane Society in 2013, six days after moving in to our first house. The day before, we met her and put an adoption hold on her. She was quiet, calm and friendly. One look at her from the other side of the gate to her stall and we were in love. No need to meet her face to face.

Turns out the reason she was so calm and quiet was due to the sedatives that were still wearing off from her recent spay. What we adopted was a bundle of pure unbridled and uncontrolled energy. A nuclear reactor with the control rods too far out. Talk about smart, though. Fortunately, my wife made the commitment to Libby that she would teach her how to be a well-behaved dog.

What we ended up with was the most friendly, driven, energetic and fun dog I can ever imagine. We lost her at the age of 16 to bone cancer while on vacation in my wife’s home town in Newfoundland. Libby permanently rests in the woods behind my mother-in-law’s house. I miss her dearly. I’ve attached the pic that I have just spent the better part of half an hour crying at. Although it’s been over a year since she left us, I am still not over her and still not quite ready for another dog.

Thanks for doing what you do. My wife and I appreciate very much all that you’ve taught us.