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Canada

David Olive: A waterfront casino in Toronto? Don’t bet on it

Doug Ford, the Ontario premier, remains tight-lipped about his plans for reviving the downtown Toronto waterfront.

As recently as five years ago, then-city councillor Ford championed a casino near the waterfront. And Rod Phillips, then-CEO of Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG), the Ontario monopoly on legal gambling, hoped for a waterfront casino.

The London Eye is now Britain’s most popular paid tourist attraction, with 3.8 million visitors last year.
The London Eye is now Britain’s most popular paid tourist attraction, with 3.8 million visitors last year.  (Jack Taylor / GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO)

Phillips is now in Ford’s cabinet, as environment minister.

But Ford has reason not to act on the current rumours of a revived casino project for the Toronto waterfront.

The casino business across North America has been in stagnation for more than a decade, having long ago saturated the market. It’s no different in Ontario, where OLG’s revenues grew a mere 0.4 per cent in OLG’s most recent fiscal year, 2016-17, to just under $7.5 billion.

OLG is actually projecting a sizeable 6.8 per cent drop in its net profit contribution to the province in 2018-19, down from last year’s $2.4 billion.

Every Ontarian with an inclination to gamble is already doing so. A new Toronto-area casino would simply take business from OLG’s 42 existing casinos, the lottery-ticket offerings OLG sells at about 9,800 retailers, and its PlayOLG online gaming site.

Oddly enough, among Ford’s best hopes to make good on his vow last month to turn Toronto’s waterfront into “the most spectacular destination anywhere in North America” is to revive his long-ago proposal for a giant Ferris wheel.

Ridiculed at the time, the proposal was inspired by the London Eye. That 18-year-old spectacle, on the banks of the Thames, is now Britain’s most popular paid tourist attraction, with 3.8 million visitors last year.

The Eye is also a beguiling landmark with more charm than the CN Tower.

Brexiteers’ trade fantasy includes Canada

Will the British elite ever give up on the fantasy of an “anglosphere”?

U.K. millennials think of India, Australasia, Canada and Hong Kong as exciting tourist destinations and entrepreneurial economies. But the greybeards that still dominate Britain’s political and intellectual elite cling to the lost British Empire with fantastical constructs.

In the 2000s, the fantasy – of which Conrad Black was a champion – was of a union of English-speaking countries bent on shaping the planet. That notion went nowhere, of course.

That deal would at least partially restore the U.K.’s diminished economic prospects after its Brexit withdrawal from the EU, as a stepping stone in pursuing the wider anglosphere pipe dream.

Brits need to be disenthralled of that delusion, advanced by Brexiteers since the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Ottawa is too polite to say so, and Canberra and Delhi also, but the former colonies are not of a mind or ability to repair the damage Britain is poised to do to itself by exiting the EU.

In the meantime, it is galling to hear Liam Fox, among the most ardent of Brexiteers, asking Canadians to believe his words that “the United Kingdom is, and will remain, an unequivocal supporter of international free trade.”

Fact is, Donald Trump has to take a back seat in his protectionist zeal to Fox and his fellow Brexiteers, led by British PM Theresa May, who are attempting to inflict history’s biggest blow to free trade in quitting the EU, the world’s biggest economy and free-trade zone.

Why Poloz is lucky not to be at the Fed

Starting last year, the governor of the Bank of Canada began raising interest rates to contain inflation, at a time of rapid economic growth.

The able Stephen Poloz hasn’t heard a peep from the prime minister or the federal finance minister about the bank’s actions, despite whatever misgivings the Trudeau government might have. (Not that I know of any.)

The Bank of Canada’s independence was established in the early 1960s, when its governor James Coyne stood his ground against an antagonistic PM John Diefenbaker.

By sharp contrast, recent reports have shown that Jerome Powell, U.S. President Donald Trump’s appointee as chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, is under fire from the president for also raising rates at a time of strong economic growth.

Twice this year, Trump has publicly criticized Powell’s tight-money policies, breaking with decades of presidential respect for the Fed’s independence. No doubt, back-channel second-guessing of the Fed by Trump officials is more than occasional.

Trump’s outbursts are understandable if inappropriate. His presidential viability rests solely on America’s currently buoyant economy. That means Powell has to look over his shoulder when he should be applying all his efforts to monitoring the billion moving parts of a $19.4-trillion (U.S.) economy.

Powell is obliged to spend much of his valuable time on Capitol Hill, winning legislative allies to help him thwart interference from the White House.

The Fed chair is said to be the world’s most powerful central banker. For now, that is not true. Poloz is more powerful. He has a free hand to apply his wisdom to the task at hand, without political interference.

That’s a sound 60-year-old Canadian practice, not yet fully adopted by the U.S.

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