Crosscountry: Canada at a glance — November 2014

A new survey shows that almost 40% of Canadian drivers check their phones during traffic delays, and experts predict that the Bank of Canada will soon be forced to raise rates.


My cellphone made me do it

Almost 40% of all Canadians check their phone during traffic delays, according to a recent survey by Leger for Allstate Canada. Younger drivers aged 18 to 34 are three times more likely than older drivers to send a text while waiting at a red light. Some drivers even play games while their car is idling.

"You send your text," says Ryan Michel, senior VP for Allstate Canada. "The light changes to green and you see the change with your peripheral vision. You [automatically accelerate], unaware that the vehicle in front of you hasn’t started to move yet."


Fuel for thought

Honda automobile 

When introduced, hybrid cars were sold mainly to ecologically conscious consumers, who gladly paid a premium for environmental protection. Now manufacturers are targeting a larger base of consumers looking for fuel economy.

But does the new strategy make financial sense? Not really, says Kent Fellows, research associate at the School of Public Policy of the University of Calgary. In a blog, he compares the Honda Accord Hybrid ($29,590) with a standard Accord LX ($23,900, V6 engine, manual transmission).

Fellows calculates that with a gas price of $1.16 per litre (the price at the end of September in Alberta), it would take 11 years for a hybrid owner to cover the extra $5,600 paid for the vehicle. If gas prices shot up to $2, it would take six years.


Raise rates before it’s too late?

The Bank of Canada will soon be forced to raise rates, predicts Ed Devlin, a manager at Pacific Investment Management Co. LLC (commonly called PIMCO), one of the largest fixed income management firms in the world, reports Montreal business weekly Les Affaires.

According to Devlin, the sustained prospect of low rates has led households to invest in real estate and max out their credit cards, causing real estate prices across Canada to be overvalued by 10% to 20%. If low rates persist, those rates will jump to 30%.

We can end up with an orderly or disorderly correction, says Devlin. "The longer rates remain low, the more people will pile up debt, and the greater the chances that it will be disorderly."


Froth and fame

World beer award winners 

Quebec is gaining a worldwide reputation for its beer, especially after four microbreweries won top awards at the UK World Beer Awards 2014.

Of all the winners, Brasseurs du Monde of Saint-Hyacinthe is clearly the standout. It took home nine awards, including two World Golds — one for its Big Ben Porter (porter category) and the other for La Blanche du Mur (specialty beer). Two other microbreweries, Trou du Diable and À la Fût, also won gold.