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City council considers Entertainment District status for the Ross Street Patio

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By Mark Weber

Downtown Business Association officials are thrilled that City council passed first reading this past week on a new bylaw that would see the Ross Street Patio receive ‘Entertainment District’ designation.

The move follows a request from the DBA made several weeks ago, explained Amanda Gould, executive director. According to the City, Entertainment Districts are new to the province, having been created last December through an amendment to the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act. The designation would allow certain public areas – in this cast the Ross Street Patio – to be a place where adults could consume alcohol outside of a licensed premises while taking in various forms of live entertainment. “It’s really the natural next step for the Ross Street Patio,” said Gould. “The Patio is already becoming the home for live music, and we are getting more and more people coming downtown to enjoy it. As a result, a lot of people are using the restaurants along the Patio there.

“Because of that, a lot of times their patios are full. And so they often have people asking if they can buy a drink and take it out onto the actual Patio. Unfortunately, they have to say no.” But with Entertainment District designation, that could all change.

Gould noted that it would help to further revitalize the downtown core by drawing more folks down to not only check out the entertainment that is running on the Patio all summer, but to also see all that downtown ultimately has to offer.

“It will help to make the Ross Street Patio even more popular than it already is,” she said, adding that she approached Council about the designation about eight weeks ago.

“It has all moved really fast – the City has been wonderful with this. They talked about it in council, and everyone was really supportive of it. It went to first reading, and it was unanimously supported,” she said. Second and third reading are expected to take place later in June.

“In the meantime, we’ve met with businesses and found out what their preferred operating times are. We’ve also tried to discover any issues that they can think of and how we could mitigate any challenges, and things like that,” she added. “But the businesses are so keen to do this – they are absolutely pumped.”

According to Erin Stuart, the City’s inspection and licensing manager, “Research into the topic has shown that, while relatively new in Canada, there are numerous international jurisdictions where open consumption is allowed in public areas.

“Learnings from those areas show that Entertainment Districts provide opportunities for municipalities to revitalize key neighbourhoods, drive tourism, and support local businesses,” she said in a release. “Working with the Downtown Business Association is an opportunity for a unique partnership and provides the option of working together on any issues that arise.” Prior to the May 24th meeting, City administration determined a new bylaw was needed to support the DBA’s request and sought direction from Council before proceeding.

A short timeline for implementing the designation would also of course maximize the use of the summer season. The release also noted that an Entertainment District in Red Deer would not allow public intoxication, underage drinking, use of cannabis, or the bringing in/taking away of alcohol to/from the district. The release also pointed out that the bylaw would be the first of its kind in Canada.

“It’s awesome,” said Gould in reflecting on the level of support shown for the Entertainment District concept here in Red Deer. “I’m delighted. I just came out of a meeting with the businesses and the City, and it’s just great. I’m just so excited for it.” In the meantime, she said this past week has marked the first official week of summer programming on the Ross Street Patio.

The Wednesday market is also in full swing. Visitors are invited to come down and purchase all their fresh fruits and veggies between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. each Wednesday. Live music on the Ross Street Patio is a key feature on Wednesdays as well. And with the official kick-off to summer on the Patio having taken place, part of the celebration included the introduction of a limited-edition Ross Street Patio beer developed in partnership with Sawback Brewing.

The special beer will be available through the summer and will also be featured at several downtown restaurants. As for entertainment plans, performances on the Patio will run on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. For more about the Downtown Business Association and all that is planned for the Ross Street Patio, find them on Facebook or visit www.downtownreddeer.com.

Born and raised in Red Deer, Mark Weber is an award-winning freelance writer who is committed to the community. He worked as a reporter for the Red Deer Express for 18 years including six years as co-editor. During that time, he mainly covered arts and entertainment plus a spectrum of areas from city news and health stories to business profiles and human interest features. Mark also spent a year working for the regional publication Town and Country in northern Alberta, along with stints at the Ponoka News and the Stettler Independent. He’s thrilled to be a Todayville contributor, as it allows him many more opportunities to continue to focus on the city and community he not only has a passion for, but calls home as well.

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What the latest Bank of Canada rate hike means for inflation, consumers

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By Tara Deschamps

The Bank of Canada hiked its key policy rate by half a percentage point to 4.25 per cent — the highest it’s been since January 2008 — on Wednesday in its final rate decision of a year that has been marked by stubbornly high inflation and rapidly increasing interest rates.

The bank, which has made a steady succession of large hikes over the course of the year, is widely believed to be nearing an end to the increases.

In announcing the rate hike Wednesday, the bank said it will consider whether the rate “needs to rise further to bring supply and demand back into balance and return inflation to target.”

Here’s a look at what the rate means, how analysts are interpreting it and what it could mean for consumers.

What is the key policy rate and what does it do?

The key policy rate, also known as the target for the overnight rate, is how much interest the Bank of Canada wants commercial banks to charge when lending each other money overnight to settle daily balances.

Knowing how much it costs to lend money, or deposit it with the central bank, helps set the interest rates charged on things like loans and mortgages.

Lowering the rate generally makes borrowing money more affordable, while raising it makes such activities more expensive.

Why is the bank using the rate to target inflation?

Inflation is a measure of how much prices of goods and services are rising or falling. High inflation is a sign of an economy that’s overheating.

Canada’s annual inflation rate reached a peak of 8.1 per cent in June, the highest level in four decades.

It has eased since then, reaching 6.9 per cent in September, but didn’t budge in October. And shoppers have seen higher prices for common expenses like groceries. Grocery prices have been rising at the fastest pace in decades and were 11 per cent higher in October than they were a year ago.

Economists and the central bank want to see a further easing, which is why interest rates have been rising so quickly in the hope of cooling consumer spending patterns.

“Inflation is still too high and short-term inflation expectations remain elevated,” the bank said in its announcement. “The longer that consumers and businesses expect inflation to be above the target, the greater the risk that elevated inflation becomes entrenched.”

What does this mean for my mortgage?

Mortgage rates tend to increase or decrease in tandem with interest rates.

When Canadians buy homes there are two kinds of mortgages they can select — fixed rate or variable. Fixed-rate mortgages allow borrowers to lock in the interest rate they will pay for a set amount of time, while variable-rate mortgages can fluctuate.

Allison Van Rooijen, vice-president of consumer credit at Meridian Credit Unit, estimates the rate hike Wednesday will bump payments on a $450,000 variable-rate mortgage on a 25-year amortization up another $130 or so every month. Since the beginning of 2022, rising rates have amounted to roughly $1,000 more per month since the beginning of 2022.

“Because of the high cost of housing in Canada and years of low borrowing rates, Canadians are carrying record-levels of debt on mortgages and lines of credit, so it’s really important that people go through their expenses and look to scale back discretionary spending where they can,” she said in an email.

She recommends people double down on efforts to pay off debt with higher interest rates as much as possible and if they are running into trouble making payments, discuss whether switching to another format of mortgage is right for them.

Does this mean interest rates will stop rising soon?

Shortly after the announcement, many economists predicted the bank isn’t done with hikes yet, even though the language in the statement signalled the possibility of holding steady at 4.25 per cent.

BMO Capital Markets chief economist Douglas Porter said a further hike of about 25 basis points is likely still to come because he’s concerned about the “stickiness of underlying inflation.”

James Orlando of TD Economics agreed. He expects the bank will deliver its final rate hike for the foreseeable future in January, bringing the measure to 4.5 per cent.

“We don’t think the Bank of Canada is done yet, but it is quickly approaching the end of its hiking cycle,” he wrote in a note to investors.

“As all Canadians know, the rapid rate hikes over 2022 have caused a dramatic adjustment in the real estate market, and we are starting to see this in consumer spending data. We expect this to continue to weigh on the economy over 2023 as the lagged effects of past hikes filter through.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

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Experts raise concerns as Nigeria limits cash withdrawals

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By Chinedu Asadu in Abuja

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Experts on Wednesday raised concerns over a new policy announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria that heavily limits withdrawals of money in a push for a cashless economy.

The monetary policy, which applies to ATMs, banks and cash back from purchases, follows the launch of the West African nation’s newly designed currency notes to control the money supply.

The central bank limited weekly over-the-counter cash withdrawals to 100,000 naira ($225) for individuals and 500,000 naira ($1,124) for corporations, with a processing fee required to access more.

When the policy takes effect in Jan. 9, ATMs will no longer dispense Nigeria’s high denominations of 1,000 naira ($2.25) and 500 naira ($1.10) while withdrawals from ATMs and point-of-sale terminals also will be limited to 20,000 naira ($45) daily.

“In compelling circumstances, not exceeding once a month, where cash withdrawals above the prescribed limits are required for legitimate purposes, such cash withdrawals shall not exceed 5,000,000 naira ($11,236) and 10,000,000 naira ($22,471) for individuals and corporations, respectively,” said Haruna Mustafa, the bank’s director of banking supervision.

Policymakers say the withdrawal limits and recent monetary initiatives from the central bank would bring more people into the banking system and curb currency hoarding, illicit flows and inflation.

But analysts worry that with digital payments often unreliable in Nigeria, the initiative could hurt daily transactions that people and businesses make.

“The policy is intended to cause discomfort, to move you from cash to cashless because they (the central bank) have said they want to make it uncomfortable and expensive for you to hold cash,” economic analyst Kalu Aja said.

“That is a positive for the CBN (because) the more discomforting they are able to achieve, the more people can move,” Aja said.

In Nigeria, the majority of people work in the informal sector — mainly activities outside of the legal framework and government regulation such as farming, street and market trade, and public transport. The economy is heavily dependent on this sector, and cash is usually preferred for transactions because many lack bank accounts.

Only 45% of adults in Nigeria have accounts with regulated financial institutions, according to the World Bank. In the absence of bank accounts, point-of-sale terminals have emerged as one of the fastest-growing areas of financial inclusion in the country.

Through the withdrawal limits, the central bank is “directly attacking” such agency banking services and “people will essentially begin to hoard their money,” said Tunde Ajileye, a partner at Lagos–based SBM Intelligence firm.

“It is not going to drive people to start to try doing electronic transactions. On the contrary, it is going to move people away from the financial institutions,” he said.

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