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Floods, COP26, and Throne Speeches Make for a Busy Month

Jan-05-2022

Devastating floods hit both Canadian coasts in November. If you’re like me you were overwhelmed by images and stories coming out of British Columbia, and Atlantic Canada.

And then Omicron showed up and took our attention away from anything everything else.

Isn’t that what happens so often with climate change and environmental issues. We know they’re important but something else more pressing show up to distract us.


Environmental wake up call – don’t hit snooze

If we ever needed a home-grown reminder of the importance of climate action, this is it. We are being reminded, right here in our own backyard, that our planet earth can’t take much more. Planetary action is needed, and it’s needed now.

However imperfect, the agreement announced at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in mid November provided a glimmer of hope. And then the federal Liberal government introduced its throne speech. Highlights from that speech included federal action on the environment.


COP26 – A real commitment to change?

On Saturday, November 13, world leaders announced the adoption of the Glasgow Climate Pact. As CNN pointed out: “Some are calling it a success, others a failure, and many say it’ somewhere in between.”

I can’t help but think about the coffee sitting on my desk. Is it half full or half empty? All I know is it’s time to brew a fresh pot.

However corny the analogy, you and I know that action on the environment is essential to our planet – the only one we have. Despite the best efforts of Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk to distract us with trips into space, we have nowhere else to go.


ESG - Climate action is an opportunity as well a necessity

While action on climate change offers real challenges, it also offers real opportunities. This is the essence of an ESG investment strategy.

Our collective commitment to things like the development of a network for electric vehicles and conversion from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources are two examples. I don’t know about you, but I look forward to a day when we don’t have to dread looking at the price of gas posted at the station on the corner. And it might even be because there is no gas station on the corner.

One of the biggest hurdles to a universal commitment to COP26 was the language used to describe our use of fossil fuels. All the participating countries had to agree before the agreement could be announced. A decision by India to agree, after the agreement was amended so “that coal should be phased ‘down,’ not phased ‘out,’” serves to reinforce the fundamental notion we are all in this together.


Global action is essential

Only global action will solve this global crisis. We can only succeed when developed and developing nations work together.

COVID is another example of the global impact of local events. All of us were hit by the arrival of Omicron. First identified in South Africa, it spread within weeks all over the world. So much of this feels like a repeat of the last two years. However tired we might feel, we still need to take precautions.

And the same goes for action on the environment, doesn’t it.

This quote from a column in the Washington Post neatly sums up what many are saying about the global impact of and response to COVID vaccinations:

Perhaps no other moment in the pandemic has lent more truth to the often ignored mantra that “no one is safe until we are all safe.” Variants, experts say, are one deadly side effect of vaccine inequality — and a global system that has allowed wealthy nations, and large developing ones, to corral jabs for themselves, leaving poorer and less powerful countries to subsist on vaccine crumbs.


Global action needs to be taken. But then most of us have always known that. COPS26 just reinforced it.


Climate action right here in Canada? We’re talking about it

The discussion of words versus action is never ending. Especially when it come to acting on the environment.

The federal throne speech presented in November highlights many of the things we want to hear about the environment. The problem lies with the fact that words like these have been said before. Who knows how many times the environment has been a major focus of the throne speech?

Enough talk. It’s time for action.


Actions being discussed

A column on CBC lays things out from one perspective - Whatever else happens, this Parliament looks set to be (mostly) about climate change.

Greenpeace has a different perspective: “In most areas, the Liberals made some indications of progress but simply lacked enough detail for analysts to determine whether their plans truly made the grade.”

Federal initiatives include:

  • Removal of financial support for fossil fuels by 2023
  • Implementation of Clean Electricity Standard
  • The development of a zero-emission vehicle mandate
  • Creation of new methane regulations
  • New climate-related financial disclosure rules for federally regulated institutions

Let’ hope that these announcements bear fruit. Change is essential.

These governmental efforts, along with efforts in the private sector, offer us real opportunity to encourage and participate in this level of massive change. If you’re interested in looking for opportunities to benefit the world and yourself, then reach out. Let’s start a deeper conversation and work together to make a better world.  

Omicron. Here We Go Again? Maybe Yes, Maybe No

Nov-30-2021

I was preparing my thoughts on the devastating weather hitting British Columbia and the Atlantic provinces, when I started seeing the stories about a newly discovered variant of the COVID, now called Omicron.

It seems like we are not out from under the grip of COVID quite yet, even here in heavily vaccinated Canada. While we might be telling each other how tired we are of the virus, clearly it isn’t tired of us.


What is Omicron?

First detected in Gauteng, South Africa, Omicron is being discovered in new locations all the time. I can’t possibly keep up. The list of countries with detected cases is growing by the hour. And as of the 28th, it had even been detected here I Ontario.

The World Health Organization met last week to discuss the threat, give it a name, and begin the process of trying to bring it under control. While modern science may be push address new threats like this quickly, the availability of world travel allows for the virus to spread even faster than that.


The more things change the more they stay the same

Reactions by health and travel authorities are following a now familiar pattern. Flight cancellations and travel restrictions for countries where Omicron either originated or quickly spread to are being put in place. And where travellers have already arrived, they are being tested and placed into quarantine to help limit the spread of this particular mutation.

The lessons we learned from previous waves may help us limit its spread in the days and weeks to come.

But our best defensive options haven’t changed. Get vaccinated and practice social distancing wherever possible. In the end we’re all in this together.

And as many commentators have pointed out “no one is safe until we are all safe”. At last report, only about half of South Africans have been fully vaccinated. This compares to over ¾ in Canada and 60% in the United States.


It’s more than just a health crisis

The Dow Jones on Friday November 26 took a pounding, as investors considered the prospect of another crippling round of business and supply chain disruptions. I hear Command Central at the North Pole has returned to Code Red and placed Rudolph on emergency standby.

Kidding aside, it’s important to stay calm. Although we know that Omicron is out there, we don’t know how it is going to affect people. But health officials in South Africa seem to be suggesting that Omicron’s symptoms are relatively minor.

Meanwhile the world economy is trying to get back to normal, as production levels ramp up and supply chains return to normal.

Most of the economic problems triggered by COVID are short term or cyclical. Your investment portfolio is long term. You need to treat it that way.

Yes, the markets took a heavy hit on Friday, November 27, as investors began to contemplate additional significant business disruptions. The fact that there was a short trading day on Thursday because of American Thanksgiving has been blamed for some of the disruption, but the instability of events as the Omicron story unfolds is the central cause of the disruption.

And it’s impossible to predict how markets will react in the next couple of weeks, as this story continues to unfold.

When we look at recent history, we know the stock market plummeted in the immediate aftermath of the first COVID wave.

And it’s easy to see a repeat of those market trends this time around as well.

But we need to remember that much of those losses in the spring and summer of 2020 have already returned to normal pre-COVID ranges already.

This might be the most important thing to take away from Friday’s market difficulties. The stock exchange can act dramatically in reaction to very specific world or business events. But most of the time those dramatic reactions are quicky drawn upon only in the term of their immediate impact.

TFSA limit for 2022 released

Nov-18-2021

The TFSA contribution limit for 2022 has been officially released. That limit is $6,000, matching the amount set from 2019 to 2021.

With this TFSA dollar limit announcement, the total contribution room available in 2022 for someone who has never contributed and has been eligible for the TFSA since its introduction in 2009 is $81,500.

If you would like for information, or need to make a contribution in the new year please feel contact me.

• call me at (519) 279-0186 or 1-888-868-6689

• send me an email at [email protected]

• or find a time that works for both of us on my calendar 

Shareholder Engagement – What’s That?

Nov-03-2021

Over the last few months, I have shared my thoughts with you about the three basic pillars of ESG. It’s easy to see how reviewing and monitoring environmental, social and governance issues can help you make investment choices you are comfortable with. And you know that companies that act responsibly are the ones who have a better chance of succeeding and growing in the long run.

But when you look at responsible investing that way you limit your expectations. It is a passive way of using your investment capital to make a better world.


Engage to make change

Avoiding stocks that don’t meet your investment doesn’t bring about change. It may make you feel more comfortable about the way your money is being used, but other investors will just buy the stocks you have sold or decided no to buy at all.

That is a criticism often levelled at the responsible investment strategy. You aren’t making a difference unless you have skin in the game.

This is where shareholder engagement comes into play. When socially responsible investors pool their resources, they can push for change. IA Clarington Investments regularly publishes the Dialogue to Action: Shareholder engagement report. This report lists the actions IA Clarington has taken as an active stakeholder.


Please note: If you want a copy of the latest copy of Dialogue to Action: Shareholder engagement report, I can send you a copy. Email me at [email protected] and I’ll sent it out right away.


You may already be involved

Through their investment in these companies IA Clarington has a place at the table. They can actively work to make a difference. Many of the fund companies involved in responsible investing do this. And when they work together, they’re even more powerful.

If you are one of my clients, you are probably already part of the IA Clarington team.

Dialogue to Action lists how, in 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, IA Clarington engaged in shareholder engagement. They:

  • Engaged with 42 companies
  • Filed 9 shareholder resolutions
  • Advanced 10 UN Sustainable Investment Goals (SDGs)
  • Participated in 13 investor statements of support, alliance, or initiative

Together we CAN make a difference

As responsible investors we believe that companies will enjoy a healthier bottom line when they act responsibly and respect global environmental, social and governance standards. By participating in shareholder engagement, we actively push for positive change instead of sitting on the sidelines.

Shareholder engagement is a powerful social and economic tool. Together we can promote positive change with our investment dollars.

You may think you can only make change with your charitable contributions, your volunteer efforts, even what and where you buy food or household goods. All those things can help to make a better world. But your investment dollars can help too.

Let’s work together to use our investment capital to make a better world. And if you have friends and family who feel the same way you do, they tell them about the work we’re doing. Let them know they can make a positive difference too. Tell them to find a financial advisor involved in responsible investing (maybe a member of the Responsible Investment Association). Or get them to call or email me at 1-888-868-6689 or [email protected]a.

As Tommy Douglas, crowned Greatest Canadian back in 2004, was fond of saying “Courage, my friends; ‘tis not too late to build a better world.”

The G in ESG  

Sept-23-2021

Right here at home

As I began to think about how I could talk about governance in ESG, I was presented with a perfect local example. Although the biggest national take-away from the recently finished Canadian election was how little anything changed, we saw one of the few examples of significant change right next door in Kitchener Centre.

As you probably already know, a series of unexpected circumstances allowed the Green Party of Canada to elect their very first Member of Parliament here in Ontario. Mike Morrice had finished second in the 2019 campaign and chose to run again for the Green Party. Then, late in the campaign Raj Saini, the Liberal incumbent, decided to end his campaign amid allegations of inappropriate conduct towards female staffers.

Because it happened so late, the Liberals could not remove Saini’s name from the ballot. This gave Morris the opportunity to take advantage of his previously strong showing in the riding to become the first ever Green Party MP from Ontario.


Green Party local success contrasts with national collapse

Across the rest of Canada, the Green Party saw a collapse in their support. This has been blamed on the controversy that has plagued their federal leader, Annamie Paul.

Elected leader of the party less than a year ago, Ms. Paul, also ran three times for the Green Party than two years as a local candidate in Toronto Centre.

But things took a strange twist for Ms. Paul and the Green Party in June. At that point, Jenica Atwin, a Green Party MP from News Brunswick crossed the floor to sit with the Liberals. She referred to differences with Ms. Paul over the party’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The party also announced that they were conducting an internal review of Ms. Paul’s leadership. That was suspended when the election was called. But that point the damage had been done.


Governance becomes consequential when it becomes public

In both these situations, the damage was done when problems became public.

If you are concerned about the presentation of environmental issues in the Canadian House of Commons, then the difficulties in the Green Party probably bother you. The fact that the root of the issue lies with apparent differences of opinion about in the Middle East just makes the story harder to figure out.

On the other hand, the problem for the Liberals in Kitchener Centre stems from the growing intolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace. Both Raj Saini and former Governor of the State of New York Andrew Cuomo can attest to that.

In both situations, allegations had been reviewed internally and dismissed. But when the stories went public the increased scrutiny forced each of these elected officials to resign. And their stories are not unique.

The issues addressed in these stories cover the entire ESG spectrum. And they serve as a stark reminder of the impact that these issues can have when they become public. Unfortunately, we cannot always foresee these occurrences.

And that can be one of the most difficult aspects of investing responsibly. But there are tools available to help make our decisions easier. Call or write me to start looking at using some of those tools in your own investment decisions.

The S in ESG

Aug-24-2021

Shall we continue?

Last month I shared a local example of an environmental concern right here in Cam-bridge to highlight the impact, both local and long term, of environmental mismanage-ment. This month I want to spend some looking at a local example of the social aspect of ESG.


Residential Schools in Canada: A Painful Legacy for All Canadians

This summer the legacy of residential schools and Canada’s treatment of our First Na-tions citizens regained public attention, with the identification of approximately 215 bodies on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Co-lumbia. Since then, numerous other sites all across Canada have been scanned with equally heart-rending results.

As a result, many Canadians sought to commemorate Canada Day differently this year with a recognition of this legacy and the ongoing difficulties our fellow Canadians from a First Nations heritage continue to have.


Woodland Cultural Centre - Bearing Wit-ness to Our Residential School Hereitage

Efforts at acknowledgement and reconciliation can be seen at the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford, located on the grounds of the former Mohawk Institute Indian Res-idential School.

One of the major projects of the Woodland Cultural Centre is an effort to renovate the Mohawk Institute to serve as a reminder of of our legacy. And with that knowledge, seek to atone for and correct our mistakes.

If this is something you would like to participate in join the Save the Evidence Cam-paign at Woodland.


Five Oaks - A Local Effort at Reconciliation

On another note, Five Oaks is a retreat centre here in South Central Ontario I have had the privilege of being involved with over the years. Five Oaks, a United Church retreat centre, states that their goal is: “To be a sacred place where people of all faiths as well as spiritual seekers can gather in community to live, work, learn, pray, play, heal, and act for justice.”

Although Five Oaks is a United Church retreat centre, it lists Six Nations of the Grand River and the local Muslim community as Vision Partners. I see this as a example of the power of shared experience and community right here in South Central Ontario.

Right now, one of the most prominent ongoing events at the center is titled Honor-ing Missing Students of IRSS through Prayer and Dialogue. It seeks to address the need for dialogue that we need to go through if we are ever going to properly addressing the disturbing legacy of residential schools in Canada.

The program runs on the second Sunday of every month from 2:00-4:00. I encour-age you to look into it.


Residential Schools - A Legacy for All Ca-nadians to Come to Terms With

The arrival of Europeans on the territory we now call Canada has painful elements for our First Nations neighbours. And that legacy has a local as well as a national presence.

In order for us to cope and move forward as a nation we need to address and atone for these historical legacies. Things like the Save the Evidence Campaign and places like Five Oaks are local examples of the opportunities we have right here in South Central Ontario.

The E in ESG – The What in Where?

July-27-2021

Maybe you were sipping your morning coffee and checking the news or talking to a colleague on a Zoom call the first time you heard or saw it. Now you’re wondering “Exactly what is E… S… G...”


Let’s start by saying the ESG acronym has been getting a lot attention in investment circles and the media in the last few years.


ESG, which stands for Environmental, Social and Governance, can be traced back to the founding of the United Nation’s Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) in 2006. According to Investopedia, as of January 2020 there are 2300 participating financial institutions committed to PRI with Assets Under Management of over $80 trillion US. Nothing to sneeze at.


E is for Environmental

I am going to take the time in the next few blog posts over the next couple of months to describe ESG and explain its role in Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) and in your portfolio.


And it only makes sense to start at the beginning – Environmental.


Generally, environmental concerns can be the most easily identified issue in our portfolio. It’s relatively easy to ask, “Do I have fossil fuel extraction companies in my plan?”


We Can Make a Difference

But that isn’t the only way we can be environmentally supportive in our investment decisions. In a stunning and widely reported move:


“In May 2017, 62% of ExxonMobile shareholders went against management’s recommendations by voting to require the world’s largest oil and gas company to report on the impacts of climate change to its business (an increase of 38% over the previous year). This response followed the Paris Climate agreement.”

This is an excellent example of shareholder engagement, an SRI concept I will discuss is greater detail in the months to come.


And it’s a prime example of how there are real opportunities for investors to have an impact by getting involved instead of just “getting out”.


Let’s Bring It All Back Home

If you are a long-time resident of Kitchener, you may remember when the city discovered a coal tar deposit on the site of an old manufactured-gas plant at Joseph and Gaukel Streets. This plant used coal to generate heat and electricity for residents between 1882 and 1958, when they started using natural gas piped in from Alberta. The residue was just buried on site for future generations to deal with. Sound familiar?


Even though the plant had already been closed for 50 years by the time clean up started, it was still an environmental disaster that had to be addressed.


Clean up costs ended up costing $19 million in 2006-2007. The same year as the founding of PRI, hmm.


Fixing Things Before They get Any Worse

This is just one example of the type of long term financial and environmental costs of poor environmental stewardship that are left for future generations to deal with. Water quality issues in Flint, Michigan and in First Nations communities across Canada are a couple of other high-profile examples.


You and I know we have to start properly addressing the types of environmental damage we are inflicting on our planet – the only one we have. One major way to do that is by reviewing and acting on the environmental aspects of our investments and our financial lives.


In my practice I do just that. If you want to join me then go ahead and

• call me at (519) 279-0186 or 1-888-868-6689

• send me an email at [email protected]

• or find a time that works for both of us on my calendar 

Socially Responsible Investing is Good for your Portfolio as well as your Conscience

July-08-2021

I have been providing socially responsible financial advice to private investors for 6 years now. One of the things I hear most often is along the lines of “Socially responsible investing is all well and good but I need to make sure I maximize my earnings. Now.”

This response is frustrating because I know that one of the best ways to maximize your investments is by investing with socially responsible principles in mind.

In fact, a 2015 study conducted by the Carleton Centre for Community Innovation stated that:

  • The traditional investment approach argues that SRI limits the investment universe and results in a decrease in value. But this view is not backed up by empirical evidence… most studies show that SRI funds deliver comparable and, in some cases, superior returns to those of traditional funds.

SRI works as a solid investment strategy. Period.

Making investment decisions based on SRI is not about “or” – I can invest ethically or I can make money. It is about “and”. I can invest money ethically and I can make money on those investments.

In fact, you increase your returns and your security by investing in SRI related funds. Sort of like having your cake and eating it too.


SRI finds the best things to invest in - all round

Think about it. Corporate success relies on many factors. Ultimately, both financial and social perspectives play a role in determining a company’s long-term success and its bottom line.

While short term success may come from following fast and loose practices you should remember that you are investing for the long term.

By seeking out companies with a proven record as good corporate citizens you can minimize the likelihood that a centerpiece of your investment portfolio ends up on the front page of the newspaper with a story reflecting a lapse in corporate judgement.

In-depth reviews of corporate practices will help you to find the gems that will grow steadily into the future. And good solid SRI studies do that for you.

SRI does not ignore sound financial principles. It adds to them. And your portfolio is stronger for it.


The numbers prove it – SRI improves your chances and your return

The Carleton study, published in 2015, pointed out that the SRI sector was already seeing significant growth. That growth has only increased since then.

In February in a report titled Sustainable Fund U.S. Landscape Report, Morningstar pointed out that:

Sustainable funds attracted a record $51.1 billion in net flows in 2020, more than twice the previous record set in 2019. Sustainable fund flows accounted for nearly one fourth of overall flows into funds in the U.S.


Join the party – become an SRI investor today

So come on. Let’s work together to make the world a better place while securing your financial future. Make it happen today. You’ll be happy you did. On so many levels.

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