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Expect a (relative) urban housing comeback in 2023

Commentary

To close out the year, we’ve asked our contributors and staff to make a prediction about 2023. You would think, after last year, that we’d have learned our lesson about making predictions, but we couldn’t resist. Feel free to save these if you want to embarrass us with them later.


Cities will be more attractive in 2023

By Steve Lafleur

COVID really scrambled housing markets in the GTA and Lower Mainland. Previously red-hot urban
housing markets (condos in particular) took a back seat to real estate outside of major cities.

While housing prices outside of major cities were already getting pushed up by people fleeing Toronto and Vancouver home prices, COVID was a major accelerant. Anecdotes about people moving to rural areas or smaller cities well outside of normal commuting range became normal.

This trend reversed sharply in 2022 as the realities of commuting came back into focus. As white-collar professionals began gradually returning to the office, cities looked more attractive again. I think this will continue in 2023, as office dwellers move from occasional office appearances to somewhat more regular commuting.

While it’s hard to say what will happen with the overall housing market in the short term, my hunch is that housing in major cities will outperform the rest of the country.


At least one authoritarian leader won’t see the end of 2023 in power

By Patrick Luciani

Predictions are no better than wishful thinking. Even if you guess right, they happen for the wrong reasons.

With that caveat, here are mine. In the coming year, one of the following won’t see the end of the year; V. Putin, Xi Jinping, or Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. All three are sitting on domestic political time bombs, and one is sure to explode.

If I had to choose, the one most likely to end badly is Khamenei. When protestors include most women in your country, there’s little hope that you’ll survive. Even the Supreme Leader’s niece wants him out.

Putin will probably hang in since he’s surrounded by 30,000 to 50,000 Pretorian Guards. They’ll protect him as long as he pays them.

In China, Xi is safe if COVID-19 doesn’t get out of hand. That might change now that all mandates are gone. With low vaccination rates, especially among the old, 2023 could be disastrous for China’s economy and the Communist Party.

Will we have virtual girlfriends and AI public servants in 2023?

Commentary

To close out the year, we’ve asked our contributors and staff to make a prediction about 2023. You would think, after last year, that we’d have learned our lesson about making predictions, but we couldn’t resist. Feel free to save these if you want to embarrass us with them later.


Virtual love interests are closer than we think

By Chris Spoke

Have you watched the 2013 movie Her?

It features Joaquin Phoenix in a romantic relationship with an artificially intelligent virtual assistant personified through a female voice that he talks to day in and day out through a Bluetooth-like headset.

We’re going to see this technology and behaviour emerge in a big way before the end of the new year.

Two big data points inform this prediction.

First, OpenAI’s chatbot tool, ChatGPT, is already blowing minds with its ability to accurately and succinctly answer basic questions. It’s powered by a slightly enhanced third version of OpenAI’s Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) language model (GPT3). The next version, GPT4, is expected to be up to 500 times more powerful.

Second, an app called Replika already provides a relatively advanced version of this experience–that is, of a digital boyfriend or girlfriend. And get this: it has over 10 million users.

So:

Imagine an audio-based Replika.ai or competitor powered by GPT4 through a pair of Airpods.

That’s Her. She’s closer than you think.


Premiers will behave badly and no one will notice

By Livio Di Matteo

Five less-than-serious predictions for 2023:

1. With Canada’s premiers finding inspiration in the goblin-mode behaviour of their loyal subjects in the pandemic’s wake, many of them will accelerate their proclivity to behave badly on a number of fronts moving Canada into the worst constitutional crisis since 1926. However, in typically Canadian fashion, no one will really notice a difference.

2. Interest rates will rise once more in 2023 and inflation will finally begin to subside though it will not return to the 2 percent Bank of Canada target range. Inflation will settle at the 4-5 percent range as demographics and public attitudes move us into a “perpetual shortage” economy. Thus, interest rates are unlikely to go below 4 percent. However, on the bright side, the 4 percent rule for withdrawals in retirement will be easier to implement.

3. To the surprise of both the RCMP and Canada’s Security Services, a prominent international media organization will announce that Meghan Markle, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Tom Cruise slipped into the country together on a private jet and rented a cottage in Muskoka where they all went waterskiing. On their way back to Pearson International Airport they will be spotted shopping at an outlet store mall on the 400. Their visit will only come to light because they filled out the ArriveCan App. Netflix will make a limited series of the caper.

4. The Canada Revenue Agency will contract out its customer service and response functions to ChatGPT in a multimillion-dollar contract. After a noticeable improvement in service levels at CRA, ChatGPT will also be put in charge of Passport Canada and ultimately Global Affairs Canada.

5. The sun will rise, the sun will set. Governments will go and come. The young will find love, the seasons will change. The health care crisis will abate, the health care crisis will come again. The provincial premiers will meet again. Yet, Northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire will still be waiting for a match to light its flame.