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Royal Bank hikes dividend as it reports $3.2B net income in first quarter

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Royal Bank of Canada raised its dividend as it reported quarterly net income of $3.17 billion, up from $3.01 billion a year ago, matching market expectations as market volatility during the period weighed on its earnings.

The Toronto-based lender hiked its quarterly payment to common shareholders by four cents to $1.02 per share.

The bank’s dividend increase came as the lender reported solid earnings from its personal and commercial banking and insurance divisions for the quarter ended Jan. 31.

However, RBC also reported flat results from its wealth management arm and lower results in capital markets and investor and treasury services due to challenging market conditions.

“Our strategy and unwavering focus on delivering value for our clients and shareholders continues to underpin our ability to consistently deliver solid results, even against a challenging market backdrop,” said Dave McKay, RBC’s chief executive, in a statement.

“We remain focused on prudently managing our risks and balancing our investments for long-term growth as we transform the client journey.”

Canada’s biggest lender by market value reported net income for the three-month period ended Jan. 31 that amounted to $2.15 per diluted share, compared with $2.01 one year ago.

After adjustments, RBC earned $2.19 per diluted share, matching the $2.19 per share expected by analysts, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

Tumultuous quarter for markets

The bank’s personal and commercial banking division earned net income of $1.57 billion, up 3.3 per cent from the same period a year earlier, mainly due to volume growth and higher deposit spreads. RBC’s insurance arm reported net income of $166 million, up 31 per cent from the prior year period.

However, its other divisions came under pressure from the tumultuous market during the quarter.

The bank’s wealth management arm delivered earnings of $597 million, flat from the same period a year ago, due to factors including higher costs related to business growth and “lower transaction volumes as uncertainty impacted equity markets.”

RBC’s investor and treasury services arm saw net income drop 26 per cent to $161 million, primarily due to lower funding and liquidity revenue, higher costs in support of business growth and lower revenue from its asset services business due to challenging market conditions and lower client activity.

Earnings for RBC’s capital markets division totalled $653 million, down 13 per cent from a year earlier, largely due to higher provisions for credit losses and lower revenue in corporate and investment banking and lower issuance activity.

While RBC’s earnings per share for the quarter was in line with expectations, the bank’s results were of “lower quality,” said Scott Chan, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity Capital Markets, in a note to clients.

“In the context of (RBC)’s share price appreciation heading into the quarter, we view these results as underwhelming and expect the stock to relatively underperform,” Chan wrote.

The bank’s provisions for credit losses, or money set aside for bad loans, in the latest quarter increased 54 per cent to $514 million, compared with $334 million a year earlier, “mainly due to a higher provision on impaired loans in capital markets taken on one account in the utilities sector.”

The bank’s common equity tier 1 ratio (CET1), a key measure of financial health, was 11.4 per cent, down from 11.5 per cent during the previous quarter, but up from 11 per cent a year ago.

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Ottawa education workers still teaching special-ed students at schools want safety checks

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Some Ottawa educators say they are concerned about the safety of classrooms that remain open in schools for special-education students.

Ontario elementary and secondary students have been sent home to study virtually because of the dangers posed by rising rates of COVID-19. However, special-education classes are still operating at many bricks-and-mortar schools.

The special-education classes include students with physical and developmental disabilities, autism and behaviour problems. Some don’t wear masks and require close physical care.

Two unions representing teachers and educational assistants at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board have sent letters to Ottawa Public Health expressing their concerns.

It’s urgent that public health officials inspect classrooms to assess the safety of the special-ed classes, said a letter from the Ottawa branch of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which also represents the educational assistants who work with special-needs children.

“In the absence of reasons based on medical evidence to keep specialized systems classes open, we are unsure as to the safety of staff and students in these programs,” said the letter signed by president Stephanie Kirkey and other union executives.

The letter said staff agreed that students in specialized classes had difficulty with remote education and benefited most from in-person instruction.

“Our members care deeply about the students they work with and are not only concerned about their own health and safety, but also about that of their students, as they are often unable to abide by COVID safety protocols that include masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene, thus making it more likely that they could transmit the virus to one another,” the letter said.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has 1,286 elementary and secondary students in special-education classes attending in person at 87 schools, said spokesperson Darcy Knoll.

While final numbers were not available, Knoll said the board believed a large number of the special-education students were back in class on Friday at schools.

In-person classes for other elementary and secondary students are scheduled to resume Jan. 25.

The school boards provide PPE for educators in special-education classes as required, including surgical masks, face shields, gloves and gowns.

Several educators interviewed said they don’t understand why it has been deemed unsafe for students in mainstream classes to attend class, but not special-ed students.

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Ottawa sets record of 210 new COVID-19 cases following lag in data reporting

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Ottawa has now broken its daily record for new COVID-19 cases twice in 2021, with 210 new cases added on Friday amid a lag in data reports from earlier in the week.

The nation’s capital has now seen 10,960 cases of the novel coronavirus.

Ottawa Public Health’s COVID-19 dashboard reports 977 active cases of the virus in Ottawa, a jump of more than 100 over Thursday’s figures.

One additional person has died in relation to COVID-19 in Ottawa, raising the city’s death toll in the pandemic to 395.

The record-setting case count comes a day after Ottawa reported a relatively low increase of 68 cases. Ontario’s COVID-19 system had meanwhile reported 164 new cases on Thursday.

OPH said Thursday that due to a large number of case reports coming in late Wednesday, the local system did not account for a large portion of cases. The health unit said it expects the discrepancy to be filled in the subsequent days.

Taken together, Thursday and Friday’s reports add 278 cases to Ottawa’s total, a daily average of 139 cases.

The new single-day record surpasses a benchmark set this past Sunday, when the city recorded 184 new cases.

Ontario also reported a new record of 4,249 cases on Friday, with roughly 450 of those cases added due to a lag in reporting in Toronto.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 also continues to climb in Ottawa. OPH’s dashboard shows there are currently 24 people in hospital with COVID-19, seven of whom are in the intensive care unit.

Three new coronavirus outbreaks were added to OPH’s dashboard on Friday. One outbreak affects a local shelter where one resident has tested positive for the virus, while the other two are traced to workplaces and private settings in the community.

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Ottawa family dealing with mould issue in apartment grateful for support

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OTTAWA — An Ottawa family, who has been dealing with mould in their south Ottawa apartment, is grateful for the support they have received from the community.

“I would like to say big very mighty, big thank you to everyone,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

Adeniyi lives with her three sons in a South Keys apartment. Her son Desmond turned to social media on Sunday to seek help for the family, saying they’ve been dealing with mould in their unit and it has taken too long to fix.

“I see my mom go through a struggle everyday; with three kids, it’s not easy,” says 16-year-old Desmond Adeniyi.

He setup a GoFundMe page to help the family raise money to move out. After gaining online attention and the story, which originally aired CTV News Ottawa on Tuesday, they have been able to raise over $30,000.

“Yes! I was surprised, a big surprise!” says Nofisat Adeniyi, “We are free from the mess that we’ve been going through.”

The family was so touched, they decided to pay it forward and donated $5,000 to another family in need, “A lady my son told me about,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

The recipient wants to remain anonymous, but when she found out from Adeniyi, “She was crying, she has three kids; I remember when I was, I can feel what she’s feeling – because I was once in those shoes.”

CTV News Ottawa did reach out to the property management company for an update on the mould. In a statement on Wednesday, a spokesperson for COGIR Realty wrote:

“We respect the privacy of our residents and are unable to disclose any specific information regarding any of our residents. We can, however, let you know that we are working with the residents and are making every effort to resolve this matter as soon as possible,” said Cogir Real Estate

The giving did not stop at just cash donations. “When I saw the segment, the thing that struck me the most was how easily the situation can be resolved,” says mould removal expert Charlie Leduc with Mold Busters in Ottawa.

Leduc is not involved in the case, but appeared in the original story, and after seeing the mould on TV wanted to help.

“This isn’t something that we typically do, but given the circumstance and given the fact that this has gone on way too long, our company is willing to go in and do this work for free,” said Leduc.

The Adeniyi family may now have some options, and are grateful to the community for the support.

“Yes, It’s great news — you can see me smiling,” says Nofisat.

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