The Globe’s most-read business and investing stories of 2023: Livable cities, Alberta’s pension plan, mortgage costs and more

High inflation. A complicated interest rate cycle. Alberta’s controversial pension plans. Netflix’s password sharing crackdown. Canada’s most livable cities. Rising mortgages payments. Recession fears. It’s safe to say that there has been no shortage of news this year.

In the final weekly digest of 2023, we’re taking a look back at The Globe’s most-read business and investing stories of the entire year. Get caught up on the biggest stories that resonated with readers on a variety of topics from housing, debt, critical minerals and more.

‘We’re barely making it’: Eight Canadian stories reveal the pain of soaring mortgage costs

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Colin Tran wants to purchase a home, but can’t afford high mortgage costs. Instead he’s saving using the new First Home Savings Account.JASON FRANSON/The Globe and Mail

In a year of high inflation and housing unaffordability, Canadian homeowners were especially feeling the squeeze of interest rates. Irene Galea spoke to Canadians facing difficult decisions in order to continue paying off their loans. They’re deferring retirement, cutting back expenses and worrying about how they will cover their next mortgage payment. Some are even lengthening their mortgage amortization, stretching out the duration of their payments from 15 or 25 years to 30 years or beyond to keep their payments down. These are their stories.

Opinion: Netflix’s desperate crackdown on password sharing shows it might fail like Blockbuster

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This photo shows a logo for Netflix on a remote control in Portland, Ore.Jenny Kane/The Associated Press

When Netflix announced in February that it would crack down on password sharing, Canadians users were left questioning whether it was still worth paying the subscription fee. In a column for The Globe and Mail, Ken Birch, director of the Institute for Technoscience and Society at York University, raises the question of whether the move – and Netflix’s business model and monetization strategy – is viable in the long-run. He writes: “Netflix is facing a self-defeating cycle with its subscription changes.” Fast forward to the end of the year, Netflix has reported strong third-quarter results and increased its subscriber base – sending shares surging.

The 100 most livable cities in Canada

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Illustration by Kathleen Fu

One of The Globe’s popular stories of the year in general was the inaugural ranking of Canada’s 100 most livable cities. The data-driven list places an emphasis

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Aging, high living costs prompt small business owners to sell

An aging Canadian population and demand for higher wages are among the factors pressuring small Canadian business owners to sell their companies, according to a seasoned expert in mergers and acquisitions.

Michael Morrow, managing director of merger and acquisitions and capital markets at BDO Canada, is forecasting a rise in the sale of businesses within the next five years compared to the previous half decade.


He attributes that forecast to a lack of succession options for aging Canadian business owners, post-pandemic burnout among entrepreneurs and pressure to match competitive salary expectations amid high cost of living.


“The drivers for business owners to sell that we’re seeing have a lot to do with an aging population and no plans for family members to take over the companies,” Morrow told in a telephone interview. 




After decades of growing a business and steering it through the pandemic, many owners feel it is time to sell their companies now that their businesses have recovered, Morrow explained. However, many business owners do not have successors in place to take over their operations, he added. 


“Another reality that is pushing owners to sell their businesses is the lack of management they have been able to retain since COVID,” Morrow added. 




Demand for higher wages is also posing challenges for small businesses, Morrow said.


Small businesses can’t find the right employees, he said, because qualified candidates are seeking opportunities at larger corporations that can pay higher salaries or offer better employment perks, he explained. 


Morrow is observing these trends through clients he works with at BDO Canada which offers accounting, advising and professional services to businesses. 

“Someone with 20 to 30 years of expertise in a field is now a highly sought after resource in this labour market and large companies will bid to have them,” Morrow said. “This leaves smaller companies with less competitive options to offer them.”




Another challenge driving business owners to sell is the steep cost of new technology used in business operations today, he added.


“We’re seeing a lot of owners who have been in business for years who are now simply unable or unwilling to invest in the technology needed to bring their companies up to speed. They either

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Small business owners balance rising costs with keeping customers happy: survey

Almost a third of Canadian small business owners raised prices by more than 10 per cent in 2022 to offset rising costs, a survey found — and the trend is continuing this year.

The survey by Ownr, a small business and legal management platform backed and operated by RBCx, found that so far in 2023, more than 23 per cent of small business owners have raised prices by more than 10 per cent.

“The two major concerns for entrepreneurs right now are both cash flow issues and then the backdrop of inflation,” said Derek Hopfner, chief revenue officer at Ownr.

Inflation has been moderating from last year’s highs, but remains elevated, with a reading of 4.3 per cent in March. Meanwhile, the Bank of Canada is holding interest rates high in its bid to fight inflation.

Some of the other pressures most acutely facing small firms right now are labour supply and cost, borrowing costs and supply chain issues, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business’ monthly Business Barometer index report.

Though it’s a difficult decision for a small-business owner to make, Hopfner said eventually entrepreneurs have to translate those concerns into higher prices.

“There is this kind of balance between what makes sense from a margin perspective as a business owner, and then making sure that you’re able to attract customers as well,” he said.

Hopfner said he’s seeing more people start businesses as a reaction to economic uncertainty so they can make additional income.

“It’s really interesting to see both if you’re operating the business already, how you react to (inflation), but what you might do if you’re not operating a business yet, and how you might choose entrepreneurship as a path for supplementary income,” he said.

Almost a quarter of the small business owners surveyed said they started their business as a way to make additional revenue, a number Ownr said is increasing from previous surveys.

Natasha Acuba-Bailey is one of many entrepreneurs whose side hustle has turned into their full-time job. Acuba-Bailey launched Burnaby, B.C.-based Telly’s Manila Kitchen in 2020, selling jarred adobo flakes, a Filipino food, featuring her grandmother’s recipe.

At the beginning of 2022, Acuba-Bailey decided to leave her job in retail and make Telly’s her main gig.

Since she took that leap, inflation has soared, sending the costs of materials and raw ingredients up with it. For example, she said the cost

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