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How the U.S. midterm elections could shake up Canadian business: Don Pittis





Canadians who thought political and economic turmoil south of the border had reached a peak may be in for a surprise after tomorrow’s midterm elections.

Until all the votes are counted, no one can be sure where the chips will fall, but there is increasing evidence that President Donald Trump’s Republican Party could lose control of the House of Representatives.

Anti-Trump Canadians may be breathing a sigh of relief at the prospect, but some Canadian policy experts say a Democratic win is not necessarily better for the Canadian economy or Canadian business.

And even if the Republicans manage to hold on to both the House and the Senate, the increasing clash of ideologies stoked by the bitter campaign could create lasting divisions that will continue to plague Canada-U.S. economic relations.

Clashing ideologies

Those who find the current election process confusing would do well to read CBC Washington correspondent Matt Kwong’s “primer on why November’s elections matter.”

But the shorter version is that in an already fractured U.S. political system, there is a good chance the body that passes the laws — the House of Representatives — will flip from Republican to Democratic Party control and thus be in direct opposition to Trump’s executive branch, which runs the country and enforces the laws.

A nation, even households divided. Campaign signs for both a Republican and a Democratic Party candidate on the same front lawn in Chatham, N.J. (Nancy Lapid/Reuters)

If that outcome actually materializes, with the Democrats in control of the House and the Republicans the Senate, historian and former Canadian trade negotiator Michael Hart says there would be little chance of compromise between the two bodies.

“In earlier days, until about the 1980s, it was possible for Democrats and Republicans to form a coalition and pass legislation,” says Hart, Carleton University’s former Simon Reisman Chair in trade policy and author of A Trading Nation: Canadian Trade Policy from Colonialism to Globalization.

No centrist left

He says we should expect another budget impasse, and with a swollen deficit and the prospect of social service cuts to balance the accounts, there will be little room for coaxing centrist Democrats onside with new costly initiatives, including the mooted middle class tax cuts.

In an integrated North American economy, not knowing whether U.S. spending is on or off can make a big difference to Canadian suppliers, too. U.S. spending and borrowing policy affects bond rates and the value of the dollar.  

“There may be centrist legislators left but they dare not admit it,” says Hart, who believes Democrats are raring for a fight.

“If Congress does go Democratic and they select Nancy Pelosi again, you have someone who,” Hart pauses, “lacks wisdom, let’s put it that way.”

Democratic supporters would no doubt beg to differ, but the discord that Hart predicts could spell the end of not only any future pro-Trump legislation, but also the end of the new U.S-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) that Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has been struggling over since Trump threatened to throw out the North America Free Trade Agreement.

After more than a year of negotiating, the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement was finally reached. But experts say a divided Congress might fail to approve it. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)

“Now that we have this replacement agreement, it’s not a sure thing it will pass through Congress,” Hart says.

Besides the possibility anti-Trump Democrats see USMCA as the president’s baby, Hart says the new deal is actually more restrictive on trade than NAFTA.

Oddly enough, the effect of rejecting USMCA would be to keep NAFTA in place. But University of Saskatchewan public policy expert Daniel Béland, who has worked and studied in the U.S., says that ostensible trade continuity may be of little reassurance to business if it merely raises the ire of Trump and his supporters.

He says the inflamed rhetoric of the campaign is pulling the two sides into more radical opposition, adding to the business uncertainty of where the U.S. goes next. 

“It’s really a division that’s not just political anymore,” says Béland, Canada Research Chair in public policy. “You watch MSNBC and Fox News and you think you live on two different planets.”

He is worried that growing anger over issues such as immigration and trade could exacerbate the kind of violence we have already seen, as each side speaks exclusively to its own supporters, leading to yet greater uncertainty. In the case of Trump, unlike in the campaign that elected him, he does not have Hillary Clinton as a focus for his attacks.

“His foe is quite abstract,” Béland says. “It’s liberals or immigrants or specific target groups.”

And with a Democrat-controlled House, frustration could push more zealous Trump devotees into greater extremism against their adversaries, real or imagined.

Oil and gas backlash

Another area where Canadian business interests could suffer is on environmental issues, says Bessma Momani, a specialist in financial and foreign policy at Waterloo’s Balsillie School of International Affairs.

Appealing to a more environmentally conscious, urban electorate, a Democratic House could lead to a backlash against Canadian oil and gas projects, including the oilsands and pipelines such as Keystone, which are necessary to get Canadian oil to market.

“I think there’s a risk there,” Momani says.

U.S. President Donald Trump at a rally in Illinois last week. Intense rhetoric intended to galvanize his base could be exacerbating the political divide in the U.S. (Al Drago/Reuters)

Of course, for many Canadians, increased environmentalism, including support on climate change and automobile fuel-efficiency standards, would be seen not as a risk but a benefit.

A less controversial positive outcome for Canada is that a Democratic majority could help defuse the U.S.’s growing trade conflict with China, which Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz has called one of the biggest risks to the Canadian economy.

Momani also says that increased Democratic power could mean Canada and the U.S. could move ahead on what’s called the “gender dividend,” where increasing the percentage of women in businesses is calculated to increase revenue by more than three per cent and boost an economy struggling from a shortage of talent.

She says the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, has been pushing the gender issue in the U.S. but has had little backing from the Republican administration or Congress. 

“There might even be, dare I say, bipartisan support.”

Follow Don on Twitter @don_pittis


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Real Estate

The cost of renovating your bathroom in Toronto in 2021





Home renovations can be a big task, especially bathroom renovations where you have to work with either an awkwardly shaped space, or one with lots of pipework and very little natural light.

Nonetheless, getting a bathroom renovation by Easy Renovation to change your existing bathroom layout, improve the ambience or add more natural skylights can be worth all the trouble. But determining how much a bathroom renovation would cost is important while setting a budget.

The pandemic has changed a lot of things with social distancing rules, working from home, and for some, being made redundant. Therefore, having a complete grasp of the financial implication of a bathroom innovation is very important.

Owning your dream bathroom can be made a reality and the good thing is, regardless of your financial situation, there are always available options. If you also decide to put up your property for sale in the future, a bathroom upgrade would be a great investment—as it would add significant value to the property. Your bathroom renovation project, like every home renovation, can either be very affordable or extravagant, but one thing is certain, you’re bound to have a more refreshed, stylish and modernistic space.  

Looking through detailed sketches of luxurious and expensive bathrooms can be quite tempting, especially when you’re on a budget. However, your bathroom can be equally transformed into something that looks just as modern, stylish and refreshing but without the heavy price tag.

Conducting a partial bathroom renovation means you only have to change a little part of your existing bathroom rather than tearing it down and starting from scratch. If you intend to carry out this type of bathroom renovation in Toronto, depending on the size of your bathroom, you can spend between $1,000 – $5,000. With a partial bathroom renovation, you can save money by tackling smaller problems that exist in your present bathroom—or you can just upgrade a few of its features.

Partial bathroom renovations are quite affordable and would leave your bathroom feeling new and stylish without being time-consuming or a financial burden—which is important considering the economic impact of the pandemic. Repainting the bathroom walls, replacing the tiles on the floor and in the shower area are examples of partial bathroom renovations which is the cheapest to accomplish.

A more expensive and popular bathroom renovation is the standard 3- or 4-piece renovation. This renovation type involves a lot more services that are not covered by a partial renovation budget. To execute a standard bathroom renovation in Toronto you need a budget of about $10,000 – $15,000.

Unlike with a partial renovation, you would have to make a lot more changes to various elements of your bathroom without the hassle of changing the overall design. You can easily restore your current bathroom into a modernistic and classy space that fits your existing style. Making changes to more aspects of your bathroom is quite easy since there is more room in your budget to accommodate it.

A standard 3- or 4-piece renovation includes everything in a partial renovation plus extras such as revamped baseboards, installing a new bathroom mirror, buying new lights, installing a new vanity, changing the toilet, and buying new shower fixtures.

If you’re one of those looking to make a complete overhaul of your existing bathroom, then the option of a complete bathroom remodel is for you.

Unlike a bathroom renovation, remodelling means a complete change of your current bathroom design and layout for one that is newer and completely unrecognizable. The possibilities when remodelling a bathroom are endless especially when you have a large budget of over $15,000. That way, you can get the opportunity to create the perfect bathroom for yourself.

In addition to all that’s available with a standard bathroom renovation, bathroom remodelling allows you to make bathtub to shower conversion, relocation of plumbing, relocation of the toilet, reframing the bathroom and even relocating the shower.

In conclusion, a bathroom renovation can be a very important upgrade to your home and depending on the features that you decide to include, in addition to the size of your bathroom, this would influence the total cost of the project.

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Real Estate

7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary





Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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Real Estate

‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market





The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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