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Culinary tourism hobbled by taxes, labour shortages, says internal report

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The Liberal government’s grand plan to make Canada a “culinary destination” for foreign tourists — think poutine or potted moose — is getting some turbulence from restaurant owners.

Internal consultations with restauranteurs show they’re bristling over a new federal alcohol tax and struggling with shortages of uniquely Canadian food items that tend to be produced for export.

They also complain they can’t keep good workers because the industry pays low wages. They’re calling on Ottawa to ease immigration rules to bring in more foreign workers willing to accept low wages.

An internal federal report on making Canada a culinary destination for international tourists says too many of our finest foods, such as Malpeque oysters from P.E.I., are exported, leaving little for consumption at home.

“The precariousness of many restaurants’ business models meant that they were forced to keep their staff on minimum wage,” says a summary of the consultations, obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act.

“Participants wanted the government to look again at putting in place a more favourable visa regime until the longer-term challenge of boosting the appeal of work in the food sector to Canadians could be met.”

The findings are part of a $59,212 report delivered last month by Vancouver-based Twenty31 Consulting Inc. to the tourism branch of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (formerly Industry Canada).

Twenty31 conducted in-depth “roundtables” with 43 experts in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax to get input on what the sector needs to boost culinary tourism. It’s part of a five-year tourism plan first announced by the Liberal government in May 2017.

Railing against taxes

The groups railed against taxes on restaurants — particularly an “escalator” tax on alcohol introduced in the 2017 federal budget, which bumps up the excise tax on beer, wine and spirits automatically by the rate of inflation each year.

“They felt that restaurants faced significant fixed costs, with a range of taxes on small business, as well as excise duties that created major cost pressures for them,” says the internal report.

“Participants in Toronto lamented the fact that all levels of government had so far been unresponsive to lobbying by the industry and (were) unwilling to consider looking at costs like the escalator excise tax and other small business charges.”

Beaver tails, a kind of sweet or savoury pastry. The Liberal government wants to build culinary tourism in Canada, but is being warned that it must ease visa rules to allow more restaurant workers willing to accept low wages into the country.

Many also told the roundtables they had difficulty getting access to iconic Canadian foods, such as Malpeque oysters from P.E.I., because so much is exported — and suggested imposing quotas to keep some supplies at home.

“There was widespread regret that overseas demand — and particularly from the Far East, and particularly for fish and seafood — meant Canadian produce was not as plentiful in its home country as it should be,” says the document.

“… the government should be willing to look into setting quotas to ensure that people in Canada continue to have access to it, with one suggestion of a quota of 25 (per cent) of seafood being reserved for the local market.”

The roundtable participants said the typical profit margin earned by restaurants — just four per cent — makes them unable to pay most workers more than minimum wage, which leads to heavy turnover and labour shortages.

… the government should be willing to look into setting quotas …– Food industry experts suggest in a consultation that Ottawa should set local quotas on iconic Canadian food products to prevent them from all being exported

Some pointed to Australia as a model. There, the government has built up culinary tourism partly by mandating a high national minimum wage, along with standard service charges on restaurant bills. The resulting higher meal costs are mitigated by bring-your-own-bottle policies, with a nominal corkage fee charged by restaurants when patrons bring their own wine.

“People felt this model had promise and should be investigated,” says the document. Such a policy would be at odds with the position taken by the lobby group Restaurants Canada, which has opposed higher minimum wage levels in Ontario and Alberta.

Participants also complained about interprovincial trade barriers preventing access to regional craft beer, cider and wine, highlighting the jurisdictional issues that afflict tourism policy in Canada as provinces set their own tax and labour policies.

Canada not on foodies’ radar

The Twenty31 report acknowledges that “Canada as a country is not currently on the radar as a culinary tourism brand or destination, nor does food and drink rank high on the list as a reason to choose Canada as a destination …”

But the consultant’s recommendations for boosting food tourism are blacked out in the version released to CBC News.

A spokesperson for Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Hans Parmar, said officials there are still analyzing the report’s recommendations.

Tourism Minister Mélanie Joly is developing a new visitors policy that will include measures to boost culinary tourism. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Marlee Wasser of Restaurants Canada said the group is pressing Finance Minister Bill Morneau to include money for a culinary tourism strategy in his spring budget.

“Previous budgets and throne speeches highlighted the importance of culinary tourism to the integrity of the Canadian brand, but no funding or initiatives have been proposed (or) discussed with the food service industry,” says the pre-budget submission for 2019-2020.

The department says tourism generates about two per cent of Canada’s GDP, supporting 1.8 million jobs. The Liberal minister of tourism, Mélanie ​Joly, recently announced an advisory council on the visitor economy. The government also has set as a short-term goal a doubling in the number of visitors from China and a 30 per cent increase in international overnight visits by all foreign tourists by 2021.

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Window repair or replacement is the responsibility of the condo corporation

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If the windows in your condo are hazy, drafty, or have rotting frames, it’s an indicator that they need repairs or outright replacement.

However, under the Condominium Act, it is the responsibility of the condo’s board to carry out such changes as a replaced window is a common element.

“Under the Condominium Act, a declaration may alter the maintenance or repair obligations of unit owners and the corporation but cannot make unit owners responsible for repairs to the common elements,” said Gerry Hyman is a former president of the Canadian Condominium Institute and contributor for the Star.

“A declaration for a high-rise condominium invariably provides that the unit boundary is the interior surface of windows. That means that the entire window — whether it is a single pane or a double pane — is a common element. Necessary repairs or replacement of a broken pane is the obligation of the corporation.”

According to Consumer Reports, selecting an installing windows replacement can be very overwhelming for homeowners. Therefore, if you aren’t covered by your condo’s corporation, it would be necessary to hire professional hands.

Wood, vinyl and composite windows need to be tested on how they can withstand various natural elements. For wind resistance, a window can be very tight when it’s warm but get quite cold too—especially when it begins to leak a lot.

Whatever the case may be, the bottom line remains that replacement windows can save you heating and cooling costs, but it’s best not to expect drastic savings.

Additionally, while getting a new window might help you save on your electric and gas bills, due to their expensive cost, it may take a long time to offset their cost.

Mid-last-year, the government withdraw a $377 million Green Ontario program that provided subsidy on windows to installers and repairers. Window companies had to install energy-efficient windows in order to qualify for the government subsidy that pays for up to $500 of a $1,000 to $1,500 window.

Due to the largely generous subsidies from the government under the Green Ontario program, a lot of window dealers were fully booked for months—even after the program had ended.

“We’re fine with the program ending, we just need more time to satisfy consumers,” said Jason Neal, the executive director of the Siding and Window Dealer Association of Canada, the industry group representing window dealers in a report.

According to Neal, the Progressive Conservatives acted hastily, making massive changes with no prior notice.

“No notification was given to us by anyone,” he said, noting he learned about the change through one of his dealers.

“It’s created a ripple effect.If they had just given us notice we would have pushed that down the line from the manufacturer right into the dealer right down to the consumer.”

Neal noted that he wasn’t particularly sad to see the Green Ontario program end, as it was “the worst rebate program in the history of the window industry.”

“It’s been horrible,” he said. “$500 a window has created such hysteria.”

However, despite the program ending about a year ago, numerous homeowners have been contacting window dealers consistently with concerns that they might not be able to afford replacement windows without the government’s subsidy.

“I understand their concern,” said window dealer Chris George. “I would suggest they reach out to their local representative of the government in their riding and let them know about their concerns.”

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7 Vancouver Real Estate Buying Tips

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The real estate market in Vancouver is turning around for good for everyone looking to purchase a home.

Previously soaring prices are now beginning to ease up, making it a perfect time for buyers—with real estate agents already getting ready for a very busy spring and summer season.

However, before splashing cash on a new property, there are some very important tips you need to know to ensure you make the most of the buyer’s market.

Here are some few expert tips that would guide you when purchasing a home in the sometimes frustration Vancouver seller’s market.

  1. Get adequate financing

It is very important that before you make the move to purchase a property, you put into careful consideration your credit score.

Normally, home buyers with lower scores use the secondary mortgage market to finance their purchase, as they’re more likely to pay a higher interest rate.However, it is advisable to get loan approval long before purchasing the house. This way, you are fully aware of how much you are able to spend—but never be tempted to borrow the maximum amount of money available.

“What’s your mortgage payment that you’re comfortable with? And take into the fact the taxes you’re going to have to pay, if it’s a strata – what the maintenance fees are, if it’s a home what type of maintenance are you going to have to pay in the future?” said Phil Moore, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver in a report.

Always be careful of the type of loan you secure and ensure that you can comfortably afford it over a long period of time.

  1. Get a real estate agent

Buying a property without professional help is a very risky move and can be likened to choosing to represent yourself in court without a lawyer. While you might trust your negotiation skills, only realtors are permitted to present offers directly.

Therefore, it is necessary to get a professional real estate agent in the area to represent you. So, screen a few agents and select the best one who has in-depth knowledge of the markets and has a great reputation.

“They’re there to protect you. They’re there to walk you through each step of the process,” Moore said.

  1. Sign up for automated alerts

Most—if not all—realtors have access to the Vancouver real estate board’s database which is updated approximately two days before the public MLS website.

Therefore, you can request from your realtor to sign you up for automatic real-time alerts of all new listings. Doing this gives you an edge as you’re among the very first to know about new properties.

  1. Do a thorough inspection

After receiving an alert for a new listing, it is necessary to push almost immediately for an inspection from your realtor. In this current market, buyers now have time to make an inspection.

Making a quick inspection eliminates any surprises—as there could be major maintenance or repair issues that could spring up. Therefore, you can now table your offer based on the outcome of the inspection, with clauses about claiming your damage deposit back if everything isn’t as was advertised.

Additionally, if you notice that renovations were done, you need to be sure that it was permitted work and carried out appropriately. Failing to do this would ultimately lead to further cost down the line and simultaneously affect the resale value.

  1. Have a back-up plan

There’s always the possibility that everything may not go as smoothly as you’d want. From the inspection being a failureto the property not living up to your expectations—or not being able to agree on the closing date that matches with your needs.

However, a professional real estate agent will definitely help you get past all of these things. If you plan on selling the property as you buy, you can table that and make it part of the deal.

“You’ve got an option, especially in a buyer’s market: you can put in an offer subject to selling your place. So maybe you want to have a place lined up,” Moore added.

Additionally, building contingencies into your buying plan is necessary. Things such as unexpected delays in closing the deal, closing cost and moving costs that could result in added living expenses if that’s your permanent home.

  1. Don’t fall for the buyer frenzy

The Vancouver market buying frenzy that caused a serious climb in the prices a couple of years ago has ended. Thus, it is important not to get caught up in bidding wars with properties that have been deliberately under-priced—with the hope of initiating multiple offers.

“Some of the sellers have been on the market for over a year and they’re eager to sell. So what I’m saying to consumers is: you have a lot of choices, you’re in the driver’s seat, let’s go out and take a look at what’s available,” said Moore.

  1. Never be wary of multiple offers

When purchasing a property, don’t be afraid of multiple offers as you have the same opportunity as anybody else.

Typically, there are just a few offers below the asking price: a couple priced fully, and two or three above the asking price—depending on how close the fair market value is from the asking price.

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Do you know what kind of condo you’re buying?

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(NC) Condominiums can come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s important to know that not all condos are created equal when it comes to warranty coverage.

Whether you’re buying a condominium townhouse, loft-style two-bedroom or a high-rise studio, they are all classified as condominiums if you own your unit while at the same time share access (and the associated fees) for facilities ranging from pools and parking garages to elevators and driveways, otherwise known as common elements.

The most common types of condos are standard condominiums and common elements condominiums. The determination of how a condominium project is designated happens during the planning stage when the builder proposes the project and the municipality approves it.

When you’re in the market to buy, you need to know how your chosen condo is classified because it affects the warranty coverage under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Standard condominiums have warranty coverage for units and common elements, but common elements condominiums only have unit coverage.

How could this affect you as the owner? If your condo complex has underground parking and, for example, there are problems with leaks or a faulty door, the condo designation will determine whether there’s warranty coverage.

If your unit is a standard condominium development, then the common elements warranty may cover the repairs. If it’s a common element condominium development, then repairs might have to be covered by the condo corporation’s insurance, which could impact your condo fees or require a special assessment on all the owners.

To avoid surprises, you should have a real estate lawyer review the Declaration and Description attached to your purchase agreement to be sure that you know the designation and boundaries of the unit you’re looking to purchase. Find more information on the types of condos and their coverage at tarion.com.

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