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Failed bidder files trade challenge against Ottawa’s frigate design pick

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The federal government’s decision to select a group of companies led by Lockheed Martin Canada to design and support the construction of the navy’s new frigates is now facing a trade challenge, on top of a Federal Court challenge filed last week.

Alion Science and Technology Corp. and its subsidiary, Alion Canada, have asked the Canadian International Trade Tribunal to look into the procurement deal. They’re telling the tribunal that Lockheed Martin’s design will need substantial changes to meet the federal government’s requirements, which would mean higher costs and more delays.

The company last week separately asked the Federal Court for a judicial review and an order quashing the decision, which saw Public Services and Procurement Canada select Lockheed Martin Canada as the preferred bidder on the $60 billion program.

Alion pitched the De Zeven Provinciën Air Defence and Command (LCF) frigate, a Dutch-designed warship that is already in service in other countries.

More delays?

Depending upon how they play out, said defence procurement expert Dave Perry, both challenges have the potential to further delay the frigate program. Federal procurement officials had hoped to nail down a fully fledged design contract with Lockheed Martin by the winter.

Perry, who works with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said he expects those negotiations to continue — unless the Federal Court orders them to halt.

“Unless there is a compelling reason to stop, they are going to keep going,” he said. “There is a recognition of the urgency across the board.”

That urgency is partly due to the program’s legacy of delays, which have stretched the design competition out for almost two years.

Public Services and Procurement Canada would not comment on the matter because it is before the courts, but a senior official, speaking on background Thursday, said the federal government has up to 20 days to respond to the court challenge.

The official — who was not authorized to speak on the record because of the sensitivity of the file — said there is flexibility built into the timeline and the government is optimistic it can meet its goal of an early 2019 contract signing.

Perry said there are aspects of both the court challenge and the application to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal that he finds puzzling.

Alion claimed in its court filing that the winning bid was “incapable of meeting three critical mandatory requirements” of the design tender.

Speed bump

The company said, for instance, that the Type 26 cannot meet the mandatory speed requirements set out by the navy and that both Public Services and Procurement Canada and Irving Shipbuilding, the yard overseeing the construction, should have rejected the bid outright.

Perry said the criteria cited by Alion were among the first the federal government evaluated.

“The rest of Lockheed Martin’s bid wouldn’t have been looked at if the Crown and Irving was not satisfied that the bid met each of those [initial] criteria,” he said. “It’s a weird dynamic.”

Alion’s trade tribunal application argues in considerable detail that in order for the Type 26 to meet Ottawa’s speed requirement, it will have to undergo considerable redesign.

The court application also cites the fact that the design tender was amended 88 times and those changes “effectively diluted the [warship] requirements” and allowed the government and Irving to select “an unproven design platform.”

Unlike its two competitors, the Type 26 has yet to enter service with the Royal Navy. Competitors have privately knocked it as “paper ship.”

Navantia, a Spanish-based company, was the other bidder in the competition.

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7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary

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

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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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10 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers

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Buying a home for the first time is exciting and a commitment to the future. It’s often challenging, too, and the process requires a lot of steps, many of which can be tricky to navigate as a first-time home buyer.

What are some things you should keep in mind as a first-time home buyer?

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward homeownership.

1. Have Your Finances in Order

It’s wise to begin saving as early as possible once you’ve made the decision to purchase a house. You’ll need to consider the down payment, closing costs (which often range from 2% to 5% of the down payment), as well as move-in expenses.

You also need to understand the other costs of homeownership, such as mortgage insurance. property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and more.

2. How Much Can You Afford?

Knowing how much you can realistically afford in a home is another important financial consideration. Look for the home of your dreams that fits your budget.

One way to avoid future financial stress is to set a price range for your home that fits your budget, and then staying within that range. Going through the preapproval process will help you understand what price range is realistic for your budget.

3. Make Sure Your Credit is Good

Another thing to keep in mind as a first-time home buyer is your credit score because it determines whether you qualify for a mortgage and affects the interest rate that lenders offer. 

You can check your credit score from the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

This is another good reason for getting preapproved before you start your search. Learn more about the preapproval process and your credit score.

4. Choose The Right Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent guides you through the process every step of the way. He or she will help you find a home that fits your needs, help you through the financial processes, and help ease any first-time buyer anxiety you may have.

Interview several agents and request references.

5. Research Mortgage Options

A variety of mortgages are available, including conventional mortgages – which are guaranteed by the government – FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans (for veterans).

You’ll also have options regarding the mortgage term. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is popular among many homebuyers and has an interest rate that doesn’t change over the course of the loan. A 15-year loan usually has a lower interest rate but monthly payments are larger.

6. Talk to Multiple Lenders

It’s worth your time to talk to several lenders and banks before you accept a mortgage offer. The more you shop around, the better deal you’re liable to get – and it may save you thousands of dollars.

7. Get Preapproved First

Getting a mortgage preapproval (in the form of a letter) before you begin hunting for homes is something else to put on your checklist. A lender’s preapproval letter states exactly how much loan money you can get.

Learn more about the preapproval process and how preapproval provides you with a significant competitive advantage in our article How Preapproval Gives You Home Buying Power.

8. Pick the Right House and Neighborhood

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of homes based on your budget, lifestyle, etc. Would a condominium or townhome fit your needs better than a house? What type of neighborhood appeals to you?

9. List Your Needs and Must-Haves

The home you purchase should have as many of the features you prefer as possible. List your needs in order of priority; some things may be non-negotiable to you personally.

10. Hire an Inspector

Hiring an inspector is another crucial step in the home buying process. An inspector will tell you about existing or potential problems with the home, and also what’s in good order. You can learn more about home inspections and how to find a home inspector through the American Society of Home Inspectors website.

Buying a home for the first time is a challenge, but it’s one you can handle with the right planning and preparation.

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