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Liberals cut taxes, mend fences with Canadian businesses

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It probably shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that Canadian businesses are happy with the federal government’s fall economic update. Relations between Ottawa and the business community had been downright frosty. But billions in tax breaks should go a long way to warming things up a bit.

Businesses and the government initially found themselves at odds over proposed changes to the way businesses are taxed in this country. Just as the United States was bringing in a $1.5 trillion tax cut, Ottawa was accused of dramatically increasing the tax burden on enterprises here.

So, tax breaks on business investment are being heralded as much-needed good news for small business.

“We’ve seen some pretty good movement from the Canadian government in terms of making it cheaper for businesses to invest in the first year,” says Ted Mallett, vice-president and chief economist at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

A welder works in a factory in Quebec City in 2012. Now the Canadian economy is shifting from years of growth driven by consumer spending, and the Bank of Canada expects growth to come primarily from business investment and exports. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Very few expected Canada to match the American tax cut. Instead, lobby groups had called for targeted tax breaks, specifically around business investment. The new policy allows businesses that buy equipment or property to write off that investment more quickly. Mallett says this should help nudge business owners who have been reluctant to spend.

“They will now be able to write off three times as much as they normally would in the first year of that investment,” he says, “which may be enough to get them over the hump and buying that product or building that new building.”

The tax break comes at a time when the Canadian economy is shifting away from years of growth driven by consumer spending. Now, the Bank of Canada expects economic growth to come primarily from business investment and exports.

Worker Chris Rebelo at Automatic Coating is framed by a component for sulphur extraction at the company’s factory in Scarborough, Ont., in 2011. Energy still makes up a big chunk of Canada’s GDP, and when the oilpatch struggles, the rest of the country feels the pinch. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

The Business Council of Canada says that rotation underscores how important it was for the government to take real action to address that competitive gap. CEO Goldy Hyder says mere words would not have been enough.

“Taking no action would have led to some serious consequences as businesses move their capital investments to another market,” says Hyder. “So I think the government got the message, and I congratulate them on that piece of it.”

The one glaring area for concern among the broader business community is the prolonged running of deficits.

The election promise from the Liberal campaign was to run some modest deficits that would be brought under control by 2019. The government was hit by the enormous shock to oil prices in 2014-15. That pushed the deficit higher and extended it longer than expected.

Pumpjacks at work pumping crude oil. With oil prices collapsing and the differential on Canadian oil hitting all-time highs, a tax break on business investments won’t do much to help. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

Now, though, Ottawa is forecasting a $19 billion shortfall this fiscal year. That’s projected to fall to around $12 billion by 2022-23.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says the government has missed yet another opportunity to address the ballooning deficit.

“If they can’t even balance the budget in these good times, when will they ever be able to?” asked CTF federal director Aaron Wudrick.

As if to compound that criticism, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development released a report on the same day entitled Growth Has Peaked. The research paper says developed countries will have to carefully steer their economies toward sustainable but slower GDP growth.

Concerns like that will come as little surprise to people in Canada’s struggling energy sector.

Energy still makes up a big chunk of this country’s GDP. When the oilpatch struggles, the rest of Canada feels the pinch as well. And with oil prices collapsing and the differential on Canadian oil hitting all-time highs, a tax break on business investments won’t do much to help.

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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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