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Ottawa gives formal notice of back-to-work legislation in Canada Post dispute

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Federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu says the federal Liberals have given the House of Commons notice that they’re prepared to legislate Canada Post employees back to work.

Hajdu says 48 hours’ notice is required before introducing back-to-work legislation, but insisted that having done so doesn’t mean the government will make the move to end rotating strikes by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

“We have complete flexibility about when we’ll introduce that legislation,” Hajdu told reporters before the Liberal caucus meeting Wednesday morning.

I really don’t want to have to use back-to-work legislation, but this is a really busy time of year … and our economy needs Canada Post to be able to function in a smooth way.– Patty Hadju, federal labour minister

The government has also reappointed Morton Mitchnick as a special mediator in the labour battle and Hajdu said she’ll let him take the time he needs.

“We’ve given notice to the House, we are extremely serious, [but] I really don’t want to have to use back-to-work legislation,” said Hajdu. “But having said that, this is a really busy time of year, people are relying on Canada Post to deliver packages, small and medium-size businesses are relying on Canada Post to have a profitable season, and our economy needs Canada Post to be able to function in a smooth way.”

Canada Post is dealing with a fifth week of rotating strikes by thousands of unionized workers as both sides remain apart in contract negotiations.

Hajdu said the parties have already had a long time to work out a deal but she expects them to work hard over the next couple of days to reach an agreement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses possible back-to-work legislation during question period. 

PM Justin Trudeau says back-to-work legislation introduced yesterday will be used if the two sides in the Canada Post dispute can’t come to an agreement. 2:28

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers on Monday turned down an offer for a holiday cooling-off period and a possible $1,000 bonus for each of its 50,000 members, saying it would only mean postal employees continuing to work under the same conditions the union is trying to have changed.

When asked if she worries about potential criticism from New Democrats for ending the strikes with a law, Hajdu said she has to do what’s right for the country.

What’s changed since the last labour disruption?

The Canada Post of today that finds itself struggling through rotating strikes is a very different organization from the postal service that last saw labour disruptions.

Back in 2011, as the company faced a labour dispute that led to its first loss in 17 years, then-CEO Deepak Chopra unveiled a plan to restructure the centuries-old institution to adapt to major structural changes brought on by the internet, including both a plunge in letter mail and a rise in packages.

“Starting in 2007, letter volumes started to collapse like a stone,” said Ian Lee, an associate professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business in Ottawa, who has studied the Crown corporation.

“That was their bread and butter, their core business, and their most profitable. Vastly, by far their most profitable product was letter mail. They charged lots of money, and it cost very little to deliver it.”

Striking Canada Post workers keep their hands warm as they picket at a Toronto sorting facility Nov. 13. A mediator has been appointed by the federal labour minister to settle the dispute. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

By 2011, the Canada Post Group of Companies, which includes subsidiary Purolator Holdings Ltd., and others, was handling about 10 billion pieces of mail a year for a 1.8-billion drop from 2007.

Last year, total volume came in at 8.4 billion as the service has sustained a steady drop in its core business of transaction mail made of up letters, bills, statements, invoices and other paperwork that’s now gone digital.

In response, the company switched emphasis to its parcel service, which for years had stayed at a fairly stable level.

But the transition hasn’t been easy, said Lee, since unlike letter mail, parcel services have stiff competition from major international players like UPS and Fed Ex.

“People say, OK, well great, you lost one product line, you get another product line. It’s not that simple … this is a very competitive space; there is no monopoly.”

Still, a rapid rise in overall parcels being sent out to consumers has helped Canada Post record significant gains in the space.

Last year, parcel revenue came in at $2.1 billion, or about 33 per cent of Canada Post revenue, up from about $1.3 billion or 21 per cent of revenue in 2011.

Parcel volume has climbed from about 143 million packages in 2011 to 242 million last year for an almost 70 per cent increase.

In a 2016 annual report, Canada Post said it delivered nearly two-thirds of online orders by Canadians.

Canada Post, which for over 200 years was a protected monopoly of the state, is dying before our eyes, but the culture hasn’t caught up.– Ian Lee, business prof, Carleton University

Lee said the service has been competitive, offering somewhat cheaper rates than private operators, but it’s been saddled with labour costs, a large pension obligation, and a culture slow to change.

“Canada Post, which for over 200 years was a protected monopoly of the state, is dying before our eyes, but the culture hasn’t caught up,” he said.

Idle Canada Post trucks sit in the parking lot of the Saint-Laurent sorting facility in Montreal, on Nov. 15. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Pivoting has been hampered by difficult labour relations, pension obligations, as well as the structure of the service itself, said Malcolm Bird, associate professor of political science at the University of Winnipeg.

“They’ve got difficult labour relations, political interference in their operations, they’ve got to deliver mail to everywhere regardless of the cost, so there may be a few little advantages, but I suspect they would be far outweighed by their public service role.”

Universal service costs more

A government discussion paper noted that labour costs are about 41 per cent higher than comparable businesses in the private sector.

Canada Post has to deliver to every address in Canada, but the number of addresses are increasing while each customer is using the service less. Parcel deliveries is a way to offset some of its costly obligations, said Bird.

“Canada Post, in raw political terms, it provides mail and package delivery services to rural and small town Canada, and the North, places where private companies provide limited service, if at all.”

A striking Canada Post worker walks the picket line in front of the Saint-Laurent facility, on Nov. 15. Companies have been using the strikes to encourage customers to switch to online billing. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The requirements of delivery are what pushed the service into the community mailbox program and away from door-to-door delivery, a move that was expected to save about $400 million a year before the Trudeau government shelved the plan.

Despite steady declines of between four and eight per cent per year, letter mail still provides the bulk of Canada Post’s revenues. Last year, transactional mail pulled in $2.9 billion to make up 45 per cent of revenue, down from $3.2 billion or 54 per cent in 2011. Advertising, or direct marketing mail, makes up the other main segment for the service at $1.1 billion in revenue last year.

The strike threatens its core business further, since companies have been using it to encourage more people to switch to digital, said Bird.

“Every single company that still provides paper letters, paper bills to people, is trying to use these rotating strikes to make even more people go on to electronic bills and get rid of paper.”

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Canadian Homeowners: Meet the Costs of Window Replacement Projects

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Various factors could lead you to consider replacing your windows. However, there are multiple factors to think of that would affect the costs of this project. On average, a window replacement project could cost anywhere from $500 to upwards of $2000. The price is significantly affected by factors such as the design, materials used, and how energy efficient you would like your windows to be.

There are various types of windows to choose from. Understandably, the costs to replace your current window would depend on the kind of window you would like to replace it with.

It is essential to keep in mind that although there are different designs when it comes to windows, you need to take into account the functionality as well. Several types of windows may look suitable for your home but are actually not right for what you need.

Unless you are more concerned with the aesthetic of a window, you should understand what the different types of windows are best used for. To properly understand what makes each window type different, you should be familiar with the term sashes.

Simply put, window sashes are the part that holds the window in place. Depending on the type of window you get, the sash may allow for manoeuvrability or may simply be there to keep your window on the wall.

Moving on, there are several types of windows to choose from. This may all look confusing at first, and you may be tempted to select the best looking one, but you have to put into consideration the functionality of the window.

Unless you’re okay with having a poorly ventilated home or one that is continuously cold because of your window, thorough research and consideration should go into the choosing process.

The thing to remember is that you have to take the process one step at a time. You might feel overwhelmed and indeed, being overwhelmed is not something that will benefit you at all.

So what should you do now? The first stride you need to take when considering a window replacement project is to choose the replacement window. There are various types to choose from. However, it would do you good to consider the six most in-demand window styles first.

Double-hung windows are perhaps the most common choice. The benefits extend to it being easily operable and quick to clean. It operates using two sashes. Both sashes are manoeuvrable and provide you with a top or bottom opening at your choosing.

Single-hung windows are slightly different. Although they operate on generally the same principle, the most significant difference is that one of the sashes is stationary and cannot be moved. One of the sashes usually located at the top is fixed and cannot be moved while the bottom sash can be manoeuvred either upward or downward to allow for air. The benefit of a single-hung window is its ability to decrease the chances of air infiltrating your home. This ultimately means that single-hung windows are incredibly energy efficient.

Casement windows are the optimal choice if you’re looking for ventilation. It operates using one sash and is manoeuvrable through a crank that allows you to swing it open in one direction—usually outward. In addition to its superior ventilation properties, you are also able to enjoy a full and unobstructed view of your surroundings.

Slider windows are perfect if you’re looking for something that requires little to no effort to manoeuvre. Due to its aesthetic and design properties, slider windows are great additions if you would like to have plenty of natural light in the room. It operates using two sashes that allow you to manoeuvre it horizontally, mostly sliding the window from side to side.

Bay windows are an ideal design choice if you would like something that not only looks aesthetically pleasing but also allows for excellent ventilation and natural light. Bay windows are certainly aesthetically pleasing. However, they are also perfect for larger rooms where you would like to bring in a certain amount of outdoor life.

Awnings are generally recommended for areas with damp weather. The easiest way to describe it would be to imagine a casement window that has a top opening instead of side openings. This type of window is perfect if you are looking to add a modern and chic feel to your home.

Now that you have selected the type of window you would like to put into your home, it is time to consider what material to use. There are various options ranging from vinyl to aluminum. Understandably, the costs will vary depending on the type of material you choose.

The best thing to do to ensure that you are making the right choice is to contact a professional in window replacement. The right professional will have all the answers to your replacement windows FAQ.

Contacting an expert not only ensures you make the right choices for your home, but it also guarantees that your window will be installed appropriately and as quickly as possible.

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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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