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Alberta launches trade challenge against Ontario over beer, liquor imports

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Alberta is launching a trade challenge against Ontario over liquor policies that allegedly discriminate against Alberta’s small brewers. 

“It doesn’t make sense that it’s easier to sell Alberta beer in Tokyo than in Toronto,” Alberta Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous said Monday. 

“We are asking for equitable market access in Ontario so Alberta’s liquor producers can benefit the same way Ontario’s producers do by selling their product in Alberta.”

The action is under the Canadian Free Trade Agreement. It comes after Ontario-based Steam Whistle Brewing and Saskatchewan-based Great Western Brewing Company successfully challenged Alberta in court over the graduated markup schemes for small brewers first announced in 2015 and rolled back in 2016.

Alberta contends its open liquor market makes it harder for the province’s small craft brewers to compete against larger out-of-province breweries, so it provided them subsidies to help them compete.

Alberta is targeting Ontario because that province has the largest liquor market in Canada. Bilous said Ontario’s import policies are the most restrictive.

The Alberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis commission (AGLC) lists 745 Ontario products among the 3,700 available in Alberta liquor stores. By contrast, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) lists only 20 Alberta products.  

Bilous said he has talked to other provincial trade ministers about switching to an open liquor market like Alberta but says they are reluctant to change anything. 

Neil Herbst, co-owner of Alley Kat Brewing and chairman of the Alberta Small Brewers Association, supports Alberta’s decision to lay a trade complaint. He said his members have tried with little success to get their products on the shelves of liquor stores in other provinces. 

Herbst said other provinces, particularly Ontario, apply higher storage and receiving fees to out-of-province wine, beer and liquor. 

In one case, the LCBO charged Alley Kat $400 in lab fees to assess the safety of $1,600 worth of beer, even though breweries across Canada follow the same federal food safety guidelines. 

“Any time you think you can get in or think you have some insight can get into the province, something new is applied,” he said. 

Alberta Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous announced the trade complaint against Ontario Monday at Edmonton brewery Blind Enthusiasm. (CBC ) 

CBC News has reached out to the LCBO and the Ontario government for comment. 

Also Monday, the government said it was cancelling the Alberta Small Brewers Development Program on Dec. 15 to comply with a trade ruling in June that found it contravened the Agreement on Internal Trade.

Small brewers to pay lower markups

In its place, Alberta will impose a graduated markup ranging from 10 cents to 60 cents a litre for brewers that produce under 50,000 hectolitres a year. Brewers will be able to apply for a lower markup based on their production, regardless of where they are from. 

Finance Minister Joe Ceci, who is responsible for the AGLC, said the development program has grown the province’s fledgling craft brewing industry. But it has run afoul of inter-provincial trade agreements. 

In June, a three-person panel ruled that the program violated the provincial trade agreement. Alberta was given six months to amend or repeal the program. The ruling was the result of a complaint lodged two years ago by Calgary beer importer Artisan Ales Consulting Ltd.

In October 2015, the Alberta government introduced a lower markup for beers produced by smaller brewers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous and Blind Enthusiasm Brewing’s Greg Zeschuk say Ontario’s liquor policies are unfair to Albertan craft breweries 0:44

The province rolled back the policy in August 2016, instituting a markup of $1.25 a litre for all beer. At the same time, it introduced a rebate for Alberta craft brewers, known as the Alberta Small Brewers Development program, to help the craft beer industry in the province.

Artisan Ales alleged both measures put the company at a disadvantage and caused a significant drop in sales.

The government says there are 137 craft breweries and liquor distilleries in Alberta. 

Herbst said there were only 10 members when ASBA was established in 2013. Alberta now has 99 small brewers. 

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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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