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GM announces Oshawa assembly plant will close in 2019

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Thousands of General Motors assembly plant workers in Oshawa, Ont., halted production this morning before hearing the devastating news that the automaker plans to close the facility in 2019.

It’s not clear how many of the 2,500 employees will lose their jobs as part of a global restructuring move to lower carbon emissions and prepare for a future of electric and autonomous vehicles, but GM confirmed the closure Monday of the plant, which is about 60 kilometres east of Toronto, and said it is exploring options to retool the facility.  

Unifor, the union representing autoworkers in Oshawa, said late Sunday it has not heard “complete details of the overall announcement,” but was told no vehicles are set to be assembled at the facility past December 2019.

“Based on commitments made during 2016 contract negotiations, Unifor does not accept this announcement and is immediately calling on GM to live up to the spirit of that agreement,” the statement read, noting that contract negotiations were slated for 2020. 

The union will hold talks with GM on Monday afternoon. Premier Doug Ford is also expected to comment on the situation when he’s at Queen’s Park before noon.

The Detroit-based automaker had been quiet on the expected move since news broke Sunday evening.

But GM chairman and CEO Mary Barra revealed during a morning news conference in Detroit that it would be terminating production at the Oshawa facility, along with two other complexes in Detroit and Warren, Ohio. 

“This industry is changing very rapidly and we want to make sure we’re well positioned,” Barra told reporters, noting the automaker will be focusing on its future through investment in autonomous and electric vehicles. 

GM has yet to set a timetable for the production halt at the Oshawa plant, but confirmed it will take place sometime in 2019.

Workers inside the plant stopped production shortly before 9 a.m. ET. 

Zachary Way, a new hire at the plant, was among those who walked off the production line in protest and is now anxiously awaiting a 2 p.m. meeting with the union.

Way told CBC News that the company has told him “basically nothing” at this point, although he’s already fearing the worst. If he is laid off, “it’ll be bad,” he said.

Way’s father and brother also work at the Oshawa plant, which he likened to the heart of the city. If it shuts down, Way said, he’s not sure how Oshawa will recover. He likened an empty plant to an “open wound.”

Oshawa assembly plant

The Oshawa plant, where GM Canada has its headquarters, produces the Chevrolet Impala and the Cadillac XTS cars, the majority of which are shipped south of the border, along with the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks. 

The complex is one of three GM manufacturing facilities in Ontario, along with St. Catharines and Ingersoll. 

GM produces two cars, the Chevrolet Impala and the Cadillac XTS, at the Oshawa plant. (General Motors Canada)

The plant was headed for closure in June this year amid a slump in sales of passenger cars in North America, and specifically the U.S., for the two cars built in Oshawa.

In late 2017, GM Canada reported a 17.2 per cent year-over-year drop in vehicle sales, while Canadian year-to-year sales were up 13.6 per cent thanks to strong numbers earlier that year. 

Around the same time, the auto manufacturer restarted a truck assembly line and scaled back car production to address shifting American buyer preferences.

Last month, GM ramped up its cost-cutting efforts by offering buyouts to thousands of white-collar workers with 12 or more years of service in both Canada and the United States. 

The company has said it needs to be smaller to prepare for possible tougher times.

‘It’s going to affect the province’

The assembly plant has formed the backbone of Oshawa’s economy for more than 100 years. GM bought the plant in 1953 from McLaughlin Buicks, making it one of the biggest in the world. 

Initially, Oshawa Mayor John Henry had hoped news of the closure was “just a rumour,” but several hours after it made national headlines, he predicted “there’s more to this than what we know.”

“People are waiting for information. They want to know what their future is like,” he said. 

“They deserve to know the answers and what is going on.”

Henry, who worked at the facility as a teen, claims a sombre mood is now blanketing the city because the economic ripple effect will send shockwaves beyond its workers and their families. 

“This isn’t just about building cars,” he told CBC News on Monday, noting he had not yet spoken to anyone from GM.

“It’s going to affect the province, it’s going to affect the region.”

It’s going to change the spending habits in this community.– Oshawa Mayor John Henry

Dozens of auto-parts businesses, as well as the companies that supply them, will also be affected. A wide array of local businesses, such as restaurants and retailers in Oshawa, could also feel the effects of the shutdown.

GM workers have been good for Oshawa, Henry noted, raising millions of dollars for charity like the local United Way, even during hard economic times.

“It’s going to change the spending habits in this community,” he said.

“And we thought with the recent investments that General Motors had made, that this plant was going to continue to produce vehicles for a long period of time.” 

The Oshawa assembly plant, where GM Canada has its headquarters, produces the Chevrolet Impala and the Cadillac XTS cars, along with the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks. (Tijana Martin/Canadian Press)

Chris Buckley, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, said the move is “absolutely shameful” and that GM should treat its workers better.  

“General Motors should be disgusted on how they’re rewarding these members,” Buckley told CBC News. 

For every job at the assembly plant, he explains, an additional nine jobs are created in the community. 

“This is going to be absolutely devastating,” he said about the expected closure.

Oshawa NDP MPP Jennifer French also decried the looming closure, calling it a “callous decision that must be fought.”

“GM did not build Oshawa. Oshawa built GM,” French said in a statement on Sunday, noting the proposed layoffs would greatly impact workers and their families. 

“Words cannot fully describe the anxiety that my community is feeling at this moment.”

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Real Estate

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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Real Estate

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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