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GM’s decision to close Oshawa plant raises fears for future of making cars in Canada

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The sudden announcement that General Motors will stop making cars in Oshawa, Ont. after next year sent shockwaves through the industry on Monday. The impact of GM’s move could extend far beyond the borders of the community east of Toronto that has been synonymous with auto manufacturing for the past 65 years.

Joe McCabe, CEO of Pennsylvania-based consultancy Auto Forecast Solutions, said the news caught him slightly by surprise, even if he’s had concerns over the plant’s future for the past number of years.

In its heyday, the Oshawa facility produced almost a million cars a year. Multiple shifts of workers used to crank out more than one type of vehicle every day when the plant was operating at full capacity.

But in recent years, output has been limited to two gas-powered sedans (the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac XTS) along with putting finishing touches on two trucks — the GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado — that came up to Canada after being primarily built at a plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

McCabe said Oshawa was mainly producing “orphan products” — vehicle types that the company doesn’t really want to keep making.

It was buried in Canada by the Oshawa news, but GM also announced it will stop making a number of car models entirely, primarily gas-powered sedans that are no longer selling much and aren’t very profitable even when they do.

By the time the changes are fully implemented, GM plans to reduce its global workforce by about 15 per cent. And the company said three quarters of its sales will come from just five different types of cars. 

(Scott Galley/CBC)

It’s part of a push by GM to invest in places it thinks can make more money — electric, autonomous vehicles, and larger trucks and SUVs with high profit margins.

“When you look at a crossover, or an SUV, or a light truck, they are highly profitable vehicles for these manufacturers,” McCabe said. “It’s more beneficial for them from a financial standpoint to build what the consumer wants.” 

One of the Oshawa plant’s biggest selling points was the flexibility of its assembly line, making it more nimble and attractive as a place to produce future models. While GM could theoretically have rejigged the plant to build different types of cars, that didn’t happen because the company has enough under-used factories elsewhere.

“There’s really no product to retool it for,” McCabe said. “They’d just be shipping from another underutilized plant [and] it would leave them with two.”

Independent automotive analyst Jon Gabrielsen said the Oshawa plant fell victim to forces that are impacting the entire industry.

He notes that the company didn’t just drop the axe on Oshawa, but also singled out two assembly plants in Detroit and Ohio, along with two propulsion plants in Maryland and Michigan.

The Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant also makes the Impala, “and they’re closing it too,” Gabrielsen notes. The closure of the Hamtramck facility is significant because it’s GM’s last car assembly plant in Detroit — a city even more associated with automaking than Oshawa.

“If they had only cut Oshawa I would say we should expect more shoes to fall because that’s not enough to realign your footprint,” Gabrielsen said. “They think they’re done now.”

The GM plant in Oshawa losing production of the Camaro was a sign of trouble ahead, Charlotte Yates said. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Charlotte Yates, principal investigator at McMaster University’s Automotive Policy Research Centre, said the last round of negotiations with GM’s union were the first hint that the Oshawa plant faced trouble. The company refused to commit to a new product for the plant, after moving Chevy Camaro production.

“That suggested [Oshawa] wasn’t part of the long term plan,” she said.

The loss of GM’s presence in Oshawa, if it comes to pass, will reverberate through Canada’s entire economy, but the impact will be most acute locally. “That plant is like the centre of a manufacturing ecosystem,” she said. “[It’s an] anchor of the economy [so] with that gone it’s a real disruption.”

Reason for optimism?

That’s not to suggest the industry in Canada is now doomed.

Oshawa may be the Canadian city most associated with auto making, but many others have major parts or assembly plants and their futures aren’t looking quite as bleak.

Ford’s assembly plant in Oakville, Ont., should be safe, Gabrielsen suggests “because it makes SUVs which Ford is keeping.” And GM also runs the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., where it makes the Equinox, another SUV.

“That’s right in the middle of the type of vehicles that they feel consumers are moving towards for the next five years,” he said, calling the plant’s future “pretty safe.”

Beyond the car companies themselves, Canada is home to a cornucopia of auto parts firms, most of whom are members of the Auto Parts Manufacturers’ Association, led by Flavio Volpe.

GM alone spends $3 billion a year on parts and tools from suppliers across Ontario, Volpe said, money that supports thousands of jobs beyond those working for GM itself.

GM’s moves on Monday stem from a desire to shift away from gas powered sedans and into big trucks and SUVs, plus fully electric vehicles such as the Chevy Bolt shown here. (General Motors)

GM “deciding there may not be a path forward in the Toronto region is going to be felt across the country,” he said. Areas of the industry that have gotten the most investment in recent years include anything to do with autonomous vehicles and electric-powered cars.

Barely two years ago, GM announced plans to hire up to 1,000 engineers at a new facility in Markham, Ont. to work on software that will control self-driving cars.

Volpe said Canada has the right mix of companies and skilled workers to see more investments like that — moves that can filter down to assembly line workers, too.

Regardless of what advanced technology those next generation cars have under the hood, “they still have doors, and windows, and engines and body panels,” Volpe said. “Somebody’s got to make them.”

While Canada still has a role to play as a link on the North American automotive supply chain, Gabrielsen said Monday’s news from GM should serve as a warning to anyone associated with the industry. Other companies may soon “have to make the same type of decisions which may or may not impact Canada,” he said.

For now, his advice to Canadian car workers is blunt: Even if you don’t work for GM, “you need to worry.”

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Real Estate

The cost of renovating your bathroom in Toronto in 2021

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Home renovations can be a big task, especially bathroom renovations where you have to work with either an awkwardly shaped space, or one with lots of pipework and very little natural light.

Nonetheless, getting a bathroom renovation by Easy Renovation to change your existing bathroom layout, improve the ambience or add more natural skylights can be worth all the trouble. But determining how much a bathroom renovation would cost is important while setting a budget.

The pandemic has changed a lot of things with social distancing rules, working from home, and for some, being made redundant. Therefore, having a complete grasp of the financial implication of a bathroom innovation is very important.

Owning your dream bathroom can be made a reality and the good thing is, regardless of your financial situation, there are always available options. If you also decide to put up your property for sale in the future, a bathroom upgrade would be a great investment—as it would add significant value to the property. Your bathroom renovation project, like every home renovation, can either be very affordable or extravagant, but one thing is certain, you’re bound to have a more refreshed, stylish and modernistic space.  

Looking through detailed sketches of luxurious and expensive bathrooms can be quite tempting, especially when you’re on a budget. However, your bathroom can be equally transformed into something that looks just as modern, stylish and refreshing but without the heavy price tag.

Conducting a partial bathroom renovation means you only have to change a little part of your existing bathroom rather than tearing it down and starting from scratch. If you intend to carry out this type of bathroom renovation in Toronto, depending on the size of your bathroom, you can spend between $1,000 – $5,000. With a partial bathroom renovation, you can save money by tackling smaller problems that exist in your present bathroom—or you can just upgrade a few of its features.

Partial bathroom renovations are quite affordable and would leave your bathroom feeling new and stylish without being time-consuming or a financial burden—which is important considering the economic impact of the pandemic. Repainting the bathroom walls, replacing the tiles on the floor and in the shower area are examples of partial bathroom renovations which is the cheapest to accomplish.

A more expensive and popular bathroom renovation is the standard 3- or 4-piece renovation. This renovation type involves a lot more services that are not covered by a partial renovation budget. To execute a standard bathroom renovation in Toronto you need a budget of about $10,000 – $15,000.

Unlike with a partial renovation, you would have to make a lot more changes to various elements of your bathroom without the hassle of changing the overall design. You can easily restore your current bathroom into a modernistic and classy space that fits your existing style. Making changes to more aspects of your bathroom is quite easy since there is more room in your budget to accommodate it.

A standard 3- or 4-piece renovation includes everything in a partial renovation plus extras such as revamped baseboards, installing a new bathroom mirror, buying new lights, installing a new vanity, changing the toilet, and buying new shower fixtures.

If you’re one of those looking to make a complete overhaul of your existing bathroom, then the option of a complete bathroom remodel is for you.

Unlike a bathroom renovation, remodelling means a complete change of your current bathroom design and layout for one that is newer and completely unrecognizable. The possibilities when remodelling a bathroom are endless especially when you have a large budget of over $15,000. That way, you can get the opportunity to create the perfect bathroom for yourself.

In addition to all that’s available with a standard bathroom renovation, bathroom remodelling allows you to make bathtub to shower conversion, relocation of plumbing, relocation of the toilet, reframing the bathroom and even relocating the shower.

In conclusion, a bathroom renovation can be a very important upgrade to your home and depending on the features that you decide to include, in addition to the size of your bathroom, this would influence the total cost of the project.

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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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Real Estate

‘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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