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Union chief warns Oshawa closure could be first step in GM shuttering all Canadian operations

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The president of the country’s largest private sector union said he fears General Motors could be headed for a “complete disinvestment” in Canada if it’s allowed to shutter its Oshawa assembly plant.

But Jerry Dias, president of Unifor — the successor to the now-defunct Canadian Auto Workers union — said he is hopeful about the prospects for a solution after an hour-long meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his staff this afternoon.

“He’s certainly going to roll up his sleeves and speak to General Motors and do every thing he can to get their attention,” Dias said of Trudeau.

“The prime minister doesn’t view it as a fait accompli — he’s going to roll up his sleeves and fight with us.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Trudeau said the two men had a “constructive meeting” in which they shared their “disappointment” over GM’s decision to lay off more than 2,500 auto workers.

“Our focus is on the families and community impacted by this global announcement, and the PM made it clear that we will fight for our workers and are looking at all options to support them,” said the statement.

“They also discussed their respective recent discussions with GM, as well as the PM’s call with President Trump earlier today about the auto industry and how best we can stand up for people affected on both sides of the border.”

Unifor National President Jerry Dias holds a news conference after meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 27, 2018. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Dias said they spoke about Trudeau’s call with Trump earlier Tuesday about GM’s plans. Dias said Trudeau and Trump should pursue a coordinated, binational strategy to stop GM from closing its plants in Oshawa, Ohio, Michigan and Maryland.

Dias is also calling for new tariffs on all GM-made vehicles from Mexico. While GM is making cuts in both Canada and the U.S., the company is deepening its investment in Mexico, where the company now builds nearly 1 million vehicles a year.

Trump reacted angrily to GM’s planned closures in the U.S., threatening to pull all federal subsidies from the automaker and end lucrative tax credits for people who buy electric vehicles.

Buyers of electric vehicles made by GM and other automakers get U.S. federal tax credits of up to $7,500, helping to reduce the price as an incentive to get more of the zero-emissions vehicles on the road.

‘We have a major problem’

Dias said that, without similar government action here, GM eventually will end up shutting down all of its operations in Canada. He pointed out that, if Oshawa does close, it would leave only one GM assembly plant remaining in Canada — the one in Ingersoll, Ont., which assembles the Chevrolet Equinox that is also made in Mexico.

There is also a GM propulsion plant in St. Catharines, Ont., which builds engines and transmissions to be sent on to assembly plants for installation.

“We have a major problem. If in fact GM completes its plan of divesting in Canada, then the auto parts industry collapses,” he said.

Dias wants GM to shift production of another vehicle to Oshawa to stave off the closure of its plant there. If GM does not reverse its decision, Dias said, his workers are prepared to take prolonged labour action.

Unifor leader Jerry Dias met with the Prime Minister Tuesday afternoon 1:27

Dias said he will meet with his American counterpart, the president of the United Automobile Workers, to discuss joint actions against the company.

Dias said Canada can’t afford to sit idle as the Detroit-based manufacturer shifts more vehicle production to low-wage jurisdictions like Mexico.

“They aren’t closing our damn plant without one hell of a fight,” he said. “Our plant in Oshawa is not closing and we’ll do whatever it takes. We’re sick and tired our jobs going to Mexico. Period.

“We will do anything to stop that. We need a very aggressive strategy.”

The labour leader has a friendly relationship with the federal Liberal government; he worked closely with Ottawa as it renegotiated NAFTA with the U.S. and Mexico.

Trudeau and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains have said the government is ready to support the 2,500 workers affected by the closure, but both have pointed out that GM seems unwilling to change its mind about the Oshawa closure as the company pursues a broader global restructuring.

GM has said the closures announced Monday are necessary because of shifts in consumer buying patterns.

The Oshawa plant makes the Chevrolet Impala, a once-popular sedan that has seen its sales plummet in recent years as North American car buyers increasingly favour pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles.

Oshawa has been home to vehicle manufacturing since 1908.

Unifor Local 222, the branch that represents most of the unionized workers at Oshawa, stands to lose about 2,000 members — and $4 million in annual union dues — if the plant closes, according to the latest figures in The Oshaworker newsletter for current and retired Unifor members.

Unifor is an amalgamation of the former CAW and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union. It represents more than 310,000 workers in industries ranging from autos, health and social services to casinos, telecommunications, forestry and transportation.

Watch Ontario’s Economic Development Minister Todd Smith discuss GM on Power & Politics

‘The indication we received is…those days are over,’ says Ontario’s economic development minister Todd Smith. 10:50

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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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