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Notley says Alberta will buy rail cars to move oil, wants Ottawa to chip in

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Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said today her government is only weeks away from finalizing a purchase of rail cars to move oil and help close massive price gaps that have short-changed government coffers and Canadian oil producers.

She also said she wants the federal Liberal government to contribute financially to the plan.

“We’re not wasting any time,” Notley told a Canadian Club luncheon in Ottawa Wednesday, formally announcing the rail car purchase. “Alberta’s oil is going to flow one way or another — if not by pipelines, then by rail or by truck.

“Don’t mistake me — this is not the long-term answer … But until pipelines are built, we need to move more oil by rail.”

Notley said her government will buy two new unit trains that can transport an additional 120,000 barrels a day, increasing the amount of oil being moved by rail in Canada by a third. Notley said she hopes to announce the final details of the purchase agreement by year’s end.

Coca-Cola sells sugar-flavoured water for more. We are essentially giving our oil away for free.– Alberta Premier Rachel Notley

The amount of oil shipped on Canada’s railways has reached record highs already, thanks to a bottleneck in pipeline capacity connecting Alberta’s oilsands to foreign markets.

The leader of Alberta’s United Conservative Party, Jason Kenney, said the rail car purchase might be useful in the “midterm” but does little to help immediately close the price gap “crisis” that has left the energy industry “reeling.”

“In the dozens of meetings I’ve had with industry leaders over the last number of weeks, not a single one has raised the issue of the government buying rail cars,” Kenney told reporters in Edmonton. “We don’t have a year to wait at a $40 price differential. We have to take extraordinary action now.”

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the province will buy rail cars to move more oil and she wants the federal government to chip in. The premier sat down with Power & Politics to discuss. 10:58

Instead, Kenney proposed Wednesday that the provincial government impose a “mandatory curtailment” on oil production — an even more aggressive step to shore up prices.

Kenney is pitching legislation that would force producers to cut total production by 10 per cent — the equivalent of 400,000 barrels of oil a day — to tighten supply and drive up prices.

“We are calling for a short-term, temporary measure that is well rooted in Alberta history, to save jobs and stop the giveaway of our greatest asset. It’s time to act and end the fire sale of Alberta oil,” said Kenney, a former federal Conservative minister.

Later, in an interview with CBC’s Power & Politics, Notley said she would make a decision on whether to pursue mandatory production cuts — something that has been supported by major industry types like Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix, who first floated the idea — in a week’s time.

“We haven’t made a final decision on the curtailment issue,” Notley said, saying the rail car purchase does not prevent further legislative action.

Crude-by-rail at an all-time high

Canada transports several types of crude oil by rail to various destinations throughout North America. Most of it is shipped to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, where Canadian producers can fetch prices closer to the going ‘world’ rate, rather than the discounted rate offered by refineries in the U.S. Midwest.

While shipping crude by rail is typically far more expensive than transport by pipeline, it’s a flexible alternative for producers facing a dearth of pipeline space.

With the Trans Mountain expansion stalled and the Northern Gateway project shelved, Alberta’s producers have been forced to accept prices far below world levels for their oil.

Ninety-nine per cent of Canada’s oil exports are destined for the U.S. American refineries have been offering lower prices for that oil, knowing that Alberta producers have few options and are desperate to unload excess product.

Western Canadian Select, which includes product from the oilsands, trades at just $11.56 US — less than a quarter of the $51.49 that West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the U.S. gold standard, fetches on the open market. (These prices were current as of Wednesday.)

“Coca-Cola sells sugar-flavoured water for more. We are essentially giving our oil away for free,” Notley said.

This price gap is costing the Canadian economy roughly $80 million a day, she said.

A BNSF Railway train hauls crude oil west of Wolf Point, Montana. Crude-by-rail shipments in Canada have seen an eight-fold increase since the Trans Mountain expansion project was first announced in April 2012. Much of the crude is destined for U.S. refineries. (Matthew Brown/AP Photo)

Notley said that while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals should be commended for buying the Trans Mountain project in a period of investor uncertainty, Ottawa now needs to partner with Alberta by helping to finance the rail car purchase.

“The federal government should be at the table on this. There’s no excuse for their absence. Either way, we will not allow delays to continue,” she said.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley delivers a speech in Ottawa where she outlines a provincial plan to buy railcars to ship oil while the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion waits in limbo. 1:53

When asked Wednesday whether she has received any indication from Ottawa that it’s willing to help pay for the rail cars, Notley said the federal government has not yet formally responded to her request.

Notley said she has seen some media reports suggesting Ottawa prefers waiting for Enbridge’s Line 3 to come on line (the earliest start-up date would be some time in 2019) to investing in more rail cars. She said that’s the wrong approach.

“Our officials are still in good discussions,” she said. “Line 3 cannot, on its own, clear the market for more than a few months.”

Notley is not scheduled to meet with Trudeau or Finance Minister Bill Morneau during her swing through the nation’s capital this week.

A spokesperson for Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said the federal government is committed to “relieving the pain felt by so many” in Alberta due to the growing price differential.

“We are focused on ensuring that every barrel of Alberta oil gets its full value. That is why our government has made addressing this national issue — and increasing market access in general — an urgent priority,” the spokesperson said in a statement to CBC News, pointing to Ottawa’s support for the Keystone XL and Line 3 pipelines.

The spokesperson said Ottawa is “analyzing options, including the oil by rail proposal that we have recently received from the Alberta government.”

Notley said Alberta would go forward with the purchase even if the federal government decides not to help.

She said the additional oil-by-rail capacity would narrow the price gap by about $4 a barrel, generating an additional $1 million a day in federal revenue — suggesting the purchase price would be “fully recouped” through increased royalties and by selling shipping capacity to producers.

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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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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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