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When job losses happen in any province, all of Canada suffers

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You could almost hear Albertans’ eyes roll in unison this week, as Unifor president Jerry Dias exited a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, stood before the national press gallery and described the auto-manufacturing sector as the “most important industry in the country.”

The sense out west was: Of course an Ontarian would say that.

It’s understandable how Albertans could be aggrieved by the national urgency expressed at the potential loss of 2,500 General Motors jobs in Oshawa while its oil industry shed that many jobs every month, for 18 straight months, during the height of the downturn.

The comparison wasn’t lost on Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who said in a speech Wednesday that the “the federal government should be at the table” when it comes to Alberta’s economic woes.

The word on the street in Calgary was a little more blunt.

“Sorry, Oshawa losing 2,500 jobs,” read a bright yellow sign held high at a downtown protest. “Alberta lost 110,000!!”

That actually understates the case.

From January 2015 to October 2016, Alberta employers slashed more than 130,000 payroll jobs. That doesn’t include all the self-employed people whose gigs also went bust amid the crash. And, for the record, the oil and gas industry is six times larger than the auto-manufacturing sector, in terms of its contributions to Canada’s GDP.

These are important facts to be aware of. They are relevant to public policy. When weaponized, however, they can be harmful to the public discourse.

Venting frustration is one thing. But turning layoffs into a regional competition can mask the real pain of job loss, regardless of geography. It can obscure how interconnected our national economy actually is. And it can get in the way of finding real solutions for those most affected, who might actually have more in common than they realize.

The numbers vs. the nuance

Amid the wall-to-wall coverage of the GM news, University of Calgary economist Ron Kneebone struck a nerve on social media with a cheeky reality check, noting that Alberta’s total job losses at one point during the recession amounted to “the equivalent of 2.96 GM plants every month.”

“Just sayin’,” Kneebone added.

Mike Moffatt, of the Ivey Business School in London, Ont., felt compelled to reply with some data of his own, pointing out how much Ontarians have suffered through the decline of manufacturing, more generally, over the past couple of decades.

Pro-pipeline protesters gather in Calgary Tuesday. The Alberta oil industry shed about 2,400 jobs every month during its downturn. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

“I think there are some misconceptions about what’s been happening in Ontario,” Moffatt later explained.

“There’s this idea that the federal and provincial government came running at the first sign of manufacturing job loss — and that’s simply not true.”

People tend to focus on the auto-sector bailout that came in response to the 2008 financial crisis, Moffatt said, but forget that Ontario lost 250,000 manufacturing jobs in a span of less than four years leading up to that.

“It was pretty bleak times in Ontario manufacturing for years, and then we got hit by the financial crisis,” he said.

Moffat’s response to Kneebone on Twitter garnered a lot of attention of its own, largely among Ontarians but also from Kneebone, himself, who called it a “very good” discussion.

“It was never my intent to suggest a competition over job losses,” Kneebone said.

And yet, that’s how many people — especially in Alberta — are treating the GM layoffs.

Regional divides and human nature

The frustration is rooted in a sense among many Albertans that not all economic pain is treated equally in this country.

Like sports coverage of the Leafs, news coverage of Ontario’s economic woes can seem disproportionate to Western audiences.

To a certain extent, this is to be expected. It’s human nature, after all, for nearby problems to appear larger than faraway ones. And the humans who work in national media tend to live in Ontario more than anywhere else.

Our emotions also tend to be biased toward stories over numbers. So a singular event such as the sudden closure of the main plant in a company town tugs on heartstrings in a way that months’ worth of accrued data cannot.

“The sticker shock is pretty big when a big plant like that closes,” Kneebone said, recognizing the sudden impact the loss of GM will have on a community like Oshawa, as compared to the extended bleed-out of oil jobs in Alberta.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Unifor national president Jerry Dias make their way to a meeting on Parliament Hill on Tuesday. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

But what about the rhetoric? What about the union boss declaring the auto sector the “most important industry in the country” as if it were a simple matter of fact?

Moffatt bristles at this.

Asked if there’s any evidence to back Dias’s claim, he sighed deeply before replying.

“I actually just don’t think that type of talk is helpful, to suggest one industry is more important than another, or one job is more important than another,” he said.

“I think the worst thing that we can do is pit manufacturing workers against workers in the oil industry.”

Common ground

Granted, some Canadians roll their eyes when Albertans complain about financial woes while the province still enjoys the highest wages in the country.

But Moffatt says, many Ontarians, believe it or not, have sympathy for what laid-off Albertans have been going through.

“We absolutely feel for what’s happened in the oilpatch because we’ve dealt with similar things in the past,” he said.

And it’s not just a theoretical sort of understanding. There’s a very practical kind, too.

Many chemical manufacturers in Ontario, he said, rely on inputs from Alberta to create their products. And frequently when Ontarians can’t find work in the province, they head west to launch new careers.

Ontario was the No. 1 source of interprovincial migration to Alberta from 2006 to 2009, and from 2012 to 2016.

Assembly-line workers at the General Motors plant in Oshawa work on cars in this file photo from December 2011. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

“The one advantage that Ontario had during our decline is that many of our workers ended up taking jobs in the patch,” Moffatt said.

“And I think that’s one of the big challenges for Alberta right now. Alberta doesn’t have an Alberta, if you know what I mean. There’s nowhere for those workers to go when there’s a decline.”

The escape hatch that Alberta offered to laid-off Ontarians was particularly helpful to younger male workers who had opted for high-paying jobs on an assembly line over post-secondary education, Moffatt said. Many suddenly found themselves with few comparable opportunities in Ontario once their plants shut down or they were replaced by robots.

Kneebone says young men in Alberta now face a strikingly similar situation, but their options are more limited.

The evidence, he says, is in the increasing duration of unemployment in Alberta and the growing caseload of single people on the province’s social assistance rolls.

“These guys — and I’m going to guess that they’re guys, and I’m going to guess that they’re young guys, and I’m going to guess that they’re in the oil sector — they’re not going to get the jobs back,” Kneebone said. 

“And this a real concern.”

The solution, Kneebone believes, lies in more generous and more specifically targeted employment insurance benefits, rather than in large-scale government bailouts.

And while it’s been apparent for some time now that many of the high-paying jobs that used to exist in the oilpatch are likely never coming back, it’s still tough for many Albertans to get their minds around that reality.

Here, too, Moffatt says Ontarians can understand.

“Growing up, pretty much everyone I knew, their dad worked in a factory,” he said.

“It was a core part of our identity. In southwestern Ontario, we made things. And that’s something you hear over and over and over again in the community … we don’t make things anymore.”

This transformation started decades ago, Moffatt said, but Ontarians are still coming to terms with the change. So while the GM news may not have come as a surprise to those following macroeconomic trends in manufacturing, it still came as a shock to people in Oshawa. It was an assault on their identity as much as their livelihoods.

As Albertans, we’re staring down the immediate prospect of a protracted period of constricted transportation for our primary resource — and, in the long term, a world that’s looking to shift away from fossil fuels. These are transformations we’ll have to reckon with in our own way.

In the meantime, though, many would love to see a little more understanding — and little less eye-rolling — from the rest of the country.

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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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‘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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