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Sask. construction industry loses 14,000 jobs over 3 years, association says

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Trevor Stein’s company spent nearly a year wiring new apartment complexes in Saskatoon’s Stonebridge neighbourhood.

After Stein invoiced the owner, Block 1, for more than a million dollars for wages and materials, he learned the British Columbia real estate company was seeking creditor protection.

The company never did pay him or a number of other local contractors for the work they completed, he says.

“Not one penny,” Stein said, after the courts finished sorting out Block 1’s misadventures this summer. “All our liens got ripped out and tossed out.”

in 2016, a British Columbia court issued a creditor protection order to the owners of The Cielo apartments in Saskatoon’s Stonebridge neighbourhood. The buildings have since been sold to new owners. (CBC)

‘There’s just less work’

With 60 employees depending on him, Stein said he had no choice but to chase more work to cover expenses. 

Finding that work is now more difficult.

For construction companies in Saskatchewan, 2015 was a record year, according to the Saskatchewan Construction Association, as crews built Regina’s new football stadium and the Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon, along with new hospitals in Moose Jaw and North Battleford.

The province has since tightened its belt.

‘It’s now an average of 70 to 90 days for a contractor to be paid for work that’s already been completed,’ said Mark Cooper, the president and CEO of the Saskatchewan Construction Association. (CBCKirk Fraser)

“Where you used to have three or four companies that used to compete for a job, now there are 20,” said Mark Cooper, president of the Saskatchewan Construction Association. “There’s just less work.”

Cooper said since 2015, 14,000 jobs have disappeared from Saskatchewan’s construction industry.

“What we do need is a return of confidence to the economy at both the consumer level and the investor level,” Cooper said.

“People are holding onto their money.”

Building costs rise, mortgage rules get stricter

It seems fewer people can afford to build new houses in Saskatchewan, which saw a 32 per cent drop in urban housing starts this summer compared to last, the province’s construction association says, earning it a last-place ranking among the provinces for growth.

Per square foot, Saskatoon has also become the most expensive city to build in Canada, with Regina in second place, according to the Saskatoon and Regina builders associations.

One home builder working in both Regina and Saskatoon has now laid off 50 employees.

Saskatchewan has weathered downturns before, said Stu Niebergall, president of the Regina and Region Home Builders’ Association. 

Stu Niebergall is the president of the Regina and Region Home Builders’ Association. (Radio-Canada)

“What’s different this time is that governments have chosen to increase regulations, increase fees and at the federal level, make it more difficult to buy a home,” Niebergall said.

Those changes include:

  • Increasing Saskatchewan’s sales tax to six per cent, and applying it to residential construction work.
  • American tariffs on drywall and steel making materials more expensive.
  • All mortgages in Canada are now subject to stress tests after Ottawa tightened lending rules.
  • Tightened building codes and energy-efficiency standards for builders.

Last month, the province also introduced legislation updating Saskatchewan’s Builders’ Lien Act, which is supposed to ensure contractors receive payments within 28 days of an invoice.

The Saskatchewan Construction Association’s Cooper says it’s “now an average of 70 to 90 days for a contractor to be paid for work that’s already been completed.”

“This is not going to be the silver bullet that fixes issues,” warned Chris Guérette, the president of the Saskatoon and Region Home Builders’ Association.

Saskatoon and Region Home Builders Association CEO Christiane Guerette said last year’s PST hike combined with tighter mortgage rules had a significant impact on the affordability of new homes. (Radio-Canada)

She said 65 per cent of her members build fewer than 10 houses a year, and she’d prefer to watch the way similar “prompt payment” laws are first enacted in Ontario

“It takes away some of the freedom that businesses have to work things out on what would be best suited for that relationship between two companies,” Guérette said.

‘Even if we win, we’ve got to spend more money’

For his part, Trevor Stein said the law may help contractors like him collect money owed, but he warned the changes are also likely to make money for lawyers.

“Every court case we’ve had, even if we win, we’ve got to spend more money to get money,” Stein said. 

He said a more effective way of keeping local construction companies afloat could include the province putting out-of-province builders’ funds into a trust, until the job is complete.

Trevor Stein owns and operates Stein Electric, which has been in business since 1980 in Saskatoon. He and his wife have seven daughters. (Submitted by Trevor Stein)

“Out-of-province people are the ones who seem to leave quickly,” Stein said.

He said basic electrical and plumbing work will always be in demand, but Saskatchewan’s construction industry feels increasingly unpredictable.

“My receivables are crazy,” he said. “You just don’t know when you’re going to get paid.”

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Real Estate

Couple from Toronto buys dream home in Mushaboom

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MUSHABOOM – A couple who lived and raised a family in downtown Toronto developed a five-year plan in 2015 to purchase their dream home.

In September they moved into the home – located on Malagash Island in Mushaboom on Nova Scotia’s stunning Eastern Shore – that met and exceeded their best dreams for their retirement.

The Camerons, Bruce and Tanya, decided in 2019 they would explore the Maritimes to see what real estate was available to become their potential retirement home. In the spring of 2020, during a global pandemic, the real estate boom hit their city, and they were hearing the same for Nova Scotia. Our province was their first-choice for attaining their desire for an entirely different lifestyle – away from the busyness of the city.

“We had $300,000 to $350,000 as a home value in mind to buy. Our semi-detached located off Danforth in Toronto was priced at $850,000. We wanted to come out ahead, so we would be secure in retirement,” Tanya said.

Their century-old home had prime location near the subway and GO Transit Line for a great 13-minute commute downtown.

“We enjoyed our community,” explains Bruce “… we had great neighbours, young children around and street parties – lots of social activity.”

Bruce says, “Our agent suggested a starting quote of $899,000. We did not do any renovations and only some staging. Fifty couples went through and we received four significant offers. Six days later we sold – with zero conditions – and a price of over a million dollars. We just requested a closing of September 2020 to get the kids off to school – which we got.”

The couple got more than they had anticipated.

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Rabobank Announces Leadership Changes in U.S., Canadian Offices

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NEW YORK, Dec. 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Rabobank, the leading global food and agribusiness bank, has appointed two of its top executives, Tamira Treffers-Herrera and Robert Sinescu, to become Co-Heads of North American Client Coverage, positioning the Bank for future growth in the region.

Treffers-Herrera has also assumed the role of Vice Chairperson and Head of the Atlanta office, where she additionally oversees Rabobank Mexico, which is led by Eduardo Palacios. Sinescu is the Head of the Chicago office, and also oversees Rabobank Canada, led by Marc Drouin, who was recently appointed as Canada’s General Manager.

Treffers-Herrera and Sinescu report to David Bassett, Head of Wholesale Banking North America, the Bank’s corporate and investment banking business for the region based in New York.

“Both Tamira and Robert have a demonstrated history of strong leadership, operational excellence and passion for our clients,” Bassett said. “Their broad experience and deep sector expertise will be invaluable in delivering dynamic results for clients while accelerating our growth trajectory in North America.”

Each office will have an even greater focus on key Food & Agribusiness sectors and clients: The Chicago office will drive growth in sectors including Dairy, Farm Inputs and Grains & Oilseeds, which are also key areas of focus for the Canada office. The Atlanta office will focus heavily on sectors such as Animal Protein, Beverages, Sugar, and Supply Chains, which are important sectors in Mexico as well.

“Rabobank is fully committed to our clients throughout North America, and we believe our new sector-focused coverage will improve our ability to provide knowledge-based, value-added solutions that benefit our clients,” Bassett said.

Treffers-Herrera was most recently based in London as CEO of Rabobank’s European Region from 2016-2020, where she took the organization through Brexit. Prior to that, she worked in the Atlanta office from 2002-2016. During her tenure in Atlanta, Treffers-Herrera served as Global Sector Head – Consumer Food & Beverages, and prior to that she was a senior banker for a portfolio of large beverage and consumer foods clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kentucky, a Master of Arts from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and has studied at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Harvard Business School.

Sinescu has been with Rabobank for over 21 years and was previously General Manager of Rabobank Canada, where he oversaw all operations, business development, commercial strategy and relationships with regulators. In addition, he continues to serve as CEO of Rabo Securities Canada Inc. Prior to Canada, he was a senior banker, Head of Corporate Banking, European Sector Head for Sugar, and a member of the Management Team for Rabobank France. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from the Bucharest School of Business, a Master of Business Administration & Management and a Master of Science in Banking and Corporate Finance from Sorbonne University in Paris, and has studied at Brown University.

Drouin has worked with Rabobank’s Canadian team for more than nine years and most recently served as a senior banker, Head of Rabobank Canada’s AgVendor Program and a member of Rabobank Canada’s Management Team. He brings extensive wholesale banking experience within the Dairy, G&O, CPG and Supply Chain sectors. Drouin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University and a Master of Business Administration in International Finance, Marketing and Management from the Schulich School of Business at York University.

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Real Estate

Greybrook Realty Partners & Marlin Spring Brand Jointly Owned Asset Manager – Greyspring Apartments

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TORONTO, Dec. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Greybrook Realty Partners and Marlin Spring are pleased to announce the new branding of their jointly owned investment and asset management firm, Greyspring Apartments. With a portfolio of more than 2,000 units and CAD$375 million in assets under management, Greyspring Apartments is focused on the acquisition and repositioning of multi-family assets throughout Canada.

The new name and branding is an important step in Greyspring’s evolution as an independent operating business. Formed in 2018 by long standing-partners Marlin Spring and Greybrook Realty Partners, Greyspring Apartments was established with the goal of building a leading asset management firm with a robust portfolio of residential rental real estate assets in primary and secondary markets across Canada.

Greyspring’s talented team of real estate, asset management and finance professionals is overseen and guided by the Management Board, whose members include Benjamin Bakst, CEO, Marlin Spring; Elliot Kazarnovksy, CFO, Marlin Spring; Sasha Cucuz, CEO, Greybrook Securities Inc.; Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Chris Salapoutis, President & COO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Ashi Mathur, President, Marlin Spring; and Karl Brady. In addition to his role on the Management Board, Karl Brady leads Greyspring Apartments as its President. 

“We are pleased to announce the official name and branding of a business we formed with our partners at Marlin Spring a few years ago,” said Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners. “Greyspring has been diligently focused on the execution of strategic value-add programs across its portfolio that are improving the quality of housing for tenants and overall asset values. For Greybrook investors, expanding from our core business in real estate development to the value-add space through Greyspring, has allowed us to provide our clients with investment opportunities that diversify their real estate investment portfolios.”

“Marlin Spring and Greybrook have partnered on many residential real estate projects in recent years,” said Benjamin Bakst, CEO and Cofounder, Marlin Spring. “To a great extent, Greyspring illustrates our approach to partnerships. We believe in, and strive for, responsible growth through deepening our relationships with our trusted partners. With Greyspring, we’ve formalized our focus on providing better and more affordable living experiences for Canadians. This vision aligns with our mission to deliver exceptional real estate value to all our stakeholders with an uncompromising adherence to our core values.”

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