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Oilpatch stays home from B.C. conference after Whistler mayor calls for climate-change compensation

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Oilpatch pushback to a letter written by the mayor of Whistler, B.C., has led to the cancellation​ of the energy-related portion of a high-profile investment conference held in the mountain community.

In a recent letter, Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton asked the head of oilsands giant Canadian Natural Resources to commit to pay for its “fair share of the costs of climate change being experienced by Whistler.”  

After the missive became public this week, a number of companies decided they would not participate in the investment conference, hosted in Whistler by Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

CIBC then told oilpatch clients Friday it wouldn’t make them choose between the conference and “doing what is right.”

“Over the past days, we have been in dialogue with many of you regarding the letter recently sent by the Mayor of Whistler to one of your industry peers,” Roman Dubczak, CIBC’s managing director and head of global investment banking, wrote in an email obtained by CBC News.

“In recognition of your collective and justified frustration, we do not want to put you in a position of choosing between our conference and doing what is right. We are therefore removing the oil and gas presentation stream from our conference agenda.”

Dubczak indicated that CIBC is also looking at “the longer-term location of our Western Canadian-based institutional investor conference.” (Normally called the Whistler Institutional Investor Conference, the gathering is in its 22nd year and attracts institutional investors and companies from across a variety of sectors, not just the energy industry.)

‘Taxpayers are paying 100% of the costs’

The controversy emerged this week when Crompton’s letter went public.

“Currently taxpayers are paying 100% of the costs associated with your product,” Crompton wrote Canadian Natural Resources president Tim McKay in a letter dated Nov. 15.

“Communities around the world are increasingly expecting you to take responsibility for your products.” 

In a Facebook video posted Thursday, Crompton said he’s regrets if the letter made anyone felt unwelcome. He acknowledged the community depends on fossil fuels and has its own responsibility to respond to climate change.

Canadian Natural Resources confirmed Friday that it had withdrawn from the conference in the mountain community, slated for Jan. 23-26.

McKay said he would welcome the opportunity to sit down with Crompton to discuss his letter.

“We take these concerns very seriously,” McKay wrote Friday in a three-page letter provided to CBC News.

“Canadian oil and natural gas is an important part of the solution to reducing global GHG emissions.”

Earlier in the day, other companies confirmed they would not be travelling to Whistler for the conference.

  • Cenovus Energy said in a statement that it would not be attending because “we need to take a stand against these non-stop unfounded attacks on our industry that fail to acknowledge the huge focus the oil and gas industry places on reducing emissions.”
  • A spokesperson for Gibson Energy told CBC News the company “has elected to withdraw from the Whistler conference in 2019 in a show of solidarity with our industry and our customers.”
  • Cam Proctor, chief operating officer of PrairieSky Royalty, said Friday his firm would not take part as well.

“We think that there’s a great deal of misinformation out there about the energy business in Canada,” Proctor said.

“There’s not a lot we can do just from our own company’s perspective to try to educate Canadians, but one thing we can do is basically vote with our feet, so we’ve decided not to go to Whistler this year.”

Rocky relations

Relations between B.C. politicians and Alberta’s oil sector have been rocky recently, due largely to opposing views on the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to the West Coast.

The oilpatch and Alberta’s provincial government believe the pipeline is needed to ease bottlenecks and provide more options — and better prices — for Canadian crude.

Opponents’ concerns include the risk of shipping more bitumen on tankers, and about the impact that growing oilsands production would have on climate change.

In his letter, Crompton said climate change is a great concern to the community. He said climate modelling shows that temperatures are expected to increase in winter and result in more rain in the valley.

“And less snow on the lower half of the ski areas,” he wrote. “Our modelling also shows that summer seasons are becoming longer, hotter and drier, resulting in increased risk of forest fires.”

Thousands of people march together during a protest against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in Burnaby, B.C., last March. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Because of the fire risk, the municipality budget includes a $1.4-million investment in community wildfire protection — a commitment it expects to have to make for at least the next four decades. 

‘We depend on fossil fuels’

In the video statement Thursday, Crompton said Whistler was one of 15 other B.C. municipalities who participated in the public relations campaign led by an environmental group.

“Our intent was to join that call to action; our aim was never to make anyone feel unwelcome in Whistler,” he said.

“We recognize that there are hundreds of thousands of Canadians who work directly and indirectly in the oil and gas sector and they are very proud of the work they do. We know that you are facing challenging times.

“As so many have said to me over the last couple of days, we are a user of Canada’s energy. Whistler acknowledges as a community that we depend on fossil fuels.

“We have a responsibility to respond to the climate change challenge ourselves and do it locally.”

The environmental group that began the campaign last January says the aim is not to collect money, but start a conversation.

Steel pipe to be used in the oil pipeline construction of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project sit on rail cars at a stockpile site in Kamloops, B.C., earlier this year. (Dennis Owen/Reuters)

“At the end of the day, I think it’s fiscally irresponsible if a municipality is incurring huge costs due to climate change and they’re not having this conversation, because otherwise they’re just passing those costs entirely onto taxpayers,” said Andrew Gage, lead lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law.

Albertans want to push back, Solberg says

Monte Solberg, a former Conservative cabinet minister from Alberta, said he was “a little surprised” to hear companies are opting out of the Whistler conference but was glad to see companies pushing back and defending their industry.

“I think a lot of people have wondered why some of these companies have gone along with this up until now,” he said.

Solberg said Albertans are slow to anger, but are at the point where they want to push back.

“We certainly have been a big customer of British Columbia’s,” he said.

“So one of the few ways that we can really make the point, apparently, is to say you know we’re not going to buy your things. We’re not going to come to your resorts anymore and that’s what some people are doing.”

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Window repair or replacement is the responsibility of the condo corporation

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If the windows in your condo are hazy, drafty, or have rotting frames, it’s an indicator that they need repairs or outright replacement.

However, under the Condominium Act, it is the responsibility of the condo’s board to carry out such changes as a replaced window is a common element.

“Under the Condominium Act, a declaration may alter the maintenance or repair obligations of unit owners and the corporation but cannot make unit owners responsible for repairs to the common elements,” said Gerry Hyman is a former president of the Canadian Condominium Institute and contributor for the Star.

“A declaration for a high-rise condominium invariably provides that the unit boundary is the interior surface of windows. That means that the entire window — whether it is a single pane or a double pane — is a common element. Necessary repairs or replacement of a broken pane is the obligation of the corporation.”

According to Consumer Reports, selecting an installing windows replacement can be very overwhelming for homeowners. Therefore, if you aren’t covered by your condo’s corporation, it would be necessary to hire professional hands.

Wood, vinyl and composite windows need to be tested on how they can withstand various natural elements. For wind resistance, a window can be very tight when it’s warm but get quite cold too—especially when it begins to leak a lot.

Whatever the case may be, the bottom line remains that replacement windows can save you heating and cooling costs, but it’s best not to expect drastic savings.

Additionally, while getting a new window might help you save on your electric and gas bills, due to their expensive cost, it may take a long time to offset their cost.

Mid-last-year, the government withdraw a $377 million Green Ontario program that provided subsidy on windows to installers and repairers. Window companies had to install energy-efficient windows in order to qualify for the government subsidy that pays for up to $500 of a $1,000 to $1,500 window.

Due to the largely generous subsidies from the government under the Green Ontario program, a lot of window dealers were fully booked for months—even after the program had ended.

“We’re fine with the program ending, we just need more time to satisfy consumers,” said Jason Neal, the executive director of the Siding and Window Dealer Association of Canada, the industry group representing window dealers in a report.

According to Neal, the Progressive Conservatives acted hastily, making massive changes with no prior notice.

“No notification was given to us by anyone,” he said, noting he learned about the change through one of his dealers.

“It’s created a ripple effect.If they had just given us notice we would have pushed that down the line from the manufacturer right into the dealer right down to the consumer.”

Neal noted that he wasn’t particularly sad to see the Green Ontario program end, as it was “the worst rebate program in the history of the window industry.”

“It’s been horrible,” he said. “$500 a window has created such hysteria.”

However, despite the program ending about a year ago, numerous homeowners have been contacting window dealers consistently with concerns that they might not be able to afford replacement windows without the government’s subsidy.

“I understand their concern,” said window dealer Chris George. “I would suggest they reach out to their local representative of the government in their riding and let them know about their concerns.”

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7 Vancouver Real Estate Buying Tips

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The real estate market in Vancouver is turning around for good for everyone looking to purchase a home.

Previously soaring prices are now beginning to ease up, making it a perfect time for buyers—with real estate agents already getting ready for a very busy spring and summer season.

However, before splashing cash on a new property, there are some very important tips you need to know to ensure you make the most of the buyer’s market.

Here are some few expert tips that would guide you when purchasing a home in the sometimes frustration Vancouver seller’s market.

  1. Get adequate financing

It is very important that before you make the move to purchase a property, you put into careful consideration your credit score.

Normally, home buyers with lower scores use the secondary mortgage market to finance their purchase, as they’re more likely to pay a higher interest rate.However, it is advisable to get loan approval long before purchasing the house. This way, you are fully aware of how much you are able to spend—but never be tempted to borrow the maximum amount of money available.

“What’s your mortgage payment that you’re comfortable with? And take into the fact the taxes you’re going to have to pay, if it’s a strata – what the maintenance fees are, if it’s a home what type of maintenance are you going to have to pay in the future?” said Phil Moore, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver in a report.

Always be careful of the type of loan you secure and ensure that you can comfortably afford it over a long period of time.

  1. Get a real estate agent

Buying a property without professional help is a very risky move and can be likened to choosing to represent yourself in court without a lawyer. While you might trust your negotiation skills, only realtors are permitted to present offers directly.

Therefore, it is necessary to get a professional real estate agent in the area to represent you. So, screen a few agents and select the best one who has in-depth knowledge of the markets and has a great reputation.

“They’re there to protect you. They’re there to walk you through each step of the process,” Moore said.

  1. Sign up for automated alerts

Most—if not all—realtors have access to the Vancouver real estate board’s database which is updated approximately two days before the public MLS website.

Therefore, you can request from your realtor to sign you up for automatic real-time alerts of all new listings. Doing this gives you an edge as you’re among the very first to know about new properties.

  1. Do a thorough inspection

After receiving an alert for a new listing, it is necessary to push almost immediately for an inspection from your realtor. In this current market, buyers now have time to make an inspection.

Making a quick inspection eliminates any surprises—as there could be major maintenance or repair issues that could spring up. Therefore, you can now table your offer based on the outcome of the inspection, with clauses about claiming your damage deposit back if everything isn’t as was advertised.

Additionally, if you notice that renovations were done, you need to be sure that it was permitted work and carried out appropriately. Failing to do this would ultimately lead to further cost down the line and simultaneously affect the resale value.

  1. Have a back-up plan

There’s always the possibility that everything may not go as smoothly as you’d want. From the inspection being a failureto the property not living up to your expectations—or not being able to agree on the closing date that matches with your needs.

However, a professional real estate agent will definitely help you get past all of these things. If you plan on selling the property as you buy, you can table that and make it part of the deal.

“You’ve got an option, especially in a buyer’s market: you can put in an offer subject to selling your place. So maybe you want to have a place lined up,” Moore added.

Additionally, building contingencies into your buying plan is necessary. Things such as unexpected delays in closing the deal, closing cost and moving costs that could result in added living expenses if that’s your permanent home.

  1. Don’t fall for the buyer frenzy

The Vancouver market buying frenzy that caused a serious climb in the prices a couple of years ago has ended. Thus, it is important not to get caught up in bidding wars with properties that have been deliberately under-priced—with the hope of initiating multiple offers.

“Some of the sellers have been on the market for over a year and they’re eager to sell. So what I’m saying to consumers is: you have a lot of choices, you’re in the driver’s seat, let’s go out and take a look at what’s available,” said Moore.

  1. Never be wary of multiple offers

When purchasing a property, don’t be afraid of multiple offers as you have the same opportunity as anybody else.

Typically, there are just a few offers below the asking price: a couple priced fully, and two or three above the asking price—depending on how close the fair market value is from the asking price.

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Do you know what kind of condo you’re buying?

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(NC) Condominiums can come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s important to know that not all condos are created equal when it comes to warranty coverage.

Whether you’re buying a condominium townhouse, loft-style two-bedroom or a high-rise studio, they are all classified as condominiums if you own your unit while at the same time share access (and the associated fees) for facilities ranging from pools and parking garages to elevators and driveways, otherwise known as common elements.

The most common types of condos are standard condominiums and common elements condominiums. The determination of how a condominium project is designated happens during the planning stage when the builder proposes the project and the municipality approves it.

When you’re in the market to buy, you need to know how your chosen condo is classified because it affects the warranty coverage under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Standard condominiums have warranty coverage for units and common elements, but common elements condominiums only have unit coverage.

How could this affect you as the owner? If your condo complex has underground parking and, for example, there are problems with leaks or a faulty door, the condo designation will determine whether there’s warranty coverage.

If your unit is a standard condominium development, then the common elements warranty may cover the repairs. If it’s a common element condominium development, then repairs might have to be covered by the condo corporation’s insurance, which could impact your condo fees or require a special assessment on all the owners.

To avoid surprises, you should have a real estate lawyer review the Declaration and Description attached to your purchase agreement to be sure that you know the designation and boundaries of the unit you’re looking to purchase. Find more information on the types of condos and their coverage at tarion.com.

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