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Canadian Natural Resources confirmed Friday that it had withdrawn from the conference in the mountain community, slated for Jan. 23-26.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