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Critics ask why rules to protect air passengers are still waiting in the wings

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Transport Canada’s air passenger bill of rights has been more than two years in the making, and some critics say they expected the government would have more to show for it by now. 

On Monday, Transport Minister Marc Garneau unveiled proposed regulations designed to protect air travellers, including minimum compensation requirements for flight delays and lost luggage.

It’s only a first draft, and will undergo another round of consultations. Garneau expects the proposed rules to become law in the summer of 2019.

Brian Masse, NDP MP for Windsor West, claims the long wait gives airlines another free pass during the high-peak holiday season. 

He campaigned for air passenger rights for more than a decade, and said Transport Canada should have some concrete rules protecting passengers at this point. 

“It’s nothing short of irresponsible and lazy.”

Mario Stojanac, Mary Luz Mejia and their 6-year-old daughter, Nathalie returned home from their Sunwing vacation to discover their luggage was lost. (Mary Luz Mejia)

Air passenger Mary Luz Mejia also wonders why federal laws have been taking taking so long to materialize. In April, she spent more than two weeks chasing down lost luggage following a Sunwing flight.

She said she then spent more than a month complaining to the airline before she got compensation for having to replace clothing and toiletries that were in her missing baggage.

She said she’s had enough of poor treatment by airlines and believes it’s time for the government to put tough rules in place. 

“For those of us who have been inconvenienced — more than once I might add in my case — this is something that does matter to a lot of us,” said Mejia who lives in Toronto.

“We just want to see legislation put in place so that we have recourse.”

It’s coming

Transport Canada said it’s simply following due process with the regulations which it wants to ensure are fair to everyone.

“We want to get it right,” said Marc Roy, chief of staff for Transport Canada.

The proposed rules include treatment standards requiring airlines to supply food, drink and accommodation for passengers when their flights are delayed.

They also lay out compensation which could go as high as $2,400 if a passenger is involuntarily bumped from an overbooked flight.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau outlined the new draft regulations for passenger rights Monday at the Ottawa airport. (CBC)

The proposed regulations will now undergo public consultation until Feb. 20, 2019.

It will be the third round of consultations held concerning air passenger rights. The first one began back in April 2016 when Garneau travelled across the country and heard a barrage of complaints ranging from cramped cabins to overbooked flights.

By November 2016, the transport minister pledged to pursue legislation that would lay out clear standards for air travellers.

Go with the basics

The NDP’s Masse said the government by now could have at least implemented some basic regulations such as minimum compensation for flight delays and lost baggage.

“There is nothing stopping the minister from enacting what he wants to do right now with cabinet.”

NDP MP Brian Masse says there should be some basic regulations in place by now protecting air passengers. (File Photo)

The draft regulations also propose a requirement that airlines don’t charge extra to let children under age 14 sit next to a parent.

Masse said that’s a no-brainer that should be law by now.

“How much more consultation do we need to understand that when you book a ticket and you’re flying with your child, you should be able to sit next year child?”

He also questions if the regulations will even come into effect in the summer considering Garneau originally said the new rules will be implemented in 2018.

“[Monday] was just another delay,” he said.

Following the rules

Transport Canada’s Roy said implementing new regulations is a complex process that takes time and patience.

“We could not have made this faster. It’s a prescribed process.”

He also said the regulations didn’t come into effect in 2018 because numerous people wanted to weigh in on what should be in them.

“So many people put in submissions, stakeholders and individual Canadians, that it took a certain amount of time to get to the first draft.”

According to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), which conducted the second round of consultations, Canadians submitted more than 5,000 comments online and 930 randomly-selected air passengers filled out surveys in 11 different Canadians airports.

“The CTA went to airports with a clipboard and interviewed people and said, ‘Hey, what do you think should be addressed in a passenger bill of rights?'” said Roy.

He said there shouldn’t be any more delays in implementing the regulations because clear skies lie ahead.

“The unforeseens have been dealt with.”

But Masse questions if all the “unforeseens” have indeed been dealt with, considering the airlines have yet to weigh in on the proposed regulations as part of the latest consultation process.

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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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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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