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More than 100 First Nations could purchase the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline

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Dozens of First Nations leaders are meeting this week to discuss a plan that could make them the next owners of the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline.

Indigenous leaders will debate Wednesday which financial model is ideal if they are able to purchase the pipeline project, which would boost the amount of oilsands bitumen shipped from Alberta to the B.C. coast.

After a private “high level” meeting with the federal government was held in Calgary last month, the Indian Resources Council of Canada (IRCC) is optimistic it will be able to present a proposal to Ottawa to acquire the pipeline project in the coming months. The IRCC represents 134 First Nations that have oil and gas resources on their land.

The leaders are meeting at the Grey Eagle Casino and Resort on the Tsuut’ina Nation outside Calgary.

The proposed Trans Mountain expansion pipeline would ship oilsands crude from Edmonton to the Vancouver area for export. The federal government purchased the project for $4.5 billion from Kinder Morgan Canada last summer, but it doesn’t want to be a long-term owner.

The project is stalled after the Federal Court of Appeal ruled in late August there needed to be more consultation with First Nations. The National Energy Board was also instructed to explore the potential environmental impacts from increased marine shipping.

Stephen Buffalo, chief executive of the Indian Resource Council of Canada, says the pipeline is an opportunity to get out of poverty. 1:15

The IRCC says the majority of its members want to purchase the project and make the pipeline 100 per cent owned, operated and monitored by Indigenous people.

“We all want a safe and proper environment; the environment is so key,” said Stephen Buffalo, chief executive of the IRCC. “But we can continue to still do some economic development and have that balance. And that’s what we need to strive for — to find that balance.”

Along the pipeline route, some First Nations have signed benefit agreements to support the project, while others have resisted and tried to stop progress through protests and legal challenges. The IRCC said it supports those First Nations in B.C. who want to protect their land and waterways, specifically the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh, which have territory near the Burrard Inlet terminal. 

Those who oppose the project have concerns about a potential oil spill, including the impact on salmon and other marine life.

People drum during a rally celebrating a recent federal court ruling against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, in Vancouver, on Sept. 8, 2018. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

However, the organization says efforts to oppose the project are also holding back the First Nations that support the pipeline and are counting on it for economic gain.

Not every First Nation has lucrative land holdings or casinos to benefit from, said Buffalo.

“Our job right now is to get the chiefs together and the leadership together to help make a consensus to ensure we’re all on the same page. We’re all looking for something to get out of poverty,” he said.

If Indigenous people own the project, there would be increased job and economic opportunities, in addition to more control over environmental monitoring, he said.

“I’ll be satisfied to know that there are no rail cars along the rivers and lakes. That there is no possibility of a car derailment,” said Buffalo.

One of the First Nations opposing the project doesn’t seem to care much who owns the pipeline now or in the future because concerns with Trans Mountain remain.

“It doesn’t change the fact on the ground that the federal government has the responsibility to respect our rights and they haven’t yet, and that’s the standard that we set for ourselves,” said Khelsilem, a Squamish Nation councillor and spokesperson.

“The reality is, if they want to build this pipeline they have to come through our titled land. That is our land. They don’t have the right to say anything about what happens on our territory just like we don’t have the right to say what happens to theirs,” he said.

The 1,150-kilometre Trans Mountain expansion pipeline aims to move oil from Edmonton to a terminal in Burnaby, B.C., near Vancouver, where it will be exported. (Scott Galley/CBC)

The IRCC said First Nations in B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan are interested in purchasing the project and the group wants to see if Indigenous people in other provinces want to be involved.

Some Indigenous leaders have already said they want to buy the pipeline.

“First Nations should be the owners of Trans Mountain. All of that resource is coming out of our territory,” said Archie Waquan, chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, located north of Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, in an interview with CBC News in November. “I’d like to see First Nations that are not even close to the pipeline to be owners so they can benefit from it.”

The Whispering Pines First Nation near Kamloops, B.C., has also expressed its interest in an ownership stake.

Some Indigenous groups have already expressed their interest in an ownership stake including Mikisew Cree First Nation chief Archie Waquan, left, and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation chief Allan Adam. (Geneviève Normand/Radio-Canada)

Federal finance minister Bill Morneau’s office declined an interview request. In an emailed statement, a spokesperson said the government is focused on moving forward with the project.

“With that in mind, we welcome the interest of Indigenous groups in the future ownership of the project and will continue these discussions at the appropriate time,” said the spokesperson.

Indigenous involvement in the oil and gas sector has grown in recent decades as First Nations sign benefit agreements with industry, in addition to a number of Indigenous-owned businesses providing services to the oilpatch.

Some First Nations point to the East Tank Farm oil storage project in the oilsands region as an example of an Indigenous ownership deal that has benefited the local community. Calgary-based Suncor sold a 49 per cent stake in the project to the Fort McKay First Nation and the Mikisew Cree First Nation for $503 million in 2017. The First Nations borrowed money to cover the cost.

Four different ownership models will be considered by Indigenous leaders at a conference organized by the IRCC on Wednesday. At this point, the IRCC said some of the details are under non-disclosure agreements and can’t be shared publicly.

While there are several obstacles to overcome for Indigenous groups to own the proposed pipeline, the significance of such a deal can’t be understated, according to Ken Coates, a University of Saskatchewan professor who studies Aboriginal rights.

“It would be extremely difficult to pull off because you have to find ways of getting all the members on board, you have to find ways to raise the capital, you have to find the management system that works,” he said, among other challenges.

However, Coates said he is delighted the IRCC is looking so closely into purchasing the pipeline because it’s a sign of confidence of Indigenous business people and the determination of some First Nations to have greater control of oil and gas projects.

“It changes the game on a number of levels,” he said. “From their point of view this is not just a pipeline investment. This is an investment in the future of their community. Is it possible? Absolutely possible.”

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Real Estate

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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