Over the years, we’ve developed a good understanding of how buildings perform. Construction techniques for new homes have changed rapidly. Most of these improved techniques also apply to renovations.
If you plan carefully, you can renovate your home to make it look better, work better, last longer and be more comfortable. Before renovating, it’s important to assess the condition of your home to determine if there are any significant underlying problems that must be addressed before or during your planned renovation project.
Figure 1: Problems that should be addressed
In Canada, we need affordable houses to provide shelter from the elements. We also want our homes to be pleasant, comfortable and attractive.
Homeowners have higher expectations than in the past, particularly about comfort and interior design. Renovations are an opportunity to address some of these expectations.
Some of the reasons people decide to renovate are to:
Upgrade or improve outdated or deteriorated systems — replacing an outdated furnace, old siding or windows are common upgrades.
Maintain and repair various elements of their house — reshingling a roof or fixing foundation cracks are typical renovations.
Address lifestyle needs — converting unused attic space to living quarters, add a sunroom or build a home office.
Renovating is an ideal time to make your house healthier for you, the community and the environment. When assessing your renovation project, be sure to consider the five essentials of Healthy Housing™.
House as a System
A house is much more than just four walls and a roof — it’s an interactive system made up of many components including the basic structure, heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, the external environment and the occupants. Each component influences the performance of the entire system. A renovation provides an opportunity to improve how your house performs.
As you assess your renovation project, ask yourself how changing particular components will affect the performance of the whole house. For example, as part of a bathroom renovation you may want to add a hot tub that will generate large amounts of humidity during operation.Your existing ventilation may be inadequate to handle the increased moisture levels. It will be important to provide proper ventilation to avoid mold growth, indoor air quality (IAQ) problems and damage to the structure or finishes. You may need to consult with a qualified home inspector or a professional renovator.
A systematic and thorough inspection will help you to assess the condition of your home. Look for any signs of deterioration and the possible causes. Start your inspection in the basement. Many problems in other parts of the house originate there. Depending upon the size of your project, you may want to ask a qualified home inspector or a professional renovator to help you assess your building and develop a plan. Here are some of the likely questions that you’ll want to think about.
Are there any cracks or is there damage to concrete walls or floors?
Are there any damp spots, stains, efflorescence (white, chalky stains) or blistered paint on the concrete, finished walls or floors?
Does anyone notice bad smells or experience nausea or headaches when in the basement?
Is there high humidity, any condensation or visible mold?
Repair minor cracks if they leak. Seek an engineer’s opinion on serious structural problems such as major or expanding cracks, bowed walls or uneven floors.
Clean up mold; discard moldy or rotting materials.
Ensure that the floor drain has a trap or install a retrofit backflow preventer. Make sure that all plumbing fixtures (including washer) are vented and have traps. Install a sealed cover on the sump pit.
Direct outside surface water away from the foundation. Improve underground drainage.
Repair or replace damaged interior finishes.
Keep the relative humidity between 30 and 55%. Ventilate and circulate air. Dehumidify or air condition in summer. Clean up mold according to CMHC guidelines.
Serious structural problems could cause further damage or collapse.
Water pressure on the outside of the foundation can contribute to leaks and structural problems.
Odours will continue to be annoying and can pose health problems, depending on the source.
Unresolved water sources will cause renovations to deteriorate quickly, whether the water comes from building leaks, plumbing leaks or high humidity.
Mold can grow on almost anything and be a source of serious indoor air quality (IAQ) problems.
Basement ceiling or main floor structure
Are there any headroom problems?
Are there signs of rot, sagging floor joists or twisted beams?
Are there water stains on the main floor structure or basement finished ceiling?
Assess structural problems carefully. Expert help may be required. Repair or replace structural elements so they will accommodate renovation plans and expected loads.
Fix any water leaks.
Unresolved structural problems, poorly planned structural changes or new loads may cause future settling or collapse.
Mechanical and electrical systems
Are there unusually high heating or cooling bills?
Are mechanical systems capable of supplying current and future needs?
Is the house too dry or too humid? Is the heat uneven?
Is there ever a noticeable smoky or fuel smell?
Is the electrical service and wiring capable of supplying current and future needs?
Do fuses keep blowing or circuit breakers keep shutting off?
Are there any exposed electrical wires or crumbled wire insulation?
Do any lights dim or outlets spark?
Are there leaks from pipes, taps, toilets or the water heater?
Have a qualified service company inspect your heating system to ensure that equipment is up-to-date, functioning properly and sized to handle current and future needs.
Air seal the house to keep it from becoming too dry. Use a humidifier (that has a humidistat) as required. Provide ventilation using exhaust fans or a heat recovery ventilator to reduce humidity in winter. Dehumidify or air condition to reduce the humidity in summer. Check for heat flow to each room.
Repair any sources of smoky or fuel smells immediately. The smells could indicate serious fire or health hazards.
Have an electrician assess the electrical systems and any problems such as fuses blowing repeatedly, sparking outlets, exposed wires or connections.
Repair any water leaks. Repair or replace leaky fixtures.
Without regular service, heating systems may gradually deteriorate unnoticed, leading to serious health and safety concerns.
Problems can arise if HVAC needs cannot be met by the capacity of the services available. The heating supply must be enough for comfort. Proper ventilation is needed to control excess humidity.
Electrical service, wiring and outlets may be unsafe or inadequate for increased loads.
Plumbing leaks will continue to damage the finishes and the house structure. The leaks may also contribute to mold growth and IAQ problems.
General living areas, floors and stairs
Are floors or stairs springy, sagging, warped or squeaky?
Are floor surfaces damaged or carpets musty?
Are handrails or guardrails loose?
Assess the supports underneath the floor. Contact a carpenter for help. Repair as needed.
Refasten or shim squeaking floors or stairs.
Repair serious safety hazards immediately such as damaged floors or stair boards and loose coverings.
If the problem sources are not fixed, the bulges, cracks or binding will re-occur.
Hiding moisture damage behind new finishes will cause continuing deterioration and mold growth.
Faulty windows will eventually result in damage to surrounding wall areas.
Are there water stains or excessive dampness?
Is there black mold on any of the roof framing or sheathing?
Is the attic adequately ventilated?
Are there air leaks in the ceiling of the rooms below the attic? Is the attic hatch sealed?
Find moisture sources. Repair roof leaks. Air-seal the ceiling using polyethylene sheeting, sealed over octagonal boxes for lights, caulk holes for wires through sheeting or wall top plates and weatherstrip attic hatches.
Ventilate the attic at the soffits and roof peak.
Seal any air leaks in the ceiling of the rooms below the attic. Install a sealed attic hatch.
Moisture damage will continue to deteriorate the house. Unventilated attics will allow moisture to build up.
Air leaks in ceilings below the attic will reduce heating efficiency and can be sources of odours and pollutants.
Does the roof have any curled or cracked shingles, bare patches, leaks, moss, or damaged flashing?
Do eavestroughs and downspouts direct water away from the foundation?
Repair or replace damaged roofing.
Clean leaves and debris from eavestroughs every spring and fall. Extend downspouts to direct rainwater away from the foundation.
Roofing will continue to deteriorate.
Surface water near the house can put undue stress on the foundation and is a primary cause of water entry problems.
Is there any blistered paint, rotted wood, buckled siding, stained or crumbled brick or damaged stucco on exterior walls?
Find and eliminate the source of water penetration. Repair or replace damaged exterior finishes.
Water penetration may lead to more serious siding, structural and interior finish problems.
Undertaking maintenance and repair projects such as correcting structural flaws, fixing leaks and making sure that all services are safe and adequate will make your home safer, more efficient and more durable.
After you have ensured safety, efficiency and durability, other renovations can be done to make your home more pleasant, attractive and suited to your lifestyle.
Skills to Do the Job
You can assess most of your house with the help of one of CMHC’s inspection checklists. Professional home inspectors are also available to do a thorough inspection for you.
Repairing serious structural, mechanical or electrical problems will require the help of an expert.
Use the House Assessment Worksheet to record the present condition, any problems in your home and to help set priorities for your renovation.
House Assessment Worksheet
Present Condition / Problems
Basement Ceiling or Main Floor Structure
Heating, Cooling and Ventilation System
Electrical Service and House Wiring
Plumbing and Fixtures
Floors and Stairs Structure/Finishes
Wall and Ceiling Structure/Finishes
Exterior Wall Finishes
Windows and Doors
Costing Your Project
The cost of your assessment will depend almost entirely on how many professionals you need. They might include an engineer, architect, electrician, plumber, carpenter or professional home inspector.
Developed by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), the ecoENERGY initiative provides a residential energy assessment service delivered by local organizations across Canada for a fee. Retrofits may be eligible for grants. To find a local service organization or grant information, visit www.ecoaction.gc.ca or call 1-800-387-2000.
A little more than $40,000 could be up for grabs when you purchase your recreational home in BC!
Good news for sure for real estate investors in the recreational market. Naturally there is a lot of new "unsold" recreational inventory around at the moment and this move by the BC government, while a little hard to understand is a welcome break for a sluggish real estate sector.
No rules in regards to the grant are available which actually refers to grants for second home purchases. The rules and regulations are expected to be published this month.
We do know it will be eligible for purchases of second homes up to $850,000 and is to be administered by the Province rather than CRA in relation to HST/GST rebates.
While it is a welcome break, it is curious in my mind why this would be administered as a grant/bonus. Years ago as the federal Conservatives toppled the long reigning Liberal government, there was talk of tax breaks/deferrals on capital gains for real estate investors. To me, this would appear to be a better long term strategy to assist with what is a very significant industry in our province.
For now however, we are dealing with a temporary grant program that will run from March this year to April next year with details coming as to what defines a second property and who is eligible for the rebate from the Province. We await with baited breath!
Ask me about how to start your search for investment properties in BC!
In a growing trend, on the cusp of RRSP season, yet another poll shows that Canadians, by and large do not feel prepared for retirement.
A recent survey from CIBC shows that while Canadians do not feel prepared for retirement, many of them plan to do something about it- starting now. Many identify retirement planning among their top priorities this year.
Furthermore, many do recognize the link between retirement success and developing and implementing strategy: “Planning ahead makes a significant difference, according to the poll - among Canadians who say they have a long term investment plan for retirement, 76 per cent say they are financially prepared for retirement, versus just 25 per cent among those who don't have a plan.”
“Planning for retirement is something almost every Canadian thinks about at this time of year, and our poll results show that many would like to be further ahead when it comes to their retirement plans," commented Christina Kramer, Executive Vice President, Retail Distribution and Channel Strategy, CIBC. "Our poll results reveal a split in the country when it comes to retirement, with those who are actively planning ahead are about three times more likely to feel prepared for their future retirement than those who have not yet mapped out their retirement strategy."
For Baby Boomers who feel panicky, and that time has run out in advance of their retirement, fear not. There is no time like the present, even when it comes to retirement saving and planning.
Furthermore, previous CIBC research shows that 69% of Canadians intend to keep working through retirement age, so for many there is flexibility in terms of saving deadline.
There is also benefit, no matter what stage of life you are in, to understanding what you are investing in, and how that fits into your overall planning. The temptation for many is to wait to the last minute of the RRSP deadline, which can sometimes result in rushed decisions.
“We're all busy, and some Canadians have fallen into the habit of making their RRSP contribution just before the deadline without taking the time to sit down and understand where they are versus their goals, and what they might need to change to keep making progress," added Ms. Kramer. "We encourage Canadians to make this the year you use the time before the contribution deadline to look at your broader financial picture, particularly given the difference we see it making in the confidence people have in their retirement plans."
It’s the entrepreneurs’ lament. For want of a little start-up financing, the world could be missing out on the next, better mousetrap, ultra computer or low-cost, non-polluting fuel source.
So, how does someone with a good business idea find the money he needs to get started?
“Before you leave your job to launch that new business or idea, set up a personal line of credit with your bank,” says chartered accountant Daryl Heinsohn, a partner with Laberge Venne & Partners Professional Corporation in Sudbury, Ont. “It’s a lot easier to get a favourable decision about financing when you’re employed and have a regular income.”
Depending on your circumstances and your idea, a line of credit may be enough to start. But if you still need to ask the bank for a business loan, do some serious homework first.
“Start by putting together a business plan,” says chartered accountant Daryle G. Moffatt, vice-president, operations, with Probyn & Company in Toronto. “Many banks have outlines for business plans on their websites, so don’t reinvent the wheel. Spell out what you’re planning to do, where you want the business to go and the costs associated with it. Explain how the company will be structured. Will you be self-employed or set up a corporation? Identify the key players. Will you have partners? Is it a joint venture?”
“Banks can be a tough sell for business startups,” says Heinsohn in Sudbury. “Aside from term loans, generally don’t count on financing from them for two or three years without a personal guarantee. In addition, they’ll definitely want to see that you have some of your own money in the venture. I tell clients to be prepared to be turned down, but don’t take it personally. Work with your banker and build up rapport.
“There are a few other sources of money,” Heinsohn says, “but not many grants or subsidies these days. However, if your business is conducting research and development, you may be eligible for certain federal and provincial incentives.”
Consider, too, the Business Development Bank of Canada, a federally owned bank that works with small to medium-sized business. “They can sometimes offer flexibility that exceeds what traditional banks can accommodate,” Heinsohn says.
Friends and family can also be a source of help, but there can be major pitfalls involved in those types of deals. Loans that aren’t repaid can cause ill will. Think seriously before you risk damaging any relationships.
Whoever you decide to approach for money, both Moffatt and Heinsohn agree that
your first call should be to a chartered accountant. They will review your business plan and help determine if that idea of yours really has legs. There’s no better substitute for the expert advice they can give you about how to structure the business and best prepare yourself for that meeting with potential funders.
Written by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario.
Between 2005 and 2009, an average of 2,650 people died each year and an average of 12,890 people were injured in home fires. Cooking fires were the leading cause of those fires (40 percent) and associated injuries (36 percent). The majority of these cooking fires were initiated by the ignition of food or cooking materials. In less than 1 percent of cooking fires, clothing was ignited first, but that led to a disproportionate 15 percent of cooking-fire fatalities.
Stay in the kitchen while you are cooking. If you leave, be sure to turn off the stove.
If you are baking, boiling or simmering food, check it frequently and do not leave the house.
Make sure there is nothing on or near the stove top that would easily catch on fire.
And in the case of a fire:
Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking in order to smother grease fires. If a grease fire starts, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the lid on until everything cools.
If an oven fire begins, shut off the oven and keep the oven door closed.
Do not try to fight the fire yourself (59 percent of non-fatal injuries happened when victims tried to snuff the flames on their own).
Leave the house and call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
If you’re in the market for new appliances, read our buying advice for ranges and cooktops and wall ovens. Consider one with safety features that will let you know if the surface is still hot and lock the controls so children can’t turn the unit on.
If your home ownership fantasies have been rudely awakened by loan officers denying your application, it’s time to take control of your situation and learn what you can do to turn that rejection into an approval.
What are your options? Everyone’s financial situation is unique. With that in mind, here are five different options for making your homeownership dreams a reality.
1. Get a Co-signer
If your income isn’t high enough to qualify for the loan you need and if you can find a co-signer with enough disposable income, part of that person’s income can be considered toward your loan amount regardless of whether the person will actually be living with you or helping you pay the bill. In some cases, a co-signer may also be able to compensate for your less-than-perfect credit. Overall, the co-signer is guaranteeing the lender that your mortgage payments will be paid. If you decide to go this route, just make sure that both of you understand the financial and legal obligations the co-signer takes on when he or she signs the loan documents.
Sometimes conditions in the economy, the housing market or lending business make lenders less generous with loans. If you’re in a climate where everyone is panicking, then it may be best to wait things out. When conditions improve, lenders may become more accommodating. In the meantime, you can work on improving your credit score, reducing your debt and increasing your savings. While you’re waiting, home prices or interest rates could drop. Either of these changes could also improve your mortgage eligibility.
3. Set your Sights on a Less-Expensive Property
If you can’t qualify for the amount of mortgage you want and you aren’t willing to wait, switching to a condo or townhouse instead of a house, accepting fewer bedrooms or bathrooms, or moving to a less attractive or more distant neighbourhood may give you more options. As a more drastic option, you could even move to a different part of the country where the cost of home ownership is lower. When your financial situation improves down the road you might be able to trade up to the property, neighborhood or city where you hope to end up.
4. Ask the Lender for an Exception
Believe it or not, it is possible to ask the lender to send your file to someone else within the company for a second opinion on a rejected loan application. In asking for an exception, you'll need to have a very good reason, and you'll need to write a carefully worded letter defending your case. Your letter should avoid excuses and sob stories and focus only on the facts. Explain how the incident that is preventing your loan from being approved, such as a charged-off account, was a one-time event that will never occur again. This one-time event should have been caused by a catastrophe such as a large and unexpected medical expense, natural disaster, divorce or death in the family. The blemish on your record will actually need to have been a one-time event, and you'll need to be able to back your story up with an otherwise flawless credit history.
5. Team Up With Someone Else
Two incomes are better than one, so if you can't qualify on your own, perhaps you have a family member or friend that you trust enough and like enough to make a major purchase with and live with. It won't be enough to just put them on the loan, of course - they'll need to actually help with the mortgage payments to make it work, and chances are they won't want to pay half the mortgage unless they're living in the new home with you.
To go from rejected to pre-approved, it's important to know what lenders are looking for in an applicant. If you've been turned down for a mortgage, make sure to ask your mortgage professional plenty of questions about things you could do in your specific situation to make yourself a more attractive loan candidate. With time, patience, hard work and a little luck, you should be able to turn the situation around and become a residential property owner.
With the harmonized sales tax (HST) referendum now taking place in British Columbia, it occurred to me that the debate hasn’t really included newer voters, namely those between 18 and 25 who may already be in the work force or in college or university and planning to be in the work force when they graduate.
I’d imagine that a fair number of these voters expect to be in business one day soon, either working their way up the corporate ladder for small or medium-sized businesses, or using their entrepreneurial chutzpah to start new businesses themselves.
If those already in the work force with grey hair, jobs, pensions and mortgages have more or less made up their mind about the HST in B.C., I’d like to direct my comments today to this future generation of business owners, managers and employees.
Why should the HST matter to you and your generation?
First, if the HST referendum and the provincial sales tax (PST) is reinstated, the most significant thing your generation will lose is opportunity.
Your generation will lose the benefits to the province predicted by the independent HST panel chaired by former Alberta Finance Minister Jim Dinning. It forecasted that at least 24,400 new, better-paying jobs would be created in B.C. as a result of the HST, and that it would lead to a $2.5-billion larger economy and $1.5-billion more exports.
So all of you will lose the potential benefits to the economy that two independent organizations have predicted as a result of moving away from the PST to the HST.
Second, Alberta, which has no sales tax, and Ontario, with the HST, will attract some of B.C.’s managerial and entrepreneurial talent who may well vote with their feet and leave B.C. because it will be more expensive to do business here than in Ontario or Alberta. Some of the people moving to Calgary or Toronto may be you.
It’s great to ski and sail in B.C., but you can’t eat great scenery and recreation. If your employer, or the new business you want to create, gets higher tax credits for its business inputs, only has to file one tax return and not two, and doesn’t have to pay sales tax on top of sales tax on top of sales tax, (which the BC PST requires businesses to do), it makes business sense to move your businesses, employees and future to Ontario, where even the premier admits his province will be the happy beneficiary of the HST failing in B.C.
Third, by promising to lower the HST to 11 per cent in 2012 and 10 per cent in 2014, the HST will be two percentage points lower than Ontario’s rate in three years. In fairness to former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm, if there’s anything he accomplished (besides unseating a sitting premier and opposition leader), it’s getting the tax lowered. And it’s not just lowered to 10 per cent on those things that were previously not taxed under the PST; by federal law, it’s lowered to that figure on all goods and services by 2014.
Fourth, you’ll lose in terms of income tax increases or social-service reductions. B.C. received $1.6-billion from the federal government for transition costs. There is no reason why a majority government in Ottawa is going to settle for not being repaid or otherwise settling on being paid something less.
If I were a taxpayer in Ontario or Saskatchewan whose taxes contributed to this payment to B.C., I’d be outraged if Ottawa waived or otherwise settled on this amount. It must be repaid and B.C. taxpayers will have to find the money to repay it if we return to the PST.
One of these taxpayers will be you. Another may be the business you want to start.
Fifth, you’ll risk losing expensive but important public services that government won’t be able to afford because the tax base will be too small by simply taxing income.
It’s a demographic time bomb, and it’s best illustrated by looking at the demographics of health care.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information stated that in 2007, the average annual expenditure on health care per person for people aged one to 64 was $1,996. The average expenditure for those over 65 was $10,318.
Add to that the fact that expensive surgical procedures are expected to keep boomers like me alive until well past 80; it’ll be my daughter’s generation that will end up paying far more for my generation’s health care costs than they could ever imagine. God knows what will be left for her and her kids unless new sources of revenue are found.
The tax base to pay the enormous health care and related social service costs of older British Columbians is shrinking as the baby boom generation stops working and enters retirement. When the tax base is smaller because there are fewer people payinger rates (with so many people retired and living off pensions or retirement income, which is taxed at lower rates), it will be left to a much smaller pool of younger people to make up the difference in income tax revenue to maintain our social services.
So unless income and other taxes are disproportionally higher for this smaller group of younger taxpayers in 20 or 30 years, or a new source of tax revenue is found, there’ll be less money available for the things my daughter’s generation might actually expect from government, such as health care and education for their children. Without a broad-based consumption tax on services, high corporate and income taxes won’t generate enough revenue for government to do the things we expect it to do.
It’s all well and good for the anti-HST naysayers with grey hair, pensions, jobs and mortgages to complain oh-so-loudly about the additional tax they’ll now have to pay on restaurant meals, dance lessons and haircuts, but without raising more money from the taxation of services, the income tax burden that your generation will pay 20 or 30 years from now will be absolutely unbearable.
Without taxing services, like the HST does, there will be little money left for your generation to fix the roads that need fixing, deal with global warming and remediate the environment, let alone provide your own kids with a good education and adequate health care.
I’ve explained to my daughter that she should see a vote for the HST as an “intergenerational insurance policy” that will protect her generation from the enormous financial demands of mine.
However, she sees it as “intergenerational middle finger” for those in their twenties not wanting to metaphorically pay buckets of their tax dollars to “change my generation’s diapers in the nursing home” in 30 years time at the expense of their own priorities for government.
By: RICHARD GILBERT, Journal of Commerce, May 18, 2011
The top four cities for economic growth in Canada in the next five years will be located in Saskatchewan and Alberta, according to a study by the Conference Board of Canada.
“Buoyed by the resources and energy sectors, the economies of Saskatoon, Calgary, Regina and Edmonton will post noticeably stronger growth than the other cities covered in this report,” said Mario Lefebvre, director of the Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for Municipal Studies.
According to the Spring 2011 edition of the Metropolitan Outlook, Saskatoon will lead the country with real GDP growth of 4.1 per cent in 2011.
Housing starts sprang back from a weak 2009 to hit 2,380 units last year—matching the recent 2007 peak,” said the report. “Both single-detached and multiple-unit starts rose smartly, helping to boost overall construction output by eight per cent—a strong rebound following a gain of less than 1.0 per cent in 2009.”
Population growth is projected to push housing starts higher in 2011 and 2012.
In the non-residential sector, work is expected to start on the $200 million River Landing complex in 2011.
The residential and commercial complex also involves the construction of a $30-million office building, as well as the $60 million Art Gallery of Saskatchewan.
City council has also decided to demolish the 103-year-old Traffic Bridge and build a new $30-million steel truss span with wider lanes.
The strength of residential and non-residential sectors are expected to stimulate construction activity, with an increase of 5.6 per cent in 2011, 6.9 per cent in 2012 and 5.9 per cent in 2013.
Real GDP is forecast to grow by 4.2 per cent between 2012 and 2015.
Calgary’s economy is expected to increase by 3.4 per cent in 2011 and 4.2 per cent between 2012 and 2015.
Despite a number of major projects already under way, total construction output is projected to increase by 1.8 per cent in 2011.
The latest estimates show that about $14.2-billion worth of energy-related projects are now under way in the province. Other non-residential projects that will boost construction activity in Calgary in 2011 include the $1-billion Quarry Park mixed-use development and a $1.3-billion hospital.
Housing starts are forecast to drop to 8,100 units in 2011, as strong new home prices take a bite out of demand.
In Regina, real GDP is expected to expand by 3.1 per cent in 2011 and by 3.8 per cent between 2012 and 2015.
The collapse of the domed stadium scheme in Regina has forced the city of Regina and the Saskatchewan government to consider new options for a stadium and redevelopment of 46 acres currently housing CP Rail’s container yards.
“These yards are to be relocated to what’s called a global transportation hub emerging in the city’s west,” said the report. “Indeed, development of this hub is positioned to be a significant growth driver in the medium term.”
Housing starts increased 45 per cent to 1,347 units in 2010 and are projected to moderate to near 1,280 units in 2011. However, housing starts are expected to jump above 1,400 units in 2012 and remain there for several years.
The construction industry is expected to expand 6.2 per cent in 2011 and an average of 5.6 per cent between 2012 and 2014.
Edmonton's economy is expected to rise 3.1 per cent in 2011 and 3.6 per cent between 2012 and 2015.
The Alberta government is investing $165 million in capital project in 2011, including a new police station in Terwillegar and other infrastructure projects.
Plans for a downtown arena to replace the aging Rexall Place still lack firm financial commitments.
The proposal would also see significant downtown redevelopment and a stop on a yet-to-be-built light rail transit line. Alberta has approved up to $492 million for this LRT route. Longer term, the city is weighing competing proposals from five international design teams to redevelop the City Centre Airport into a neighbourhood for 30,000 residents.
Housing starts rebounded from recession approach 10,000 units in 2010, which represents a 58 per cent increase from 2009. A pullback to near 7,600 units is expected for 2011, with starts hovering near 9,000 units per year afterwards, as population growth is expected to accelerate starting this year.
Edmonton’s construction sector declined by 24 per cent in the last two years, but is forecast to increase by 1.4 per cent in 2011.
The other Western cities covered in this report can expect moderate economic growth.
It may be trickier to ask for extra pickles, but you may soon be able to avoid the judgmental look of a cashier as you supersize your order of fries.
McDonald’s Europe has announced plans to replace some of its cashiers with touch-screen terminals and cash-free payment, a move that will likely play well with consumers looking for options that offer convenience and a sense of control.
Research shows people who use self-service options — already available in many retail outlets in Canada including grocery stores, Canadian Tire and Home Depot — believe it takes less time than waiting for a cashier.
“And at the end of the day, perception is reality,” said Brent Barr, an instructor at the Ted Rogers School of Retail Management at Ryerson University in Toronto.
What’s more, Mr. Barr said, most young people no longer consider paying in cash and the move to payment by swipe card is a reality.
“More and more our society has moved away from the physical cash and moved into the plastic world,” he said. “This is one next step in making it easy for that person to do what they’d like to do.”
Steve Easterbrook, president of McDonald’s Europe, told the Financial Times this week the global fast food giant plans to introduce the self-service ordering at its 7,000 European restaurants. Around the world, retailers will be watching McDonald’s to see how this latest experiment works out, Mr. Barr said.
“They were one of the first in the fast food world and as a result they’ve always been perceived to be an innovator in the market place,” he said, adding that other outlets will be considering whether to try it as well.
The model may work well at McDonald’s given the consistency of its menu and the fact customers generally know what to expect and what they would like to order, he said.
Kaan Yigit, president of Toronto-based technology consultancy Solutions Research Group, agreed the self-serve model, which he said is fundamentally driven by economics and cost-savings, may work well at McDonald’s.
“They [self-serve systems] are best-suited to environments where transactions are simple and predictable. They are more difficult to implement in settings where there are many customizable options or when the product or service is not uniform,” he said.
Parry Sadorsky, associate professor of economics at the Schulich School of Business at York University, said he believes we will soon order food from touch screens in Canada, but cautioned the move could have negative implications for employment.
“All you need is one big chain to do this,” he said, noting that it would likely be tested in major U.S. markets before arriving north of the border.
“It’s good for corporate profits, but not very good for the overall labour force, because you’re going to take out many of the entry-level and low-skill jobs,” Mr. Sadorsky said, adding that it is often those types of jobs that make up the majority of new jobs created each month.
Plus, many young people rely on employment at places such as McDonald’s to get their first work experience, he said.
However, McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Ltd. is not about to follow its European counterpart’s lead — yet.
“We have no plans currently to implement a similar ordering system,” said the company’s national media relations manager Louis Payette.
“We’re constantly looking at ways to enhance the customer experience when it comes to speed and service and convenience,” Mr. Payette said, adding, “Our customers seem pretty pleased with the fast and friendly service they’re getting.”
What’s more, he said, the company is in “growth mode” with regard to its work force, pointing to the almost 5,000 employees McDonald’s Canada hired on April 19 as part of a National Hiring Day event.
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