Monthly Archives: February 2019

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Universities relax admission rules for Fort McMurray students

Post-secondary institutions across Alberta are doing their utmost to make life easier for high school graduates impacted by the wildfires in Fort McMurray.

Universities say they’ve relaxed admissions criteria and extended deadlines for those students hoping to start post-secondary school in September.

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  • Fort McMurray principal hits the road on mission to lift students’ spirits

  • Fort McMurray students can bypass diploma exams, remainder of school year

    The wildfires that prompted a mass evacuation of the town and caused millions of dollars in damage put a stop to high school classes across the city and initially left students in doubt as to how they could complete required exams and finish final courses.

    READ MORE: Fort McMurray school inspections start as crews check air quality, structural integrity 

    Students say they’re grateful that those hurdles have been addressed, but still lament the fact they’ll be missing out on typical high school graduation rituals.

    Proms have been cancelled and parties rescheduled, and official graduation ceremonies have been rebooked for the end of August when some students will have already left town.

    Kaylin Lynett has experienced both the benefits and drawbacks of the circumstances imposed by the Fort McMurray fires.

    Relief at having her early acceptance to the University of Alberta confirmed without the need to write normally mandatory diploma exams has been tempered by social media posts of other friends trying on prom gowns and celebrating the start of a new chapter alongside their high school friends.

    “I never realized how much I wanted a grad until I didn’t get a grad,” the 17-year-old said in a telephone interview. “Just the fancy dresses and them with all their friends making funny poses and things like that.”

    Missing out on grad traditions seemed like the least of Lynett’s problems when she and her family were forced to flee the flames engulfing the city in early May.

    READ MORE: ‘Don’t be shy’: Alberta teens offer to take Fort McMurray grads to high school prom 

    Her acceptance to the bilingual business program at University of Alberta had come through, but Lynett said she was nervous that it could be revoked if she failed to complete a diploma exam required of all Alberta high school students and finish her high school course work.

    Accordingly, she registered at a high school in Red Deer, at least an hour away from where her family members were staying.

    Her luck changed less than a week after the fire broke out, however, when Alberta Education announced that students from Fort McMurray high schools were exempt from taking the tests.

    The next day, the six post-secondary institutions in the Edmonton area announced their intention to smooth the path for students impacted by the fire.

    Concordia University of Edmonton, King’s University, MacEwan University, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Norquest College and the University of Alberta all acknowledged the difficulty the fire could present for prospective students and said they were committed to offering what support they could.

    University of Alberta registrar Lisa Collins said the 250 applicants from the area became a high priority and their cases were handled individually rather than according to standard protocols.

Halifax responds to Nova Centre legal action, says claim doesn’t apply to them

Halifax’s legal team has taken a closer look at the legal action taken by three downtown businesses over the Nova Centre construction project and doesn’t believe it applies to the municipality.

On Monday, the municipality was among the defendants named in a mass tort initiated by The Wooden Monkey restaurant, The Carleton Music Bar & Grill, and Attica Furnishings. The businesses have retained Wagners Law Firm.

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READ MORE: Downtown Halifax businesses take legal action over Nova Centre construction impact

The small businesses say repeated street and sidewalk closures, dust, noise, as well as lack of parking throughout the lengthy construction process have driven away customers.

They’re seeking compensation through a claim for injurious affection under the Expropriation Act.

In an e-mail statement, Halifax spokesperson Tiffany Chase says the municipality’s legal team does not believe the claim applies to the municipality in this instance.

She goes on to explain that since a claim for injurious affection only applies to a government if the government expropriates the land or is undertaking the construction activity, there is no basis for the claim.

Chase says if the businesses proceed with the legal action, the municipality would be defending itself on that basis.

All three levels of government, Argyle Developments Inc., its parent company Rank Incorporated and the Halifax Convention Centre Corporation received notice on Monday morning.

The province’s Department of Business also issued a statement on the matter.

“Construction on a project of this scale is always challenging. When it’s complete, this unique facility will continue to support new jobs and growth as a hub that connects our community, visitors and businesses,” the statement read.

The department declined further comment while the legal matter was being dealt with.

Proposed paid-plasma clinic for N.B. moving forward despite strong opposition

There was an emotional call Tuesday for the Gallant government to stop a privately-operated plasma collection from setting up shop in New Brunswick.

Canadian Plasma Resources (CPS) says it has met with the province about setting up a facility in Moncton which would compensate blood donors.

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“The plasma that is collected by a private blood broker will be exported out of Canada for sale,” said Kat Lanteigne of BloodWatch长沙夜网.

“This is absolutely outrageous and it’s dangerous.”

Lenteigne says she is fundamentally opposed to paid-plasma donation.

READ MORE: Pay for plasma: Calls for and against it from those affected

The proposed clinic is licensed by Health Canada and will compensate plasma donors with 25 dollars per donation.

Opponents say a paid-plasma clinic will create competition for Canadian Blood Services and put the voluntary system in jeopardy. However, CPS says Canadians are already receiving blood that’s not voluntary donated.

“More than 80 per cent of the plasma protein products used in this country are coming from the private sector and from paid donors,” said CEO Dr. Barzin Bahardoust. “It just happens to be that those are American donors.”

Canadian Blood Services has recently stated it would not be purchasing plasma from Canadian Plasma Resources.

Lanteigne says the practice of paying for blood contravenes the Krever inquiry on the tainted blood scandal.

“Selling off the blood of New Brunswickers —; that will undermine our voluntary blood system for a handful of jobs, after 8,000 people will die in this country because of tainted blood is absolutely objectionable,” she said.

READ MORE: Pay for plasma: The ethical debate

Lanteigne says she’s been unable to secure a meeting with the government on the issue. The province seems prepared to keep moving forward with the plan.

“Even if Canadian Blood Services doubled or tripled their collection, its still not enough to satisfy the demand we have as Canadians, so that’s why I do believe there’s a role for these private clinics to play,” Health Minister Victor Boudreau said.

Canadian Plasma Services says it would like to be operating in Moncton in 2017.

These Vancouver homeowners made over $1M last year by doing nothing

You could work as long or as hard as you can to make a living in Vancouver.

Or you could own a single-family home in the city and earn twice as much by basically doing nothing.

A sold home is pictured in Vancouver on Feb. 11, 2016.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

That’s the conclusion of Dr. Jens von Bergmann, a data visualizer with Vancouver-based firm MountainMath.

He analyzed BC Assessment data for 2016 and found that people who owned single-family homes in the city last year earned double what local residents did by working.

In other words, a select group of lucky Vancouverites made $1 million or more last year by “twiddling their thumbs.”

This map highlights properties whose land value grew by over $1 million last year:

This map shows Vancouver single-family homeowners who made $1 million on their properties last year.

Jens von Bergmann/MountainMath Software

And this map shows how much land values grew all over the city in 2016:

Red colours indicate that Vancouver land values grew by anywhere from $1 million to $2 million last year. Yellow colours indicate land value growth of closer to $50,000 per year.

Jens von Bergmann/MountainMath

Von Bergmann’s latest research comes a year after he completed a similar project which found that single-family homeowners could earn more by holding on to their properties than the whole population of Vancouver did by working.

He was inspired to do the research after seeing how much assessed values were increasing, and he was looking for something to compare them to.

READ MORE: Chip Wilson’s Vancouver home now worth over $75 million

This time, however, “the comparable doesn’t even work anymore,” von Bergmann told Global News.

“Just single-family houses alone went up twice as much, the rise was twice as much as the income of the City of Vancouver.”

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Figuring out Vancouver’s cumulative income required some estimating, as Statistics Canada only has data up to 2014.

Von Bergmann extrapolated the data for the two years up to 2016 and came up with an estimate of $26.8 billion of pre-tax income, or $22.3 billion after-tax.

That number is dwarfed by the land value increase for single-family homes — $46,717,326,799, according to von Bergmann’s research.

That’s about $239 per hour last year alone. It was $126 per hour in 2015.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver homeowners face home assessment ‘sticker shock’ as real estate market poised to cool further

Of course, these increases don’t necessarily mean that homeowners immediately brought in $1 million just by owning their homes — it’s not like they can access the money until they sell.

The data is also based on the BC Assessment, which only accounted for home values as of July 1, 2016, before B.C. slapped a 15 per cent Property Transfer Tax on foreign buyers on Aug. 2.

A sold sign is pictured outside a home in Vancouver, B.C., on June, 28, 2016. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says home sales in Metro Vancouver in September fell by 32.6 per cent compared to the same month last year.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Von Bergmann thinks it’s possible that the new tax could dampen home values.

But he remains concerned that rising property values could mean that the next generation can’t buy a home in the city.

“If I look at my son who is now seven years old, I would like to tell him that if you work hard and study hard, you can be whatever you want to be,” von Bergmann said.

Now, he said, members of his generation often need a financial boost from their parents to make it happen.

“And it’s just not the story I want to tell him.”

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How to avoid issues during home renovations this summer

Planning is the key to a successful home renovation project.

Just ask Calgarian Earle Allen, who paid a contractor $3,200 to fix some old, leaky windows. Unfortunately, Allen said the work was never completed and the contractor was eventually charged with fraud.

“I thought he knew what he was doing, but I came to know very quickly that he didn’t,” Allen said. “I kind of lost faith over human nature over this incident.”

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Luckily for Allen, the owner of Concept Building Systems, Kurtt Wulff, heard his story and offered to fix his windows for free.

“I was kind of flabbergasted to see what was done with the place, the workmanship was very poor,” Wulff said.

Choose a reputable contractor

According to Leah Brownridge with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), choosing a contractor is the key to a successful renovation.

“It really pays off to do your research beforehand. It can be quite risky if you don’t take the time to check [the contractor] out or you take the first person that will agree to do the job. Then you end up paying more money to fix mistakes,” Brownridge said.

The BBB recommends making sure your contractor has a valid City of Calgary business licence, as well as workers compensation and insurance to cover injuries on the job and damage to your home.

In addition, Brownridge said you should check their references and talk with past customers about their work.

If you have to pay a deposit or any money before the work is finished, the contractor must have a Provincial Prepaid Contractor Licence.

Get everything in writing

Once you choose a contractor, the Better Business Bureau recommends getting a written description of what work will be done and who will be completing the work. List the start dates and completion dates, the cost of materials and labour and how the payments will be made.

“That contract is the consumer’s and the business’ recourse should problems arise – and that holds both parties accountable should anything go wrong,” Brownridge said.

Lastly, clarify who is responsible for the permits and inspections.

You are entitled to hold back 15 per cent of the cost in case there are outstanding bills after the job is finished, or any workers or subcontractors aren’t paid.

For more information about renovations, visit Service Alberta’s website,  ConsumerInformation长沙夜网 or the Canadian Home Builder’s Association website.