Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Green Up Your House - Get Grants

Eldon Freeman is a Toronto real-estate broker who is setting up a national green real-estate association with James Rodgers executive director of B.C.'s Greener Realty Association.

Their dream is to have a mandatory energy evaluation for every Canadian home before they are sold on the market.

"Within five years, we hope to have mandatory energy audits right across Canada on every resale home," Elden Freeman executive director of the non-profit National Association of Green Agents and Brokers

The two plan to help teach real-estate agents how to promote greener homes and show homeowners how to make energy-efficient upgrades.

Freeman and Rogers mandatory energy evaluations include assessments of insulation, appliances, furnaces, air conditioners and exhaust fans, and also measure how airtight a home is.

If you cant wait to make your home energy efficient then here is some good news. You can get grants from the government to "green" up your house.

There is a lot of money out there that the Federal Government is willing to give out to owners of single family homes including detached, semi-detached and low-rise multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs) that are no more than three storeys high.

The ecoEnergy Retrofit Program is available to property owners so they can qualify for federal grants by improving the energy efficiency of their homes, and reducing their home's impact on the environment.

You reduce the cost of running your investment property by improving its "greeness" if you don't care about the environment, money in your pocket should peak your interest.

PLEASE CONTACT ecoENERGY Retrofit before doing any renovation to your home!!

For a Full List Of Improvements Covered Under ecoENERGY Retrofit Click Here
To Download the ecoEnergy Retrofit Info PDF Click HERE

Why Tangible Assets Are The Way To Go

How many of you have stocks? Right now you are probably checking E*Trade every 5 minutes to see HOW MUCH WORSE IT CAN GET. If you have all your saving or retirement nest egg in the market, then I am really sorry and am not making light of this situation.

Today on MSN

"A record high for crude oil and continued concerns about the health of financial stocks crushed a morning rally, extending the losses the stock market has seen since mid-July to about 6%"

"Crude oil had its first close above $78 a barrel in New York today and there was talk crude might hit $80 a barrel amid worries that domestic demand would outstrip supplies. Crude closed at $78.21, up $1.38. It was up 10.7% for July and is up 28% for the year."

I hold some stocks and saw my values drop considerably over the last four days. On other hand my houses are all increasing in value. Sure in Edmonton house prices fell $9,000 last month BUT they went up 72% over the last 18 months. House values in Edmonton are still rising; the oil sands and Alberta's stellar economy will see to that.

Rising oil prices are making the oil sands more profitable,valuable and economical. You can buy stocks and watch your savings go up an down in value losing sleep at night and security in your golden years or you can buy a tangible asset in a near perfect economy and sleep well at night.

Darryl Hannah Do Your Homework

Alberta Oil Sands are getting a dirty name. Darryl Hannah, Al Gore and Schwarzenegger are all champions of low-carbon fuel standards aimed at cutting imports from places like Alberta. They also see ethanol as the oil of the future but whether this wonder gas is really that wonderful is unclear.

Does it require less energy to produce ethanol?

Independent study by Michigan State University MSU shows that there is 56% more energy in a gallon of ethanol than it takes to produce it. The available energy from ethanol is much higher than the input energy for producing ethanol.

Or More?

The fossil energy expended during production alone...easily outweighs the consumable energy in the end product."".... those who think using the "green" fuel will reduce fossil fuel consumption are deluding themselves -- and the federal government's practice of subsidizing ethanol by offering tax exemptions to oil refiners who buy it is a waste of money. Tad Patzek UC Berkeley Geoengineering Professor

Either way at the moment fossil fuel is still necessary and Alberta is the safest place to get it.

Some truths from Financial Post Writer Claudia Cattaneo:

-that if it weren't for Canada's oil, Americans would have to depend even more on Venezuela, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia to fuel their tanks, while waiting -- and waiting for other sources such as biofuels and wind power to save the day;

-that Canada's oilsands business is doing more than most American motorists to reduce its carbon footprint;

-that Canada's oilsands industry is growing because that's what Americans have asked for;

-that light, sweet oil is a vanishing energy source worldwide;

-that Canada's oil is sold to the United States at market prices without strings; and

-that Americans, the top consumers of energy in the world, are hardly in a position to lecture Canadians on the environment or to criticize how Canadians make a living.

I drive economically or better yet walk and ride a bicycle, I recycle and I do my best to help the environment BUT I am not deluded that I can give up fossil fuels.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Hot New Tours - Alberta Oilsands

Classic Canadian Tours is offering one day trips to the see the Alberta Oilsands. For almost $500 Canadian you can spend the day seeing exactly what is "fueling" the Alberta economic engine.

The itinerary includes a non stop flight from Calgary to Ft. McMurray, a visit to the Oil Sands Discovery Centre and finally a tour of a live oil sands site. The next tour date is September 26th so book now!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Parking Rates Indicator Of Strong Economy

Hot demand and dwindling supply have parking rates increasing in Canada. Experts say that higher rates are an indicator of a healthy economy. If more people are out shopping and working the need for parking increases.

"This suggests that the slowdown in consumer spending coupled with modest job gains had a cooling effect on parking rates. However, as the economy is anticipated to improve, and only a small amount of new parking supply is slated to come on-line, an increase in demand is expected to push rates even higher over the next year," Colliers International

What city is leading Canada? Calgary with a rich $350 median monthly rate. As usual Edmonton is right behind with a $60 leap over the last year.

"Indicators of this upward trend include smaller markets, such as Victoria and Edmonton, where monthly rates have jumped $60 over those in 2006,"

So instead of getting angry that your parking rates are increasing be grateful for a strong economy which will positively affect housing prices.

Investors must be aware that parking rates are a huge factor when choosing a place to live.

"Parking costs continue to have a significant effect on a tenant's decision-making process," commented John Arnoldi, managing director of office leasing at Colliers International. "Monthly parking costs and availability contribute to the overall desirability of any given location, and in many instances can be the tipping point for a tenant — helping them select one building over another."

Edmonton's "Landlords market" means that people are willing to pay to get a place to live and park- just don't take advantage of them. In a "Renter's market" you would have to sweeten the deal and discount the parking rates or give one month free when tenants sign a 1 year lease.

Read The Article

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Don't Fight Success

I read a great article by Suzanne Holman on how "Struggle Is Not Required" to be successful. If Napoleon Hill and The Secret are to be believed then Suzanne has something right. She lists seven struggles that we all face when trying to succeed and dispels them as unnecessary hold backs, offers useful remedies to get them out of your life and the rewards of doing so.

They are as follows:


Remedy: Take A Moment To Breathe
Reward: Satisfaction in being able to move forward in a purposeful, directed way.


Remedy:Remember that there is always enough.
Reward:Your attitude will have a positive effect on those around you.


Remedy: List your items and prioritize.
Reward: You have the freedom for more personal time.


Remedy:factor in any obstacles that can get in the way of smooth completion
Reward:Clients are pleased that you have met or exceeded your promised due date.


Remedy:Take the time to think of those times that you were successful.
Reward:Passion comes alive when there is room for it!


Remedy:We won't please everyone ALL of the time. Just accept that fact.
Reward:Your creativity will grow exponentially.


Remedy:Focus on what you know needs to be taken care of.
Reward:Others will respect you when they see you taking charge in a centered, empowered way.

This isn't just for business, it is for sports, family and just succeeding at life. If you want to read the entire article CLICK HERE

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Youthful Alberta

Alberta has the youngest population in Canada. Its incredible economic growth promises high paying jobs and is attracting young workers from across the country. The younger work force reflects both the economy's current strength and future growth potential.

"In a relative sense, we do have a somewhat favourable situation in terms of economic growth,"
"Having a younger age overall could potentially mean more younger workers -- that's good for the economy because it means you have more entry-level workers, you can pay them a bit less and so it contributes to economic growth."
Frank Trovato, Professor of Demography and Sociology at the University of Alberta.

The effect on Real Estate is that many of these young workers will be having and raising their families in Alberta. As their families grow they housing needs will increase and bolster the resale housing market.

Scotia Bank - Alberta Will Lead

The Scotia Bank released it's provincial report yesterday. David Hamilton, one of Scotia's Economists, says that Alberta will continue to be the top performer.

"Alberta will remain a top provincial performer for the foreseeable future, driven by broad-based strength," "Overall oil production will continue to increase as new oil sands projects start up and upgraders are built. Aside from the oil sands, infrastructure will see significant investment over the next few years to service record net inter-provincial migration." David Hamilton Scotiabank Economist

If you would like to download the complete PDF to see how your province rates nationally click here


Alberta Strike

Almost 25,000 Alberta tradespeople are in favour of going on strike. Of the 5 unions involved, a startling 95% of the members voted to go on strike.

Alberta is already in a labour deficit, this strike could bring construction to a grinding stop by as early as next week. Tradespeople involved include plumbers,pipe-fitters, millwrights and electricians. The areas affected would be Calgary, Edmonton and the oil-sands.

Alberta Fire Codes

An inferno left $25 million in damages and 100 people homeless Saturday in an Edmonton Condo development raising concerns that fire codes need an overhaul. Vinyl siding, close proximity and outdated building codes are to blame says Fire Chief Randy Wolsey. Ministers say that stricter codes will come but will take time.

The Edmonton Sun Has Two Links:

Video: As it happened

Photo Gallery: Big blaze

Sunday, July 22, 2007

It Takes Ten Of These To Kill A Tree

Have you seen the denim pine furniture? That color is due to damage by the mountain pine beetle. In hopes of salvaging the pine industry, the blue colored wood is hoped to be a hit with furniture buyers.

The mountain pine beetles that have ravished 9 MILLION hectares of B.C's pine forest have "blown over" into Alberta. The pine beetle is expected to kill 80% of B.C's mature pine trees by 2013, Only 10 are needed to kill a tree.

To Read More Of This Scary Story Click Here

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Power Is Shifting

"Slowly but nevertheless surely Ontario is being edged out of the driver's seat of the federation. The latest push came this week when the Bank of Canada raised its key lending rate to curb inflation or, to be more specific, to cool the economy of Alberta.

While Ontario still attracts the lion's share of newcomers to Canada, Alberta and British Columbia's populations have been increasing more quickly. Ontario's demographic growth has fallen under the national average for three consecutive trimesters over the past year, a first since 1981, according to Statistics Canada." Read More

Real Estate Transfer Tax On Hold

Less than 3 months after the real estate transfer tax was proposed it has been put on hold. It has not been completely vetoed but shelved for the time being.

Edmonton Real Estate Board and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation were both extremely vocal in their protests to the proposed tax. Leading Mayor Steven Mandel to insult Realtors for "not discounting their commissions"

The 1% tax was estimated to cost home buyers about $4000 on top of the property's purchase price.

Not Again

I know where I am investing and I wouldn't stop investing there for anything. I might buy a few houses in some parts of Ontario, where the cash flow is good.

If you are a savvy investor you could invest in Saskatchewan but you must be very careful on timing.

"..... the majority of people from Alberta buying are Saskatchewan people cashing in and moving back home. They're tired of the 45-minute commutes, the hassles. They've got huge equity, and can still find a comparable house here for much less than in Edmonton or Calgary...."Saskatoon Remax broker Trent Lipka

As long as more native Saskatchewans keep returning home you could buy and sell your property to them at a profit, or perhaps to other investors who rely on the greater fool theory. Invest, but have a solid exit plan that includes carrying your property in the event that it doesn't sell. When people start moving to Saskatchewan at the tune of 100,000 a year I will start buying there; that number is a long way off from the 800 that moved in two quarters of 2006.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Best Knee Surgery -Ever

I am a maniac. Whenever I start a new hobby or sport I have to do it every day 3 hours a day, I just can't quit. Five years ago I got really into squash, took lessons and competed in regional and national competitions here in Japan.

I was a force to be reckoned with until 5 months ago when my knee kept locking suddenly, ANY movement was incredibly painful and worst of all high-heels became a new form of torture. Turns out that in my zeal I torn my meniscus and needed arthroscopic surgery.

Now that I am based in Japan going to the doctor and being admitted to hospital is no walk in the park. Luckily, just 30 minutes south of my city is Dr. Suzuki, one of the top arthroscopic knee surgeons in Japan and he speaks English. I just got out of the hospital today and am walking around like nobody's business.

I spent the week getting IVs (the Japanese love them - you get one for a bee sting!) doing 1000 leg lifts/day and looking over the rice paddies that surround the Suzuki Clinic. All and all a really great experience.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Five minutes of surfing around produced these great articles on the Alberta Real Estate situation.

Royal LePage Real Estate Services is forecasting all regions in Canada are going to experience a rise in average house prices, especially Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and Regina where double-digit gains are foreseen. Read More

St. Albert a suburb of affluent neighbourhoods, is finally geared to join the surging industrial boom that has engulfed the rest of Alberta.

Neighbouring counties have rung in the new economy with billion-dollar energy projects but St.Albert's lack of land had kept it off the economic playing field. A recent annexation of land from Sturgeon County has given the city land to develop an industrial base Read More

The end to Canada's housing boom, forecast for early this year, will have to be postponed for quite a while. Alberta is the money machine that is flooding real estate dollars into eastern, central and western Canada. Read More

New housing prices increases are slower than the last year but still above analyst expectations. Saskatchewan(30.7 per cent) and Alberta (27.9 per cent) accounted for most of the year-over-year increase.Read More

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I read an article in the Globe and Mail about the new "Thirtysomethings", how they actually have less then they expected at this point in their lives and feel disappointed with adulthood.

I am in my mid thirties and can only say "you get out what you put in". If you feel your life isn't what you expected it to be by now or that your are disappointed with your R.O.L (Return On Life) then look at what you invested.

According to the article the average thirty year olds have:

*had 7.5 jobs...I could say lack of focus or I could say striving for a better work environment; on the fence with this one

*$1,500 to $19,200 in debt - I know school is expensive I worked full time during school and my student loans totaled still $12,000, but I paid them off by doing without for a year...Call me crazy but I didn't expect to have my loans magically disappear while I watched my thin screen T.V in my Manolo Blahniks

*an average income of $29,013- well you are paid for your work, somewhere there are people your age making millions of dollars because they are worth it (celebrities aside). Don't believe me?Check 30 under 30

I would like to feel sorry for the "Generation Me" and their disillusionment but somehow I can't. Maybe I am being a hypocrite I spent my 20's traveling I left my corporate job for an adventure abroad. However, I pulled it together by 29, built a solid company and hold myself responsible for where I am today.

"I thought that I would know what I was doing,".... "That the experimentation would be over."One Thirty-year-old Bemoans

Good Luck Guys Maybe Your 40's Will Pan Out Better.

Read The Article Click Here

Interest Rates Will Go Up

"persistent strength in the housing market" is a major reason why the Bank is raising rates....."The latest resale data show precisely zero signs of a let-up."Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist Bank of Montreal

A robust housing market and the Bank of Canada's recent increase in interest rates may indicate more "modest" rate hikes in the future.

Investors who hold multiple mortgages should add a higher interest rate to their spreadsheets and prepare for the rates to increase in the future. Higher interest rates mean higher mortgage payments and lower cash flow. So check and double check your numbers!

For the current interest rate CLICK HERE

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Happy Birthday To Me!

It is my birthday today! I actually LOVE my birthday even though I am woman over 30. My husband and I had a great day together and ate two cakes yes two, we have a sugar problem. That is all.

If it is your birthday too....HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Don't Walk - Run

The newly released Real Estate Fraud brochure by Canada's four mortgage industry associations is a must get if you are applying for a mortgage.

You can easily download the brochure from any of the associations' websites:

Alberta Mortgage Brokers Association
Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals
Independent Mortgage Brokers Association of Ontario
Mortgage Brokers Association of British Columbia

Common types of real estate fraud including fraud-for-shelter, fraud-for-profit, identity theft and document forgery are explained in the brochure as well as what steps consumers can take if they think they are victims of real estate fraud or identity theft.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Why Alberta Leads The Country

Progressive Business Environment

The Albertan government, IBM and the University of Alberta are teaming up to help organizations use IT to improve service and gain a competitive edge in the business world.

“This project has potential for commercial success and will help Alberta develop expertise for applications in nanotechnology, life sciences technology, and information technology, to support economic diversification.”

Alberta's government will contribute $100,000, IBM Canada will contribute $184,000 and the U of A $83,000. The Federal government will also provide funding of about $117,000.

Read More From Alberta Index site
This site is a great place to find out about Alberta's Economy, Diversity, Events, Shopping and Jobs

Now This Is News I like.....

ATB Financial Business Sentiments Index(TM) most recent edition predicts the continuing strength of the Alberta economy.

"We are seeing an upward trend in business sentiment that is reaching the
levels of last year.... This optimistic outlook is a result of continued strength in employment growth and projected oil sands development."

Todd Hirsch, Senior Economist ATB Financial

It doesn't take financial genius to realize that economic growth and an upward trend in business generally means a higer demand for employees. Job seekers will require rentals, they will purchase properties and increase the demand on the housing market.

Great if you are investing in Real Estate.

Read Full Article

About ATB Financial

ATB Financial is a leading full-service financial institution based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. ATB serves more than 600,000 Albertans in 244 communities through 155 branches and 134 agencies, as well as a customer contact centre in Calgary, Alberta. Services are also available through automated banking machines and online banking. A wide range of wealth management products and services are provided under the banner of ATB Investor Services. For further information on ATB Financial please visit their website at www.atb.com.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Ebb and Flow

"After 17 months of spectacular gains, Edmonton house prices fell an average of almost $9,000 in June."

Prices have really gone up and this is a welcome break. If they didn't take a break and slow down that would be scary. Hardly a falling knife with $130 Billion invested in Alberta.

The good news?

"Economist Ted Chambers at the Western Centre for Economic Research said Edmonton's immigration and employment numbers are solid, but he thinks "there's bound to be some speculative activity."

Demand remains strong, with 2,203 home sales in June. That's down from May, but up 11.7 per cent from the average of the previous 12 months.

The fallen prices reflect a fast-rising inventory of 6,367 units at the end of June, compared to 4,485 in May and 3,151 in April."

"That doesn't mean the market is glutted, it is regaining balance." - Carolyn Pratt president of the Realtors Association of Edmonton

We have investors from all over the world who see Alberta as the place to be, they understand the perfection in the economy and are investing for the long term not just from January to June.


Which Renovations Payoff?

Wonder where you should spend your reno dollars? Which renovations give the greatest payback when you sell your house and which are throwing money down the drain?

Globe and Mail did some asking around and this is what they came up with:

Big no-nos
Pools and Hot Tubs - intensive and expensive maintenance that
home buyers are reluctant to pay for

Where to focus?
Bathrooms and Kitchens- high traffic, high use areas

The article says that women make buying decisions based on seeing themselves spending 3 hours or more in the kitchen....like June Cleaver maybe? If I spend 30 minutes in the kitchen it is 29 too many but the point is keep the kitchen and bath modern, clean and in good repair.

A really useful link is Appraisal Institute Of Canada

The AIC's 2004 renovation survey identified the following renovation projects provide the highest payback potential for homeowners

1 bathroom renovation

2 kitchen renovation

3 painting - interior/exterior

There is an interactive guide where you select type of renovations and estimated reno costs and you get an estimate on the ROI at sale

For Example

Basement Renovations cost $5,000
ROI at sale $2,500-$3,800 about 50% -75%

Kitchen Renovations cost $7,000
ROI at sale $$5,300.00 - $7,000.00 about 75% - 100%

For The Full Article In Globe and Mail
For Interactive Guide To Renovations

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Vancouver- So Beautiful You Won't Mind Not Eating

If you live in Vancouver and think that 70% of your income is okay to spend on housing then don't read further. If you are worried about buying your first home then by all means Read This Article

Highlights Include:

*Finding a mortgage that feeds you, not eats you
*How to buy in the right area for maximum appreciation
*New trend of "Equity Sharing"


"Record numbers of homes were sold in both Regina and Saskatoon in the second quarter as intense demand was driven by a swell of in-migration of Saskatchewanians returning from expensive Alberta living."

The Saskatchewan market is based on people going back after making their money in Alberta. And THAT is all. Once everyone has resettled back in Saskatoon who will buy your property for more than what you paid? Oh, maybe the people coming for the jobs ....

"Energy-rich Alberta's potent economy continued to attract in-migration; however, the runaway prices and activity that have characterized Calgary and Edmonton for the past 18 months have eased and will continue to return to more manageable conditions as the year progresses."

The market was crazy and beautiful last year. I mean 52%?? Excellent but not what you want year over year. I WANT it but it would wreak havoc on affordability and many, many people would be out of luck trying to buy an home.

"Commodities, such as crude oil and copper, account for about half of Canada's exports. The Canadian currency has climbed 11 per cent since crude oil touched its recent low of $49.90 per barrel on Jan. 18. Oil price rose 42 per cent since then."

Oil prices not looking so bad. The Athabasca oilsands are the worlds largest and are functioning at what some believe to be 1/3 of what the will produce in 5 years. As all these other produces start slowing down oilsands will supply the world's energy needs.

More Business News

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

OPM - How To Raise Capital

Here is another one from NuWire Investor. Todd Millar was interviewed by NuWire for this article there is also a 40min audio section. This site does require that you sign up for a FREE 30 day trial to access the article. It is well worth it, NuWire is well laid out with a lot of excellent articles for all types of investors

"You’ve likely heard the adage, “it takes money to make money.” While this is generally true, most business and real estate entrepreneurs will tell you it doesn’t always take your money to make money. The idea of leveraging “other people’s money,” also known as OPM, has become extremely popular in the post dot-com world."NuWire Investor - Other People's Money

Monday, July 02, 2007

Canadian Boom Town - Edmonton

NuWire Investor - NuWire Investor was created to help investors successfully pursue and profit from the wide range of alternative investments. Read Canadian Boom Town: Edmonton which quotes Todd Millar Glenn Simon Inc President/Owner many times. (free 30-day trial subscription required)

Saskatchewan, The Land of JOBS????

An American and his wife were driving in Canada and got lost. Finally, they arrived at some city. They saw a gentleman on the sidewalk, so they stopped. The wife let down her window and asked, "Excuse me, sir. Where are we?"

The gentleman replied, "Saskatoon, Saskatchewan."

The wife rolled up the window, turned to her husband and said, "We really are lost. They don't even speak English here!"

I can't read an article about real estate without hearing about "Saskatchewan's Boom" I am just not buying it. I have always wondered what is the economy there and what is fueling it? I know there are a lot of natural resources there and perhaps oil but nothing in the same league as Alberta. Here is a great article from a Saskatchewanite with a realistic take on the Saskatchewan Boom.

The Leader-Post
Published: Friday, June 29, 2007

Premier Lorne Calvert and Mayor Pat Fiacco love to go on tours to Alberta to recruit people to come to Saskatchewan to work and live.

The only problem is that there is no work.

How do I know this? I know this because all of my friends from high school are living in other provinces, mainly B.C. and Alberta, and this is not because they love the ocean or the mountains ... it's because that's where the work is.

Over the years, I've tried applying for many jobs in Saskatchewan, but have not received any interviews, let alone offers -- while at the same time there have been many more opportunities in Alberta with quite a few interviews and some offers. Why is there such a difference between the two provinces?

Sure, Alberta has more people and, of course, the oil sands, but Saskatchewan has a lot to offer, too. There could be many more jobs here if government actually went out and searched for industry to come to Saskatchewan and set up policies to entice companies to relocate here.

Saskatchewan is one of the most affordable places in the country -- unlike Alberta, where the cost is sky high. I'm sure it would be easy for companies and their workers to find office and housing space.

I know the real estate market is booming here, but do you know why that is? It's because Saskatchewan is the last place in the country to experience it.

Why are all the prices for houses going up? Is it because of new industry, more jobs, people moving here from other provinces? No, it's because real estate investors and speculators from other provinces know this is the only affordable place to buy. So, yes, in the short term, prices will go up. But in time, the market will drop because nobody earns enough money to afford these new prices.

Remember, Alberta's oilsands have really been developed in the last few years, which has fueled the boom there, driving up real estate prices. However, Saskatchewan is experiencing a boom, but there is no new industry here.

There are some jobs available in Saskatchewan, such as for doctors and nurses, but guess what? It's like that everywhere else in Canada! Even in Alberta, where doctors recently received a considerable raise in salary.

Fiacco and Calvert can promote Saskatchewan all they want, but it's a complete waste of time if there are no jobs here. And when I say "jobs", I don't mean call centres and retail. I mean jobs where people can afford to have a family and a nice quality of life. To do that, it will take some work and thought on to how to entice companies to move and grow here.

That is what our leaders should be focusing on.

Until then, I'll be in Alberta, building my career.

Michael McKinlay


© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2007

One More For Canada Day!

It’s not just the weather that’s cooler in Canada…

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Wednesday, July 30, 2003 | Samantha Bennett (412-263-3572)

You live next door to a clean-cut, quiet guy. He never plays loud music or throws raucous parties. He doesn’t gossip over the fence, just smiles politely and offers you some tomatoes. His lawn is cared-for, his house is neat as a pin and you get the feeling he doesn’t always lock his front door. He wears Dockers. You hardly know he’s there. And then one day you discover that he has pot in his basement, spends his weekends at peace marches and that guy you’ve seen mowing the yard is his spouse.

Allow me to introduce Canada.

The Canadians are so quiet that you may have forgotten they’re up there, but they’ve been busy doing some surprising things. It’s like discovering that the mice you are dimly aware of in your attic have been building an espresso machine. Did you realize, for example, that our reliable little tag-along brother never joined the Coalition of the Willing? Canada wasn’t willing, as it turns out, to join the fun in Iraq. I can only assume American diner menus weren’t angrily changed to include “freedom bacon,” because nobody here eats the stuff anyway.

And then there’s the wild drug situation: Canadian doctors are authorized to dispense medical marijuana. Parliament is considering legislation that would not exactly legalize marijuana possession, as you may have heard, but would reduce the penalty for possession of under 15 grams to a fine, like a speeding ticket. This is to allow law enforcement to concentrate resources on traffickers; if your garden is full of wasps, it’s smarter to go for the nest rather than trying to swat every individual bug. Or, in the United States, bong.

Now, here’s the part that I, as an American, can’t understand. These poor benighted pinkos are doing everything wrong. They have a drug problem: Marijuana offenses have doubled since 1991. And Canada has strict gun control laws, which means that the criminals must all be heavily armed, the law-abiding civilians helpless and the government on the verge of a massive confiscation campaign. (The laws have been in place since the 70s, but I’m sure the government will get around to the confiscation eventually.) They don’t even have a death penalty!

And yet … nationally, overall crime in Canada has been declining since 1991. Violent crimes fell 13 percent in 2002. Of course, there are still crimes committed with guns-brought in from the United States, which has become the major illegal weapons supplier for all of North America - but my theory is that the surge in pot-smoking has rendered most criminals too relaxed to commit violent crimes. They’re probably more focused on shoplifting boxes of Ho-Hos from convenience stores.

And then there’s the most reckless move of all: Just last month, Canada decided to allow and recognize same-sex marriages. Merciful moose, what can they be thinking? Will there be married Mounties (they always get their man!)? Dudley Do-Right was sweet on Nell, not Mel! We must be the only ones who really care about families. Not enough to make sure they all have health insurance, of course, but more than those libertines up north. This sort of behavior is a clear and present danger to all our stereotypes about Canada. It’s supposed to be a cold, wholesome country of polite, beer-drinking hockey players, not founded by freedom-fighters in a bloody revolution but quietly assembled by loyalists and royalists more interested in order and good government than liberty and independence.

But if we are the rugged individualists, why do we spend so much of our time trying to get everyone to march in lockstep? And if Canadians are so reserved and moderate, why are they so progressive about letting people do what they want to? Canadians are, as a nation, less religious than we are, according to polls. As a result, Canada’s government isn’t influenced by large,well-organized religious groups and thus has more in common with those of Scandinavia than those of the United States, or, say, Iran.

Canada signed the Kyoto global warming treaty, lets 19-year-olds drink, has more of its population living in urban areas and accepts more immigrants per capita than the United States.

These are all things we’ve been told will wreck our society. But I guess Canadians are different, because theirs seems oddly sound.

Like teenagers, we fiercely idolize individual freedom but really demand that everyone be the same. But the Canadians seem more adult-more secure. They aren’t afraid of foreigners. They aren’t afraid of homosexuality. Most of all, they’re not afraid of each other.

I wonder if America will ever be that cool?