Bidding wars heat up in Calgary’s hot housing market – Calgary

CALGARY- It’s been a frustrating few months for Balwinder Saroa, who was trying to buy a house. Every time he found one within his budget, someone else looking at the same home outbid him.

Saroa was forced to increase the amount of money he budgeted.

“In Balwinder’s case, we did like about five of the houses,” says realtor Puma Banwait. “We lost four and finally the one that we got for them in Saddleridge was listed for $334,900. We actually got it for $341,000.”

And that beat offers from seven other buyers.

The number of single family listings in Calgary is very low, especially in the mid-price range.  That comes at a time when more people are looking for affordable homes.

“There’s been a large amount of net migration into the city,” says Ann-Marie Lurie of the Calgary Real Estate Board. ”And combine that with the fact we’ve had a very tight rental situation, that has limited a lot of availability in the market. “

To maximize your success in buying a new home, realtors have the following tips:

Try to view a home as soon as possible after it’s listed- the first day is best.Don’t low ball on the first offer.Come equipped with pre-approved financing.
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Did sexism play a role in Alison Redford’s downfall?

CALGARY- Alison Redford served as premier for just 898 days after she became Alberta’s first woman premier on October 7, 2011.  She now has the dubious distinction of being the third shortest-serving premier in the province’s history.

In the days leading up to her resignation, Redford was accused of entitlement stemming from her use of government planes and bringing her daughter and friends on government trips.

Then she was accused of being a bully and “not a nice lady” by Calgary Foothills MLA Len Webber as he quit the PC Party caucus.

This led to many questioning whether Redford was being treated differently because she was a woman.

Those questions continued on social media after her resignation with many wondering if gender politics and the “old boys club” may have contributed to her political demise.

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Related

  • Who will become the next leader of the PC Party of Alberta?

Experts on gender politics say while sexism in politics may be less overt  these days, it still exists.

“I think people who claim that gender no longer matters don’t understand how politics works,” says Brenda O’Neill, a political science professor at the University of Calgary. “It’s not explicit, people aren’t explicitly sexist in the way they treat politicians nowadays.”

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t hidden sexism in the way parties treat their female leaders, and female cabinet ministers and female MLAs.”

Political analyst Duane Bratt doesn’t believe sexism played a part in Redford’s political troubles.

“I do not buy into the narrative advanced by some that Redford was deposed by her own party because it is an “old boys club” and she was a woman. It had to do more with her own expenses and the public/caucus/party sense of her entitlement, poor communication skills with her caucus and destroying the electoral coalition that she had built in the 2012 election.”

But O’Neill argues women leaders can be held to different standards than men and receive less support.

“I think there still is a double standard that’s applied to women versus men in terms of how they lead, the degree of support they are given and the degree to which is extended to them when they make mistakes.”

Currently, four provinces are led by women:  Kathleen Wynne in Ontario, B.C.’s Christy Clark, Newfoundland’s Kathy Dunderdale , and Quebec’s Pauline Marois.

O’Neill says the numbers are stacked against women premiers in Canada.

“No woman has won two consecutive terms as premier in our country’s history and gender may be part of that.”

At least one woman, Diana McQueen, Minister of Energy is rumoured to be considering a run at the Tory leadership. She said it was too early to discuss a possible bid when asked Friday.

With Redford’s resignation, the Wildrose’s Danielle Smith is now the only woman leader of a main political party in Alberta.

-with files from Gary Bobrovitz

Your Manitoba: March – Winnipeg

Your Manitoba Mar. 31; Somerset, Man.

Submitted by: Diane Van De Kerckhove

Your Manitoba Mar. 31; Seven Sisters Falls, Man.

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Your Manitoba Mar. 31; Winnipeg, Man.

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Your Manitoba Mar. 25; Winnipeg, Man.

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Your Manitoba Mar. 25; Winnipeg, Man.

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Your Manitoba Mar. 28; Popular Point, Man.

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Your Manitoba Mar. 28; Lockport, Man.

Submitted by: Jill Schwab


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Debate over cellphone kill switches heats up in Canada – National

Watch above: What is a cellphone “kill switch” and why do Canadians want them to be mandatory? Shirlee Engel reports.

TORONTO – Cellphone theft has become a hot button issue for consumers and law enforcement agencies across Canada, opening the debate for so-called cellphone “kill switches” north of the U.S. border.

On Thursday Toronto Police arrested five men in relation to a cellphone theft ring investigation targeting high-end smartphones from Apple and Samsung.

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Police allege the suspects would target unattended bags and jackets to steal the smartphones and later repackage and resell the stolen devices.

In Vancouver, police say the crime has reached “epidemic levels” and Toronto Police have warned the crime can often become violent. Robberies became so bad at one Toronto-area high school that students began hiding their devices to avoid confrontations and assaults.

“It got to the point where I would put my phone in my sock,” said Toronto-area student John Masangkay.

WATCH: Toronto Police announced Thursday they had busted a large-scale cellphone theft racket, including over 200 stolen phones at one location

The volume of cellphone related robberies in Canada has prompted police agencies and the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) to investigate the option of cellphone “kill switches” that would protect users from information theft and help crack down on the problem.

“Having the ability to remotely erase it and render it useless is a convenience that we probably should be looking towards,” NDP MP Mike Sullivan told Global National’s Shirlee Engel.

Last year, Samsung Electronics proposed installing built-in anti-theft measures in their devices that would render stolen or lost phones useless. The kill switch would wipe the phone clean of all data, ensuring the user’s private information is protected.

But in November 2013 the biggest carriers in the U.S. rejected the proposal, reportedly over concerns it would allow hackers to disable a user’s phone.

READ MORE: My cellphone has been stolen, what do I do: How the cellphone blacklist works

U.S. District Attorney George Gascon — after reviewing emails between a senior vice-president at Samsung and a software developer — alleged carriers are reluctant to sell phones with built-in kill switches in fear of losing billions of dollars in insurance premiums.

According to the Associated Press, one email said Samsung had pre-installed kill switch software in some smartphones ready for shipment, but carriers ordered their removal as a standard feature.

“These emails suggest that the carriers are rejecting a technological solution so they can continue to shake down their customers for billions of dollars in (theft) insurance premiums,” Gascon said. “I’m incensed. … This is a solution that has the potential to end the victimization of their customers.”

In March, New York officials announced they would support a bill requiring smartphone and tablet creators to have pre-installed kill switches, joining California in the fight for legislation.

The U.S. senate is also pushing its own bill.

Because the Canadian market is smaller than the U.S., the decision for manufactures to build phones with a built-in kill switch will likely depend on whether the U.S. makes it law.

READ MORE: U.S. carriers reject ‘kill switch’ for stolen phones

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has said he supports the idea, and the CWTA is now studying the option; but many questions remain about how the technology would actually work.

“Who would be liable for that kill switch, how it could be used, who could use it, who could launch a kill switch, how many phones could you kill at the same time? Those are all important questions that have not been answered by anyone,” said Bernard Lord, president of the CWTA.

Apple, for example, already offers a kill switch-like feature for its iPhone, iPad, and Mac devices.

The app called “Find My iPhone” allows users to remotely set up a pass code to lock their devices if one wasn’t already set up, as well as remotely erase all contents and settings on the phone, returning it to factory settings.

However, this only protects the user’s data – it does not stop a thief from using or re-selling the device.

In October in the CWTA launched a so-called “blacklist” for stolen devices in hopes of targeting cellphone theft.

The blacklist stores the International Mobile Equipment Identity number of devices that have been reported lost or stolen as of September 30, 2013, preventing them from connecting to Canadian service provider networks.

Once a device has been added to the blacklist it will not be able to be activated by a carrier for use – rendering it useless for web browsing, phone calls or texting.

– With files from Global National’s Shirlee Engel and the Associated Press

©2014Shaw Media

Google enhances Gmail encryption technology making it harder for NSA to intercept – National

WASHINGTON – Google has enhanced the encryption technology for its flagship email service in ways that will make it harder for the National Security Agency to intercept messages moving among the company’s worldwide data centres.

Among the most extraordinary disclosures in documents leaked by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden were reports that the NSA had secretly tapped into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centres around the world.

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Google, whose executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, said in November that he was outraged over the practice, didn’t mention the NSA in Thursday’s announcement, except in a veiled reference to “last summer’s revelations.” The change affects more than 425 million users of Google’s Gmail service.

Yahoo has promised similar steps for its email service by this spring.

Google and other technology companies have been outspoken about the U.S. government’s spy programs. The companies are worried more people will reduce their online activities if they believe almost everything they do is being monitored by the government. A decline in Internet use could hurt the companies financially by giving them fewer opportunities to show online ads and sell other services.

“Your email is important to you, and making sure it stays safe and always available is important to us,” Nicolas Lidzborski, Gmail’s security engineering lead, wrote in a blog post.

Lidzborski said that all Gmail messages a consumer sends or receives are now encrypted.

“This ensures that your messages are safe not only when they move between you and Gmail’s servers, but also as they move between Google’s data centres – something we made a top priority after last summer’s revelations,” Lidzborski wrote.

The NSA has said it only focuses on targets with foreign intelligence value.

A secret Jan. 9, 2013, accounting indicated that NSA sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the NSA’s Fort Meade, Md., headquarters, according to documents released by Snowden and obtained by The Washington Post last year.

The NSA’s principal tool to exploit the Google and Yahoo data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency’s British counterpart, GCHQ. NSA and GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centres of the Silicon Valley giants, the Post reported.

President Barack Obama has promised to consider changing some of the surveillance programs that Snowden disclosed. But the type of surveillance Google is trying to prevent by improving its encryption technology is not among the reforms Obama has discussed.

Google and other technology companies provide information to the NSA and other government agencies when required by a court order.

“Google is making it tougher for the government to spy on its customers without going through Google,” said Chris Soghoian, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union.

“There are still ways for NSA to spy on the bad guys,” Soghoian said. “But this will prevent them from spying on 500 million people at once.”

©2014The Canadian Press

Don’t look now but loonie’s plunge is deepening

WATCH (above): The value of the Canadian dollar has tumbled over the past few months – now hovering below 89 cents US. As Jill Bennett reports, that means you’ll soon be paying more for all kinds of goods.

Wondering where the loonie is headed, and more importantly, whether you should buy up some greenbacks now for that trip later this year, or hold off in the hopes that it will win back some ground?

With the Canadian dollar alternating between deep dives and shallow recoveries of late, you’re not alone.

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On net, the consensus appears to point toward a further weakening of our currency this year as an improving U.S. economy sends global investment flows into that currency and away from our own – a process that will drive down the value of the loonie.

How low can it go?

The loonie has shed more than 5.5 per cent against the U.S. dollar since the beginning of the year and as of Thursday was below 88 cents US – a level not seen since the recessionary days of mid-2009, or nearly half a decade ago.

What’s behind the decline is primarily a pick up in the U.S. recovery combined with somewhat dimmer economic prospects for Canada, a role reversal of the past few years when Canada’s economy was doing well while the U.S. economy languished while digging out from recession.

A sudden and fairly sharp depreciation in the loonie since the fall through February is expected to level off, according to experts like RBC, with the Canadian dollar holding at around 87 cents US for the balance of 2014. But it’s likely to depreciate to 85 cents through 2015, the bank warns, and that’s where it should hit bottom.

READ MORE: Gap between U.S., Canada retail prices may ‘widen once again’

But some economists say the possibility of an interest rate cut in Canada this year could weaken the loonie even further. A cut below an already ultra low rate of 1 per cent would send investment flows fleeing from the loonie, likely into an already strengthening U.S. currency.

Even without a cut at home, interest rates are now shifting into higher gear in the U.S. on improving growth prospects.

“The loonie is flying straight into some pretty stiff headwinds,” BMO  said.

In short, if you need U.S. dollars for a trip abroad or to make a purchase in the United States, it’s likely wise to buy now.

Going up, up: The cost of one US dollar if you’re paying with loonies is about $1.12 at the moment, a figure that’s likely to get more expensive, experts say. 

Ethnic groups mobilize to vote April 7 – Montreal

MONTREAL – For Arabic radio host Zaina Karam , the political discourse starts first thing in the morning.

Since the beginning of the election campaign, 24-hour Middle Eastern radio station, 1450AM, has had a mandate to encourage the Arabic community in Quebec to exercise their political right.

“They have lots of different points of views, we don’t push them to vote for this party or for another one,” said station manager Tony Karam. “But we push them really to go vote.”

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The passionate calls flood in every second of the day and listeners on both sides of the political spectrum call in to express reasons why it’s important to vote in this election.

“The interesting thing about this election is you have an issue that directly speaks to the immigrant community,” explained political analyst, Bruce Hicks. “And that will have a mobilizing affect, I think, and may help bring out that community.”

Italian immigrant Alessandra Guerra has lived through seven provincial elections in Quebec but she has never voted, until now.

“There’s a lot of fears, doubts about what’s going on, we’ve been seeing a lot of change since the news came,” she said. “We’ve been seeing violence, people feeling alienated.”

Guerra wants her voice to be heard so the country and province she loves so much doesn’t change, so for the first time, she’s registered to vote.

That’s exactly the kind of attitude the #jevote campaign is hoping to generate.

The founder of Support Another, a movement against the charter of values, is pushing those who don’t usually vote to think about why this election may be important for their future.

“We’ve come to Canada and Quebec to have this right and freedom to choose,” explained Sama Al-Obaidy. “So let’s take a chance, make a change and make sure we select a government that represents us as a society.”

And it may actually make a difference in some ridings, like Cremazie, where more than 6,000 Muslims live.

In 2012, the PQ candidate won Cremazie by just over 3,000 votes. If the ethnic vote comes out, Language Minister Diane De Courcy’s riding could slip away.

Star candidate Leo Bureau-Blouin won his Laval riding by less than 3,000 votes in 2012 — more than 5,000 Muslims live in his riding.

As the political debates rage on on ethnic stations across Montreal, one thing is clear, in this election more than any other the ethnic vote could make a difference.

©2014Shaw Media

WATCH: Kelowna council growing fond of grow ops

It was only a few weeks ago when Kelowna council voted to ban medical marijuana grows from agriculture land and restrict them to industrial zones, but a lot has changed since that unanimous vote.

A majority of council has since changed its mind — allowing individual medical marijuana applicants who want to grow on agriculture land — to be heard on a case by case basis.

Councillor Mohini Singh says her biggest concern was seeing bunker-like medical marijuana grows on agriculture land popping up on Kelowna’s precious farmland.

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“What I don’t want to see is to have these facilities close to residential areas because I don’t think the public would be comfortable living next to a facility like that, even if it’s on ALR land. So, I would like to see each case determined on its own merit.”

Former Kelowna fire chief Gerry Zimmerman admits his opinion on marijuana has changed dramatically after he and some fellow councillors recently toured a farm based medical grow op.

“We were invited to go look at a medical facility, a currently licensed medical facility that was on farmland and I’m really glad we did because that changed my mind and I think some of my colleagues’ minds to.”

A total of five councillors took the tour of the facility. All of them voted in favour of allowing medical grows on ALR land.

But not all of council is on board with allowing medical grows on agriculture land. Councillor Gail Given voted against the proposed changes. She says allowing grows on all ALR land is too much.

“Do I disagree with them? No I don’t. I voted against it because I think we’re a little bit early in to say all ALR”

But Kelowna lawyer, Jennifer Thorne, who specializes in medical marijuana cases, says deciding ALR applications on a case by case basis could open to the door to litigation.

“That’s my concern and I think that if there are not some criteria applied equally across the board, it could invite litigation by unsatisfied applicants.”

Teen eludes security, climbs ladder to reach World Trade Center spire – National

ABOVE: An embarrassing security breach at a building many Americans would think would be one of the most secure in the country- the new World Trade Center. The perpetrator? A 16-year old high school student from New Jersey. CBS correspondent Michelle Miller explains how he did it.

NEW YORK – A 16-year-old boy described as a thrill-seeker bypassed an inattentive security guard in the middle of the night and climbed a ladder to the spire of 1 World Trade Center, where he apparently took pictures, authorities said Thursday.

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Justin Casquejo was arrested at 6 a.m. local time Sunday at America’s tallest building and was charged with misdemeanour criminal trespass, police said. Nobody answered the door Thursday at his Weehawken, New Jersey, home.

According to a criminal complaint, Casquejo was quoted as telling police: “I walked around the construction site and figured out how to access the Freedom Tower rooftop. I found a way up through the scaffolding, climbed onto the sixth floor, and took the elevator up to the 88th floor. I then took the staircase up to 104th (floor). I went to the rooftop and climbed the ladder all the way to the antenna.”

READ MORE: One World Trade Center named as tallest U.S. building

He was arrested, and his camera and cellphone were seized after authorities obtained a search warrant, said Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman for the police department of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the trade centre site.

Casquejo was released without bail after being arraigned Monday on one count of third-degree criminal trespass and one count of trespass. His lawyer declined to comment. Casquejo’s next court date was scheduled for April 2.

The episode raised questions about how such a breach could have happened at one of the most security-conscious sites in the world. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called it “shocking and troubling.”

Casquejo got onto the construction site of the nearly completed tower through a 1-foot (0.3-meter) opening in a fence and eluded an inattentive security guard on the 104th floor, Pentangelo said. The guard, who worked for a contractor, not the Port Authority, has been fired, the spokesman said.

READ MORE: Banksy calls new World Trade Center ‘vanilla,’ like ‘something they would build in Canada’

The criminal trespass charge is a misdemeanour punished by up to three months in jail. The simple trespass is a violation punishable by up to 15 days in jail.

The complaint said Casquejo was observed inside the tower beyond numerous posted signs that stated: “Do not enter. No trespassing. Violators will be prosecuted.”

Authorities were still trying to determine the teen’s motive. WABC-TV reported that he took pictures from the top of the building, where he stayed for about two hours.

Patrick Flores, 18, who grew up with Casquejo and lives in the same apartment building as him, described his friend as “a really good kid” who has always been highly interested in adventure.

“He was always the one climbing the cliffs, doing something stupid,” Flores said, referring to the cliffs on which Weehawken sits, across the Hudson River from Manhattan, with clear views of the World Trade Center and the rest of the Manhattan skyline. “But that was him, that was his life.”

“I’ve seen him fall and hit his head and get up and walk away like it was nothing,” he added.

Flores said Casquejo had recently become interested in the French extreme sport Parkour, which combines elements from martial arts, gymnastics and rock climbing and has become popular thanks to YouTube videos of acrobatic athletes vaulting over obstacles like park benches, trees, guardrails and buildings.

The investigation into the security breach was continuing.

WATCH: Time lapse of One World Trade Center construction

The tower is scheduled to open this year.

Plans ultimately call for heavy security around the rebuilt trade centre, including a network of barriers, security checkpoints and areas for screening vehicles before they can enter the 16-acre site, with through traffic barred. Some nearby residents have challenged the plans as overbearing, saying in a lawsuit last fall they would turn their neighbourhood into a fortress-like environment “as impervious to traffic as the Berlin Wall.”

City lawyers defended the security plans as necessary for what they called one of the most sensitive sites in the country, and the city said the measures were as unobtrusive as possible. A judge dismissed the case last month.

Porter reported from Weehawken, New Jersey. Associated Press writers Ula Ilnytzky, Jonathan Lemire and Jake Pearson in New York contributed to this report.

©2014The Canadian Press

WATCH: Full speed ahead for Lake Country water meters

The days of letting the tap run free of charge are coming to an end for residents of Lake Country.

The District says it’s moving ahead with the widespread installation of water meters.

It will begin with Oyama, followed by Winfield, Carr’s Landing and Okanagan Centre.

Up until now, Lake Country has had no idea how much water its residents were using.

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“It’s also an issue of sustainability,” says Lake Country Mayor, James Baker. “If you’re not measuring it, you really don’t know your demand. So it’s a supply and demand thing and we need to know what we have and how much is being used and where.”

The District’s deputy CAO says it’s a revenue neutral program.

“What will happen is, if a residential property is using a lot more than average they would likely pay more than they are today and those using less, would pay less than they are today,” says Stephen Banmen.

Water meters are actually nothing new to some Lake Country residents.

About a third of the municipality, mostly new homes, have had meters for years at no charge — a mock trial and the numbers show they’re working.

“Metering has shown to save 25 to 30 per cent in terms of conservation of water use once people understand that if they leave the tap running, just to let it run, it’s going to cost them,” says Baker.

So far the District of Lake Country has set aside an estimated $1 million on the metering program.

Installation of the meters begins in Oyama next month.

The entire district will have water meters installed by this time next year at no charge to the homeowner. Charging for water use will begin in 2017.