Archive | Finance

How Will the Auto Industry Fare After Central Bank Interest Rate Rise?

Posted on 26 July 2017 by admin

Perspective from Canadian Black Book on the July 12 Rate Hike and our Auto Industry’s Record Growth

Markham, Ontario, July 14, 2017 – On Wednesday July 12, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz announced a 0.25 per cent key interest rate increase, the first rise in rates in seven years.

How will this news affect the Canada’s auto business?

What most new vehicle buyers may assume, is that the cost of higher interest rates will get passed onto them today. It is actually unlikely in the short term, that that would be the case.

For the most part, manufacturer new vehicle incentive budgets will likely absorb the rate hike for consumers so that they can continue to advertise 0% or 0.9% or 1.9% for new cars. To keep things in perspective, on a $40,000 car loan a hike of 0.25% is only an extra $100 per year of interest.

All that said, if rates continue to climb, at some point the OEMs will have to pass along those costs to vehicle buyers, initially resulting in less cash incentives. This will then eventually raise monthly payment, all else being equal.

The bigger impact of a rate increase is its immediate effect on the strength of the Canadian dollar and what that will mean to the Canadian auto industry. Our more valuable dollar is of greater concern, for both the new and used vehicle market in Canada. The dollar has increased $0.06 since May, which is a significant climb. This could lead to a cooling of new vehicle sales and is expected to cause Canadian used vehicle prices to fall over time.

As the strength of our dollar had been declining since 2013, U.S. interest in Canadian used vehicles increased. Depending on who you ask, upwards of 200,000 vehicles have been being exported to the U.S. annually. U.S. buyers and/or Canadian exporters have been taking full advantage of a lower Canadian dollar and been moving vehicles across the border to sell at a higher price in the States versus here at home. This export demand has inflated our used car prices domestically.

As a result, Canadian consumers are being pulled out of their vehicle loans/leases early by dealers who are eager to sell the consumer’s current vehicle on the used market and put the consumer into a brand new one, often for the same or lower monthly payment. This “pull forward” activity is helping to drive record levels of new vehicle sales. This activity is also possibly due to higher used vehicle prices putting consumers into a positive equity position (owe less than the vehicle is worth) much sooner.

Given that the domestic supply of U.S. used vehicles is up by about 500,000 more off lease units versus past years, U.S. used prices are falling. The Black Book (USA) Price Index is showing a ten per cent decline since last year, which is significant. The U.S. vehicle market is bracing for a large downward adjustment in used prices. Add in a stronger Canadian dollar, driving up acquisition costs and there will be less demand in the U.S. for Canadian used vehicles

At some point soon, the rising Canadian dollar and falling U.S. used vehicle prices will make it unattractive for U.S. buyers to purchase Canadian inventory in such large volumes. The impact to the Canadian auto industry will be a slowdown of “pull forward” activity, as it won’t make economic sense to pull as many consumers out of their vehicles early because they won’t command such high prices on the used market. Canadian Black Book expects that a $0.85 dollar is around the tipping point for U.S. exports to significantly slow.

On the positive side, Canadian used vehicle shoppers and used vehicle dealers will be rewarded with better deals in the market compared to what they have seen over the last few years.

Comments (0)

Canada ‘very prepared’ for NAFTA renegotiation talks with U.S., trade minister says

Posted on 28 May 2017 by admin

Francois-Philippe Champagne said he had a “good first meeting,” with U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer in Vietnam during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum gathering.

HANOI, VIETNAM—Canada is prepared to start talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and is confident it will get a successful outcome, Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Sunday.

“When you start a discussion you start with saying, ‘Well, we’re the first client’,” Champagne said on the sidelines of a meeting of Asia-Pacific trade ministers in Hanoi. NAFTA, negotiated more than two decades ago, “has been amended about 11 times so we said we’re happy to sit at the table,” he said.

Robert Lighthizer, the new U.S. trade representative, has begun the process for renegotiating the three-way agreement with Canada and Mexico, issuing a 90-day notice to Congress.

During his election campaign, President Donald Trump called NAFTA a “disaster” that cost millions of U.S. jobs and crippled the U.S. manufacturing sector. A few weeks ago, he was considering whether to pull out of the agreement entirely.

Champagne said some parts of the deal could be modernized, citing e-commerce, but he wouldn’t say whether Canada had any limitations for the discussions.

“We are very prepared and we are taking that very seriously, but we’ll put things on the table when it comes to the time to negotiate,” he said. “I am confident, if history has been guiding us, that if we succeeded 11 times that we are likely to succeed again.”

Champagne said he had a “good first meeting,” with Lighthizer in Vietnam during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum gathering. “Whatever discussions you have start from the premise of a very fruitful relationship,” he said.

Champagne also met Sunday with the 11 remaining members of the trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal from which Trump the U.S. in one of his first acts as president. The TPP would have included 40 per cent of the global economy.

Some nations are pushing to continue with the TPP despite the loss of the U.S., arguing that too much effort went into negotiating it and that there are benefits for remaining countries, though some have been less committed.

In Hanoi, there was a sideline meeting on Sunday of TPP-member nations and ministers agreed to start a process to put it into force, according to a joint statement. They will ask senior trade officials to arrange how to take the continue the partnership and report back by the APEC leaders’ summit in November.

“Canada’s always been clear: we will look at whatever options would be to the net benefit of Canadians and Canadian workers,” Champagne said. “This is very much now at the stage of looking at options.”

Comments (0)

Panama Papers have helped fuel ‘a more aggressive CRA’

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

For the Canada Revenue Agency, the Panama Papers was a line in the sand.

Unlike those exposed by previous leaks, tax cheats named in the massive database won’t be offered amnesty; instead, they’re more likely to end up doing hard time.

“This is a more aggressive CRA,” said assistant commissioner Ted Gallivan in an interview with the Star. “There are some actors who need that threat of a jail term to stop, or they actually physically have to be locked up in jail to get them to discontinue their activities.”

Tax fraudsters identified in the Panama Papers will not be allowed to clear their name by declaring their hidden assets and paying back taxes and interest, a process called voluntary disclosure.

“(The Panama Papers) allows us to showcase how the CRA has changed,” Gallivan said. “There’s a bit of a paradigm shift for us: no voluntary disclosures and a lot more criminal investigations. That reflects a shift to more severe consequences for people who are participating in aggressive tax avoidance or tax evasion.”

From now on, the CRA will also fingerprint anyone charged with tax evasion, which could affect their ability to travel abroad.

“It’s about more than revenue,” said Gallivan. “It sends the message that it’s not just tax evasion, it’s not just white collar crime, it’s a serious criminal offence and it comes with serious criminal consequences.”

Internationally, Canada has long been considered lax on white collar crime, with few prosecutions and prison sentences measured in months, not years. But after the Panama Papers were made public last April, the new Liberal government quickly announced a nearly $500-million investment in the CRA to bolster tax enforcement.

Early results reflect an ongoing reorientation toward fewer, high-value tax cheats and a focus on multinational corporations.

The number of criminal convictions for tax evasion has dropped dramatically from 137 in 2011-12 to only 17 so far in 2016-17, yet the criminal fines imposed have almost tripled from an average of about $46,000 to over $123,000 for each offender.

Sentences are up, too, from an average of 18 months in 2011-12 to 26.5 months this year, according to numbers provided by the CRA.

Additional tax collected by CRA audits has increased almost 45 per cent over the last six years from $8.7 billion in 2011-12 to $12.6 billion in 2015-16. More and more of these audits target large and multinational corporations, producing tax assessments that have more than doubled in the last three years from $6.1 billion in 2013-14 to a projected $13 billion this year.

In order to move more quickly from investigation to prosecution, in the last year 230 people have been added to the compliance department and lawyers are now being embedded in investigating teams.

The Panama Papers even spawned a new branch of the CRA, known as International, Large Business and Criminal Investigations, which operates under Gallivan’s personal watch. This branch, which has 100 specialized auditors, will be taking on the most complex, big-ticket cases that often have an offshore component and involve sophisticated tax professionals, the enablers of tax evasion.

“The new thinking of the new branch is in addition to finding the taxpayers, we need to find the promoter, the head, and go after the head that’s driving this behaviour and put them out of business,” Gallivan said.

In the 2016-17 fiscal year so far, tax professionals have been fined $44.3 million for their role in facilitating tax evasion — a huge increase over the $200,000 handed down last year — and the information gleaned from the Panama Papers promises an uptick in years to come.

It helps that the CRA obtained parts of the leak before it was made public and got the ball rolling early.

“It gave us the advantage of timing. By the time the public took interest in this, we were already fairly well advanced in our work,” said Gallivan.

But the gears of justice move slowly. Almost a year later, there are 75 audits and several criminal investigations underway, but no charges have been laid.

Investigators, Gallivan acknowledged, have had difficulty finding the individuals behind shell companies used to defraud the tax collector, a phenomenon highlighted by the Star’s Canada Papers investigation.

“Some actual people have multiple corporations with millions of dollars and millions of dollars of non-compliance,” he said. “Taxpayers who are conducting these things certainly go to great lengths to obscure them.”

Last year, an international evaluation of Canada’s financial system flagged lack of transparency in corporate ownership as an impediment to law enforcement.

But Canadian enforcement efforts are only a small part of the solution. The post-Panama Papers world is about to get much more complicated for wealthy individuals who hide their money offshore and multinationals that shelter their profits in tax havens.

The EU and G20 are set to publish a new black list of unco-operative tax havens this summer, shortly after the first global system of tax information sharing becomes operational. The OECD’s “automatic exchange” system will allow tax auditors in one country to see what their citizens are declaring in another. There are 54 participating countries in 2017 and next year Canada will start sharing its tax information, along with 46 more countries.

For the 2016 tax year, Canadian multinational corporations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue will have to report to the CRA their profits, sales, employees, assets and taxes paid on a country-by-country basis. This information will then be fed into the international sharing system, creating a web of tax oversight that will be much more difficult to escape.

To prepare for this new “big data” era in tax collection, the CRA is ramping up its use of computer analysis to troll the information looking for red flags suggesting suspicious activity.

Instead of just checking the math on people’s tax returns, the CRA is developing algorithms to cross reference outside data — including real estate transactions and luxury purchases — with what people claim to be making.

“The agency knows that people who are trying to avoid paying taxes often manipulate their tax return so they look like they’re low income,” said Gallivan. “The system will flag that despite somebody’s low income on their tax return, they have a lot of money. When we see that flag, we dig deeper.”

The CRA recently started receiving real time data of all international electronic money transfers and is building a computer system to monitor more than 1 million transfers each month in real time.

Because it could take two or three years to get the system up and running, auditors are currently going through them manually, Gallivan said, having flagged more than 41,000 transactions worth $12 billion last year. The manual review will ramp up to looking at 100,000 transfers this year.

“The money flow is exactly where our focus is now,” he said. “We do have to be accountable for results.”

Comments (0)

Student Debt Is Rising, And Mental Health Problems Are Rising With It

Posted on 02 June 2016 by admin

Many of this year’s new post-secondary graduates have left the academic world carrying tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Meantime, those heading to college and university this fall will soon contend with steep tuition rates that often result in a similar burden.

While schools attempt to lessen the load by offering financial aid, average student debt appears to be climbing. So some institutions are also responding by beefing up their mental health services to help students cope with life in the red.

“We’re worried about one type of debt — student debt — and we want to know how to pay it off as quickly as possible,” said Dillon Collet, who is about to enter his final year at the University of Toronto’s faculty of law and sat on the dean’s advisory committee on financial aid.

The committee organized a financial aid workshop that discussed the psychology of debt. It was well-attended, Collet said, with about 60 students in the room and a lineup outside.

The committee’s student representatives also pushed to have tuition fees — and their connection to student stress — to be discussed at the faculty council’s meeting each year, Collet said.

“A lot of students suffer silently.”

Estimates suggest average student debt in Canada is past the $25,000 mark.

In 2013-14, graduates finished school with an average of $12,480 in federal loan debt, according to numbers from the Canada Student Loans Program.

However, that figure doesn’t include provincial or private loans. An Ontario student graduating from a four-year university program, for example, shouldered an average of $22,207 in provincial debt in 2012-2013. That makes for a total debtload of more than $34,000 if they also borrowed the average sum from the federal government.

The Canadian University Survey Consortium surveyed more than 18,000 graduating university students from 36 Canadian universities for its 2015 annual report. The average debt-ridden student owed $26,819.

Such a debt load can have an impact on a student or graduate’s mental health, though only a small amount of published research exists on the apparent link.

A 2015 journal paper analyzed data from a U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics survey of more than 8,000 youth in the United States — where tuition fees are significantly higher than in Canada — to determine if debtload and psychological well-being were connected.

“Students who took out more student loans were more likely to report poor mental health in early adulthood,” said one of the paper’s authors, Katrina M. Walsemann, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina.

Canadian experts have also noticed a link, even though Canadian students don’t generally go into as much debt as their American cohorts.

Jillian Yeung Do, York University’s director of student financial services, witnessed it while working with a student. While she couldn’t provide much detail for privacy reasons, she said she became really concerned about a student.

“After that encounter, I decided that it would be a good idea to — for myself, personally, and as well for the entire team — to be trained in having these conversations with students,” she said.

The university’s health educator taught the financial services staff how to identify students in distress, listen to them and provide proper referrals. York University also plans to launch a new financial literacy campaign soon, she said.

The University of Toronto’s faculty of law staff, including its financial aid workers, will also have training on mental health issues next month, said Alexis Archbold, the assistant dean of the JD (juris doctor) program. She’s also the chair of the dean’s advisory committee on mental health and wellness, formed this past academic year.

Archbold and the committee spent the year listening to students’ primary concerns. Unsurprisingly for a professional program, she said, high tuition and the anxiety of the corresponding debtload emerged as one of the common themes.

The school’s new academic, personal and wellness co-ordinator will work with Archbold this summer to develop a wellness strategy, she said.

The committee will continue to hear from students on how to improve the strategy, which seems to fall in line with at least some of what the students want.

“We want a platform in which we can engage with the faculty and the administration,” said Collett, “and we can really talk about the nuts and bolts.”

Comments (0)

5 Ways Students Can Score A Summer Job By Graduation Day

Posted on 28 April 2016 by admin

Julie Dossett

Communications lead for LinkedIn Canada

Now that the end of the school year is just about here, students are heading online in droves to hunt for jobs and summer internships. In Canada, there are more Google searches for summer jobs in April than any other time of year, and globally, LinkedIn sees more students active on the platform than any other time of the year.

For those of you that haven’t yet found a role, there’s no need to panic. Here are my five top tips to help those looking to jump start their career.

1. Nurture your network:
Don’t leave it until after graduation to start growing your professional network; start connecting with family, friends and contacts from internships and other work experiences now. As 80 per cent of job openings are never advertised, tapping into your network can help increase your odds of finding your dream opportunity.

2. Search for relevant positions with LinkedIn Student Jobs:

Know what you’re looking for, but not how to find it? LinkedIn’s Student Jobs tool connects you with student internships and jobs for graduates on LinkedIn, and allows students to filter by industry, location, company and more.

3. Complete your profile:

Hone your profile, making sure to avoid generic buzzwords to help you stand out from the crowd. The more complete it is, the more appealing it will be to others, so make sure you fill out each section to boost your chances of being ‘found’ by recruiters and potential employers.

Remember, a great profile doesn’t just state what you’ve done; it should show who you are. Start with a strong opening summary statement, then complete the profile sections designed just for students, such as courses (for anything related to your desired industry), volunteer experience and causes (to help round you out), projects, languages, certifications, organizations and more.

4. A picture tells a thousand words:

LinkedIn isn’t Facebook. Upload a high-quality photo (your profile will be 14 times more likely to be viewed) of you alone, professionally dressed. You don’t need a professional photographer to take a professional headshot; your smartphone can do the trick. LinkedIn has created a guide on taking the perfect work selfie. Consider uploading PDFs, photos or documents to your profile to create an online portfolio that showcases your best projects.

5. Connect with your university alumni: 

Reach out to alumni who are already working in your dream job or field, and use their career paths to help you map your own. Become a member of your university’s alumni group on LinkedIn; engage productively and professionally in group discussions by commenting on an article someone has posted or starting a discussion of your own. Introduce yourself and be upfront about your goals. Often, you’ll be surprised by how willing people are to give you the inside scoop on the graduate job market.

Bonus tip: 

Want to really stand out? Publishing a post on LinkedIn is a great way to demonstrate how you can communicate ideas and opinions. Share your thoughts on issues or trends in your field or share a personal anecdote (suitable for a professional audience!). A short but well-articulated post can help show potential employers who you are and how you think.

Taking the time to do some online research, strengthen your profile and create (and maintain) a robust network doesn’t require a significant time investment and can pay dividends for your career in the long term.

While as a student or recent graduate you might not have a wealth of relevant professional experience, cultivating a strong online brand which showcases your passion and where you want to go in your career can help you make a lasting impression on recruiters and prospective employers.

Comments (0)

Canadian Taxes Are Lower Than Most Of The World: OECD Report

Posted on 22 April 2016 by admin

Tax season has arrived in Canada.

For some, it’s a time to celebrate how much they’ll receive on their returns. For others, it’s time to complain about how much they have to pay to the government.

Sure, it’s frustrating to have to cut a cheque to the feds. But as a new report shows, it’s much, much worse in other countries.

The OECD issued its “Taxing Wages 2016” report on Wednesday. It aims to show how much personal income tax and employee contributions people make in 34 countries.

The report measures a tax burden by calculating a “tax wedge”: total taxes that people pay, minus family benefits.

Tax wedges were calculated in various ways, such as how much you pay when you’re single, or whether you’re a couple with two children.

The tax wedge for Canadian couples with children was 18.8 per cent, seventh-lowest among all OECD countries.

Countries with higher tax wedges were mostly concentrated in Europe. Topping the list for couples with kids was France, at 40.5 per cent, followed by Belgium (40.4 per cent), Italy (39.9 per cent), Finland (39.3 per cent) and Austria (39 per cent).

Meanwhile, Canada’s tax wedge for single people ranked 10th from the bottom, at 31.6 per cent. Here, too, European countries dominated the top ranks.

Canada did, however, rank higher when it came to income taxes. It came 13th in income taxes on couples with children and 14th for single people.

Denmark was far and away the highest when it came to income taxes, at 31.9 per cent for couples with children and 35.8 per cent for singles.

The report comes months after the federal government reduced taxes on middle-income earners ($45,282 to $90,563) from 22 per cent to 20.5 per cent. The new rate came into effect on Jan. 1.

Canadians have until April 30 to file their taxes, but the Canada Revenue Agency is also allowing people to submit their forms by May 2.


Comments (0)

5 debt-tackling strategies

Posted on 07 April 2016 by admin

Whether you’re losing sleep over exploding bills or simply looking to stop depleting your savings account, here are some strategies to consider:

Go to someone in the know

Seek advice from financial professionals who specialize in debt management. If they’re simply recommending another way to consolidate debt rather than a process to repay it, that won’t help you in the long run. Push back for other solutions or go elsewhere.

Unify your debt

It sounds simple, but putting your debt in as few accounts as possible will give you a better handle on where your money goes. Don’t get too distracted by low initial interest rates without looking at total interest costs. The better organized your debt and the faster you repay principal, the less total interest you’ll pay.

Keep track of where the money goes

Take the time to track your expenses every week or month (there are several free online programs that can help) to figure out exactly where your money is going and where you could be cutting back. Meridian Credit Union’s Paul Shelestowsky tells all his clients to do this regardless of age. “It’s a lot harder to get in over your head when you’re tracking your money day in and day out,” he says. “Then you can develop a realistic budget to meet your goals.”

Change your spending patterns

You can organize your debt load perfectly, but if you’re not changing the way you spend, you’ll just end up with a different colour of debt, says MoneyFinder CEO Stephanie Holmes-Winton. She suggests creating a cash-flow plan that puts a dollar limit on high-risk expenses, such as credit-card purchases for non-essentials. The advisors she trains help clients find an average of $3,300 a month in spending that they didn’t know they could control. You can also set up your bank account to automatically pay everything from property taxes and utility bills to credit-card balances, which will prevent you from falling behind on payments and facing ballooning balances due to interest charges.

Don’t stop saving

A good financial plan should include contributing to debt repayment and savings simultaneously. Cutting back on long-term investments for a while to tackle debt makes sense, but putting money aside for unforeseen emergencies is essential too. “People who put all their efforts into paying debt tend to bail on themselves when they hit an emergency,” Holmes-Winton says. “They think they have no control and give up altogether.” Having an emergency fund also prevents you from having to dip into your retirement savings during a crisis.

Comments (0)

Questions to Ask Before Buying Your Next Smartphone

Posted on 09 October 2014 by admin

The leading smartphone companies recently launched new models, which typically receive a great deal of attention and reviews — both positive and negative. Businesses professionals are excited but also confused and overwhelmed because they want the best phone that satisfies their checklist of needs at work and at home. How does one make sense of the plethora of features in new smartphone models?

Instead of focusing on the details, a better approach is to take a high level view by answering a few questions to determine which type of phones satisfy your needs. Some useful questions relate to operating systems, the biggest and best selection of apps, phone security and the smartest voice activated personal assistant.

The four choices are iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry, each with pros and cons. All phones support tasks like email, calendaring, web browsing and talking but they differ in how easy and simply they do them. The research firm, IDC, reports that the 2014 global market share in the second quarter of 2014 is 85 per cent for Android, 11.7 per cent for iOS, 9.4 per cent for Windows and less than 1 per cent for BlackBerry.

Android Operating System
Google’s Android works with HTC, LG, Motorola, and Samsung manufacturers. It is popular for customers who enjoy tinkering and customizing using widgets and fine-tuning settings about the look and feel of the phone. Widgets are used to customize a single screen view of contacts, calendar, appointments and other important information. The interface and features from one Android phone to another can vary dramatically especially after an OS update. So it is important to test Android on a particular phone and manufacturer to see if you like the experience.



Apple’s iOS works only with Apple’s phones and devices. When a new operating system becomes available, it has the advantage of updating all Apple devices at the same time. iOS has the most integrated ecosystem and marketplace of apps and is linked to a customer’s iTunes account. For those owning other Apple products (e.g. MacBook, iPad, iPod), the compatibility and user interface experience is easy and consistent across devices. Accessing content like music, videos, podcasts or games is simple. Unlike Android, Apple allows users limited ability to customize the interface — about how apps look and feel on the screen.

Windows Phone

Microsoft is a newer entrant in the smartphone market. Windows phone works with a limited number of phones for HTC, Nokia, and Samsung. The interface is simple and Windows Phone 8.1 offers more features and customization, although it is still does not match the degree of customization available on Android phones. The Windows store has fewer apps, music, games and videos.


The BlackBerry operating system is designed for smartphone handheld devices that are made by the company, also called BlackBerry. BlackBerry phones are targeted to business customers who are focussed on productivity and multitasking. The BlackBerry is best known for having the best touch screen and physical keyboard for speed and accuracy. The user interface supports 8 applications that can be run simultaneously or paused and minimized. The BlackBerry features a messaging centre that can be accessed from anywhere in the OS where all notifications (e.g. email, social networking, text messages, etc.) are displayed and actionable.

Which store has the best selection of apps?

Business professionals use a range of productivity, information and lifestyle apps to improve their quality of life. Android and Apple both have over one million apps while Microsoft and BlackBerry have a much smaller number. Before buying a phone, check if your ‘must have’ apps are available on the operating system of the phone you are interested in.

Is your phone secure?

The phone manufacturers all have enhanced security for their phones provided users allow their devices to be managed by a third-party mobile device management solution on a company’s network. This includes employees who want to use their own device at work. In general, higher security means more complexity for IT departments. Android is the most susceptible to malware and malicious apps because it has the most market share and is frequently targeted. iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry phones are less susceptible to malware. According to a bulletin issued by Kaspersky Lab, 99% of all mobile threats in 2012 targeted Android devices. One suggestion to follow is to never install an app from any suspicious website.

Why mobile personal digital assistants make life easier?

Intelligent personal digital assistants are not new but they have become smarter in completing tasks via voice commands. They offer a new way of interacting with our devices. Google has Now, Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Cortana and BlackBerry has BlackBerry Assistant. Each assistant allows you to search information using your voice. Examples include finding places, giving directions, local weather, calling people and performing web searches.

Google Now
Google Now is more advanced in that it builds an “anticipation engine” of your requests. It is able to anticipate what information may be useful and provides it “just in time”. For example, if you have a scheduled appointment, Google Now will suggest directions ahead of time.

Apple’s Siri
Apple’s Siri does not anticipate tasks and answers questions when asked. It is more conversational and has a large database of humorous responses. Siri is effective at performing simple tasks. It is less advanced than Google Now and Cortana because it cannot anticipate what information you may need.

Microsoft’s Cortana
Microsoft’s Cortana is a combination of Siri and Google Now and built into Windows 8.1. Cortana asks you for your name and how to pronounce it. It asks permission for access to your email, contacts, location and social media accounts like Facebook. You can also add interests like movies, food preferences, news, travel and weather.

BlackBerry Assistant
BlackBerry Assistant was the last major smartphone manufacturer to offer a digital assistant. It is accurate at voice commands to perform simple tasks like sending an email, asking for unread email, setting reminders, searching email and calendar. The more you use it, the more it learns and adapts.

Other questions you might ask about smartphones are:

Based on how you use the phone, which phones have a longer battery?

How important is the batter life of a phone before you have to charge it again?

Will having a larger screen improve viewing photos or videos?

Which phones are more durable and do not easily break when dropped? This video and this video show recent drop tests of the new iPhone 5 , iPhone 6 plus and a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Regardless of your next phone, be sure to get a sturdy case that can absorb a fall.

Do you prefer a virtual screen or a physical touch keyboard? BlackBerry smartphones with a physical screen are still considered the fastest and most accurate.

One way to plan your next smartphone purchase is to make a list of your ‘must haves’ versus your ‘nice to haves’. Then create a shortlist of smartphones based on your budget. Visit the retailers, test them out and ask customers about their experience with their smartphone.

Comments (0)

Universities loading extra fees on top of tuition: ‘They are unfair’

Posted on 17 September 2014 by admin

With university costs projected to increase over the next four years, students are being hit with newly created or rising fees on top of tuition, including those to use facilities and even to graduate, according to a new report.

These fees — such as athletic fees and student association fees — amounted to $817 on average last year, with Alberta having the highest ($1,025) and Newfoundland the lowest ($222), says the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“They are unfair,” says Anna Goldfinch, Ontario representative for the Canadian Federation of Students. “Institutions are using ancillary fees as a way to make up revenue and they’re passing the buck along to students to have to pay for these shortfalls in [funding]. Students are hit with these extra costs, things like graduation fees, deferral fees, flat fees.”

In Ontario, for example, if you want to graduate, you may have to pay a fee to make sure your degree is conferred. If you want to pay your tuition fee per term versus paying the full-year in one lump sum, you’ll be charged a deferral fee. If you only take three courses in a term, you might still have to pay for a full-course load or five courses through a flat fee. The Canadian Federal of Students in Ontario has successfully lobbied to have some of these ancillary fees phased out, Ms. Goldfinch says.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that annual fees at Canadian universities are projected to rise 13% on average to $7,755 in 2017 to 2018, having at least tripled since 1990 to 1991. This rise is partly fueled by these compulsory fees levied on top of tuition which are not often subject to restrictions.

 “Universities are having to get a little bit more creative about how they’re increasing their revenues and taking them out of students,” says Erika Shaker, director of the think-tank’s education project. The report says that provincial funding for universities is inadequate.

In 2010, the University of Calgary introduced a $450 student services fee, replacing fees for student transcripts, fees for counseling through University Health Services and registration and thesis fees for graduate students.

“These ancillary fees vary across the country,” says Jessica McCormick, national chairwoman of the Canadian Federation of Students. “There are building access fees — I guess it’s a charge to access the building, if you take it literally — clicker fees, these are for instruments you’d use.”

Saint Mary’s University charges a student taking 10 half-credit courses: a campus renewal fee of $340, a recreation facilities fee of $50 and a copyright fee of $30. Dalhousie University levies an $81.90 facilities renewal fee and a $72.93 student union fee to full-time students. The University of Toronto charges a $110 application fee to music students applying to graduate studies and a $75 audition fee for performing students.

The arts have never been intended for anyone serious about an occupation, save God and law, and certainly not meant for large swathes of the population

It makes it very difficult for students to predict how much they’ll have to pay in the coming year, Ms. McCormick says.

“Our parents used to be able to work over the summer and cover the costs of school the following year,” she says. “Now we can work over the summer and not even come close to saving up enough and continue to work throughout the year, not only to cover the cost of post-secondary education but the cost of living.”

Students are also expected to pay “vastly different” tuition based on where they live and where they want to study, which undermines the universality of post-secondary education, Ms. Shaker says.

Some provinces — such as Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island Saskatchewan and Ontario — have a two-tier fee structure, providing more financial breaks to in-province students than those from outside the province, she said.

“Some of our mindsets are changing towards whose responsibility is it to ensure that post-secondary education is accessible and affordable to families and who benefits from it,” Ms. Shaker says. “Certainly there is individual benefit but there is a huge society benefit as well. When we start moving away from public financing and more towards individualized financing, it obscures that.”

Comments (0)

Buy and renovate for the perfect abode with a mortgage for fixer uppers

Posted on 10 July 2013 by admin

Nitesh Kumar


Many homebuyers looking at older properties find themselves in a common predicament: they’ve found a property that suits them, but it needs some costly and immediate upgrades.

Many buyers add the costs of those immediate renovations into their mortgage, instead of racking up credit card bills or selling investments to pay for the upgrades. Known as a “purchase plus improvements” mortgage, this type of mortgage covers the sale price of the home, plus any renovations that would increase the value of the property, with as little as 5 per cent down.

If you’re buying a home but want to add a second storey, finish a basement or redo a kitchen, it can make a lot of sense to add those costs to your mortgage. That way you can spread your payments over the life of the mortgage and have a cost-effective way to get your dream home. You can also use your pre-payment privileges to pay the renovation off faster. The process is quite simple:

Obtain cost estimates for the upgrades

Once you have found a home, you need to get detailed written quotes from licensed contractors on the renovations you plan, outlining the scope and all costs.

 Get your appraisal

An appraisal with two separate values will be required: first the value of the property “as is” and the estimated value of the property once the improvements are completed.

Renovation costs are included in your mortgage

Your lender will add the estimated costs of the renovation into your mortgage. For example, with a 5% down payment, your mortgage broker would apply for 95% of the “as improved” market value, which will be higher than the actual purchase price. The committed amount of the mortgage will be advanced to your solicitor, who will be instructed to hold back the renovation funds until the work has been completed and inspected.

Complete your upgrades; funds are released upon completion

Once an inspection from an appraiser confirms all work is complete and a copy of the building permit (if applicable) has been received, the balance of the mortgage funds will be released to you to pay for the renovations. There are a few options for carrying your expenditures until the funds can be released. Some major home improvement retailers offer “no payment” options for up to six months. Larger contractors may also be willing to finance the project short-term if they see the documentation for purchase plus improvements financing.


Purchase price: $400,000
Improvements: $40,000
Total mortgage: $418,000 (95% of $440,000)
$378,000 will be released on closing date. $40,000 will be released upon completion of improvements i.e. improvements are 100% complete and a final inspection has taken place.

Be sure to consult with a mortgage professional to learn about the full range of options available to you when purchasing a fixer upper.

Nitesh Kumar is a Mortgage Broker with Mortgage Intelligence. He can be reached via phone at 416-419-2566. FSCO lic. M08001411. 

Comments (0)

Advertise Here
Advertise Here