windsor ontario real estate agents

Odds are on a soft landing for the Canadian housing market

April 7th, 2014

Dear Clients,
This is great news for Canada; I admittedly harboured some worry that our clients in Toronto, Calgary etc. would crash and burn on their own homes at some point, which actually affects Windsor more than people realize — these folk invest in our city heavily now! So this is great to read, study and understand why we are not heading for an American style meltdown.

The U.S. housing market peaked eight years ago, then it crashed, and then it burned. So we’ve now been worrying for eight years about the prospect of a similar catastrophe in the Canadian housing market. The official voices—the Bank of Canada, the Department of Finance—are reassuring, but that’s to be expected: policy-makers are not in the business of provoking self-fulfilling panics.

Even so, I think the preponderance of available evidence points to a ‘soft landing’: prices will eventually stop increasing and may lose some of the gains of the past few years. The pace of housing construction will slow, and this will reduce employment and incomes in the construction sector. An outright U.S.-style crash is not impossible, but it is less likely than the soft-landing scenario.

This isn’t to say that there’s no reason for concern. Let’s start with the ratios of household debt to disposable income in Canada and the US:

You should always be careful about making direct comparisons across countries: data definitions may not correspond perfectly. But there’s no denying the basic trend. U.S. debt-to-income ratios peaked in 2008, while Canadian debt-to-income ratios kept increasing. Here is a breakdown of Canadian household debt-to-income ratios:

Presumably some of the increase is due to an increase in car loans as car dealerships shifted away from leases. In any event, consumer credit leveled off five years ago; mortgage debt is the driving force behind recent household debt growth.

Having debt is one thing; what really matters is being able to pay it back. One of the triggers for the U.S. housing crisis was the sharp increase in the share of disposable income going to cover mortgage interest costs:

The increase in U.S. mortgage debt service ratios began in 2004. This increase in leverage only made sense in a world where housing prices continually increase, and that world ended when prices peaked in 2006. The wave of mortgage defaults began around the same time.

Debt service ratios in Canada have not followed this pattern:

U.S. homeowners started defaulting when debt service ratios reached all-time highs. In Canada, this isn’t happening. Debt service ratios did start to increase in 2006, but for various reasons—lower interest rates, spooked homeowners, tighter restrictions on mortgage lending—they’ve fallen below where they were in 2005 and are at the lowest level in more than 20 years (the data start in 1990).

The concern, of course, is the risk than an eventual increase in interest rates will drive debt service ratios to an unsustainable level. But when you dig into the numbers, the story doesn’t look all that bad.

The people most at risk from higher interest rates are people who are renewing their mortgages for the first time: they will have the least amount of home equity available to act as a cushion. Five years ago, conventional five-year mortgage rates were roughly 5.5 per cent. This table shows the effects of higher interest rates on the monthly payments of people renewing their mortgages for the first time:

The people who took out mortgages with longer amortization periods are most at risk to increases in interest rates. The move to longer amortizations was part of the general trend to looser mortgage standards, and this trend was reversed when the crisis hit. Forty-year mortgages were eliminated in 2008, so that last column is now moot. Thirty-five-year mortgages were discontinued in 2011, so the second-last column will only apply to a small number of outstanding mortgages.

To be sure, a 20-25 per cent increase in mortgage payments would not be welcomed by homeowners. But I don’t see how that would translate into a U.S.-style wave of defaults. For one thing, the starting point for the increase would be a historic low. For another, this would not be the first time that mortgage payments went up: the interest rate spikes caused by the disinflation of the early 1980s increases up mortgage payments by up to 60 per cent. But look what happened to mortgage delinquency

Alberta is broken out to show the spike in delinquency rates in the early 1980s. I’m given to understand that this increase was at least partly due to changes in the laws reducing the severity of the consequences of default. What strikes me is that outside Alberta, more than 99 per cent of mortgages stayed current in the early 1980s even as costs skyrocketed. For some reason—maybe it’s the climate—Canadian homeowners are far less likely to risk foreclosure than those in the U.S.

This is not to say that an increase in mortgage interest rates would have no adverse effect. If households are obliged to spend a larger fraction of their incomes on mortgage payments, then they will cut back on other areas, and the resulting fall in consumer spending will have important effects. It’s not a coincidence that the most severe recession in Canada since the Great Depression was in the early 1980s: contractionary monetary policy has contractionary effects.

Which brings us to the most important part of this scenario: Why would interest rates increase in the first place? Treating an interest spike as an exogenous shock doesn’t make any sense: the Bank of Canada isn’t going to raise interest rates in a random fit of malicious spite. The Bank of Canada increased interest rates in the early 1980s because inflation was running above 10 per cent a year and rising—the exact opposite problem is facing the Bank now.

So what are the conditions under which the Bank of Canada will increase interest rates? The same as they’ve always been: when inflationary pressures threaten to push inflation outside the Bank of Canada’s target zone. Interest rates will go up when incomes are rising and households are able to absorb the extra mortgage costs. In fact, one of the reasons for increasing interest rates would be to choke off household spending.

This doesn’t mean that current trends will continue forever or that nothing unpleasant will occur under the soft landing scenario. At some point, house prices will stop increasing, and this will have negative consequences for employment the construction and real estate sectors—just like in previous housing market cycles.

It would be foolish to say that a U.S.-style housing meltdown is impossible. But available data seem to be consistent with the claim that it is unlikely.

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RESIDENTIAL STATS President’s Report March 2014

April 4th, 2014

Market Activity down 9.92% for the month of March view full report.

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Judges agree Windsor has some world-class pizza

March 31st, 2014

As we all know there are only two foods that matter. Bacon, and pizza. Windsor has pizza locked up.

Local pizza makers said they put Windsor on the map after finishing third last week in Las Vegas for the best pizza in the world.

Well-known Windsor franchise Armando’s Pizza attended the 30th annual International Pizza Expo for the first time and came out with impressive results. The Windsor crew beat out 60 others for the honour of the world’s third best pizza.

“Windsor is now part of the pizza map,” said corporate pizza chef Dean Litster. “They’ll remember us.”

In fact, Windsor placed in the top five in all of the four categories entered.

Armando’s co-owner John Pizzo was the regional winner in the traditional division, and finished first in the International region.

“I would like to thank all our customers over the years,” Pizzo said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Armando’s regular everyday pizza, with shredded pepperoni and canned mushrooms, shocked the judges at the competition, Litster said. Made with all natural cheese, from Galati Cheese Co. Ltd., 100 per cent milk and without additives or artificial flavours, the recipe hasn’t changed since Pizzo’s father-in-law, Armando Gerardi, created it in 1967.

Litster, the 27-year-old pizza guru who has worked for owners Pizzo and Andre Gerardi since he was 15 years old, finished fifth overall in the American pan division. The deep-dish pizza isn’t on the menu and was created just for fun.

Executive chef Marco Malizia placed fourth in the Italian division.

Senol Eskici, co-owner of sister-company Johnny Piez on Dougall Avenue, finished second in the gluten-free division. Eskici hasn’t even started selling it yet, Litster said.

“I guess you can say we’re one of the top five pizzerias in the world,” said Malizia, 33.

In four competitions, four die-hard pizza lovers set out to learn, network and have fun. Malizia said they each walked away with far more than they hoped for after their first year.

“We went into the competition as a bunch on unknowns,” Litster said. “Nobody there knew about Windsor. They didn’t know about Windsor pizza. Now there is all this interest.”

Up against competitors from Italy, Australia, U.S. and other Canadian cities in provinces such as British Columbia and Alberta, the four local pizza makers said they had a fantastic learning experience. Besides testing their skills, they had the opportunity to connect and share ideas with fellow-worldwide pizza fanatics.

“We love pizza – we live for pizza,” Litster said.

Malizia said the Windsor community knows this city has the best pizza in the world – and he agrees.
“You can’t beat the pizza here,” he said.

Before leaving for Las Vegas early in the morning of March 24, Litster and Malizia were still in the kitchen at the Cabana Road location until after midnight the night before.

When the plane landed in Windsor on Friday, after a week’s worth of competition, the crew was back at work that night. It was business as usual, they said.

“We spend many countless nights here,” Litster said. “It’s all for the love of pizza. This isn’t a job for me, this is a career. I don’t know how many people can say that.”

He said it feels good to come back to his hometown and be recognized for doing something he does every day.

“We’ll go back next year,” Litster said. “We want to win first place in all four divisions.”

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March 17th, 2014

Each year, OREA Research invites members to take its Member Profile survey to help us understand who Ontario REALTORS® are and how they conduct business. In 2013, over 3,600 REALTORS® answered our survey.

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Ontario food plants becoming more competitive

March 14th, 2014

Dear Clients,

This is interesting insight; usually we just hear the doom and gloom in the media, not the realities. This is actually great news.

Despite a number of high-profile plant closures in recent months, the food processing industry in Canada is becoming more competitive and those efforts are likely to bear fruit in the form of jobs, according to a new study.

Western University’s Ivey Business School says its study found that the most commonly cited reason for closures was that a plant was no longer competitive and, in many cases, production was being consolidated at another location.

But when new plants open, they are often larger and incorporate new technology that drives down costs, it found.

Recent announcements about high-profile food plant closures in Ontario, such as the Kellogg operation in London and Heinz plant in Leamington, raised concerns in a province that had watched its auto and steel industries decimated by the recession. (Ontario company Highbury Canco Corp. plans to take over the Leamington plant in July and keep some of the workforce.)

While auto manufacturing has improved, a string of closures that also included Smucker’s and Lance Canada Ltd, has led many to question the future of food processing in the province.

But the Western study, co-authored by David Sparling, said that between 2008 and 2014, the 105 closures in the province have been balanced by 105 openings and plant investments.

That means that while plant closures resulted in job losses, the industry overall did not experience a net decline in employment.

“The food industry typically has had lots of small plants and lots more retail,” he said.

“The new footprint for globally competitive manufacturing tends to be larger plants and probably located close to workforces as well as markets and transportation corridors.”

Hamilton, Brantford, London, Toronto and Windsor are all large centres that have big workforces and the ability to service a larger company, he said.

“We’re probably going to lose more small plants in some small centres, (but) that said, the food industry also has a huge number of small companies and … a lot of them are starting up in rural centres, where people … want to extract some more value from farm product.”

Cities like Hamilton and Brantford, which were hit hard as manufacturing changed, are seeing new opportunities with a Ferrero Rocher plant in Brantford and a Canada Bread operation in Hamilton, said Sparling, who is the chair of Agri-food Innovation at Ivey.

When looking to set up new plants, he added, companies did consider whether there were people in the area who already understood manufacturing and were looking for work.

“The food industry doesn’t tend to pay quite as much as things like automotive and steel, so there’s a bit of an adjustment that way, but they are still good manufacturing jobs,” said Sparling.

Food processing, like other manufacturing in Canada, was hit hard by the recession, the high loonie, increased foreign competition and higher input costs.

But it has also been impacted by an increasingly competitive retail market for grocery stores, which “are operating at razor-thin margins and they’re just not doing as well as they have been in the past,” Sparling said.

“That means they’re really unreceptive to increase costs coming to them, so that puts all kinds of pressure on food manufacturers to figure out how can we get interesting products that consumers would care about to retailers without imposing any additional costs.”

The study, titled The Changing Face of Food Manufacturing in Canada: An Analysis of Plant Closings, Openings and Investments, found that there were 143 plant closures announced between 2006 and 2014, resulting in projected losses of almost 24,000 jobs.

The industry went through a particularly challenging period in 2007 and 2008, when 48 closures in the country outnumbered the 27 openings and plant investments. Ontario was the hardest-hit province, while Quebec was more successful in balancing openings and investments with closures.

But revenue continued to increase during that period and employment recovered more quickly than at other manufacturers.

Closures were also offset by investments from both foreign and domestic companies, with Canadian firms making slightly higher investments and the majority of activity coming from smaller firms.

“The overall picture is one of an industry that went through tough times in the mid 2000s but in recent years has been looking more positive in spite of continuing challenges,” the report said.

“It is also an industry that is more ready to compete than it was in 2006.”

To continue to grow the sector going forward, the report highlighted the need to create an attractive investment environment, reduce energy costs, to support and facilitate trade and to provide incentives for companies to choose to set up shop in Canada and upgrade technology.

Food companies also voiced concern about labour supply issues in the future, as they worried about meeting the growing need for skilled labour and said they could benefit from greater use of apprenticeships and training programs.

The food processing industry produces more than 70 per cent of the food Canadians buy and, with revenue of more than $88 billion in 2011, it’s the second-largest Canadian manufacturing industry and Canada’s largest manufacturing employer.

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List of Tax Rebates/Incentives

March 11th, 2014

Tax Rebates and Incentives

Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit:

Ontario Senior Homeowners’ Property Tax Grant:

Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit:

First Time Home Buyer’s Tax Credit:

GST/HST New Housing Rebate:

New Residential Rental Property Rebate:

New Housing Rebate Application for Houses Purchased from a Builder:

New Housing Rebate Application for Owner-Built Homes:

Land Transfer Tax Refund for First-Time Homebuyers:

Provincial Land Tax Rebate Program for Vacant Commercial and Industrial Buildings:

Energy Saving Kit- offered by Union Gas:

Residential Programmable Thermostats – offered by Union Gas:

saveONenergy Coupons:

- helps you save on energy-efficient products for your home

saveONenergy Heating and Cooling Incentive:

Can receive up to $650 by installing an Energy Star qualified central heating or cooling system

Fridge and Freezer Pickup

offers homeowners free pick-up and recycling of qualifying full-size refrigerators and freezers

Mortgage Loan Insurance for Energy Efficient Housing Offer

A 10% refund on the Mortgage Loan Insurance premium maybe be available, if you use insured financing from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to buy an energy efficient home; purchase a house and make energy saving renovations; or renovate your existing home to make it more energy efficient.

Home Assistance Program

The program is aimed at reducing the energy burden for those in need and, eligible participants can get free home improvement, depending on the heating and housing type and the existing efficiencies

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Essex County festivals ranked among best in the province

March 4th, 2014

Eleven of the province’s Top 100 festivals are located in Windsor and Essex County, according to Festivals and Events Ontario, which chooses the Top 100 every year.

Windsor-Essex has always had five or six festivals that perennially make the cut – including the Strawberry Festival in LaSalle and Corn Festival in Tecumseh – but this year Festivals and Events Ontario chose 11 local events for its list. Two years ago only six local festivals made the Top 100.

Kids enjoy the swing ride at the 2013 Windsor Summerfest, at the Riverfront Festival Plaza

Kids enjoy the swing ride at the 2013 Windsor Summerfest, at the Riverfront Festival Plaza

“It speaks to the fact that we are the most southern city in the province and we have a long period of time where you can enjoy one of our many festivals or events,” said Gordon Orr, CEO of Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island. “It shows we are not a July-August destination. We are a year-round destination.”

The recognition tells local residents that, “if you are having a staycation, Windsor is the place to be,” said Debi Croucher, executive director of the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association. The DWBIA puts on August’s Balloonapalooza, which made the Top 100 for the first time in the event’s four-year history. The cold-air balloon festival featured such mammoth replicas asDora the Explorer, the Statue of Liberty and a Canadian Mountie in downtown Windsor and attracted about 50,000 attendees last year, Croucher said.

Balloonapalooza is the only festival of its kind, Croucher said, pointing out that most air balloons are inflated with Helium or hot air. Cold-air balloons have little fans inside them and the company that manufactures them is located in Windsor.

Rita Ossington, who is executive director of the Canada South Festival Network, said there are 3,000 festivals annually in Ontario and about 60 are held in Essex County.

“We are well positioned to be Ontario’s festival destination,” Ossington said. Being recognized as one of the province’s best festivals should help festival organizers in arranging sponsorship, advertisers and getting volunteers.

“It gives them just a little bit more than the other festivals,” she said.

In addition to announcing its Top 100,  the Festivals and Events Conference in Richmond Hill recognized locals for outstanding efforts. Cameron Payne was identified as the volunteer of the year for his dedication to Carrousel of the Nations. The festival was also credited as having the best rromotional campaign budget and had the sponsor of the year in Liquid Wild Media.

Tecumseh was recognized as the best festival city for a community with less than 200,000 people for the in-kind services the town provided to its festivals. Windsor and Essex County received the best youth initiative for the International Children’s Games Windsor.

The 11 local festivals in the Top 100 in the province are:

LaSalle’s Strawberry Festival (June 5-8)

Kingsville’s Fantasy of Lights  (Nov. 15 – Jan. 8)

Tecumseh’s Art of Eating and Wine Festival (June 20-21) and the Corn Festival (Aug. 21-24)

Amherstburg’s Shores of Erie Wine Festival (Sept. 4-7) and the River Lights Festival (Nov. 15-Dec. 30)

Windsor’s Art in the Park (June 6-8),

Carrousel of the Nations (June 20-29),

Windsor Summer Fest (June 19-July 1),

Balloonapalooza (Aug. 16-17)

Windsor International Film Festival (Nov. 4-9).

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The Star’s view: Welcome to town

February 26th, 2014

OK I have to get this off my chest.

IF YOU ARE BUYING REAL ESTATE, GET AN AGENT TO REPRESENT YOU. I still can’t believe people hold onto this unicorns and rainbows myth that if they work alone, the listing agent will magically cut their commissions and thus you’ll get a cheaper price for the home. It doesn’t work like that!

Statistically speaking you are far, far better off having an agent going to battle with the listing agent (the only exception to this is when the listing agent is already your agent).

When you work alone I promise you:
1) 4 times out of 5 you will pay more for the house.
2) You will waste a ton of time doing all the work and research your Buyer agent could have done for you.
3) Your risk of buying a crappy property skyrockets as you’re not well versed in all the ways you can get screwed, and
4) to top it all off you’ll NEVER get a steal these days as the people working with an agent see the listings days before you do.

This is why it kills me. You’re seriously wasting your own time, in order to pay more for a home 4 times out of 5, and almost completely eliminating the best properties from your possible purchases. GET A BUYER AGENT IF YOU’RE BUYING!!!

Oh and private sales? 74% of those are sold by an agent. This is why the private home sales websites have article after article on how to work with an agent when they inevitably come ‘a knocking.

(OK I feel better now)

No one should be surprised that Windsor-Essex is gaining a well-deserved reputation as one of the best places to live and retire in Canada.

As a story in the Globe and Mail pointed out earlier this week, you “retire earlier, with cash to spare, in Canada’s most southerly city.”

The Globe’s sales pitch went on to say that the “city has appealing assets for would-be retirees. Among them: bargain-price real estate (relative to big Canadian cities); low property taxes; a long growing season; bodies of water on three sides and, not least, proximity to the United States.”

In fact, it’s estimated that more than 1,000 retirees have decided to call the Windsor region their new home over the past five years. And the Windsor-Essex Active Retirement Community Initiative can take credit for this dramatic upswing in new residents. In fact, for the $50,000 that the city and county each contribute to the budget, it might be one of the best dollar-for-dollar investments local taxpayers are currently making.

WEARCI, a partnership that includes local realtors, home builders, chamber of commerce and Windsor Family Credit Union, has a straightforward mission — spreading the word about Windsor-Essex as a retirement haven.

“It’s definitely working,” says WEARCI’s Krista Del Gatto. “I know that when we started the initiative, there were some naysayers — ‘Oh, why do we want to bring old people here?’ Well, it’s not about ‘old people.’ These are people who are 50-plus and active. Some of them have started businesses here.”

Del Gatto is right that the idea of a retiree is not what it used to be. Most of the new arrivals are healthy, active individuals who saw an opportunity to live in an area that offers affordable housing,  great weather (usually) and lots of recreational activities, including a growing number of bike trails. The lure of major league sports and cultural events on the other side of the river doesn’t hurt, either.

There’s also more than a dozen conservation areas, Point Pelee, Pelee Island, the Windsor waterfront, wineries, Caesars Windsor and scores of restaurants and entertainment venues.

But housing is one of the real lures. Many of those relocating from larger areas can purchase a home for cash and still have funds to winter elsewhere.

The 2012 Home Listing Report — issued by Coldwell Banker — looked at 74 markets across the country and found the Windsor area offered the most affordable house prices in Canada. It was the only community where a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house listed for under $200,000.

There’s a tremendous opportunity if we keep aggressively marketing the region as a retirement destination. There are 14 million Canadians 50 years of age and older who are thinking about retirement. These are people who are enthusiastic, energetic and open to new experiences — and they want to live where they can maximize both their leisure time and their savings.

Del Gatto also points out that  2014 is the last year of the initiative’s five-year agreement with the city and the county, and WEARCI will be making municipal pitches this spring for another five years of funding.

There’s no question it’s been money well spent so far, with enormous economic benefits.

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Protect your home, not your lender

February 20th, 2014

Dear Clients,

We have long been an advocate of using an alternative life insurance to the one the lending institutions try to get you to sign. But that’s part of the point; they don’t have to try. It’s an afterthought, and it’s even presented as a “Oh by the way…” and we sign without thinking twice about it while we’re signing for our mortgages. Too many of you are still having us fight for every single dime to get the best price for a property, then wasting tens of thousands of dollars on a truly inferior life insurance product attached to your mortgage. Please read the following article by Loren Fitzios and you’ll all understand a lot better why we won’t give up on telling you to adjust. If you have already signed up for the lender’s life insurance on the term of your mortgage(s), bear in mind you can cancel as soon as you work with someone like Loren for a far better and more profitable life insurance setup.

Most lending institutions offer mortgage life insurance as part of their mortgage packaging. But look carefully before you sign on the dotted line. You could find yourself locked into insurance that does more to protect your lender
than you.

On the other hand, a personal life insurance policy doesn’t insure your mortgage. It insures you. After all, you’re the one making those mortgage payments.

Through a personal life insurance policy, you can plan to meet more of your family’s needs in the event of death — including staying in your dream home.

I can show you how a personal life insurance policy can be customized to fit into your financial security plan. Here’s a closer look at how a personal life insurance policy compares to mortgage life insurance offered by most
lending institutions.

Lender’s mortgage insurance

Many lending institutions offer nonconvertible term insurance with no cash values, no premium flexibility and no ability to move to a permanent life insurance policy if your needs change.

This kind of mortgage insurance usually covers the exact amount of your mortgage, so your coverage decreases as you pay down your mortgage. When your mortgage is paid off, you’re left without coverage. With lender’s mortgage insurance, your lender owns the policy and if you find a better mortgage rate at another lending institution, you may have to re-qualify medically for the life insurance protection. Typically, your mortgage insurance can’t be moved to another institution.

If you die, your lender also pays off the mortgage automatically; there is no opportunity to use the funds in any other manner or apply them where they may be required more urgently.

Personal life insurance provides coverage and control

A personal life insurance policy doesn’t insure your mortgage. It insures you because after all, you make the mortgage payments. With personal life insurance, you can plan to meet more of your family’s needs in the event of death, including staying in your dream home.

With personally-owned life insurance, you select the policy that meets your financial security goals. Most personally-owned term life insurance products contain a right to fully convert to a permanent policy. And so if your health changes, and you find it difficult to get life insurance, you may have the option of keeping the full death benefit and converting your term insurance to permanent insurance, without having to re-qualify medically.

With personally-owned life insurance, a financial security advisor can help you determine the amount of coverage you need and your coverage won’t decrease as you pay down your mortgage. You’ll also have the flexibility to reduce the face amount when you want. Or, if you need the protection for other purposes, you can keep the insurance.

With personally-owned insurance, you own the policy, not your lender. You’re free to switch your mortgage to another lending institution without jeopardizing your life insurance coverage. And if you die, your beneficiaries (subject to any rights you may have given to your mortgage lender regarding the policy) are free to choose how they wish to use the funds — to pay off the mortgage, provide a monthly income, or take care of a more immediate need. It’s their choice, not your lender’s choice.

Discover all the advantages of protecting your home and family with personal life insurance – just one of the ways I can help you build a solid financial security plan. Please contact me today.

Loren C. Fitzios

Financial Security Advisor
Suite 200, 140 Ouellette Place
Windsor, ON N8X 1L9
519-967-1180, ext. 232
Cell: 226-345-2513

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Bridge funding one of three big bonuses in budget for Windsor-Essex, Francis says

February 18th, 2014

Dear Clients,

These announcements are great for Windsor; it doesn’t make up for 8 years or near neglect for our area, but better late than never. The feds finally realize if “they build it, they will come”.

Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty tables the federal budget in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill

Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty tables the federal budget in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill

If he didn’t know any better, Mayor Eddie Francis says he might have guessed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty had roots in Windsor after Tuesday’s budget.

Francis said Windsor and Essex County scored a $1 billion trifecta in the budget with $631 million committed over two years to the Detroit River International Crossing, $500 million over two years for the Automotive Innovation Fund, and potentially millions more in the form of retraining and apprenticeship investments.

“If I didn’t know any better I’d think Flaherty and Harper have Windsor roots,” said Francis.

“And I say that giving them the credit they deserve, because they (federal politicians) often don’t get it. They are the first government to give money to the bridge, and that goes back to the parkway.”

Flaherty made specific mention of a new bridge in his budget speech.

“Our investment in the new Windsor-Detroit crossing means Canadian goods will get to market faster, allowing businesses to grow, expand trade and help secure a prosperous future,” he said.

The Windsor-Detroit trade corridor handles roughly 30 per cent of Canada-U.S. trade by truck, the government estimates.

Essex Conservative MP Jeff Watson said he was “10 feet off the ground” after learning the contents of the budget, which was confidential even to caucus until Flaherty rose in the House.

“It’s a good budget for our region,” said Watson.

“Budgets by their nature are secret documents. This is one of those things where you work hard in pre-budget and you try to move ideas forward and then it’s kind of like Christmas, you wait to see what’s under the tree.”

Watson said the $631 million commitment will allow the process to be fast-tracked on the U.S. side.

“It’s presumably to include everything from land acquisitions, pre-construction, moving hydro locations,” said Watson.

“There’s a lot of work that has to be done on the U.S. side. So that’s a significant investment that will really kickstart the project to get it from what at one time was a long-off idea to a much more imminent reality. Ten to 15,000 construction jobs are now on the horizon, instead of way off. That’s going to be significantly welcome news for our region.”

But Windsor West NDP MP Brian Masse said that while he’s happy to see the new crossing project moving forward, there are too many remaining questions.

“I’m glad it’s moving forward but this is related to exceptional circumstances related to having to finance the Michigan side, and one of the things I will be looking for is a repayment schedule and the rate of return, and the duration estimates for the allocation of funds,” said Masse.

“Clearly what’s happened is the Conservatives have been focused on a pipe dream in Keystone in Washington, spending all their attention on that, and not focusing on real physical infrastructure in terms of the Detroit gateway.”

Masse said that for this and other reasons he will not be supporting the budget.

“I can’t support this budget,” Masse said.

“There’s lots of reasons. They’re backed into a corner of having to provide funding for the Michigan side of the border. It’s come at a late cost.”

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