Archive for July 2011

I’m back from vacation!   Leave a comment

…And as you can see, I will be slowly working my way back up to full speed.

Maybe I’ll have something tomorrow.

So until then.

Posted July 25, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Condos in Calgary – back on the rise   Leave a comment

I’m too worn out from Stampeding yesterday to write anything original today.  The BNI breakfast started things off, then the family went down to the grounds.  As usual, very packed, but the rain held off and the kids were entertained.  And all I had to do to put the smiles on their little faces was empty out my wallet…

I’ve talked oil, and employment, and housing recently, but I haven’t mentioned the condominium market in awhile.  Courtesy of the Calgary Herald, an update on what’s happening in Calgary, new and old alike.


Condos to rise again as confidence builds

Several projects in motion

By Kim Guttormson, Calgary Herald / July 14, 2011

In a sign of rising optimism about Calgary’s housing market, a number of condo towers in the city’s centre are moving ahead – including two that stalled with the economy, with shovels already in the ground.

“It’s all very positive,” says David Watson, the city’s general manager of planning, development and assessment.

“It says to me people are pretty optimistic about the future, any of these plans are probably a two-year build, everyone’s looking two, three years out.”

The city is currently reviewing at least four applications for residential towers in the downtown area.

One is a new development permit for The Guardian, a Beltline condo building on a site originally slated to be the companion tower to Arriva. Construction on the second tower had stopped in early 2009, with the underground parkade underway.

Now, plans are in place to begin selling condos this fall, if the redesign is approved by the city, said Steven Cox, with Cause+Affect, which is marketing the project for owner Nicholas Hon.

While he didn’t want to reeal details about the height of the tower or the number of units, Cox said the homes have been redesigned, with “a larger proportion of more efficient units than there would’ve been.”

The preliminary website advertises that a “rare land deal + optimized living spaces = high end affordability.”

Cox said they are starting to see an increase in buyers in the Calgary market, making moving ahead with the project feasible.

“That neighbourhood is showing some signs of life and, for us, we’ve got some real confidence,” he said.

Suspended project Strategic on 4th, an excavated site at 4th Avenue and 21st Street in Mission, has applied for a $24-million building permit for a mixed-use development.

As well, a revised development permit is in for Keynote’s second tower, Watson said, as are new plans for the Lake Placid development at 13th Avenue and 2nd Street S.W.

And the group managing development in the East Village has submitted a building permit for an “experience centre” which will showcase display suites from the two housing projects set to build there.

Susan Veres, senior manager of marketing and communication for the Calgary Municipal Land Corp., said both plan to start selling units next year.

Embassy Bosa has submitted a development permit for its first phase, while FRAM+Slokker Real Estate Group’s is “imminent,” Veres added.

“The economic indicators we are seeing right now are very, very strong and very positive,” Ald. John Mar, whose ward houses most of the projects, said. “It’s incredibly positive for Calgary, especially the stalled sites.

“These are all issues we were faced with in the downturn in 2008, 2009 and much of 2010, and to see those projects come back is not only incredibly strong for the city of Calgary, it bodes well for Canada.”

Richard Cho, senior market analyst with Canada Mortgage and Housing, said that after a period where there was much more condo stock than demand, the market is coming back into balance.

“The pace of sales are stabilizing and active listings are down from last year,” he said.

But he added that apartment and condo starts have been down.

“We h
aven’t had too many condo starts and we’re not expecting to see a lot this year,” he said.

“Year-to-date, apartment starts are slightly down from a year ago. The positive news is apartment inventories have been moving lower in the past couple of months.”

Downtown condominium developments

1. Guardian (formerly Arriva 2)

2. Encore (formerly Midtown Gateway)

3. Keynote

4. Centuria

5. Strategic Group

6. Bosa/Embassy

7. Fram + Slokker

Posted July 15, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Albertan employment > American employment   Leave a comment

Happy Stampede, everybody!

And my title line?  That’s no typo.  A recent article in the Calgary Herald tells the tale: last month, 22,000 new jobs were created in the province of Alberta, a number greater than the number of jobs created by our neighbors to the south…  a country that contains over 300 million people.  Jobs are in demand, and people are in demand.  Several people are, in fact, predicting a labor shortage in western Canada despite the influx of talent this way… but balance is key.  If we can keep up, we’re looking at a great place to live and invest.

Here’s that article…


Job gains in Alberta top numbers for entire U.S.

Province added 22,000 jobs in June

By Kim Guttormson, Calgary Herald;

With Files From Jason Fekete, Calgary Herald, And Postmedia News / July 9, 2011

Alberta’s brisk employment growth continued in June as the province added 22,000 jobs, more than were created in the entire United States.

But with more people re-entering the job hunt and moving here in search of work, Alberta’s unemployment rate actually climbed slightly, to 5.6 per cent.

“They’re really strong,” ATB Financial economist Dan Sumner said of the Statistics Canada job numbers released Friday. “It’s a little bit surprising how strong.”

The variety of jobs across a number of sectors also speaks to the health of the Alberta economy, he pointed out.

More than half the new positions created in the province last month were full-time, with 8,700 part-time jobs added.

Employment between June 2010 and last month grew 3.5 per cent, more than twice the national pace of 1.4 per cent.

“We’ve seen a significant change in the last couple of months,” said Sheila Musgrove, head of Calgary’s TAG Recruitment Group.

“We’re seeing clients coming to us for new positions, and a lot more permanent positions.”

Compared to a year or two ago, when companies were posting more contract and temporary jobs, Musgrove said many now have multiple openings and standing orders for certain types of hires, such as engineers or IT professionals.

“From the candidate side, it feels like it did in 2008,” she said.

“All of a sudden the candidate pool is really shrinking, everyone is gainfully employed.”

The Alberta government has predicted the province could face a shortage of 77,000 workers over the next decade and many companies have started ramping up their hiring.

That’s something of a concern for Ted Menzies, junior federal finance minister. “I always try and avoid the boom word in Alberta because we all know what follows the boom,” he said at a news conference in Calgary, worried about the potential for “the other B word” -bust. “It’s slow and it’s steady (growth). I think that’s very important.

“We saw the troubles Alberta was facing pre-recession with labour shortages. There’s parts of this country that are nowhere near a boom and we need to recognize that.”

According to Statistics Canada, in June Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador lost jobs. Alongside Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia also saw job gains -Ontario added 40,000 -while the other provinces remained more or less steady.

While Canada netted 28,400 new positions, a third straight month of job gains, dismal job numbers reported in the United States -18,000, far below the estimate of 105,000 -drove down stock markets and commodity prices Friday.

Sumner called the “ugly” U.S. numbers “a little bit worrying” for Canada, while American economists used words like “disastrous,” and “a shocker” to describe the report.

Stock markets were a sea of red as the dismal U.S. job growth report snuffed out hopes the American economy was on the mend from a recent slump.

The S&P/TSX composite index joined in a run of losses that extended through the world’s major markets, falling 34.30 points, or 0.26 per cent to 13,371.70. Energy issues were the biggest drag on the benchmark index, as crude oil prices plunged $2.47 to $9
6.20 US. The Canadian dollar was little affected, ending the day down 22 basis points to $1.0409 US.

Menzies, who said the job numbers, along with seven consecutive quarters of economic growth, are “very good news,” noted Canada isn’t out of the economic woods just yet, because many Canadians are still struggling to find jobs and the global economic recovery remains fragile.

Barret Roulston, who moved back to Calgary from New Zealand in January with degrees in computer science and international business, has been applying for three or four positions every week, with periods where there was little to apply for.

While he starts a new job as a data analyst with a company in the oil and gas field later this month, he said the process took longer than he expected.

“It was tough,” he said.

Posted July 11, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

Oil = success in Alberta. Read more!   Leave a comment

I’m a day or two late to this party, but it’s been a couple of busy days.  I’m not the only one that noticed this article in the Calgary Herald, either… my friends Agostino Mosca and Deb Lazareff (you gotta be on Linkedin if you want to know more about them!) also mentioned this to their people via the World Wide Web.  It’s pretty simple stuff, and as an investor in this province, it’s music to my ears.  Alberta is going to lead the nation in economic growth this year and next year, with oil being the primary reason why.  I’ve bolded the parts of the article I liked – here it is.


Oil to drive Alberta to top province for economic growth 

3.8% forecast for next two years

By Mario Toneguzzi  / July 6, 2011

CALGARY — Alberta will lead the country in economic growth this year and next year, according to a report released Wednesday by Scotia Economics.

The report says real GDP growth in the province will be 4.2 per cent this year, the highest in the nation, followed by 3.3 per cent growth in 2012, which will tie Saskatchewan as the highest in the country.

Scotia Economics is forecasting Canadian economic growth of 2.7 per cent this year and 2.5 per cent in 2012.

“Alberta will once again lead Western Canada’s outperformance, with growth averaging nearly 3.8 per cent in 2011-12,” says the report. “Heavy oil output is being ramped up, with further investment and construction activity underpinning a multi-year period of solid growth.

“The manufacturing and service sectors will experience a positive spillover as physical and human capital are added to support the expansion. However, rising construction and labour expenses will also weigh on business costs, and may pressure capacity towards the end of the forecast period.”

The report says the oil sector will continue to be Alberta’s growth engine with significant investment and output gains contributing to the increased momentum. Total crude oil output is projected to expand by nearly 30 per cent from current levels by 2012, bringing total production to 50 per cent above 1999 levels, it said.

Alberta is expected to lead the country in job creation over the 2011-2012 period. The province lagged the national pickup in hiring earlier this year, but has been gaining momentum ever since. Alberta has one of the tightest labour markets in Canada, which is expected to put increasing pressure on wages,” says Scotia Economics.

Employment growth of 2.7 per cent this year and 1.8 per cent in 2012 is forecast for the province.

Dan Sumner, economist with ATB Financial in Calgary, said he is not surprised by the Scotia Economics report as most major banks expect Alberta to be near the top of the economic growth ladder over the next couple of years.

“I think the main reason is a pretty simple one: investment in the energy sector, both on the conventional and non-conventional side,” he said. “A lot of oilsands projects are going ahead and indications are that drilling in the conventional side of the industry will be really strong as well.

“Oil prices are at a level where, thanks partly to improved technology, companies are able to earn healthy returns on oil plays in Alberta. Also, land sales have been strong this year and last, which tends to be a leading indicator for the conventional sector. Then, because the energy sector is so big in Alberta, this money will slowly make its way into other sectors like retail and wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing and even housing.”

Sumner said the agriculture sector looks “decent” as well as crop prices remain fairly strong along with livestock prices. The forestry sector is still struggling but has nowhere to go but up, although that might be a year or two away, he said.

Posted July 7, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized

All-Star balloting, the 2011 edition   Leave a comment

In the “olden days”, when I was a lad, the baseball players that made the All-Star teams were very familiar names.  They were the guys that made the NL or AL squads multiple years… and multiple years in a row, as well.  The National League starters usually included catcher Gary Carter, Mike Schmidt at third base, Ozzie Smith at shortstop, Ryne Sandberg at second base, and Dale Murphy and Tony Gwynn played somewhere in the outfield.  On the American League side, George Brett always got the nod at third base, Cal Ripken played shortstop, Lance Parrish caught, and Dave Winfield was in the outfield.  I mention this because this year, Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers is getting his fourth start for the National League, and that gives him more All-Star starts than any of the other (starting) guys on his team.

Every year, a couple of players get elected by the fans that just shouldn’t.  Exhibits A and B this year: Derek Jeter and Josh Hamilton.  Jeter is having an awful season, and though shortstop isn’t the glamour position it used to be (with he, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciappara, and Miguel Tejada all in the mix), there were other better choices to start than him.  About five of them, by my reckoning (Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera being the best of the bunch); in fact, because Jeter starts, a much more deserving player, Jhonny Peralta of the Tigers didn’t make the team at all.

Hamilton is a nice guy, a feel-good story, and he put on a show at a Home Run Derby a couple of years back – but he’s also missed about 30 games this season.  He does have good stats, but not over 80+ games.  However, he’s starting, and other worthy candidates are not.

The National League fan voting was pretty good.  Philadelphia’s Placido Polanco playing third is a bit of a surprise, but no one really stood out from the pack at this position.  A healthy David Wright might have gotten the nod; Ryan Roberts is having a good season, as is Aramis Ramirez… but the fans got this league right.

But this still leads to problems.  If a “bad” starter gets in, it can cause a ripple effect in that every team must have at least one representative at the game.  Sorry, but this rule sucks.  If, for example, Peralta was the only worthy Tiger to make the team, but he’s bumped because Jeter plays the same position, then an inferior Tiger at a different position “has” to make the team instead.  13 pitchers – THIRTEEN! – are on the NL squad, but outfielder Andrew McCutcheon is not… and he might be one of the ten best players in the league right now.  Paul Konerko (who ranks in the top ten in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, and OBP in all of baseball) isn’t one of the 33 players on the American League roster… but there IS an Oriole, and a Royal, and a member from every other team.

If the game is supposed to mean something, and home field advantage in the World Series is pretty important, then make it more like a regular-season game.  I think MLB thinks that if there isn’t a representative from every team, or if everyone doesn’t get to play, less people will watch.  I disagree.  Do you know what will make more people watch?  A competitive game that ends in three hours or less, where the starters play most of the game, there aren’t 15 pitching changes, and the game isn’t decided by the bench players.  Sure, they’re All-Stars, but I’d rather see Prince Fielder at the plate in the ninth inning than Gaby Sanchez.  A few suggestions:

1.  Send the best players – period.  If no Cub deserves to go, don’t send a Cub.

2.  Scale the roster back to 25 players, like a real MLB club.  If you must let the fan keep that “final player” vote, make it 26.

3.  Managers – play the starters as long as you want.  And don’t feel obligated to get everyone – especially the pitchers – into the game.

That’s not so difficult, is it?


Posted July 4, 2011 by JasonMacAskill in Uncategorized