Fort McMurray fire continues to spread

“Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says residents of Fort McMurray will not be returning home for some time as fires continue to burn within the city for a third day, the flames now covering an area of 850 square kilometres, about the size of Calgary.

The wildfire in Fort McMurray could be the costliest disaster in Canadian history as estimates for insured damages run as high as $9-billion. Thousands of homes and businesses in Alberta’s fifth largest population centre have been destroyed,” wrote Justin Giovannetti and Carrie Tait for The Globe and Mail on Thursday May 5, 2016.

Giovannetti and Tait continued, “Fire officials expect the inferno to continue growing for days as strong winds push flames into the dry forests surrounding the capital of Canada’s oil sands. On Thursday, the wildfires began began moving south, threatening the evacuation shelters where many local residents had been waiting to return home.

The province also began an airlift of the nearly 25,000 residents who are still trapped north of the city.

Officials chose to use military and civilian transport planes to move the residents to Edmonton and Calgary after ruling out a plan to run a convoy of the evacuees through Fort McMurray because of fire and smoke. Highway 63, which runs through Fort McMurray, is the only way out.

Ms. Notley did not provide a timeline for residents to go back, but said it would be measured in weeks or months, not days.”


Read the full article here.

Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS



Search continues for Prince’s will

Chaska, Minnesota (CNN) –  A court hearing to determine the fate of Prince’s estate — including the contents of a secretive vault the musician left behind at Paisley Park — concluded Monday with a special administrator appointed but no will discovered.

While a search for the late pop icon’s will continues, the court appointed St. Paul-based Bremer Trust as special administrator during the proceeding in Chaska, Minnesota, outside Minneapolis,” wrote Joshua Berlinger, Sara Sidner, and Eliott C. McLaughlin for CNN.
Berlinger, Sidner, and McLaughlin continued, “The court determined that all possible heirs have been reached and have been provided the opportunity to be included in the petition filed by Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, said First Judicial District Judge Kevin Eide.
What resides in the vault at Paisley Park is anyone’s guess, but Prince’s half-brother, Alfred Jackson, told CNN that if it contains music, he wants the world to hear it.
That, of course, may not be up to him, as all but one of Prince’s living siblings and half-siblings signed off on Bremer Trust as administrator. Half-brother John Nelson was the only holdout, but that doesn’t mean he opposes the move — only that he didn’t actually sign it.
On Monday morning, Prince’s family arrived at a probate hearing to determine what happens to everything that the music icon left behind. Among those attending the hearing were sister Tyka Nelson and half-siblings Jackson, Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson and Omarr Baker.”

Read the full article here.

Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS


City orders Toronto homeowner to take down treehouse

“A Toronto father who built his sons a $30,000 boat-shaped treehouse vowed Wednesday to defend what he considers a family haven from city officials who want it torn down.

John Alpeza spent years working on the naval-themed treehouse for his boys Kristian and Matheas, now 10 and 8.

It started as a simple platform in the tree, then grew more sophisticated as the family hired contractors to give it its signature shape and finishes, he said,” wrote Paola Loriggio for The Globe and Mail on Wednesday April 20, 2016.

Loriggio continued, “A spokesman from the city said a building permit wasn’t required for the treehouse, but an investigation was carried out to ensure compliance with a zoning bylaw.

Mark Sraga, director of investigations with the city, said that in August 2014 the treehouse was found to exceed the maximum allowable height.

Alpeza was issued with a notice of violation and given the option to either apply for a minor change to the bylaw or alter the treehouse to comply with the existing rule, he said.”


Read the full article here.

Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS

Ontario hydro rates continue to rise

“There’s not much point in investing in heavy blankets and wool sweaters to tame your hydro bill, because in Ontario, no matter how much electricity you conserve you’ll still end up paying higher rates.

Why? Well, you have the provincial government, and its push for more green energy, to thank.

A balmy winter created a shortfall for the province’s electrical utilities, something the Ontario Energy Board will bridge with a rate hike on May 1 — a response to our collective conservation effort that’s likely to happen again, critics say.

While it may seem counterintuitive to pay more in order to use less, Brady Yauch, the executive director of the Consumer Policy Institute, says the province promised high rates to several sustainable energy providers following the Green Air Act in 2009,” wrote Laura Fraser for CBC News on Friday April 15, 2016.

Fraser continued, “Those rates contribute to the electricity industry’s fixed costs — and that means those costs stay steady regardless of how much energy people are using.

For the average household bill, the latest rate hike translates into a jump of $3 a month, according to the Ontario Energy Board’s figures — or roughly 2.5 per cent for homes that use 750 kilowatt hours each month.

Utilities have some leeway if rate increases are connected to a drop in energy consumption, Yauch said, largely because they’re operating in a framework that was first set up by provincial legislation.”

Read the full article here.

Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS





Refugees being targeted by telephone scammers

“Telephone scammers have begun to target refugees in Canada with extortion schemes by posing as government employees and threatening them with arrest or deportation unless they immediately wire money, Canadian authorities said.

With complaints to Canada’s government surging, law enforcement officials last week warned that the scammers were taking aim at immigrants and refugees,” wrote Ethan Lou for The Globe and Mail on April 5, 2016.

Lou continued, “Daniel Williams, a senior fraud specialist with Canada’s Anti-Fraud Centre, said the agency started receiving complaints about such scams in late 2013. The scammers initially looked through phonebooks and targeted people with south Asian names, operating on the assumption they were new to the country, but have become more indiscriminate and expanded to include other groups, Williams said.

Williams said such scams involve fraudsters demanding money to resolve what they claimed were tax or immigration issues and threatening victims with jail or fines.”

Read the full article here.

Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS

Knowing the value of what you’re selling

” Delivering value is core to success in sales. Whether in winning new clients, or retaining or expanding accounts, value is central. Customers expect it, and sales and marketing people must employ it to win customers – usually from another company that is using value to keep them.

Given all the talk about value and its importance, you would think that sales and marketing people would have a good understanding of the value they deliver to clients, and are able to communicate that value in a way that will resonate,” wrote Tibor Shanto for The Globe and Mail on Friday March 25, 2016.

Shanto continued, “The sad reality is that many don’t, and have great difficulty articulating the value they can bring to potential buyers in a clear or specific way. Existing clients are left to figure out what value they are truly getting from your product or your company – a situation that explains why loyalty is so fleeting, and why many are so surprised when their clients bolt for reasons they don’t understand.

This may sound harsh, and many sales and marketing leaders may dismiss it, but from where I sit, it is confirmed on almost a weekly basis.

There are two questions I ask of sales people that confirm this. The first is “Why do people buy from you and your company?” The answers I get are not only underwhelming, but often indistinguishable from other companies in their sectors. The answers are generic and usually communicate the vendors’ own view of themselves, rather than that of the market. In most instances, if I took out the name of the company I am with, and put in the name of their least worthy competitor, the effect and accuracy of the statement changes little, if any. Which means that unworthy competitor can compete with you and deliver the same underwhelming experience at a lower cost.”

Read the full article here.

Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS

Embracing gender equality; in the workforce and in our homes

This commentary is part of Work in Progress, The Globe’s look at the global struggle for gender parity.


Justin Trudeau is Prime Minister of Canada.


“Equality is a core Canadian value, and I feel honoured to have this opportunity to advocate for gender equality and feminism. We have seen great advancements in Canada over the past hundred years, and I am proud to celebrate the strides we have taken toward gender equality. But there is still a lot of hard work left to do to advance these issues. Quite simply, we must do more.

I was fortunate to be raised by a mother who believed in feminism, and who chose to raise her sons to embrace feminist values. I was fortunate to have a father who raised us to respect and defend everyone’s rights. Because of my parents, I am deeply grounded in my own identity as a proud feminist. My wife, Sophie, and I are raising our children with the same values,” contributed Justin Trudeau to The Globe and Mail and Published on March 8, 2016.

Trudeau continued, “We also need to value work done in the home – in raising families – the same way we value work in the office. Women and men alike face judgment and discrimination for choosing to stay at home with their families instead of remaining in the work force.

Every day, I meet incredible women who inspire me to be a better feminist and a better person. Women can do (and be) anything they want. But powerful cultural change cannot happen when only half of the population works toward that change. Men need to act, set examples and be role models.

My wife, Sophie, recently reminded me of this very point. I have always been diligent in engaging my young daughter to make sure that she felt empowered, but Sophie reminded me that I need to spend just as much time and effort engaging my sons, talking to them about feminism and the importance of gender equality. We cannot expect real change to occur if we do not teach every Canadian the same values of respect and equality.”


Read the full article here.

Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS

Multiple factors that are not affecting home buyers in the GTA

“New, tighter mortgage rules didn’t stop 13 rival bidders from submitting offers for a semi-detached house in central Toronto on Tuesday. The Family Day holiday, a record cold snap and a snowstorm didn’t seem to slow them down either.

Industry watchers are waiting to see if the action in Canada’s most frantic real estate markets will ease off a bit now that the federal government’s new rules surrounding mortgage insurance have come into effect.

The semi-detached house on Davenport Road near Christie Street was listed with an asking price of $599,900, which means it falls into the segment of the market affected by the new rules,” wrote Carolyn Ireland for The Globe and Mail on February 18, 2016.

Ireland continued, “The Toronto Real Estate Board reported this month that the average selling price in the GTA swelled 14.1 per cent in January compared with January, 2015.

Under the federal government’s new rules, the minimum down payment for new insured mortgages rises to 10 per cent from 5 per cent for the portion of the house priced above $500,000. The 5-per-cent minimum for properties up to $500,000 remains unchanged.

Ottawa had already restricted mortgage insurance to homes valued at less than $1-million, and the new regulations leave the minimum down payment for more expensive homes unchanged at 20 per cent.

For those reasons, the rule change affects only a slice of the market but, in Toronto, it’s the segment where many first-time buyers land.

Rick DeClute of DeClute Real Estate Inc. is seeing some pockets of Scarborough swell in popularity as house hunters continue their migration from the core.”


Read the full article here.

Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS

Canada’s tech industry to play the biggest role in our economy in 2016

“For years, the trope that oil, gas and other natural resources would drive employment and economic growth in Canada has been common. It’s been the position of federal and provincial governments, repeated by newspaper editorialists and think tanks.

Certainly, resources have played a big role in the building of Canada but the idea that resources – oil in particular – will have a central role in our economy looks more and more out of touch by the day.

As oil prices continue to fall, Western Canadian Select grade heavy crude was below US$20 a barrel on Jan. 6, Canada’s high-cost extraction operations are becoming more and more unprofitable. In Alberta, where prices need to be between US$50 and $80 a barrel (depending on the operation), for long-term profits to be a possibility, tens of thousands of people have already lost their jobs,” wrote Jacob Serebrin for on January 8, 2016.

Serebrin continued, “Throughout it all, though, one industry has continued to grow, in terms of revenue, employment and impact: tech.

In British Columbia alone, around 84,000 people work at tech companies, that makes it a bigger employer in the province than “mining, forestry, and oil and gas combined,” according to The Globe and Mail.

And B.C.’s tech industry isn’t even Canada’s largest. Around twice as many people work in tech jobs (at tech and non-tech companies) in Quebec. Around four times as many people work in tech jobs in Ontario.

Canada’s tech industry is already export-focused and, unlike other sectors, it’s not prone to industry-wide downturns. Silicon Valley can’t increase supply to keep prices low the way Saudi Arabia does with oil.

Certainly, there are trends and fads, individual companies see ups and downs, but as a sector, continued growth appears to be inevitable for a long time to come.”

Read the full article here.

Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS


The Canadian Loonie and all time lows

“The Canadian loonie has continued its slide, reaching its lowest level yesterday since the summer of 2003. As of late Wednesday, the loonie stood at 70.95 cents US.

Today’s plunge is being attributed to a prolonged period of low oil prices and stock market uncertainty, and a housing market that has left Toronto and Vancouver, in particular, off in their own orbits,” an article posted by CBC News.

CBC News continued, “1.) Feb. 4, 1986: 69.13 cents

On Nov. 15, 1976, the Canadian dollar stood at more than $1 US, but currency markets around the world were alarmed after René Lévesque’s Parti Québécois took power in Quebec, and the Canadian dollar (the loonie wasn’t yet introduced) began a decade-long slide until it bottomed out at 69.13 US on Feb. 4, 1986.

Prime Minister: Brian Mulroney.

Major events: The U.S. space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 28, killing seven people on board. On April 26, a reactor at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, sending a radioactive cloud across parts of Russia and Europe.

Popular movies: Tom Cruise starred as Maverick in Top Gun, which brought in nearly $357 million US, according to Box Office Mojo. The movie beat out another Paramount flick, Crocodile Dundee, starring Paul Hogan, for the No. 1 spot that year. But it was the Sydney Pollack-directed film, Out of Africa, that swept the Oscars, winning seven Academy awards, including best picture.

Average Toronto house price: In 1986, the average Toronto house sale price was $138,925, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board. 

Popular baby names: Michael and Jessica were the most popular baby names in the U.S., according to Baby Centre.

Fashion trends: Power dressing was the major trend that year, according to the fashion magazine Vogue. That meant “bold shoulders, cinched waists and sensible shoes” for women.

That year, Apple — the same company behind the sleek iPhone and iPad designs — released a fashion line of brightly coloured, quintessentially 80s wear.”

Read the full article here.

Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS

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