Monday, October 29, 2012


Bylaws related to snow and ice

Overview of snow and ice removal regulations

•Owners/occupants are responsible for the complete removal of snow and ice from all City pathways and sidewalks, adjacent to the front or side of their property, within 24 hours after the snow stops falling.

•Snow and ice must be removed from a City pathway or sidewalk that runs parallel to and directly adjacent to a street, even if it is separated by a boulevard.

•All snow and ice must be removed down to the bare surface of the sidewalk or pathway.

•If you own a rental property you are ultimately responsible for ensuring the sidewalks and pathways are cleared.

• For the purpose of this bylaw, a sidewalk is that part of a street set aside specifically for pedestrian use, whereas a pathway is a multi-purpose thoroughfare for use by pedestrians, cyclists and persons using wheeled conveyances.

•The owner or occupant of land adjacent to a sidewalk must remove all snow and ice, whereas those adjacent to a pathway must remove snow and ice for a minimum width of 1.5 meters from the side of the pathway closest to their property.

•Snow or ice from private property cannot be placed on a road or boulevard.

•If you receive a Warning Notice for failure to remove snow and ice from a sidewalk or pathway and do not remove it within 24 hours. The City of Calgary work force will be instructed to carry out the work and the cost will be invoiced to the property owner. Failure to pay this will result in the cost being added to the property taxes.

Helpful hints

•If the ice cannot be removed, a free sand/salt mixture is available for pick up at most fire halls and Roads depots. Please bring your own container.   Source: City of Calgary


Milke: Cities thrive when parks are a priority, not megaprojects
By Mark Milke
Calgary Herald October 26, 2012

Mayors and councillors across North America regularly spend taxpayer cash trying to revitalize neighbourhoods or entire cities. They often do so in expensive and ineffective ways: grand schemes that wipe away existing neighbourhoods or street markets, only to be replaced with massive convention centres (mostly unused by locals), or costly new arenas for professional sports teams.

Such attempts are almost always costly and misallocate tax money; they rarely revitalize cities to the extent advertised by proponents. After all, when is the last time you grabbed a coffee and went for a walk around the edge of a hockey, basketball or football stadium? Most people prefer to hoof it around a lake, along a river, by the ocean, or in local parks and on pedestrian-friendly streets with cafes and shops.

Too often, such tax-financed developments just create mammoth parking lots surrounded by mostly dead zones once some three-hour game or daylong convention is over.

Politicians thus too often forget the tried-and-true basics for livable and attractive cities: keep the streets safe, collect the garbage, ensure the taps pump out clean water, that good schools exist and that playgrounds and parks are tidy and desirable.

They also occasionally ignore the importance of not overtaxing their citizens or discouraging business, also critical for a city’s health. Every city, ultimately, has a commercial basis: people need to first make a living, and only afterward can they (and their governments) spend money on the niceties. Discourage the first and you get less of the second.

If all of the above seems obvious, the reality is that desirable urban features can be foregone in the pursuit of civic megaprojects; they can also be crowded out by too-powerful city unions that unreasonably divert tax dollars from pleasant amenities for all to above-market compensation for the few.

But some recent stories, in Edmonton, and in New York City, where Central Park just received a $100-million gift, should give city lovers the hope that a refocus on the basics of city life is possible.

In Edmonton, city council turned down Edmonton Oilers’ owner Daryl Katz’s demand for another $6 million a year in taxpayer subsidies, this for a proposed new half-billion-dollar NHL arena. (The demand was on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars in previously promised taxpayer funding.)

If Edmonton’s refusal torpedoes a taxpayer-financed rink, great; maybe that will allow everyone to concentrate on what can actually revitalize a neighbourhood.

It doesn’t take an urban development specialist to figure out what can attract people to a neighbourhood, including a willingness to pay top dollar for nearby real estate: beautiful urban parks. Think Stanley Park in Vancouver, Mount Royal in Montreal, the relatively new Millennium Park in Chicago, or one of the world’s premier urban parks, Central Park in New York City.

Recall New York and Central Park in particular. In the 1970s, New York was an overtaxed, crime-ridden, in-hock-to-government unions, falling-apart metropolis. Central Park, a magnificent late 19th century creation, was dilapidated in part because of misplaced political priorities.

New York was a classic example of what happens when those in charge of cities forget what makes them desirable for citizens.

Space doesn’t permit detail on all the reforms enacted in New York, most of which started with the election of Rudolph Giuliani as mayor in 1993. Here’s a snapshot: a crackdown on petty crime, reform of civic spending, making the city more business friendly and less corrupt, and a reduction in taxes.

One pre-Giuliani reform was the restoration of Central Park. The genesis for that began in 1980, when a group of New Yorkers formed the Central Park Conservancy. Shortly thereafter, the conservancy, a charitable foundation, took over management of the park in a public-private partnership with the city.

As an example of what can happen when private citizens drive reform, consider that since 1980, $600 million has been raised for restoring Central Park to its former glory; $470 million of that came from private sources (with the recent $100-million gift a nice top up). At present, the park’s annual operating budget is $46 million, with 85 per cent financed out of conservancy funds. Central Park is again magnificent. That’s because it’s not run as part of a big-city bureaucracy, part of the problem pre-1980.

When local politicians ignore street-level concerns, or wrongly focus on what doesn’t work (megaprojects), or engage in sweetheart deals with civic unions at the expense of more efficient services or needed capital expenditures, the result is a less-than-attractive city. That was a lesson New York learned the hard way.

More positively, when politicians and citizens focus on improving the amenities citizens need and use every day, parks being the best example, a city can thrive as a pleasant and desirable metropolis.

Photo By: surrealplaces

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Top 10 haunted houses for sale

If you've ever wanted to live in a haunted house (and who hasn't, since that always works out so well in the movies), now's your chance! has released their annual October list of the ten most haunted homes you can actually buy, so you can hide the gruesome truth of the home's history from your spouse and ignore the creepy new imaginary friend your child insists is real!

Constructed in 1895 for the president of Remington Arms and Typewriter Company (the real money used to be in typewriters), this four-floor Thousand Islands Mansion has slowly become a gutted, haunted terrordome. Uninhabited for over 60 years, save for the ghosts that no doubt prefer it that way, this evil abode can be yours for a mere $495,000. That's a steal, especially since it comes with a bunch of free evil spirits! The villa sits on a 6.9-acre island. There are probably ghosts in the water.

Amsterdam Castle was built without ghosts in 1894 as a National Guard Armoury and has quite the history. John F. Kennedy gave a speech there in 1960, and it's used been as a set for PBS movie American General and ABC's Wife Swap. Now it's an uninhabited castle, so logic says it's haunted like nobody's business because all castles are, but if there's any lingering doubt it's a big concrete hellscape, it's also across the Erie Canal from a cemetery. Amster-damned Castle is more like it. Nearby Widow Susan Road is named for the figure of a woman in a white nightgown (presumably named Susan) seen walking the area, looking for her husband's grave. If she's at all thorough, she's eventually going to look inside the castle.

Built in 1893 in New Jersey (and that's not even the worst part!) Blairsden is definitely haunted. First of all, it's called Blairsden, which just sounds haunted. Second of all, the 62,000 square foot mansion was sold to the Sisters of St. John the Baptist in 1950 and, according to legend, the Mother Superior and her 25 sisters switched sides shortly thereafter. That's right: this is the former home of A CONVENT OF DEVIL-WORSHIPPING NUNS. So the legend goes: one night, newfound Satan fan Mother Superior went crazy and killed everyone in the house. She also drowned the children in the nearby lake. Vengeful nun spirits and demon ghost kids? And they're only asking $4.9 million for the place? What a steal.

The Buxton Inn is Ohio’s oldest continually running bed and breakfast, which is impressive, since it's just crammed full of ghosts and none of them pay for their rooms. This 200 year-old, nearly 30,000 square-foot property features 10 total buildings, six fountains, and one lady in blue said to stalk the properties trying to find her disembodied feet. It's tough because the feet are also said to stalk the property and they're faster than she is, because she doesn't have feet. Still interested? It will only set you back $3.9 million. And your feet.
If you're such a diehard Disney fan that you just have to own their Haunted Mansion, contractor Mark Hurt built a replica in Georgia, and it can be yours for only $873,000. The bathroom lights are programmed to flicker, the faucet plays creepy music, and it even has that mirror with the ghost in it. Now, you might chuckle, since it's just a copy of a haunted house so it can't possibly be haunted for real, but keep in mind that this is exactly what someone would do moments before being disemboweled by an actual ghost.

Because it's always a good idea to buy the home locals call "the spook house", you should definitely buy this 150-year-old farmhouse in Olson, New York. There are said to be 12 malicious ghosts roaming the property, including a demon-possessed teenager, a young woman who committed suicide, a priest, a psychic and paranormal expert who all attempted to solve the ghost problem but instead died and became part of it, and an obsessive compulsive ghost that enjoys playing Jenga with the brick chimney. There's also a trouble-making spirit that relishes taking control of visitors' cars and crashing them into trees, which is probably infuriating since most auto insurance companies don't cover ghost possession. The real estate agents are only asking $289,000 for the house, but you could probably low-ball them because of all the murders and the lack of kitchen space.
The Maplecroft Estate doesn't seem to generate a lot of interest, perhaps because it's the former residence of axe murderer Lizzie Borden. Real estate agents have hacked and chopped the price multiple times and now it can be yours for just $650,000. Before you put in an offer, however, you should know that Borden's funeral was also held in the house, so it's basically 100% fact that her ghost is in it. None of her stuff has been moved either, so it's all-but assured that you'll be axe murdered the moment you try to update the wall art.
It's the Ma Barker gangster house! This is the home in which famous gangsters Kate "Ma" Barker and her son Fred lost their lives in the longest shootout in FBI history on January 16, 1935. All the bullet holes and blood have been cleaned up, but you just know the mess reappears every full moon. And, while their bodies were removed from the house and put on public display, the mother and son are said to remain, obviously. If you're into sharing a home with a family of violent, vengeful gangster spirits with an affinity for defending their home from unwelcome intruders, this place is definitely your joint. You'll love nearby Lake Weir, right up until you're shot by a ghost.

For just $799,000, you could own this -- wait for it -- ABANDONED MILITARY HOSPITAL. It goes without saying that a lot of dead marines haunt the place. But it has an iron spiral staircase and that's tough to pass up. It's also tough to walk up, you know, because it's packed full of ghosts.

Designed by Lloyd Wright, the son of Frank Lloyd Wright, this 'Mayan Revival' styled home was the scene of the Black Dahlia murder. You read that right: decorated with artifacts that definitely came with evil spirits and the scene of an unsolved murder. The only thing this home is lacking: a good night's sleep for the sucker that buys it. Enjoy your Mayan death house.


How to view an open house like a real estate pro
By: Jill Krasny
Business Insider Oct 9, 2012

As the housing market slowly improves, more consumers are finding themselves in the market for a new home, or at least one worth dreaming about.

One place they start their search is an open house tour, though they can forget these are helpful for more than just checking out the kitchen’s color scheme.

Open houses are a smart way to gauge whether a listing’s catching heat and if it’s worth seeing again in a private showing.

“If you’re just getting started with the process, an open house tour is like a get-out-of-jail-free card,” says real estate expert Brendon DeSimone. “It’s free, you can go because there aren’t restrictions and it’s a great way to learn the market.”

To his mind, the primary thing home shoppers overlook tends to be the most obvious: the crowd. Observing other shoppers is key, he says, as that’s the best way to gauge the market’s response to the home.

“If you like the house, watch the people. Is it packed? Are they hovering around the agent?,” he says. If so and if they’re asking pointed questions as well, you can bet that there’s serious interest and the listing is going to go fast.

Another strategy is to observe the agent, he adds.

“If you go to a house and you like it but no one’s there, maybe there are issues there,” says DeSimone. “You should watch the listing agent’s reactions because he wants to see the response to the house and how crowded it is.”

But don’t miss the opportunity to make small talk with the seller.

“You should ask why he’s selling, nothing rude, just what’s the story,” DeSimone says. “What’s their motivation to sell?” That should give you a feel for the pricing and whether the listing is gathering dust.

Questions like, how many days has the home been on the market?, or Have you lived here for a long time? should get the conversation going. Perhaps there’s a looming job transfer, or the seller is just moving down the street.

“If they’re not motivated you won’t want to waste your time,” says DeSimone. But at least you’ll know where they stand.

Monday, October 15, 2012


10 ways to winterize your home — now
You'll get a season's worth of savings and peace of mind by taking a few steps in the fall to get your home ready for cold weather.
By Christopher Solomon 
MSN Real Estate

So you've pulled your sweaters out of mothballs and found your mittens at the bottom of the coat closet. But what about your house -- is it prepared for the cold months ahead?

You'll be a lot less comfortable in the coming months if you haven't girded Home Sweet Home for Old Man Winter.

With the help of several experts, we've boiled down your autumn to-do list to 10 easy tips:

1. Clean those gutters

Once the leaves fall, remove them and other debris from your home's gutters -- by hand, by scraper or spatula, and finally by a good hose rinse -- so that winter's rain and melting snow can drain. Clogged drains can form ice dams, in which water backs up, freezes and causes water to seep into the house, the Insurance Information Institute says.

As you're hosing out your gutters, look for leaks and misaligned pipes. Also, make sure the downspouts are carrying water away from the house's foundation, where it could cause flooding or other water damage.

"The rule of thumb is that water should be at least 10 feet away from the house," says Michael Broili, the director of the Well Home Program for the Phinney Neighborhood Association, a nationally recognized neighborhood group in Seattle.

2. Block those leaks

One of the best ways to winterize your home is to simply block obvious leaks around your house, both inside and out, experts say. The average American home has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall, according to EarthWorks Group.

First, find the leaks: On a breezy day, walk around inside holding a lit incense stick to the most common drafty areas: recessed lighting, window and door frames, electrical outlets.

Then, buy door sweeps to close spaces under exterior doors, and caulk or apply tacky rope caulk to those drafty spots, says Danny Lipford, host of the nationally syndicated TV show "Today's Homeowner." Outlet gaskets can easily be installed in electrical outlets that share a home's outer walls, where cold air often enters.

Outside, seal leaks with weather-resistant caulk. For brick areas, use masonry sealer, which will better stand up to freezing and thawing. "Even if it's a small crack, it's worth sealing up," Lipford says. "It also discourages any insects from entering your home."

3. Insulate yourself

"Another thing that does cost a little money -- but boy, you do get the money back quick -- is adding insulation to the existing insulation in the attic," says Lipford. "Regardless of the climate conditions you live in, in the (U.S.) you need a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in your attic."

Don't clutter your brain with R-values or measuring tape, though. Here's Lipford's rule of thumb on whether you need to add insulation: "If you go into the attic and you can see the ceiling joists you know you don't have enough, because a ceiling joist is at most 10 or 11 inches."

A related tip: If you're layering insulation atop other insulation, don't use the kind that has "kraft face" finish (i.e., a paper backing). It acts as a vapor barrier, Lipford explains, and therefore can cause moisture problems in the insulation.

4. Check the furnace

First, turn your furnace on now, to make sure it's even working, before the coldest weather descends. A strong, odd, short-lasting smell is natural when firing up the furnace in the autumn; simply open windows to dissipate it. But if the smell lasts a long time, shut down the furnace and call a professional.

It's a good idea to have furnaces cleaned and tuned annually. Costs will often run about $100-$125. An inspector should do the following, among other things:

Throughout the winter you should change the furnace filters regularly (check them monthly). A dirty filter impedes air flow, reduces efficiency and could even cause a fire in an extreme case. Toss out the dirty fiberglass filters; reusable electrostatic or electronic filters can be washed.

5. Get your ducts in a row

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can lose up to 60% of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if ductwork is not well-connected and insulated, or if it must travel through unheated spaces. That's a huge amount of wasted money, not to mention a chilly house. (Check out this audit tool for other ideas on how to save on your energy bills this winter.)

Ducts aren't always easy to see, but you can often find them exposed in the attic, the basement and crawlspaces. Repair places where pipes are pinched, which impedes flow of heated air to the house, and fix gaps with a metal-backed tape (duct tape actually doesn't stand up to the job over time).

Ducts also should be vacuumed once every few years, to clean out the abundant dust, animal hair and other gunk that can gather in them and cause respiratory problems.

6. Face your windows

Now, of course, is the time to take down the window screens and put up storm windows, which provide an extra layer of protection and warmth for the home. Storm windows are particularly helpful if you have old, single-pane glass windows. But if you don't have storm windows, and your windows are leaky or drafty, "They need to be updated to a more efficient window," says Lipford.

Of course, windows are pricey. Budget to replace them a few at a time, and in the meantime, buy a window insulator kit, Lipford and Broili recommend. Basically, the kit is plastic sheeting that's affixed to a window’s interior with double-stick tape. A hair dryer is then used to shrink-wrap the sheeting onto the window. (It can be removed in the spring.) "It's temporary and it's not pretty, but it's inexpensive (about $4 a window) and it's extremely effective," says Lipford.

7. Don't forget the chimney

Ideally, spring is the time to think about your chimney, because "chimney sweeps are going crazy right now, as you might have guessed," says Ashley Eldridge, director of education for the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

That said, don't put off your chimney needs before using your fireplace, Eldridge advises. "A common myth is that a chimney needs to be swept every year," says Eldridge. Not true. But a chimney should at least be inspected before use each year, he adds. "I've seen tennis balls and ducks in chimneys," he says.

Ask for a Level 1 inspection, in which the professional examines the readily accessible portions of the chimney, Eldridge says. "Most certified chimney sweeps include a Level 1 service with a sweep," he adds.

Woodstoves are a different beast, however, cautions Eldridge. They should be swept more than once a year. A general rule of thumb is that a cleaning should be performed for every ¼ inch of creosote, "anywhere that it's found." Why? "If it's ash, then it's primarily lye -- the same stuff that was once used to make soap, and it's very acidic." It can cause mortar and the metal damper to rot, Eldridge says.

Another tip: Buy a protective cap for your chimney, with a screen, advises Eldridge. "It's probably the single easiest protection" because it keeps out foreign objects (birds, tennis balls) as well as rain that can mix with the ash and eat away at the fireplace's walls. He advises buying based on durability, not appearance.

One other reminder: To keep out cold air, fireplace owners should keep their chimney's damper closed when the fireplace isn't in use. And for the same reason, woodstove owners should have glass doors on their stoves, and keep them closed when the stove isn't in use.

8. Reverse that fan

"Reversing your ceiling fan is a small tip that people don't often think of," says Lipford. By reversing its direction from the summer operation, the fan will push warm air downward and force it to recirculate, keeping you more comfortable. (Here's how you know the fan is ready for winter: As you look up, the blades should be turning clockwise, says Lipford.)

9. Wrap those pipes

A burst pipe caused by a winter freeze is a nightmare. Prevent it before Jack Frost sets his grip: Before freezing nights hit, make certain that the water to your hose bibs is shut off inside your house (via a turnoff valve), and that the lines are drained, says Broili. In climes such as Portland, Ore., or Seattle, where freezing nights aren't commonplace, you can install Styrofoam cups with a screw attachment to help insulate spigots, says Broili.

Next, go looking for other pipes that aren't insulated, or that pass through unheated spaces -- pipes that run through crawlspaces, basements or garages. Wrap them with pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation, available at hardware stores. If you're really worried about a pipe freezing, you can first wrap it with heating tape, which is basically an electrical cord that emits heat.

10. Finally, check those alarms

This is a great time to check the operation -- and change the batteries -- on your home's smoke detectors. Detectors should be replaced every 10 years, fire officials say. Test them -- older ones in particular -- with a small bit of actual smoke, and not just by pressing the "test" button. Check to see that your fire extinguisher is still where it should be, and still works.

Also, invest in a carbon-monoxide detector; every home should have at least one.

Photo By: ManfromSun


Calgary year-over-year housing sales growth best in Canada
Near 15% hike in MLS transactions
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald October 15, 2012

CALGARY — While most of Canada’s major centres recorded year-over-year MLS sales declines in September, Calgary went against the tide with the highest annual growth rate in the country.

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, MLS sales in Calgary rose by 14.8 per cent from September 2011 to 2,054 transactions.

In contrast, sales across the country fell by 15.1 per cent to 32,192.

But the average MLS sale price in Calgary dipped by 0.9 per cent in September to $402,756.

Nationally, the average price rose by 1.1 per cent to $355,777.

CREA said Monday that more than half of all local markets in the country posted sales declines of at least 10 per cent on an annual basis.

“New mortgage rules continue to keep a lid on national sales activity,” said Wayne Moen, CREA’s president.

The organization’s chief economist, Gregory Klump, said national activity is likely to remain down from year-ago levels over the fourth quarter of this year.

“In the shadow of the latest mortgage rule changes, activity has ratcheted down from higher levels seen during the fourth quarter last year,” he said. “While some first-time homebuyers may no longer qualify for mortgage financing under the new rules, it is likely that many others are stepping back and reassessing how much house they can realistically afford, which is one of the things new mortgage rules were designed to do.”

In Alberta, MLS sales rose by 7.7 per cent from last year to 4,714 while the average price increased slightly by 0.2 per cent to $355,127.

“While the 15 per cent year-over-year drop in sales suggests Canadian housing is making like Felix Baumgartner, falling past the speed of sound, the details are not nearly as weak, and still suggest that the housing market is simply gliding to a lower altitude,” said Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist with BMO Capital Markets.

On Monday, CREA also released its MLS Home Price Index. The national index rose 3.9 per cent year-over-year in September. This was the fifth time in as many months that the annual gain shrank and marks the slowest rate of increase since May 2011.

Regina led the country with a 14.2 per cent hike followed by Calgary at 6.5 per cent.


Why Calgary is an entrepreneur’s dream
By: Jameson Berkow
Financial Post Oct 14, 2012

CALGARY — Naheed Nenshi, the mayor of Calgary, thinks he knows why his city’s entrepreneurial culture is becoming so robust, despite the cold winters Calgarians endure.

“The line I usually use when people ask me why Calgary has fostered such an entrepreneurial culture is this is a place where nobody cares who your daddy is or where you went to school. I say it so often that it sounds a bit trite, but I don’t think it is true everywhere,” he said, gazing briefly at the September sunshine bathing his private city hall veranda to reflect on his answer before continuing.

“It is also a very interesting and weird unintended consequence of the way our downtown has been built,” he adds, referring to Calgary’s Plus-15 network of elevated walkways connecting the city’s skyscrapers.

The walkways allow office dwellers to attend meetings in other buildings without having to brave the city’s bitter prairie winters. “Our built environment has actually in some ways molded our business culture,” Mr. Nenshi said.

Calgary’s entrepreneurial culture is even easier to spot than the hundreds of steel and glass connections crisscrossing the city’s core. It hits new Calgarians like myself almost instantly; that infectious feeling of limitless raw potential, of broken barriers to success and endless possibilities.

This is a city of risk takers, of dreamers and of visionary builders. All of these enviable traits have, however, been relatively unknown in the rest of Canada, until now.

In a survey by Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses for the Financial Post, Calgary ranked as the 13th most entrepreneurial city in Canada this year. Not exactly a statistic to brag about, although it is a dramatic jump from No. 35 last year.

“The story on Calgary is getting out,” said Mike Fotheringham, research manager at Calgary Economic Development. “People across the country are starting to understand what is going on in this city.”

Bankruptcy rates here are among the lowest in the country at just 1%, and have fallen every year since 2002. Retail sales growth also tends to be more than double the national average of 3%, reflecting Calgary’s growing affluence.

“There is a sense that if you’ve got an idea, this is the place to make it happen and I think the stats reveal exactly that,” Mr. Fotheringham said.

What the statistics do not reveal is another sense, of the opportunities here being as rich and thick as the bitumen that powers Calgary’s massive oil towers. The sense is not only that such opportunities exist, but that achieving even the loftiest of them can be done without the vast support networks required elsewhere.

One of the largest buyout deals in Canadian corporate history — the $19-billion Suncor Energy Inc. takeover of Petro-Canada — was struck by four men sitting in a small conference room in a posh downtown hotel.

“Other steps in the acquisition had to be taken, but things were essentially wrapped up in that meeting in the Palliser, working out the details with no lawyers, accountants, advisors or second guessers anywhere in sight,” Rick George, longtime Suncor chief executive, wrote in his newly released memoir Sun Rise. “I honestly don’t believe an agreement of this magnitude could have proceeded as it did … in any other city. The city of Calgary has a tradition of openness and trust, placing as much value on a handshake as on any multi-page contract.”

That tradition extends well beyond the gargantuan oil and gas players. When Victoria MacLean co-founded Startup Calgary a little more than two years ago, she counted 45 small technology-focused companies in the city. Her latest count totaled 162.

“The people here get great exposure to big data, to enterprise-level data, so they can really start to see and identify solutions for big problems here,” said the outgoing president of Startup Calgary.

Ms. MacLean is leaving to focus full time on BeauCoo, her latest startup which seeks to build a social network for women of similar body types to share style and shopping information. The company raised a $1.1-million seed funding round from Calgary-based Zinc Ventures last month and plans to launch its mobile app in a few days.

Ms. MacLean considers herself lucky, because early-stage funding is still an issue for Calgary startups with most of North America still standing between them and Toronto, where most of the country’s sources of venture capital and angel investors remain.

“Entrepreneurs will always complain about a lack of angel investors because that is just a translation of ‘nobody likes my idea,’ ” said Mayor Nenshi, who was a business professor at Mount Royal University before entering politics. “The real issue is the second and third rounds of financing.”

That has long been the issue for startups nationwide and remains one of the primary reasons why many Canadian small businesses end up being acquired by larger foreign entities before they reach their full potential. Yet it is precisely that constant struggle for recognition — and the cash that comes with it — that helps Calgary entrepreneurs to stand out and pushes them to achieve.

“There is something of an insecurity complex that runs through the city,” said Alex Middleton, chair of TEDxYYC, the local chapter of a global organization famous for hosting world-class discussions in world-class cities. “That allows you to have more of a clean slate here than in other cities. You really can come to Calgary and reinvent yourself in that ‘maverick’ sense.”

Despite its growing stature, Calgary is still not Alberta’s most entrepreneurial major city. Edmonton scored 8th in CFIB’s 2012 rankings of Canada’s most entrepreneurial cities and even in 2011 it was 11, still two spots higher than its southern neighbour’s most recent title.

“Calgary culture-wise is moving towards a big city mentality, whereas in Edmonton you have more of an independent vibe,” said Ken Bautista, co-founder and chief executive of Startup Edmonton. “It isn’t about being a big city though, it is about being a great one.”

Photo By: Portraitsteve

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Alberta’s oil riches driving Canada’s economy: BMO
By: Lauren Krugel
Canadian Press Oct 9, 2012

CALGARY — Canada’s economic growth is being driven by resource-rich Western provinces, according to a Bank of Montreal report released Tuesday.

Alberta leads the pack, with the bank predicting 3.5% real GDP growth this year, falling back a bit to 2.9% in 2013.

“The energy sector remains the key driver of economic activity in the province, with crude bitumen production up 16% year-over-year through the first half of the year, and the Energy Resources Conservation Board expecting oil sands output to more than double by 2021,” said economist Robert Kavcic.

The energy sector’s strength has attracted workers from elsewhere in Canada to Alberta, which has the country’s lowest unemployment rate at 4.4%.

But BMO Kavcic says the industry faces some risk.

“Cost pressures could again pick up, though oil sands operations are generally viewed as economical at prices above US$80 (per barrel),” he said.

“Also, wrangling over new pipeline capacity continues.”

Production from the Bakken, a massive oil deposit that stretches through parts of Montana, North Dakota and Saskatchewan, is filling up existing pipelines and causing Canadian producers to get a lower price for the heavy crude they produce.

“Estimates suggest that production in Western Canada could be negatively impacted by 2015/16 if there is not enough new pipeline capacity put in place.”

BMO says Canada’s overall real GDP growth is expected to be 2.2% in 2012, with the Western provinces all topping that rate.

Saskatchewan, where oil and gas extraction and potash and uranium mining are big economic drivers, is expected to see growth of 3.1% this year.

For British Columbia, it sees real GDP growth of 2.5% and for Manitoba, growth of 2.6%.

Further east it’s a different story. BMO sees Ontario posting growth of two per cent and the economies of Quebec and the Atlantic provinces growing at less than two per cent in 2012.

The report says fiscal restraint, the high loonie and sluggish U.S. demand are putting a damper on growth in Central Canada.

Kavcic noted some cause for optimism in Ontario’s auto sector.

“Auto producers continue to invest in North America and, despite a strong currency and higher labour costs compared to the southern U.S. and Mexico, Ontario is no exception,” he said.

“Toyota, for example, is expanding production at its Woodstock assembly plant — a project worth about $100-million and 400 jobs. Plus, the CAW and Big Three automakers recently reached new four-year contract agreements. Output in the auto sector was up a solid 20 per cent year-over-year through August.”

Also Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund trimmed its global growth forecasts in its quarterly economic outlook.

The IMF predicts the global economy will expand 3.3% this year, down from the estimate of 3.5% growth it issued in July. Its forecast for growth in 2013 is 3.6%, down from 3.9% three months ago and 4.1% in April.

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