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Renovation boom continues even as project costs increase and interest rates rise

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Susan Lambertis in the process of having her entire home renovated and is hopeful it will be completed by early next year.

“We are knee-deep in a reno,” she said.

After going through plans with an architect last year, getting the necessary approvals and some pandemic-related delays, the project officially started this past spring.

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Lambert said she and her husband were motivated to upgrade their house after realizing a lot of smaller fixes were needed.

“We needed new windows, we needed a new roof. Our kitchen was falling apart — the cabinets were all broken, our fridge was broken, our stove. So we were kind of needing to do a bunch of things,” she said.

The renovation industry saw quite the boom in the first two years of the pandemic as people spent more time in their homes, and that momentum has continued despite heftier costs and rising interest rates.

Dave Kenney, who runs BroLaws Construction with his brother-in-law, said a kitchen renovation might cost between $15,000 and $20,000 more than it did just a couple of years ago.

“A job two years ago and a job now aren’t comparable, which is a little hard as a business owner when you get callbacks for other jobs that people have used you for before,” he said.

Jordy Fagan, co-founder of Toronto-based interior design firm Collective Studio, said projects are more expensive overall right now, which she attributes largely to labour costs. She said prices for materials, such as lumber, have somewhat stabilized in comparison to big fluctuations over the last two years, but still remain higher than pre-pandemic levels.

“It’s easier to give a quote now, and not be like, ‘OK, this quote is only valid for five days, because anything can happen in five days.’ At least now it’s a bit more stable, and it feels a bit more comfortable to dive into a renovation,” she said.

Coming out of the first lockdown, Collective Studio saw demand skyrocket in the summer of 2020.

“That summer felt a little bit more normal even though we were pre-vaccine. I feel like that ignited interest in getting ready for that next fall wave in terms of setting up work-from-home situations and understanding that kids weren’t necessarily going back to school come September,” Fagan said.

“The volume started to get insanely large, which was amazing.”

Fast forward to 2022 and declining consumer confidence has impacted some of that volume, but the demand is still very much there, said Fagan.

“I think people have some money saved away now,” she said.

Meanwhile, BroLaws’ Kenney said one of the challenges over the past couple of years has been around quality labour, especially as demand remains hot and workers are stretched.

He said his company is working to foster interest in the trades and give young people the proper training and experience.

“I think we need more advocates or people who can showcase that the trades can be a good place to work, and that you can be just as successful as any other job,” he said.

Kenney added that he has raised his employees’ wages as the cost of living goes up, and has consequently increased prices in order to maintain that.

In September, average hourly wages for construction workers were up 7.5 per cent year-over-year, a $2.36 increase to $33.79, according to Statistics Canada.

While Kenney has been able to keep up with the demand, he said getting projects to 100 per cent is still an issue sometimes due to ongoing delays.

“So we’ve finished a kitchen, for instance, but they didn’t have their stove for another two months, because the stove was backordered and delayed getting shipped over to them,” he said.”Or we’ve finished other projects and we’ve been waiting on a countertop that’s now been backordered just because of the demand getting it in from overseas.”

Homeowners spent on average about $13,000 between March 2021 and February 2022 renovating the inside of their home, while an average of $6,600 was spent on outdoor projects, based on data from home improvement company HomeStars.

HomeStars also found that homeowners expect to spend an average of more than $25,000 for home renovations from March 2022 to February 2023.

So what have people been asking for this year? Dedicated spaces for kids to do work, home offices and spaces to entertain, Fagan said.

Kenney said there are also a lot of requests for kitchen overhauls, outdoor projects and improvements to indoor air quality.

Looking ahead to 2023, some industry experts say there could be a bit of a cooldown on the way.

Kevin Lee, CEO of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, has already noticed a slight slowing in demand in the second half of 2022.

“A lot of people when they’re doing especially major renovations are financing it through things like their lines of credit. So as the cost of borrowing money goes up as quickly as it has, a lot of people are now putting off some of their renovations,” he said.

However, RenoAssistance, a general contractor business that is part of Desjardins, sees the renovation market remaining strong next year.

That is because more homeowners are choosing to stay in their current property and improving it rather than trying to find a new property in a cooling housing market, it said.

Lambert said the renovation process has been a stressful one, as she and her husband balance mortgage payments, rent and financing the renovation itself, but noted that having a good contractor and architect has made a big difference.

“I went in expecting this, of course, is going to be the most stressful thing we’ve done. That’s what everyone says. I feel like we’ve been managing it pretty well.”

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A shortage of pilots is making travel chaos in Canada even worse – CBC News

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From pandemic-related travel restrictions to extreme weather events, Canada’s travel industry has navigated an unprecedented amount of uncertainty of late. And now, just as demand for travel has returned to its 2019 level, airlines are navigating their next patch of turbulence: a lack of qualified pilots.

According to Transport Canada, in a typical pre-pandemic year, roughly 1,100 pilot licences were issued. When complemented by foreign-trained pilots, that was generally more than enough to satisfy the needs of carriers as large as WestJet and Air Canada, all the way down to regional, charter and cargo airlines.

But as demand for flying collapsed in 2020, so did the number of new pilots getting their paperwork. Government data shows less than 500 licences were awarded in 2020, a figure that fell to less than 300 in 2021 and just 238 last year.

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The department told CBC News in a statement that while labour shortages in the airline sector has been “identified as a priority area for action,” there are no current plans to loosen regulations. But the agency says it’s doing what it can to “increase the competitiveness of the Canadian flight training industry as well as improve the viability of aviation careers to address any shortages.”

Whatever changes do come will do little to help anyone in the short term, and travellers are already seeing the impact of the industry’s current labour crunch.

Staff shortages were a factor in charter airline Sunwing’s cancellation of 67 flights over the last two weeks of December, along with extreme weather.

Salaries for experienced pilots generally go up faster and higher at the major airlines than they do at most others, they are so typically able to have their pick among those available. That causes shortages just about everywhere else.

The head of the Air Transport Association of Canada says it’s a problem that had been brewing for many years, even before the pandemic.

“We haven’t had enough pilots for a long time, mostly at the regional level,” John McKenna said.

Long, expensive process

Getting a commercial licence is the last step in a multi-year process of becoming a pilot, a journey that can cost tens of thousands of dollars and take years.

In Canada, for many that journey ends with a dream job at either WestJet or Air Canada, but because of the expense and time commitment of training a new pilot, the major airlines often hire top staff from smaller carriers instead of methodically developing their own.

“Their fishing grounds is the regional carriers. And the regional carriers go down to the smaller carriers, air taxi groups … those levels have been hurting for many years,” McKenna said.

Canada’s two biggest airlines told CBC News in emailed statements that while there is indeed a higher than normal demand for pilots right now, both of them are managing to meet their needs.

“As a large global carrier operating the most modern, largest aircraft, we are a very desirable destination for talented pilots,” AIr Canada said. “As a result, we are able to attract pilots as required.”

“We have and continue to responsibly manage and plan our operations to meet the anticipated demand of our guests and are fully staffed across our network to support our operation,” WestJet said.

That’s not the case for everyone else. Small airlines often have so few pilots on staff that it doesn’t take the loss of very many to stop planes from flying.

Dave Boston
Dave Boston is a licensed pilot and also runs a job board to help other pilots find work. (Dave Boston)

In the fall, Sunwing applied to bring in more than 60 temporary foreign workers to meet demand for pilots, but that application was rejected, which exacerbated the chaos seen at the end of 2022. The airline has since cancelled almost all flights out of Saskatchewan and most out of Manitoba for the rest of the winter travel season.

Pandemic reduced numbers, too

It’s not just the big boys gobbling up all the qualified pilots, either. Many simply left the profession during the pandemic.

“Two years ago, to the day, literally almost every pilot [was] out of work,” says Dave Boston, a pilot with 25 years experience who’s also the man behind Edmonton-based aviation job board, Pilot Career Centre.

Faced with furloughs and layoffs at airlines big and small, many pilots tried to wait it out, but many simply moved on, he told CBC News in an interview.

“Many who had businesses or other interests, after maybe six months to a year, had to put food on the table, and they left the industry,” Boston said.

For the pilots who are left, headhunting is the new normal. He says he hears from desperate airlines every day, because they either can’t find the staff, or just lost yet another one. “It’s very common for pilots, unfortunately, to work there for six months [then] get a surprise interview that they don’t expect to get, and then they’re gone,” he said.

“It’s a real challenge right now.”

Zona Savic, right, listens to her instructor inside the cockpit of a flight simulator unit at Seneca College. Savic has long dreamt of being a pilot, and a lack of qualified flyers means she should have plenty of job prospects once she graduates.
Zona Savic, right, listens to her instructor inside the cockpit of a flight simulator unit at Seneca College. Savic has long dreamt of being a pilot, and a lack of qualified flyers means she should have plenty of job prospects once she graduates. (Shawn Benjamin/CBC)

One person hoping to meet that challenge is Zona Savic, a soon-to-be graduate of one of Canada’s premier aviation schools, Seneca College in Peterborough, Ont.

While she had planned to go into engineering, she joined the Air Cadets while in high school, and was quickly bitten by the aviation bug.

“I just knew from the moment that I was in that plane, this is what I was going to do,” she told CBC News in an interview.

She’s on track to get her pilot’s licence soon, and while she may do additional training to become an instructor herself, she says it’s a load off her mind to know that she won’t have to worry about finding a job.

And even better for the industry, she has no qualms about working her way up at smaller carriers flying niche, remote routes.

” I just love the feeling of flying, so if that’s what I’m doing, I don’t really care if I’m in Paris, or in Nunavut,” she says. “Anything is good for me, as long as I get to experience that.”

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Q4 economic growth slows to 1.6% as aggressive hikes bite – BNN Bloomberg

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Canada’s economy geared down at the end of 2022, growing at about half the pace of the third quarter and setting the stage for a period of little to no growth.

Preliminary data suggest gross domestic product was flat in December as increases in retail, utilities and the public sector were offset by decreases in the wholesale, finance and oil and gas industries, Statistics Canada reported Tuesday in Ottawa. That followed a 0.1 per cent gain in November, which matched economist expectations in a Bloomberg survey, and a 0.1 per cent increase in October.

Overall, the monthly gains point to annualized growth in the fourth quarter of 1.6 per cent, according to an initial estimate from the statistics agency. Though it will likely be revised, it’s down sharply from a 2.9 per cent pace in the third quarter, 3.2 per cent during April to June, and 2.8 per cent in the first three months of last year.

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The numbers show that higher interest rates, which have jumped 425 basis points since last March, are slowing economic activity and weighing on consumption. The lagged effects of the Bank of Canada’s aggressive tightening campaign are expected to drag growth to a halt this year, with economists seeing two quarters of shallow contraction in the first half of 2023.

That’s a key reason why Governor Tiff Macklem and his officials said this month they plan to hold the benchmark overnight lending rate at 4.5 per cent if growth and inflation evolve broadly in line with their outlook. While the 1.6 per cent growth in the final quarter is slightly stronger than policymakers forecast last week, signs of slowing demand are mounting.

“The economy hasn’t yet absorbed the impact of past rate hikes,” James Orlando, an economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank, said in a report to investors. “Even though today’s growth numbers are holding up well, the BoC can feel comfortable keeping its policy on cruise control a little while longer.”

In November, growth in services-producing industries was partially offset by a decline in the goods sectors, the statistics agency said. Interest-rate increases continued to dampen activity for real estate agents and brokers, residential building construction, and legal services which have been trending downward since spring.

Construction dropped 0.7 per cent, with new construction of single detached homes and home improvement leading the decline. Accommodation and food services contracted 1.4 per cent on lower activity in bars and restaurants. Retail trade decreased 0.6 per cent, with the food and beverage subsector falling to its lowest level since April 2018.

The central bank expected fourth-quarter growth of 1.3 per cent annualized, while economists in Bloomberg surveys predicted a gain of 0.9 per cent. Official data for December and the fourth quarter will be released Feb. 28.

Based on initial estimates, Canada’s economy expanded 3.8 per cent in 2022, broadly in line the Bank of Canada’s estimate for a 3.6 per cent growth.

“The overriding message is that the economy is just managing to keep its head above water, which squarely fits with the BoC’s view,” Doug Porter, chief economist at Bank of Montreal, said in a report to investors.

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Nike sues Lululemon, says footwear infringes patents – CTV News

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Nike sued Lululemon Athletica on Monday, saying that at least four of the Canadian athletic apparel company’s footwear products infringe its patents.

Nike in a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court said it has suffered economic harm and irreparable injury from Lululemon’s sale of its Blissfeel, Chargefeel Low, Chargefeel Mid and Strongfeel footwear.

Nike said its three patents at issue concern textile and other elements, including one addressing how the footwear will perform when force is applied.

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The Beaverton, Oregon-based company is seeking unspecified damages.

Lululemon, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Christopher Cushing) 

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