April Fools, or Just Fools?

Listening to all the news on the United State wanting to drop out of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or at least awing it in their favour, got me thinking about what lays in my future as a Canadian. And to be fair, I am only referencing this on my own personal life–a life that is almost spanning five decades now. So I think I have some experience under my belt. I remember a time before NAFTA. There was a time long ago, that Canada only had bi-lateral agreements with other trading nations, and it worked. But people wanted bigger, better, with more profits, and the ability to grow at more accelerated rates, and at the time, this was the Automobile Market that launched it. But this was far from the utopia of free markets that the businesses wanted. There will always be outside forces that could bring down, or at least distort, the economy, and as corporations grew mightier then the countries they lived in, so to were the negative effects of the market shifts.

When listening to the U.S. president say he was pulling out of NAFTA, or at least change it into his favour, I thought to myself this must be a April Fool’s Joke of some kind. Could this be true, or just another one of his “flip-flopping” agendas he is so famous for? Changing his mind through an early morning Tweet on Twitter, like a teenager on social networking. The ramifications of all of this is the Markets bouncing up, then down, reacting to every tweet, like a farmer in his fields watching storm clouds pass by.

Sure, it is nerve-racking, as the media plays on every and tweet the US presidents throws out into the Internet. But remember, you can only cry “Wolf” so many times before no hears again.

So here is how I look at it. And I have lived through a bunch of rescissions in my lifetime. We may have our cars and oil increase in costs, but these are commodities that will not bring down our neighborhoods and governments. Sure, it will sting as a small portion of the work force will have to adapts into new industries, but there basic needs that can be met to keep our nation running as long as we have the will to do so.

We can produce our own basic needs like food, building materials and modes of transportation. Unlike some other countries, Canada has the ability to move forward at both the micro and macro levels inside our borders with self sustaining ease. We are, after all, an exporting country, thought not as efficient as China or the U.S. due to our small population, but we can pick ourselves up and run with it. We are fortunate that we are not reliant upon service industries, and raw resources, we have kept a sizable manufacturing sector alive.

So it is far from not being the end of the world when the U.S. president tweets the end to free trade. In the end, he will only hurt the people he leads–his own country. Sure Canada, and Mexico, will under go a transformation too, but both nations will pick up where they left off, and continue to grow, as we all look for more stable markets to trade with. And with the changing world dynamics through tools like the Internet, and digital money, it is quiet possible the U.S. will be left behind if they stagnate.

We need to eat, and we can grow our own food. We need homes, and we can build them. The only thing that will hurt us in the current market economy, is the mountain of debt that the average Canada carries–this we must get under control. But perhaps we need this market shift to correct the economy after all? Homes are out of reach for now for many people, so a good shake up might be what we need.

The Glass Net

In this post, I was going to talk about cryptocurrencies, their advantages and disadvantages they pose on our daily lives, but that got side-tracked when I started reading about the British Columbia’s new “Speculation Tax.” When I looked at how housing prices are being effected in different regions, I thought this was more of an issue than how we are going to buy things in the future. So I took some time to read further on how this tax was going to effect you and me, but more so, how the money lenders look at this.

There is an lesson I have learned in my life about money: you always need more, and you never have enough, and you fight to keep what you have. This sets the frame work between Land Owners, and everyone else in Canada. In Canada, over the last three decades, we have seen property values climb three fold. There are many factors at play here, but the main factor that I see is that more people want to be land owners, rather than renters, so this automatically ups the Land’s value as our populations grows. This is compounded in desirable areas like Vancouver and Toronto, and negatively dries up value in other parts of Canada. So no two areas are the same in terms of Land Values. But there is one constant: for most, property ownership is the biggest, and most profitable, investment–period–in one’s life. As a property owner, any tax or encumbrances, is a direct threat to that investment. 

The double side of property owners is funny to me. Obviously, the land owner wants their investment to grow in value. Added to this, you want the enjoyment and happiness of your land, minus anything you feel would diminish that state of mind such as gentrification or industrialization around you. Your house, its location to the community, means that of all the investments to your future, your land is your greatest investment of them all, and you are going to fight if anyone taxes, or reduces its value for other means. You want that value to grow.

If you are someone who is looking to buy land, in this day and age, the bench-mark is almost unattainable for the vast majority of people based on their level of wealth and income. With cheap money (borrowing it from money lenders), and the lure of living in centres like Vancouver and Toronto, property values in these areas have tripled in price over the last decades. So many are willing to put themselves in huge debt for the pleasure of living in and around these areas. On the same scale, money lender’s are being ask to increase the criteria for borrowing on property, stamping out further those who wish to be land owners, but money lenders are still willing to lend to make their profits. 

Today, the world seems to be looking at Canada, as our personal debt per Canadian is one of the highest among the G7 countries, noting how much trouble we could potentially be in. With so many carrying these mortgages, some are speculating either a meltdown, or a slow deflated collapse of the market, but nothing positive. Needless to say, we could be in trouble as Interest Rates and Market Forces start turning towards a new course in our economy, and these forecasts start coming true. I would not want to be the person who has to juggle public policies, and Laws, to keep everyone happy. 

March 27, 2018

It was announced that the British Columbia Government has laid out sweeping exceptions to its Speculation Taxes. It appears that many who own land in smaller regions of the Province are spared the tax.  

Dust and More Dust: The Choking Streets of Terrace

I heard about this last year before I moved up here, from reading the news paper and hearing from friends, but it is quite another to actually see it in person. This is the byproduct from the snow removal process of the last three months when dealing with snow covered roads. Rather than spend money on salt, which does not work on icy roads at below 15C, the roads get covered with sand and gravel. This works very well when dealing with 110cm of snow falls and ice. But the after effect is, lots of dust from vehicles that drive on the roads when it warms up. I would say, you might as well be drive on dirt roads.

Last Wednesday was when I really noticed it. It reminded me of my trip to Southern California, during a wind storm, with blowing the sand everywhere. You had to cover face, or your nose would breath in the sand. I remember seeing the headlights of the car shine through the sand storm, and that is what I saw in Terrace. The big difference, what was blowing around in Terrace was dust, not sand, and this is type of dust that get into everything.

There a couple of spin-off industries from this that I can see. Who ever owns a street cleaner could be making lots of money this time of year. Also, car wash facilities, if you hate a dirty car. However, no one seems to be in a hurry to clear the gravel from off of the roads, and just about every vehicle I see is completely covered in dust. We have not seen any good rain in a few weeks, so the dust just gets more and more as the weather warms up. And honestly, I think that is what everyone is waiting for–the spring wet season to start.

In the mean time, I changed the cabin air filter on my car to deal with the dust. I could actually smell the difference with a new filter in it. But as far as cleaning my car…. na, I will wait for nature’s free car wash to take care of that for me–rain will fix all of this. On a funny thought, you sure notice a clean vehicle when they drive by you. LOL

 

Watching the Eagles Fish the Eulachon on the Skeena River

It was a nice day for a drive, as we almost went to Prince Rupert, BC, but we stopped short to where the Eulachon fish were gathering in the Skeena River as they laid their eggs and die. They were not hard to spot where they were, as all you had to do was find the thousands of seagulls and the fifty or so Bald Headed Eagles scooping them up to eat along the shores, and on the floating chunks of ice. Also, there were lots of people there too, both taking photos, and some catching them for their dinner. It was quite the sight to see. And for the record, I saw only one Eulachon, but it was in a Seagull’s beak, twenty metres away up in the air. But I have seen a lot when I was kid. For the birders, you would have been in awe at the numbers of Seagulls and Eagles there were.

After today, I realized I need at least a 500mm lens, or greater. The Eagles were smart; this was as close as I could get with a 300mm telephoto. Every move I made, it stared at me with those eagle eyes.

Anyway, you are not going to find anything about the Eulachon fish on any sports fishing guide website. The little fish hardly has any commercial value what so ever. However, these are a food fish for the local aboriginal peoples. I have heard them referred to as Candle Fish, or Salvation Fish, becuase of the time of year you catch them in the river, and the oils the little fish makes. Yes, I have seen people light them on fire, and they burn like a candle at the tail. But you can make what is called Eulachon Grease from them, and store it for later on in the year. Harvesting is done in Late February and March, at the end of winter. After a long winter, these little fish will keep a whole village going until full on spring.

I would say that there was about thirty cars parked along the Prince Rupert – Terrace highway, or Highway 16. The little fish only swim a short ways up the Skeena, close to where the tidal water ends, so it was fair ways from Terrace, about fifty kilometres to see this. I am not sure how long this will last, but it was a feast for the birds! Maybe nest time I will have a stronger telephoto lens for my camera.

My Thoughts on Trade Wars Over Oil

The opinions expressed below are mine, and mine alone: this is me thinking out loud.

I believe that British Columbia is in a great position to embark on the path of becoming energy self-sufficient, and adopting the highest standards possible of any industrialized region in the world on Carbon reduction. It is no secret that there is a possible trade war between the Alberta and British Columbia Governments over oil pipelines. The BC Government as slapped limits and restrictions on the oil pipeline that runs through the Lower Mainland, and with that Alberta has proposed to cut off all old it currently sells to BC as a result. This tit for tat trade war could very well be a blessing for BC, albeit cause short term pain for some, but over all, a boon in the long run to both the economy and the environment.

The Lower Mainland gets most of its gasoline from Washington Sate in the US, as I understand. Here in Northern BC, where I now live, we get our gasoline from Alberta. You might be wondering why I would endorse such a cock-o-many idea if it is going to effect me the most, rather than all those in the Southern half of BC? Simple, we can more then likely absorb the increases in fuel costs more than anywhere else under fossil use, until we convert to renewable energies. Sure, it will be painful, and effect our standard of living in the short term, but we will bounce back better, stronger and faster, then the rest of the Country.

Here is my point. We are a smaller, less dense, populations base. Northern BC is primarily focused on Mining, harvesting and Tourism. By harvesting, I mean we log and process trees, and catch wild fish. All of witch is heavily dependent on oil, currently, however; over time all these industries can convert to electricity, something that we create right here, right in our back yards. BC has a huge capacity of potential electric power, through the use of hydro dams, thus, a carbon free and renewable resource.

We have the technology, we now have to implement it. We can drive electric cars, transport our goods with electric trucks which are now available on the market. We send electricity to mines and mills, so that generating electricity through fossil fuels is prevented. And even with all this growth in electric usability, we could probably still have plenty to sell to other markets—all carbon free, with less of a footprint on the environment.

I say, “lets do the trade war over oil with Alberta,” this is our golden opportunity to change, and start reversing the effects on the environment. Let BC become the new frontier in renewable energy!

Scammer’s, You are too Funny!

Over the last two weeks now, I have been getting SPAM phone calls, emails, even a survey that was mailed to me, asking for some weird information, to a private organization. The level of frequency it hitting fever pitch. Most scammers are emailing me, and a quarter of those are from phone calls, and then there is the one piece of mail in the Post. I am not to terribly surprised, as this time of year some people are in debt and desperate for money, while those who are well-off, are usually tight in the wallets, so the flow of cash trickles this time of year. What made me write about scammers today is the call I just had a few minutes ago.

I just got home from work, and sat down at my PC to check emails when the phone rings. Normally I just wait to see who it is on the call display, then let it go to voice mail if it someone I do not know. I was not paying that much attention, and sometimes it is the girlfriend who phones around this time of day. Though Thursdays, she is usually out at her classes and social events. So I answer the phone. It was a women with a New York accent who says, “Hello, may I have few minutes of your time for this special offer…. your name was chosen to….” and I hung up. Then the phone rings again–I am letting it go voice mail!

I let it go straight to voice mail. It was a computerize voice synth, stating that it was the Canada Revenue Service, and I have a criminal warrant against me, and that I must pay in Bitcoin before I jail for the rest of my life. I thought this was crazy, two in a row.

Last week was the best. This East Indian chick phoned, and left a message on my machine saying that she was from a Collection Agency, and that she was directed from the “Toronto Corporate Office, representing the Credit Agency,” and that I have a debt that needs to be paid off by 4:00pm that day, or my credit history will be adjusted. This one was one of the best I have heard so far, but she got her “official” titles mixed up. The part about payment was outrageous too, as this Collection Company only collects money through Bitcoin. Imagine that? I used to work for a collections company in Langley, BC, so I know a lot about the rules about phoning people up begging for money.

Sadly my phone number is out in the Scammer’s data bases, or they got a list from my local Telco–which would not surprise me. But yes, the frequency of the scammers and sophistication is growing by leaps and bounds.

Back Up and Running!

It works! I am typing this post out on my main PC, and it feels so good. I just got this machine (PC) running a few minutes ago, as I was waiting for my RAM, 8G, DDR4 chips set, that arrived in the mail today. Luckily all my hardware and software works with it too! I am so freaking happy about this. OH, yeah, the weather–need to talk about that too. Oh my,  the weather is just as freaky as my happiness right now. But Ya, I have my good computer working again. Feels so nice.

Back to my personal computer news. So it is confirmed, I killed the main board. So I had to buy another one. Sadly, my old main board is no longer made any more. Along with it, I went for newer CPU too, and then the RAM. The price of RAM is through the roof–all due to Bitcoin Miners–I should point out. I went with upgrading instead of trying to replace everything with totally new gear. I kept the specs as close as I could being that I was trying to recover my hard drive in process. It all paid off! Not only do I have a faster main board with a faster CPU, but the RAM is fast too, and it works flawlessly with the way my hard drive is–OS and all. I did a benchmark render with my 3D software to test out the hardware, and I noticed the render time is about twenty to thirty per cent faster then before with my old hardware. This is awesome–$300.00 of awesomeness.

OK, the weather around here has been unreal, at least for me. People who were born here, this was–meh–whatever. Since January 28, 2018, we have had well over 110cm of total snow fall. The worst was on Friday, when we had over 48cm of snow in twenty-four hours. However, today was just as weird as well. The snow started late last night, and we were only forecasted to have a sprinkle of 10cm of snow. Instead, we had a dump of over 20cm, but it came down hard, and I feared that we were looking at another February 9th dump. The big difference was, we got up to 4C. But this was when it got weird. South Terrace, BC was getting snow, while East Terrace was getting hard compact snow, though only 8 to 10cm. It was Thornhill, BC, just across the river, where it was raining–hard. Right now, there are patches of blue sky, and my home thermometer says 4C, and the rain/snow has stopped.

So, back to my playing on PC! Yay!

Filling In the Pieces

Great news, as I just heard back from my friend down in Vancouver, BC who was looking into my finances on my quest for home ownership. It appears that my plans with my Bank up here on the North Coast are a go, too. I will wait until October of this year to start the process either with him, down in Langley, BC, or up here in Terrace, BC, for starting the mortgage application. I figure going with two options is the better way to go, this way if one is not happy, then I have the other.

The goal now is amping up my credit rating score. Doing the car loan, and various revolving credit accounts are paying off, so it is playing the time test, keeping the momentum going so the Credit Gods can see my “staying power.” Also, saving like crazy, which is what they really like to see. The point was to do the new Stress Test that the Federal Government implement earlier this month, and so far I pass with flying colours. Both with the Affordability Index and Stress Test, I think I meet those thresholds today.

I can see how the money lenders are getting nervous as Canada and World are sliding into chaos. At one part of the stress test, it was set up as high as 11 per cent, and I just made it at my current annual income. Of course, as a kid, I remember when the Bank Rates were up around 23 per cent. It would be interesting to see where the Prime Bank of Canada Rate will be in 2025?

My target of next October-December, are going as planed.

The True Cost of Living On the North Coast

Having met many more people who inhabit the North Coast, I am starting to get a better understanding of what the differences are between the North and South in terms of economics and lifestyle. Of course I remember the times from when I lived here as a kid, but having come back over thirty years later, I see and understand more complex issues than I have ever had before. Mainly in terms of economics, there are huge differences between the business world of the Lower Mainland/Fraser valley, and here, in Terrace, BC. Attitudes over taxes and how money is transferred between hands, the differences are subtle, and almost indistinguishable, but they are there.

Cash rules here on the North Coast. For starters, there are many hold-outs as far as businesses using merchant’s accounts and Bank Cards, than there are further south. If you want to see a movie here, you need to bring cash at the local Movie Theatre. Sure, there is an ATM, but it charges a service fee of three dollars to withdraw twenty bucks, on your credit card. Most services have Point-to-Point card machines, but they lean towards good old cash. Smaller businesses have cleaver ways to pass those Credit Cards fees back to you, making a cash transaction more favourable. However, the larger Big Box Chains have no issues with Credit Cards.

Taxes and fees are something many here dread. When there is no way out of paying those parasitic fees, life seems to go on, people here seem to deal with it. However, if the opportunity presents itself, then just cash moves from one hand to another, you can bet that taxes are avoided. These transactions seem more prevalent than from my old neighbourhood in the South. From my personal experience, Banks are very particular about Bank Fees and Service Charges, so I have found, the less bank activity, the better off you are. Then there are Property Taxes, which are some of the lowest rates I have seen in British Columbia, but with no doubt, you can get a good conversation going on that topic alone.

My conclusion on the economics between the North Coast and South Coast are that the further North you go, especially out of the Lower Mainland, the cost of living drops lower. The primary two factors are taxes, and property values that make this difference. Gasoline and Auto Insurance are huge, in the Lower mainland; these fees drop significantly once you move to the North Coast. And yes, there is loud approval of Northern communities to see user-pay by regions, so the North is not paying for the South’s infrastructure needs. And then the biggest difference, real estate. There could never be more contrast between these two regions than the cost of a home. The cost of a home is generally a quarter to three-quarters cheaper on the North Coast than buying in the Lower Mainland/Fraser Valley area.

It is All About Fairness – No Freeloaders!

I cannot stay silent any longer on this subject because I am sick and tired of listening to business people complain about how they are unduly singled out with higher taxes and other parasitic encumbrances to their bottom-line, and that they should be given tax breaks. In traditional fashion, you have the Right-wing saying that all businesses must be taxed in order to stay competitive, while on the Left-wing side, they say businesses must pay more in taxes because they make the lion’s share of the profits. Oh Boo-Hoo. I am tired of everyone from property owners to business people saying that everyone else except them should shoulder the taxes burden. I just heard a small business owner say that all taxes should be dumped on the consumer and property owners while they focus on enjoying their profits and employing more works. Oh-no, I say pooh to that, everyone pays their share—period, especially those who make huge profits in my city!

Ok, we have this issue of gentrification, and it is prevalent in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Gentrification is where you have a depressed area, become affluent and prosperous as a higher class of the socioeconomic population moves in as their boundary spreads outwards. When you have an area where everyone wants to live, that area goes through a cycle of inflation as property prices and costs rise. So too for businesses, as they enjoy rise in the boon of consumers. Nothing is free, as all must pay to enjoy the benefits of this. It boils down to choice. People move to the cities, like Vancouver, because they want to enjoy its weather climate, and the bounty of employment. Businesses do this along the same lines of reasoning too. But sooner or later, inflation creeps in, and so too do taxes. Remember, you have a choice to stay or leave—simple.

The majority of Canadian’s taxes are paid through taxing their income. This concept of paying taxes on the amount of money you make, goes back to the Second World War in Canada, and is one that many have no choice in the matter. You earn a pay cheque, you employer is obligated, in most cases, to collect that money on behalf of the Government. But the bulk of Income Tax goes to both the Federal and Provincial Governments, leaving the Municipalities left to eke out their sources of revue in other ways. So municipalities share the proceeds on mostly businesses and property taxes that they tax directly. I am probably over simplifying the tax laws here, as there are hundreds of different forms of taxation in Canada, but this is a thumbnail sketch of where and who gets what. So as a community grows, in its population and services, so too does its operational costs and development.

The idea of fairness is simple: all of us, who choose to work and live in an area that is going through gentrification, must pay their fair share, no matter who you are. If you are a home owner, then yes, you pay your taxes. As businesses who want to set up in this area as well, they must pay their fair share in taxes too, as they enjoy the prosperity and volume of consumers moving through their doors. Usually it’s the business owner who argues that the market economy should run the world; then let it be so, as the market place becomes over saturated, and the population shifts, then businesses should make a choice. If they have to raise their prices for their wares, then so be it, but to stay competitive by paying less in taxes is not fair—then you need to adjust your profits.

Bottom line, everyone pays their fair share in taxes. No one should be exempt, or reduced, from their fair share in taxes within the population. If you come here to make a profit, then you come here to pay your taxes to enjoy all the benefits that come with living here.