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Turner Drake & Partners Ltd.
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Halifax, N.S.
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Canada

Tel.: (902) 429-1811
Toll Free: (800) 567-3033
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Saint John, N.B.
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Canada
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Charlottetown, P.E.
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St. John's, N.L.
A1C 5M3
Canada
Tel.: (709) 722-1811

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111 Queen Street East
Toronto, ON.
M5C 1S2
Tel.: (416) 504-1811

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# Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Ivany Report

The Nova Scotia Commission on Building our New Economy began its work in November 2012 at the behest of the then NDP Government.  The project nevertheless had all party support.  The Commission was chaired by Ray Ivany, President of Acadia University and included four other members the most prominent of whom was John Bragg, Founder and CEO, Oxford Group of Companies.  

During 2013 the Commission used 35 public meetings, a web site and the social media to gather opinions and gauge public and business angst across the province.  The Commission also relied on assistance from various government departments and private sector sources.  The Commission published its Report in February 2014.  It identified twin problems: (1) an aging and shrinking population, (2) very low rates of economic growth.  The Commission pointed out the “economy today is barely able to support our current standards of living and public services, and will be much less so going forward unless we reverse current trends.” 

The Conclusion

The Commission stakes the recovery on the private sector “the logic is inescapable, if the economy is to grow there must be more enterprises and the rates of business success and expansion have to improve significantly” … “the wider public needs to understand and support this imperative (growing the economy) by openly addressing attitudinal barriers to business development and entrepreneurship.”  But how do you accomplish this in a province where almost one third of the working population are government employees?  They are better paid than the private sector (40% higher in some cases), have pension plans that 99% of the remaining population cannot afford, and have entrenched job security.  The powerful civil service unions fiercely resist any attempt by the private sector to compete for “their” work.  Politicians quail before them, civil servants form a powerful voting block in a province with low voter turnout (2013—59%).  The mere whisper of a strike threat or “sick day walkout”, especially in critical areas such as health care or education, quickly brings the political establishment to heel.

The Commission confessed itself mystified as to why the province is lacking in entrepreneurs.  Whilst acknowledging that the province has produced some exceptional business leaders it enquired why “if the right foundations are in place in Nova Scotia, hasn’t the private sector “taken off”?  Why hasn’t this province seen comparable levels of business growth and diversification over the period as Ontario, Manitoba or British Columbia, to say nothing of less advantaged regions such as South Korea, Singapore and Brazil?  Why haven’t we had the positive population trends of similar sized provinces like Manitoba and Saskatchewan?”  

Well it could be the water … or perhaps it is something to do with the fact that, in an economy stifled by government, there is restricted opportunity for the private sector to compete, innovate and grow.  That’s certainly been our experience operating in Atlantic Canada for the past thirty eight years.  It is frequently necessary to purchase services from government agencies, municipal and provincial, because they have a monopoly.  Invariably the services are over priced, delivered reluctantly and are of poor quality.  Complaints are treated with distain or completely ignored.  There is a comfortable contempt for the general public; indifference is the governing principle.  

In most cases these same services could be provided much more efficiently by the private sector … but they are not allowed to compete.  A “circle the wagons” philosophy prevails.  The impact is to truncate the growth of the private sector whilst impairing its effectiveness.  To rub salt in the wound the public sector then uses taxpayer funds to compete for labour, offering compensation and pension benefits that the latter has to fund, but cannot afford.  In those cases where the public sector outsources work it does so by tender … using a process which is often opaque … or by “selective” sourcing (perhaps to blunt or eliminate criticism?).

The Solution

The Commission concluded that “Nova Scotia is today in the early stages of what may be a prolonged period of accelerating population loss and economic decline.  These negative prospects are not however, inevitable or irreversible”.  It refrained from offering a solution, other than indicating leadership was required coupled with a complete change in mindset.  

However the problems facing the Province, indeed all of the Maritime Provinces, are neither unique nor insoluble. They are in fact, very similar to those faced by the United Kingdom, Ireland and New Zealand three decades ago … and Greece Italy, Spain and Portugal today.  A sclerotic economy held to ransom by powerful public sector unions, a large portion of the workforce in government employ, and a weak private sector beholden to the public process.  Their recipe was to create an open, competitive economy by transferring decision making power from the politicians and civil service to informed and empowered consumers.  Unless there is radical … bold … reform the private sector will continue to splutter and the province will persist in its inexorable slide to financial collapse.  

On June 9th 2014 the Province of Nova Scotia appointed a panel to study the Ivany Report and make recommendations on ways of turning the economy around.  It is tempting to confuse process with progress:  only bold political action, or the lack of it, will determine whether the Ivany Report heralds Nova Scotia’s sunrise … or sunset.

For a précis of the Ivany Report and our own analysis of solutions that have worked elsewhere click on the link: 

www.turnerdrake.com/newsresearch/documents/SunriseorSunset.pdf.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 4:28:55 PM (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Atlantic Canada
# Thursday, August 7, 2014

No one wants to tell a client their space looks like a recent episode of Hoarders. However, it is essential to show a space in its best light to reduce the marketing exposure time and get the best price (rent) for your client.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when selling or leasing your space:

1. Clean Unit: There is nothing worse than walking through a cobweb, jumping back in fear that you have a spider crawling on your back, only to brush your good suit jacket up against a wall covered in gyproc dust. Tip: Take a duster and vacuum through the unit on a regular basis to ensure it is fresh and clean for each showing. 

2. Clean Washrooms: Believe it or not, people actually open the toilet cover while touring a space. Although pink is pretty, it is not so much when it comes in the form of a ring around a toilet bowl. Tip: Flush the toilet every few days to ensure the stagnant water does not leave a mark.

3. Fresh Paint: Let’s face it; some people cannot get passed the harvest gold paint! While it was modern in 1970, it is not anymore. Tip: Although it can be a bit of an investment, prime the walls (and ceiling if applicable) in a contemporary white colour. Not only will it enhance the appeal to potential tenants and purchasers, but it will help them envision their organisation’s color scheme and give the unit a fresh feeling

4. Flooring: Can you see the subfloor through the carpet? Are there multiple chips in the ceramic tile from accidentally dropping a heavy piece of equipment? Tip: If a good cleaning does nothing to improve the appearance of the flooring in the unit, I recommend removing it and leaving exposed concrete.

5. Garbage & Storage: While it is very tempting to use your vacant unit as a storage room for garbage, excess materials, for your own company etc… don’t. Tip: Leave the unit empty. It is hard for a potential tenant/purchaser to imagine themselves in a unit when it is full of clutter. Plus you will have to remove the garbage, excess material etc., for the incoming tenant/purchaser anyways so why move it twice.

6. Windows & Window Coverings: Do the blinds look as though they have been the latest victim of a cat attack? Are there finger prints, paint overspray or perhaps even a face print on the window? Tip: Ensure that the window panes are clean and only leave the window coverings up if they are in good condition.

7. Lighting: While it is tempting to turn the electricity off to a vacant unit, it is important to be able to see the space. Though we always bring a trusty flashlight, it can become a real safety issue for both the client and the agent touring the space if they have to feel their way around. Plus, it is not showing your space in its best “light”. Tip: Lights on! 

Advice given by Ashley Urquhart, Consultant in Turner Drake’s Brokerage Division and Manager of our Business Development Division. For more real estate brokerage advice, you can reach her at aurquhart@turnerdrake.com or 1 (800) 567-3033.
Thursday, August 7, 2014 12:04:36 PM (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Brokerage
# Thursday, July 24, 2014

1. Steel-Toe Boots/Shoes: Many industrial sites require steel-toe boots or shoes, however; they are handy to have at any inspection site, just in case you don’t see that raised curb or camouflaged sprinkler head. Better to be safe than sorry!

2. Camera: A picture is worth a thousand words… and will save you a lot of writing!  A good quality camera can help you relive that inspection experience firsthand once you’re back at the office.

3. Flashlight: The last place you want to be is under the street, in a dust covered 200 year old room that you just saw on Ghost Hunters last weekend... only to find out that the lights don’t work. Tip: If you’re often in the dark, invest in a headlamp… stylish and practical!

4. Batteries: Useful to power electronic measuring devices and the above referenced camera and flashlight. These tools aren’t much help without the juice!

5.      Extra Writing Utensils: Once I jogged across the street to quickly snap a picture of an apartment building but when I got back to the building I could not find my pencil for the life of me. So I stepped outside and looked around… only to find my pencil crushed to bits in the middle of the road.  Not to worry though, my back-up pencil and I completed the job just fine!

I recommend placing all of your inspection gear in a plastic tote that can easily be moved between the office and the trunk of your car.  By keeping everything in one place you will never forget to pack that one item you so desperately end up needing. 

Happy Inspecting!

Advice given by Matthew Smith, Consultant in Turner Drake’s Counselling division and Manager of our St. John’s office. For more real estate counselling advice, you can reach him at msmith@turnerdrake.com or 1 (800) 567-3033.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 3:41:07 PM (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Counselling
# Wednesday, January 22, 2014

On January 13th 2014 all property owners in Nova Scotia received their 2014  Assessment Notices. Over the past five years commercial assessments in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) have risen by an average of 26%. Time to shoot the messanger? Not yet!

Property assessments are determined by the Property Valuation Services Corporation (PVSC), a "not for profit" entity controlled by the municipalities. However it is the latter who set the tax rates and they are the real villains of the piece. PVSC's assessments are based on Market Value: as values rise so do assessments. Tax rates therefore should fall....but they don't...studies carried out by our Property Tax Division show that municipal budgets expand instead, to take advantage of the increased assessments.

Take Halifax Regional Municipality for example. Over the past five years assessments have increased, on average, by the following amounts: Automobile Dealerships 29%; Apartments 28%; Industrial property 27%; Offices 26%; Hotels/Motels 10%...while tax rates have fallen by just 4%. That's right: 4%.

So where did all that extra money go...into additional or better services? Sadly not: over 60% of HRM's expenditures are consumed by staff salaries and pensions. And staff compensation increased by 82% between 2000 and 2010...during a period in which the cost of living increased by just 24%. In part this was because the municipality's staff complement continued to balloon. While competition was forcing the private sector to innovate...to do more with less...the public sector faced no such pressure. But largely it occurred because the average annual salary of their full time equivalent employees rose from $47,301 to $76,821, a rise of 62% over those ten years.

Municipalities have to face the facts: the next 10 years will not be a replication of the past decade. The Province's population is shrinking and aging: the ratio of working to non-working age population is declining rapidly. Some municipalies are now experiencing this reality but HRM has been buffered from it because of rural to urban migration. This will stop as rural areas are denuded of population. There is no evidence that HRM or other municipalities will take action until they face a Detroit type bankruptcy. It is up to property owners to minimise their exposure by ensuring their assessments are not excessive. Since commercial property owners often pay three times as much tax as their residential counterparts they should aggressively pursue an assessment appeal whenever the opportunity presents itself. They have until February 13th. to do so.

101123cow3pres.pdf (1.62 MB)
Wednesday, January 22, 2014 10:17:24 AM (Atlantic Standard Time, UTC-04:00)  #    -
Property Tax