Tuesday, 17 October 2017

How long you need to wait before becoming Canadian

It is interesting to read that this reduction in the period you need to be in Canada is only being implemented now.  I remember that during our application process in 2015 I was already being told that I would only have to wait three years.  I also remember being told that I would be required to be in the country for something like half of the year as well.

According to this story on CTV News it is only being introduced as of 11 October 2017 and the 183 days in a year requirement is falling away. This is obviously great news for those with PR cards for three years or less!

If you want to see more of it on the government website you can go here, but personally, I find the Canadian Government websites quite hard to navigate.

One down, two to go.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

We're All Electric Now

We took the plunge and went all electric, I almost can't believe that we have purchased a fully electric vehicle. To be more specific, we got a Nisan Leaf. Ask the journalists and even the car manufacturers about electric vehicles in Canada and they all say the demand isn't there because of the low temperatures in winter, it decreases your range, and because of the large distances needed to travel here. However, when I started the electric car search I couldn't find much stock! The e-Golf was about to be launched (deliveries still need to start) and they have already fulfilled the whole of their 2018 allocation in pre-orders. With the 2018 Nissan Leaf coming out I thought everyone would be holding off on buying the last of the 2017 stock, but I could only find 3 Nissan Leaf's available in whole of the GTA (one of those was in Oakville). I bought the car new, but with the dealer incentives and the $14,000 Ontario rebate on electric cars, it made the price quite attractive, around $25,000.

So why did we ignore the journalists and the car manufacturers and jump right in? Well, I was planning on buying a plug-in hybrid, you get the electric drive, but you have the normal engine to take you all the way to wherever you want. However, when looking at those options two things jumped out at me. Firstly the electric range is ridiculously low, maybe 30 km's, secondly the battery is shoved into the boot of the normal petrol version. So you end up with a petrol car with no boot space. With two kids that was not an option.
Truth be told, my wife was the braver one. She pointed out that we have not yet taken a long trip in Canada after living here for a year and a bit. She pointed out if we really needed to take a long trip that really required a petrol car we could rent one. If we do that once a year we would still be saving money. (At the moment I'm using some of the free charging points wherever I can, so nice to get "gas" for free!)
My main motivation is the low cost to power the vehicle. The low night time electricity rates here in Toronto are 6.5 cents per kWh which means to fully charge the car (it's an SL with a 30kWh battery) will cost $1.95 (this is according to my own logic, please point out in the comments if I've made a mistake in the calculation of multiplying the cost of a kWh with the size of the battery). On a full charge I can go at least 150 km's (more like 190km's), that means driving 600 kms will cost me less than $8. Compare that to a full tank of gas which always cost me at least $40 and I went maximum 400 km's with, then that is a massive saving each time I need to use the car.

What are my thoughts now that we are fully electric? I'm thoroughly enjoying it. There is no range anxiety, I don't charge every day because there is no need. I take advantage of the free charging provided in various locations (there is even one at my office if I can remember to put the cable back in the car). I haven't taken a long trip yet, but I figure I can at least go to a level 3 charger and have lunch and my car will be fully charged in under an hour. I can get to Niagara without charging and I can get to lake Simcoe by charging once. That's quite a few places I can explore in the meantime. Happy travels!

Now if you want to get your own Electric Car here are some websites to help you.

Firstly this is a list of the electric cars available in Canada, I was quite surprised to learn the Europe just has so much more of a selection of electric cars.  As you can see the selection in North America is quite small, at the time of writing this the Renault cars are not available here and VW was starting to launch the e-Golf for the first time as their first EV in Canada.  The VW e-Up is not available.

Secondly, you want to know how much of a rebate your electric vehicle is eligible for?  Well, have a look at this website giving the exact details of what car is eligible for what amount in the Ontario Electric Vehicle Incentive Program.  You don't need to worry about applying for the deduction yourself, the dealer deducts it in the quote and you don't have to pay it first.  Those problems all belong to the dealer, so the only money you need to find is the final amount minus rebate and dealer discounts.

PS: If you want to test drive a few different brand electric cars in one place check out Plug n Drive's Electric Vehicle Discovery Centre at 1126 Finch Ave West in Toronto.  You can see more about what vehicles are available on their website.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Learning about myself

I have a lifetime of learning about myself. Growing up in the church it was always about self analysis and figuring out where you were tricking yourself into thinking you were right with God. There was always some way you could improve.

Having moved to Canada I find there is a lot of motivational stuff to get caught up in here. Seeing it from a distance I used to find it very annoying because it felt like cheese (nonsense people tell themselves to make themselves feel better), but I find now I'm getting caught up in it. I can't figure out if it's because of the life stage I'm in that cheese gets my emotions going. Anything to do with my little daughter tugs at my tear ducts, an opportunity to earn money makes me want to jump right in and do a little cheese makes me feel so much better. Perhaps it's not my luge stage, but the fact I'm now surrounded by motivational adverts, people, podcasts, the the Americas really are the nations of "I can" and that culture of self motivation is all encompassing. I'm investing in the stock exchange believing I can make millions, cycling to work believing I'm an athlete.

I'm trying very hard to prevent myself from making bad decisions as a result of these delusions.  It is fun to push yourself and discover you can achieve more, I'm finding its equally important to pace yourself and change slowly so you don't scare your family that you've gone crazy.

Hopefully I've managed to do that and I'm not going off the rails yet.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Geese eating cars

Just one of the things I've enjoyed about staying in Canada is that there are Geese all around all summer.  We arrived in spring last year and lived near a small lake at Unionville. Each geese parents had several goslings following them. The father on the lookout for any humans straying too close and the mother herding the little ones.
Some people do find it a little difficult because Geese can be a bit aggressive, but I've found you just give them a wide berth and it's lovely to see them everywhere in public.

So at the office I heard the story that there are two geese that have been coming every year to nest on the grounds of our office.  Apparently they've had little goslings every year right in the parking lot of our office block.  This year we got an email that said they were going to try deter the Geese from coming back.  They put out some decoy geese to discourage them from hanging around. There were jokes about the decoy geese flying about the office and hilarity about the suddenness of the email.

The geese left for the day, but then returned. We got another email. They had laid an egg near the cars and we needed to move them. It was quite amazing watching how fearless the geese can be!  Cars were trying to drive down the parking lot to find a spot to park in the morning and the male goose wouldn't let them pass.  The car literally had to back up and drive around him to carry on.  They eventually cordoned off the area so that everyone had to drive around the back.  This was much better for all involved, the geese were obviously getting quite stressed about the cars driving by and the cars clearly didn't want to drive over the geese.

I had taken my bicycle that day and the egg was very near the bicycle rack! I was a bit worried about being able to cycle home, but thought it was worth a shot to try get my bike out early before they were really on the rampage. That gave me the opportunity to film someone else's car being moved. The guy had to climb in on the passenger's side because if he tried the driver's side the geese would have "chased him off" like they "chased off"this car.

At the end of the video I had to laugh, the male goose is clearly very proud of how he managed to chase off that monster creature!
The end of the story unfortunately results in that the geese were relocated despite having a egg.  However it was done by professionals so I trust that everything worked out well for the geese.  However I noticed when I first arrived that there seemed to be geese everywhere, you see an open patch of grass and there are geese on it.  Even when there is no grass sometimes there are geese, quite a few times I've seen one hanging out in the Wallmart parking lot.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Changing your tyres yourself

Phew!  I just finished changing all four tyres in one go.  What a workout, I'm also quite dirty from the process.

So, for those who don't know, in Canada, you should change to winter tyres in the winter, it gives you better grip in freezing conditions (there is no difference on black ice, you need spikes to grip on that!).  Winter Tyres are softer so they operate better in the lower temperature ranges.  Someone said to me that the optimum temperature was 7 degrees celcius.  Then you need to change back to your summer tires (or all seasons) in spring. Having previously gone to the trouble of buying winter tyres and having someone fit them for me, I wanted to save the cash and put the all seasons back on myself.

My first problem was that I have a car with run flats and no spare tyre.  That means the car doesn't come equipped with a jack.  I sorted this out with a colleague by borrowing his jack and I was all ready! Well, I thought I was.  The other thing you need to change tyres is a crow bar!
I decided I wasn't going to let a little thing like a crow bar stop me from changing my tyres tonight! I started asking the neighbours.  The first neighbour was very kind, but was in the same boat as me (except he wasn't bothered about changing his tyres himself).
The second neighbour thought I was plain crazy and couldn't find his crowbar or even his spare tyre anywhere.  He gave me a number for a guy who would come to where the car was parked and change them for $100.
The third neighbour was again very kind and had a Jetta, so I knew where the spare was and that they would have a crowbar.  Thank you so much kind neighbour! (at least I had met this one before, maybe that made they a little more amenable)

Once that drama was complete I finally managed to change the first tyre and noticed a plastic cap in the centre of the steel part that the wheel fits on.  I tried fitting the wheel on and it went on no problem.  I put the bolts in and they went in no problem.  I let the car off the jack and it all looked good.  Then I thought let me google this, I remembered the salesman that sold me the winter tyres talking about plastic spacers and maybe this was them.
A quick google search later and I realised that I definitely had to take them off! The guy ended up driving the car with the spacers on all the way to the garage and he said the car was wobbly and shaky.  The mechanic reckoned that he could easily have died.

I took the tyre off again and took the plastic spacer off, then changed the rest of the tyres and took the car for a spin.  All felt good.

If there are any updates tomorrow I'll let you all know, or maybe I won't because I won't be in any condition to post!

Friday, 17 February 2017

The worst of winter

We really had the worst of winter recently.

First there was freezing rain. It came down all day while I was at the office, so when it was time to go home my car looked like this:

Perfectly normal except there was a solid sheet if ice wrapped around the car, so much ice that I couldn't even open the drivers door! (In Canada they are mad enough to drive on the same side of the road as Americans, so yes, this is the drivers door).

I know the photo is pretty awful, but maybe you can get an idea of how thick it was.

All of that white is ice shavings that I created trying to get through to the glass of the windscreen. In the middle you can see I finally managed to get through and, if you look closely, the ice is about two or three centimetres thick! That isn't from the car standing there for a week, it was only there from nine to five! I was quite blown away to see such a thick layer of ice covering the wind screen wipers (you lift them up when you might get freezing rain because if they get stuck to the windscreen there is a good chance you'll break them trying to get them unstuck).

Of course, a few days after the rain we got heavy snow. Here's a short video of me driving in our office parking lot.

This is the second time I've driven in heavy snow and I realise it's better to drive in snow that no-one else had driven in than to follow in another persons tracks. For those of you that think this is obvious, it actually isn't. If you've never driven in snow all you know is that snow and ice is dangerous, you don't know that compacted snow turns into ice which is what makes snow dangerous. Before anyone has driven on it you actually get some good traction. You may laugh at me, but I thought winter tires were for diving in snow, so I didn't get them until someone mentioned to me that they operate best at 7 degrees Celsius. That was almost December already, hardly a winter tyre in stock any more.  I mistakenly believed that once the snow fell in Canada you never saw the ground again until spring.

I'm still not an expert in this snow driving so I haven't pushed it. I'm pretty sure that if I accelerated suddenly or turned sharply my wheels would lose thier grip even on fresh snow. The trip home was still fun for me, it felt like I needed a 4x4 / all wheel drive vehicle to navigate the roads. The little car I was in managed very well though. In fact I saw a big fat rear wheel drive Mustang going up a slight incline and every time he touched the gas the bum started sliding out. My theory was there was just too much power from even the slightest touch of the accelerator.

In closing I know this article makes it seem like winter in Canada is unbearable, however it has been a very mild winter. Only two heavy snowfalls so far, one freezing rain (apparently the worst one my colleagues have experienced) and a few freezing cold days that are below -10 degrees Celcius.  With those few difficulties you can actually have a lot of fun too.  There is Ice Skating, almost every where has a skating rink, here is just a list of the ones that the city of Toronto provides. If you don't have skates look out for the ones that have Skate Hire like Nathan Phillips.
Something my daughter and I love to do is toboggan.  We've only managed it twice so far because we didn't want to travel, but next winter I'm sure we will.
Then there is Skiing and Snow boarding.  I have heard of poeple going snow shoeing and then there is just staying indoors and enjoying a nice hot drink and watching the snow fall outside.
As per TorontoGuardian.com

Friday, 13 January 2017

The actual cost of buying a car in Ontario, Canada

I always tell people to not buy a car until they really really need one.  There are so many hidden costs with a car.  I miss the days when it was just me and my bicycle.

My first tip starts with: get the Canadian Drivers licence first. If you've had your licence for a year before you buy a car then your insurance is going to be so much cheaper, if it's been two years all the better!  Remember, Canadian insurance companies only care about your Canadian Drivers Licence, it mostly doesn't matter how long you've had another country's drivers licence for.  When I arrived I was quoted $4000 for the year.  In fact I am still in that category.  Here are the results of an online quote request done on https://www.lowestrates.ca
(You can write to me on the contact page if you're looking for an insurer willing to take your foreign driving experience into account, I am now paying about $150 a month.)

Ok, so, insurance is the most obvious extra cost of a car, the next is licensing.  At the time of writing this it is $120 a year in Toronto which you can see on the Ontario website here.

Next is parking, maybe you get a parking for free at home, sometimes you have to rent it, but going to town the Green P is going to charge you at least $3.50 for the privilege of leaving your car on their premises.  Maybe you park an hour in a month on the weekend trying to find free parking and taking a longer walk to get to where you want to go.

Of course, there is also petrol, let's say you have an economical car and you do around 8 litres per 100 kilometres and you do very little driving in a month, maybe 500km's.  If the average petrol price is lucky enough to remain around the $1 mark your cost for the month will be $40.

Then there is the problem of washing the car.  For a Basic car wash at your local petrol (gas) station it's going to cost $9 a wash and you should probably wash it once a month.  In winter you are going to need to wash it twice a month to get the salt off (and prevent it from rusting)

The other fun thing I found out was that my insurance was going to be another $500 a year if I didn't buy winter tires, so I spent another $600 dollars on buying winter tyres so that I can save that in the second year.

Estimated Monthly costs of a car: $52.50
Estimated Yearly costs of a car: $4,120 + ($52.50 x 12 month) = $4,750

As some nice alternatives there is public transport and then there is car sharing.  The only one I know about at the moment is Zip Car and usually they are only really available around Down Town.

Estimated yearly costs of taking public transport: $1,820.  That is a 61% saving per year (I assumed you would travel twice each work day).

Estimated yearly cost of Zip Car: $650. (I assumed you would take a single one hour trip each weekend, while the lowest hourly rental is advertised as $7ph I could only find cars that were $11.75 an hour).  While this is cheaper than public transport I am sure you will also take public transport on occasion.  Even if you combine a daily public transport commute with 1 Zip Car weekend trip each month you will come out around $2,600 for the year, some 45% cheaper still.

What's my conclusion?  Take the TTC for your commute if you are able to and add Zip Car for when you really would like to have the luxury of a car.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Driving in snow

This was quite an interesting first-time experience.  It basically snowed heavily just before heading home for work.  The snow ploughs were out and about, but they hadn't been able to start their job yet because the traffic was so heavy.

We all had to crawl along at 20 kilometres an hour, so it took quite a bit longer to head home than usual.

In the light of my previous post I am still thoroughly enjoying all this.  It was fascinating to realise that my car didn't just spin out of control like you sometimes see on Youtube (like this one).  I saw the exit of my office as a rather steep slope where you have to stop and I was worried the car would just slide backwards! I approached it tentatively but had no problem stopping near the top and getting going again.
I did have one moment when I got going again after a red traffic light and on a slight upward slope.  My front wheels started spinning and I didn't realise it, I found the car was angling slowly to the left and I couldn't figure out why, I just turned the wheel left until I could figure it out, but it started angling more to the left.  Then I heard the vehicle's engine was running a little quicker than the speed I was travelling so I lifted off the accelerator and it was all good again.  I realised you have to be careful accelerating in snow, of course, that applies to the braking as well.  No sudden deceleration either.

In my first year here it has snowed many more times, but I haven't driven in snow again, but then winter isn't over.  Every time it has snowed the ploughs have come quickly and cleared everything before I got onto the road again.  So far it's mostly snowed at night and then everything is cleared by morning.