Friday, January 27, 2012
LIVE IT UP!
Mark Twain once said “Enjoy life! There is plenty of time to be dead”.
We’ve been around to a few boat shows this past fall and most recently the Toronto International Boat Show. One thing has become clear – good quality boats that are priced right, fly off the shelves in a hurry when the they come onto the market. The US brokers have an almost endless supply of used inventory to work through ... but it is now a situation where the good value is moving. Very different than a few years ago. The Canadian brokers oddly enough are moving good value boats quickly in Canada and to the USA. Go figure, that even with our dollar at par there is still lots of boats crossing the border both ways.
So why is this happening with Europe in turmoil and the risk of recession creeping back into the USA. Well I think two reasons. The the economic side indications are that despite bad fiscal policy in Europe, that the US economy is experiencing resilience and the markets are showing the way out. And there are other positive economic indicators as well – not to mention regulation and fiscal policy seem to be coming to order and settling down to business in the USA.
But I think the main reason that boats are moving in North America is this – folks are tired of waiting for the next shoe to drop and they want to get back to enjoying life. Austerity isn’t on the menu in North America and for many they have waited long enough on the sidelines for the right window in time to fulfill their hunger for the yacht of their dreams. It’s human nature and it’s the American way. Boomers with disposable capital are aging and time flies by quickly. The last four years have been tough and now it’s time for the reward before it’s too late. Just like Mark Twain said “There is plenty of time to be dead”. It seems now is the time to live a little.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
US LANDOWNERS IN CANADA NOW ABLE TO DONATE CONSERVATION PROPERTY
If you are a boater on Georgian Bay, then you know what a great privilege it is to drop anchor in a secluded cove surrounded by an unspoiled wilderness landscape of windswept pines and sculpted granite landscape. When you see these beautiful undeveloped vacant islands and mainland coves you have to recognize that it’s vacant for a reason and being permanently or temporarily protected in some manner:
1/ Private deeded land that has been left undeveloped - there is increasingly less of this every year and in all likelihood it will be developed at some point
2/ First Nations reserve land – which may or may not be developed at some point in time
3/ Federal or Provincial Park lands – which will probably never be developed but may host additional visitor infrastructure over time
4/ Crown Land – will hopefully get converted to Park land over time ... but with no guarantees
5/ Land Trust property that has been donated by deeded land owners to be preserved as conservation land into perpetuity
The Georgian Bay Land Trust www.gblt.org currently manages 28 properties comprising of some 1200 acres. It acquires property mainly by donation but in some instances it will raise money to buy select properties. They are currently working on 76 properties for preservation. For many landowners and the families involved with the property have a multi generational attachment to the land. As families grow and disperse over time it is common that the land owners at some point want to ensure preservation of the property because of their love and attachment to the land and the memories that go with it. That Georgian Bay island or main land acreage may often be the one place on earth over all others that they are grounded to as a family and the place they feel closest to in terms of emotional attachment. They want to see the property live on for many generations just the way they remember it and they want to benefit the flora, fauna and wildlife that were part of their experience with the property.Of course the land donations can also trigger favorable tax treatment and have some financial advantages for the landowner in most cases.
Historically many of the landowners in the Georgian Bay archipelago are US owners. It’s just one of those things, that US citizens have been coming to Georgian bay for vacations since the early 1900’s and many fall in love with the area and made the move to invest in property. Many of them would come to rustic lodges for the summer season by steamer - after you do that for several seasons you want to own a piece of the Georgian Bay beauty and lifestyle. And chances are friends come to visit and they want the same. Orville Wright was one of those people, however eventually the property left the family. There are many families that couldn’t bear the thought of their Georgian Bay property falling into other hands that may over develop the property or have it end up in some future use where the natural surroundings would be disrupted. We think of Georgian Bay as being rugged granite, but everything that takes hold on that granite in unbelievably harsh conditions has to struggle for decades to persevere and survive. It is a very fragile environment in many ways and worth protecting, because there is no where else in the world with the stark beauty and rich history of the Georgian Bay 30,000 Islands.
Recently Canada & the USA facilitated the ability for US landowners to donate their land for conservation. It took eleven years to hammer through the red tape. In the past the tax impediments facing US citizens owning Canadian land prevented them from donated it. Canadian conservation agencies like the Georgian Bay Land Trust found foreign ownership to be an obstacle to preserving the land, other than buying the property outright. This is because if a US citizen donated the land to a US charity they paid the accrued Canadian capital gains tax and if they donated it to a Canadian conservation agency they received no US tax deduction.
A US non profit organization was formed called the American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts (AF) www.nsnt.ca/af hosted by leading conservation professionals from both USA and Canada with the mandate to remove tax obstacles for donated land. Americans can now donate Canadian land by conservation easement over that land and donations are US income tax deductible and are also exempt from Canadian capital gains taxes. The American Friends organizations also gets donations from Canadian and US interests that allows them to operate, craft donation agreements through Canadian partners (like Georgian Bay Land Trust) and promote American donation of conservation properties.The land donations are made through the AF to appease the IRS regulations on tax deductions from foreign property. The transaction fee draws about $3500 in legal/admin costs to the US donor or Canadian partner (whoever assumes the cost). It happens in steps 1/ qualification 2/ proposed land conservation agreement and then three project phases 1/ Inquiry & Feasibly Assessment 2/ Due Diligence 3/ Closing . All are involved legal processes that are guided by AF and the Canadian conservation partner. The lands must also be free from risk of mineral development and the partner taking the donation must be determined by the IRS to be a publically supported charity under the Canada – US income tax treaty recognizing that qualified Canadian Charities are equivalent to US organizations in some instances.
So here’s why you might donate land or cash to the Foundation or Trust:
- you are preserving land and wildlife in it’s natural state in a fragile environment
- cash donations are tax deductible as a donation
- land donations are also tax deductible and attract no capital gains for qualified situations US or Canadian
- cash donations allow the trust and foundations to function securing more conservation lands
- you cannot depend on government to pick up and secure available unique private lands in the public interest if they become available (although it does happen on occasion when Park lands ajoin)
- if you are a boater consider that you are preserving wild places you can anchor at and enjoy unspoiled views
- most would get some satisfaction in knowing that that their children or their grand children and great grand children will still have unspoiled places to see when they cruise the Bay
If your donating to other worthy causes ... and Georgian Bay is one of your favorite places, consider donating to the Georgian Bay Land Trust. Every bit helps. Boating Georgian Bay will be adding GB Land Trust to the organizations it donates to this year.
Friday, January 06, 2012
FAIR IS FAIR
Did you know that in many cities and broader jurisdictions North America it is still illegal for women to go topless. From a practical point of view, it’s not like thousands of women want to run around topless BUT it seems odd that in many places in the supposed modern free western democracy, a woman can be arrested and taken to jail for going topless.
Now I can understand how this can unfairly happen in some middle eastern country like Iran, but I am dumbfounded as to how this can be enforced in a democracy. I mean really, if men can go topless legally, so should women be able to go topless ... if they want to. In Ontario this law has been tested when Gwen Jacobs was charged with indecent exposure for going topless in Guelph. It took until 1996 to get the case acquittal!!! Others have tested the law in Ontario since - which means there are woman still being charged with indecent exposure for going topless. In theory, my wife could be sunbathing in some anchorage and the OPP can cruise in by boat and take her away to a police station to be charged (although unlikely the charges would be upheld in court).
In any event it’s time that woman have equal rights including the topless issue and our laws need indecent exposure redefined to exclude topless legal infractions of the female gender. You shouldn’t have to go before a judge to have the law interrupted – it should be clear in the definition of indecent exposure that bare female breasts do not constitute a crime.
There is an organization called www.gotopless.org It looks a little wacky but they are standing up for their rights and rightfully so. They stage an annual Go Topless Day, which this year happens to fall on Woman's Equality Day on Sunday August 26th 2012 . In Toronto the celebration/protest is at Ashbridges Bay Park. On Georgian Bay on the same day August 26th, may I humbly suggest that all boaters go topless (weather permitting) when you’re cruising the Bay.
SMART PHONE NAVIGATION
Both Navionics and MX Mariner offer state of the art smart phone chart software and there are many other marine apps like anchor watch, ships log etc. for boaters. The newer smart phones, including the Android based phones come with built in GPS and both Navionics and MX Mariner continue to store the charts even when your boat is out of cell range. So unlike the older GPS software you still have the charts to work with ... even when the phone has no coverage. On Georgian Bay, Rogers has excellent coverage, even in remote anchorages all the way up the east side of the Bay to at least Britt ... and in most small towns, up into the North Channel. Works great with a rocket stick too to support your laptop.
Some of the newer phones like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which uses the new Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 operating software, are not fully certified by Rogers and in reality (unless you live in downtown Toronto proper and are picking up the Bell LTE 4G service) you are not really getting LTE 4G from Bell or Rogers at this time ...even though your phone is 4G and you believe the marketing that says they are operating a 4G network. It is really sub 4G HSPA+ network at best, or more likely the slower EDGE network on many areas of Georgian Bay. But guess what? ... they still work and your smart phone is a marvelous tool to take with you when you tour around in your dingy, rather than have to buy a full navigation GPS for the dingy.