#Ontario’s 2017-2018 budget, #affordable housing, #public transit, #child care, #TorontoCommunityHousing, #JohnTory, #CharlesSousa, #PatrickBrown, #AndreaHorwath
Toronto Mayor John Tory was thankful to Ontario’s 2017-2018 budget which allowedToronto to tax both hotel and vacant properties, but his main concern was that Toronto had failed to receive funds for fixing crumbling housing, media reports said.
Tory’s call on province to pay attention in its budget on affordable housing, public transit and child care, had only been partially met, said Tory, CBCNews reports said.
Tory said he had told the province ahead of the budget that city was in urgent need for over $800 million to help fix Toronto Community Housing (TCH) buildings but this was missing in the budget.
To this Finance Minister Charles Sousa had told reporters that the 2017-18 budget had done a lot for Toronto adding around $2 billion over a three-year span on issues like affordable housing, social housing and anti-homelessness measures.
He also added the budget included an offer up to $100 million worth of land to build approximately 2,000 affordable housing units in Toronto and that Toronto could avail of Social Infrastructure Fund it will also get a cut of the three-year $640-million plan.
Tory said these funds would not be sufficient for TCH’s multi-billion dollar repair backlog with about 100 more units expected to be added.
At city hall, several councillors opposed the budget’s plan in lack of social housing money.
"Right now, we don't have a partner for the social housing issue in the provincial government," said Coun. Ana Bailao, who is also the chair of the affordable housing committee, CBCNews reports said.
Sousa said that according to the present budget the City of Toronto Act would soon be amended to allow transient accommodations including hotels and home-sharing services like Airbnb to be taxed, but added Sousa, the Act would also include a regulation requiring Toronto to spend a part of the revenues to promote tourism in the area.
PC Leader Patrick Brown objected and said, "it wouldn't be a Liberal budget if we didn't have some sort of tax," CBCNews reports said.
Brown opposed the city's road toll proposal and asked province to spend its infrastructure money more prudently to allow Toronto to get better funds.
City staff had suggested four percent tax on hotels, and a 10 percent tax on short-term rentals. This proposal also covered small municipalities.
Sousa argued that the option to tax vacant properties to encourage the home owners to sell their vacant properties and make them available for renting.
It also accounted for a large percentage of the $2.7 billion in land transfer tax revenue, said Sousa and added the budget had given the city of Toronto the option to use its own discretion to determine and administer the vacant property tax.
"We build prudence into our plan," Sousa said, CBCNews reports said.
The city council had also objected to the ambiguous statement in the budget that out of nearly 100,000 new child care spaces, nearly a quarter of these spaces would open this year, but the statement did not clarify how many of those spaces will open in Toronto.
To this the Ontario government said that it was committed to work with municipalities to expand its plans and said an ambitious 10-year child care plan had just been approved.
Tory had also objected to funding transit projects and said although $56 billion worth of transit projects was included in the new budget, there was no additional funds.
Sousa assured Tory that talks with the federal government was ongoing on how to fund the next phase of projects.
"We're just going through the process," Sousa said when asked about the lack of a signature transit investment in this year's financial plan, CBCNews reports said.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said there are "no real transit improvements" in this budget, and said her party would fund 50 per cent of operating costs should she be elected.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
Images of John Tory and Charles Sousa:
#OntarioBudget2017-2018, #BalancedBudget, #GrossDomesticProduct, #GDP, #GreaterGoldenHorshoe, #GGH, #OntarioDrugBenefit, #ODB, #OntarioHealthInsurancePlan, #OHIP, #Ontario’sFairHousingPlan, #LandTransferTax
Charles Sousa, Ontario's finance Minister presented, yesterday, its first balanced budget, since 2008/2009, projected to remain balanced until 2020, media reports said.
Ontario’s net debt is as $312B and debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio expected to continue trending downward, CBCNews reports said.
The new features in Ontario’s budget are: free prescription drugs for Ontarians under 24, regardless of income; new taxing powers for municipalities; 24,000 day care spaces this fiscal year; continuous rise in price of cigarettes; new GO train routes to Grimsby, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls.
GO, a division of Metrolinx, is the regional public transit service for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, with routes extending to communities across the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
In the field of Health Care, Ontario has introduced Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) + Children and Youth Pharmacare which will affect 4 million Ontarians.
This covers free prescription drugs for Ontarians under 24, regardless of income starting from January 1, 2018.
The prescription drugs cover 4400 medicines included in the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) program Including inhalers, antibiotics, birth control, medication for acute and chronic conditions and will cost province $465M per year
New healthcare spending in 2017-2018 Ontario budget is $7B which includes public funding for new abortion pill; reducing wait times; $32M stem cell transplants for cancer patients; helping up to 150 Ontarians suffering from blood cancer; expanding mental health; addiction services and funds for hospital construction.
The present budget empowers taxing powers for cities enabling Toronto to implement hotel tax and to tax to owners of vacant property.
In the field of Childcare, the present budget allotted 24,000 new daycare spaces this fiscal year, part of 100,000 new spaces that will be created over next five years. The budget also highlighted that 60 percent of the new spaces will be subsidized with 3,100 subsidized spaces in Toronto.
Another new feature of the budget is the price rise of cigarettes. Cartons will cost $10 more in next three years and as of midnight, cartons will cost $2 more, an additional $4 in 2018, $4 in 2019.
This budget empowers Toronto to tax on vacant homes and introduced Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan with 15 percent tax on foreign investors. It also doubled Land transfer tax refund to $4K for first-time homebuyers and requires rent control for all privately-owned buildings after 1991. Total costs over 5 years to encourage development of rental buildings would be $125M.
About $130M would be spent on for renovating affordable housing in Toronto. There are proposals: in the use of Provincial land, with a minimum 20 percent, for social housing; for 2,000 new housing units in Toronto would be constructed using Grosvenor/Grenville and West Donlands sites.
New Go trains routes will be introduced: Weekday GO train to Grimsby by 2021; Weekday GO train to Grimsby, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls by 2023.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
Image of Charles Sousa: Wikipedia
#DonaldTrump, #NAFTA, #JohnManley #JackMintz, #WhiteHouse, #NorthAmericanFreeTradeAgreement
United States of America (U.S.) President Donald Trump’s plan for cutting tax for U.S. businesses could pose a serious threat to Canadian competitiveness, media reports said.
A proposal included in the tax-reform package was announced yesterday by White House to slash the top U.S. corporate rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, BusinessFinancialPost News reports said.
In the event of implementation of this proposal, the sudden reduction in U.S. effective corporate rate would result in the reduction of its seven percent points below Canada’s effective rate, said tax expert Jack Mintz.
Canada could lose its current tax advantage of four percentage points over U.S., once federal and provincial rates were taken into account, said Mintz and warned that businesses from Canada would start investing in the U.S. market, which would drain up to $6 billion per year in revenues.
Trump’s imposition of duty on softwood lumber earlier this week, had already negatively affected the imports from Canada.
And on Wednesday, U.S. media outlets learnt from White House sources that it planned to pull out of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
But late Wednesday, according to White House sources, Trump had come to a mutual agreement with leaders of Canada and Mexico that he will not pull out of NAFTA and the leaders would proceed to renegotiate NAFTA to the benefit of all three countries.
Taken together, the uncertainty surrounding U.S. had already had a negative impact on Canada’s economy.
John Manley, a former Liberal finance minister said that although it was unlikely that Trumps’ tax proposals could become a law as this could mean trillions of dollars of lost revenue to the U.S. government.
But Manley said that under these uncertainties created by U.S. plans, Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau’s government should have a contingency plan of its own for back up.
In the mean time Mathew Wilson, senior vice president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, had been urging Ottawa to ensure Canada’s effective corporate rate remains competitive with the U.S.
Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters represents more than 10,000 companies, and Wilson said, if companies stop investing in Canada, its economy would just collapse.
Wilson stressed that it is of utmost importance for Canada to be keep right its current economic conditions to be competitive in investments.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
Image of Jack Mintz: twitter
#FairHousingPlan, #KathleenWynne, #Ontario, #Canada, #LandTransferTax, #Greater Golden Horseshoe, #GGH, #GreaterTorontoArea, #Hamilton, #Peterborough, #Barrie, #Waterloo, #Niagara Peninsula, #CharlesSousa, #JohnTory
Kathleen Wynne, Ontario Premier had introduced Fair Housing Plan (FHP) to increase affordability for homebuyers and help renters market, a recent news release said.
The latest Reserve Bank of Canada (RBC)'s Economics details revealed housing affordability in Toronto area during the fourth quarter of 2016 to be its second-worst level on record since the mid-1980s.
“RBC’s affordability data strongly indicate that the Toronto area market is in a high-risk zone,” the report said.
With the aim of helping Ontarians buy their first home, effective January 1, 2017, the province had doubled the maximum Land Transfer Tax refund to $4,000 for qualifying first-time homebuyers, the news release said.
The news release continued that a set of 16 comprehensive measures had been listed by FHP to stabilize real estate market enabling more people find an affordable place and protect interests of both renters and investment of homeowners.
" People work hard to provide for their families. They should be able to rent or enter the real estate market without making great sacrifices or taking on a huge amount of risk. At the same time, we recognize the need to protect the significant investment homeowners have made. This plan balances those needs to stabilize the market and prevent a sharp correction that would be harmful to everyone," said Wynne.
The list of measures included: an introduction of a 15 percent Non-Resident Speculation Tax (NRST) for non-Canadian citizens, non-permanent residents and non-Canadian corporations buying residential properties containing one to six units in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) to ensure all new residents in Ontario are welcomed. GGH includes the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, and the surrounding regions from Peterborough through Barrie, Waterloo and the Niagara Peninsula to the U.S. border. This measure would contribute to Ontario’s economical growth.
Minister of Finance, Charles Sousa's promise Last November, to make mandatory for all home buyers in Ontario to reveal their citizenship and place of residence, would be effective from 24th of this month, CBCNews reports said.
" A strong housing market reflects Ontario’s strong economy. However, everyone deserves housing choices that are affordable. Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan is a thoughtful way to address the recent price increases in our housing and rental market so that affordable housing is available to people and meets the diverse needs of our communities," said Sousa, .
The province is also considering to standardize leasing process so that landlords cannot include illegal clauses in their contracts with tenants.
FHP also promotes: rent controls to all private rental units, including those built after 1991 to protect tenants from sudden rent increases; introduction of a tax on vacant homes in Toronto and other municipalities to motivate owners to sell or rent unoccupied units; identification of surplus lands in the province that could be used for affordable and rental housing development.
Other 12 measures included in Ontario's FHP are: introduction of a targeted $125-million, five-year program for construction of new rental apartment buildings with some rebates on development charges; tackle the problems of tax evasion; stop the practice of "paper flipping" of properties which means a contract to buy a residential unit and assign it to another person before closing; assigning a new Housing Supply Team consisting of dedicated employees from Ontario who would work with municipalities and developers to identify barriers for housing development projects and find solutions.
These measures, besides addressing Ontario's rising housing costs to provide affordable housing would also help create jobs for people and help in provincial economic growth.
Toronto Mayor John Tory issued the following statement on Ontario's housing plan
“I welcome many of the actions announced by Premier Kathleen Wynne's government today. I am pleased that the government will activate surplus provincial land like the West Don Lands to create new affordable housing, something I have been urging the Premier to do for some time. I'm also gratified that the provincial government will allow the City to move forward with a vacant homes tax, subject to the results of our examination, and other measures to curtail speculation and add new supply into the marketplace right away.”
Ontario government said that it will review the regulations governing the industry, including the body representing agents (the Ontario Real Estate Association) and the provincial regulator (The Real Estate Council of Ontario), before imposing any new rules on real estate agents, CBCNews reports said.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
Image of Kathleen Wynne: Wikipedia
Why Ontario drivers pay highest premiums in Canada, when Ontario roads are safest in country? New report asks
#Ontario, #OntarioDrivers, #OntarioRoads# #Canada, #HighestPremiums, #DavidMarshall, #Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, #Auto Insurance System in Ontario, #SteveKee, #MikeSmitiuch
According to a recent report by David Marshall, CEO of Workplace Safety and Insurance Board released on April 11, Ontario drivers paid the highest premiums in the country even though Ontario's roads were considered to be safest in North America, media reports said.
The report, called Fair Benefits Fairly Delivered: A Review of the Auto Insurance System in Ontario, found that while premiums here are well above the national average of $930, the province's roads are the safest in the country, CBCNews reports said.
Ontario premiums are 24 percent higher than Alberta's ($1,179) and twice as that of Quebec's ($724). According to the report, Ontario drivers paid an average insurance premium of $1,458 per vehicle, which, adds up to $10 billion a year.
Marshall stated in his report that the Auto Insurance System in Ontario was one of the least effective insurance systems in Canada and said despite reductions in automobile accidents including serious ones, the cost of claims had been soaring.
Steve Kee, a spokesperson with the Insurance Bureau of Canada applauded Marshall's report and said its hybrid structure and its government-mandated service attribute is the right example in improving the insurance system in the province.
The report recommended that Ontario should deviate from switching to a government-run auto insurance system which add up to medical and legal expenditure.
Kee said that although the services are delivered by private insurers, it has proved successful and could continue to serve Ontario drivers.
Marshall wrote that the leakage of funds of claims from the system totaling about $1.4 billion a year revealed that victims of accidents do not receive their deserved benefits, showing a discrepancy between the real value and the derived values by the government auto-car insurers.
"Insurers shared with me that it is taking them over a year to close even the simplest claims [and] accident victims are having a difficult time getting what they perceive to be fair benefits," wrote Marshall.
He also pointed out that one out of three accident-benefits claims went into a dispute resolution system.
Marshall recommended that insurers should give top priority to seriously injured persons.
Hiring lawyers or other professionals to get their entitlement adds to the lawyers’ fees.
But Mike Smitiuch, personal injury lawyer, said the province's lawyers should not be blamed for problems with their insurance systems.
"Lawyers play an essential part in holding insurers accountable and obtaining justice for individuals…lawyers are essential because insurers are denying and forcing [customers] to prove why they need the benefits," said Smitiuch, CBCNews reports said.
The report recommended the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to develop a service to assess the costs for lifetime management of care for seriously injured accident victims because independent evaluators in hospitals to mediate disputes had been an utter failure, said Smitiuch.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
Automobile accident: Wikipedia
#ConstructionWork, #CityOfToronto, , #TorontoTransitCommission, #TTC, #WheelTrans, #Canada, #Dundas, #Young&Church
Municipal governing body of Toronto known as City of Toronto planned to complete various construction projects in the city from Monday, April 24 to end of October 2017, which could impact the Ryerson community, media reports said.
City of Toronto would keep updating the public about this, whenever more details became available, Ryerson’s University’s Life Institute reports said.
The plans of this project are to renew old infrastructure in the Yonge/Dundas area including: replacement of Watermain and water services in Dundas Street from Church Street to Yonge Street April 24 - July 16; eliminating and replacing of streetcar track of Victoria Lane / Dundas Street / Victoria Street triangle July 16 - late September; site restoration of Dundas Street from Church Street to Yonge Street and restoration of Watermain trench Late September - late October; and reconstruction of Laneway at O'Keefe Lane from Gerrard Street to Gould Street Two weeks (dates to be confirmed).
The nature of the work is expected to significantly impact the traffic flow on Dundas between Yonge and Church, said the reports.
During the progress of construction work on Dundas, the traffic will be reduced in each direction to one lane and further reduced to only westbound traffic while track work is underway.
There would be additional discomfort to peole due to construction noise and dust.
Active work zones would be fenced and sidewalk access will be maintained.
All access restrictions as indicated by City of Toronto signage should be followed by Pedestrians.
Public transit users needed to access campus are infrormed that 505 Dundas streetcars will be diverted both ways around the construction area, details about which would be posted on transit stops and on the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) website once available.
People are advised to check the TTC website for route diversions and construction notices as the project date nears.
Traffic flow into and out of the Ryerson parking garage on Victoria will be impacted, making it difficult for car users to access and exit the parking garage. All incoming traffic to Victoria north of Dundas, during track work progress, must come from the east, while exiting traffic must travel west on Dundas.
WheelTrans users will find the drop-off/pick-up location on Victoria Street harder to access due to traffic restrictions.
They would be requesting alternate drop-off or pick-up locations and should visit the TTC WheelTrans website for contact information.
More information about these projects is available on City of Toronto website.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
Image of construction work: Wikipedia
#Saskatchewan, #Saskatoon, #Regina, #Canada, #DonMorgan, #PublicLibrarySystems, #RegionalLbraries, #RebeccaHoiseth, #KaitlinHarman, #TriaDonaldson, #TashaMaddison
A $1.3-million cut to the Saskatoon and Regina public library systems announced in the 2017 provincial budget was strongly opposed by book lovers, media reports said.
A silent protest was held by readers from across the province outside the offices of MLAs to protest against cuts to libraries, CBCNews reporters said.
Libraries across Saskatchewan were concerned they will not be able to run the "One Province, One Library Card" program that allowed regional libraries to loan books back and forth.
Libraries had been asked by the Education Minister Don Morgan to use other approaches for generating revenues.
The following tweets represented the protest against the library cut in the budget.
Rebecca Hoiseth, from University of Saskatchewan tweeted, “Libraries are a space for liberation! #saveSKlibraries @PremierBradWall @SaskMLA #yxe #skpoli”
Another tweet from Rebecca Hoiseth,
“Morgan is nuts stop the cuts #saveSKlibraries @SaskMLA#skool #yxe
Protests stretched from Meadow Lake in the northwest …”
Kaitlin Harman, Communication Officer for NWSD tweeted,
“Getting our signs ready for the Read In! #DEARSK#saveSKlibraries ready to stake out @JHarrisonMLA's office.”
Another tweet by Kaitlin Harman
“Over 80 people have dropped in to read in Meadow Lake #dearsk #saveSKlibraries @JHarrisonMLA
… to Melfort in the northeast.”
Tria Donaldson, passionate about social justice tweeted,
“Huge crowd at @tbeaudrymellor's office at #dearsk event. #librariesmatter #saveSKlibraries #skpoli
And Premier Brad Wall's hometown of Swift Current got into the action as well.”
Tasha Maddison, Librarian at Saskatchewan Polytechnic tweeted,
“@SaskMLA @PremierBradWall #SKlibraries #DEARsask#GirlGuides participated in drop everything to read because libraries are important.”
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
Image of a library: Wikipedia
#Saskatchewan, #Canada, #HearingAidPlan, #ClaudiaBaptiste, #SaskatchewanA.G.Bell
Toronto, Apr 9 (Canadian-Media): An announcement, by Saskatchewan provincial government last month on budget day, of eliminating the hearing aid plan from the budget to save $3 million had been protested by parents of deaf or hard of hearing children, media reports said.
A Saskatoon high school student Mary-Jayne Morris, CBCNews reported, had started an online petition against the cuts which has resulted in more than 1,500 signatures.
The protesters noted that Saskatchewan had fewer public audiologists per capita than any other province and is one of the only provinces without comprehensive hearing tests for newborns.
President of the volunteer advocacy group Saskatchewan A.G. Bell, Claudia Baptiste said her 12-year-old son, Zachary, and hundreds of families, with deaf children or children with hard of hearing, across the province would be affected if the hearing aid plan is eliminated from the budget.
A new release issued Thursday by the Saskatchewan Government signed by 11 private sector audiologists from cities around the province said A.G. Bell was spreading misinformation.
The release continued to say that Public sector and private audiologists and groups like A.G. Bell to work with the government to make sure the services patient-focused, and service providers-focused, CBCNews reports said.
This statement by government and the private, for-profit companies was opposed by Baptiste and others, who issued their own statement.
"Saskatchewan children's communication skills will be at risk, which in turn will affect their literacy levels, academic success and social & emotional well-being," said the A G Bell statement, CBCNews reports said.
A recent national study on treatment of the deaf and hard of hearing in Saskatchewan received one of the worst grades, CBCNews reports said.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
#StatisticsCanada, #unemployment, #DouglasPorter, #AveryShenfeld, #Alberta, #NovaScotia, #Manitoba, #Saskatchewan, #Canada
Addition of 19,400 jobs in March led jobless rate to increase from 6.6 percent to 6.7 percent last month, Statistics Canada reported Friday.
Canada's unemployment rate had fallen in February to its lowest level since October 2008, CBCNews reports said.
Demographically employment increased in March for men aged 25 to 54 and remained unchanged in women aged 25 to 54 and employment among men and women aged 55 and older showed a downward trend in March, Statics Canada report said.
Statistics Canada reported of an increase in employment in Alberta, Nova Scotia and Manitoba, but a decline in Saskatchewan, while remaining provinces showed stability in employment.
According to Statics Canada more people were employed in manufacturing; business, building and other support services; wholesale and retail trade; and information, culture and recreation. On the other hand, educational services; transportation and warehousing; and public administration recorded a decline.
Manufacturing employment which fell in 2016 saw a big increase by 24,400 positions in March, the largest one-month increase in manufacturing since August 2002.
In spite of this spike, Canadian employment in manufacturing had declined by about 27 percent since a peak in the early 2000s.
Although Alberta added about 20,000 full-time positions in March, the province's unemployment rate declined from nine percent in November 2016 – due to slump in commodity prices -- to 8.4 percent.
"While the details of the release were mixed, we would still rate this report as solid and very much in keeping with the broader trend of an economy on the rebound," wrote BMO chief economist Douglas Porter in a commentary, CBCNews reports said.
The mixed details to which Porter referred included weakness in wage growth, which only increased 1.1 percent on an annual basis.
Statistics Canada attributed the overall gains in employment to an increase in self-employment, which increased by a net 18,400 positions on a monthly basis.
Statistics Canada's definition of self-employment included unpaid workers for family businesses.
"Typically we actually prefer to see employers hire, rather than people declaring themselves to be self-employed," CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld told CBC News.
"But if you actually looked at the hiring numbers, it was the public sector that was shedding some jobs. The private sector was still showing a lot of optimism. So we're encouraged by that, " CBCNews reports said.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
#Employment, #Alberta, #Calgary, #Edmonton, #Canada, #StatisticsCanada
Creation of about 20,000 full-time jobs had resulted in the decrease of unemployment rate in Alberta from 9 percent last November to 8.4 percent in March, Statistics Canada reported.
"Employment in the province has been on an upward trend since the autumn of 2016, following a strong downward trend which began in 2015," Statistics Canada said in a release.
The addition of 20,000 workers last month was a significant increase for Alberta considering about 43,000 jobs were slashed from December 2014 to April 2016, according to Statistics Canada figures.
Calgary's unemployment rate dropped from 10.2 percent in November to 9.3 percent in March, the highest decrease of all major Canadian cities.
On the other hand, unemployment rate for Edmonton had risen from 6.9 percent in November 2016 to 8.4 percent in March, Statistics Canada figures revealed.
Canada's unemployment rate, on the whole, was slightly better in March from 6.6 percent to 6.7 percent, due to more people looking for work.
Statistics Canada further reported that employment across Canada grew by 19,400 jobs in March, an increase of 0.1 percent, according to Statistics Canada.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)