Prepare Now: Special weather statement issued for parts of British Columbia

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is encouraging British Columbians living in the south coastal area to prepare for strong winds and heavy rains due to arrive Wednesday night. Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for much of the region and rainfalls upwards of 200mm are forecasted.

“Storms such as this can have a huge impact on families and communities,” said Bill Adams, Vice-President, Western and Pacific, IBC. “That’s why we want to help make sure that British Columbians are prepared for when bad weather strikes. If you have any questions, contact your insurance representative or call IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1‑844‑2ask-IBC. We’re here to help.”

Help protect your home from storm damage:

  • Store valuable items in upper floors of your home, away from the basement.
  • On lower levels raise large appliances, furnaces, hot water heaters and electrical panels up on wood or cement blocks
  • If flooding is imminent, shut off electricity to areas of the home that may be affected. Use sand bags or install flood shields or built-up barriers for basement windows and doors.
  • Create an emergency preparedness plan with your family.
  • Assemble an emergency supply kit.
  • Prepare a detailed home inventory.
  • Pay attention to local authorities and monitor weather developments regularly.

When severe weather occurs, it is important for consumers to understand their insurance policies and to know what is covered. If damage occurs, IBC is here to help policyholders if they have any insurance –related questions.

Starting the claims process:

  • When safe to do so, assess and document damage.
  • Call your insurance representative and/or company to report damage or losses.
  • Be as detailed as possible when providing information.
  • If you need help getting in touch with your insurer, contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ASK-IBC (1-844-227-5422).

About Insurance Bureau of Canada
Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties.

P&C insurance touches the lives of nearly every Canadian and plays a critical role in keeping businesses safe and the Canadian economy strong. It employs more than 120,000 Canadians, pays $8.2 billion in taxes and has a total premium base of $49 billion.

For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at www.ibc.ca. If you have a question about home, auto or business insurance, contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1‑844‑2ask-IBC.

If you require more information, IBC spokespeople are available to discuss the details in this media release.

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

“We didn’t think it would come this high. It’s never come this high before. We’ve lived here for 25 years,” she said.

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Tax tips for snowbirds

TERRY MCBRIDE, SASKATOON STARPHOENIX 

Are you among the million Canadians preparing for your annual migration to the southern United States this winter?

Despite the high exchange rate, you should be able to buy as much as you did during past winter vacations if you have maintained a U.S. dollar investment account. Maybe you were fortunate enough to have bought U.S. securities in your RRIF during 2010 to 2013, for example, when the Canadian dollar was strong.

Besides holding U.S. dollar investments, snowbirds should further protect their savings by buying travel medical insurance before crossing the border into the U.S.

Buy medical insurance

Note that Canadian provincial government health insurance covers only a small fraction of the high cost of medical treatment in the U.S. If you don’t buy private medical insurance you’d have to self-insure. That could mean paying tens of thousands of U.S. dollars out of your own savings.

The biggest challenge in buying travel medical insurance is dealing with pre-existing medical conditions. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, more than 70 per cent of Canadians aged 65 or over have some kind of chronic health condition.

To be properly covered you have to meet the stability requirement of not needing treatment within a specified period of time. If you don’t meet the stability requirement, your policy could be void or you can be excluded for anything related to your pre-existing condition. Many insurance companies consider a snowbird as being treated if they simply see a doctor or change dosage. Your insurance adviser needs to ask lots of questions about your past and present medical conditions.

Robin Ingle, CEO of Ingle International, says if a client has recently been diagnosed with a condition, he or she usually needs to remain stable for the first 12 months, so it is very hard to be covered.

Remember to save receipts for your travel health insurance premiums. Claim them as medical expenses on your 2016 income tax return next spring.

Count the days

Carefully count the days you are in the U.S. each year. It is easy to become a resident alien subject to U.S. tax on your worldwide income.

If, for example, you regularly visit Arizona from Nov. 16 to April 15 each year, then you average 150 days per year in the U.S. That means you exceed the 122-day threshold used in the Substantial Presence Test for U.S. income tax purposes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) formula is based on the number of days you stay in the U.S. over three years.

Protect yourself from penalties by annually submitting IRS Form 8840, a Closer Connection Exemption Statement for Aliens, to prove you are a Canadian resident.

Carry a “border binder” to show border guards that you have a stronger presence in Canada than in the U.S. Include photocopies of your Canadian bank account statement, Canadian income tax assessment notice, title to your Canadian residence plus a copy of your most recent 8840 form.

Selling U.S. property

Are you considering profiting from the strong U.S. dollar by selling your U.S. vacation home? The IRS requires the purchaser to withhold up to 15 per cent of the full sales proceeds for U.S. tax. To recoup this tax, you’d need to file a U.S. tax return to report your sale.

Report the cost and sale amounts in U.S. dollars on your U.S. tax return. Use Canadian dollars to report the cost and sale amounts on your Canadian tax return. If you bought when the loonie was strong and sell when the loonie is weak, you might have capital gains tax to pay on your Canadian return.

Terry McBride, a member of Advocis, works with Raymond James Ltd. The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Raymond James Ltd. Information is from sources believed reliable but cannot be guaranteed. This is provided for information only. We recommend that clients seek independent advice from a professional advisor on tax-related matters. Securities offered through Raymond James Ltd., member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund. Insurance services offered through Raymond James Financial Planning Ltd., not a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund.

1,000s of tremors — earthquake precursors in slow slip event — are expected on Vancouver Island

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Saskatchewan ponders ways to tackle drunk driving, meets with MADD Canada

REGINA _ The head of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada says he believes the Saskatchewan government is committed to cracking down on impaired drivers.

Andrew Murie says he had a positive meeting with Justice Minister Gord Wyant and Joe Hargrave, the minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance.

He says they discussed ways to toughen impaired driving laws in the province, including an immediate roadside prohibition.

Murie says the idea is working well in British Columbia, where there has been a decrease in impaired driving.

Hargrave says other options discussed include a zero tolerance for drivers under 21 and a new program to report impaired drivers.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall called on his ministers last month to come up with suggestions for tackling the province’s high drinking and driving rates, after his former deputy premier admitted to drunk driving in a government car.

Court heard Don McMorris had 2 1/2 times the legal amount of alcohol in his system when RCMP pulled him over in a construction zone east of Regina in August.

McMorris pleaded guilty to having a blood-alcohol level over .08 and was fined $1,820. He also lost his licence for one year.

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10 Tips For Businesses: National Cyber Security Awareness Month

Now is a good time for businesses to review their cybersecurity practices. It is tempting to think that “it can’t happen to me”, but in the wake of Yahoo’s recent admission that personal data was hacked, it is clear that this can happen to anyone.

Of course, technological safeguards are critical to security, however operations and policy play a crucial role as well. The steps outlined below focus on tips  that involve measures that go beyond technology.

  1. Plan on a Prudent Response. In a 2015 study commissioned by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, only 41% of surveyed companies stated that they had policies or procedures in place that dealt with data breaches where there was a compromise of customer personal information. If an Incident Response Plan is made ahead of time in order to deal with a cybersecurity breach, a company will be in a position to respond quickly in a manner that mitigates harm to the business and to third parties (such as customers). Companies who do not make such a Plan are often caught flat-footed and fumble through an incident, and increase the risk of complaints to regulators and class action or other lawsuits.
  2. Build an Effective and Safe Cybersecurity Workforce. Robust recruitment processes that properly vet candidates will help ensure that the hiring of problematic employees is avoided. Unfortunately, many attacks come from inside an organization. Background checks are an important tool in the screening process. Employees play a key role in helping to prevent cybersecurity incidents. Proper training is key, and will enable employees to spot suspicious activities and events, and report them to the appropriate personnel. Employees are the single most important group of people who can help to reduce unintentional errors and technological  vulnerabilities.
  3. Make Continuing Education a Practice. It was recently reported in the news that the World Anti-Doping Agency was hacked by a Russian cyber group known as “Fancy Bear”. The group accessed confidential medical data of athletes because a password was obtained through spear phishing (generally an e-mail that appears to be from someone the recipient knows and trusts – such as someone in a position of authority in the recipient’s company). News reports about incidents like this should be shared and discussed with employees as they provide an opportunity for companies to educate and share information with personnel about cyber risks.
  4. Create an Incident Response Team. If a cybersecurity breach occurs, a business must act quickly. The establishment of an Incident Response Team will make the business nimble and mitigate harm. Key stakeholders to be included on the Team may include executive leaders/decision makers, IT and security, marketing and business development  (media and other third-party notifications), legal (breach and notification obligations and protection from potential litigation), privacy and human resources.
  5. Have a Lead Person. The Incident Response Team needs a lead who is primarily responsible for dealing with an incident and whose duties include (i) conducting an initial immediate assessment of an incident, (ii) determining the extent to which the information, system or network is impaired, (iii) reaching out to the Incident Response Team (and other appropriate personnel) depending upon the initial assessment, and (iv) being the main point of contact.
  6. Create Relationships with Third Party Service Providers. It is best to retain third-party contacts for the purpose of a cyberbreach response before the incident occurs. Common sense dictates that it will be less expensive and more efficient if third-party engagements are considered by a company and finalized before (as opposed to after) a cyberbreach. Potential service providers include legal (assess and deal with breach notification obligations to third parties), public relations firms (deal with reputation management) and forensics.  In-house IT resources are useful to take the machines/system offline and preserve evidence – but third-party forensics may be required to investigate and remediate the incident to get the organization back in business.
  7. Consider Cyber Insurance. Traditional insurance coverage may help deal with risks and potential losses posed by cyber risks to a certain extent, but cyber insurance policies extend coverage. Cyber insurance may be purchased separately or may run parallel with existing insurance at an increased premium. Both first-party coverage and third-party coverage are available. First-party coverage insures the policyholder from a loss resulting from a cybersecurity incident and third-party coverage covers the policyholder regarding liabilities to outside entities as a result of an incident. Third-party coverage may help with crisis management including public relations expenses related to dealing with a response to the incident. First-party coverage may also extend to payments to cyber extortionists who threaten to disclose sensitive confidential information unless their demands are met.
  8. Be Careful About What You Say Today. Sometimes online privacy policies and other publications of a company make statements about security such as the company has “implemented reasonable and appropriate means to protect personal information against unauthorized access.” In a US case, a court held that the foregoing statement was deceptive in light of the company’s actual cybersecurity practices. A company risks liability if it makes statements to the public about cybersecurity that are not readily justified by the facts. Be wary about merely copying and pasting text into privacy policies and other publications.
  9. Be Prepared – Identify Disclosure Obligations. It is best to keep abreast of privacy breach notifications and obligations imposed by legislation in each jurisdiction where a company does business.  The rules are not uniform, and some preparation will help a company to respond to an incident efficiently. The legal landscape is changing. Canada’s Digital Privacy Act passed in June, 2015 will require an organization to notify the Privacy Commissioner and affected individuals of any “breach of security safeguards involving personal information under the organization’s control, if it is reasonable in the circumstances to believe that the breach creates a real risk of significant harm to an individual”. It is anticipated that these data breach disclosure obligations will come into force when final regulations are passed.
  10. Work on “Operational Security” (OPSEC). OPSEC is a term originating in the military. In the context of cybersecurity, it involves (i) identifying the information that is most critical to successful business operations (such as customer lists and other contact information), (ii) analysis of the likely cyber criminals who may attempt to obtain critical information, (iii) identification of the potential vulnerabilities regarding the protection of critical information (such as poorly secured mobile devices that have access to the critical information), (iv) investigation of measures to mitigate each vulnerability, and (v) implementation of measures based upon the cost of implementing each measure against the harmful effects of a cybersecurity breach.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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