Federal investment will help Manitoba farmers predict the effects of flood and drought on farmland

Federal investment will help Manitoba farmers predict the effects of flood and drought on farmland

News Release:

GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay announced today an investment of over $1.1 million for the Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association (MFGA) to develop a hydrology model of the Assiniboine River Basin that will help predict the effects of flooding, excess moisture and extreme drought on agricultural lands.

Based on the new model, a web-based tool will be developed that farmers can use to gather information on their farmland to help effectively manage moistures levels and mitigate risk associated with drought and flooding.

Information collected will contribute to better risk management strategies for farmers and the agricultural sector and could potentially lead to the development of new and improved insurance products.

Quick facts

  • Recent severe moisture events have impacted producers across the country. Since 2007, governments have been required to respond with AgriRecovery assistance multiple times to water-related disaster events including excess moisture, flooding and drought.
  • This project has been funded under the Growing Forward 2, AgriRisk Initiative, which supports the research and development, as well as the implementation and administration of new risk management tools for use in the agriculture sector.
  • The Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association is a non-profit organization comprised of producers, agri-business and extension leaders who are dedicated to the development and promotion of a sustainable hay, forage and livestock industry.

Quotes

“Extreme weather events have created many challenges for Prairie farmers in recent years. We’re committed to working together with the agriculture sector to equip farmers with the tools they need to proactively manage business risks such as these.”

Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

“Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association has engaged in this proposal as we believe grasslands and forage crops are a critical part of the solution for future flood and drought ravaged areas of the Assiniboine River Basin,” says Henry Nelson, MFGA vice chair and project manager of the hydrology model for the Assiniboine River Basin. “The hydrology model will showcase proactive solutions for many stakeholders across the Assiniboine River Basin for flood and drought mitigation.”

Henry Nelson, Vice-Chair of Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association

Additional links

Contacts

Guy Gallant
Director of Communications
The Office of the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay
613-773-1059

Media Relations
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
613-773-7972
1-866-345-7972
Follow us on Twitter: @AAFC_Canada
Like us on Facebook: CanadianAgriculture

Duncan Morrison
Aquanty Project ARB, Communications
204-770-3548

A quick look at changes to mortgage lending rules made by Ottawa in recent years

The federal government has moved several times in recent years to restrict mortgage lending. Here’s a quick look at some of the changes Ottawa has made:

Feb. 15, 2016: The minimum down payment for new government-backed insured mortgages increases from five per cent to 10 per cent for the portion of the house price over $500,000.

July 9, 2012: The maximum amortization period for new government-backed insured mortgages drops to 25 years from 30 years. Ottawa lowers the maximum amount Canadians can borrow when refinancing to 80 per cent from 85 per cent and stops offering insurance on mortgages for homes worth more than $1 million.

April 18, 2011: Ottawa withdraws government insurance backing on lines of credit secured by homes, such as home equity lines of credit.

March 18, 2011: The maximum amortization period for government-backed insured mortgages is cut to 30 years from 35 years and the maximum amount Canadians can borrow in refinancing their mortgages is reduced to 85 per cent from 90 per cent of the value of their homes.

April 19, 2010: Ottawa introduces a requirement that all borrowers meet the standards for a five-year fixed rate mortgage even if they choose a mortgage with a lower interest rate and shorter term. The government also lowers the maximum amount Canadians can withdraw in refinancing their mortgages to 90 per cent from 95 per cent of the value of their homes and requires a minimum down payment of 20 per cent for government-backed mortgage insurance on non-owner-occupied properties bought for speculation.

Oct. 15, 2008: The maximum amortization period for new government-backed mortgages is fixed at 35 years and a requirement for a minimum down payment of five per cent is introduced. Ottawa also establishes a consistent minimum credit score requirement and introduces new loan documentation standards.

 

Assisted dying bill wins approval of House of Commons, now heads to Senate

By Joan Bryden

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ The federal government’s controversial bill on assisted dying sailed through the House of Commons on Tuesday, approved by a vote of 186-137.

“It’s an historic day,” Health Minister Jane Philpott said immediately following the vote, thanking MPs for passing a bill she said “will essentially transform end-of-life care options for Canadians.”

Only four Liberal MPs including Rob Oliphant, the chair of a special joint parliamentary committee that had recommended a much more permissive approach to assisted dying voted against Bill C-14, as did most Conservatives, all New Democrat and Bloc Quebecois MPs and Green Leader Elizabeth May.

But the bill now heads into choppier waters in the Senate, where the government has less control over the agenda and many independent-minded senators are pushing for amendments.

It is virtually guaranteed the bill will not be passed by Monday, the day the ban on assisted dying is formally lifted in accordance with last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling.

“No, no, impossible,” Sen. Claude Carignan, Conservative leader in the Senate.

Senators are not dragging their feet; they’ve agreed to extend their sitting hours and have taken the usual step of inviting Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Philpott to testify about the bill before the entire Senate on Wednesday.

However, they must still debate the bill at second reading, send it to committee to hear from some half a dozen witnesses, propose and consider possible amendments and debate and vote on the bill a final time.

Carignan said more than 40 Conservative senators want to speak during second reading debate alone and he expects “many amendments” will be proposed. Consequently, he said the bill can’t be put to a final vote until the end of next week at the earliest, possibly sometime the following week.

Advocates of assisted dying are urging senators to scrap the bill’s restrictive eligibility criteria. Without that change “Bill C-14 will be constitutionally dead on arrival,” said Shanaaz Gokool, CEO of Dying with Dignity Canada.

“(That’s) a warning the Liberal government has chosen to ignore. We encourage members of the Senate not to make the same mistake.”

However, a number of disability rights advocates are urging passage of the bill, despite their concerns that it doesn’t go far enough to protect the vulnerable. They argued that an imperfect bill is better than no legislation at all.

That continued to be the message from Wilson-Raybould and Philpott as they kept up the pressure Tuesday to have the bill enacted by June 6.

In the absence of a new law, the Supreme Court’s criteria for allowing assisted dying would apply. But Wilson-Raybould suggested that would amount to “one of, if not the broadest assisted dying regimes in the world.”

“Under an approach where any serious medical condition is eligible, the law would be saying that an assisted death could be an acceptable treatment for a soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder, a young person who suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident or a survivor whose mind is haunted by memories of sexual abuse,” she said.

Wilson-Raybould also argued there is uncertainty whether the court’s criteria would have “the legal effect of completely striking down existing criminal law that prohibits consensual killing and the aiding of suicides outside of an assisted dying context.” She did not explain that assertion.

In what’s known as the Carter decision, the Supreme Court ruled that consenting adults have a right to seek medical help to end their lives if they have “grievous and irremediable” medical conditions that are causing enduring suffering that they deem intolerable.

Bill C-14 sets out considerably more restrictive eligibility criteria, allowing assisted dying only for clearly consenting adults “in an advanced stage of irreversible decline” from a serious and incurable disease, illness or disability and for whom natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.”

Jocelyn Downie, a professor in both the medicine and law faculties at Dalhousie University, said Wilson-Raybould is misrepresenting the Supreme Court ruling.

The court said the medical condition must be irremediable, while PTSD and memories of sexual abuse “may well be remediable,” Downie said. Moreover, she said a young person’s initial response in the days or even months following a spinal cord injury would not be considered “enduring” suffering, as the court required.

“To suggest that somehow the sky is going to fall on June 6 is specious,” agreed NDP justice critic Murray Rankin, noting that medical regulators in every provinces have issued strict guidelines doctors must follow in providing assistance in dying.

Unless it’s amended by the Senate, Rankin predicted the bill will face court challenges and be found unconstitutional.

“People who won that hard-fought victory in Carter are going to be back in the Supreme Court in a few months. That’s wrong,” he said.

canada-press

Uber offers concessions to taxi industry in order to keep operating in Quebec

Ride-hailing giant Uber is willing to temporarily suspend operations in Quebec in order to find common ground with the province and is prepared to offer various concessions, a company representative said May 24, 2016.

Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, general manager of Uber Montreal, said the U.S.-based firm would charge clients taxes on every ride – at the source – which he said would provide state coffers with about $3 million a year.

His comments came on the first day of hearings into Bill 100, which would force Uber drivers to conform to the same laws as cabbies with regard to regulations such as permits and taxes.

Uber says the bill, if enacted as is, would mean the end of the company’s operations in Quebec.

Guillemette said Uber would be willing to charge an added tax of seven cents a ride that would go to Quebec’s automobile insurance board.

Additionally, Uber is open to letting traditional taxis have exclusive access to reserved lanes, government contracts and rides hailed from the street.

Guillemette said that if Uber can sit down with the government to talk and find common ground, “we are ready to suspend our operations during that time.”

“We are showing good faith,” he told the hearing.

Transport Minister Jacques Daoust and other members of Quebec’s legislature reacted skeptically to Guillemette’s offer.

“In terms of how much taxi permits represent, it’s very marginal,” Daoust said.

Daoust noted Quebec’s taxi industry was founded on the idea of supply management and that the government enforces a system whereby people have to pay _ sometimes as much as $200,000 – for a permit to drive a taxi.

He said that if the government allowed Uber to operate without buying into the permit system, the value of existing permits would erode.

“There is a large population of immigrants often more educated than the job requires, and they bought the right to work in the land that welcomed them,” he said.

“The minute we add to (the existing permits) the value of their taxi licence necessarily diminishes.”

Earlier in the day, the head of a Quebec taxi lobby said Uber has the attitude of a “hardened criminal” and is stealing money from the state.

“Just watch them,” Guy Chevrette told reporters, explaining how he believes Uber will try to stall the passing of the bill.  “It’s theft. Today, watch them go, with crocodile tears, like hardened criminals. They will pull out all the stops to try and waste time.”

According to Chevrette’s organization, the government has two choices: pass Bill 100, which would force Uber out of the Quebec market, or compensate all the drivers and companies that have paid for taxi licences.

He said paying back drivers could cost as much as $1.4 billion.

canada-press

Report says companies owe Ottawa $100M for over payments, excessive profits

Federal auditors have found about $100 million that shouldn’t have been paid to companies because contractors overcharged the government, or because the payments were deemed to be part of “excessive profits,” newly released documents show.

The $100 million figure, calculated as of March 31, 2015, was the cumulative total from three years of reviews of contracts that turned up evidence the government has been routinely overcharged.

The documents, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, show that more than 50 contracts reviewed by officials at Public Services and Procurement Canada revealed issues with, among others, Irving Shipbuilding and aerospace giant Bombardier.

A team of 34 auditors reviewed $7.3 billion worth of contracts during the 2014-15 fiscal year and found $6 million in over-payments for work and $66.3 million related to excess profits, adding to amounts identified in the previous two years.

Officials censored portions of the documents detailing how much each company owes or has paid back, saying it is confidential commercial information.

Public Services and Procurement Canada has yet to respond to questions about the report.

The work detailed in the report is the focus of an ongoing government crackdown on habitual over-charging of the deep-pocketed federal treasury, much of it largely a result of years of questionable defence procurement practices that saw the prices of contracts go up without much push-back from military officials.

The key, auditors say, is to catch over-payments before work is concluded because after that “there is little incentive for a contractor to return funds.”

Officials have recouped about $6 million from companies during three years of work for the special unit set up to police procurement agreements.

Between April 2014 and March 2015, the government recouped $3.1 million from four contracts. Three of the four contracts were military procurements, including a $531-million contract to upgrade Canada’s four diesel-electric submarines and a $566-million contract for fixed-wing aircraft repair.

Again, the officials censored how much each company paid back.

Recovering money remains a challenge, the report says. An accompanying briefing note prepared for the top civil servant at Public Services and Procurement Canada lists the problems: “Some of the factors at play are entrenched business practices, disagreements in interpretation on the application of Canada’s contract pricing framework, agreeing to fair profit recognition of contractual risk, and difficulties measuring incentives for innovation and profit sharing.”

The most recent review of selected contracts turned up only one over-payment, attributed to a multi-year contract with SNC-Lavalin that the forerunner of Public Services and Procurement Canada signed to have the company manage federally owned buildings.

The documents suggest other issues were identified during the review, but that information too has been removed, leaving questions about what auditors found.

The company itself had questions about its inclusion in the documents. SNC says it provided the government with annual audits to verify the accuracy of charges, and none raised concerns about over-charges to the government.

 

The Gov’t of Canada launches consultation to improve Employment Insurance services

Millions of Canadians rely on the Government of Canada to provide them with easy access to the services and benefits to which they are entitled. They expect quality and fast service from their government—whether the service is provided online, over the phone or in person. According to Service Canada data, too many Canadians are not receiving the level of service they expect. When someone loses a job through no fault of their own or experiences a major life event, they should not have to wait weeks, even months, to receive support and benefits from a program that they paid premiums for as workers. The Government must make it easier for them to access these services and programs.

Through Budget 2016, the Government of Canada committed to improve services for Canadians. To support this commitment, the Government is taking action by launching the Employment Insurance Service Quality Review, a nationwide consultation process with key stakeholders and the public to seek their input on ways to improve services to Employment Insurance (EI) claimants.

Terry Duguid, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, and Rodger Cuzner, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, in collaboration with Rémi Massé, Member of Parliament for Avignon–La Mitis–Matane–Matapédia, were asked by Ministers Duclos and Mihychuk to lead the review.

The review will examine how Service Canada administers the EI program so that resources are focused on providing the best possible service to Canadians. This exercise will be based on feedback from stakeholders and Canadians, performance measurement and evidence.

Quick Facts

  • In 2014–15, Service Canada received 2.8 million EI applications and issued $15.7 billion dollars in payments to claimants.
  • In 2015-2016, 10.3 million calls to the Employment Insurance (EI) call centre were unable to reach an agent and over a million calls were abandoned, meaning the caller hangs up while waiting.
  • Individuals who disagree with a decision related to their EI claim have the right to request reconsideration within 30 days from the date the decision was communicated. The Department aims to have 70 percent of decisions finalized within 30 days from receipt of the request. To date, this target has not been met. In 2015–16, the average time for completion was 38 days, with 56 percent of requests being completed within 30 days.

Quotes

“It is clear that Canadians are facing too many challenges accessing our services. This can cause stress and frustration for those who are often already experiencing a period of difficulty and financial hardship. That is why we are launching this consultation process with key stakeholders and the public to seek their input on ways we can improve services.”
– The Honorable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

Budget 2016 proposes to invest $92 million to improve the administration of the EI program. We want taxpayers’ money to be invested wisely and used as effectively as possible. The feedback we receive will go a long way in informing the Government on the best path forward to meet the service needs of Canadians.”
– The Honorable MaryAnn Mihychuk, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour

Associated Links

Employment Insurance Service Quality Review

Employment Insurance Service Quality Review Online Survey

 

BACKGROUNDER

Employment Insurance Service Quality Review

The Government of Canada is taking action to improve the delivery of its services by launching a nationwide consultation process with key stakeholders and the public to seek their input on ways we can improve services to Employment Insurance (EI) claimants through in-person centres, call centres and online, and focusing on three key areas:

  1. streamlining applications
  2. reducing wait times for service delivery
  3. reducing administrative burden for employers

The Government committed funding, as part of Budget 2016, to enhancing services and performance standards for those accessing EI benefits:

  • $19 million of funding was committed this year to make EI service delivery more responsive. This funding will go towards enabling Service Canada to meet the increased demand for EI claims processing, and offer better support to Canadians as they search for new employment. This additional capacity will ensure that Canadians get timely access to the benefits to which they are entitled.
  • $73 million in funding was committed over two years to enhance access to EI call centres. This will increase the number of call centre agents, which will reduce waiting times and ensure that Canadians can access the information and support they need.

The EI Service Quality Review includes a nationwide consultation process that will provide stakeholders and the public the opportunity to share views and ideas on EI service delivery—feedback which will be used to inform the Government in finding the best path forward to meet the delivery services needs of Canadians. The review will assess the administrative challenges faced by Service Canada employees and recommend how these can be addressed so that EI claimants receive timely access to the benefits to which they are entitled.

Consultations with stakeholders will be taking place through regional and national meetings from May to June 2016.

Anyone interested in participating in the online survey and town hall meetings should visit the Employment Insurance Service Quality Review consultation page.

This consultation will be open from May to August 2016. A summary report of feedback received through these consultations will be released in fall 2016.

SOURCE Employment and Social Development Canada

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