Prime minister thanks fire fighters in Fort McMurray, says he’ll visit Friday

OTTAWA _ Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will visit Fort McMurray, Alta., on Friday to offer the support of all Canadians to the fire-ravaged community.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the prime minister thanked those who battled the huge wildfire and saved much of the city.

“I too … congratulate the brave firefighters and first responders who have been there to do extraordinary work through these terrible blazes in Fort McMurray,” Trudeau said.

He also thanked Canadians for their donations in the face of a crisis which has driven more than 80,000 residents out of the city.

“I want to congratulate all Canadian who across the country came together to give incredibly generously to the people of Fort McMurray through the Canadian Red Cross and in other ways.”

Last week, as the blaze worsened, Trudeau said a visit would have to wait. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley toured the city by bus on Monday and also praised firefighters for saving a majority of homes and buildings in the community.

But she said it’s not safe yet for people to return to homes that are still standing because large sections of town don’t have power, gas or water.

Meanwhile, federal Labour Minister Mary Ann Mihychuk said the government is working to speed up the handling of unemployment insurance claims from Fort McMurray and cut wait times for benefits.

“EI is to be there when people need it and the folks at Fort McMurray definitely need it, so we’re stepping up,” Mihychuk said.

She said staff are going to try to reduce the normal 28-day wait period substantially.

“If you are impacted by the Fort McMurray fire, there is a number, a designated number that indicates you were impacted by the Fort McMurray crisis. And that will help you speed up your claim and get benefits to you even quicker.”

Ministry officials said Tuesday there are 175 Service Canada staff helping displaced residents and 100 more who have volunteered to help, but haven’t been needed yet.

About 20,000 people affected by the fire have made EI claims using a special reference code the government set up to fast-track their claims.

The government has also outfitted rented RVs to drive into northern Alberta camping sites to act as mobile Service Canada offices for the estimated 3,000 evacuees living there.

And staff are also setting up shop in evacuee reception centres and coffee shops to catch people wherever they may be.

Mihychuk said she thinks people have been “more concerned about finding a place to sleep” and only now are starting to consider income support and EI.

“I expect it to grow steadily,” she said.


Feds look at faster system to give social insurance numbers to immigrants

OTTAWA _ An internal government audit has found that the federal government could save $7 million a year by giving new Canadians a social insurance number when they apply for permanent residence documents.

The idea auditors pushed would take two pilot projects that help new landed immigrants apply for a social insurance numbers and expand it nationwide to more easily process hundreds of thousands of applications a year.

The process is similar to the way the government assigns newborn Canadians a social insurance number by doing so through the provinces when a birth certificate is registered, a program dubbed “SIN ? Birth.”

That system in Ontario, for instance, cost $5 million to set up.

The audit, publicly posted late last month, suggests a similar system for new Canadians would cost about the same.

The department responsible, Employment and Social Development Canada, says it is studying the idea and a decision about whether to move ahead should be made by November.


CRA offers credit protection after social insurance numbers disclosed

OTTAWA — The Canada Revenue Agency has offered credit-protection services to several people after their private information — including social insurance numbers and addresses — was mailed to others.

The federal privacy commissioner’s office says it is investigating the violations, first flagged by constituents of New Democrat MP Charlie Angus.

Angus says the revenue agency twice sent batches of personal data to the wrong people in his northern Ontario riding.In a letter to the commissioner’s office, Angus says the revenue agency mailed a package April 6 to several constituents in Kirkland Lake, Ont., containing the names, SINs, addresses and phone numbers of five people.

Five days later, the same constituents were mailed a second package with similar personal information about 11 people.

Revenue agency spokesman Philippe Brideau says the agency contacted the privacy commissioner after confirming the breach, informed the affected people and made no-cost credit protection services available to them.

Follow: @JimBronskill on Twitter


Canada Revenue Agency mailed SIN numbers to wrong people – twice: MP

By Jim Bronskill


OTTAWA _ A New Democrat MP says the Canada Revenue Agency twice mailed batches of private information including names and social insurance numbers to the wrong people in his riding.

Charlie Angus has asked the office of federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien to investigate the apparent violations.

In a letter to the commissioner’s office, Angus says the revenue agency mailed a package April 6 to several constituents in Kirkland Lake, Ont., containing the names, SINs, addresses and phone numbers of five people.

Five days later, the same constituents were mailed a second package with similar personal information about 11 people.

“They were pretty stunned when they received them,” said Angus, who has often criticized the federal agency over privacy lapses.

He called the latest incidents completely unacceptable, saying they involved the sort of information that if it fell into the wrong hands could lead to fraud and identity theft.

“Why would you be sending this out to anybody? This is the kind of breach that makes no sense,” Angus said.

“I think what’s really disturbing is, when it comes to data breaches, CRA is a repeat offender.”

The revenue agency had no immediate comment.

In his latest annual report, Therrien urged federal agencies to put more rigorous safeguards in place to protect sensitive personal information.

The commissioner underscored a record-high number of federal government data breaches disclosed to his office.

Federal institutions reported 256 breaches in 2014-2015, up from 228 the year before. It marked the first time institutions were required to report significant data breaches to the commissioner.

As in previous years, the leading cause of breaches was accidental disclosure, a risk Therrien said can often be managed by following proper procedures.

In 2013 the privacy commissioner’s office audited the Canada Revenue Agency, focusing on its access controls to personal information.

The privacy watchdog made 13 recommendations in areas including monitoring of employee access rights, threat and risk assessments for information-technology systems and ensuring the privacy impacts of new programs are assessed.

The agency agreed with the commissioner’s recommendations, and the watchdog made plans to follow up on progress this year.

Angus said the revenue agency needs to implement better training of personnel and impose stricter controls over information.


Insurance – Genetic Non-Discrimination Act passed by Senate

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Winners and losers of the 2016 federal budget

Source: Toronto Star

By: The Canadian Press

OTTAWA—Budgets giveth and they also taketh away. Here is a look at some of the winners and losers in Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s debut budget:

Winner: First Nations. The budget allocates $4.22 billion over five years for improvements, including $2.6 billion for on-reserve education, $1.8 billion for water and waste water infrastructure, $634.8 for child and family services, $969.4 million over five years for education infrastructure and $554.3 million for housing needs.

Winner: Veterans. The disability award for vets will rise to $360,000, retroactive to 2006, while the earnings loss benefit to injured vets will rise to 90 per cent of pre-release salary. The government will reopen nine veterans’ service offices across the country and add a 10th office. The government says this means $5.6 billion more in direct payments to veterans and families over five years.

Winner: Students. Canada student grants will rise to $3,000 from $2,000 for low-income students, to $1,200 from $800 for middle-income students and to $1,800 from $1,200 for part-time students. Total: $1.53 billion over five years.

Winner: Families. The new $10-billion Canada Child Benefit will provide tax-free cheques of as much as $6,400, depending on the family situation.

Winner: Those seeking EI benefits. Rules will be changed to make it easier for new entrants to the job market and for those re-entering the market to qualify for benefits. The wait period for the first EI cheque will drop to one week from two. Benefit periods will be extended by five weeks in areas with the sharpest increases in unemployment.

Winner: Infrastructure plans. The document sets aside $11.9 billion for improvements to transit, water and green infrastructure and social infrastructure.

Winner: Arts and Culture. The CBC will get $675 million over five years, with another $550 million for the Canada Council for the Arts.

Winner: Canadian Coast Guard. The Kitsilano search and rescue lifeboat station, closed under the previous government, will reopen as a coast guard base with an expanded environmental response capability: Cost: $23.6 million over five years.

Winner: The environment. A low-carbon economy fund gets $2 billion over two years beginning in 2017-18. Another $1 billion over four years goes to support future clean technology investments, as well as $130 million over five years to support clean technology research and development.

Losers: Small businesses. The government will not proceed with reductions in the small business tax rate promised in the last Conservative budget. They would have dropped the rate from 11 per cent to nine per cent on the first $500,000 of qualifying income as of Jan. 1, 2019. Instead, the rate will fall to 10.5 per cent, and future cuts are being deferred.

Losers: National Defence. Billions in planned equipment spending is pushed off past the next election.

Losers: Tax breaks. The budget undoes some of the former Conservative government’s targeted tax breaks, including tax credits for tuition and textbooks and children’s fitness and arts costs and income-splitting for families with children.


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