Tax agency calls mandatory fingerprinting ‘a powerful deterrent’

Read more

Toronto’s MaRS hub acquires private financing to repay government

The MaRS Discovery District has acquired private financing to repay most of a controversial loan it received from the Ontario government to fund one of its towers in Toronto.

The Liberal government gave the “innovation hub” nearly $400 million in loans as it struggled to find tenants for a nearly empty tower.

Both opposition parties had been critical of the Liberals for granting the loan without a proper business case, but the government claimed vindication Thursday.

“We are thrilled that MaRS will be repaying the majority of our government’s loan, with interest, almost three years ahead of schedule,” Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid and Research and Innovation Minister Reza Moridi said in a statement.

“Our decision to support MaRS is an example of our willingness to stand up in the face of opposition to serve the best interest of the people of Ontario.”

MaRS is now fully leased, which will allow it to generate enough revenue to be self-sustaining in the future, the government said. Tenants include JLABS, Facebook, IBM, Autodesk, Merck, PayPal, Etsy and Airbnb.

“We are grateful that the government of Ontario stepped up to help us solve an unforeseen problem,” Gord Nixon, chair of the board of directors at MaRS, said in a statement.

“The success of MaRS has facilitated a new generation of entrepreneurs and startups that showcase Ontario’s innovation, which is critical to the province’s competitive future and prosperity.”

MaRS says it will get $290 million from Manulife, Sun Life Financial and iA Financial Group through investments in 19-year bonds.

The province loaned MaRS $225 million for its second office tower, then later provided an $86-million line of credit to help attract tenants, spent $65 million buying out an American real estate company’s interest in the project, and gave a $16-million grant for the purchase of the land.

MaRS had trouble leasing up the tower, which was only about 30 per cent full when the loans were made in 2014, as high rents were demanded by the U.S. real estate company.

 

Saskatchewan union firing back on government talk of wage rollbacks, layoffs

The union representing Saskatchewan government workers is firing back against comments by Premier Brad Wall who says there need to be wage rollbacks for public-sector workers or there will be layoffs.

Bob Bymoen, president of the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union, said in a letter posted online Feb. 7, 2017 that it looks as if unions get to choose between rollbacks or layoffs.

“Mark my words: if unions accept rollbacks, there will still be layoffs, if not in this budget, then in the next,” Bymoen wrote.

“This is not so much a choice, but rather a political manoeuvre to make it look like unions are being greedy and unreasonable.”

The province is trying to save money because of a big drop in revenue from oil and gas, potash and uranium.

Wall told the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association on Monday that the provincial deficit is up to about $1.2 billion. The premier said tax revenue is lower than forecast and crop insurance claims are up $250 million because of a late harvest.

It’s not clear if the $1.2 billion figure includes a $236-million repayment to businesses from a surplus at the Workers’ Compensation Board.

The government says more clarity will be provided at budget time. The budget is scheduled to be tabled March 22.

Wall said one option being considered to help balance the budget this year includes 4,900 job cuts in health care, layoffs in education and reduced support for vulnerable people.

“You know this isn’t a very big province. To start cutting almost 5,000 health-care workers out of there is just reckless,” Bymoen said in a phone interview Tuesday with The Canadian Press.

“There’s only one way they can do that, and that’s to contract out their work.”

Bymoen points out that the government is already considering whether to privatize cleaning of government buildings. The Ministry of Central Services is exploring whether the private sector could do the job for less.

Contracts for thousands of public-sector workers expire this year, including agreements for about 13,000 members of the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union.

The current agreement for more than 13,000 teachers expires at the end of August and negotiations for a new one are to begin in May.

Bymoen said it’s time for workers to take action. A rally is planned for March 8 at the Saskatchewan legislature.

 

Panel report on EI service changes hints at new spending on staff, technology

A panel of three Liberal MPs is urging the government to focus its attention on Canadians who have questions or concerns about their employment insurance claims, rather than simply pouring more money into the system.

That would mean Service Canada concentrates on the toughest of EI cases _ ones where the square peg doesn’t fit in the square hole, as panel member Rodger Cuzner puts it _ to prevent the lengthy delays that often ensue.

In a report released Wednesday, February 1, 2017 the panel is also calling for a review of the appeals system and the social security tribunal, which adjudicates disputes between Canadians and the department responsible for the EI system.

Currently, two-thirds of callers to a government hotline are turned away by a busy message, while those who do get through face long hold times before speaking to an agent.

Others are forced to wait for days to get answers to their questions, while thousands of Canadians typically wait more than a month before they find out whether or not they are going to receive benefits.

“When I was first elected in 2000, it was probably most common if a file was sort of protracted … three weeks and then there would be a resolution,” said Cuzner, the parliamentary secretary to Labour Minister Patty Hajdu.

“We’re seeing now those files (take) five weeks easy; six weeks, eight weeks is not uncommon. So it’s the ones that require the hands-on assessment and processing, those are the ones that we need to address.”

The federal government handles over 2.8 million employment insurance applications annually and doles out $14 billion to eligible Canadians with Service Canada being the main point of contact for those who have questions.

In its report, the three-member panel wrote that Service Canada at some level “has lost sight of the citizen,” but also noted that Canadians overall were happy with the services they received once they were able to speak with an agent.

The Liberals’ first budget promised $92 million to improve processing and call centre services. The panel hinted Wednesday that the federal budget would include extra resources to help front-line workers and businesses that find it difficult to submit employment records needed before a claim is approved.

“I don’t think it’s an accident that our report is being tabled before the budget,” said Winnipeg MP Terry Duguid.

“We think we’ve made a strong case for investment because Canadians are demanding service, (and) our employees need these kinds of investments in order to do their jobs.”

The panel cautioned that the government doesn’t need to put too much money into the system, instead focusing cash where it is needed most, including on updating Service Canada’s decades-old technology.

Duguid said the government should be careful with any changes before proceeding _ a reference to the cautionary tale of the problem-plagued Phoenix pay system, which has thrown a costly wrench in the federal payroll works.

Robyn Benson, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada union, said the government must invest in more front-line workers and not rely on technology improvements alone.

“This report, interestingly enough, keeps talking about a citizen-centric approach,” Benson said. “To me, if you’re going to have a citizen-centric approach, you’re going to have (to have) enough staff.”

 

Canada PM Trudeau approves Kinder Morgan pipeline

TORONTO _ Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has approved one controversial pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific Coast, but rejected another.

On Tuesday, he approved Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline to Burnaby, British Columbia, but rejected Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat, B.C.

These are the first major pipeline decisions for Trudeau, who is trying to balance the oil industry’s desire to tap new markets in Asia with environmentalists’ concerns.

Alberta, which has the world’s third largest oil reserves, needs infrastructure in place to export its growing oil sands production.

Trudeau approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to Vancouver Harbour in Burnaby, which would increase the capacity of an existing pipeline from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day.

Trudeau rejected the Northern Gateway project to northwest British Columbia which passes through the Great Bear Rainforest.

CP3

Carbon tax takes from the poor, gives to the rich

Excerpted article was written by Pierre Polievre | The Toronto Sun

Liberals always claim they want to redistribute money from those with too much to those with too little.

Which raises two key questions about the new Liberal carbon tax: who will pay and who will get?

Let’s start with who will pay. The federal government has mandated a tax on carbon emissions, which will raise the price of anything that uses fossil fuels. Even carbon tax supporter professor Nicholas Rivers admits the tax will raise the prices of gasoline by 11 cents-a-litre, electricity by almost 10%, and natural gas by over 15%.

Because it will raise the price of fuel required to grow and transport our food, grocery bills will rise too.

Annually, it will cost $1028 per person, or $4112 for the average family of four, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Everyone will pay it. But because poor households spend a third more of their incomes on fuel, heat, and groceries than do rich households, those with the least will suffer the most.

For the same reason, a Statistics Canada official testified to the House of Commons Human Resources committee last month that increases in fuel and food prices lead to higher poverty rates.

The poorest families in Ontario have seen this movie before. Just look at the results of the so-called “Green Energy Act” in Ontario, which has thus far forced consumers to overpay by $37 billion to buy unneeded, unreliable, and overpriced electricity from well-connected wind and solar companies. Never has a government policy taken so much from so many to give to so few.

And the poor are suffering the most. Ron Dunn, the Executive Director of Windsor’s Downtown Mission has had people come to him to plead: “If you can help me with food, then I can pay for some of this hydro bill before it gets cut off.”

Skyrocketing prices are not an accident. They are a deliberate choice by the Liberal government, which pays wealthy solar power companies as much as 80 cents for a kilowatt-hour that is only worth 2.3 cents. The difference is passed onto consumers.

With the Ontario Auditor General predicting another $133 billion in these overpayments for electricity by 2032, the Ontario Liberal Green Energy Act likely represents Canada’s largest ever wealth transfer from the poor and middle class to the rich.

Soaring hydro rates are one of the reasons Ontario has the worst poverty record in Canada, since the McGuinty-Wynne Liberals took power. Between 2003 and 2014, the poverty rate dropped by one-third in British Columbia, the Prairies, Atlantic Canada and Quebec. It barely budged in Ontario, from 10.4% to 9.7%.

Over the same time period, Ontario had the largest increase of any province in the share of the population living on less than half the average income.

The national carbon tax will compound the suffering the Green Energy Act has already forced on the most vulnerable.

So who will get the money?

All revenues from the federally-mandated carbon tax will go to provincial governments, like Kathleen Wynne’s. She has announced she will not use it to reduce other taxes, but to fund more environmental programs, like the one the CBC reported “gave taxpayer-funded rebates to five millionaires to buy one of the most expensive cars ever manufactured, the Porsche 918 Spyder.”

Expect more of this, as lobbyists for the wealthiest prepare to feast on money carbon taxes will generate.

Will the Liberal carbon tax redistribute wealth? Count on it: from those who can least afford it to those who least deserve it.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from ILSTV

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest