Ontario creating task force to improve flooding resilience

TORONTO _ Ontario is creating a task force on improving the province’s resilience to flooding, following high water levels this spring in several communities.

Premier Doug Ford and Natural Resources Minister John Yakabuski said in a statement that the government will work to better plan for and reduce the impacts of flooding.

“Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen first-hand the devastating effect of flooding on our communities,” they said in the statement Friday. “The people of Ontario can’t go through this every year. Something needs to change.”

The task force will consult with municipalities, including in the Muskoka region, Pembroke and the Ottawa Valley.

Ontario has activated a disaster recovery assistance program for residents in Bracebridge, Huntsville, Pembroke, Renfrew County, Ottawa, Clarence-Rockland, Champlain and Alfred and Plantagenet.

The program helps cover emergency expenses and the costs to repair or replace essential property not covered by insurance after a natural disaster.

The task force announcement comes not long after the Progressive Conservative government cut conservation authorities’ funding for flood management in half.

Conservation authorities forecast flooding and issue warnings, monitor stream flow, regulate development activities in flood plains, educate the public about flooding and protect natural cover that helps reduce the impacts of flooding.

Ontario had given $7.4 million to the conservation authorities for that work, but they say that has now been reduced by 50 per cent.

Yakabuski has said the government is trying to eliminate the deficit _ currently at $11.7 billion and has asked conservation authorities to focus on their core mandate, which includes flood control.

NDP environment critic Ian Arthur said the task force should start by reversing those cuts.

“Any review of flood management in Ontario should begin with undoing the damage done by the (Doug) Ford Conservatives,” Arthur said in a statement.

$160,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Head Injury With Lingering Cognitive Issues

Source: Erik Magraken BC Injury and ICBC Claims Blog

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a mild traumatic brain injury caused by a collision.

In the recent case (Dube v. Dube) the Plaintiff was injured as a passenger involved in a single vehicle collision.  The Defendant accepted fault.  The crash caused a variety of injuries including a traumatic brain injury which caused cognitive deficits which were expected to linger indefinitely.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $160,000 Madam Justice Burke provided the following reasons:

0]         Based on my review of the medical evidence, I find that Ms. Dube suffered a head injury or MTBI, and physical injuries to her head, neck, back, shoulders, right leg, and abrasions and contusions to her chest, abdomen and elbow. The impact of the MTBI has created the debilitating injuries affecting Ms. Dube’s cognitive functioning. She has headaches, fatigue, memory issues, speed impediment, multi-tasking issues and anxiety.

[51]         I do not agree with the defence that Ms. Dube’s earlier medical or employment history establishes that she was “generally” disabled or reluctant to work. Rather, the evidence establishes that work was an important part of Ms. Dube’s active lifestyle. The evidence shows that Ms. Dube was committed to recovery and eager to participate in the workforce.

[52]         Both the medical and lay evidence establish that Ms. Dube has been unable to return to her previous activities and has become socially withdrawn. The only expert who opined that Ms. Dube was not disabled as a result of the accident was Dr. Arthur, who does not have any expertise with respect to cognitive functioning and its impact on Ms. Dube’s ability to do her job. Dr. Teal’s opinion was undermined by its reliance on an inaccurate fact. Accordingly, I conclude that as a result of the accident, Ms. Dube will continue to suffer from cognitive impairment and chronic pain to some degree…

[65]         As noted earlier, Ms. Dube suffered a variety of injuries in the accident including a MTBI. The witnesses painted a fundamentally different picture of Ms. Dube before and after the accident. She will continue to suffer ongoing cognitive problems (including memory issues) that have contributed to her social withdrawal. These symptoms have impacted her significantly. Her friends and family have corroborated this.

[66]         As noted in Stapley, the assessment of non-pecuniary damages depends on the particular circumstances of the individual. I have concluded that the authorities provided by the plaintiff are more useful than the authorities offered by the defendant in assessing the case at bar. This is largely because the types of cognitive impairments that I have found to exist in this case are not particularly evident in the defendant’s authorities. I have considered Ms. Dube’s age as well as the nature of her injuries and her ongoing symptoms. I make specific note of the evident distress she has experienced due to the cognitive impact of her injuries, her impact of that on her life generally and her withdrawal from social activities. I am of the view that an appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages is $160,000.

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13-vehicle heist from dealership believed to be an inside job

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Bags of cash, luxury car export scheme described in B.C. money laundering

VICTORIA _ An independent report suggests organized criminals are laundering money through British Columbia’s luxury car sector and some are even receiving tax rebates from the province for the transactions.

The B.C. government tasked former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German in September to identify potential links between criminal enterprises and real estate, horse racing and luxury vehicle industries.

Attorney General David Eby called the findings released Tuesday “disturbing confirmation” that money laundering is a problem in B.C. that goes beyond the previously identified channel of casinos.

“In the luxury car market, there is no financial reporting of large cash purchases, no oversight of international bank wire transfers and no apparent investigation or enforcement,” he said.

“It’s a recipe for exactly what’s happened here: Vancouver becoming North America’s luxury car capital generally, and perhaps since 2013, claiming North America’s luxury car export capital title as well.”

In addition to gathering accounts of luxury car sales of up to $240,000 paid for with bags of cash, German uncovered a “huge” and complicated luxury-vehicle export scheme involving hundreds of so-called “straw buyers” in the grey market.

Many of the straw buyers appear to be foreign students hired to purchase a car in Canada that will almost immediately be exported and re-sold in China, where dealerships charge more due to the tax structure and soaring demand. The role of a straw buyer is to insulate the true purchasers from contact with the seller, the report says.

The purchasers pay provincial sales tax when they buy the car but apply for a refund when it’s exported and the practice has grown exponentially, costing the province almost $85 million since 2013, Eby said.

Before 2014, fewer than 100 vehicles a year received the refund. In 2016, the provincial sales tax was rebated on 3,674 vehicles and the surge in applications required the Finance Ministry to hire more staff, the report says.

The source and destination of the tax refunds and any income tax reporting from these individuals or entities is unknown, but the conditions are ideal for money laundering, the report says.

It’s an unregulated grey market, with little know about the people or companies involved and where the money comes from, the report says.

“It provides a wonderful opportunity for large-scale money laundering, with very little chance of detection.”

It’s impossible to put a dollar figure on the amount being laundered through the luxury car sector, German said.

Eby said he was shocked to hear about the refunds and the government is moving quickly to address the issue.

“We have not waited to take action on this report.”

The Finance Ministry is reviewing the tax rebate program and details of allegations made in the report have been forwarded to police, the Insurance Corporation of B.C., and the Vehicle Sales Authority. The province is also preparing plans for regulation of the luxury car sector.

The apparent growth in luxury car money laundering has coincided with other potential criminal activity and problems in the market, Eby said.

“I note the remarkable correlation between the timing of the exponential expansion of this grey market export scheme, the exponential growth of suspicious cash transactions at B.C. casinos and the exponential real estate price ramp up on the Lower Mainland,” he said.

The report also found vulnerabilities in the horse racing sector with a lack of financial reporting requirements but no excessive issues related to money laundering.

The report is one of two commissioned by the province in September amid what the government said was “widespread concern about B.C.’s reputation as a haven for money laundering.”

German was asked to look further into the problem after he concluded a review last June on money laundering in Lower Mainland casinos.

Another report by an expert panel on money laundering recommends rule changes that would close loopholes in the real estate market and increase transparency around who owns property in B.C.

Eby said that report, along with German’s findings about the real estate sector, should be released in the coming days.

In an entirely separate report also released Tuesday, the C.D. Howe Institute estimates Canada fails to catch money launderers 99.9 per cent of the time.

The institute says in a news release that the protections against money laundering in Canada are among the weakest of Western liberal democracies.

“While it is impossible to estimate the exact amount of money laundering, a realistic estimate of the magnitude of dirty money laundered in Canada each year likely lies in range of $100 – $130 billion,” report author Kevin Comeau says in the statement.

Flood insurance difficult to obtain for homeowners at repeated risk

By Jonathan Forani, CTVNews.ca

More Canadians have flood insurance than ever, but homeowners at repeated risk still face the most difficulty obtaining coverage, according to lobbyists.

Insurance for “overland flooding,” from rising water levels rather than sewer backups or roof seepage, has only been offered by insurers across the country since 2015. Now, about a third of Canadians have it, according to Craig Stewart of the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

But homeowners in high-risk flood zones who may require repeated claims have limited options.

“Presently there really is not affordable high-risk insurance available for those that are going to be at repeated risk of flooding,” said Stewart in an interview with CTV’s Your Morning. Stewart, who leads a task force of insurers, realtors and local governments, presented recommendations to ministers earlier this year on how to protect high-risk homeowners.

“For those that are at repeated risk, we are recommending to governments that they take a hard look at strategic retreat, getting those people out of harm’s way,” he said.

Any official final solution based off the task force recommendations is likely a year away, he added. Until then, homeowners facing repeated risk of flooding have few options, as their needs would have to be subsidized by taxpayers or other policy holders, he said.

Some homeowners in that group have taken “drastic” measures to avoid risk, he said, such as putting their homes on stilts. Stewart recommends it.

“Or you just absolutely reduce your risk by either moving or just making sure you’re taking everything out of your low lying area or your basement that’s going to reduce any future claim,” he said.

According to a 2017 report by the Munk School of Global Affairs, flood-related losses have surpassed fire and theft as the primary source of property insurance claims. Despite increasing claims, a lot of Canadians aren’t even aware they live in a floodplain until they get flooded, said Stewart.

“Canadians first and foremost should understand what their risk level is,” he said.

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