Archive | April, 2014

Sarder Sadid : Environment will be the most important future issue

Posted on 24 April 2014 by admin

Nadia Chowdhury

Toronto

Sarder Sadid is an undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Toronto with a strong passion for the environment. He has been part of the various student clubs in the university and that is what keeps him sane throughout the year. Known for his constant positive vibe, Sarder believes that his motto – “Treat others as you would like to be treated” – is what helps him define the type of person he is and wants to be.

Here’s his conversation with Nadia Chowdhury:

1)      You are pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Environment and Health at University of Toronto-how has the experience been for you?

It is a rather unique experience for me. It was actually the program that stood out for me when I was looking to enroll into programs and I love it. It is one of the few science and environment fusion majors offered by the School of Environment in the University of Toronto. I find that it is perfect for me for two reasons. One, it has the perfect balance of hard science and environment courses for me. Two, I am planning to do a Masters in Public Health after I graduate and this program leads directly to it. So it’s perfect for me. It is also the area of interest for me so really, it’s like a match made in heaven. Obviously my interests in the Environment played a huge factor in me choosing this major and I absolutely love studying it and hopefully I am able to continue studying and work in this field.

2)      Please tell us about the Bangladesh Student Association at University of Toronto events-Aaloron and Onodhin, of which you were a key organizer. What was it like to organize such a well-received event and what did you feel the reception of the show was amongst the Bengali community in Toronto?

To be honest, organizing both events was full of emotions. The executives of the BSA work tremendously hard every year to put together a show that brings together a community to celebrate a cultural showpiece that is put together by entirely by a group of students. Everyone bonds over all of the work for this show. Not only that, it is really fun to work for these shows. At the end of the day, when the show is a success, it is the climax of an overwhelming positive emotion that is truly indescribable. I have never felt such a unique emotion in my life.

The response for the show has always been excellent. Students, parents and community leaders all attend the shows and the reviews have always been positive. The older generations are always impressed by the fact that a group of students put together such an impressive cultural event which includes acting, dancing, singing, poetry and folk-theatre. Our generation of the audience lauds the execution and the intricate storylines of the show. It really is a great event to go to every year.

3)      You have been an Environmental Academic Seminar/ Environmental Career Day Coordinator at the University of Toronto and Co-President and Treasurer at Environmental Students’ Union at University of Toronto. Your work heavily seems to rely on the environment. How relevant do you think the environment will be in reference to today and the future?

I think my work experience and studies are a clear indication of my interest in the environment and issues surrounding it. I have been interested in since probably grade 3 and I have never looked back. I have experienced and studied about different regions around so I have a good understanding of what is going on, what can be done and what can be implemented to address the environmental crises.

Obviously, the climate change crisis is the big issue in the world today. While there are many who deny it, it seems a bit absurd because we can literally see a change in the weather patterns now. Winter was really long and cold this year. Last year, it was short and less cold. I am sure even climate change deniers have felt the change but for some odd reason, they do not wish to acknowledge that the climate is changing. That’s simple observation really. The unfortunate thing is that is the case with almost all environmental issues. Research will be done to prove one environmental concern and some other research will be done to disprove it. This causes a lot of confusion and we keep falling behind in implementing methods to control it.

For the future, it is widely believed by many, including myself, that the environment will become the most important issue for humankind. While there are many who are happy to ignore the signs, there will be a time when no one can ignore what is going on. It will be a time when denying environmental issues will be ridiculed because the impacts will be so obvious that people might think you are mad if you deny it.

That is where present and future environmentalists and environment students step in. They will be the ones to lead the environmental crisis. They will work with the leading policy makers, prominent businesspeople and top technology experts to fight these issues. I know that there are many who are skeptical of what I just said and perhaps they won’t change their opinions reading this. However, I am absolutely confident that there will come a time when the environment will pertain to everything because of the harm that humans will have done to the planet for centuries. It will be a time when thinking of the environment becomes inevitable.

4)      What advice do you have for those who are planning to make it in the environmental community and for those who are of Bangladeshi origins in Canada?

You have picked the best possible field for the future. As I have said, it will be the most important issue in the future whether we like it or not. One thing I would like to say is that you do not need to be in an environment program to study it or show that you are interested in it. You can help the environment by studying anything – engineering, law, medicine, business etc.

I know for a fact that the environmental community does not have as much Bangladeshis as we would like to have. However, starting from our generation, we can see a sharp rise in terms of Bangladeshi representation in the environmental community. This is very promising. We can certainly use our knowledge of the environment in helping not only Canada or Bangladesh, but the whole world. I would like to laud you if you are planning to make it in the environmental community. We could use all the support we can get.

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Ready for a Spring election?

Posted on 24 April 2014 by admin

Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s May 1 budget could launch the province toward a June 26 election.

That’s because the budget must be debated for at least eight hours over 12 sessional days. The legislature does not sit Fridays, so 12 sessional days is the equivalent of three work weeks. But because of the Victoria Day break, MPPs do not sit for the third week in May.

So the budget vote may not happen in the legislature until May 29, setting the stage for a June 26 provincial election.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath said that for the past two years her party has been working to “stimulate activism” at the riding association level.

“Much of the activism comes with the nomination process. People start thinking about elections, people start considering getting connected with the ridings to volunteer their time. But in a minority parliament we pretty much have to be doing that all the time,” she told the Star.

Horwath said the nine byelections since 2012 — four of them won by the NDP — have maintained a buzz in the party.

“We have had a lot of contested nominations this time around. We are getting a great deal of interest, We have a lot more candidates lined up already that are city councillors, school board trustees, chairs of school board, so the experience of our candidates is quite positive,” she said.

Even so, Horwath has refused to show her hand publicly on whether she plans to pull the plug on the Liberals, who have been plagued with spending scandals.

In the meantime, the party’s volunteers are getting their marching orders, knowing that a strong, organized ground war especially counts at a time when Ontario is suffering from low voter turnout.

The party source said experience in other jurisdictions has shown that building a tightly knit network of volunteers with a strong commitment to winning, particularly in the early phase of campaigning, has a direct correlation with higher rates of voter contact and more effective persuasion of voters.

“The party has also identified top organizers from across the country — not all of them New Democrats — who believe in Andrea and want to be part of the Ontario campaign. The common denominator seems to be that as campaign aficionados they’ve admired Andrea from a distance and/or watched the byelection wins in places that we weren’t expected to win like Kitchener-Waterloo and London West,” the source said.

While poll results have been varied in recent weeks, a Forum Research’s survey published in the Star earlier this month found Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives leading with 38 per cent support to 31 per cent for Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, 23 per cent for Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats and 7 per cent for Mike Schreiner’s Green Party.

Forum’s Lorne Bozinoff said his projected seat count in the 107-member legislature would be 49 Tories (up from the current 37), 45 Liberals (down from 48, including Speaker Dave Levac), and 13 New Democrats (now at 21).

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Conservative Government Continues to Welcome Record Number of Immigrants

Posted on 24 April 2014 by admin

The Hon. Parm Gill

Ottawa

Each year, Canada benefits greatly from the talent, hard work, and ideas brought by newcomers from around the world. We all know that Canada is the best country in the world, and is a popular destination for visitors, students, and business travellers.

We are proud to announce that India was one of our top source countries in 2013, during which more than 130,000 visas were issued to Indian citizens visiting family and friends, and tourists – an increase of 14 percent since 2008. Canada also welcomed 14,000 students from India in 2013, which is nearly four times the 2008 level. And lastly, more than 33,000 Indian citizens were admitted as permanent Canadian residents in 2013 – a 17 percent increase since 2008. These trends reinforce Canada’s position as one of the most attractive countries in the world to visit or live in.

Our Government has a strong record when it comes to improving our immigration system. In 2008, the Business Express Program (BEP) was introduced to streamline the visa application process for businesses. The Worker Express Program, which was introduced in India in 2009, provides quicker service to applicants sent to Canada by companies under the BEP. Since 2009, more than 7,200 Indian citizens have benefited from the Worker Express Program.

In July 2011, our Government extended the length of multiple-entry visas from five to ten years. This allows visitors to enter and exit Canada for up to six months at a time over the ten-year period.

The Parent and Grandparent Super Visa, which is a ten-year, multiple-entry visa, allows parents and grandparents to spend longer periods of time in Canada visiting their families. As of February 2014, over 31,000 Super Visas had been issued, and roughly 97 percent of eligible applicants were approved.

Our Government will continue to work hard to ensure that Canada’s immigration process is smooth and efficient, and that Canada remains an attractive destination for newcomers from around the world.

Parm Gill is a Conservative MP from Brampton-Springdale. 

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Pocketbook Initiatives Making Life in Ontario More Affordable

Posted on 24 April 2014 by admin

Ontario is continuing to strengthen consumer rights and lower the cost of living for people across the province – especially for middle-income families and individuals.

The province released its 2014 Pocketbook Initiatives Progress Report today. It highlights what the government is doing to help people as they try to balance their household budget and save for the future.

Key accomplishments since 2003 that are helping people alleviate everyday financial pressures include:

  • Moving forward with a made-in-Ontario plan to improve retirement security.
  • Strengthening consumer protection legislation. The Wireless Services Agreements Act ensures companies provide consumers with clear information and fewer surprises when they enter into wireless services contracts. The Stronger Protection for Ontario Consumers Act provides consumers with more protections in door-to-door water heater rentals and sales, debt settlement services, real estate fees and commissions and transparency in real estate transactions.
  • Increasing the minimum wage to $11 an hour, effective June 1, 2014, and introducing legislation that would index it to inflation.
  • Reducing auto insurance rates by an average of close to six per cent, with the goal of reaching an average rate reduction of 15 per cent by August 2015.
  • Establishing a fairer, more consistent approach to tuition billing at colleges and universities.
  • Reducing generic drug prices to help families manage their health care costs.
  • Helping seniors get the care they need at home by increasing funding for home care.
  • Investing $900 million in programs and services designed to help new Ontarians settle and enter the workforce.
  • Helping Ontario families manage rising energy costs as the province transitions to cleaner power through programs such as the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit and the Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit.
  • Creating the 30% Off Ontario Tuition grant in 2012, which has helped 667,000 postsecondary students offset the cost of tuition.

Making people’s everyday lives better and more affordable is part of the government’s economic plan. The comprehensive plan and its six priorities focus on Ontario’s greatest strengths – its people and strategic partnerships.

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WSO Partners with Karma Grow to Build One Acre Community Farm

Posted on 24 April 2014 by admin

The World Sikh Organization of Canada is pleased to announce the launch of a fresh initiative in partnership with KarmaGrow. KarmaGrow is working to alleviate food insecurity by building and maintaining community gardens and farms in order to provide food banks with a sustainable source of fresh produce. The WSO is working alongside Sikhs Serving Canada (“SSC”), Khoobsurat Klothing, GG Fabrication, Region of Peel, Ecosource, Good Food Brampton, Knights Table and the KarmaGrow team in order to build a one acre community farm in Caledon East.

Jaskaran Singh Sandhu, KarmaGrow’s Co-Founder and a WSO Board member, started with a simple idea. “Food banks are often short of fresh vegetables, land is often underutilized, people are always looking for ways to give back – KarmaGrow is here to bring all these elements together in order to ‘Harvest Good’. At every point in the foundation and building process I have been amazed at the community’s willingness and capacity to help. All of our partners have jumped at the opportunity to assist in any way possible. A perfect example of that is the WSO. The WSO was our first partner, and helped to secure the farm land we will be using for our pilot project. We are thrilled to be building a one acre vegetable farm with 100% community driven support.”

 “The WSO has excelled as a legal and human rights advocacy organization for a very long time.” said Gursharn Kaur Gill, a Board member with the WSO. “However, with the new youth orientated Board of Directors, we wanted to go back to our roots and reconnect with the public on the ground level. The community farm project is the result of that desire to serve for the well-being of all people. We are excited to be working with our friends at KarmaGrow to grow an acres worth of vegetables, and we look forward to a terrific pilot year.”

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THE UNCERTAIN FUTURE OF THE TALKS WITH THE TALIBAN

Posted on 24 April 2014 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari

Lahore

  The last week’s decision of the Tehrik-i-Taliban-i-Pakistan to discontinue the ceasefire against the Pakistani state and its people has minimized the chances of any political settlement through negotiations between the Pakistani Taliban and the government of Pakistan. The chances of success of these talks were already slim. Now, the Taliban threat to resume attacks leaves little space for meaningful talks.

 If the tribal areas based Taliban attack military installations and civilians, Pakistan’s security forces will hit-back the Taliban with full force. The Pakistan military will not start security operation by itself. It will wait for the Taliban to resort to suicide and other types of bombings. After such incidents the military will go for a full-force attack on the Taliban hideouts and training centers in the tribal areas. The January security operation against the Taliban by the Pakistan Army relied on gunship helicopters. There was a limited use of ground troops. This attack was meant to show the violent groups in the tribal areas that their violent activities will not go unchallenged. A similar strategy of specific and targeted operation will be used in the future.

  The Taliban decision to retain the option of attack is the outcome of the internal conflict in the Taliban organization. Two factions in the Pakistani Taliban have fought against each other in North and South Wazirstan for the control of the organization during the last three weeks. This internal conflict has hardened the overall attitude of the Taliban groups towards Pakistan because each competing group wants to demonstrate that it is the best protector of the organization’s interests and can adopt a tough position against Pakistan.

 Further, the Taliban have misread the soft signals from Pakistan’s federal government. It appears that the Taliban have viewed the cooperative attitude of the federal government as a sign of weakness. They decided to increase pressure on the federal government by refusing to continue with the ceasefire.

 The recent negotiations between the federal government and the Taliban show that the federal government was keener than the Taliban for a political settlement through talks. Therefore, it did not insist on any condition in the dialogue because of the fear of the Taliban walking out of the dialogue process. It was virtually begging the Taliban to come an agreement. This was partly because of the Right-wing and Islamist mindset of the leadership of the Nawaz Muslim League that views the Taliban as an angry group rather than an adversary of Pakistan. Most of the Nawaz Muslim League leadership was convinced that as they had not openly criticized the Taliban, the latter will be willing to talk with the Nawaz League government and come to a political settlement.

 This assessment proved wrong because the talks held so far did not show any hope of a settlement because the Taliban refused to accommodate the federal government. The Taliban demanded the fulfillment of three conditions for going ahead with the talks.

 First, all Taliban prisoners should be released. This process must start with the release of non-combat Taliban personnel. The Taliban gave three lists of prisoners which contained names ranging from 300 to 700.

Second, the federal government should pay compensation for the losses suffered by them at the hands of the security forces.

Third, the Pakistan military should withdraw from the tribal areas.

 As a gesture of goodwill it should first withdraw from a specified area where the Taliban will be free to pursue their lives. The federal government released some 19 Taliban prisoners but the Taliban did not welcome this, arguing that their names did not appear in the Taliban list of prisoners.

 On the other hand the federal government did not put forward any specific condition for the Taliban to accept. In speeches and statements some federal ministers and the prime minister argued that the talks would be held within the framework of the Pakistan’s Constitution. However, the representatives of the federal government did not suggest this condition in the talks with the Taliban.

 The Taliban have blamed the federal government for the problems in the talk and refused to admit that they did not give any concession to the government ever since the talks were started between the federal government and the Taliban.

  The Nawaz Muslim League continues to talk about a negotiated settlement with the Taliban despite the fact the Taliban have never indicated that they want to live in peace within the framework of the Constitution.

  The Taliban entered the talks not for agreeing to work within the framework of the Constitution and law. They cannot accept that because if they agree to work within the limits of the Constitution, the Taliban character will have to be changed from a violent Islamic movement to an Islamic party like other Islamic parties in Pakistan.

 The Taliban want to chalk out a framework for interaction between them and the Pakistan state: how these would interact with each other rather than the Taliban working under the Pakistani state?

It is like two states agreeing on a framework for pursuing peaceful neighborly relations. Such an arrangement will not be acceptable to the Pakistan military as they are opposed to withdrawal from the tribal areas and they would not give a secure “safe-haven” to the Taliban. Major political parties and societal groups will also reject this formula.

  The latest meeting of the Cabinet Committee on National Security held on April 17 expressed its determination to retaliate if the Taliban attacked. It is very likely that the Pakistan military will launch a major security operation in North Waziristan in May-June. It wants to establish its effective control in the tribal areas and on the Pakistan-Afghan border before most of American and NATO troops withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

 The summer of 2014 is expected to witness a lot of military and non-military activity in Pakistan. This will include a security operation in the tribal arrears. If the federal government did not go along with the military for security operation it will have more problems with the military and the opposition political parties.

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Can India finally become an economic superpower

Posted on 24 April 2014 by admin

With elections underway in the world’s second most populated country the question for Indian voters is whether they can have both social progressivism and powerful economic growth.

Elections underway in India could determine if the world’s largest democracy, and second most-populated country, will resume a promising Industrial Revolution that has stalled, unlike its counterpart in China which continues apace.

The stakes are high. There is India’s strategic importance, of course, and its role since gaining independence in the mid-20th century as a role model for the developing world. Political stability flowing from greater and more widespread economic prosperity in India has had a neutralizing effect on ethnic and nationalistic extremism in the entire region, notably neighbouring Pakistan, still implicitly providing safe haven for the Taliban and at sharp odds with Delhi over the long-disputed Kashmir.

Canada, no less than the U.S. and Europe, is reliant on India for lower-cost, high-skill labour – both of which we employ locally in high-tech centres like Bangalore, and Indian ex-pats, who represent some of South Asia’s best and brightest minds. India’s quest, peaking in the 2000s, to become an economic superpower has boosted Canadian exports to the region, creating jobs and generating export revenue at home, and providing hugely attractive, once-in-a-lifetime foreign investment opportunities in India for the enormous pools of mostly retirement funds managed by Canada’s enormous pension funds.

Post-independence Indian elections have tended to be been muddled affairs, the outcomes lacking clarity about India’s preferred way forward. That is a reflection of the ethnic and ideological complexities of a country of 1.2 billion people, 814 million voters and 447 mother tongues, 29 of them languages spoken by one million people or more.

But the voting that began in India’s 16th post-independence parliamentary elections on April 7 and concludes May 12 promises a more substantive outcome.

Like Canadians in 1988, who had a clear choice in the federal contest of that year between expanded trade with the U.S. or rejecting the proposed Free Trade Agreement, Indians are currently debating the direction of the country rather than the usual “identity politics” of ethnicity, religion, regional nationalism and personalities of the candidates. Those elements are by no means entirely absent, but in the midst of a current economic downturn, a battle of ideas over a better blueprint for prosperity has made a welcome, forceful appearance.

The question, essentially, is should India continue with the social welfarism of the ruling Indian National Congress Party (Congress). Or should it opt for radical change, electing the front-running Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which embraces a more Western-style brand of economics liberated of India’s notoriously sclerotic bureaucracy and attendant red tape as well as endemic corruption.

India first launched itself on an Industrial Revolution 23 years ago, with liberalizing reforms that have by now created the world’s biggest middle class. Numbering about 400 million people, India’s middle class is larger than the entire populations of both the U.S. and of Europe. The reforms also bred a generation of dynamic Indian entrepreneurs restless for market liberalizations.

That is a remarkable transformation, of course, in a young country which at the time of independence was distrustful of the profit motive and intent on creating an equitable society. That was the counter-reaction to lengthy British rule that favoured the few while hundreds of millions of Indians were relegated to chronic deprivation.

Yet in 1991, in the face of a balance-of-payments crisis, the Congress party abruptly pushed through reforms that laid the foundation for an emerging economic giant. In the decades since, the Indian experiment with more robust capitalism has taken hold widely elsewhere in the developing world, notably Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, and not without irony, Congress has slow-footed the very reforms it brought about, but only half-heartedly believed in, even as India to this day nurtures a resentment toward China and its skyrocketing growth, which slightly pre-dates that of the new India.

And the process seemed to come full circle with the unexpected re-election of Congress in 2004, which kicked off what critics regard as a series of back-to-past social-welfare programs and weakening of free-market reforms.

Among biggest of those initiatives are 2005’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, akin in spirit to America’s New Deal, a gigantic public works program that has generated employment for a staggering 300 million households. The ruling Congress government also implemented hyper-ambitious food-security and universal education policies aimed at lessening inequality – the core message of the global Occupy movement.

But critics have found these priorities backward-looking and smacking of “nanny state” paternalism. That’s a simplistic assessment. While India can now boast the world’s biggest middle class, it also remains home to the world’s biggest impoverished population, also numbering about 400 million people.

Meanwhile, during his eight years in office, beginning in 2003, Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was raising millions of Brazilians from poverty, and began closing the gap between rich and poor at an astonishing clip, inadvertently challenging India’s post-1991 model of developing world leadership.

India’s GDP has slumped, to below 5 per cent anticipated this year, lowest in a decade, from near double-digit economic expansion in the 2000s. Federal and local deficits have soared. Last year, India suffered an embarrassing run on the rupee. The OECD has warned Delhi it must reduce “regulatory uncertainty” or face accelerating declines in foreign direct investment (FDI), while local business confidence is also low.

The IMF, on a more positive note, has suggested that mere concern about shifting government priorities, with resulting uncertainty among investors, is the chief culprit in the slump – a factor more easily dealt with than the usual suspects of high interest rates, red tape, corruption and so on.

That certainty about India’s future is what the world seeks from the votes tabulated after May 12. But the outcome will not be as clear-cut as the decision of Canadian voters in 1988, which saw the FTA implemented the following year. Instead, the likely outcome is a coalition headed by a BJP led by Narenda Modi, 63, lacking a decisive mandate for radical change.

Still, a defeat for Congress and its leader, Rahul Gandhi, 43, will shift India’s priorities. Chiefly that means a re-think of the current Congress model of reducing income inequality at the expense – or so BJP supporters believe – of economic dynamism. Alone, that shift in tone would be a dramatic outcome, signaling India’s renewed economic superpower aspirations, and making FDI from Canada and elsewhere more attractive to Western investors.

As in the Western liberal democracies, the question for Indian voters, and perhaps more for the two leading contending parties, is whether there cannot be both social progressivism and powerful economic growth. After all, the lesson from the most successful economies, for a century now, has been that the two are mutually indispensable.

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Canada’s middle class richest in study of big nations

Posted on 24 April 2014 by admin

Canada’s middle class appears to be the richest in a new study of incomes in several big countries.

The in-depth report published in The New York Times, which looks at about 20 nations, indicates that Canadians have bumped Americans out of the top spot they have long held.

“Middle-class incomes in Canada – substantially behind in 2000 – now appear to be higher than in the United States,” the report says.

“Median income in Canada pulled into a tie with median United States income in 2010 and has most likely surpassed it since then,” it adds.

The New York Times backs up its findings saying they’re based on 35 years of surveys and compiled by LIS, which runs the Luxembourg Income Study Database. The findings were also studied by LIS researchers, along with colleagues at a New York Times website, and outside economists.

The findings show that median per-capita income in Canada, after tax, matched that of the Americans in 2010 at $18,700 (U.S.), However, as the report noted, it has probably increased since.

(As economics professor Anke Kessler of Simon Fraser University pointed out, the current numbers did not take into account countries that have traditionally been ahead of Canada, such as Norway, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Indeed, according to one of the researchers involved in the study, Luxembourg is higher.)

“Because the total bounty produced by the American economy has not been growing substantially faster here in recent decades than in Canada or Western Europe, most American workers are left receiving meagre raises,” the New York Times report says.

“Finally, governments in Canada and Western Europe take more aggressive steps to raise the take-home pay of low- and middle-income households by redistributing income.”

Douglas Porter of BMO Nesbitt Burns noted that commodity prices, and the Canadian dollar, were strong in 2010, and, of course, the country had an exceptional rebound from the global recession compared to most other countries.

“And, historically, of course, Canada’s going to be up there, in any event,” he said.

Median income in Canada has climbed by 19.7 per cent since 2000, according to the New York Times report, matching the pace in Britain, ahead of Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain and Germany, and far ahead of the meagre 0.3 per cent in the United States.

Wealthy Americans, of course, still come out on top.

According to BMO’s Mr. Porter, the report offers some confirmation of what anecdotal and other evidence have suggested.

“I would attribute some of this divergence to the much deeper recession the U.S. suffered through, especially on the employment front,” he said.

“U.S. private sector employment finally recouped its recession losses in March, something Canada had accomplished about three years ago. And, payrolls in both U.S. manufacturing and construction are still down about 2 million jobs each from pre-recession levels, both industries that represent relatively well-paying, middle class jobs. In a nutshell, I believe that some of this weakening in the U.S. middle represents the lingering hangover of the most savage U.S. recession in the post-war era.”

On top of that, he added, America’s emphasis on “low taxes and low social support” oft means stronger income gains in good economic times, and soft incomes in poor times.

According to Statistics Canada, median income in 2010 was just shy of $30,000 (Canadian), while median family income was $76,000.

That, of course, masks the vast differences across the country and across income groups.

Deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal of CIBC World Markets cited the widening income gap in the United States over the past 15 years, and, at a slower pace, in Canada, which he believes is a huge issue.

“It is not that we are doing great (we are not), it is that the U.S. is doing much worse,” Mr. Tal said.

“In my opinion, the widening income gap in the U.S. is the number one economic problem facing the U.S.”

Given that, many manufacturers are now targeting the middle class in emerging economies as that group in America is a “shadow of its former self,” Mr. Tal added while warning about Canada, as well.

“I do believe that the growing income gap in Canada is an important and a significant problem with real macro economic implications,” he said.

“The debate about employment quality and skill mismatch is part of this picture. The fact that we are doing better than the U.S. does not mean that we have to relax about this issue. The opposite is the case.”

Average weekly earnings across the provinces rose last year to $910.74 from $894.71, lowest in Prince Edward Island at $753.58 and highest in Alberta at $1,108.01.

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6 things Jim Flaherty taught me about personal finance

Posted on 24 April 2014 by admin

Sheryl Smolkin went to law school with the late Jim Flaherty. She reflects on how his actions as finance minister can be applied on a personal level.

Jim Flaherty’s picture has hung above my desk for as long as I can remember. That’s because we were both law students in Osgoode Hall Law School’s class of 1973 and his headshot is third row centre in the class composite.

There were over 240 graduates in our year. Many have had stellar careers as lawyers, judges and politicians. But given a class that size it is not surprising that many of us did not know Flaherty well when we were students. However, by the date of his untimely death earlier this month after almost 20 years in public service at both the provincial and federal level, he was instantly recognizable to almost every Canadian.

As individuals struggling to live within our means, there are some personal finance lessons we can learn from steps he took to balance the country’s books.

 

You can’t have it all: His eight years as finance minister included funding cuts to many groups and social programs. Whether you agree with the cuts made, the message is clear. We must all prioritize our needs to live within our means.

 

Pay down debt: Flaherty repeatedly said that until we pay down the national debt the government’s ability to fund new programs is limited. Individuals carrying consumer debt have the same constraints. Hefty interest payments on credit card debt will limit your cash flow and reduce your ability to afford even the basic necessities.

 

Good debt, bad debt: Flaherty understood there is good debt and bad debt. Thus he spent generously to help Canada survive a global recession. In the consumer context, borrowing a modest amount to pay for your education or add a revenue-producing basement apartment may be a good investment. Financing new furniture at high interest rates over several years is not.

 

Pay off your mortgage: On Flaherty’s watch, the allowable amortization periods for government-insured mortgages was cut three times in four years from a maximum 40 years in 2008 to 25 years in 2012. He believed it was prudent to discourage house buyers from taking on supersized mortgages they couldn’t afford to repay in a reasonable period of time, particularly if interest rates went up or the housing market crashed.

 

RRSPs have company: The tax-free savings account (TFSA) announced in the 2008 federal budget has been embraced by Canadians at all income levels. Contributions accumulate tax-free and if you take money out of a TFSA, your contribution room is restored in the following year. Because withdrawals do not increase your income, they do not trigger clawbacks of government retirement benefits like Old Age Security.

 

Helping the disabled: Taking care of disabled children who cannot realize their full potential has long been a challenge for family members. Flaherty was the father of a disabled son and created the registered disability savings plans (RDSP) program, eligible for the Canada disability savings bond and the Canada disability savings grant. The RDSP accumulates tax-free, and government disability pensions are not reduced when withdrawals are made for the plan beneficiary.

In 2013 our class had its 40th reunion and the crowd was smaller than five years ago. When we meet again in 2018, another chair will be empty. But there will surely be a spirited discussion of Flaherty’s legacy and at least a few glasses raised in his memory.

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‘2 States’ collects Rs.38.06 crore in opening weekend

Posted on 24 April 2014 by admin

Abhishek Varman’s debut directorial “2 States” managed to collect Rs.38.06 crore in its opening weekend. The audience is loving it for its slice-of-life portrayal of two lovers from different states of the country.

While it made Rs.12.42 crore on its opening day April 18, “2 States” managed a business of Rs.12.13 crore and Rs.13.51 crore on the next two days, according to trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

The movie, distributed worldwide by UTV Motion Pictures, released in nearly 2,400 screens worldwide. In India, “2 States” released in over 2,000 screens and internationally, it released in close to 350 screens in 30 countries.

Starring Alia Bhatt and Arjun Kapoor as the couple in love, with Ronit Roy, Amrita Singh and Revathy in supporting roles, the movie was not just marketed aggressively, but is also getting good footfalls in theatres due to positive word-of-mouth.

Co-produced by Karan Johar and Sajid Nadiadwala, the film tells the story of a couple belonging to two different states. It is based on Chetan Bhagat’s best-seller “2 States: The Story Of My Marriage”, and also shows the coming together of two families from distinct cultural backgrounds.

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