Archive | February, 2017

M-103: Liberal Government Will Support Iqra Khalid’s Motion Condemning Islamophobia

Posted on 25 February 2017 by admin

Federal Liberals will support a backbencher’s motion calling on the government to condemn Islamophobia and study the best ways to quell an “increasing public climate of hate and fear.”

Motion 103, tabled by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid has sparked divisions among Conservatives and raised the ire of those who argue its adoption could have a chilling effect on free speech.

The non-binding motion has also been the subject of rumours and innuendo from some right-wing blogs in Canada and the United States suggesting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seeking to somehow criminalize criticism of Islam.

Khalid addressed some of those concerns at a press conference with Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly. The pair was surrounded by Liberal MPs in what Joly called a “demonstration of solidarity.”

Joly said that the government was voicing “strong and clear” support for Khalid’s motion. She later said that while all Liberal MPs will be free to vote based on their own beliefs, there will be “very strong support” from caucus.

“M-103 is about ensuring that, in Canada, we stand for free and respectful exchanges of ideas and opinions,” Joly said. “And there is no place for hatred and no tolerance of abuse.”

Khalid noted that the motion came on the heels of an e-petition tabled in the House in Commons, signed by nearly 70,000 Canadians, condemning Islamophobia.

If M-103 passes, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage will be asked to develop a “whole of government approach” to combat systemic racism and “contextualize hate crime reports so Canadians can understand what is happening on the ground,” Khalid said.

The Mississauga MP said that while the motion makes specific mention of Islamophobia, it is “broad in scope to include all marginalized communities.”

Khalid also noted that she and other colleagues have received hateful comments over the motion in recent weeks that only highlight the work that needs to be done.

“This strengthens my resolve to continue to combat this issue,” she said.

‘This is not legislation’

Khalid denied the motion could in any way restrict the rights of Canadians to express their views on things such as sharia law or face-covering niqab veils.

“This is a motion, this is not legislation,” Khalid said. “And I would be the first person to oppose anything that infringes on our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This motion is about having a study on how we can tackle important issues like systemic racism and religious discrimination.”

But several Tory leadership hopefuls have already made it clear that they will not support M-103. Kellie Leitch tweeted last month that the motion does not treat “all religions equally” and suggested it grants “special privileges” to Islam.

In recent days, other rivals have joined Leitch in criticizing Khalid’s effort and announcing they too will not support the motion.

Andrew Scheer released a statement saying M-103 is not inclusive.

“It singles out just one faith,” Scheer said in a release. “I believe that all religions deserve the same level of respect and protection.”

Maxime Bernier suggested that while M-103 is not a bill and lacks teeth, it could be a “first step” in restricting the fundamental right of Canadians to express their opinions on a specific religion.

“We should reaffirm everyone’s right to believe in and criticize whatever belief they want, whether it is Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, atheism, or any other,” Bernier said in his release.

Tory leadership contenders seek specifics

Tory leadership Kevin O’Leary also told The National Post he won’t support the motion. “It is ill-conceived and it is a slap in the face to other religions and to other races,” O’Leary told The Post.

Both Scheer and Bernier took specific umbrage with the fact that the motion does not define Islamophobia. At the press conference Wednesday, Joly said Islamophobia is the “discrimination of Muslim people and people who are of Muslim faith.”

A reporter noted that Tory MPs have said they approached Khalid with ideas for amendments and were shut down. Khalid said the wording of the motion, as it stands, has broad support from MPs, organizations, and Canadians at large.

“Watering down the words of this motion is not in the best interest of all these people,” she said.

Ambrose accuses Liberals of playing games

Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose has also said she won’t vote for the motion. Ambrose took to Facebook to explain that while M-103 won’t bar free speech, she is concerned the term “Islamophobia” could be used to shut down legitimate debate and “to intimidate rather than to inform.”

“I do worry that some of my work trying to empower women and girls in Muslim communities could be branded as ‘Islamophobic’ if I criticize practices that I believe are oppressive,” she wrote.

Ambrose said two Tory critics tried to work with Khalid to change the language to reflect the need to fight discrimination against all religious communities, but were denied.

“This motion is simply being used by the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister to play partisan politics,” Ambrose said.

 But at least one Tory leadership hopeful is prepared to support Khalid.

Michael Chong released a lengthy statement saying he will vote in favour of M-103. Chong’s statement said that, in light of the recent deadly attack on a Quebec City mosque, it is “appropriate and important that Canadian Parliamentarians” tackle the issue of anti-Islamic prejudice.

Chong said it was untrue that the motion grants special treatment to Canadian Muslims, noting how the House has passed motions in recent years dealing with Jewish people, Yazidis, and Egyptian Coptic Christians.

 “Motion 103 does not set us down the path of sharia law in any way, shape, or form,” Chong said.

MP says she was told to ‘go home’

Khalid, who was born in Pakistan and immigrated to Canada from England, recounted the bigotry she faced as a “young, brown Muslim Canadian woman” when she tabled the motion in December. Khalid said she was told to “go home,” even though Canada was her country.

“I am a proud Canadian among hundreds and thousands of others who will not tolerate hate based on religion or skin colour,” she said at the time. “I rise today with my fellow Canadians to reject and condemn Islamophobia.”

Police-reported hate crimes against Muslim Canadians have more than doubled in the past three years, according to recent numbers from Statistics Canada.

The full text of Khalid’s motion is below:

Systemic racism and religious discrimination

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear; (b) condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and take note of House of Commons’ petition e-411 and the issues raised by it; and (c) request that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage undertake a study on how the government could (i) develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia, in Canada, while ensuring a community-centered focus with a holistic response through evidence-based policy-making, (ii) collect data to contextualize hate crime reports and to conduct needs assessments for impacted communities, and that the Committee should present its findings and recommendations to the House no later than 240 calendar days from the adoption of this motion, provided that in its report, the Committee should make recommendations that the government may use to better reflect the enshrined rights and freedoms in the Constitution Acts, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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The province must deliver long-term funding support to Toronto

Posted on 25 February 2017 by admin

The City of Toronto can’t afford any longer to limp along with budgets held together with duct tape and string.

After a marathon 15-hour debate last week, the city adopted a $10.5-billion operating budget after the usual battles over where to trim, which fees to increase, and how much of its rainy day reserve fund it will have to raid to patch over the gaps. Oh, and a voter-friendly increase in property taxes of just 2 per cent.

But it’s dawning on more and more councillors that none of this is enough to set a proper path forward for a city with the size and ambition of this one.

Toronto’s infrastructure and social housing stock is crumbling and it has $33 billion in unfunded capital projects. The city badly needs substantive and stable financial support from the provincial and federal governments if it is to be able to do any kind of long-term planning and fulfill its tremendous potential.

Happily, Mayor John Tory seems to have reached the same conclusion. Last week he went on a multi-day road show to push for long-term funding support for the city and urge a “vigorous” debate on how cities are financed. The mayor should get the full support of council and all those who share his view that Toronto has outgrown what he labeled the “prehistoric handcuffs” that are threatening to hold it back.

As he told a TV interviewer: “The days of being told that we have to limit ourselves to regressive property taxes that don’t grow with the economy, those days should be over .”

Tory signalled he does not intend to give up on implementing new revenue tools, such as road tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway, despite Premier Kathleen Wynne’s refusal to give the city permission to do so.

More importantly, he served notice that he expects the province not to just approve new revenue tools for long-term financial planning, but to pony up its share of infrastructure costs.

It’s about time. For decades the federal and provincial governments have downloaded costs in areas like social housing and infrastructure to cities.

Consider the cost to the city of social housing, alone. Three years ago Toronto approved a 10-year, $2.6-billion plan to address the backlog of repairs for Toronto Community Housing that was supposed to be financed jointly by the city, province and federal government. But neither Queen’s Park nor Ottawa has stepped up to pay its share.

As a result, TCH expects to close 425 units this year because they are uninhabitable. In 2018, if it doesn’t get more funding it will have to shut another several hundred units. And this is happening when almost 200,000 people are on the wait list for affordable housing in Toronto.

Starving Toronto of ways to pay for its needs doesn’t make financial sense for the city, the rest of the province, or indeed the country.

As Tory told the Empire Club last Tuesday, the city is home to fully 20 per cent of all Canadians and generates more than 18 per cent of the national GDP . “And yet we make up just 1.3 per cent of general government expenditures in Canada.”

“A city that generates so much economic prosperity for our country, especially if denied the opportunity to address its own finances, cannot continue to receive so little investment in return,” he argued.

Tory has made five new demands of the provincial government. He wants it to share costs on large transit projects such as the Eglinton East light rail line, waterfront transit, and downtown relief line. He wants it to match costs for new investments in social housing and for tackling the massive repair backlog. He wants it to provide land for new affordable housing projects. He wants it to contribute significant funds to development of the Port Lands.

And he wants it to help the city pay for operation and maintenance of the Gardiner and DVP now that Queen’s Park has nixed his plan for tolls. These are the kind of big measures the city needs to get on a sustainable path to the future. When the Wynne government vetoed the city’s plan for tolls, it opened the door to demands like this. Its promise of an extra share in the provincial gas tax amounting to $170 million in a few years doesn’t cut it.

Tory has strong arguments to make in favour of much more significant funding for the city and this is the time to make them. A stronger Toronto will be good for all of Ontario, and all of Canada.

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Toronto council approves 2 per cent property tax increase

Posted on 25 February 2017 by admin

With council poised to approve a budget Mayor John Tory said kept property taxes at “reasonable” rates, critics said they would have trouble sleeping with cuts impacting the city’s most vulnerable.

A council meeting went late Wednesday night as members debated a budget some called “fair” and others contended was “unsustainable.”

Council did earlier approve a residential property tax rate hike that totals 3.29 per cent, or $90 extra for the average homeowner.

An attempt to prevent the elimination of 10 front-line shelter staff positions — at a time when those havens are exceeding capacity targets and those who rely on them struggle to find more permanent housing — failed 19-25. The mayor and all but one of his executive members voted against it.

Councillor Joe Cressy moved a motion that council keep the 10 frontline positions, by voting to increase the 2017 operating budget for shelter, support and housing administration by just over $1 million, by pulling funding from a property tax stabilization reserve fund.

“The shelter system in our city serves some of our most vulnerable residents. These are people who far too many of them are fleeing abuse, these are people far too many of them who are living with mental health issues, who are living with addictions, who are there because often there is nowhere else to go,” Cressy said. “Let’s not balance this budget on the backs of the most vulnerable.”

Tory planned to support a motion asking staff to report back on the “true” service level impact, saying he believed it would be “minimal.”

“I have confidence in our professional public servants and I can’t believe they would even put in front of us for consideration, no matter what direction they’d been given by us, any recommendation that they thought could lead to that consequence that you’ve talked about,” Tory said in response to criticism the cuts could hurt the city’s most vulnerable.

The positions would be lost through attrition — when the current staff retire or leave.

Five of the jobs, council heard earlier in the night, would come from one of the ten city run shelters, which serve about 1,500 people. The remaining 49 shelters, council heard, in the city are run by community agencies. The entire system, including hotel beds, has room for about 4,600 people, according to city data.

“The impact of this is there will be less hands to do this very important work, is that fair enough to say that?” asked Councillor Pam McConnell, who has led the city’s poverty reduction initiative, earlier in the night. Paul Raftis, general manager of the city’s shelter, support and housing administration division, said that description was fair. He noted it would be a relatively “minor” impact on service.

Earlier on Wednesday, council approved a residential property tax increase for 2017 just below the rate of inflation.

The 2 per cent increase required to help balance this year’s budget, when adjusted to include a new special levy for capital projects and the provincial education tax, totals 3.29 per cent.

That increase will cost the average homeowner, with property assessed at $587,471, an extra $90 in 2017 and a total $2,835 on their bill.

Council rejected two separate motions — one that would have flatlined property taxes and another that would have raised them above the rate of inflation.

A motion from Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who has positioned himself as enemy number one to the mayor in recent months, for a 0 per cent increase failed 2-40. Only Etobicoke Councillor Stephen Holyday supported him.

Councillor Gord Perks, who has long argued that residents can afford to pay more to help the city’s most vulnerable, put forward a 4.26 per cent increase. That motion failed 10-32.

“What I am proposing is that we ask those people in the city of Toronto who have the most wealth to put more money back into the system and the reason I want to do that is so that we can afford the programs that help the people who truly are struggling to live in the City of Toronto,” Perks told his colleagues on the council floor.

His motion would have meant the average homeowner would see their taxes increase by $152.50 this year instead of the approved $90.

“I am proud of city council’s decision to keep Toronto property tax increases below the rate of inflation,” said a prepared statement from Tory’s office after the tax rates vote. “The single biggest cheque most families write to the city is for their property tax bill. I was elected on a mandate to keep property tax increases at or below the rate of inflation and I will keep that promise.”

Councillor Mike Layton, who moved to reverse above-inflation increases to user fees for recreation programs for youth and seniors, noted the mayor had set a benchmark of being able to sleep soundly after finalizing this budget.

“I can tell you with cuts to shelters, cuts to long-term care, I’m going to be thinking of those people tonight when I try to go to sleep,” Layton said Wednesday night.

Motions from councillors also sought to reverse cuts to mandatory training for long-term care home homes staff and delay closure of a child-care centre.

A motion from the newest executive member Councillor Jon Burnside asked for funding of two youth hubs and increased programming for existing hubs in four other library locations. That $387,000 is for a program that is part of the city’s poverty reduction strategy, which Tory earlier promised to fully fund.

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Ontario to cap kindergarten classes, give teachers raise in tentative deal

Posted on 25 February 2017 by admin

Ontario’s Liberal government has agreed to cap full-day kindergarten classes at 30, according to a copy of a tentative contract extension agreement with elementary teachers obtained by The Canadian Press.

If ratified, elementary teachers will get a 4 per cent raise over two years.

That’s the same compensation offered to English Catholic teachers and French teachers, according to several other media reports.

Currently, each school board must have an average full-day kindergarten class size of 26, but there is no cap.

The terms in the tentative deal, which would still require regulatory amendments, would set a cap at 30 for the 2017-18 school year and 29 for the following year.

The government has secured two-year contract extensions for all central education unions except the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, giving the unions deals until 2019 and giving the Liberals labour peace with the teachers ahead of the provincial election next year.

There are no talks scheduled with the OSSTF, though Education Minister Mitzie Hunter has said she is hopeful some will soon be arranged.

The tentative deal with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association provides a 1.5 per cent salary increase this September, a 1 per cent increase next September, a 1 per cent increase in February 2019 and a 0.5 per cent increase when the contract expires in August 2019.

Teachers will also get a 0.5 per cent lump sum payment this November, “in recognition of potential expenses for professional development, supplies or equity or for other professional expenses,” according to the deal.

The tentative agreement, which will be voted on March 1 and 2, also provides $33.5 million for an additional 335 full-time teachers in the province’s Catholic schools, according to the bargaining update. However, instead of full-day kindergarten, the Catholic teachers’ additional contract states that additional staffing will be used for young students with special education needs, at-risk students and those who are new to the country and learning to speak English.

Union president Ann Hawkins said in a memo obtained by the Star that “our provincial bargaining team has worked hard to address some of the concerns we have heard from Catholic teachers over the past few years. I am very pleased to offer this agreement to members for their consideration.”

When the deal with the elementary teachers was announced, union president Sam Hammond said the goals were “to negotiate terms that improve the working conditions of ETFO members and the learning conditions of Ontario’s elementary students.

“ETFO believes these goals have been achieved,” he said.

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Student Debt To The Tune Of $178 Million Written Off By Liberals

Posted on 25 February 2017 by admin

The federal government for the second year in a row is writing off millions in student loans it will never collect, this time to the tune of $178.4 million.

The money represents 32,554 loans that federal officials believe they will never be able to collect, either because a debtor may have filed for bankruptcy, the debt itself has passed a six-year legal limit on collection, or the debtor can’t be found.

Last year, the government wrote off 33,967 loans totalling $176 million.

Federal officials have increased their efforts in recent years to collect outstanding student loans after watching write-offs hit $312 million in 2012 and $295 million in 2015.

The previous Conservative government ordered officials to ramp up collection efforts in order to bring the write-offs under control.

The Liberals’ first budget offered a new tool for the Canada Revenue Agency in its collection efforts: legal changes allowing it to use tax information for the purpose of collecting debts from the student loan program overseen by Employment and Social Development Canada. The CRA had expected to receive that power last year, but the federal election delayed political approval.

Figures provided by the CRA late last year showed the agency collected $208.8 million in unpaid loans, a three per cent increase in collections between 2015 and 2016.

The CRA is responsible for collecting loans in default and can do so by withholding income tax refunds to cover the outstanding amount, or by referring cases to the attorney general for legal action — which could lead to garnishing wages or seizing assets.

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7 killed as three suicide bombers attack Pakistan court

Posted on 25 February 2017 by admin

TANGI, Pakistan (AFP) – At least seven people were killed when multiple Taleban suicide bombers attacked a court complex in northern Pakistan Tuesday (Feb 21), the latest in a series of assaults which have raised fears militants are regrouping.

One bomber was briefly on the loose inside the busy complex in the Tangi area of Charsadda district but was killed by police some 20 minutes after the attack began, officials said.

A second bomber was shot dead by security forces and a third died when he detonated his vest outside the main gates of the facility in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, according to police.

The attack was claimed by the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) faction of the Pakistani Taleban, which carried out a series of apparently coordinated assaults last week including a powerful bomb blast in Lahore which killed 14 people.

Earlier this month the group vowed a fresh offensive on targets in Pakistan including the judiciary.

“So far seven people have been killed and 15 wounded,” Suhail Khalid, district police chief, told AFP, adding that a lawyer was among the dead. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office condemned the latest assault.

“We are a steadfast nation and will not be deterred by such attacks. Our government will continue to fight against terrorist elements and we will succeed,” a statement said.

The three attackers had opened fire on police and thrown grenades as they tried to battle their way into the complex, Khalid said. “Bomb disposal experts told us that each bomber was wearing seven to eight kilogrammes of explosives,” he told reporters.

Hundreds of people including lawyers, judges and citizens normally attend the court complex. An AFP reporter at the scene said the area was littered with human remains, while a pile of law books stained with blood and riddled with bullets lay strewn outside an office.

Police scoured the area for evidence as military helicopters whirred overhead. An old man whose four-year-old grandson died in the attack wept.

Another man who witnessed the attack, Muhammad Hussain, said he was about to enter the complex when he heard the blast. “When I looked up I saw three armed men, hurling grenades and opening fire,” said the 35-year-old civil servant, adding he sought shelter in a nearby police barracks from where he heard the gunbattle.

“This continued for some minutes and then I heard another big bang. Some minutes after a policemen told me that it’s all over.”

Lawyers and the judiciary are frequent targets in Pakistan. Among last week’s assaults was a bomb blast targeting a van carrying judges in Peshawar, which killed their driver.

Last August JuA along with the Islamic State group claimed a suicide bombing in Quetta that killed 73 people, including many of the southwestern city’s legal community.

Police and troops had been on high alert in Pakistan after last week’s wave of attacks, which killed more than 100 people. Most, including the Lahore bomb, were claimed by JuA, a faction of the Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP, or Pakistani Taleban) group.

But the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group claimed the deadliest of last week’s assaults, a suicide bomb at a Sufi shrine in Sindh province on Thursday which killed 90 people and wounded hundreds.

The emergence of ISIS and a TTP resurgence would be a major blow to Pakistan, which had enjoyed a dramatic improvement in security over the past two years after a military-led crackdown begun in 2014.

Islamabad launched a violent crackdown in the wake of the recent attacks, saying it killed dozens of “terrorists” and carried out strikes on militant hideouts along the border with Afghanistan.

Hundreds of families have been displaced by the firing on both sides of the border, according to officials.

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Relatives, friends mourn family killed in Brampton house fire

Posted on 25 February 2017 by admin

Relatives of three people who died in a Brampton house fire are in agony as they scramble for more information.

Speaking from Pakistan, family members said they are most worried about 8-year-old Zoya Kapadia, whose parents and sister died in the early morning blaze on Madison St., near Dixie Rd. and Williams Pkwy.

Officials haven’t released the names of the family members, but friends and relatives have identified them as Amina Kapadia, 19, and her parents, Iftekhar Niazi, 48 and Jyoti Kapadia, 45.

Zoya’s uncle and cousin, who live in Toronto, were with her at the Hospital for Sick Children, where she was in serious but stable condition, said Zeeshan Niazi, a nephew of Iftekhar Niazi.

Niazi said the family had spoken to police at the Canadian Embassy in Pakistan but there were very few details available.

He said Iftekhar’s 80-year-old father and 70-year-old mother have been hit hardest by the news. “In this age, how can they bear this kind of loss?” Niazi asked.

Iftekhar’s parents treasured their granddaughters, Amina and Zoya, as they were the only girls among their many grandchildren, he said.

Their hope is that Zoya will be able to live with them now that her parents are gone. They called Sheldon Teague, the 19-year-old man who was staying in a basement apartment and rescued Zoya, “an angel.”

Niazi said the family of four was planning to visit Pakistan next month. He said Iftekhar had immigrated to Canada in 1998 and married Jyoti there.

Iftekhar, who Niazi said was nicknamed Guddu, which means “little one,” was a businessman and Jyoti worked at Rogers, Niazi said. Jyoti returned from work at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday and spoke to family in Pakistan on the phone. She had just celebrated a birthday on Monday and was describing the dinner, cake and family time.

The University of Guelph said it would fly its flags at half-mast and hold a memorial service on Friday for Amina, a first-year undergraduate science student. Her death was confirmed on the school’s website.

“Our heart goes out to the friends and family of Amina,” Brenda Whiteside, the university’s associate vice-president of student affairs, said in the statement. “This is a tragic and incredibly sad event, and we are here to support the U of G community.”

Jemaya Balkarran, a Grade 12 student in Brampton, said Amina was like a big sister to her. She said they became close during a school trip.

Balkarran gushed about the friend she called a “role model,” describing Amina as incredibly smart, full of school spirit and always well dressed.

Niazi said Amina dreamed of becoming a doctor and that she enjoyed drawing and painting.

Amina had been in a car accident five days before her death, Niazi added, saying the car was badly damaged but she was not injured.

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Toronto housing called ‘bubble,’ as new listings fall rapidly

Posted on 25 February 2017 by admin

An unprecedented imbalance between the supply and the demand for Toronto-area homes is exerting a disproportionate impact on the national picture, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).

Its chief economist Gregory Klump said Wednesday that he doesn’t see that changing any time soon, although one bank economist suggested that the Toronto and area market may be “dangerously” overheated.

Across the country, home sales declined 1.3 per cent between December and January, but the actual (non seasonally adjusted) sales activity rose 1.9 per cent compared to a year ago, said CREA.

Its report showed dollar volume of Greater Toronto residential property sales rose 35.6 per cent year over year in January, compared to a 2.1 per cent national average rise, which was dragged down by a 51.1 per cent decline in Greater Vancouver.

New listings in Toronto fell a seasonally adjusted 17 per cent in January from a month earlier, the biggest one-month decline since 2002. Sales as a share of new listings — a gauge of how demand compares with supply — rose to a record 94 per cent.

But there are different takes on how concerning that is.

Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter described the Toronto region, including cities surrounding it, as being in a “housing bubble,” in a note to investors.

“Toronto and any city that is remotely within commuting distance are overheating, and perhaps dangerously so,” Porter wrote.

But CREA’s Klump said prices won’t go sideways until affordability starts to erode sales and buyers can no longer afford to purchase a home.

“As long as we see the (Toronto area) shortage of supply there’s no end in sight,” he said.

What is clear, however, is that the high price of Toronto real estate — coupled with the city’s unique municipal land transfer tax — is driving activity to unaccustomed high levels in communities farther and farther outside the city.

New mortgage regulations introduced last year that make it harder to qualify for a home purchase are a boon to urban sprawl, said Klump.

The average price for what is considered a “benchmark” home in Toronto is up 22.6 per cent from a year earlier, according to CREA. That has lifted prices for areas like Oakville-Milton to 26 per cent over the past year.

Kitchener-Waterloo, Barrie and Brantford are all feeling the city spillover, said CREA.

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Dubai To Launch Flying Drone Taxis In July

Posted on 25 February 2017 by admin

Up, up and away: Dubai hopes to have a passenger-carrying drone regularly buzzing through the skyline of this futuristic city-state in July.

The arrival of the Chinese-made EHang 184 — which already has had its flying debut over Dubai’s iconic, sail-shaped Burj al-Arab skyscraper hotel — comes as the Emirati city also has partnered with other cutting-edge technology companies, including Hyperloop One.

The question is whether the egg-shaped, four-legged craft will really take off as a transportation alternative in this car-clogged city already home to the world’s longest driverless metro line.

Mattar al-Tayer, the head of Dubai’s Roads & Transportation Agency, announced plans to have the craft regularly flying at the World Government Summit. Before his remarks on Monday, most treated the four-legged, eight-propeller craft as just another curiosity at an event that views itself as a desert Davos.

“This is not only a model,” al-Tayer said. “We have actually experimented with this vehicle flying in Dubai’s skies.”

The craft can carry a passenger weighing up to 100 kilograms (220 pounds) and a small suitcase. After buckling into its race-car-style seat, the craft’s sole passenger selects a destination on a touch-screen pad in front of the seat and the drone flies there automatically.

The drone, which has a battery allowing for a half-hour flight time and a range of up to 50 kilometres (31 miles), will be monitored remotely by a control room on the ground. It has a top speed of 160 kph (100 mph), but authorities say it will be operated typically at 100 kph (62 mph).

Al-Tayer said the drone would begin regular operations in July. He did not elaborate.

The Road and Transportation Agency later issued a statement saying the drone had been examined by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and was controlled through 4G mobile internet. The agency did not immediately respond to further questions from The Associated Press.

The United Arab Emirates already requires drone hobbyists to register their aircraft. However, drone intrusions at Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, has seen it shut down for hours at a time in recent months.

EHang did not respond to a request for comment. In May, authorities in Nevada announced they would partner with EHang to test the 184 to possibly be cleared by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

The drone may be a techno curiosity for now but Dubai — the commercial capital of the oil-rich UAE and home to the long-haul carrier Emirates — has bold visions for the future and the 184 fits right into its plans.

Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced in April he wanted 25 per cent of all passenger trips in the city to be done by driverless vehicles in 2030. To that end, Dubai already has had the box-shaped driverless EZ10, built by France’s EasyMile, cruise nearby the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

In October, Dubai signed a deal with Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One to study the potential for building a hyperloop line between it and Abu Dhabi, the Emirati capital.

A hyperloop has levitating pods powered by electricity and magnetism that hurtle through low-friction pipes at a top speed of 1,220 kph (760 mph). Elon Musk, the co-founder of Tesla who appeared on Monday at the Dubai conference, first proposed the idea of a hyperloop in 2013.

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Chewing gum may adversely affect digestive system

Posted on 25 February 2017 by admin

Chronic exposure to a common food additive found in everything from chewing gum to bread can decrease the ability of small intestine cells to absorb nutrients and act as a barrier to pathogens, warns a study.

Ingestion of the compound, known as titanium dioxide, is nearly unavoidable. It can enter the digestive system through toothpastes, as titanium dioxide is used to create abrasion needed for cleaning. The oxide is also used in some chocolates to give it a smooth texture.

“Titanium oxide is a common food additive and people have been eating a lot of it for a long time — don’t worry, it won’t kill you! – but we were interested in some of the subtle effects, and we think people should know about them,” said one of the authors of the study, Gretchen Mahler, Assistant Professor at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

For the study, the researchers exposed a small intestinal cell culture model to the physiological equivalent of a meal’s worth of titanium oxide nanoparticles — 30 nanometers across — over four hours (acute exposure), or three meal’s worth over five days.

Acute exposures did not have much effect, but chronic exposure diminished the absorptive projections on the surface of intestinal cells called microvilli, showed the findings published in the journal NanoImpact.

With fewer microvilli, the intestinal barrier was weakened, metabolism slowed and some nutrients — iron, zinc, and fatty acids, specifically — were more difficult to absorb.

Enzyme functions were negatively affected, while inflammation signals increased, the study said. “To avoid foods rich in titanium oxide nanoparticles you should avoid processed foods, and especially candy. That is where you see a lot of nanoparticles,” Mahler said.

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