Archive | July, 2017

‘Calm … not kill’ is the aim behind changing the rules in Toronto’s housing market rules, Premier Kathleen Wynne says

Posted on 22 July 2017 by admin

Government will continue monitoring impact of changes as real estate industry urges Ontario to wait before intervening further.

Changes to Toronto-area real estate rules were meant to “calm … not kill” the market, says Premier Kathleen Wynne, adding the province will continue to keep an eye on their impact.

“We’re monitoring it closely,” said Wynne, speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park. “It was a sophisticated response to an overheating of the market and we’ll see, over the coming months, what the impact has been.

“I’m pretty confident that the range of things that we put in place is having the desired effect, and will continue to.”

While housing sales in Toronto area remain up year-over year, they have nevertheless declined month-to-month since Wynne introduced new housing policies April 20, including a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers and an expansion of rent controls.

The real estate industry has urged the province and other levels of government to wait for an extensive period before intervening any further.

“Let’s hit the brakes here,” said Tim Hudak, CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association and former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. “Let’s take a wait-and-see approach before any more demand interventions.”

Toronto realtor David Fleming believes the housing market was already correcting itself before the government changes.

“This is a market that likely would have cooled itself,” said Fleming of Bosley Real Estate. “What they’ve done effectively is just fast-tracked what would have been a natural cooling.”

Wynne spoke to reporters at Queen’s Park on Thursday morning before heading to Rhode Island to meet with U.S. governors to talk trade and promote cross-border economic ties at a national conference.

She called the meeting “a really important moment for Ontario, in the context of Canadian-American relations.

“The trade relationships between Canada and the United States, and Ontario and the United States, is critical to the well-being of both jurisdictions,” said Wynne, who will be joined by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “That’s really the underpinning of the conversations that I’ll be having with the governors and have been having with governors for the last number of months.”

While the pressure of protectionism is a concern — “we don’t know exactly where that protectionist sentiment is going to lead to” — Wynne said there is “some urgency, (as) we know that sometime in the next week or so there will be more clarity in what the mandate for the renegotiation of NAFTA will look like.”

About 28 states in the U.S. list Ontario as their first- or second-place export market.

Meanwhile, just-released results from the first quarter of this year showed Ontario’s economic growth bested the rest of the country, the United States and G7 countries.

“Ontario is doing very well in that national and international context,” Wynne also said. “That only for me reinforces why we continue to find ways to strengthen and grow the economy.”

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Bombardier admits it may miss 2017 TTC streetcar delivery target

Posted on 22 July 2017 by admin

Company has told the TTC it will be a ‘challenge’ to provide a total of 70 cars by the end of the year.

The TTC’s much-delayed streetcar order could be headed for another setback.

After months of assurances from Bombardier that the company was on track to meet its latest delivery targets, the Quebec-based rail manufacturer warned the transit agency this week that it will be a “challenge” to supply 70 cars by the end of 2017 as scheduled.

TTC CEO Andy Byford revealed the latest snag with the $1-billion vehicle purchase at a meeting of the agency’s board on Wednesday, where commissioners also voted to seek out other potential suppliers for future streetcar orders.

“They (Bombardier) have said to me that the 70 by year-end is still possible, but it’s at risk and that it’s increasingly challenging,” said Byford, who discussed the order Tuesday with Bombardier’s president of transportation for the Americas, Benoît Brossoit.

 “They have not ruled out that 70, I am not letting them off the hook for that 70, but they have flagged that there is a risk that we may fall a few vehicles short.”

Byford said the TTC won’t know “for another couple of months” whether the company will miss the deadline.

As of this week the TTC has 40 of the new streetcars on its property. Under a timetable the two sides agreed to in 2012, the agency was supposed to have about 130 by now. Some of the vehicles that have arrived are experiencing reliability issues, mainly related to their doors.

A Bombardier spokesperson confirmed that the company told the TTC that the latest delivery schedule could slip, but he said the corporation made the disclosure of out a desire to be transparent and he described the potential delay as a “very limited, short-term issue.”

“This does not mean Bombardier will not reach its target for 2017,” wrote Marc-André Lefebvre in an email.

“We are still fully on track to deliver the entire fleet of 204 streetcars by the original contract deadline of 2019.”

Lefebvre said that the company is “deploying extraordinary resources” to meet the year-end goal. Measures the company has taken include extending the work week at its Thunder Bay plant from five to seven days, and adding resources at its other production facilities in Mexico and Europe.

Bombardier has also chartered a large Antonov cargo plane to ship streetcar cabs from Vienna, Austria, instead of sending them by sea. Lefebvre said that the flights cost $750,000 and will save the company a month on shipping time. All additional investments being put into streetcar production will be borne by Bombardier, he stated.

“All cards are on the table. No stone will be left unturned,” Lefebvre said.

Deputy mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who sits on the TTC board, did not appear convinced by Bombardier’s assurances.

“I’m a little bit disappointed that this word ‘challenging’ is used,” he told reporters after the meeting.

“Given their past performance, I think they may be getting ready to give us more bad news about the delivery of streetcars, because we’ve received a lot of bad news in the past.”

Minnan-Wong moved a motion at the meeting to conduct a “market sounding” exercise to seek out other potential streetcar suppliers. The motion, which Minnan-Wong drafted before learning about the latest potential delay, passed unanimously, which the deputy mayor said reflected the agency’s “frustration” with Bombardier.

The TTC has conceded that it is effectively locked into the current Bombardier contract for 204 vehicles, but the agency says it will eventually need an additional 60 cars to meet ridership demand.

The TTC ordered the accessible, low-floor streetcars from Bombardier in 2009 to replace its aging fleet, but Bombardier has failed to meet deadlines and repeatedly revised delivery schedules downwards. The company is currently on its fifth schedule since the order was signed.

The delays to the order prompted the TTC to sue the company in 2015 for liquidated damages. Under the terms of the contract the agency can seek up to $50 million for late delivery.

A Star investigation published in May documented a litany of production problems that have plagued the order, including poor workmanship, design failures, and persistent difficulties the company has had in managing its global supply chain.

Bombardier’s inability to meet even lowered delivery targets despite executives’ public and private assurances contributed to the near complete breakdown in the TTC’s relationship with the company last year. It was only partially restored when Bombardier replaced its head of its Americas transportation division in April 2016.

Around the same time Bombardier launched a “get well plan” aimed at improving production, and it was able to meet the revised schedule of supplying 30 cars by the end of 2016.

It has also met delivery targets for the first six months of this year, but the most vehicles it has delivered in a single month was in May, when it supplied three.

To meet the 70-car target, the company would have to manufacture a total of 40 cars this year, and the schedule calls for a production rate of at least seven cars in each of the last three months of 2017. In the three years since production began, Bombardier has never achieved a production rate that high.

An even more challenging task awaits the company next year. In order to keep the latest schedule on track, Bombardier would have to produce an average of 6.3 vehicles a month throughout 2018, for a total of 76 cars next year. That’s nearly double the number of vehicles it is struggling to supply in 2017.

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Royal Canadian Navy warship returns to Halifax after six-month NATO mission

Posted on 22 July 2017 by admin

HMCS St. John’s and its 240-member crew have returned home after participating in Operation Reassurance in Europe.

HALIFAX—A Halifax-based navy frigate has returned to its home port after a six-month deployment with NATO forces in Europe.

HMCS St. John’s and its 240-member crew participated in Operation Reassurance, which is aimed at promoting security and stability in central and eastern Europe.

The ship served with the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 in the Mediterranean Sea.

During its time at sea, St. John’s took part in four large-scale exercises, while visiting 16 ports in 10 countries.

The vessel travelled more than 37,000 nautical miles during the deployment.

HMCS Charlottetown is to replace St. John’s as part of the NATO operations in early August.

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Police seek witnesses in suspicious fire at Brampton church

Posted on 22 July 2017 by admin

Police say the fire at the Ukrainian Catholic Church started in the exterior of the building early Sunday morning. The church previously burned to the ground in 2014 after an accidental fire.

Peel police say a fire at a Ukrainian Catholic church in Brampton is suspicious and they are looking for witnesses who may have seen something.

Const. Bally Saini said the fire started at 2 a.m. Sunday at St. Elias the Prophet Ukrainian Catholic Church near Heritage Rd. and Bovaird Dr. W.

“The fire started in the exterior of the building, possibly by a door of the church.”

Saini said Sunday’s fire caused minor to moderate damage and no one was injured. There is currently no suspect information. The Ontario Fire Marshal’s office is also investigating.

Investigators are appealing to anyone who may have been in the area of the incident to review dash-cam footage or surveillance video around the time of the fire.

Anyone with information is asked to contact investigators at 905-453-2121, ext. 2233 or by calling Peel Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or visiting peelcrimestoppers.ca.

The church, which was first built in 1995, burned completely to the ground in 2014 after an accidental fire. More than 17 fire trucks responded to the two-alarm blaze, which completely destroyed the building within two and a half hours.

A representative from the church declined to comment or provide further information.

The church was first built in 1995 and cost $2 million, which was raised from donations. After the 2014 fire, the church was rebuilt and reopened in October 2016.

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Sister of man shot dead by Durham police makes plea against Taser use on day one of inquest

Posted on 22 July 2017 by admin

 “In my opinion, the people who are being shot and killed by police are not the people shooting back, they are the vulnerable sector of society,” said Joanne MacIsaac, sister of Michael MacIsaac, who was shot dead on an Ajax street in 2013.

Joanne MacIsaac came to the coroner’s inquest into the police shooting death of her brother Michael with a plea to the jury:

No more recommendations for arming all front-line officers with Tasers.

“In my opinion, the people who are being shot and killed by police are not the people shooting back, they are the vulnerable sector of society,” MacIsaac, the first witness on the stand, said Monday.

She said there needs to be specific recommendations about de-escalation, such as having officers move more slowly and not be so quick to shout at people who are clearly not responding.

“I don’t hate police officers,” she said on the stand. “I know it’s difficult to control a situation.”

Michael, 47, was shot dead by Durham police Const. Brian Taylor on an Ajax street in December 2013.

Ontario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, cleared him of criminal wrongdoing.

Michael’s family believe he had suffered an epileptic seizure that day when he left his home naked, and they dispute the watchdog’s report that he was still carrying a broken table leg when shot by police.

MacIsaac also voiced concern with the effect a Taser could have possibly had on her brother given his seizure.

A recommendation to arm front-line officers with Tasers was recently made by the jury at the coroner’s inquest into the Toronto police shooting death of Andrew Loku. It had been proposed by the Toronto Police Association.

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‘Correction’ to soften Toronto home prices: Report

Posted on 22 July 2017 by admin

Royal LePage predicts a soft market for the balance of 2017 to balance the strong performance in the first half.

One of the country’s biggest real estate companies is predicting an 18.5 per cent year-end price increase in the Toronto housing market this year, compared to a 13.8 per cent national year-over-year rise.

Given the significant gains of the first half of 2017, the company expects a year-end home price average of $862,264, up from $837,232 at the end of the second quarter.

Wednesday’s quarter-point interest rate hike by the Bank of Canada doesn’t alter Royal LePage’s mid-year forecast.

Despite double-digit year-over-year increases in the second quarter, the company’s mid-year report notes that buyers have been standoffish since the province introduced its fair housing tax on April 20.

CEO Phil Soper said he expects home prices will be soft for the balance of 2017.

“We are experiencing a housing correction in the GTA, no doubt about it,” he said.

But that is different from the price correction that occurred in Vancouver when a similar tax was launched there last summer.

The 9 per cent of foreign buyer activity in Richmond Hill, compares to about 18 per cent in Richmond, B.C. The B.C. city is a smaller market and prices were about 50 per cent higher, he said.

“Almost half of the (Vancouver) market disappeared overnight,” said Soper. “I believe what we’ll see (in Toronto) is modest price increases but fewer homes being sold — not as a violent as the Vancouver correction where we saw 40 to 50 per cent of the transactions disappear.”

The Royal LePage forecast is slightly more optimistic than the Toronto Real Estate Board’s (TREB) revised expectation of a year-end 13- to 18-per-cent increase.

The report predicts that consumers, who have been waiting to see if sellers drop their prices substantially, will re-enter the market once they recognize that isn’t going to happen.

Second quarter home prices rose 22.8 per cent year-over-year in the city of Toronto with Scarborough showing a 21.1 per cent increase as millennials moved east in search of affordability.

For that reason, that part of the city is not expected to slow as much as other areas in the coming months, said Royal Lepage.

Vaughan saw the highest price gains in Canada during the quarter with a 27.5 per cent year-over-year increase and an average $1.1 million home price.

Richmond Hill, which also grew by 26.6 per cent year-over-year to an average $1.34 million has been hard hit by the foreign buyers tax, notes the report.

Given that Toronto and Vancouver are both growing with strong economies, it’s not clear how long the foreign buyers tax and other measures will quell demand for housing, said Soper.

“Like public transit, housing policy is something which needs a persistent, long-term focus,” he said.

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Canada is America’s biggest and best customer by far, Trudeau tells U.S. governors’ conference

Posted on 22 July 2017 by admin

In return, there were assurances from governors and the U.S. vice-president that economic ties will remain strong.

The prime minister spoke of Canada’s relentless — but “polite” — push to retain strong trading ties with the United States at a meeting of governors he attended with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne just days before details on NAFTA renegotiations are to be released.

Speaking to the governors on Friday, Trudeau praised the “historic relationship” between the two nations, and cited trade numbers as a reminder that Canada is America’s biggest economic partner, with 9 million U.S. workers “whose jobs depend directly on trade” with our nation and how this country is the top export market for two-thirds of all states.

And — to laughter — he noted Canadians pay $500 million in property tax each year in Florida alone.

“We are repeating those (trade) numbers to U.S. audiences every chance we can get,” he also said. “ … To boil this down to one point, Canada is the United States’ biggest, best customer, by far. We are a bigger customer than China … bigger than Japan or the U.K. No one even comes close.

“ … We are polite in our relentlessness in sharing that message.”

Amid calls for “buy America” provisions as well as upcoming changes to NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, Trudeau noted “free trade has worked, and it is working now” but agreed it’s not perfect.

It “should be updated and modernized as it has been a dozen times over the past quarter century” to benefit workers in all three countries, he said, noting that protectionist policies are “politically tempting shortcuts” that only serve to “kill growth” and hurt workers.

In a telephone interview before flying back to Ontario, Wynne — the only Canadian premier to attend the meeting — said she left feeling optimistic.

 “There is such a strong consensus among all the people that I’ve spoken to here, and I’ve spoken to a big number of governors, there’s such an understanding that we have to work together,” she said.

The mandate for NAFTA renegotiations is due out early next week “so we’ll have a better idea” of what’s to come, she added. “Certainly the Mexican delegates are concerned and they want to make sure that there’s not a real undermining of their position, but there’s such a willingness to work on a tripartite agreement, such an understanding of the supply chain among governors that I spoke to — both Republican and Democrat — I think that’s what is making me feel optimistic.”

She’s now spoken to 20 governors and “we are talking about people who understand that they’ve got thousands of jobs that rely on this connectivity across the continent.”

Wynne next heads to the Council of the Federation on Monday, a meeting of premiers from across the country, where issues like trade, the looming softwood lumber deal and the opioid crisis are expected to be discussed.

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Hamilton man accused of Kitchener stabbing death arrested in Texas, police say

Posted on 22 July 2017 by admin

Police say they are now working to get Ager Hasan extradited back to Waterloo Region to face charges including one count of second-degree murder.

KITCHENER, ONT.—A 24-year-old man wanted in connection with a Kitchener, Ont., homicide has been arrested in Texas.

Waterloo Regional Police say they had been investigating the death of 22-year-old Melinda Vasilije since late April when she was found in her Kitchener home.

They say she died of multiple stab wounds and quickly zeroed in on Ager Hasan of Hamilton as a suspect, saying the two were known to each other.

Police issued a countrywide warrant for him after determining he had fled to the U.S.

Police say Hasan was arrested by the United States Secret Service on Tuesday while they were conducting a traffic stop in San Antonio, Texas, as part of to a counterfeit currency investigation.

Police say they are now working to get Hasan extradited back to Waterloo Region to face charges including one count of second-degree murder.

A person claiming to be Hasan said he stabbed the woman in self-defence in a Reddit post on May 1 that has since been removed from the site.

In the online statement posted on May 1, the writer says he was protecting himself when his ex-girlfriend came at him with a knife.

“Out of shock and fear I grab one (knife). I hit her with it, almost blindly. A few times,” the person wrote. “I was confused, shocked and scared. I had no intentions of that happening. When I left I honestly thought she just passed out. Then I looked at the blood, and started freaking out and just ran.”

The writer said he didn’t know the woman was dead until the following day.

“I honestly had no intentions of ever doing that to her, I was protecting myself,” the writer said.

 

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Man involved in accident pulls shotgun on Good Samaritans, steals car

Posted on 22 July 2017 by admin

Several people who came to driver’s aid after a collision got a shotgun pulled on them instead, Toronto police say.

A group of Good Samaritans who tried to help a man after a collision got a shotgun pulled on them instead before he stole a vehicle, Toronto police say.

A driver of a green Ford Focus was in a collision in the Dufferin St. and Lawrence Ave. W. area just before 5 p.m. Saturday. When passersby tried to help the driver, police said he climbed out of the vehicle wielding a shotgun, pointing it at his would-be rescuers.

The man forced a woman out of her black Dodge Journey at gunpoint, and then fled the scene in her car.

Police described the man as around six feet tall, mid-30s, with a thin build and short dreadlocks. He wore dark pants and a red Blue Jays jersey that said “Bautista” on the back.

He was last seen in the stolen getaway car, with a license plate BVYP 766.

Police are asking anyone who sees him to immediately phone 911.

 

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Ontario proposes banning real estate agents from representing both seller and buyer

Posted on 22 July 2017 by admin

Consumers have raised concerns that the financial incentives in double-ended deals might lead to agents engaging in unethical behaviour, officials say.

Ontario is proposing banning the practice of double ending, in which a real estate agent represents both a buyer and a seller in a transaction.

The province’s Liberal government announced a 16-point housing plan earlier this year, with centrepiece planks of a 15 per cent foreign buyer tax and expanded rent controls.

Another plank was reviewing the rules for real estate agents to ensure consumers are fairly represented. The government has now published several proposals for changes to real estate agent rules and penalties, and is seeking public consultation on them.

One of the proposals is to ban — with some limited exceptions — salespeople from representing both the buyer and seller or more than one potential buyer in a trade.

 “The seller will want the highest possible price and most favourable terms they can get, and the buyer will want to pay the lowest price or negotiate the most favourable terms possible,” a government discussion paper says.

“These competing interests may make it challenging for registrants involved in these types of transactions to meet their obligations to their clients or to be able to advocate effectively on behalf of either party.”

Consumers have raised concerns that the financial incentives in double-ended deals might lead to agents engaging in unethical behaviour, the government says in its paper.

 “This divided loyalty and the associated risks may leave some consumers vulnerable even when written consent is obtained and the necessary disclosures … have been made.”

Currently, double ending is allowed if all of the clients the agent is representing give their consent to the arrangement in writing.

Under the government’s proposed changes, different agents from the same brokerage could represent the buyer and the seller in a transaction. The “limited exceptions” to the double-ending ban would be if there is a private arrangement between family members or in a small market where there are very few agents.

Ontario says its proposed new model is similar to how British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Manitoba approach multiple representation in real estate deals. It is looking to those jurisdictions to learn best practices.

The government is also considering increasing the maximum fine for salespeople and brokers who violate a code of ethics from $25,000 to $50,000 and $100,000 for brokerages.

A second and broader phase of reviewing Ontario real estate rules will start in the spring of 2018.

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