Archive | October, 2017

5 people arrested after Deepika Padukone spoke out against destruction of Padmavati inspired rangoli

Posted on 25 October 2017 by admin

One of the highly anticipated films of the year is Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming magnum opus project Padmavati. The film has been in the headlines since it was announced as it is being made on a massive scale. But, soon the news took a drastic turn when the filmmaker was assaulted by Rajput Karni Sena and the film set was vandalized in Jaipur. Then, costumes and posters for the film were burnt in Kolhapur.

In the most recent news, artist Karan K’s spectacular rangoli inspired by Deepika Padukone‘s look from Padmavati was destroyed by a group of people shouting ‘Jai Shree Ram’ in Surat, Gujarat. Ahead of Diwali, the artist had put in hours of hard work to make the huge rangoli featuring Deepika at Rahul Raj Mall in Umra area. When the lead actress of Padmavati, Deepika Padukone, got the wind of the incident, she vented out her anger against the goons who destroyed the artist’s work. She even tweeted at I&B Minister Smriti Irani asking her to take action against them.

Now, according to the Surat police’s statements to the media, five people including four members of Karni Sena and one from Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) were arrested on Thursday, October 19, for allegedly vandalizing the rangoli. The reports suggested that the cops had registered a FIR against a group of people on October 16 for vandalizing a rangoli. The five arrested people have been identified as Vikramsinh Sekhawat, Shambhusinh Rathod, Narendra Chaudhary, Shailendra Rajput and Sanjaysinh Gohil. They have been arrested under various sections of the Indian Penal Code including 141, 149 (unlawful assembly), 451 (trespassing) and 427 (mischief causing damage).

The commissioner of police of Surat, Satish Sharma, spoke to the media and revealed that the five people were arrested and more are likely to be arrested soon based on the video footage that was recovered by police that showed 8-10 persons involved in the vandalism. He further added that the police will take strict action against such people and vandalism will not be allowed.

Apart from Deepika Padukone, the film stars Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor as Allaudin Khilji and Raja Ratan Singh, respectively. Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Padmavati is scheduled to release on December 1, 2017.

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Amitabh Bachchan cancels Diwali party this year in memory of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s late father

Posted on 25 October 2017 by admin

The festival of lights is just around the corner and everyone in the industry is getting their wardrobe ready to attend the numerous glittering parties this Diwali. However, veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan who usually has a customary Diwali party at his residence every year has decided to skip the same this year.

Apparently the reason behind the mega star deciding to forgo his customary Diwali party this year is to pay his respect to daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s late father, Krishnaraj Rai who passed away on March 18 this year. Commenting on the same a source close to the veteran actor added, “Yes, this year Bachchan sir has decided on skipping his Diwali party as a mark of respect for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s father. He feels that the passing away of Krishnaraj Rai is still pretty fresh and that it is too soon to be throwing a lavish party”.

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Conservatives, NDP call for an ethics probe in finance minister’s holdings

Posted on 20 October 2017 by admin

The parties are calling for an investigation into revelations that Bill Morneau didn’t disclose for two years that he and his wife own a private corporation that controls a villa in France.

OTTAWA—The opposition parties are turning up the heat on Finance Minister Bill Morneau over what he disclosed, or didn’t disclose, to the federal ethics watchdog about his vast financial holdings.

On Monday, the Conservatives called for an investigation into revelations that Morneau didn’t tell the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner for two years that he and his wife own a private corporation that controls a villa in France.

Today, the Tories pushed further, demanding that Morneau publicly divulge everything he has submitted to the ethics commissioner since the Liberals took office in 2015.

The NDP also called on commissioner Mary Dawson to investigate what they see as a perceived conflict by Morneau over pension reform legislation that could benefit the finance minister through shares he owns in human resources consulting giant Morneau-Shepell.

New Democrat ethics critic Nathan Cullen said the revelation that Morneau has not placed his financial holdings into a blind trust is evidence enough that an investigation is needed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has maintained that Morneau has followed all federal ethics rules.


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Top McGuinty aide dismissed concerns about lack of gas plant documents, trial told

Posted on 20 October 2017 by admin

The bombshell testimony from one-time cabinet secretary Peter Wallace, now city manager for Toronto, came Monday at the criminal trial of David Livingston, chief of staff to Dalton McGuinty.

A top Dalton McGuinty aide dismissed concerns the energy minister was ignoring legal orders to disclose documents on the axing of two gas plants as “political bull—-,” says the former head Ontario’s civil service.

The bombshell testimony from one-time cabinet secretary Peter Wallace, now city manager for Toronto, came Monday at the criminal trial of David Livingston, chief of staff to McGuinty during his last months as premier.

It was summer 2012 and McGuinty’s minority Liberals were under intense pressure from an opposition-controlled legislative committee to produce secret emails shedding light on reasons behind the controversial cancellations of the power plants in Oakville and Mississauga before the 2011 election.

There was a “stark contrast” between “voluminous” boxes of documents revealed by energy ministry bureaucrats and the Ontario Power Authority, compared with “no disclosure” from the minister’s office, Wallace told Crown attorney Tom Lemon.

The energy minister at the time was London lawyer Chris Bentley, although Wallace, cabinet secretary from 2011 to 2014, did not mention him by name.

“I was acutely concerned I have a premier’s office and a minister’s office that may not be in compliance with a legally binding order,” Wallace continued, noting he was not sure if the political staff “has not fully understood…or ignored” the demand.

Out of “an abundance of caution,” Wallace said he then had senior legal counsel in the cabinet office prepare three memos he would use to brief Livingston on the government’s responsibilities.

The memos, presented in court, include an explanation of the legislative committee’s legal authority to compel the production of government records and responsibilities to retain proper records on official decisions.

 “I don’t think he found the conversation particularly useful,” Wallace told court as Livingston watched from several metres away with his legal team.

“His language was ‘that’s political bull—-.’”

Wallace described the conversation as “tense.”

Livingston and former deputy chief of staff Laura Miller are charged with breach of trust, mischief in relation to data and misuse of a computer system in the alleged wiping of hard drives in the McGuinty premier’s office before Premier Kathleen Wynne took power in February 2013.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty. They face up to 10 years in prison. McGuinty was not under investigation and co-operated with police.

Wallace said he and other bureaucrats “know we sent them an enormous number of documents,” making it “not credible” for the minister’s office to deny having emails requested by the committee of MPPs.

Crown prosecutors have not yet produced evidence of any recovered emails in the trial, which is slated to continue into November. Ontario Provincial Police obtained search warrants and seized hard drives used in the premier’s office.

The Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats accused the McGuinty government of cancelling the natural gas-fired power plants, which faced local opposition, at taxpayer expense to save Liberal seats in the 2011 election and allege a cover-up of the real reasons.

Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk has reported the cancellations, and moving the plants to the Sarnia and Napanee areas, could cost up to $1.1 billion over 20 years.

McGuinty has previously said the two plants were scrapped because they were located too close to residential areas.

Wallace is back on the witness stand Tuesday.


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Ontario election still wide open, pollster says

Posted on 20 October 2017 by admin

Next year’s provincial election is shaping up as a race that will be closely contested, a Campaign Research poll suggests.

Next year’s provincial election is shaping up as a race that is too close to call, a new poll suggests.

The Campaign Research survey shows Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown’s long-held advantage is shrinking, Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne is a drag on her party, and Andrea Horwath remains personally more popular than her third-place New Democrats.

“Really, it’s anyone’s race; it’s that competitive,” Campaign Research CEO Eli Yufest said Friday.

The Tories are at 36 per cent, the Liberals are at 32 per cent, the NDP is at 25 per cent and the Greens, led by Mike Schreiner, are at 7 per cent.

Using an online panel of 1,347 Ontario voters, Campaign Research polled between Sunday and Wednesday. A probability sample of that size would have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points, 19 out of 20 times.

In last month’s tracking poll, the Tories were at 38 per cent, the Liberals 33 per cent, the NDP 23 per cent, and the Greens at 6 per cent.

“It’s not a significant difference (month over month), but it’s certainly, directionally, becoming closer,” said Yufest, adding the results suggest Ontario could be headed toward a minority government.

But it is unclear which leader would be at the helm.

 “If I were counselling Kathleen Wynne, I would tell her, ‘Don’t talk about (yourself). Don’t show up to too many events. Just let the party brand carry the day,’ ” he said.

Wynne’s personal approval ratings are the lowest of the three major party leaders: She had 19 per cent approval, 64 per cent disapproval and 17 per cent weren’t sure.

Last month, she had 19 per cent approval, 67 per cent disapproval, and 14 per cent didn’t know.

Brown had 25 per cent approval, 25 per cent disapproval, and 50 per cent weren’t sure.

In September, he had 28 per cent approval, 22 per cent disapproval and 50 per cent didn’t know.

Horwath was at 35 per cent approval, 17 per cent disapproval and 48 per cent weren’t sure.

A month ago, she had 37 per cent approval, 19 per cent disapproval, and 43 per cent had no opinion.

“It tells us that Patrick Brown continues to fail to resonate among the electorate. It tells us that the Liberal party brand is far outperforming Wynne’s. And it tells us that Andrea Horwath’s personal numbers continue to… outperform the NDP,” said Yufest.

Just as the Liberal name appears to be propping up Wynne, the New Democratic Party brand seems to hold back Horwath.

“She is quite popular among the electorate, but the NDP brand probably has some bad equity from past governments of the NDP,” he said, referring to the party’s challenging years in power from 1990 to 1995.

The pollster noted that the Tories should be wary of third-party advocacy groups, such as the Working Families coalition of unions and the new labour-sponsored Working Ontario Women organization, which are now revving up pre-election advertising blitzes.

“If I were counselling Patrick Brown on this, I would be telling him, ‘You probably should be worried, because we know, in the past these campaigns have been very effective at branding former party leaders and the party in general,’ ” he said.

The Tories have been trying to inoculate themselves against those attacks through a two-pronged multimillion-dollar ad campaign that introduces Brown to voters and derides Wynne’s Liberals as “politically corrupt.”

They could also be helped by a pro-PC social media group called Ontario Proud, which has garnered a large following on Facebook by blasting Wynne.

As well, Brown has moved to limit his party’s exposure to controversy by ensuring next month’s PC policy convention in Toronto will steer clear of divisive social issues such as abortion.

Yufest said the Liberals are benefitting from the fact that some government initiatives, such as raising the $11.60-an-hour minimum wage to $14 next year and $15 in 2019, and introducing free pharmacare for everyone under the age of 25 in January, appear to be popular with voters.

“It’s not surprising, as those policies have been rolled out, we’ve seen a huge jump in their voter intent (numbers).”

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Ontario economy outpacing G7 nations, finance minister says

Posted on 20 October 2017 by admin

Ontario’s economy is growing at a healthy clip, according to the province’s second quarterly public accounts.

Ontario’s economy is growing at a healthy clip, outpacing all G7 nations, according to the province’s second quarterly public accounts.

From April to June, gross domestic product increased 0.8 per cent, which followed a 1 per cent increase in the first quarter of 2017.

“Ontario’s economy continues to grow, with real GDP growth outpacing the average of all G7 countries in the second quarter of 2017,” Finance Minister Charles Sousa said Monday.

Sousa noted the province’s unemployment rate last month was 5.6 per cent, its lowest level this century.

“This evidence tells us that our plan is working, and we are making progress,” said the treasurer, telling reporters he expects the province’s economy to grow by between 2.6 per cent and 2.8 per cent this year.

“It’s kind of like we planted a tree some years ago and we’re getting shade and we’re getting the fruits of our labour,” he said.

His rosy rhetoric comes as Ontarians go to the polls on June 7, 2018 and most public-opinion surveys show the governing Liberals trail the Progressive Conservatives.

Growth in the second quarter was driven by “solid consumer spending.”

 “Ontario’s household consumption spending increased 1.2 per cent, the strongest quarterly growth since 2010,” according to the government’s public accounts.

Consumer spending on semi-durables advanced 5.3 per cent, led by clothing and footwear. Spending on non-durables (plus 2.6 per cent), durables (plus 0.3 per cent) and services (plus 0.4 per cent) also increased.

But business investment dropped by 2.6 per cent, a disappointing result after a 5.8 per cent gain between January and March.

“The decline was due to lower residential construction investment (minus 6.4 per cent), reflecting a slowdown in home resale activity,” the report noted.

This latest data predates the introduction of the government’s foreign buyers’ tax, which was designed to cool down the Greater Toronto Area’s overheated real estate market.

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The biggest winners and the biggest losers in Toronto’s Uber battle

Posted on 20 October 2017 by admin

A promised one-year review of the city’s vehicle-for-hire bylaw, which came into effect July 15, 2016, has yet to materialize.

More than a year after council rewrote the taxi industry rules and legalized the UberX service in Toronto, the answer to the question did the city get it right depends on whom you ask.

Mayor John Tory says the city achieved a “balanced and effective” licensing and regulatory model.

The new regulations “embrace innovation” and are “working well,” agrees Uber Canada, and give the public access to a “safe, reliable and affordable transportation option.”

And despite the company’s global challenges, including legal setbacks, lawsuits and scandalsabout Uber’s corporate culture, the UberX service — rides with regular drivers booked using a smartphone app — remains a popular option for budget-minded passengers looking to get around Toronto and the GTA.

Not keen is the traditional taxi business, though the traffic-snarling protests and city hall demonstrations have ceased.

While the city loosened some of its regulatory burden, scrapping mandatory, 17-day driver training, for instance, the anger remains over the influx of UberX drivers — 49,585 now licensed by the city, including 33,000 who live outside Toronto — who are cutting into the taxi industry’s bottom line.

There are an estimated 5,500 taxis in Toronto, though an additional 12,000 people hold licences to drive a taxi or limousine.

“When I think about these so-called balanced rules, the more embarrassed I am for anyone who has their name attached to it,” says Beck taxi operations manager Kristine Hubbard. “UberX drivers are simply tens of thousands of cars on our already congested streets.”

Uber Canada spokeswoman Susie Heath wrote in email that “it is important to note that not every registered driver is active, for example someone may have registered with the city to drive for a few weeks to make some extra money around Christmas time but may not have driven since January.”

Adding to the taxi industry frustration is the absence of a promised one-year review of the vehicle-for-hire bylaw, which came into effect July 15, 2016.

“Is anyone at city hall paying attention to the dire state of affairs they’ve created in Toronto’s vehicle-for-hire industry,” screams a headline in latest edition of Taxinews, a trade newspaper filled with anti-Uber articles and stories about the plight of cabbies.

Municipal licensing and standards staff haven’t had time to conduct the review because of other pressing matters, including the apartment and short-term rental bylaws and dealing with illegal pot shops, executive director Tracey Cook wrote in email.

“The complexity (of a vehicle-for-hire review) . . . requires a great deal of research and stakeholder engagement, and as such, will take time.”

An area of concern the new regulatory framework appears to have addressed relates to insurance. It requires that all taxis and private transportation companies (a new category of licence) have at least $2 million in liability insurance.

Two of the three top insurance companies in Ontario, Intact and Aviva, now offer “hybrid” products that allow consumers to use their private vehicle both commercially and privately, says Peter Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations for the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

“From our perspective, the industry has been able to provide best possible coverage to consumers so people are protected,” he said.

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario says it has not received any complaints relating to insurance coverage for ride-hailing activities.

So is Toronto better off with its new ground transportation order?

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) studied the Toronto regulatory model and concluded it has been a success, though like any process there are winners and losers.

“Uber was likely the biggest winner by gaining first of its kind, friendly regulation in Toronto,” says a 2017 OECD report called Working with Change.

The biggest losers?

The owners of taxi licence plates, which have plummeted “although it is hard to discern how much of that drop in value was due to the regulation,” the OECD report says.

Joeri van den Steenhoven, the former director of Toronto-based MaRS Solutions Lab, one of the world’s leading innovation hubs, believes the regulations strike “a good balance between defending public value and allowing innovation.” While at MaRS, he was involved in helping design the Toronto regulatory framework.

“The goal of regulation is not to block market access for new entrants,” he wrote in an email sent from the Netherlands, where he is now based.

“The regulation aims to allow innovation in the marketplace but without loss of public value the city needs to protect. It therefore states clear requirements in terms of driving licensing, safety, consumer protection etc. but in a way that it allows for different operating models.”

But Sunil Johal, director of the Mowat Centre, School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto, says it’s premature to know if the city got it right.

“We’re talking about what had been a very closed market for a number of decades and when you open up suddenly to more competition and to more operators, it’s going to take some time to observe what the impact of that change has been on the market in terms of profitability of taxis, customer service, and a whole range of different issues.”

While he understands taxi business resentment over the two-tiered system that now exists, Johal believes Toronto was right, at least in the short term, to embrace “progress and technology.”

“Opening up markets is a good thing for people but government and regulators have to keep their eye on the ball, and not say: ‘We wrote the regulations back in 2016, we’re done,’” Johal said.

“This is something you have to be monitoring very closely every year and adjusting rules when required.”


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Toronto tells province that clear planning reforms are needed as soon as possible

Posted on 20 October 2017 by admin

City officials praised the province’s plan to reform the OMB at a committee hearing while asking for a clear transition plan as the city sees an uptick in development applications.

Toronto city officials told a Queen’s Park committee Monday that reforms to the OMB, the province’s powerful planning tribunal, can’t come soon enough, as the city continues to grow at an unprecedented rate and new development applications pour in at an increased pace.

On Monday, the city’s acting chief planner Gregg Lintern and Councillor Josh Matlow both praised a government plan to overhaul the long-controversial Ontario Municipal Board, which has not seen substantial reform for more than 100 years.

But there remain concerns about the limbo between new and old legislation as developers unhappy with the changes may be rushing to beat the government’s timeline to enact the new bill by the end of the year, a committee heard.

“These reforms have been a very long time coming,” Matlow told the standing committee on social policy.

He said the city has lacked the necessary tools to deal with unprecedented development and resulting growth that is currently taking place in his ward and in many parts of the downtown and North York

 “Over many years, ad hoc OMB decisions on individual sites in the Yonge-Eglinton area, which I represent, have set a narrative and have far too often created precedent for subsequent developments with little regard for wider context, or local needs for infrastructure and social services.”

While the Yonge-Eglinton area has been slated for intensification by the province’s growth plan, the area exceeded those density targets the year they were created.

That has left the city struggling to keep up with growth — local public schools are full, people are left waiting for the third or fourth subway on the Yonge line, and planners worry basic necessities like sewers and water pipes will reach capacity.

The province’s proposed changes to legislation were tabled in May, drawing praise from planners, councillors and residents. The bill passed second reading in September and was forwarded to committee for debate.

For more than a century, the OMB has had the final say in a wide range of planning issues and has the power to overrule council decisions.

Most significantly, the changes, if passed, would require the body — to be renamed the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal — to have more regard for local decisions. It would scrap a practice called “de novo” hearings, or hearings “as new,” that essentially allow developers and other groups to have what critics call a “do over” when a council decision doesn’t go their way.

Under the new rules, the OMB would instead consider whether a council decision was consistent with provincial and city rules. If not, the decision would be sent back to council.

“The changes proposed by the bill will enable municipalities to focus on adopting planning principles, what we call proactive planning, to address growth and change,” said the city’s acting chief planner Lintern. “Currently a large amount of municipal time is spent at the OMB defending council-adopted policies approved by the province but which are appealed by parties who may not support the decision of the locally-elected officials.”

Lintern said they are currently seeing an increase in applications and are requesting the province make clear a transition plan between old and new legislation.

That plan is currently underway, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi told the committee, one that “doesn’t impact processes that may be at the tribunal as we speak.”

That suggested a request from the city’s planning and growth committee headed to council next month that the new rules be retroactive to May is unlikely to succeed.

Naqvi said they hope to have new legislation passed by the end of the year.

The largest organizations representing developers also spoke at the committee Monday, arguing there would be “unintended consequences” in reforming the OMB and that providing more power to councils would see councillors pandering to local residents and “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) attitudes.

City officials said the new rules would actually force council to make a thoughtful decision that could be backed up by the city’s own official plans and policies as well as provincial rules, knowing that’s the basis on which an appeal would be judged at a reformed tribunal.


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Quebec to vote on bill that would bar face-coverings for those receiving public services

Posted on 20 October 2017 by admin

The proposed law has been vigorously opposed by Muslim advocacy groups in the province who say that it will unfairly target women who wear Islamic face coverings such as the niqab.

MONTREAL—After a decade-long debate about the place of religion in a secular society, Quebec is set to pass a law that would bar public servants from wearing face coverings and oblige ordinary citizens to unveil when seeking access to government services.

The proposed law has been vigorously opposed by Muslim advocacy groups in the province who say that it will unfairly target women who wear Islamic face coverings such as the niqab, which leaves only the eyes uncovered.

“A woman with five children who wears the niqab and wants to go to the library won’t be able to take the bus, won’t be able to have access to a place of learning to go with her family, and it will take an official request for her to have a reasonable accommodation,” said Eve Torres, the Quebec representative of the National Council of Canadian Muslims. “It makes no sense.”

Debate on the final draft of the bill starts Tuesday and a vote is likely sometime this week.

Quebec’s Liberal government says the legislation strikes a balance between the status quo and the more extreme solution put forward by the previous Parti Quebecois government to legislate a ban on public servants wearing any religious symbols on the job.

The bill specifically exempts any measures that might affect displays of Quebec’s own Catholic heritage, which are considered cultural artifacts and “testify to (the province’s) history.”

Opposition parties say the proposed law won’t do enough to stop religious minorities seeking to put their faith ahead of the common obligations of the state and their responsibilities as citizens. The bill states that a demand for accommodation or exemptions on religious grounds can be refused if they violate fundamental principles like gender equality, pose a security risk or present undue hardship or unreasonable costs to an institution.

There is already great consternation about how and where it will be implemented when it becomes law.

The Quebec government introduced amendments so that the measures apply to school boards, municipalities and even local transit providers.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, reacting to the news this summer, was adamant.

“No government is going to tell us how to dress our employees and deliver our services,” he said, raising the seemingly far-fetched scenario of a woman wearing a niqab being refused entry to a city bus.

That scenario now looks less and less outlandish. Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee has refused to adjudicate hypothetical scenarios, but has spoken of the importance in a society that conversation be unconstrained by clothing.

“I find it hard to see how you can have a dialogue when it’s difficult or impossible to distinguish a person’s non-verbal cues,” she said on Oct. 4.

In the same address to the legislature, she used an example of a Quebec City protest that led to a clash between a right-wing anti-immigration group and their anti-fascist rivals, who wore scarves and dark sunglasses, as an example of the security concerns the law might address.

“The obligation to have your face uncovered is quite simply an obligation with the goal of having social harmony that is completely legitimate.”

None of the explanations quite add up for Quebec Muslims who thought they had found an ally and protector in the Couillard government but are now increasingly prepared to fight on another front—this time in the courts.

“For sure it will be contested,” said Haroun Bouazzi, co-president of the Quebec Association of Muslims and Arabs for Secularism. “You cannot remove fundamental rights if the reasons are not real and urgent and it’s impossible to explain that the problem we’re trying to solve is either. It’s impossible.”

Bouazzi said he is confident that the law will be proven to be a breach of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as its provincial equivalent. But he worries it could lead in the future to more drastic measures to prevent an individual’s religious expression, or other rights.

“We just opened the door in Quebec to taking away fundamental rights based on nothing. No studies, no security problems whatsoever,” he said.

Critics say that they have yet to hear of a public-service employee at any level who will be affected by the new rules. But Torres pointed to an 2016 Environics survey of 600 people which found that three per cent of Muslim women wear the niqab in public. These are the people likely to suffer the effects of the legislation, she said.

“This position is reinforcing the stigma faced by a minority. Instead of adopting inclusive policies we are excluding people from the public sphere,” Torres said. “In the end it looks like Quebec does not protect its minorities.”

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Proposed mortgage stress test is unnecessary, harmful, report says

Posted on 20 October 2017 by admin

A report by the Fraser Institute said the unfinalized lending guidelines could result in a less competitive and more concentrated mortgage market.

TORONTO—A new stress test for all uninsured mortgages is unnecessary and could increase costs for homebuyers, a report by the Fraser Institute said Wednesday.

Study author Neil Mohindra wrote that the proposed stress test “will do more harm than good” by limiting access to mortgages for some homebuyers.

“The mandatory standard for stress testing could result in a less competitive and more concentrated mortgage market,” he wrote in the report.

The study comes as the federal Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions finalizes new lending guidelines.

Among the changes being contemplated is a requirement that homebuyers who have a down payment of 20 per cent or more and do not require mortgage insurance still have to show they can make their payments if interest rates rise.

The head of OSFI has said that Canada’s banking regulator wants to reduce the risk of mortgage defaults because of high levels of household debt.

 “We are not waiting to see those risks crystallize in rising arrears and defaults before we act,” OSFI head Jeremy Rudin said last week.

Canadian household debt compared with disposable income hit a record high in the second quarter. Statistics Canada reported last month that household credit market debt as a proportion of household disposable income increased to 167.8 per cent, up from 166.6 per cent in the first quarter.

However, Mohindra said that instead of a prescriptive test, OSFI could use its existing powers to fix what it believes are deficiencies in policies and procedures.

The Bank of Canada has raised its key interest rate target by a quarter of a percentage point twice this year.

The increases have pushed up the big bank prime lending rates, which are used to determine rates for variable-rate mortgages and lines of credit.

The Fraser Institute is an independent, non-partisan organization that tends to prefer free-market policies over government regulation.


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