Archive | November, 2017

Alia Bhatt is singlehandedly shouldering Kalpana Lajmi’s hospital bills

Posted on 16 November 2017 by admin

There is a lot of altruistic talk being heard in the media regarding various distinguished celebrities paying the seriously ailing filmmaker Kalpana Lajmi’s medical expenses.

However a source close to Kalpana puts all this unconfirmed talk to rest saying, “Kalpana’s medical bills which comes to around Rs. 2.5 lakh every week for the four dialysis that she undergoes, are borne entirely by Soni Razdan and her daughter Alia Bhatt. Soni is Kalpana’s closest friend and she has been monitoring the funds for Kalpana’s treatment. Every time the bills pile up Soni informs Alia who pays the bills.”

Apparently Alia Bhatt, who has grown up in Kalpana’s lap, doesn’t want the world to know about her altruism. “She would be very upset and embarrassed to know this has been let out. But it’s very important to let Kalpana’s well-wishers know that only one 24-year old girl is shouldering her medical bills. It’s about time others came forward to do their bit. Alia’s mother Soni Razdan is valiantly pushing on with Kalpana’s medical care. But more people need to come forward with financial help. Right now it’s just Alia,” says the source.

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Income Tax tribunal gives Katrina Kaif a clean chit on Rs. 2.07 cr cash deal

Posted on 16 November 2017 by admin

With the Income Tax recently trying to seize black money from varied professionals, film industry too wasn’t sparred from their raids. Reportedly, Katrina Kaif was dragged into the black money controversy after the department officials came across a laptop of an employee who works in the talent management firm that handles Kaif. However, the details in the computer have been dismissed as a third party evidence with the actress now being given a clean chit.

The computer was seized from an employee named Sandhya Ramachandran who works for Matrix, a talent management company that handles some of the most prolific celebrities of the industry like Katrina Kaif, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Alia Bhatt among others. The said evidence in the computer included a payment of Rs. 2.07 crore by cash and yet another payment of Rs. 58 lakhs by cash that were allegedly made against the name of Katrina Kaif. Hence, with the authorities assuming that the differentiation could be classified as white [cheque] and black [cash] money, the actress too was reportedly considered to be indulging in these illegal black money dealings since the cash was undeclared.

However, the tax tribunal dismissed these conclusions, giving its ruling a week ago wherein it gave a clean chit to Katrina Kaif stating that it is not direct evidence. The computer of Ramachandran was considered to be third party evidence which doesn’t qualify as enough evidence to involve the actress in the black money dealings.

Senior chartered accountant Dilip Lakhani revealed that according to income tax act, an income can be taxed only if it is proved that it has been received by the assesse and any income received by people close to the person or any other connected person will be regarded as a third person income. Hence no conclusion can be made unless the tax department is able to connect the payments directly to Kaif.

In this case however, none of the documents found in the laptop of Ramachandran clearly indicated the cash payment that was made against Kaif. There was no evidence of the cash being transferred to Kaif from Matrix. However the cheque payment of Rs. 2.07 crore made to Katrina was acknowledged by the actress.

Due to lack of correlation of payments, the tax tribunal could not consider it as evidence against Katrina Kaif and hence the actress was acquitted from the same.

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Blue-chip law firm Appleby explored connecting tax haven to Halifax, leaked documents show

Posted on 09 November 2017 by admin

New leak reveals 3,000-plus Canadians, including three former prime ministers, had links to offshore business.

It was to be a little tax haven in Nova Scotia.

The idea was simple: the companies would be registered in Bermuda but the people processing the paperwork would be in Halifax.

Appleby, the leading offshore law firm in the Paradise Papers leak, explored this vision for outsourcing its back office administrative functions in 2007.

With direct Bermuda-to-Halifax flights, “very reasonable operating costs” and “very significant payroll tax rebates,” the case for Halifax was strong.

But Appleby needed assurances that its clients, who had incorporated in a zero-tax jurisdiction, wouldn’t have to pay tax to Canada.

No problem, wrote Halifax lawyer Jim Cruickshank, who was hired to analyze the legal issues.

“We do not believe the activities of (Appleby) could in any way constitute your clients ‘carrying on business in Nova Scotia,’ ” Cruickshank wrote in a memo to Appleby.

What about extending offshore financial secrecy to the new office in Canada? For this, Cruickshank, had a creative solution.

 “We believe a ‘paperless office’ and ‘dummy terminals’ for (Appleby) would provide significant but not complete practical immunity from search and seizure by Canadian authorities.”

While the Halifax outsourcing project would never come to fruition, Appleby’s internal records reveal a preoccupation with secrecy that pervades tax havens. For this reason, governments around the world are targeting the law firms that operate in tax havens, to force them to reveal the hidden transactions that deprive public coffers of trillions of dollars each year.

Estimates put Canada’s own losses to offshore activity at $6 billion to $7.8 billion each year.

But tax haven secrecy has, once again, been pierced by a massive leak.

Unlike last year’s Panama Papers leak, which exposed Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, a firm that has been criticized as a bad apple in the offshore world, the Paradise Papers leak reveals the business of one of the world’s most prestigious blue-chip law firms, Appleby, which caters to the world’s biggest multinational corporations and the wealthiest families on the planet.

Appearing in Appleby’s files are:

•          Two generations of Liberal party chief fundraisers, Leo Kolber and Stephen Bronfman, who are linked through a Cayman Islands trust fund. Through a lawyer, Kolber and Bronfman said they always acted “properly and ethically, including fully complying with all applicable laws.”

•          Former prime minister Brian Mulroney, who sat on the board of Said Holdings, a Bermuda company controlled by Syrian-Saudi businessman Wafic Said. Said was a key intermediary in a British-Saudi oil-for-arms deal that led to a $400-million (U.S.) criminal fine for bribery in 2010 against British airplane manufacturer BAE. Mulroney’s lawyer said he is “proud” to have served on the board, and considers Said “a good friend.” Said said he is “proud of the role I played” in the arms deal.

•          Former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien, who is listed as having received options in a Madagascar oil venture registered in Bermuda. He confirmed he consulted for the company in 2007 but says he never received any options.

•          Paul Martin’s former company, Canada Steamship Lines (CSL), which was one of Appleby’s “biggest clients.” CSL said it “uphold(s) the highest ethical and business standards,” while a spokesperson for Martin said he “has not been involved in CSL in over a quarter century.”

Much of the activity in tax havens is legal, and Appleby considers itself an ethical leader in the offshore industry. Documents found in the 6.8 million internal Appleby files in the leak show the firm was aware of multiple cases where it accepted dirty money.

The emails, client records, bank applications, court papers and other files were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the Star and CBC/Radio-Canada. They represent the inner workings of Appleby from the 1950s until 2016.

Canada is a big part of Appleby’s business. With more than 2,700 Canadians and 560 Canadian businesses named in the Appleby database — five times more Canadians than were in the Panama Papers — Canada is the firm’s fourth-biggest market behind the U.S., the U.K. and China.

Appleby has administered 1,450 offshore corporations and trusts with Canadian owners, officers or addresses, mostly in Bermuda. Its lawyers made regular trips to Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver to drum up business, meeting with accountants and lawyers.

Appleby billed Canadian clients and law firms at least $12 million between 2009 and 2013, the documents show.

Canada has a long history of working closely with Caribbean tax havens, said Université de Quebec à Montreal professor Alain Deneault, who has written extensively on the subject.

“We’re so connected to tax havens, they’ve become an integral part of our economy,” he said. “In the end, all the large Canadian companies and family fortunes are structured to circumvent Canadian laws in such a way to allow the owners to avoid taxes.”

Among the Canadian companies who hired Appleby to set up offshore businesses are:

•          The Montreal Canadiens set up two trusts in Bermuda, including an employee benefit fund that was shut down in 2010. The organization says its offshore business was “in full compliance with the existing Canadian tax legislation.”

•          Food giant Loblaw says it paid all appropriate taxes on the two subsidiaries it set up with Appleby’s help in Barbados and Bermuda in 2005. They were used to insure cardholder balances from its President’s Choice Financial MasterCard, according to leaked documents.

•          Hydro-Québec incorporated an offshore company in Bermuda to invest in power-generation projects in China, even though the company is exempt from income tax in Canada. A representative for the public utility said the company was dissolved in 2007 and capital gains taxes were paid.

•          Brookfield, a Canadian investment giant, set up Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (BIP) in Bermuda to hold international investments. Documents show how the company set up 29 corporations and limited partnerships in nine jurisdictions in a 48-step “specific sequencing” to “ensure” that units of BIP “are not taxable Canadian property.” A company spokesperson said “the tax treatment of partnerships like BIP . . . is the same whether they are domiciled in Bermuda, Canada or the U.S.”

Appleby also performed offshore services for many seemingly regular Canadians, including doctors, engineers, geologists, housewives, a police officer, a speech pathologist and a retired admiral in the Canadian navy.

The database also contains a Bermudian company incorporated by Gerald Bull, the late Quebec engineer who attempted to develop a supergun to shoot satellites into space but ended up working on a massive cannon for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Also in Appleby’s files is online gambling baron Isai Scheinberg, who started the online gambling site PokerStars, but ran afoul of U.S. authorities and is now actively wanted by the FBI.

While Appleby prides itself on its high ethical standards and has been named “offshore law firm of the year,” internal documents reveal that it hasn’t always succeeded in keeping out questionable clients.

“Some of the crap we accept is amazing totally amazing,” state presentation notes prepared by Appleby’s director of compliance in 2011. “We have a current case where we are sitting on about 400K that is definitely tainted and it is not easy to deal with.”


The firm did not answer detailed questions sent by the ICIJ and the Star.

“We are an offshore law firm who advises clients on legitimate and lawful ways to conduct their business. We do not tolerate illegal behaviour. It is true that we are not infallible. Where we find that mistakes have happened we act quickly to put things right and we make the necessary notifications to the relevant authorities,” reads a statement put out by Appleby after it was contacted about the leak.

Appleby is already publicly associated with the Bermuda Longtail Trust, one of the biggest tax scams in recent Canadian history.

The scam, originally revealed by a Star investigation in 2007, duped almost 10,000 people, including nurses, teachers and at least one police officer, into making donations to bogus charities in order to receive a tax receipt worth four times more. Appleby administered the trust for Canadian businessman Edward Furtak. The trust had collected more than $100 million by the time the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) got wise to the scheme, and a group of clients sued. Appleby settled the class action for $17.5 million last summer. The firm admitted no wrongdoing.

As governments around the world have turned their attention to cracking down on offshore tax evasion — including almost $1 billion pledged to the CRA in the last two years — Appleby has publicly defended the use of tax havens (also known as “offshore financial centres” or OFCs).

“The myth perpetuated by the OECD and G-20 nations is that OFCs encourage tax evasion,” two Appleby lawyers wrote in the Cayman Islands Journal. “In reality, excessive tax burdens in welfare states encourage tax evasion, leading to capital flight to OFCs. Logic dictates that if politicians wish to eliminate capital flight, they should lower their country’s oppressive taxes.”

Appleby’s Canadian lawyers practiced what they preached.

All of them left the country to avoid paying Canadian taxes, according to an email sent by the firm’s managing partner in the BVI, Michael Burns.

There were a lot of them — 21 of Appleby’s 182 lawyers spread out around the globe were educated in Canada, one indication of the surprisingly strong Canadian presence in Caribbean tax havens.

Burns, who declined to comment for this article, worried that a Halifax branch would draw these Canadian tax expats back into the reach of the CRA.

“Are you able to provide us with any general guidance as to any possible concerns that might arise, such as a liability to Canadian tax?” Burns inquired of his contacts in Halifax.

The CRA returned to Appleby with warm reassurances that no taxes in Canada would be owing if the firm decided to come. An advanced tax ruling in 2008 guaranteed Appleby that any future business in Halifax would not require staff — or its clients — to pay Canadian taxes.

Despite that green light, the firm ultimately bailed on the plan to bring a little piece of Bermudan tax haven to Halifax.

“With regret, we are not now likely to take up the opportunity at this time of proceeding with the Halifax Outsourcing Platform,” Burns wrote in 2009. “Isle of Man was already our top choice for outsourcing, for many reasons, although Halifax was a very close second.”

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Jagmeet Singh says drug addiction is a social, not criminal justice, issue

Posted on 09 November 2017 by admin

At the B.C. NDP convention this weekend, the federal leader says he has witnessed the devastation of opioid addictions, and called on the federal government to declare a national crisis.

VICTORIA—Jagmeet Singh says he’s witnessed the devastation of British Columbia’s opioid overdose epidemic and it breaks his heart.

The federal New Democrat Party leader said he visited an overdose prevention site in Vancouver this week where he saw people struggling with addiction and learned how to administer the overdose-busting medication Naloxone.

Singh told about 2,000 delegates attending the B.C. NDP convention on Saturday that Canada’s drug laws should reflect that drug addiction is a social justice issue and not a criminal justice matter. He called on the federal government to declare opioid addiction a national crisis.

Singh drew a standing ovation when he said the New Democrats would decriminalize personal possession of all drugs, not just marijuana.

“I saw that people’s lives are being destroyed while the federal government does little or nothing and it breaks my heart,” he said. “I saw with my own eyes the devastation of the opioid crisis.”

Singh said addiction is rooted in issues of poverty and mental health.

  “To me poverty, mental health and addictions don’t sound like criminal justice problems,” he said. “They sound to me like a social justice problem. That’s why I’m calling for the decriminalization of all personal possession offences when it comes to drugs to make a difference in the lives of people and actually bring real change.”

Singh, elected NDP leader last month, said the federal New Democrats must become the party that represents the lives and hopes of Canadians.

“We get it,” he said. “We are the party that hears the stories of people, the struggles. We must again be the party that inspires Canadians. That makes their hearts beat faster.”

Earlier, B.C. Premier John Horgan told delegates the provincial party is celebrating forming government after 16 years of Liberal administrations, but serious decisions about the Site C dam and Kinder Morgan pipeline are ahead.

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Sexual harassment scandal hits hot spot frequented by Ottawa’s political elite

Posted on 09 November 2017 by admin

The chef at a favoured Parliament Hill restaurant recently apologized over a series of sexual harassment complaints, prompting people to ask how far the expectation of condemnation should extend.

OTTAWA—It’s lunchtime on a Thursday and Riviera is packed. Beneath the din of many voices and a brass-blasting Sinatra song, there doesn’t appear to be a free table in the joint. Patrons are stacked elbow-to-elbow all down the gleaming, steel-top bar that curls near the front door and stretches to the back of the restaurant, where busy cooks lean into plumes of steam that sprout from stovetops in the corner.

Business as usual, in other words, for the fancy cocktail bar and eatery that’s become one of the trendiest hangouts near the Hill.

It would be totally unremarkable if it weren’t for the whiff of scandal.

Riviera’s co-owner, Matt Carmichael, a prominent figure in the capital’s restaurant scene who has been described as a celebrity chef, admitted last week to having “sexually harassed women with inappropriate comments.” Carmichael put out a statement that said he went to rehab this summer for addiction to drugs and alcohol and, in his new-found “clear state of sobriety,” apologized to the women he harassed.

The Ottawa Citizen reported allegations from Riviera staffers, one of whom told the paper Carmichael sent her an inappropriate message on Facebook.

The situation appears to be another example of a powerful man falling from grace at a moment when the cultural domain roils with allegations of sexual harassment and assault, as well the denunciations that attend them. It’s happening in Hollywood with Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein. We’ve seen in it in Montreal with the creator of the city’s Just for Laughs festival. And just Wednesday, the U.K.’s defence minister resigned and apologized for gripping a radio host’s knee in 2002.

Carmichael’s case has an added dimension. Riviera is known around town as a favoured haunt for the politically connected. The restaurant with the ’80s-style neon pink sign is situated in an old, art deco bank just steps from the Prime Minister’s Office, and hosted a government soiree when the 2017 budget came out last March.

This brings up an interesting thought: when something like this happens in proximity to those with public duties, how far does the requirement to condemn it extend? Can Liberal insiders still drink their “Femme Fatale” cocktails and nosh “Le Big Matt” burgers (“think like a Big Mac, but better,” a reporter was told) without fear of troublesome optics?

Those questions may ring louder for a government that has made gender equality an unprecedented priority in the echelons of power, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stating that he has a “zero tolerance” policy for sexual harassment in his own Liberal ranks.

Speaking in Brampton on Thursday, when the government released a report on workplace harassment, Trudeau said “far too many Canadian women” have such experiences.

“One of the things we are seeing now is, there is an awakening,” he continued.

“It’s never all right, and regardless of the power or influence or money or fame of the person doing the harassment, it’s never excusable and it should never be kept hidden.”

Charlotte Triggs, senior editor for People Magazine, discusses the sexual harassment, abuse and assault allegations leveled against some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. (The Associated Press)

Erin Gee co-hosts a feminist pop culture and politics podcast in Ottawa called “Bad and Bitchy.” She points out that Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan’s husband, Steve Doussis, was Riviera’s general manager until news of the scandal broke. He resigned Oct. 25, the same day Carmichael apologized publicly, saying in a statement that he “could not in good conscience continue in this workplace environment.”

So far, however, Gee says she hasn’t seen any condemnations from inside the political bubble. “If people think that was awful then they should stand up for what they believe in and their morals, and boycott his establishment for a certain period of time,” she says, while acknowledging that to avoid the restaurant is “tricky,” given that innocent people who work there could suffer.

It’s also unclear when such a stand could be deemed sufficient, she says, and people could return to enjoy their venison tartare (with sour cherry and toasted pepitas) without shame. All the same, she said she won’t be returning anytime soon to Riviera or to the other two restaurants in town that Carmichael co-owns.

Tim Powers, vice-chair of Summa Strategies, says the situation at Riviera is certainly a “topic of debate” in political circles, especially for a Liberal party he said is undoubtedly preoccupied with its own brand and image.

But he hastens to add that there should be no expectation that people from Parliament Hill avoid the restaurant — especially if the people mistreated by Carmichael still work there.

“Who are you penalizing? In the end you’re probably penalizing the people you don’t want to penalize, the people who’ve been speaking up,” he says.

“Does it impact the Liberal brand because Liberal staffers go there? No, that’s a friggin’ stretch.”

Outside the restaurant, it’s raining on Sparks St. Sarah Hurman passes by under her umbrella. She says she loves Riviera, and would go back despite the scandal, especially now that Carmichael has apologized and stepped away from the business.

The fact that we’re having this conversation at all is a sign of progress, she says. “Younger people expect a fairer workplace, and they have a much better idea of that than their counterparts 20 to 30 years ago,” says the 58-year-old consultant. “It’s just a slow process of levelling the playing field.”

Moments later, a woman who is texting as she walks glances up at Riviera’s façade. She shrugs. “I heard it’s great, and I want to try it soon.”


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Ex-Guantanamo detainee to sue Canada for $50M for alleged complicity in torture

Posted on 09 November 2017 by admin

Djamel Ameziane, who was held at Guantanamo for 11 years after living in Canada, alleges extensive torture by U.S. officials, and says Canada was complicit in the abuse.

An Algerian man is set to sue the federal government for the abuses he says he suffered at the hands of American security forces after he left Canada 15 years ago.

The unproven allegations by Djamel Ameziane, who was never charged or prosecuted, raise further questions about Canada’s complicity in the abuse of detainees at Guantanamo Bay — a topic his lawyer said demands a full-scale public inquiry.

“My current situation is really bad, I am struggling to survive,” Ameziane, 50, said from near Algiers. “I was repatriated from Guantanamo and left like almost homeless. I couldn’t find a job because of the Guantanamo stigma and my age, so a settlement would be very helpful to me to get my life back together.”

In a draft statement of claim obtained by The Canadian Press, Ameziane seeks damages of $50 million on the grounds that Canada’s security services co-operated with their U.S. counterparts even though they knew the Americans were abusing him.

“The Crown’s conduct constituted acquiescence and tacit consent to the torture inflicted upon the plaintiff,” the lawsuit alleges.

Canadian intelligence, the suit alleges, began sharing information with the Americans after failing to pick up on the 1999 “Millennium plot” in which Ahmed Ressam, another Algerian who had been living in Montreal, aimed to blow up the Los Angeles airport. After 9/11, Canadian agents interrogated Ameziane at the infamous American prison in Cuba, as they did Canada’s Omar Khadr, according to the claim.

Ameziane’s Edmonton-based lawyer, Nate Whitling, said the government’s recent out-of-court settlement — worth a reported $10.5 million — with Khadr over violation of his rights has prevented scrutiny of Canada’s alleged complicity in abuses at Guantanamo Bay. A judicial inquiry is needed, Whitling said.

“Only then can the Canadian public come to understand the extent to which Canada is responsible for the torture of innocent detainees in the aftermath of 9/11,” Whitling said.

The lawyer, who said he planned to file the lawsuit in Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton on Monday, said Ameziane would be prepared to put the claim on hold in exchange for an inquiry. Whitling also said two other people planned similar suits that name the federal government, RCMP and Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale had no comment given the pending legal proceedings.

The U.S. detained Ameziane at Guantanamo Bay for more than 11 years until his release in December 2013.

“For many years, I had the idea of suing the Canadian government but didn’t know how and honestly didn’t know it was possible until I read the news about the settlement of Omar Khadr, who was my fellow inmate in Guantanamo Bay,” Ameziane said. “The action I am taking may also make (Canadian officials) think twice before acting against the interests of Canada and Canada’s human values.”

According to his claim, Ameziane left Algeria in the 1990s to escape rising violence there. After working as a chef in Austria, he came to Canada in December 1995 and asked for refugee status. He lived in Montreal for five years, attending mosques where the Americans said members of al-Qaida prayed.

When Canada rejected his request for asylum, Ameziane opted to go to Afghanistan rather than Algeria, where he feared abuse. He left Afghanistan for Pakistan in October 2001 when fighting erupted, but was captured and turned over to American forces in exchange for a bounty, his claim states.

The Americans first took him to a detention facility in Kandahar, where he alleges guards brutalized him, then sent him to Guantanamo Bay based partly on information provided by Canadian intelligence, according to his claim.

Ameziane, who denies any terrorism links, says Canadian agents interviewed him in Guantanamo in February and May 2003 and turned over recordings of the interrogations to the Americans. They did so, he claims, despite widespread allegations that U.S. forces were abusing detainees and even though they knew he faced no charges and had no access to a lawyer or the courts.

Ameziane alleged American officials interrogated him hundreds of times and abused him when they decided he wasn’t co-operating. The abuse, he alleges, included sleep-deprivation, intrusive genital searches, pepper-spraying, waterboarding, being left in freezing conditions, and having his head slammed against walls and the floor, dislocating his jaw.

“Canadian officials came to interview me on two occasions (and) they not only shared information about me with my American torturers but even tried to get information out of me that had nothing to do with Canada in order to help my American torturers,” Ameziane said. “I refused to answer questions, after that I was subjected to a worse treatment by the Americans.”

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Opposition parties aren’t revealing stance on Liberal marijuana plan

Posted on 09 November 2017 by admin

With a provincial election set for June 7, 2018, there is keen interest on where the PCs or New Democrats will land.

It remains hazy whether the opposition parties at Queen’s Park will back the provincial Liberal government’s legislation for recreational marijuana.

Attorney General Yasir Naqvi last Wednesday tabled the Cannabis Act, the blueprint for how and where marijuana will be sold in Ontario after the federal government legalizes it July 1.

Naqvi’s bill creates the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC), an LCBO subsidiary that will control online sales and operate 40 stand-alone weed shops as of next summer. That number will rise to 150 by 2020.

The OCRC will have the monopoly on Ontario’s recreational marijuana market and “dispensaries” now operating illegally will be forced out of business under the threat of fines of up to $1 million and jail terms of as long as two years less a day.

“We are committed to eliminating the illegal market and taking down illegal cannabis storefronts,” Naqvi said Thursday.

Only those 19 and over will be permitted to buy, consume, or grow marijuana and its usage will be restricted to private homes. Consumption will be outlawed in all public places, offices and vehicles.

Those who opt to grow their own will be allowed to have up to four cannabis plants at home, but just for personal use.

The government will soon launch a public awareness campaign about the potential perils of smoking weed.

 “This . . . will help education, health, youth and social service providers who work to prevent and reduce the harms of substance use in youth and young adults,” the attorney general said.

“As we have in the past with cigarette smoke, we also need to take steps to limit the health impacts of second-hand cannabis smoke.”

The Liberals have a majority in the legislature and do not need opposition support to pass the bill, which is likely to happen before MPPs break for Christmas on Dec. 14.

Neither the Progressive Conservatives nor the New Democrats are tipping their hand on whether they will back the Liberal law.

But with an Ontario election set for June 7, 2018, either Conservative Leader Patrick Brown or NDP Leader Andrea Horwath could succeed Kathleen Wynne as premier by the time Cannabis Day rolls around July 1.

So there is keen interest on where the Tories or New Democrats will land.

PC MPP Gila Martow (Thornhill) emphasized the need for clamping down on the black market.

“They say they’re going to stop the illicit sale of cannabis. Well, we still have contraband cigarettes being sold. There are a lot of people concerned in our communities,” Martow told the legislature on Thursday.

“I didn’t hear specifically how we’re going to address testing in terms of impairment. How are we going to be testing whether or not people are indeed taking cannabis — when they took it, how long it will be in their system and how it actually affects them?” she asked.

NDP MPP France Gélinas (Nickel Belt) said Naqvi’s bill is “more of a disappointment than anything else” due to the limited number of outlets.

The LCBO announced 14 municipalities — Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Vaughan, Barrie, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Windsor — have the first legalized weed stores.

New Democrat MPP Taras Natyshak (Essex) said Friday that “40 retail locations cannot possibly serve the demand” across Ontario.

“By failing to locate retail outlets in places like Niagara, Brantford, Peterborough, Cornwall, Sarnia and North Bay and leaving large communities like Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa underserved, it’s clear that Kathleen Wynne doesn’t get it,” Natyshak said.

While Tory MPP Bob Bailey (Sarnia—Lambton) will not have to worry about a government-run marijuana shop in his riding, he warned of potential problems at the U.S. border.

“Sarnia could be a toking tourist opportunity location, where people will cross to buy marijuana they can’t buy in Michigan and other states,” said Bailey, noting police are also alarmed at the pace of change.

“I heard from the chief of police and other chiefs of police. They say they won’t be ready for July. There’s no way that they can implement all the rules that will have to go along with this,” he said.

Only Mike Schreiner’s Greens have yet to oppose the Liberal legislation.

“The Liberals’ approach seems to ramp up criminalization of pot outside the government monopoly, which undermines the reasons for legalizing it in the first place,” said Schreiner, whose party has no MPPs at Queen’s Park.

“There is a better way — highly regulated and licensed local businesses to allow local farmers, small businesses and Indigenous groups to participate in the market, creating local jobs and contributing tax dollars to local communities across the province,” he said on Oct. 27.

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City staff recommend 5 per cent water rate increase, 2 per cent garbage increase

Posted on 09 November 2017 by admin

Council will vote to set the 2018 rate-supported budgets later this year.

The City of Toronto is proposing to bump garbage and water rates up by the same amount next year as it did in 2017.

The rate-supported budget process for 2018 kicked off Friday, with councillors discussing a proposed 2 per cent increase in single family home garbage rates and a 5 per cent increase in water rates.

The same increases were approved in 2017.

“Over the last nine years we’re running around a 1.6 per cent rate increase average, so we are trailing the rate of inflation year over year,” Jim McKay, general manager of solid waste management services, told the budget committee Friday.

The starting point for garbage rates, which still have to be debated and set by council, are a 2 per cent increase or $4.99 more for small bins; $6.06 for medium; $8.23 for large; and $9.55 for extra-large. The new rates would be $254.66 for a small bin; $309.14 for medium; $419.85 for large; and $486.99 for extra-large.

The recommended rates would see a 1 per cent increase for multi-residential pick-up and 5.2 per cent for most other solid waste services.

McKay warned the city is stepping up efforts to reduce blue bin contamination and eyeing the possibility of fining repeat offenders.

Staff are recommending council continue with a plan to increase water rates by 5 per cent next year.

Council voted in 2015 to amend the city’s 10-year capital plan to increase the water rate by 8 per cent in 2015-2016 and 5 per cent in 2017-2018 to cover $1 billion in previously unfunded capital projects.

The budget committee meets again next Friday and will hear from the public. Council will vote on the rate-supported budget at its Dec. 6-7 meeting.

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Detached Toronto home prices fall, while condo prices soar in October

Posted on 09 November 2017 by admin

The average selling price in October was $780,104, up 2.3 per cent compared with October 2016.

The usual seasonal bounce in re-sale homes between September and October was more pronounced than usual this year in the Toronto region, growing 12 per cent.

But there were still 2,597 — about 27 per cent — fewer sales this October compared to the same month last year.

Home prices also rose 2.3 per cent year over year in October, but new numbers from the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) on Thursday showed some areas are doing better than others.

The average price of a home — including all housing types from apartments to detached houses with yards — rose 2.3 per cent to $780,104, compared to $762,691 last year.

But detached house prices were down 2.5 per cent across the region — a 4 per cent decline in the 905 area to an average price of $910,488 and, a 1.1 per cent drop in Toronto to about $1.3 million.

Condos, however, continued to perform well, up 21.8 per cent across the region to an average price of $523,041.

The divide between the City of Toronto and the surrounding region is a function of the housing stock that’s on the market, said Jason Mercer, TREB’s director of market analysis.

In the 905 there are more detached homes on the market, he said, “so you haven’t seen as much upward pressure on prices there.”

TREB’s annual survey will show how the new mortgage stress tests introduced last month are impacting consumers’ buying attitudes, said Mercer.

“While the number of transactions was still down relative to last year’s record pace, it certainly does appear that sales momentum is picking up,” board president Tim Syrianos said in a press release.

Royal LePage agent Elli Davis, said the number of homes she sold last month was almost identical to the same period last year. After a lull in the summer, buyers are starting to come back to the market, she said.

“Condos under $500,000 are flying,” said Davis.

There is also scarce supply to feed the demand from downsizing buyers for condos priced between $1 million and $3 million.

“We have very little supply, so when a listing comes out everybody’s running to it,” she said.

Some sellers still haven’t adjusted to the new market realities and are pricing their properties in the expectation of selling for the prices their neighbours garnered earlier this year or last year, she said.

Some are struggling with whether to sell their home before buying another.

“A lot of people are still buying first, but they have to be cognizant of what their property will sell for so they can be realistic when we get to that point,” said Davis.

South of Bloor St., from Etobicoke to the Beaches, houses are still selling in multiple offers and two- and three-bedroom condos are being snapped up, said Ara Mamourian broker-partner at in Leslieville.

“But what’s really going nuts is the rental market right now,” he said. “We can’t keep a rental property on the market for more than 24 hours without at least two or three applications on it.”

Some consumers have been priced out of the home ownership market, said Mamourian.

“They don’t have the down payment money, but they certainly do have the monthly cash flow to float a nice, high-quality rental. That’s why we’re seeing the $3,000- to $4,000-a-month rental market really do well,” he said, adding that it’s difficult to find a one-bedroom apartment for under $2,000 a month.

“We’re seeing folks double up, taking on roommates, taking on two-bedroom apartments for $1,200 to $1,300 each, versus a one-bedroom that would cost them $2,000,” he said.

In Oakville, where ground-level housing comprises the largest share of the market, things are slower, said Century 21 Miller agent Jamie Vieira.

“Everybody assumed that we’d get busy because of the mortgage rules coming in effect Jan. 1, so there would be some rush to buy but that doesn’t seem to be happening,” he said.

“We have a lot of inventory sitting around and (sellers) trying to wrap their heads around the price. September was slow too,” said Vieira, adding that prices are nowhere near what they were in March and April when the Toronto region housing market peaked.

TREB reported 888 active listings this October compared to only 400 last year. While the average Oakville home price of about $1.09 million is up about $43,000 year over year, the median price fell $67,500.

“We’re up at the peak inventory we had at the end of June and sales are 45 per cent down. Take those two things combined and it’s not a good market,” said Vieira.

In April Toronto region home prices peaked at 33 per cent above the previous year. But the provincial government’s Fair Housing policies, including a foreign buyers tax, immediately cooled the market.

That was followed by two hikes in the Bank of Canada rate and, more recently, more mortgage stress testing rules by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.

The CHMC warned last month that the country’s hottest housing markets remain “highly vulnerable” with evidence of moderate overvaluation and price acceleration in Toronto, Hamilton, Vancouver, Victoria and Saskatoon.

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After a short break-up, Alia Bhatt-Sidharth rekindles love

Posted on 09 November 2017 by admin

After a brief lover’s tiff, Alia Bhatt and Sidharth Malhotra are back together as a couple. They not only attended Diwali bashes together but also bonded at Shahrukh Khan’s 52 birthday bash in Alibaug. What grabbed the eyeballs was the fact Alia slipped into Sidharth’s tee. It proved that the couple reunited and enjoying togetherness again.

It is highly buzzed that filmmaker and their mentor Karan Johar played peacemaker between the lovebirds. He made them sat together and sorted out their issues. He makes them believe that they were made for each other.

Sidharth’s growing intimacy with Jacqueline created hole in their relationship. Alia was irked with the actor’s closeness with his co-stars and it triggered their fights.

Sidharth and Jacqueline have also shot an intimate scene in ‘A Gentleman’ and Alia was not too happy. She has also warned her beau to keep distance from his female co-star.

Well, a source informed earlier, “Alia and Sid are avoiding each other and are not even on talking terms now. Maybe with time, they will get back to being friends, but for now, they are maintaining a distance from each other. They were having a lot of fights in the recent times. Mutually, they decided it wasn’t working out and it was better to end it.”

 A source confirmed about Alia and Sid’s split, “Sidharth and Alia have split, and unlike previous instances, this time, it seems permanent. They will not get back together again.” Shocking, isn’t it?

Alia and Sidharth are thick lovers and the couple also expressed their feelings for one another in couple of occasions. They spotted together in events, vacations, dinner date etc. They also visited one another’s family and are quite friendly with their respective family members.

Well, it is nice to see Alia and Sidharth together again.


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