Archive | April, 2018

Trudeau backs airstrikes by U.S., allies in Syria

Posted on 18 April 2018 by admin

Speaking at the Summit of the Americas in Peru, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday that Canada supports strikes aimed at damaging the Assad regime’s chemical weapons capability.

LIMA, PERU—Canada was told in advance that the U.S., Britain and France were planning to launch airstrikes against Syria, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday — but was not asked to participate.

“We were apprised in advance of the operation,” Trudeau told reporters at the end of a three-day visit to Peru. “We were very supportive. And there was no request for Canada to join as part of that operation.”

Canada stood behind its closest allies on Friday as the U.S., Britain and France launched airstrikes against Syria’s government in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of people.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced the strikes in a national address, and promised Washington was prepared to “sustain” pressure on the Syrian government until it stopped killing its own people with banned weapons.

Reporters on the ground in Damascus reported loud explosions and heavy smoke filling the sky over Syria’s capital after missiles slammed into what the U.S. claimed were suspected chemical weapon sites.

Syrian television said the attacks targeted a scientific research centre in Barzeh, near Damascus, and an army depot near Homs.

Shortly after the strikes, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement condemning the use of chemical weapons in eastern Ghouta, where more than 40 people were killed and 500 injured — many of them children — on April 7.

 “Canada supports the decision by the United States, the United Kingdom and France to take action to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against its own people,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau went on to promise that Canada would “continue to work with our international partners to further investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” adding: “Those responsible must be brought to justice.”

The prime minister was attending the Summit of the Americas in Peru, and was at a reception with U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence shortly before the news broke that the U.S. was preparing to launch strikes.

The question of who is responsible for the chemical attack on the rebel-held enclave near Damascus, the second such attack in the past year, has become a central issue.

The Syrian government has denied responsibility for the attack while Russia has suggested Israel or Britain was to blame, the latter to justify increased western intervention into the country.

But Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas on Friday that Canada laid the blame squarely with Syrian President Bashar Assad, as well as his Russian and Iranian supporters.

“When it comes to this use of chemical weapons, it is clear to Canada that chemical weapons were used and that they were used by the Assad regime,” Freeland said.

The minister did not specify what evidence the government has to reach that conclusion, however, saying only that Canada is working with non-government organizations and others to collect evidence of war crimes in Syria.

“We have seen as a pattern in the world today is actors who behave in a reprehensible manner, then can be quite clever in trying to muddy the waters and in trying to dodge responsibility,” she added.

“Of course, it is important for Canada to be a country that acts based on facts. But it is equally important for us to be aware of the distraction tactics that some of the actors in the world are using today and to not allow those tactics to work.”

The strikes prompted swift condemnation from Syria and its allies, with Syrian state TV calling them a “blatant violation of international law.”

Russia’s U.S. embassy released a statement warning that the airstrikes would “not be left without consequences.” It said that “all responsibility” rests with Washington, London and Paris.

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis described Friday night’s strikes as “a one-time shot,” but did not rule out further attacks.

British Prime Minister Theresa May described the attack as neither “about intervening in a civil war” nor “about regime change,” but a limited and targeted strike that “does not further escalate tensions in the region” and does everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.

“We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none,” May said.

The decision to strike, after days of deliberations, marked Trump’s second order to attack Syria; he authorized a barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles to hit a single Syrian airfield in April 2017 in retaliation for Assad’s use of sarin gas against civilians.

Trump chastised Syria’s two main allies, Russia and Iran, for their roles in supporting “murderous dictators,” and noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin had guaranteed a 2013 international agreement for Assad to get rid of all of his chemical weapons.

He called on Moscow to change course and join the West in seeking a more responsible regime in Damascus.

Friday’s strikes appear to signal Trump’s willingness to draw the United States more deeply into the Syrian conflict.

The participation of British and French forces enables Trump to assert a wider international commitment against the use of chemical weapons, but the multi-pronged attack carries the risk of Russian retaliation.

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Quebec preparing for up to 400 asylum seekers a day at the U.S. border this summer

Posted on 18 April 2018 by admin

Between Jan. 1 and April 14 of 2018, 6,074 asylum seekers have arrived in Quebec — three times more than the number of people that crossed the border in 2017.

MONTREAL—Quebec government is demanding that Ottawa come up with a new plan for handling asylum seekers with projections that up to 400 people each day could begin crossing into Canada this summer.

“Last year, we peaked at about 250 a day and that was considered massive,” said Quebec Immigration Minister David Heurtel. “Right now, there are projections on the table saying that we could go in the neighbourhood of 400 people per day.”

The province says it wants the federal government to investigate a suspected trafficking network that is helping refugee claimants — most of them Nigerian — to travel to the United States and sneak across the border into Canada at Roxham Road, which connects New York State with Quebec.

As if to underline the gravity of the problem, Heurtel said the 1,850-bed shelter system in the Montreal area will stop accepting new arrivals as of next week when the level of occupation hits 85 per cent.

“We can’t take this situation lightly. The new reality with migrants demands a new way of doing things. We are ready to work with the federal government to develop a new solution. The status quo is not acceptable,” he said.

Between Jan. 1 and April 14 of this year, 6,074 asylum seekers have arrived in Quebec, three times more than that which entered last year.

In 2017, the phenomenon of refugee claimants crossing into Quebec was mainly driven by Haitians living in the U.S. under a special immigration designation known as the Temporary Protected Status. Thousands of Haitian nationals fled into Canada from the U.S. last year after receiving warnings that U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration intended to end their protected status and force them to return to Haiti.

Heurtel said that the majority of those arriving in Quebec now do not come from countries that have a protected status in the U.S.

 “Right now, the majority of asylum seekers we have had up till now come from Nigeria. They don’t speak French. Some of them have some English, but not necessarily,” he said.

Many are arriving in the U.S. and heading directly to Roxham Road. A significant portion of them also have no intention of remaining in Quebec if their refugee claim is accepted.

“We’ve had certain days where we’ve had people come to our centres, sometimes upwards of 40 per cent of the people are saying well, our intent is to go elsewhere in Canada.”

Heurtel said that Quebec has done more than its share to deal with the migrant influx over the past year. Now it’s time to spread he burden.

“If an asylum seeker already represents that their final destination is somewhere else in Canada, maybe the federal government should take notice of that and act on it,” Heurtel said.

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Trans Mountain pipeline ‘will be built,’ Trudeau says

Posted on 18 April 2018 by admin

Prime minister says Ottawa will break the political standoff between Alberta and British Columbia over the controversial project.

The premiers of B.C. and Alberta met with the prime minister in Ottawa to discuss the dispute over the planned Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Justin Trudeau says negotiations are underway with Kinder Morgan to see construction go ahead. (The Canadian Press)

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley declared Sunday they would spend taxpayer dollars and flex their respective legislative muscle to ensure the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline is built over the objections of British Columbia.

Citing waning investor confidence in Canada’s ability to get big projects “done,” Trudeau told a nationally televised news conference the pipeline is in Canada’s “vital, strategic interest.”

He has instructed Finance Minister Bill Morneau to negotiate with Kinder Morgan — the project’s backer — to provide federal financial assurances to guarantee that it goes ahead, but refused to provide details about how Ottawa would mitigate any costs or risk to Canadian taxpayers.

“It will be built . . . we are absolutely focused that we make this construction season,” Trudeau said, pledging to meet a May 31 deadline set by the company and predicting the project would completed on time by 2020.

But the mega-project remains threatened by stiff environmental, Indigenous and political opposition in B.C.

B.C. Premier John Horgan emerged from a high-stakes Sunday meeting with Trudeau and Notley on Parliament Hill unbowed. He vowed to proceed with a B.C. court reference in the coming days to challenge Ottawa’s claim to sole jurisdiction over the environment.

While interprovincial pipelines are clearly federal jurisdiction, the environment is not expressly listed as a sole responsiblity of either the federal or the provincial government in the constitution, and has been a shared responsibility. Horgan wants a ruling from the court that would allow his minority NDP government to block Kinder Morgan from increasing flows of heavy crude, in the name of protecting B.C.’s coastal waters.

 “Although we agreed today on the importance of protecting our coast, he (Trudeau) and I will not be in power forever and that’s why the jurisdictional question is so critically important,” Horgan said.

Equally unmoved, Notley said she would introduce legislation this week to allow her province to scale back its oil and gas exports to British Columbia, saying it will “give Alberta the authority to strategically deploy the export of its resources in a way that gets the best return for Albertans and maximizes the prices that we can receive.”

Notley said the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project “is the poster child for cooperative federalism.

“Quite frankly, if cooperative federalsim means we never, ever, ever make a decision, well I don’t think that’s a cooperative federalism that any Canadians think is in the best interests of the country,” she said.

So the Sunday summit in the nation’s capital failed to break a political standoff that has put the $7.4 billion project in limbo.

Moreover, it is far from clear that Trudeau and Notley’s plan will be enough. Despite secret talks between the federal and Alberta governments and Kinder Morgan that have taken place over the past few days in Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Houston about a financial plan to underwrite the “extraordinary political risk” which the company claims is a threat to the project, the company was non-committal.

Kinder Morgan Canada Limited, in a statement to the Star, said it did not intend to comment “until we’ve reached a sufficiently definitive agreement on or before May 31 that satisfies our objectives.”

Those objectives remain the same, according to the company, “to obtain certainty with respect to the ability to construct through B.C. and for the protection of our shareholders in order to build the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.”

In addition to providing financial assurances to the company, Trudeau said he would aim to provide clarity by introducing legislation to assert federal jurisdiction. That could involve taking over some permitting and regulatory approvals. The pipeline’s expansion involves twinning an existing Alberta-B.C. pipeline, laying about 980 kilometres of new pipes, and expanding two marine terminals in Burnaby.

Even if Ottawa’s and Alberta’s actions reassure the company, none of it is likely to dampen the opposition of some B.C. residents and a number of Indigenous communities.

“The federal government can’t buy off the opposition to this failing pipeline,” Mike Hudema, a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, said in a statement.

“If Trudeau believes he can ram this pipeline through, he is misreading both the constitution and the electorate, while underestimating the opposition on the ground,” Hudema said.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, was blunt.

“Here in British Columbia the answer is still no,” he said in an interview with CBC News.

He said regardless of Trudeau’s rhetoric, the meeting “did not produce any forward progress.”

“Aside from the violin music, this pipeline project is not in the national interest; it’s in the interest of Kinder Morgan, certainly it is in the interest of Premier Notley and her political future and the dying interests of tarsands oil consortium but it is not in the national interest. It will not create tens of thousands of jobs.”

The three leaders had huddled for almost two hours with Morneau and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and a small knot of senior political staff and public servants in the prime minister’s Centre Block. Notley later told the Star the mood was “strained” at the outset, but improved as the talks went on.

However, it ended with B.C. further isolated, and Notley was scathing in her characterization of B.C.’s actions. “I don’t believe it is in the best interests of the country to engage in esoteric jurisdictional debates for the purposes of harassing a project to death.”

The prime minister defended the government’s determination in the face of opposition, saying the project had been subject to the “most extensive” consultation with Indigenous communities ever done. “Working with our Indigenous partners has been paramount.”

Trudeau echoed Notley’s frustration with the B.C. government for its opposition to project. Asked if he views it as a constitutional crisis, with Quebec weighing in on B.C.’s side, Trudeau said B.C.’s efforts to block the project “have obviously inflamed passions and political rhetoric.”

Horgan said he wants to ensure enough federal and provincial resources are available to address “gaps” such as the timeliness of responses to potential future oil spills. He said a recent diesel spill in B.C. took a month to clean up “and that’s a federal responsibility. I don’t think we can wait a month if there was a diluted bitumen spill.”

Notley scoffed, saying that diesel spill involved commercial vessels, and not double-hulled oil tankers as are required to carry bitumen.

Trudeau said his government has sought clarification repeatedly from B.C. about what gaps it sees environmental protections, but “unfortunately over the course of almost a year they have not specifically put forward proposals on how they would like to see us improve the oceans protection plan. It’s something we very much are open to doing.”

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Etobicoke development would leave residents next to noisy GO rail yard and ‘advised to close the windows’

Posted on 18 April 2018 by admin

City, developer and transit agency struck a deal to allow controversial townhome development officials warned against.

New townhomes built near a busy GO rail yard in Etobicoke must come with noise warnings for new purchasers, an agreement approved by city council says.

The notices are part of a settlement reached between the city, Dunpar Homes and Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency which operates the rail yard.

The deal was struck late last month and approved by city council at its last meeting, which heard secret advice from the city’s lawyers, seen by the Star, to accept the deal. The details of the settlement have now been published. It must still be approved at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (formerly the Ontario Municipal Board), which hears most land-use planning disputes. A hearing begins this week.

The settlement was reached nearly two years after council ignored unequivocal advice from city and provincial officials not to allow the 72-unit residential development on the Judson St. site, near Royal York Rd. in Mimico. The proposed townhomes sit just north of the Willowbrook rail-maintenance facility along the rail line, which is expected to do work around the clock, activity that produces light and noise, involving the revving of engines and testing of brakes.

The terms agreed to would see Dunpar pay Metrolinx $250,000 for noise-mitigation measures at the rail yard. Dunpar would also install sound barrier walls and upgraded windows for soundproofing.

The mandatory notice to prospective residents, which would be registered on the title of the home, will warn them that GO will not be responsible for any complaints or legal claims related to work in the yard or their right-of-way next to the development. Despite mitigation measures, noise may still bother residents who would be “advised to close the windows,” the notice will read.

Faced with future development applications, the city has also negotiated that the policy for the area should have council ensure any measures to deal with noise and other concerns are secured before approving any new development application.

Staff and Metrolinx both warned that the townhomes, proposed on the south side of Judson St. and backing onto the rail line, would conflict with the yard. Keeping the lands for industrial, commericial and institutional use alone was recommended, to keep a buffer between residents and the yard.

Allowing residential neighbourhoods closer to the yard, council heard, could cause legal trouble that would prevent the rail facility from operating as required. Council was told it could affect the province’s plans to expand and electrify GO rail service, which is essential to Mayor John Tory building six new stations in what remains of a much-revised, 2014 campaign promise to build a “SmartTrack” service.

“The Willowbrook yard is a critical, critical facility for delivering on RER and SmartTrack,” former chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat told council in June 2016.

“In the absence of the opportunity to expand that facility, it is very difficult to, in fact, expand the transit uses along our heavy rail corridors in the region.”

Keesmaat warned the townhomes would not be “livable.”

Local councillors Mark Grimes and Justin Di Ciano, who has ties to the developer, successfully pushed to see the townhome proposal approved, saying it would get rid of the cement-batching plant that had drawn the ire of existing residents.

The vote was 20 to 16 to allow the townhome development. Tory voted in favour despite the concerns about the GO expansion and SmartTrack plans.

Keesmaat noted, at the time, that allowing the townhome development would put more residents near a “noxious” use than there are today in the form of the cement plant.

Metrolinx appealed the decision, as promised. That appeal has triggered more than a year of work for a city legal team.

Those against the decision have questioned the wisdom of council.

“We’re going to have to waste public money fighting each other about it,” Councillors Gord Perks said in 2016.

“This is one of the dumbest planning decisions I’ve seen in my career.”

Di Ciano’s twin brother, Julien Di Ciano, lists Dunpar as a former employer. His Fountain Hill Construction and Consulting company was listed on public corporate documents at a building owned by a numbered company registered to Dunpar’s president John Zanini.

Di Ciano told council in June 2016 that, after getting legal advice, it was “crystal clear” that he did not have a conflict of interest on the item and that he looked forward to the debate. When it was time to discuss and vote on the item, Di Ciano was absent.

He previously told the Star he has no “professional or financial relationship” with Dunpar.

 

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Ice storm causes commuter chaos, cancellations and school closures

Posted on 18 April 2018 by admin

With some power outages and school closures reported, freezing rain and high winds have tapered off.

Traffic chaos across the GTA. Tens of thousands waking up without any power. The CN Tower closed, with ice crashing to the ground.

The weekend ice storm raged into its third day Monday, prompting residents across Greater Toronto to wonder: “This is April 16?”

The morning commute was in shambles for public transit users and drivers alike. Numerous delays were reported on the TTC and GO Transit this morning.

As of 2 p.m., train service was suspended between Osgoode and Bloor Stations due to a fire investigation between King and Union Stations. No shuttle buses were running.

Toronto Hydro crews are still dealing with outages, but the number of customers affected is 8,300 people as of early afternoon, down from the 10,000 that woke up without power earlier this morning.

Howling gusts of wind sent trees and hydro poles crashing down in equal measure as city streets were scoured with rain, with as many as 44,000 hydro customers losing power overnight.

Provincial power utility Hydro One said early Monday that its crews were working to reconnect nearly 68,000 customers across southern Ontario.

The city’s Emergency Operations Centre was opened Friday to assist with the storm situation, and it remains open today.

 “Toronto experienced extreme weather conditions that fluctuated widely throughout the weekend,” Mayor John Tory said. “I would like to thank residents for their patience and cooperation throughout this storm. I also want to thank City staff and our emergency response partners for their work to keep Toronto safe and moving.”

Toronto Fire say they experienced a higher than normal call volume this morning, with calls up 437 per cent during the midnight to 8 a.m. period. Usually they receive around 68 calls, and today, they received 297. Since the beginning of the storm, Toronto Fire Crews responded 3,222 times to 1,330 separate incidents over the weekend.

311 Toronto received 3,115 calls for assistance with tree damage, hydro and updates on community activities or classes — an increase of 273 per cent since the previous week. Of those calls, 534 were solely tree-related. A full tree clean-up is expected to be finished Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Environment Canada’s rainfall warning for the City of Toronto continues. The weather agency reports rain is expected to taper off over the course of the day. They say the heaviest precipitation is moving east of the city.

Commuters should be cautious of potentially hazardous roads and highways. Homeowners are also encouraged to clear drainage basins for more effective water flow and to prevent potential flooding.

A look at some of the problems across the city:

Roads

The OPP has reported “numerous reports” of flooding on Greater Toronto Area highways. The mix of snow, freezing rain, ice pellets, rain and powerful winds that battered the region Saturday and Sunday has also driving treacherous, with provincial police reporting more than 1,450 non-fatal crashes over the two days.

In the struggle to clear the roads and make them safe, 6,940 tonnes of salt have been used at this point.

Schools

All schools in Halton District and Peel District’s public and Catholic school boards were closed because of the weather.

All buses for the Toronto District School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board, York Region, Durham District, Durham Catholic, and York Catholic school boards have been cancelled for the day.

Most major post-secondary institutions in Toronto — including York University, Humber College, Ryerson University and the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus — have said they’ll re-open Monday. But the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus will be closed until early Monday afternoon.

Attractions

The CN Tower has closed due after reports of ice is falling off and striking surrounding buildings. Ice and snow reportedly fell through the roof of the Rogers Centre, and onto right field. The Blue Jays are currently assessing whether tonight’s game against the Kansas City Royals will go ahead. The Jays already had two games postponed in Cleveland over the weekend because of the weather.

The last time a game was postponed at the Rogers Centre was on April 12, 2001 because of problems with the roof. Coincidentally, the game was also against the Royals.

The Maple Leafs also cancelled the viewing party at Maple Leaf Square for tonight’s playoff game between Toronto and the Boston Bruins.

Airports

Pearson airport has cancelled 100 inbound and outbound flights, with other residual delays as other delayed flights arrive. More than 600 flights were cancelled Sunday, while many others were delayed for hours.

Airport authorities warn all the terminals will be very busy today and to confirm flight times in advance.

 

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GTA housing market poised for spring thaw

Posted on 18 April 2018 by admin

Downtown Toronto properties are attracting multiple offers, while realtors in the wider GTA see signs of the market heating up.

 “Sizzling” might be overstating the warming property market. But the real estate industry is finally predicting a return to a traditionally brisk spring — the kind of season that was virtually lost last year when, after months of bully bids and frenzied buying, sales soared in March and then stopped almost overnight.

Oakville broker Tracy Nursall says it’s been longer than a single aberrant year since the Toronto Region experienced a typical spring market. This year is more similar to 2013 or 2014 than any season since, she said. There was a long run-up to last March’s historical peak of a 34 per cent year-over-year price increase. The exceptional activity dates back to 2015, she said.

“Everybody’s taking 2017 out of the numbers, they should take 2016 out of the picture as well,” said Nursall of Sage Real Estate, who says the market west of the City of Toronto is still coming out of hibernation. But she expects sales to heat up with the later spring weather.

Downtown agents tell a different story. They say that the right properties in desirable neighbourhoods are attracting multiple offers, while still allowing room for negotiation.

Even in Durham Region — traditionally an island of affordability in the Toronto area — prices are rising and properties are moving faster than they were at the beginning of the year, said Dennis Roberts, president of the Durham Region Association of Realtors.

“There’s a lot of demand for homes even if people’s capacity (to buy) has been diminished,” said Phil Soper, CEO of Royal LePage.

He acknowledges the cumulative effects of the mortgage stress tests enforced by Canada’s bank regulator in January, rising interest rates and the market deflation that followed Ontario’s foreign buyers’ tax last April. But he says would-be buyers are still optimistic they will be able to afford a home even if they have to wait a while, he said.

“This spring people want to talk and they want to understand. Some of them can’t afford what they feel they need or they can’t pass the test to get financing but they still want to talk,” he said. That’s a different scenario than Vancouver in 2016, when people wouldn’t even speak to agents.Even if the volume of transactions remains relatively low in the Toronto area, demand is building, said Soper.

Young people who haven’t been able to move out of their parents’ house are reaching the stage of life where they are going to buy houses and Canadians from outside Ontario are still flocking to the Toronto area’s job opportunities, he said.

“There were 25,000 new Ontarians, and most of them in the Greater Toronto Area last year based on people moving from other parts of the country. That is sharply up from what it was two years ago,” said Soper.

But macroeconomic factors will weigh heavily on the Canadian housing industry, he warns.

“What looks to be a very bright future could dim rapidly if a few things go wrong in trade, in mega-projects, even a sharp turn to protectionism or anti-immigration sentiment in Canada at the provincial level,” said Soper.

John Pasalis, president of Toronto real estate brokerage Realosophy, says he’s not expecting “crazy gains” this spring. But if prices stay where they are, by July or August, prices could hold steady or even rise slightly year over year by the end of 2018.

“The market’s going to do a little bit better than most people are expecting,” said Pasalis.

There is still only about two months’ housing inventory in the region, he said. That level would be rising to four or five months if sales and prices were going to slow further. That’s what happened last spring.

“While it’s slow in Richmond Hill, that means it’s really competitive in other parts. As a whole it’s pretty balanced right now,” said Pasalis.

Even the 905 communities that were hardest hit when the market deflated last April and May, are starting to improve, he said.

“Downtown is still insane. There’s no slowdown,” said Pasalis and that extends to central neighbourhoods such as Leslieville, Wallace Emerson and Dufferin Grove where buyers are competing for property.

Pasalis’s comments come a week after the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) reported a 14 per cent year-over-year drop in the average home price in March and a 40 per cent plunge in home sales. But month-to-month figures showed some warming, with last month’s prices 2 per cent higher than February’s and the third month-to-month rise.

“First-time home buyers — with the new rules — are really challenged to get into the market,” said Chris Alexander, regional director at Re/Max Integra.

Re/Max 2018 Spring Market Trends report predicts prices will fall around the GTA in comparison to last year. It predicts year-over-year declines between April and June from -2.5 per cent in Mississauga; -4 per cent in Brampton and -5 per cent in Toronto, to -15 per cent in Durham Region and -10 per cent in Oakville.

But the 2017 comparator is especially suspect given the unique circumstances of last spring and Alexander is predicting that by year’s end, average home prices for 2018 will end up around where they began this year.

“(Buyers) will show up for the good properties,” he said.

“Sellers are going to have to come down to reality and understand this isn’t 2016 or the first part of 2017,” said Alexander.

“There are certain neighbourhoods in Toronto that have performed very well despite government intervention and the cooling markets around them,” he said, mentioning Etobicoke, Rosedale and Yorkville.

But Markham and Richmond Hill will still see softening, he predicted.

Breaking down the market

How much heat buyers and sellers experience this spring will depend on the kind of property and the area in which they are trading.

Downtown

If there’s a heat island in the GTA, it’s downtown where properties are routinely getting snapped up, says Desmond Brown of Royal LePage.

Brown reports that the take-no-prisoners atmosphere of 2016 and early 2017 has mellowed. Even in competing bid situations, the selling price for houses tends not to be a crazy amount over asking and there’s frequently room to negotiate.

A buyer on one property that had multiple bids had a successful offer that included a home inspection, he says. Financing conditions can also be written into offers.

Still, he advises, if you’re buying, “You’ve got to do your best to have the cleanest offer possible.” That can mean arranging a home inspection before the offer date or asking for one the seller has done in advance. Buyers should also make sure their financing is pre-approved, he says.

It’s a real estate cliche, but it really is all about location and that’s truer than it was during the peak, says Brown.

“Last year, where we were seeing things selling in just about any location, this year buyers are a lot more discerning,” he says. They will pay attention to the condition of neighbouring homes, and properties on main streets will take longer to move.

“A lot of young people in financial services and the tech industry have the money to spend. They want to be within walking distance for work or a short transit ride and they’re still paying top bucks,” says Brown.

The $1-million price that would be a psychological barrier doesn’t apply to the hot downtown market, says John Pasalis, president of Leslieville brokerage Realosophy.

“Prices of $1.3 million, $1.5 million — those are still competitive down here — if you’re on the subway line,” he says. “It’s when you get north of $2 million that it starts getting slower.”

The 905

The pain of the real estate bubble lingers in the communities outside Toronto, particularly in areas like York Region where speculation played a big role in driving up the market before last April, says Realosophy’s Pasalis. Overall, he’s expecting a balanced market, but the farther from the core you are, the more inventory there is, he says.

In Durham Region, one of the most affordable areas of the GTA, the average price rose to $598,000 from $578,000 between January and March, says Dennis Roberts, president of the local real estate association. The average number of days on the market has dropped from about 30 to 18 during the same period. The extension of Highway 407 and expanded GO train service are raising Durham’s value because commuters to Toronto have alternatives to sitting in congestion on Highway 401.

Lower-priced properties are moving more quickly than bigger houses, but the empty nesters living in those have fewer options in Durham where condo development has lagged other areas of the GTA, he says.

“They really don’t have many options of where to go. So we need to get a bigger choice for them. We need more supply for that bungalow-condo market, larger condos. They don’t want to go down to 800 sq. ft.,” says Roberts.

Mississauga and Oakville are starting to climb back out of the January doldrums, but the heat generated in downtown always takes a while to work its way west in the Toronto region, says Tracy Nursall of Sage Real Estate.

“We’re just heading into spring now where Toronto’s already in spring market,” she says. “April is coming out of the gate a little faster, but it’s not bolting out of the gate.”

Increasingly, buyers in 905 communities are looking for the same kind of destination neighbourhoods that make downtown Toronto attractive, says Nursall. They will be quick to pounce on the new neighbourhoods being built around Port Credit in Mississauga, she says.

“Hamilton’s taking a lot of eyeballs because they’ve got a great culture and foodie scene,” says Nursall.

Condos

Condos are the housing market that uniformly evoke superlatives and challenge buyers. It’s not unusual for a downtown condo to draw 10 to 15 offers, says Christopher Alexander of Re/Max.

“The condo market just continues to defy expectations,” says Andrew Harrild of Condos.ca

Multiple offers and over-asking prices are the norm. But, he says, supply is an issue as condo owners struggle to make their next move.

“It’s very difficult for buyers to afford a house in the city,” he says.

Downtown condos also offer a lifestyle their owners value, says Harrild. He says he recently met with a couple who were considering listing their downtown loft, but they were struggling with whether they could stand to live farther than a two-minute walk to the stores and restaurants they enjoy.

“If you want that patch of grass are you willing to sacrifice on location to get it,” he says.

Royal LePage’s Brown calls the condo market “completely nutty on everything under the $700,000 range.”

Once the price approaches about $800,000, condos start to look expensive. Add in maintenance fees and the cost resembles a $1.1 million house, he says.

Brown cites a condo in Regent Park that was listed for $455,000. He figured it might be worth up to $550,000. It sold for about $600,000 after atttracting 13 offers.

Home buyer behaviours

56%

Ontarians who feel they can afford to buy a home that suits their family’s needs.

53%

Ontarians who put access to parks and green spaces as their top home-buying consideration, compared to 50%, who put proximity to work as their chief concern, followed by access to stores (45%) and nearby public transit (36%)

29%

Ontarians who had to compromise on the size of home and their budget because of government regulations.

Source: Leger survey for Re/MAX Spring Market Trends report

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NDP promises $12-a-day child care and lower deficits if elected

Posted on 18 April 2018 by admin

The child care promise is the cornerstone pledge of party’s ambitious 97-page platform, Change for the Better, launched Monday.

Andrea Horwath is promising affordable child care — free for those who earn $40,000 or less and an average of $12-a-day for everyone else — if the NDP wins the June election.

That’s the cornerstone pledge of the party’s ambitious 97-page platform, Change for the Better, launched on Monday at Toronto Western Hospital.

“Our plan is not based on your little one’s age; it’s based on making sure everyone has childcare they can afford,” said Horwath, taking a shot at the Liberals’ new free daycare plan, which is limited to pre-schoolers aged two-and-a-half years until junior kindergarten.

The NDP chief said change is in the air for the June 7 election after almost 15 years of Liberal governance.

“Who will replace (Premier) Kathleen Wynne?” asked Horwath, warning against right-wing rookie Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford.

“Doug Ford’s billions of dollars in cuts will hurt the very people who need help. He’ll cut hospitals. He’ll cut our children’s schools. He’ll cut transit, child care and so much more,” she said.

“That’s not change; that’s going from bad to worse.”

Horwath vowed that an NDP government would be more fiscally responsible than Wynne’s Liberals.

In that vein, an NDP administration would run a $3.3-billion deficit this year — half the Liberals’ $6.7 billion — and, just as the Grits have, remain in the red for five years.

The New Democrats’ fiscal plan, which was signed off on as “reasonable” by former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page, is helped by higher taxes.

An NDP government would raise the corporate tax rate on profits to 13 per cent from 11.5 per cent, close big business loopholes, increase personal income tax on amounts earned over $220,000 by one percentage point and on earnings over $300,000 by two percentage points.

As well, a new three-per-cent surcharge will be slapped on luxury cars and SUVs that cost more than $90,000.

“We are going to protect middle- and lower-income families and make sure everyone has better services,” said Horwath.

“To get it done, we will make sure the most profitable corporations and the wealthiest people start paying their fair share,” she said.

“Let’s ask those at the top to pay a bit more.”

Along with means-tested child care, which would be free for lower income earners and an average of $12 per day for others, the NDP is promising publicly funded dental care for the one-third of Ontarians without workplace coverage.

While the Liberals have a free pharmacare program for seniors and those 24 and under for 4,400 medications, the NDP would cover all age groups, but only for 125 prescription drugs.

The New Democrats would hike hospital spending by 5.3 per cent annually and add 2,000 beds immediately.

On electricity, the NDP would buy back the majority stake of Hydro One that Wynne sold off, using dividends from the shares to do so, and is promising lower rates by ending time-of-use pricing.

But the party would cancel the Liberals’ “Fair Hydro Plan,” which has already cut bills by 25 per cent through a costly borrowing scheme.

“It was a desperate move and completely unsustainable,” the platform states.

The NDP believes its own proposals could cut hydro bills by 30 per cent, more than offsetting the end of the Liberal subsidy.

As a sop to teachers’ unions, Horwath would end standardized Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) testing.

“We should focus on improvement without driving teachers to ‘teach to the test.’ We estimate this will save $40 million, which we will reinvest in the classroom.”

The Tories, who have abandoned the 78-page People’s Guarantee program of former leader Patrick Brown, have yet to unveil their new election platform under Ford.

 

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Sikh-Canadians Deserve Better Treatment

Posted on 18 April 2018 by admin

Coretta Scott King, a great civil rights leader and the wife of Martin Luther King Junior, once said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”  The Sikh-Canadian community epitomizes this value; we embrace the communities that we live and work in, through selfless acts of service and compassion.

As a result of the uniqueness of our religion and our appearance, our brave community has been bearing the brunt of racism from the Komagata Maru incident, over one hundred years ago, to present day.

The negative narrative associated with the Sikh-Canadian community recently in the media is an example of this prejudice.  Sikh-Canadian shave faced these acts with significant courage and continue to emergeas shining examples of resilience and humility. Through numerous free community kitchens (langars), food drives, equality initiatives, youth outreach programs, and blood donations clinics, Sikh-Canadians bespeak the Sikh character of helping and supporting fellow human beings through selfless service. Sikh-Canadians believe that service to humanity is in fact service to God.

The attributes of Sikh-Canadians that I have mentioned are already very well known throughout Canada.  I write to express the sense of pain I share with my fellow members of the Sikh-Canadian community which has resulted from the baseless criticism of the Sikh-Canadian community over the course of the last month.

I have no intention of providing an opinion on the presence of Jaspal Atwal at the Canadian High Commissioner’s reception during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s state visit to India, the presence of Talwinder Singh Parmar’s pictures at events, the individual which orchestrated the Air India attack, or the politics behind these discussions.  I feel pain on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of peaceful, honest and hardworking Sikh-Canadians that have become unintentional subjects of these controversies, by no fault of their own.

I feel pain on behalf of the children that are bullied and criticized because the Sikh-Canadian community has been unfairly painted as a community of terrorists.

I feel pain for the Sikh-Canadians that volunteer to help the less fortunate by distributing free food to the homeless in downtown Toronto, that somehow are considered members of a terrorist entity, without basis. I know that countless Sikh-Canadians working in factories, offices and businesses are enduring the same emotions.  This is extremely unfair to Sikh-Canadians, and counter to the values of diversity and inclusion we celebrate as Canadians.

I have no sympathy for individuals guilty of perpetrating violence against humanity; I categorically condemn all acts of violence.  As a Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue, I have the privilege of interacting with people from all walks of life. Each community in Canada embodies unique and distinguished characteristics that help define them as Canadians; diversity is our strength. This applies to the Sikh-Canadian community in the same way it applies to other communities of Canadians.  As a Sikh-Canadian, I am particularly proud of the Sikh spiritual concept of selfless service to humanity.

We cannot deny that a deep sense of pain still exists within the Sikh community as a result of the deaths of innocent Sikhs in 1984. However, this pain is equally and genuinely felt by Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and individuals of all other faiths. Raising your voice to seek justice for the victims of senseless violence can never be termed as terrorism. This is precisely why the people from all walks of life including Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims have been asking for justice for the 1984 victims and their families. This has been my experience here in Canada.  This sentiment was reinforced during my recent visit to India, particularly in Delhi.

When we think of a long spell of terrorism in the Punjab region of India, the hard and painful fact is that it was Punjabis, both Sikhs and Hindus, who endured misery the most. I have grown up listening to so many discomforting stories about how Punjabis had to bear the cost of terrorism through loss of life and property.  No one would want this to happen to anyone in any segment of the world.

I feel that it is important to genuinely share the pain of the peace-loving, hard-working Sikh-Canadian community of which I am an integral part of. I will sum-up my feelings with a quote from Andrea Gibson,” You can have cold war with yourself, even in the summertime”.

About Ms. Kamal Khera – Kamal Khera is the Member of Parliament for Brampton West and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue.  She is a registered nurse, community volunteer and a political activist.  Ms. Khera serves on the National Finance Committee as a non-voting member.

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Ascend Canada recognizes five leaders at 5th Annual Leadership Awards Gala

Posted on 18 April 2018 by admin

Tina Lee, the Chief Executive Officer of T&T Supermarkets, was among five individuals recognized for their personal dedication, career achievement, and contributions to the community at the 5th Annual Ascend Canada Leadership Awards.

Earlier this month, Lee was named Executive of the Year by Ascend Canada, a non-profit organization with a mission to develop and advance Pan-Asian talent.

Sponsored by TD, this award recognizes an individual who has made outstanding contributions to their organization; delivering business results, demonstrating leadership and being at the forefront of innovation. In 2014, Lee took the reins of the family business, the largest Asian grocery retailer in Canada. Under her leadership, the business has focused on growing their roots, and now set to expand its head office and open four new stores by the end of the 2018, bringing T&T’s total store count to 27. In February 2017, she was named to the Canada-US Council for the Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders.

“Leadership is about being purpose driven and people oriented. T&T is so much more than just selling bananas and bok choy,” she said as she accepted her award. “We work hard to identify and amplify the emotional connection we have with our customers, and to make ‘Celebrate the Orient’ come to life.”  On stage and eight months pregnant, Tina said she has much to celebrate. The award coincides with the birth of her third baby and T&T’s 25th anniversary.

Ascend Canada hosts the annual awards as a way to celebrate leaders, as well as showcase Pan-Asian talent. The organization is working hard, particularly with its 18 corporate partners, to ensure diversity and inclusion isn’t an afterthought.

As a 100% volunteer-driven non-profit organization, members of Ascend Canada are passionate about advancing inclusion. Ascend Canada reserves a spot on the gala stage for one of its own, and this year, the honours went to Avni Shah. She was recognized for her enthusiasm, passionate and generous dedication as part of Ascend Canada’s Operations group. She has worn several volunteer hats, one of which was to teach English to children in Guatemala. Avni is part of the TD Securities Internal Audit team.

Three other winners were recognized during the gala, each with extraordinary stories that inspire and make an impact to their communities:

•          Fahad Tariq was the recipient of the Rising Star Award. Sponsored by RBC, this award recognizes an individual under-30 years of age who has demonstrated early leadership qualities through personal performance and commitment to professional, volunteer, and educational opportunities. Tariq works as a Senior Associate in Equity Research at BMO Capital Markets, covering Fertilizer & Chemical stocks. He is also the Founder of Shift, a nonprofit energy initiative that converts animal waste into reliable, inexpensive energy in developing countries.

•          Samra Zafar was recognized as the Mentor of the Year. Sponsored by Manulife, this award recognizes a Pan-Asian individual who has provided significant guidance and leadership to an employee or several employees’ quality of life and professional development. Having fought her own battles of an arranged marriage, Samra has overcome major challenges to gain educational, personal and professional success and has become a source of inspiration to others. In addition to a successful career at RBC, she is Founder & Executive Director at Brave Beginnings, a Governor at University of Toronto, an author and international speaker.

•          Jahanzaib Ansari is the inaugural recipient of the Ascend Canada Innovator of the Year Award, which recognizes an individual who has used disruption and innovation to contribute to community and benefit the society in Canada. He is Co-Founder & CEO of Knockri, an IBM-backed artificial intelligence video recruiting tool that promises to disperse unconscious hiring biases. In 2015, Jahanzaib`s previous venture Sartoria Darzi, a fashion artisan tailoring house for men, was ranked as among the top 10 made to measure brands in Toronto.

Kelvin Tran, the president of Ascend Canada, says it’s important to celebrate leaders, particularly those of Pan-Asian descent, in order to create role models for tomorrow’s leaders now.

“We’re looking to shatter the barriers that limit us and provide leadership without ceilings. Leadership is about developing critical skills, sharing and solving challenges, and making diversity and inclusion a priority. It is important to recognize leaders and learn from their journey and be inspired. It takes a village and many years to develop leaders. I want the next generation to say ‘if they can do it, so can I.”

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An emotional Boney Kapoor reacts to Sridevi winning the National Award

Posted on 18 April 2018 by admin

The two legends of Indian cinema, Vinod Khanna and Sridevi were honored at the 65th National Awards by rewarding them with the Dadasaheb Phalke and Best Actress Awards respectively.

Shekhar Kapur, who was the feature film jury head, announced Sridevi’s name saying that she was the most deserving candidate for the award. Sridevi received the award for the Best Actress for her brilliant performance in the movie Mom (2017). While announcing the award, Shekhar Kapur mentioned why he felt that Sridevi rightfully deserved the honour, “It [the title] was not because of the relationship we shared, but because she was the most deserving candidate for her portrayal in Mom,” Kapur said. Sridevi portrayed the role of a mother who is trying to seek justice for her daughter in a rape revenge drama.

Husband of late Sridevi, Boney Kapoor spoke to the media after the actress was honoured in such a prestigious manner. He said, “Today, we, as a family, do not know whether we should celebrate or not. We don’t know if we should feel elated, laugh with joy, or cry while remembering her. The National Award has come posthumously, but it’s something we cherish while remembering her for the artiste that she was. She was a perfectionist, and that was evident in all the 300-plus films she did. It’s time to celebrate her achievements. Her legacy will always live on.”

The jury recognised the diversity in Indian Cinema by honouring films belonging to different langauges and regions. Rima Das’ Assamese film, Village Rockstars, about the music aspirations of a village girl, was named the Best Feature Film, besides scoring awards for the Best Location Sound Recordist, Editing and Best Child Artiste (Bhanita Das).

The 10 member jury which was headed by Shekhar Kapur consisted of  Kannada director P Sheshadri, screenwriter Imtiaz Hussain, actor Gautami Tadimalla and lyricist Mehboob, among others. The Awards are administered by the government’s Directorate of Film Festivals.

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