Archive | Canadian Politics

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.

Comments (0)

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.

Comments (0)

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.”

Comments (0)

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.

 

Comments (0)

Environmental watchdog warns government cannot meet its greenhouse gas emission-reduction targets without radical changes

Posted on 11 April 2018 by admin

Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe calls for conservation and converting fossil fuel uses, including some gas-fuelled cars and trucks and some heating of our homes and businesses, to electricity.

 Ontario’s environmental watchdog warns the province’s aggressive greenhouse gas emission-reduction targets cannot be met without radical changes in behaviour.

Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe noted Tuesday that the government’s own climate-change legislation requires a weaning off of fossil fuels, such as gasoline and natural gas, by 2030.

“The climate law means that Ontarians must be prepared to reduce emissions from fossil fuel use by 40 to 50 per cent in the next 13 years,” said Saxe, as she unveiled her annual 320-page report to the Legislature.

“This means more conservation and converting some fossil fuel uses, including some gas-fuelled cars and trucks and some heating of our homes and businesses, to electricity, instead,” she said.

Saxe said the government’s Long-Term Energy Plan unveiled last October does not take into account the dramatic change required to curb carbon emissions that scientists say contribute to climate change.

That’s because the energy blueprint calculated that demand would remain stable even though the Liberal government is subsidizing electricity to keep hydro rates lower as Ontarians head toward a June 7 election.

The commissioner, an independent officer of the Legislature similar to the auditor general and the ombudsman, praised Queen’s Park for phasing out dirty coal-fired emissions.

She noted Ontario’s electricity system was 96 per cent emission-free due to nuclear generation, as well as solar and wind sources, even though coal was cheaper.

“Electricity was cheap, but it came at a very high cost to our environment and health,” said Saxe, who pointed out that asthma and other respiratory illnesses were worse before coal was eliminated.

“There is no doubt that our electricity system was a major contributor to poor air quality and higher health costs.”

Environment Minister Chris Ballard is expected to respond to the report later Tuesday.

Comments (0)

UofT opens exclusive study space for parents

Posted on 11 April 2018 by admin

The family study room at Robarts Library will help keep kids busy while their parents study

As a single mother raising two kids and attending university, Chelsea Chen admits she has often had to resort to offbeat parenting solutions when she needs to do some schoolwork.

The 38-year-old post graduate student is pursuing a certificate in teaching English to adults at the University of Toronto. For someone relying on part-time jobs, hiring a babysitter is expensive. So too is daycare.

“If I’m up against a deadline, I have to find a creative way to do my assignments with them,” said Chen.

Her tricks have included taking kids to private Chinese or music classes and concentrating on her work while they’re there. Other times she’s had to sit at McDonald’s and study while keeping a watchful eye on them as they play. She’s even occasionally taken them inside the library, much to the angst of other students who complain about the noise.

“They’re basically flanking me, one on my right, one on my left, all three of us on the computer. It’s very cumbersome,” she said.

A new family study space at the Robarts Library was designed to help ease some of the burden Chen and other student-parents in similar situations face.

Modelled on similar spaces at academic libraries in European countries and in the USA, the free study space at UofT is believed to be the first in Canada. It has enough room for about 20 parents and their children under 12, and includes work stations, child-sized furniture, chalk boards, TV screens and a bunch of toys to keep young hands busy.

Chen said the designated study room for parents, which opened in March, has brought her some peace of mind. She no longer has to worry about her kids disturbing other students in the library. She can even leave them briefly in the study room and go look for study material while other parents watch out for her. It has created “a sense of community” among student-parents, she said.

 “My kids, they’re very happy when they know we’re going to the study room,” said Chen.

She’s far from alone in needing the assist. At UofT, as many as 600 student-parents contact the Family Care Office each year looking for advice and assistance with childcare, said the school’s director of family programs and services Francesca Dobbin.

The university’s own survey in 2016 found that between 10 and 15 per cent of PhD and master’s students ranked raising a family as a major obstacle to their studies and academic success, she said.

“We are always looking at creating spaces that are inclusive to our employees and students with family responsibilities,” said Dobbin, noting the university has also created designated breastfeeding spaces and family-friendly washrooms throughout the campus.

The study space will for now operate as a pilot project. Its usage rate could inspire the creation of similar spaces at other libraries in an effort to “make common places friendlier to parents,” she added.

Chen said other universities and colleges have to start thinking about these kinds of programs to facilitate a growing breed of students, who are marrying and/or having children early before going back to school.

“A lot of campuses don’t make allowances for student-parents. It’s like we’re invisible on campus,” she said.

Faced with a similar issue and lacking an appropriate space and resources, Ryerson University library recently launched a Busy Box initiative. Each Busy Box contains age-appropriate items, from kids’ books and craft supplies to colouring sheets, Perplexus and Lego boxes. A student-parent can borrow the box for a period of four hours and use its contents to keep their child busy.

“A university library is not by any stretch like any public library. We don’t have children reading sections or anything like that,” said Ryerson librarian Jane Schmidt. “This is just a nice, fast, relatively low-risk, easy and inexpensive project to help parents as they study or do research.”

Comments (0)

Who are the condo investors in Toronto? A new study sheds some light

Posted on 11 April 2018 by admin

A study, called A Window Into the World of Condo Investors, found that only about 10 per cent of condo investors are international buyers.

They are a ghostly presence in Toronto’s property market – the buyers who gobble up the most and best units at developer pre-sales in the towers sprouting across the region.

Until now, not much has been known about the largely invisible ranks of condo investors, nearly half of whom feed the region’s vacancy-hungry renters by leasing their properties.

But a new study is shedding light on this segment of buyers who turn out to be a lot different from the offshore high rollers their neighbours might imagine.

Only about 10 per cent of condo investors are international buyers. They are far more likely to be local immigrants aged 40 to 60, says a report by Shaun Hildebrand, senior vice-president of rental research firm Urbanation, and Benjamin Tal, senior economist with CIBC Capital Markets.

Many are purchasing real estate as a retirement investment or a way to help their children get a foothold on the property ladder.

“The majority of these investors will hold onto them in the rental market, so they’re providing a much-needed service by adding rental supply in the absence of traditional rental development,” said Hildebrand.

Most investors use a minimum down payment of 20 per cent on a pre-sale unit. They watch the price of the condo grow in the four or five years it takes to build the tower and then they put it up for rent to cover the cost of holding it while they pay down their principal.

“Investors have been viewed as a black box or wild card. There hasn’t been that much that has really been known about them,” he said.

But it’s important to understand their buying behaviour because it plays an important and stable role in Toronto’s housing market.

The study, called A Window Into the World of Condo Investors, suggests that condos are going to be an increasingly challenging investment to manage as expanded rent controls and rising interest rates take hold.

“Condo investing is by no means a sure thing. Even though investors have enjoyed very strong price appreciation in the point of pre-sale and closing, which is about five years, some have actually found themselves in negative cash flow and many in greater than $500 a month,” said Hildebrand.

“It’s certainly going to be difficult for the market to repeat the type of price appreciation that we’ve seen the last few years,” he said.

Last year will go down as the year of the condo in the Toronto region. Condos accounted for 80 per cent of new home sales even as the number of new apartments ready for occupancy hit a five-year low.

That pushed re-sale prices up 26 per cent and rents climbed 9 per cent, according to the report.

But 44 per cent of investors that took possession of their units in 2017 are seeing their rental income fall short of their mortgage payments and their building maintenance fees.

Even those coming out ahead are only netting about $360 a month on average.

That’s not cause for alarm, said Hildebrand because the investors’ assets have appreciated significantly before they even take possession of their apartments.

The average re-sale price of units in newly registered buildings was 51 per cent higher than the pre-construction price per sq.ft.

Even if every investor who took possession of their unit last year and is losing $500 a month on the property, decided to sell, that would only amount to 1,400 condos or 9 per cent of the new supply across the region. Factor in re-sale condos and it would still be only 3.4 per cent of the market, say the authors.

The report’s findings are based on the sales and rental data of 4,000 pre-sale condo transactions and focus groups of agents who handle the early pre-construction sales that provide developers with the cash they need to move ahead on their buildings.

Foreign investors tend to see Toronto condos as a safe haven for their money.

But the agents in the focus groups said there was overall confidence among investors that interest rates will remain relatively low and rents and prices will continue to appreciate

It would take a severe recession or rate hike to really shake investors, they said.

The buildings that are complete in the next two or three years will appreciate and offer the same high returns investors have enjoyed lately, say the authors. But when a larger supply comes on the market in 2021 rents will need to be 17 per cent higher than they are now even if interest rates stay the same for investors to cover their carrying costs.

 

Comments (0)

Governments pledge to protect, expand social housing

Posted on 11 April 2018 by admin

Canada’s National Housing Strategy now has a multilateral framework that includes promise to repair and expand social housing.

Toronto’s ailing public housing portfolio is one step closer to receiving concrete financial support, with the creation of a multilateral government framework that pledges to preserve, repair and regenerate social housing across the country.

“Toronto, for all the reasons that we know, heavily invested in community housing many years ago and with the disengagement of the federal government it found itself lacking the resources that it needed to look after the existing housing stock and to build more of the community housing that we need,” said Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, after a news conference at the InterContinental Hotel on Monday.

“Eventually we just decided to change course and recognize that the federal government had a responsibly to look after the existing housing stock, as well as support the construction of new community housing.”

The 10-year, $40-billion National Housing Strategy was announced in November, building on Ottawa’s $11.2 billion budget commitment in March 2017. The strategy aims to lift 530,000 families out of unaffordable and substandard housing and reduce chronic homelessness by 50 per cent.

Monday’s multilateral agreement lays out the broad cost-sharing commitment between the federal, provincial and territorial governments and a deal to consult, share information and assume “mutual accountability” after a range of housing plans are implemented and the money is spent. Provinces and territories will match federal funds through several measures, including a $4.3 billion Canada Community Housing Initiative.

The exact details of those investments will be hashed out over the coming months.

The plan also outlines the basis for bilateral arrangements that will include terms on the preservation, regeneration and expansion of social housing — which includes co-ops and non-profit housing — including units dedicated for Indigenous people, support for repairs and the design and implementation of a portable housing benefit. Federal targets include a 15 per cent expansion of social housing units and support of at least 300,000 households through the housing benefit.

Toronto Community Housing is Canada’s largest landlord, managing more than 60,000 units with an estimated 110,000 tenants. The housing provider is facing a $2.6 billion repair backlog. When that capital plan was approved in 2013, city council pledged to handle one-third of the cost. Council was counting on the provincial and federal governments to each step in and cover a third, but neither level of government has committed to those funds.

Despite broad federal promises of an influx of cash, the city has been forced to create an interim strategy to cover repair costs for crumbling TCH units until 2020, at which point the city runs out of funding for the plan. Without more money, thousands of units are slated for closure. Duclos said social housing needs identified by all levels of government were taken into account during development of the overall strategy

In Toronto, the active wait-list for affordable housing hit almost 92,500 households in late 2017, according to city data.

Pedro Barata, vice-president, United Way Greater Toronto, said the portable housing benefit is a critically important piece of a plan designed to get all Canadians into safe and decent housing, while the details of repairs and new construction are being worked out.

“It recognizes that we are not going to build our way out of this and that we can begin to provide support for households that are in greatest need,” said Barata.

Greg Suttor, a senior researcher at the Wellesley Institute, described the federal commitments and targets on repairs and expansion as “very promising,” and also praised Ottawa’s strong support for the portable housing benefit.

The public needs to see clear federal-provincial agreements, detailing firm commitments on how the money will be spent and when, said Suttor. One area where Toronto has experienced “huge pressure on its budget” is through covering rent subsidies in social housing, including Toronto Community Housing, he added.

 

Comments (0)

Gurratan Singh hopes to follow in his brother Jagmeet’s footsteps for the NDP in Brampton

Posted on 04 April 2018 by admin

Gurratan Singh, who has been nominated for the NDP in the newly redrawn riding of Brampton East for the June 7 provincial election, said that he would like to continue the legacy of his older brother.

The Ontario New Democrats’ star candidate in Brampton is a telegenic lawyer with a passion for social justice and a penchant for stylish tailored suits and colourful turbans.

Not federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, 39, but his younger brother Gurratan Singh.

Gurratan Singh, 33, has been nominated for the NDP in the newly redrawn riding of Brampton East for the June 7 provincial election.

 “Decades of Conservative and Liberal governments have slashed hospital funding, closed hospital beds, and fired front-line health care providers,” Singh said Monday night.

 “I know it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s time for universal pharmacare and dental care for everyone — and a premier that will deliver,” he said, referring to NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

“Gurratan will be a fantastic representative for this riding and the people of Brampton, and I’m proud to have his voice be a part of our movement for change for the better in Ontario,” said a delighted Horwath, who had made Jagmeet Singh her deputy leader when he was an MPP.

“He’s a part of this community, and he knows how critical it is to tackle the issues that matter to Brampton families — like the overcrowding at Brampton Civic Hospital and sky-high auto insurance rates,” she said.

“The NDP is running to win, and Gurratan will be part of an NDP government.”

Last month, Gurratan Singh told the Star that he would like to “continue that legacy” of his older brother, who represented the former constituency known as Bramalea-Gore-Malton for six years.

“I love this riding, I love the people in the riding, and I’ve been connected to it for so long. I know the issues that they face, and I think I could be the voice to really advocate for them.”

A close adviser to his big brother, he previously ran for a Peel Regional Council seat in Brampton in 2014, narrowly losing to John Sprovieri.

Gurratan Singh is a criminal defence lawyer who graduated from Osgoode Hall. He now has his own practice, but in 2015 he worked with famed Toronto lawyer James Lockyer, who is renowned for helping the wrongfully convicted.

He chairs the city of Brampton’s inclusion and equity committee.

The Liberal candidate in Brampton East is Parminder Singh, a medical doctor and the founding host of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi broadcast, while the Progressive Conservative candidate is realtor Simmer Sandhu.

Comments (0)

Ontario budget proposes reduced GO fares for short trips and the province taking over the subway

Posted on 04 April 2018 by admin

Liberal government pledges to reduce to $3 the fares for all GO Transit trips that are either less than 10 kilometres or are taken within the city of Toronto, and wants to being talks about the province taking ownership of the subway.

The provincial Liberals are offering plenty of goodies to Toronto-area transit users in their pre-election budget.

The 2018 spending plan released Wednesday by Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government includes a pledge to reduce the fares for all GO Transit trips that are either less than 10 kilometres or are taken within the city of Toronto to $3 when using a Presto fare card.

Depending on the length of the trip, GO journeys within Toronto can currently cost Presto users more than $6.

The budget also proposes to work with transit agencies in municipalities adjacent to Toronto to provide discounts of $1.50 for Presto users who switch between the TTC and York Region Transit, Brampton Transit, Durham Region Transit, and Mississauga’s MiWay.

The government estimates there are 63,000 such trips taken every day.

Both of the fare measures would go into effect in early 2019. According to a government spokesperson the lower GO fares would cost the province an estimated $90 million over three years, while discounts between the TTC and the 905 agencies would cost an estimated $70 million over the same period.

The Liberal budget also takes a page from the now discarded platform launched by former Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown by promising to “begin discussions” with Toronto about the province taking ownership of TTC subway lines.

The Liberals are pitching the suite of proposals as a way of increasing public access to “to a safe, reliable and seamless transit system” across the GTA.

The opposition parties have countered with their own transit promises. On Tuesday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath got a jump on the budget by pledging to restore provincial funding for municipal transit agencies’ operating costs.

The province used to pay half of the annual operating costs for the TTC and other systems, but the funding was cut under former Ontario PC premier Mike Harris.

“For the last 15 years, the Liberal government has kept these devastating cuts in place,” said Horwath in a press release.

She asserted the TTC was “once the envy of the world” but now “struggles to provide reliable, frequent, comfortable and affordable transit service,” and Wynne “has repeatedly refused to restore the successful funding formula.”

In a scrum with reporters in the budget lock-up Wednesday, Ontario PC leader Doug Ford described transit as his “specialty,” and also promised to upload TTC subways.

He pledged to build more underground transit in Toronto, including extending the existing Sheppard subway (Line 4), which would require scrapping plans for an LRT along the route.

He also promised to revert to a three-stop extension of Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) into Scarborough, which would cost at least than $1.2 billion more than the one-stop, $3.35-billion version currently being pursued. Ford didn’t say how he would pay for the more expensive plan.

“We should have regional transportation system that runs from one end of the GTA, through Toronto, to the other end,” he said.

“I believe in subways. I believe in rapid underground transit. As our city is growing up, we have to go under.”

In a press conference at city hall, Mayor John Tory said he was “deeply gratified” with the Liberals plans to lower GO fares, a move that is crucial to making his SmartTrack plan viable.

SmartTrack would add stations within Toronto in order to create a more local rail service on existing GO lines. In order to attract riders, the price of a trip would have to be comparable to the TTC, which charges $3 for Presto users.

“If you now have on a cost-effective or cost-competitive basis the ability to get on the GO transit system and use that inside the 416 for three bucks, studies have shown but also just common sense tells you a lot of people will use GO transit to get around and this will bring a measure of relief to TTC overcrowding,” he said.

Tory expressed strong reservations about ceding ownership of the subway system to Queen’s Park, however. He said he’d be willing to sit down at the table with the province but for the city to be “even slightly interested” in the proposal it would have to include “significant benefits” for the city, including provincial operating subsidies for bus and streetcar service.

 

Comments (0)

Advertise Here
Advertise Here