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Top 10 Toronto real estate questions answered

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Mar 29th, 2017

Erica Smith and Lorena Magallanes from Condo Chicks Inc. share their tips for getting into the condo market–what should you be looking out for before making a purchase?

What are Condo reserve numbers?: The number determines the health of the building which is important for buyers to know. The financials will be detailed in the status certificate which should be reviewed by a lawyer to understand the financial health of the building.

Should you buy now? Choosing a time to buy is solely a personal decision.  At this point in time, demand is stronger than supply which is driving up pricing. Buyers have to understand that they will be paying a premium for any property right now and have to be okay with it.

When to buy? There is no specific time to buy. It’s up to the buyers. When the ideal property comes up, buyers need to jump and pay a premium for it in this market.

Condo fees – what are they and how to budget for them?:  Condo fees are typically a concern for buyers. The common question is if they will go up. All fees do go up, however there are some tips and tricks to predict how much they will go up.

Q: Market value vs what people are paying? 

A: There is no market value. The new market value is how much  a buyer is willing to pay for a property.

Q: Mortgage rules? 

A: Talk to your bank first to know what you can afford as the rules are always changing.

Q: Maintenance fees and taxes? 

A: Factor in your monthly carrying costs

Q: Utilities? 

A: Most of the time utilities are not part of your maintenance fees.

Q: Closing costs, which include land transfer taxes? 

A: Understand all your closing costs on top of your land transfer tax.

Q: Financials of the building (status certificate)? 

A:  Great document to give you an idea of the financial health of the building.

Q:  Upcoming developments in the area? 

A: Understand what is happening in the area. A new condo might affect your current view!

Q: Tax implications? 

A: They are different if you’re an end user or an investor

Q: Inclusions and Exclusions in the unit? 

A: Make sure you understand what is included. Is that chandelier you love staying or going?

Q: Condo rules including pet restrictions, outdoor space. 

A: Make sure you can bring your beloved pet and know your limitations on your balcony. BBQ’s are not always allowed.

Border Runners: The quiet NY street that leads a steady stream of asylum seekers to Canada

Avery Haines | posted Wednesday, Mar 29th, 2017


A cab on Roxham Road only means one thing.

Car after car, unloading group after group, each surreptitiously approaching a sign that clearly reads, “Road Closed.”

“This is an international border,” hollers a man standing guard.  “You can’t cross. If you cross, you’ll be arrested.”

But it happens day after day at this juncture in Plattsburgh, New York, where the land changes from America’s to Canada’s in a patch not much larger than the average sidewalk.

On this Tuesday in March, two men get out of their cab and take their first few steps into Canada with their arms stretched up. One man drops to his knees.

“You can stand up,” an RCMP guard is heard telling him.

Ruby Lavalley, who lives in the last house along Roxham Road, sees these scenes play out ten or twenty times a day.

“People coming in, running over the border. They tell them to stop,” she says.  If they cross they’re going to get arrested. But they just proceed over.”

Lavalley’s sense is that the surge of asylum seekers can be credited to her new President, who has promised to crack down on illegal refugees.  They are escaping to Canada to claim refugee status. Illegally crossing is a fast track to getting processed.

Lavalley is astonished that her quiet street has turned into the final steps on the American side of what is now known as the Underground Refugee Railroad.

“[They’re] literally falling just to get on the other side,” she says.

What happens on the other side of this invisible line is also repeated every day. The two men who crossed this morning will be frisked, taken to the legal border crossing just down the way, and then they’ll make their claim for asylum in Canada.

According to the RCMP, in the first two months of 2017, 1,134 asylum seekers crossed the Canadian border illegally. Toronto immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann predicts the numbers will only spike in the coming months.

“We are going to see a steep increase in those numbers,” he says.  “What you are seeing right now, [is] only those people who want to be seen. There are other people who are going further down the fence who do not want to be detected and they’re coming across with the intention of avoiding the system.”

Back in Plattsburgh, yet another group of refugees has made it to the edge of Roxham Road, which ironically is accessed by a road with the title of “North Star.”

A young man and a distraught older couple repeat the words: “Canada, Canada.”

The Canadian police tell them they’re safe.

Internship opportunity at Breakfast Television – Summer 2017

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Mar 23rd, 2017


Passionate about breaking news, lifestyle content, social media, and producing creative and engaging stories for television and online?

Breakfast Television is a three-and-a-half hour LIVE television news and lifestyle production and is looking for a full-time digital intern for its Summer 2017 term (May through August). The successful applicant must be studying a relevant program, and the internship must be part of their school curriculum.

We’re looking for an individual who’s bright, creative, and energetic, with a passion for news- and lifestyle-themed content, plus the ability to hunt down the latest trends before they go viral! Knowledge of video production and editing would be considered a strong asset.

The position is a full-time, five-day-a-week program, running from 6 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday in our downtown Toronto studios.

Should you fulfill the requirements and wish to apply for the position, please forward your resume and cover letter, along with your placement officer’s name and contact info, to:

Please include ‘Internship‘ in the subject line.

Alternately, send a hard copy to:

City – Rogers Broadcasting Ltd.
Breakfast Television Internship Program
33 Dundas Street East
Toronto, Ontario M5B 1B8

If we are interested in following up with you, we will be in touch to set up an interview.

Doug Ford wants Etobicoke stadium named after Rob Ford

News staff | posted Wednesday, Mar 22nd, 2017


A year to the day after his beloved and berated brother died from a rare form of cancer, Doug Ford is questioning why the city hasn’t taken steps to honour the legacy of long-time councillor and former mayor Rob Ford.

“There’s never been a politician like Rob, good or bad,” Ford told Breakfast Television on Wednesday morning. “There’s never been a mayor that answers his phone at 11 p.m. at night and shows up to people’s doors.”

“Rob had the most diverse group of people supporting him that I’ve ever seen in my life. He was passionate about the people.”

Doug pointed out that when NDP leader and former Toronto councillor Jack Layton passed away, it was Rob, despite his political differences with Layton, who urged city council to quickly honour him.

A bronze statue was subsequently erected near the Harbourfront, and the ferry docks were renamed after Layton.

Ford says he doesn’t expect anything over the top for Rob, but suggested what he considers an appropriate commemoration.

“There’s a stadium in Etobicoke — a small one that doesn’t have a name — in Centennial Park,” he said.  “We’d like it to possibly be named the Rob Ford stadium. He coached there … he played himself there and it’s local. It’s a pretty modest ask.”

He also expressed disappointment that Mayor John Tory hasn’t acted on behalf of his predecessor. “Tory has known our family for 25 years,” he said. “We haven’t heard a word from John Tory and that’s not a slag against John, it’s just we haven’t heard anything from him.”

Mayor Tory, speaking with CityNews via Skype from India, said he only recently became aware of the family’s wish to have the stadium named after Rob Ford.

“The first I heard of the desire they have to have a football stadium named after him, I heard it through a Toronto radio station,” Tory said. “The family hadn’t communicated to me a wish they had to have a proposal considering (his name) for this football stadium, but now I know about it …”

Tory also noted that the family rejected a previous proposal to rename a Toronto park after Rob.

But now that the family’s desires are clear, Tory said the process of honouring the late mayor can begin.

“What we are going to do is find a way … to have a suitable memorial to Mr. Ford’s life and his public work, and we will do that in orderly fashion as quickly as it allows us to get in done properly.”

“I think something that does relate to football and his passionate love for sports might be quite appropriate,” he added.

A celebration of Rob Ford’s life will take place on Wednesday night at Woodbine Banquet Hall near Highway 27 and Rexdale Boulevard.

Doug says “everyone is welcome” to join the celebration, which will include free food and drinks, as well as dancing. The event runs from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

10 ways the federal budget could affect you

Julie Cazzin | posted Tuesday, Mar 21st, 2017

The federal budget to be released this Wednesday by Finance Minister Bill Morneau is likely to introduce several changes for average Canadian families and investors alike. But Morneau himself is aiming to pull off a terrific feat—keeping Canada competitive in trade with world markets while at the same time telling his G20 colleagues this week that “taxing the rich is good economics.”

Of course, the good news is that Morneau is making middle-class Canadians a priority for 2017 and he seems ready to ensure that increases from economic growth won’t only flow to the rich. And while he says the budget will focus on skills training, innovation and promoting long-term growth, he’s also been reluctant to introduce major hikes on investment income. “I don’t foresee any changes to the personal tax rates themselves,” says Greg Bell, tax partner with KPMG in Ottawa. “And I think the Liberals aren’t that opposed to running a deficit for a while. So it will be interesting to see what changes.” Of course, changes can happen in almost any area and rumours have been swirling for weeks. Here are 10 things to watch for in the March 22 budget.

1. Encouraging skills upgrading

Tax credits to help Canadian workers upgrade their skills throughout their lifetime in a global economy that demands it are expected to be generous. “I will also be taking steps to create a culture of lifelong learning, helping people develop the skills they need at every stage of their life to succeed in the new economy,” hinted Morneau this past week.

2. Cracking down on tax evasion

Look for more money to be given to the Canada Revenue Agency to fight offshore tax evasion, an investment that has so far helped the CRA reap millions in extra tax dollars while at the same time achieving the aim of discouraging tax evasion by Canadians. “They’ve made significant investments in the past, so could add to it,” says Bell.

3. Taxing a portion of capital gains on principal residence

A change here could put a cap on the unlimited amount of tax-free capital gains that Canadians have become accustomed to on their principal residence. Tax specialists and policy makers speculate that a possible plan would allow a capped amount to be tax-free on the sale of your principal residence with any proceeds over this amount to be taxed as capital gains in your tax bracket at the time of sale. As an example, a cap of $500,000 in tax-free capital gains on any principal residence means that a home sold for $1 million that was purchased for $100,000 in 1985 say, would have $400,000 taxed at the owner’s tax rate at the time of the sale (about 35% for the average middle class Canadian).

Bell sees a different scenario. “If you claim part of your home as business usage, I can see them perhaps taxing a portion of the principal residence when you sell,” says Bell. “So if you claimed 10% of your home as a business expense, they could tax a 10% portion of your gain when you go sell.”

4. Changes to capital gains inclusion rate

The federal government has never stated it would change the capital gains inclusion rate, currently at 50%. That’s the tax you have to pay when you sell some property, such as stocks, a rental property or a second home, that have increased in value since you bought them. Right now, only 50% of that price difference is subject to tax, with the tax rate depending on your income-tax bracket. But an increase in the rate to 66%, which we had in 1988, or to 75%, which lasted for a decade from 1990 to 2000, is a distinct possibility. “I’ve thought about this change a lot,” says Bell. “And if you increase the capital gain rate to 75%, the taxation level comes closer to that of dividends now. But people are being encouraged to save for retirement and save as well outside of their pensions and RRSPs, so I don’t think it would make sense to change the rates.”

Boosting the inclusion rate to 75% would mean that only 25% of your capital gains from the sale would be tax-free and the remaining percentage would be taxed at your marginal tax rate the year of the sale. The Liberals have long promised to eliminate tax breaks that mostly benefit the wealthy, a change that they promised would boost government revenue by at least $3 billion.

5. Small business deductions may be pared back

Right now, business owners who operate through a Canadian-controlled private corporation (CCPC) are able to claim the small business deduction on the first $500,000 of active business income which allows them to pay extremely low rates of tax when the income is initially earned. The result? A huge tax deferral advantage by leaving the after-tax corporate income inside the corporation as opposed to paying it out immediately.

Business owners are also able to income split after-tax profits from their corporation by issuing shares directly, or through a family trust, to other family members, and paying those family members dividends that are then taxed at lower rates. The fear is that new measures and limits may come out in the upcoming budget to curtail the use of the small business corporation and limit income splitting with family members. “It’s likely there could be some further tightening in partnership structures,” says Bell.

6. Changes to dividend tax credit

It is speculated that the dividend tax credit may be revised and lowered as these tax credits are seen to mainly benefit the wealthy. The reason for these credits initially was to avoid double taxation on earnings that corporations already paid tax on. There’s lots of buzz around this possible change but no mainstream proposal yet. “In Ontario, the top tax rate on dividends is almost 40%, so it’s already quite high,” says Bell. “I’d be surprised if this changes.”

7. “Boutique” tax credits revamp

Sometimes referred to as “tax expenditures,” boutique tax credits refer to government spending that encourage certain programs and behaviours amongst Canadians, such as public transit and post-secondary education. Or, they target certain slices of the population, such as parents, seniors or pensions. These incentives are often given in the form of tax credits. In general, such tax credits are seen today as not being worth the trouble.

In fact, last year the government added one such credit—for teachers’ classroom supplies—while dropping four as of Jan. 1 2017,  including the children’s fitness and arts credits, as well as the education and textbook credits for students. This year’s budget may contain the further elimination of a variety of tax credits that are costly, narrowly-targeted, and don’t have a meaningful impact on the taxpayers for whom they were designed. Look for the public transit tax credit, tradespeople tool deduction and volunteer firefighter credit to be on the chopping block.

8. Employee stock option changes

The 2015 Liberal election platform had a proposal to limit the benefits of the 50% employee stock option deduction by placing a cap of $100,000 on annual eligible stock option gains but this was dropped after intense lobbying by startups in the tech and resource industry who rely heavily on non-cash compensation such as stock options to attract much needed, specialized talent to their firms.

“Employee stock options are getting a lot of discussion but it’s a key part of compensation for startups,” says Bell. “But while it’s a hard one to call, they could put an asset test on it—meaning employee stock options would be taxed more heavily for those employees who work for big public companies with a large asset base, like the Big Five banks. I don’t see the taxation of employee stock options for smaller companies and startups changing, though.”

9. Broaden access to the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP)

Right now, first-time home buyers can withdraw up to $25,000 each from their RRSPs with no tax penalties for the purchase of a new home in Canada for themselves or a relative with a disability. The Liberals could expand the HBP to help Canadians facing a job relocation, the death of a spouse, marital breakdown or who need to accommodate an elderly relative. But while some analysts believe this change is highly expected to come through, Bell isn’t so sure. “I think the housing market is too hot and this would go against trying to cool it,” says Bell.

10. OAS and GIS being tied to a new alternative consumer price index

OAS and GIS payments already rise in tandem with inflation, but the Liberals noted that, according to a Statistics Canada study, the price of most things seniors buy tends to rise faster.

In its 2015 elections platform, the party proposed developing a Seniors Price Index that would supplement the general Consumer Price Index to which OAS and GIS are currently indexed. PwC, the global consultancy firm, noted earlier this year that the House of Commons’ Finance Committee also recently recommended adopting the change. It didn’t make it into the 2016 budget but may make it into the upcoming one.

Overall, it doesn’t look like the federal government is necessarily looking for a lot more tax revenue this year. “Sometime just getting a strong vibrant economy up and running creates more revenue in the long term because more taxpayers in future will be paying tax,” says Bell. “We’re not like the U.S. where they’re forced to balance the budget. I think tightening some of the loopholes in the Canadian budget is the real aim overall this tax year.”

Car Dashboard Warning Lights: What you need to know

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Mar 9th, 2017

Do you know what to do when these dashboard warning lights appear in your car? George Iny, Director of the Automobile Protection Association, breaks down what these symbols mean and what you should do when you see them in your car.

‘Envelopegate’ accountants not allowed back at Oscars

Sandy Cohen, The Associated Press | posted Thursday, Mar 2nd, 2017

The president of the film academy says the two accountants responsible for the best-picture flub at Sunday’s Academy Awards will never work the Oscars again.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs said Wednesday that Brian Cullinan, the PwC representative responsible for handing over the errant envelope that led to “La La Land” mistakenly being announced as best picture rather than “Moonlight,” was distracted backstage. He tweeted (and later deleted) a photo of Emma Stone in the wings with her new Oscar minutes before giving presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway the wrong envelope for best picture.

Cullinan and his colleague, Martha Ruiz, have been permanently removed from all film academy dealings, Boone Isaacs said.

The academy president broke her silence four days after the biggest blunder in the 89-year history of the Academy Awards. She told The Associated Press that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ relationship with PwC, which has been responsible for tallying and revealing Oscar winners for 83 years, remains under review.

PwC released a statement late Sunday and another Monday taking “full responsibility for the series of mistakes and breaches of established protocols” during the Oscar show. The company did not immediately respond to email and phone messages sent Wednesday.

Though the academy released a statement late Monday apologizing to the artists of “Moonlight” and “La La Land,” Boone Isaacs said she waited to say more until her team had a better understanding of what led to the error.

She praised presenters Beatty and Dunaway, and host Jimmy Kimmel for gracefully taking charge of the situation. She also lauded “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz, whom she said “went from a nominee to a winner to a presenter in a matter of minutes.”

Horowitz, still holding the Oscar he thought he’d won, was the first to announce that “Moonlight” was the actual winner.

Boone Isaacs lamented that “the last 90 seconds” of the telecast have overshadowed what she described as “the most brilliant and wonderful show.”

Also on Wednesday, the academy addressed another embarrassment on Sunday’s show, apologizing to the Australian movie producer it incorrectly displayed during the in memoriam segment.

In a statement, the academy extended “our deepest apologies” to producer Jan Chapman, whose photo was mistakenly used in the tribute instead of Chapman’s colleague and friend, the late Janet Patterson. Chapman had said she was “devastated” by the error.

Patterson, an Australian costume designer and four-time Oscar nominee (“The Piano,” “Bright Star”), passed away in October last year. Patterson and Chapman worked together on “The Piano.”

The academy also updated the in memoriam reel on the website for the Oscars.

GO Transit rail safety campaign aims to provoke

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Mar 2nd, 2017


A bold new rail safety campaign by GO Transit is sparking some controversy.

With GO Transit increasing service, Metrolinx said they wanted to boost rail safety awareness.

The campaign began in January with the image of a vehicle parked on the railway tracks as a GO train barrels toward it. The caption below reads ‘Killer View’.

“We designed this campaign to provoke conversation, to make people pay attention to it, to get them thinking about rail safety,” Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikens explained.

“We want people to stop and think about what they’re doing because it can have deadly consequences. I know that it provokes people … that’s actually good.”

Over the past five years GO Transit has increased the number of trains across its system by 44 per cent. It’s annual ridership for both train and bus grew by nearly 20 million people – from 52 million to 70 million.

And that number continues to grow across the GTHA.

“Our ultimate goal is to save lives. We’re going to be bringing more and more service over the next few years … that’s why we’re doing this campaign ahead of more service coming,” Aikens explained.

Some of the emails received by Metrolinx called the campaign upsetting.

Aikens said they understand why some people might find the images disturbing — especially those who have learned first hand what it’s like to lose a loved one to this type of tragedy.

“I think people who have personal experience with someone perhaps dying as a result of being hit by a train, some sort of misfortune like this, I can understand why it provokes terrible, terrible memories,” she explained.

“Those images are to remind people that we don’t want them to be in the same position that you find yourself in. Their families are devastated by someone dying on tracks, our crew are devastated. We carry every one of these people with us forever.”

While some people are calling the new ads disturbing, others are praising the campaign for not sugar coating such an important issue.

“Brilliant campaign… It’s the ‘disturbing’ aspect that triggers the retention of the message. ‘Soft’ messages don’t stick,” Blair W Carrigan posted on Twitter.

“It’s graphic and it should be. It’s obviously working,” Valerie Ward wrote on Facebook.

“The fact that they have to create a picture like this to get their point across is what I find disturbing. Not the ad itself,” Susan MacDonald commented on Facebook.

Aikens said there are more images coming that some may find disturbing — including one involving a child.

CityNews got an exclusive sneak peek at some of the campaign’s next posters.

GO Transit Killer View Campaign poster

GO Transit Killer View Campaign poster
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