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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to press at the Gateway Conference, in Toronto on Monday, September 25, 2017.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Liberals to enhance child-poverty spending in fall economic update

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Oct 24th, 2017

OTTAWA – The Trudeau government is expected to announce more money for children and the working poor, along with shrinking federal deficits, in a crowd-pleasing economic update today.

The Liberals are also counting on the update to draw attention away from their embattled Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

But the government still isn’t expected to provide a timeline to bring the federal books back to balance, despite the economy’s surprisingly strong performance in early 2017.

A senior government official says the fall economic statement will show an improving fiscal outlook in the coming years, even though Ottawa also plans to announce new spending measures today alongside the updated predictions.

Morneau is expected to enhance the Canada Child Benefit, which the government boasts has already lifted 300,000 children out of poverty.

One source tells The Canadian Press that the child-benefit change will come through indexation.

The benefit is not indexed to inflation, which means it does not increase with the cost of living.

Indexation is currently set to happen after 2019, the year the next federal election is scheduled to take place.

City asks province, federal government for $20M to help house refugees

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Oct 24th, 2017

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City council will have to dig deeper into their pockets to help house refugees, and they’re hoping the provincial and federal government will help foot the bill.

The city of Toronto is asking for an addition $20 million to help temporarily house refugees in motels and hotels as of Nov. 1 all the way to December 2018.

A city report from earlier this month is calling for action to better manage the influx of refugees coming to Canada and specifically Toronto.

“We’re seeing the report now because we have overspent, the shelters are full and there’s no more space” said Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.

As of last month, there just over 1200 refugees in need of shelter everyday in the city and nearly three times more than a year and a half ago.

Experts tell us the reasons include natural disasters, geopolitical turmoil or simply the politics in the U.S.

“We need to come up with a better, more permanent solution to deal with increase in demand because maybe the increase that we’re seeing now is the new norm” says Patricia Anderson, Manager for the Partnership Development and Support Committee for the City of Toronto.

According to Councillor Joe Mihevc, that solution includes better integrating refugees in the community from the very beginning.

“We need to get them better settled and oriented in society and it’s much better to do that in a neighbourhood or in a community than in a motel” he says.

For Councillor Wong-Tam, the solution isn’t spending additional money.

“I think we can all agree that spending on hotel rooms is not an economic way to spend scarce public dollars, I think we can all agree affordable housing is the long-term solution”

Councillor Wong Tam also says it is important to welcome new Canadians, and the investment will pay off in the long run as they contribute to society. She hopes all three levels of government will come to the table to come up with a viable long terms solution.

Thousands of dishwashers recalled in Canada due to potential fire hazard

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Oct 24th, 2017

OTTAWA – Health Canada is issuing a recall notice for thousands of dishwashers that it says could be a potential fire hazard.

The agency says about 61,000 dishwashers sold between January 2013 and May 2015 are being recalled because the power cords can overheat and possibly spark a fire.

It says the affected brands are Bosch, Thermador, Gaggenau, Kenmore and Jenn-Air.

There have been no injuries reported, but Health Canada says there are five reports of property damage in the United States, where 408,000 affected dishwashers have been sold.

No damage has been reported in Canada.

A full list of the models included in the recall can be seen on Health Canada’s website.

To check to see if your machine is recalled, you can find model and serial numbers printed on either the top of its inner door panel or on the right side of the dishwasher panel.

Anyone who owns one of these dishwashers is advised to stop using it immediately and call the Safety Recall Hotline at 1-888-965-5813 for a free inspection and repair.

Partial service resumes on Barrie GO line after pedestrian struck

CityNews | posted Monday, Oct 23rd, 2017

File photo of a GO train. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Steve White

A portion of the Barrie GO line has resumed service after a pedestrian was struck on the line.

Just before 7 a.m. on Monday, GO Transit said trains would not be moving through the area for approximately three hours after a possible fatality south of the Barrie South GO station.

“We’re doing everything we can to help passengers this morning get to where they need to go,” Metrolinx spokesperson Scott Money explained.

“We understand it’s rush hour, people need to get to work and we’re doing everything we can to help given the tragic circumstance when incidents like this happen.”

Shortly after 8 a.m., transit officials said service would be running on the Barrie Line stating at the Aurora GO station.

Teen charged after vehicle clocked going 185 km/hr on Hwy. 403

CityNews | posted Monday, Oct 23rd, 2017

Teen charged after Audi S5 clocked going 185 km/hr on Highway 403, Oct. 23, 2017. Image Credit: TWITTER/@OPP_HSD

A teenager has lost both his license and his car after police pulled over a vehicle going nearly double the speed limit on Highway 403 in Mississauga on Sunday night.

Police said the Audi S5 was clocked at 185 km/hr.

The 18-year-old driver, who has his G2 licence, was charged with stunt driving and the vehicle was impounded.

Under Ontario’s graduated licence system the G2 driver has had his licence suspended for 30 days.

As well, a 22-year-old G1 driver was also caught going 160 km/hr along the same stretch of highway.

Police said that person has also been charged with stunt driving as well as multiple G1 offences. The vehicle has also been impounded.

 

International students risk losing $800 a week over college strike

CityNews | posted Monday, Oct 23rd, 2017

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Tens of thousands of international students affected by a faculty strike at Ontario colleges are being reassured by immigration officials that they won’t be penalized for a delay that is beyond their control.

But some international students say the work stoppage, which began last Monday, has them worrying about finances as well as their education and immigration status.

“It is very stressful,” said Noble Thomas, 24, a human resources management student at Confederation College in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Thomas, who came to Canada two years ago from India, said each week on strike represents a loss of roughly $800 in tuition fees, not to mention the additional money spent on rent if the semester is prolonged once faculty return to work.

And though he has a job at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, Thomas said international students are limited to 20 hours of work per week. What’s more, he said, uncertainty over the length of the strike prevents students from scheduling additional shifts.

Schools should be giving refunds for the time lost, he said – a sentiment expressed by domestic and international students alike in a petition that had garnered nearly 100,000 signatures by Sunday morning.

Several colleges in the province said they recognized the concerns raised by the strike and hoped it would end before the more than 40,000 international students enrolled in Ontario colleges felt financial – or other – difficulties.

Officials at Humber, George Brown and Confederation colleges also stressed that other services remain available during the strike, including support for international students concerned about their visas or study permits.

“We haven’t started down the path of refunds yet,” said Kim Smith, associate director of international admissions and student services at Humber College, where some 5,000 international students are enrolled.

“In the past, this has always been decided by the province and not by an individual college so at this time we’re kind of waiting to see what comes out of that,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the Ontario ministry of advanced education and skills development would not say whether the province was considering refunds.

“We are optimistic that the two parties will return to the table to work to reach a successful, negotiated settlement that is in the best interests of all parties, with a focus on students and their learning,” Tanya Blazina said in an email.

“I know that all students, domestic and international, are upset about the strike, and understandably concerned for what the impact could be on their education. While the uncertainty students face is challenging, I want them to know that previous college strikes have not led to students losing their semester.”

Meanwhile, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is seeking to relieve international students’ fears about the fate of their visas and permits.

“Study permits include the condition that the student must make continual progress towards the completion of their program,” said Beatrice Fenelon, a spokeswoman for the department.

“However, international students whose studies have been affected by the labour dispute at some designated learning institutions in Ontario will not face enforcement action for being unable to fulfill that condition, as it is a circumstance beyond their control.”

International students who need to apply for extensions should include with their application a letter from their school’s registrar confirming the impact of the strike, she said.

And while students are required to have studied continuously in order to qualify for a post-graduation work permit, the interruption caused by the strike won’t affect their eligibility, she said.

John Porter, director of international admissions and student services at Toronto’s George Brown College, said most students have study permits that span the duration of their program, plus a 90-day grace period afterwards so they can apply for a post-graduation work permit.

Permit extensions are “fairly common” even in a normal school year, said Porter, himself a regulated international student immigration adviser.

“We’re not really expecting that because of this current work stoppage situation that we’ll have a really great increase in the need for study permit extensions unless it goes beyond X number of weeks,” he said.

Thomas, whose program and permit are scheduled to end in December, said there won’t be enough time to apply for a work permit if the school year encroaches on the 90-day grace period, since that process can take months.

So the strike could also put international students’ job prospects at risk, he said. “If everything goes alright, I would like to stay here to experience more.”

Women getting promotions comparable to men but at a price: report

CityNews | posted Monday, Oct 23rd, 2017

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A recently released report reveals women are asking for raises and promotions at rates comparable to their male counterparts, however, it comes with a price.

The Women in the Workplace 2017 report surveyed over 70,000 employees and their experiences with gender, opportunity, career and work life issues. The authors of the survey, LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, call this “the largest study of its kind”, as 222 companies employing over 12-million people submitted data and participated in the report.

Though the study reveals women of all colours are just as likely as men to ask for raises and promotions, they are also more likely to pay a “social penalty.” Women are more likely to be told they are intimidating, too aggressive or bossy.

The findings also revealed on average women are 18 per cent less likely to be promoted early on in their career, compared to their male peers.

“At every subsequent step, the representation of women further declines, and women of colour face an even more dramatic drop-off at senior levels,” the report reads.

“Even in industries where there’s a lot of women in lower ranks, the higher you go, you end up with a male leadership,” said Stephania Varalli, co-CEO at Women of Influence. “If it’s only men at the top, without their action and cooperation and them trying to solve a problem, we’re never going to get anywhere.”

Though there’s been progress in recent years, there’s still a wage gap that exists in the workplace. Varalli says there aren’t only gender differences, but race plays a role and that’s sometimes influenced by biases.

The results show women of colour face more obstacles as they advance in their careers, receiving less support from upper management and fewer promotions.

“Overall, two patterns are clear: compared to white women, things are worse for women of color, and they are particularly difficult for black women,” the report said.

“People don’t really recognize that they have those biases within them, so they act a certain way thinking they’re being fair. Really what they’re doing is picking people that look like them and moving them up in the organization,” said Varalli.

MORE FINDINGS

Women are less likely to think they have an opportunity to adance

– 37 per cent of women say they believe gender play a role in missing out on a raise, promotion or chance to get ahead, compared to 8 per cent of men.

– 39 per cent of women believe gender makes it harder to get a raise, promotion or an advancement. While only 15 per cent of men held that same belief.

– 57 per cent of women and 62 per cent of men say they have same equal opportunity for growth as their peers though.

Respondents on their companies treating people fairly

– Compared to 47 per cent of male respondents, 39 per cent of women say the best opportunities go to the most deserving employees

– 40 per cent of women and 48 per cent of  men believe promotions at their company is based on criteria that’s fair and objective.

The study also advises companies to understand and address the gender and racial gaps in the work place.

“A Road Map to Gender Equality”

The authors say the companies need a plan towards supporting and advancing women in the work place, and recommend organizations to do the following:

• Make a compelling case for gender diversity

• Invest in more employee training

• Give managers the means to drive change

• Ensure that hiring, promotions, and reviews are fair

• Give employees the flexibility to fit work into their lives

• Focus on accountability and results

Other tips: organizations urged to invest more resources in more employee training, provide a work-life balance for workers, allow for managers to play a more critical role in gender diversity efforts, and make more of an effort to ensure hiring, promotions and reviews are fair.

“You really need to have leadership on board, in order to be able to move the needle, and it can’t be just seen as a women’s equality problem,” said Vararalli. “It has to be seen as an issue that impacts everybody, your bottom line, and your ability to innovate. This is something that can really change our economy for the better, if you can figure out how to get everyone involved.”

Liberals accused of diabetes tax grab with apparent benefit clawback

CityNews | posted Monday, Oct 23rd, 2017

Soila Solano prepares to inject herself with insulin (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Health groups joined forces on Sunday with the Conservative opposition to accuse the Liberal government of trying to raise tax revenue on the backs of vulnerable diabetics.

The accusation opened a new front in the ongoing opposition waged war on government taxation policy, amid the backdrop of the conflict-of-interest controversy dogging Finance Minister Bill Morneau over whether he’s properly distanced himself from millions of dollars of private sector assets.

Diabetes Canada was among the groups that joined Conservative politicians to publicly denounce what they say is a clawback of a long-standing disability tax credit to help them manage a disease that can cost the average sufferer $15,000 annually.

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre branded it as one more example of an out-of-touch Liberal government that he characterized as unfairly targeting the hardworking middle class people it claims to support.

“His tax department tried to tax the employee discounts of waitresses and cashiers. Now his government is targeting vulnerable people suffering with diabetes with thousands of dollars in tax increases,” Poilievre said on Sunday at a Parliament Hill news conference flanked by fellow Conservative critics, a young diabetic constituent and a top official with a leading diabetes advocacy organization.

In May, the revenue department stopped approving a disability tax credit for people with Type 1 diabetes for those who had previously claimed it, he said.

People who need more than 14 hours per week for insulin therapy, and had a doctor’s certification previously qualified. But other than citing a spike in applications for the benefit, the government offered no explanation for the change during initial interactions earlier this spring, said Kimberley Hanson of Diabetes Canada.

Thousands of claimants from across Canada who had previously been given the $1,500 annual benefit have been rejected in recent months, but Hanson said she can’t get an exact number from Canadian Revenue Agency and has had to file an Access to Information request to find out.

In recent months, the agency officials and Minister Diane Lebouthillier have for the most part rebuffed their overtures.

“Over the past two months, she’s stopped responding to my messages and answering some of my questions,” Hanson said, referring to one senior department official.

On Saturday, a senior department official reached out to her to reopen dialogue, she said. Poilievre said that only happened because the matter was raised briefly on Friday by the Conservatives during Question Period.

“Applicants are now being denied on the basis that ‘the type of therapy indicated does not meet the 14 hour per week criteria.’ These denials are in contradiction of the certifications provided by licensed medical practitioners and do not appear to be based on evidence,” says an Oct. 3 letter to Lebouthillier, signed by Diabetes Canada, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism and two other organizations.

In an emailed response to The Canadian Press on Sunday evening, a spokesman for Lebouthillier writes that the “concerns brought up by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and other groups, are worrisome.”

It says the minister has initiated a “five-point plan” that included numerous consultations with “stakeholders” to better understand how the benefit is administered.

It says she wants the agency to improve its data collection and is planning to hire more nurses to work in processing centers to evaluate the claims.

This would help “to ensure that a medical professional is involved in the reviewing of individual’s applications,” said the emailed statement.

This latest complaint about the government’s tax policy comes after the Liberals were forced to reset proposed tax measures after weeks of vocal opposition from small business owners, doctors, farmers and backbench Liberal MPs.

The Canada Revenue Agency was also recently forced to withdraw a notice that targeted employee discounts after it caused an uproar.

“It’s not like I can snap a finger and this disease turns off,” said Madison Ferguson, a constituent of Poilievre’s who first raised it with her MP this summer after her claim was rejected.

She said she has to constantly calculate the effect of what she eats, while monitoring her blood sugar levels as much as four to 10 times a day, using test strips that cost $1.50 to $2 each time.

“It’s quite expensive but it’s needed because without this I wouldn’t be here,” said Ferguson. “So every moment of every day has to be calculated.”

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