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Police arrest Ontario man accused of killing stepson, 7

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Mar 22nd, 2017

The search is over for an Ontario man accused of fatally injuring his seven-year-old stepson moments before allegedly stabbing a local bank employee.

Niagara police Chief Jeff McGuire confirmed that Justin Kuijer, 43, was arrested by provincial police Tuesday in Kenora, Ont., after a tip from a citizen.

A Canada-wide arrest warrant was issued Monday for Kuijer on charges of second-degree murder in the death of seven-year-old Nathan Dumas, as well as the attempted murder of a woman working at a local RBC branch.

 

Police alleged that Kuijer had been on the run in his ex-girlfriend’s van ever since the two grisly scenes unfolded Friday.

In a news release, Niagara regional police said the 2009 Pontiac Montana van was located at about 5:15 p.m. Tuesday in a parking lot with Kuijer alone inside. They said he was arrested without incident.

He is expected to be returned to the Niagara Region within the coming days, police said.

In a release late Tuesday, police said they would hold a news conference to discuss the case on Wednesday afternoon at NRPS headquarters in Niagara Falls, Ont.

Police have said that they were called to a home Friday morning above a sandwich shop owned by Nathan’s grandparent.

Const. Phil Gavin said a family member found Nathan suffering from critical injuries and had him rushed to a hospital, where the boy died the next day.

At around the same time the Dumas family was making the discovery, police allege Kuijer walked into a nearby RBC branch and stabbed a woman working there. Gavin said Kuijer – who is listed as the owner and operator of Niagara Elite Roofing – had a professional relationship with the woman.

The officer described the attack as targeted, but declined to provide further details.

The woman is now in hospital in stable condition, he added.

Police had originally indicated that they would be seeking a charge of first-degree murder in Nathan’s death, but Gavin did not explain why the second-degree murder charge was listed on the warrant.

“At the 11th hour the decision was made that this was the most appropriate charge,” he said.

When reached by phone Monday, the boy’s mother, Whitney Dumas, declined to comment, but she addressed the loss suffered by herself and her two other children in a series of Facebook posts.

“This is truly a tragic time for everyone involved,” she wrote. “I understand that everyone has questions, it’s human nature, so do I. I kindly ask that everyone respect my family’s privacy and space and allow my family this time to mourn the loss of my beautiful son.”

Dumas thanked the Niagara community for an outpouring of support and a wave of financial generosity, and social media comments suggested those beyond the family circle also felt moved by Nathan’s death.

“My kids and I said a prayer tonight for you and your family,” wrote one Facebook user. “You not only have a city, but a region … probably a nation at this point … supporting you.”

An elementary school near the scene where Nathan died flew a flag at half-mast on Monday afternoon, and crowdsourcing efforts to raise money for the family generated considerable response.

Friends of the boy’s family started a GoFundMe campaign that had netted more than $21,000 by Tuesday night.

The page suggested Nathan died just a week shy of his eighth birthday.

“Nathan’s precious life was abruptly cut short at the hand of someone else,” the tribute said. “Nathan was an energetic, loving and caring little boy who will never have his first girlfriend, graduate school or get married and have children. Nathan would have made a big difference in this cruel world.”

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.”

Would a tax on house-flippers cool off the GTA housing market?

Cristina Howorun | posted Tuesday, Mar 21st, 2017

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The definition of “affordable” is expanding as Toronto’s housing market shows no signs of slowing down.

Last month, GTA house prices soared to a new monthly record – a 27 per cent increase over February 2016, with an average selling price of $876,000. If you’re looking for a detached home, you’re definitely in millionaire territory. The average home crossed the $1.5-million mark, a 35 per cent increase over the same month last year.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa says he is looking at all options to cool down the hot Toronto market in his upcoming budget.

“We’re giving considerations to what [we] may do,” said Sousa. “We know for certain that this is a result of increased demand in the province. That demand is being increased by a number of factors.”

He’s written a letter to federal finance minister Bill Morneau, asking him to increase the capital gains inclusion rate of 50 per cent on the sale of non-principal residences as a way to “reduce the incentive for people to make speculative purchases.”


Related Story

Ontario urging for tax increase to curb real estate investment buyers


A spokesperson for Morneau wouldn’t commit to adopting Sousa’s request but said other measures were being taken to keep the market from spiraling out of control.

“Since increasing down payment requirements in December of 2015 to address pockets of risk in Toronto and Vancouver, we have studied the state of the housing market, alongside provincial and municipal partners. Our Government is bringing consistency to mortgage rules by standardizing stress tests for both low and high ratio mortgages.”

“Additionally, we’re improving tax fairness by ensuring that the principal residence exemption is available only in appropriate cases. Finally, we are also looking at whether the distribution of risk in Canada’s system is balanced to protect Canadians. These actions will protect middle class Canadians’ financial security and help ensure financial and economic stability.”

Scotia Bank Chief economist Jean Francois Perrault says the government should consider cracking down on speculators and house-flippers, and says Sousa’s suggestion is just one of many tools available to governments.

“There are a range of things one can do to reduce speculation. Minister Sousa’s idea is one approach.”

Perrault however, is recommending a graduated tax system, in which owners who buy and sell a house within six months pay a higher tax than those who hold onto the property for a year, 18 months or two years.

“Our perspective is that flippers represent a much larger part of the market than foreign buyers,” said Perrault. “About 10 per cent of the 24 per cent or so increase in prices year-over-year in Toronto is related to speculation. So it is, in our opinion, a sizeable market dimension.”

Real estate broker Frank Leo says speculators and “domestic investors” are a major contributor to the market — but says adding new taxes or increasing taxes may not deliver the results the government is looking for.

“The government always does things that end up being a long-term negative as opposed to a positive,” said Leo. “When you start taxing and controlling the market… it’s taking money out of the market. And real estate right now is fueling the economic engine. Do you really want to stop the engine?”

Leo, like many other real estate brokers and agents we’ve spoken to over the past few months, doesn’t believe that a foreign investors tax is the appropriate route to take either. He says they make up “a very small percent, maybe 4 per cent” of sales in the GTA.

Although the Ontario government is planning on tracking citizenship information on home purchases, there is currently no hard-and fast data on the number of foreign buyers in the Toronto market. Anecdotal evidence from the Toronto Real Estate Board suggests that foreign buyers make up only five per cent of the market, as opposed to 10 per cent in Vancouver before a foreign buyers’ tax was introduced there.

Although Vancouver did experience a decline in house prices following the introduction of the tax, Perrault argues that other factors would have influenced the drop as well, including new federal rules for down payments and mortgage qualifications, and a law allowing municipalities to tax vacant homes.

“Our assessment of what we’re seeing in the Toronto market is supply issues are much more important than demand issues. So demand is strong, but supply hasn’t kept up with that. So to truly affect prices over a long period of time, you really need to play the supply. A foreign buyers’ tax, or any other tax for that matter, can influence demand over the short run, but it’s not likely to have sustained impact on prices.”

He notes that housing prices have started to creep back up in Vancouver, with foreign investors making up an estimated 4 per cent of the buyers’ market over the last few months of 2016.

Toronto father calls for ban on caffeinated energy drinks

Kevin Misener | posted Tuesday, Mar 21st, 2017

A Toronto father is calling for an outright ban on caffeinated energy drinks but city health officials say it isn’t possible.

Jim Sheppard’s 15-year-old son died of a heart arrhythmia after downing a Red Bull on an empty stomach in 2008.

Sheppard and other parents are calling for a ban on energy drinks in their cities.

“I’ve reached out to those people, some of them are in Australia, there’s a number in the States, there’s another lady in Montreal, and they all feel the same way,” he explained. “(Caffeinated energy drinks) should be regulated. We need to have stiff penalties.”

But Dr. Barbara Yaffe with Toronto Public Health says that while there is emerging evidence that energy drinks could pose health risks, it doesn’t warrant outlawing them.

“The evidence is showing there may in fact be serious health effects so we want people to be aware of that and just use caution,” she said.

Yaffe said the focus should be on increasing awareness and added that Health Canada already bans the sale and marketing of energy drinks to children under 12.

“We’re saying increased awareness. Increased awareness of what Health Canada regulations say, in terms of – do not mix energy drinks with alcohol, do not give it to children.”

Sheppard feels the city can take stronger actions to protect young people.

“The City of Toronto has rights on their own properties and I really feel that they should ban the sale, the marketing and advertising of the products on city properties,” he said.

Health Canada already regulates the sale and marketing of energy drinks, but critics say the rules aren’t properly enforced.

Metrolinx, Bombardier in court over light-rail contract

News Staff and The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Mar 21st, 2017

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Metrolinx and Bombardier will face off in court on Tuesday over a light-rail contact for the Eglinton Crosstown.

The Ontario Superior Court will hear Bombardier’s request for an injunction to prevent Metrolinx from terminating the contract.

The provincial transit agency is fighting for the right to get out of the $770-million contract, and the right to speak to other suppliers, on the grounds that Bombardier may not be able to deliver on time. The delay would cost Metrolinx a fortune in penalties, and it would damage Metrolinx’s reputation.

Bombardier is expected to argue that it can deliver the vehicles on time. Cancelling the contract, Bombardier argues, would cause irreparable harm to its finances, international reputation, and employees.

Bombardier is also claiming that Metrolinx wants out of the deal because it no longer needs all of the vehicles it ordered, and that’s because Toronto City Council flip-flopped on the Scarborough subway plan once Rob Ford became mayor in 2010, essentially cancelling David Miller’s Transit City.

Ban aimed at electronics in cabins of some US bound flights

Alicia A. Caldwell and David Koenig, The Associated Press | posted Tuesday, Mar 21st, 2017

Seeking to bolster airline security, the U.S. government is temporarily barring passengers on certain flights originating in eight other countries from bringing laptops, iPads, cameras and most other electronics in carry-on luggage starting Tuesday.

The reason for the ban was not immediately clear. U.S. security officials would not comment. The ban was revealed Monday in statements from Royal Jordanian Airlines and the official news agency of Saudi Arabia.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press the ban will apply to nonstop flights to the U.S. from 10 international airports serving the cities of Cairo in Egypt; Amman in Jordan; Kuwait City in Kuwait; Casablanca in Morocco; Doha in Qatar; Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia; Istanbul in Turkey; and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The ban was indefinite, said the official.

A second U.S. official said the ban will affect nine airlines in total, and the Transportation Security Administration were to inform the affected airlines early Tuesday.

The officials were not authorized to disclose the details of the ban ahead of a public announcement and they spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Royal Jordanian said cellphones and medical devices were excluded from the ban. Everything else, the airline said, would need to be packed in checked luggage. Royal Jordanian said the electronics ban affects its flights to New York, Chicago, Detroit and Montreal.

David Lapan, a spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, declined to comment. The Transportation Security Administration, part of Homeland Security, also declined to comment.

A U.S. government official said such a ban has been considered for several weeks. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose the internal security discussions by the federal government.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly phoned lawmakers over the weekend to brief them on aviation security issues that have prompted the impending electronics ban, according a congressional aide briefed on the discussion. The aide was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue and also declined to be publicly identified.

The ban would begin just before Wednesday’s meeting of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Washington. A number of top Arab officials were expected to attend the State Department gathering. It was unclear whether their travel plans were related to any increased worry about security threats.

Brian Jenkins, an aviation-security expert at the Rand Corp., said the nature of the security measure suggested that it was driven by intelligence of a possible attack. He added that there could be concern about inadequate passenger screening or even conspiracies involving insiders _ airport or airline employees _ in some countries.

Another aviation-security expert, professor Jeffrey Price of Metropolitan State University of Denver, said there were disadvantages to having everyone put their electronics in checked baggage. Thefts from baggage would skyrocket, as when Britain tried a similar ban in 2006, he said, and some laptops have batteries that can catch fire _ an event easier to detect in the cabin than in the cargo hold.

Most major airports in the United States have a computer tomography or CT scanner for checked baggage, which creates a detailed picture of a bag’s contents. They can warn an operator of potentially dangerous material, and may provide better security than the X-ray machines used to screen passengers and their carry-on bags. All checked baggage must be screened for explosives.

Koenig reported from Dallas. Associated Press writers Matthew Lee, Joan Lowy and Ted Bridis contributed to this report.

Lost teddy bear turned in at St. Clair West station

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Mar 21st, 2017

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A TTC rider has turned in a lost teddy bear, found at St. Clair West station on Monday.

The rider, named Liz, also posted about the lost bear on Twitter on Facebook.

Liz wrote that she, too, once lost a favourite stuffed animal on public transit, and it was returned.

The bear is currently in the lost and found, which is located in Bay subway station. The office is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, except statutory holidays. The phone number – 416-393-4100 – is answered noon to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Staff-less public library pilot project raising concerns about safety

CityNews | posted Monday, Mar 20th, 2017

Millions of people walk into Toronto public libraries each year. The majority have a safe, educational experience.

But recent disturbing, and at times, violent incidents at multiple libraries in the city has the union sounding the alarm for increased security.

However, CityNews has learned a staff-less public library pilot project is coming to Toronto and that has raised even more questions and concerns.

“We have huge concerns, not only for the delivery of the library services, but obviously the major concern is safety,” said Maureen O’Reilly, the president of the Toronto Public Libraries Union.

This past week, a nine year old boy at Parkdale library was approached by a man and asked several inappropriate questions. Police arrested Ryan McFarlane, 38, and charged him with failing to comply with probation.

Back on February 1st, a man was stabbed inside the Toronto Reference Library.

On February 28th, a woman who was eight months pregnant and another man were both assaulted inside Fairview Public Library.

The union says since 2015, violent incidents in the library have risen by 29 per cent.

In that same length of time, librarian staffing levels have dropped 20 per cent and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been slashed from the security budget.

And the staff-less pilot project that is scheduled for two Toronto libraries this year will serve to bring those numbers even lower.

Under the pilot project, people will be able to enter the library using a swipe card system, likely tied to a library card. Once inside, O’Reilly says, it will be an “empty building” equipped only with security cameras.

O’Reilley says a library without security and without librarians isn’t a library.

“Technology can’t replace staff on the ground with their eyes and ears,” she says. “Having security cameras is not going to be acceptable.”

The two Toronto libraries scheduled for the staff-less pilot project are Swansea Memorial Public Library in Bloor West Village and the other is Todmorden Public Library on Pape Avenue in the east end.

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