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Top 4 overlooked tax deductions & credits to score you a big return

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Apr 4th, 2017

Filing your taxes can seem like a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be. The hardest part is knowing what you’re eligible to deduct and claim for credits on your return. There are many tax-saving opportunities that people easily forget about and this list is a good reminder on what kind of tax relief is available to you as a taxpayer.

What’s the difference between a deduction and credit?

A tax deduction reduces the amount of income you have subject to the tax whereas the tax credit reduces the tax owing.

Here are the top 4 overlooked tax deductions & credits you may not have known could score you a big return.

1. Medical Expenses- (Lines 330 and 331)


  • Dental
  •  Tutoring for someone with a learning disability


  • Prescription drugs
  • Equipment to relieve or treat an illness.
  • Gluten-Free products

2. Charitable contributions (Line 349)

  • Keep track of your receipts
  • Consider pooling them with your spouse, credit goes up the more you donate after $200.
  • Union / Professional Dues (LINE 212)
  • Moving expenses deduction if you are moving at least 40km to be closer to work. (Line 248)
  • Real estate commissions
  • Transportation and storage
  • Utilities and disconnections
  • Travel expenses- hotels and meals

3. The Disability Tax Credit (Lines 316-318)

Tax credit for people with a disability or those helping a person with a disability.

  • Child with Type 1 Diabetes
  •  Parkinson’s
  • Depression

4. Eligible Dependent Credit (Line 305)

You may be able to claim this amount for one other person if at any time in the year you met all of the following conditions at once:

  • You did not have a spouse or common-law partner or, if you did, you were not living with, supporting, or being supported by that person.
  • You supported a dependant in 2016.
  • You lived with the dependant (in most cases in Canada) in a home you maintained. You cannot claim this amount for a person who was only visiting you.

After years of decline, digital streaming is saving the music industry

Peter Nowak | posted Tuesday, Apr 4th, 2017

Streaming is turning out to be a bonanza for the music industry, if the latest numbers from the Recording Industry Association of America are to believed.

Total U.S. retail sales hit $7.7 billion (U.S.) in 2016, representing 11.4% year-over-year growth – the largest single-year gain for the industry in almost two decades. The majority of that growth came from streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, which now provide more than 50% of the industry’s revenue.

Music streaming overall, including free services, saw 68% growth last year compared with the year before. Subscription services did even better, with revenue improving by 114% to $2.5 billion.

The results go a long way to fulfilling the promise that the likes of Spotify have been making for years – that, given enough time and scale, streaming can be even more lucrative to the music industry than their previous distribution systems.

Anecdotally, when I think of my own music purchasing habits in the past and present, I can see how this makes total sense.

Prior to the Napster revolution many years ago, when I was a young lad who was very much into music, I’d buy a handful of CDs a year. Maybe four or five, which might run to $60 a year.

File-sharing came along and offered up anything and everything anyone could want, so forget about buying discs. But there were problems with the free music revolution, and no, we’re not talking about the legality. No one really cared about that.

The issue with Napster and then BitTorrent after it was that you still had to proactively download what you wanted. It took work.

Spotify and its kin now deliver a simple proposition – the same, virtually unlimited choice, pretty much wherever and whenever you want it, but for a relatively low fee.

They’ve taken the work out, so no wonder so many people are signing up. Spotify alone has 50 million paying customers, while Apple Music reports 20 million.

The kicker in my situation, and probably for many people, is that I’m actually paying more for music now than I ever did. At $10 a month, Spotify is costing me $120 a year, easily double what I spent even in my heyday of music consumption.

The difference, of course, is that we’re getting far more in exchange. The success of streaming services thus comes down to a few basic factors that were simply missing from the business in years past: convenience and value for money, which is evidently succeeding. What a novel development.

NHL announces it won’t participate in 2018 Olympics

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Apr 4th, 2017

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a news conference in Las Vegas, June 22, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/John Locher
For the first time since 1994, NHL players will not attend the Winter Olympics.

The league released a statement Monday saying it “considers the matter officially closed” and that it won’t participate in the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Negotiations between the league, the NHL Players’ Association and the International Olympic Committee have stalled in recent months.

In the statement, the NHL said it was open to hearing from the parties involved but that “no meaningful dialogue has materialized.”

“Instead, the IOC has now expressed the position that the NHL’s participation in Beijing in 2022 is conditioned on our participation in South Korea in 2018,” the league said. “And the NHLPA has now publicly confirmed that it has no interest or intention of engaging in any discussion that might make Olympic participation more attractive to the clubs.”

The league said it will now proceed with finalizing the schedule for next season.

The NHL Players’ Association didn’t immediately respond to the league’s announcement.

The NHL had been at every Winter Olympics since 1998 and players have expressed their desire to continue participating.

It was just over a year ago at the Stanley Cup final in Pittsburgh that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman began pouring cold water on the idea of NHLers participating in 2018. In particular, Bettman was miffed that the International Olympic Committee was resisting payment on out-of-pocket costs for NHL players to attend _ a subsidy that had been covered over the previous five Games.

Bettman said the cost was “many, many, many millions of dollars” and doubted that owners would pay for the “privilege of disrupting our season”.

Little had changed by early winter. Bettman continued to fume about money as well as the IOC’s unwillingness to let the NHL be associated with the Olympics in any fashion. The league couldn’t air highlights or promote their presence at the Games.

“It doesn’t give you the warm and fuzzies,” Bettman said at the PrimeTime Sports Management Conference.

A decision, he added, would likely be required by early January at the latest.

The NHL league then proposed an idea to the NHLPA that would extend the current collective bargaining agreement as a part of package for players to attend in 2018.

The union turned down the deal.

“So hopefully we’ll still be able to conclude an agreement to go to the Olympics,” executive director Donald Fehr said at the time. “We still think it’s important and we’ll go from there.”

But by early December, at the board of governors meetings in Florida, Bettman hinted at “fatigue” from the owners at going to the Games again. There were concerns, he said, about shutting down the season, what with the impact of a compressed schedule on players. The group also wasn’t convinced that there was any tangible benefit to the NHL being in South Korea. The Games had shown some impact when played in North America, but little beyond its shores.

“I think our constituents have become increasingly negative toward the Olympic experience,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said.

A few weeks later, Daly said the league had begun crafting two potential schedules for the 2017-18 season — one that included the NHL going to the Olympics and one that didn’t.

A month after that, at all-star weekend in Los Angeles, Bettman said a conversation among the board of governors as it pertained to the Olympics lasted all of 10 seconds. Nothing had changed from December when the views were strongly negative. Daly explained that the NHL was still waiting for some sort of game-changer to sway the owners, but didn’t know what that game-changer would be.

“All I can tell you is if we’re going to hear the same thing I don’t think it’s going to move the ball,” Daly said.

Players expressed hope that wouldn’t be the case.

Connor McDavid said “100 per cent” that NHL players should go. The Edmonton Oilers captain, who wasn’t even born the last time NHL players didn’t attend in 1994, said he couldn’t envision the Olympics without the world’s top players.

“I just feel like we’re misrepresenting our sport on a pretty huge scale and a pretty huge level,” Jonathan Toews, a long-time ace for Team Canada, added. “A lot of the talk has been it’s the players pushing for it, and it’s the players that are interested and want to go. I think the players do want to go, but I think it should be of interest to the players and the league. I think the NHL should be in the Olympics.”

The NHL, NHLPA, IOC and International Ice Hockey Federation all gathered for a hopeful meeting in early February, but by early March, Bettman said there was again nothing new to report. The owners were still unconvinced by the merits of players getting their wish to go to the Games.

Shortly thereafter Fehr hinted that players might be able to attend the Games whether the NHL gave the OK or not. He said the PA thought it was “very probably an individual club decision”, an avenue that might conceivably allow those like Alex Ovechkin to come to agreements on attending with their respective teams.

“The NHL knows what our position is,” Fehr said late last month. “They know we think it’s important. They know that we believe very strongly that players ought to have an opportunity to play. They know we think it’s in the long-run good for the game. And it’s something that we ought to try and do.”

No seats change hands in byelections, Tories and NDP come on strong in Ontario

LEE BERTHIAUME, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Apr 4th, 2017

Upstart Conservative and New Democrat candidates gave their heavily favoured Liberal rivals a bit of a scare Monday in a pair of byelections in Ontario where some of Justin Trudeau’s policies and promises played a central role.

In the Toronto-area riding of Markham-Thornhill, Liberal candidate and former PMO staffer Mary Ng defeated Ragavan Paranchothy by a margin of nearly 2,500 votes after a stronger than expected early showing by her Conservative rival.

A robust performance in the riding, long a Liberal stronghold held by ex-cabinet minister John McCallum, was critical for the Liberals, given the importance of holding Toronto if they want to form government in 2019.

It was also important for Ng, who is currently on a leave of absence from her job in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office and seen by some as a strong candidate for cabinet.

“The Liberal future is in Ontario,” said political analyst Tim Powers, vice-president of Summa Strategies. “If the Liberal vote goes down in Markham-Thornhill, then they will want to spend a lot of time diagnosing what went wrong.”

That did indeed appear to be the case: with all polls reporting, Ng had claimed just 51.3 per cent of the vote, compared with 55.72 per cent in 2015. The Tory share of the vote was nearly seven per cent higher.

None of that seemed to dampen Ng’s spirits late Monday as she credited the victory to her team of volunteers, who “knocked on a lot of doors, talked to thousands of people, and we earned their vote.”

Conservative insiders had said the local campaign strategy involved talking about the Trudeau government’s forthcoming plan to legalize marijuana, but Ng said it “wasn’t an issue I heard at the door.”

Ng, whose previous experience includes roles at the Ontario legislature and in the president’s office at Ryerson University, was also circumspect Monday about her chances of ending up in cabinet.

“Today is Day 1,” she said. “My job is to represent the people of Markham-Thornhill. And I’m going to work very, very hard to be their strongest voice and their strongest advocate. That’s my job today.”

In Ottawa-Vanier, where the New Democrats campaigned aggressively against the Liberals for breaking a promise to abandon the oft-maligned first-past-the-post electoral system, the NDP’s Emilie Taman gathered 28.7 per cent of the vote.

It was nowhere near enough to challenge Liberal candidate Mona Fortier, however, who had 51.2 per cent of the vote and finished 6,667 votes ahead of Taman.

“I’m feeling really good. We had a great showing. I’m proud of what we achieved,” Taman said in an interview afterward.

“The government is going to take notice that the people of Ottawa-Vanier have their concerns … I think it was an overall disappointment that I was hearing from people, that they didn’t really get the government they thought they were getting.”

Liberal party spokesman Braeden Caley was having none of it Monday, calling the outcome a “phenomenal result,” also noting that the government would be getting three new female MPs.

“They’re going to be tireless champions for their communities in Parliament,” he said.

Add in Conservative Stephanie Kusie, who cruised to victory in Calgary Midnapore, and that makes four more women on their way to Parliament Hill, said the advocacy group Equal Voice, which is committed to electing more female MPs.

That brings to 92 the total number of women in the House of Commons – 27 per cent of the available seats, up from 26 per cent, said spokesperson Catherine Fortin LeFaivre.

“We are hopeful that tonight’s results will inspire even more women to seriously consider running for political office – Canada needs them.”

Greg MacEachern, a former Liberal strategist now at lobby firm Environics Communications, said significant inroads in Ottawa-Vanier for the NDP suggest a surprising degree of anger over the abandonment of electoral reform.

“Electoral reform came up a lot in the course of the campaign – a lot,” said the NDP’s Taman “Even people for whom it was not their No. 1 priority were really, really disappointed in the way the prime minister went about breaking the promise.”

Three other byelections took place Monday, and their results were hardly a surprise.

In the Montreal riding of Saint-Laurent, Liberal candidate Emmanuella Lambropoulos won 59.1 per cent of the vote, compared with Conservative rival Jimmy Yu, a distant second at just 19.5 per cent.

Lambropoulos, a 26-year-old high school teacher, stunned many when she won the Liberal nomination contest in Saint-Laurent, defeating former Quebec cabinet minister Yolande James.

“I’m sure it will hit me a little later,” she said after her victory speech late Monday.

The Alberta ridings of Calgary Heritage and Calgary Midnapore, formerly held by Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney, respectively, were no contest as the Tories cleaned house.

Bob Benzen, who claimed 71.5 per cent of the vote in Calgary Heritage, well clear of the Liberals’ Scott Forsyth at 21.7 per cent, portrayed his victory as a protest against Trudeau’s environmental policies.

“We wanted to send our prime minister, Mr. Trudeau, a message and I think we did,” Benzen said in his victory speech. “We are telling him we don’t want this job-killing carbon tax.”

Kusie took a similar tone as she cruised to an easy win in Calgary Midnapore, taking 77.2 per cent of the vote, leaving her closest rival Liberal candidate Haley Brown at 17 per cent.

“The Liberal party policies, Justin’s policies, are not working here in Calgary Midnapore,” she said. “The electorate has shown that … they are not satisfied with the job the Liberal party is doing.”

With files from The Canadian Press’ Giuseppe Valiante and Bill Graveland.

Smoke detectors credited for saving lives in Mississauga apartment fire

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Apr 4th, 2017

Working smoke detectors are being credited for saving the lives of a mother and her two young children in Mississauga.

A fire began in their apartment on Goreway Drive near Morning Star Drive just after midnight on Tuesday.

An unattended candle sparked the blaze, Mississauga Fire said. The woman, a nine-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl all made it out safely.

A few other units in the building were evacuated as a precaution. Brampton Transit buses were brought in to shelter the residents. While the other residents have been allowed been home, the three people in the affected unit will not be able to return.

There is significant damage not only from the fire, but also from smoke and water, Mississauga Fire said.

St. Petersburg subway bomber identified as Kyrgyz man


St. Petersburg residents on Tuesday laid flowers outside the city’s subway where a bomb blast a day earlier killed at least 14 people and wounded more than 40. Thousands of miles to the east, authorities in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan identified one suspect as a Kyrgyz-born Russian citizen.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came while President Vladimir Putin was visiting the city, Russia’s second biggest and Putin’s hometown.

Residents have been bringing flowers to the stations near where the blast occurred. Every corner and window-sill at the ornate, Soviet built Sennaya Square station on Tuesday was covered with red and white carnations.

The entire subway system in this city of 5 million was shut down and evacuated before partial service resumed six hours later. Typically crowded during the rush hour, the subway on
Tuesday morning looked almost deserted as many residents opted for buses.

“First, I was really scared,” said Viktoria Prishchepova who did take the subway on Tuesday. “I didn’t want to go anywhere on the metro because I was nervous. Everyone was calling their loved ones yesterday, checking if they were OK and how everyone was going to get home.”

Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security said in a statement that one suspect behind the bombing is a Kyrgyz-born Russian national it identified as Akbarzhon Dzhalilov. The Kyrgyz intelligence agency said Russian authorities informed them about the man, aged between 21 and 22, but they were not aware of his specific role in the bombing. The intelligence agency said it is co-operating with Russian authorities to help the investigation.

Authorities have not specified whether the attack was a suicide bombing or whether the bomber got away. The Interfax news agency on Monday said authorities believe the suspect was linked to radical Islamic groups and carried the explosive device onto the train in a backpack.

Within two hours of the blast, authorities had found and deactivated another bomb at another busy station, the anti-terror agency said. That station is a major transfer point for passengers on two lines and serves the railway station to Moscow.

St. Petersburg, like Moscow, is home to a large diaspora of Central Asian migrants who flee poverty and unemployment in their home countries for jobs in Russia. While most Central Asian migrants in Russia have work permits or work illegally, thousands of them have received Russian citizenship in the past decades.

Russian authorities have rejected calls to impose visas on Central Asian nationals, hinting that having millions of jobless men across the border from Russia would be a bigger security threat.

Patriach Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, led a service at Moscow’s main cathedral on Tuesday for those killed in the blast.

“This terrorist act is a threat to all of us, all our nation,” he said quoted by the Interfax news agency.

In the past two decades, Russian trains and planes have been frequent targets of attack, usually blamed on Islamic militants. The last confirmed attack was in October 2015 when Islamic State militants downed a Russian airliner heading from an Egyptian resort to St. Petersburg, killing all 224 people on board.

The Associated Press’ Leila Saralayeva in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and Iuliia Subbotovska in St. Petersburg, Russia, contributed to this report.

Why I think 18 months of mat leave is actually pretty useless

Heather Cleland | posted Monday, Apr 3rd, 2017

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released his 2017 federal budget. With it came the news of an extension to our already pretty dreamy parental benefits in Canada—at least compared to the mere 12 weeks our neighbours to the south get (if they’re lucky). As Americans looked longingly at our generous mat leaves, many Canadians rejoiced. Eighteen months off! A protected job! Because it’s 2017, right?!

But take a closer look and this proposal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Right now, eligible parents are entitled to up to 35 weeks of parental leave, on top of the 15 weeks of maternity leave new moms can take. You get 55 percent of your income, up to a maximum of $51,300 (this amount increases slightly each year). With the new proposed 18-month parental leave, you’ll instead get 33 percent over 18 months instead of 12.

Same same? Nope. Let’s do some number crunching: Say you want to take your 15 weeks of maternity leave and all 35 weeks of parental leave, and let’s say that pre-baby, you earned more than $51,300. At the end of your 12-month mat leave you’d collect about $27,150, or about $2,263 per month. Under the new 18-month plan, you’d collect about $24,450, or about $1,358 per month.

One of the big “Justin-fications” for this proposal is that it’ll help parents deal with expensive and hard-to-find childcare, which is often cheaper and easier to find for toddlers (partly because staff-to-child ratios are looser after 18 months, so daycares are less inclined to hire additional staff to accommodate more infants). If parents can stay home with their kids until they’re 18 months, they could end up finding daycare more easily—and paying less for it.

In a city like Toronto, where daycare costs are the highest in the country, that might make some sense. But if you look at the 2016 childcare cost survey by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, that’s not the case across the country. In Toronto, the median cost for infant daycare is $1,649 per month. For toddlers, it’s $1,375. In Vancouver, however, infant daycare is about $1,321, while the median toddler rate is actually four dollars more. At my daughter’s daycare in Vancouver, the cost is the same for any kid between one and five. In Ottawa, toddler care costs $84 more.

On average, across the country, toddler care is about $107 cheaper than infant care. So if you take 18 months of parental leave and hold off on daycare until 18 months, you’ll save about $642. But you’ll also miss out on up to $2,700 of parental leave benefits.

As for the accessibility of infant spots, I can only speak anecdotally. In Vancouver, I put myself on multiple wait lists that I never heard a peep from, and created a spreadsheet of nearby group centres and licensed in-home daycares. I called them relentlessly for months. As the end of my 12-month mat leave drew closer, I started to panic. Three weeks before I was scheduled to start working again, I was offered three different full-time spots. I took one.

I hear that story a lot: You search and search and at the eleventh hour, you find a daycare. I don’t know a single parent who has been unable to find something.

That last-minute panic is one of the challenges with the new 18-month option. Although the details are still unclear (the budget is expected to pass in the House of Commons, but we may not see these changes enacted until next year), it’s likely that you’ll be required to choose between a 12-month leave or an 18-month leave at the outset, when you first make your claim right after your baby is born. If you choose 18 months but then decide you want to go back to work sooner, you’ll be missing out on the higher benefit rate. If you plan to return to work after 12 months and at 11.5 months you realize you still don’t have daycare arranged, you probably won’t be able to extend your benefits at that point because you’ve already been claiming benefits at the higher, shorter-term 55 percent rate.

Financially, you’d actually be better off taking 12 months at 55 percent and then six months off completely unpaid—that’s just the math. But taking that kind of time off from your career is a luxury few have, especially if it comes at a cost. Even with job protection (which will be extended along with the benefits), 18 months away from your career could prove risky in terms of skill development, opportunities for advancement, department or company restructuring or even just your mat leave replacement getting chummy with your boss. A lot can change in a year and a half. Plus, many parents don’t want to stay home for a full 18 months.

To suggest that parents take more time off to address systemic childcare woes is just passing the buck. If the government truly wants to fix some of the problems with daycare in Canada, maybe they can start with, um, fixing the problems with daycare in Canada. Costs are skyrocketing (especially once you factor in the cost of childcare for a second or third kid). The final months of mat leave or pat leave are often spent in a frenzy trying to secure a daycare spot, and families are put in the difficult position of choosing any daycare that will take them—licensed or not—at a time that’s already pretty emotional for some parents as they transition back to work.

What would really help is an increase to the maximum insurable earnings. If the government is on board with lower benefits over a longer period, how about also offering higher benefits over a shorter period? Give me 75 percent for six months. Fix daycare the right way: by creating more spots and by subsidizing costs for daycares and families.

In British Columbia, a childcare advocacy group is pushing for $10-a-day daycare, a plan the B.C. NDP has embraced in the lead-up to the provincial election this spring. This is modelled after Quebec, where affordable, subsidized daycare was implemented 12 years ago. Advocates argue that subsidized daycare pays for itself (and is better for the economy): More women are able to enter or re-enter the workforce, increasing families’ purchasing power and the amount of taxes paid.

Choice is good. Choice is empowering. And I think it’s great that women may soon have the chance to choosea longer parental leave if it works for them, and that we’ll have the backing of the federal government to make that decision. But it’s not really a choice if you simply can’t afford it—financially, professionally or emotionally. For example, how could a single-parent household survive on $24,450 for 18 months?! Under the guise of Canada’s first gender-sensitive budget, our self-proclaimed feminist prime minister is essentially asking women and families to shoulder more burden for less payoff, for longer.

What will it take for Toronto to continue to sustain the condo boom?

Shauna Hunt | posted Monday, Apr 3rd, 2017

Look up. Way up. Toronto is booming.

You’ve probably noticed the cornucopia of condos that tower over city streets, especially in the downtown core. The transformation over the last five years is astonishing – 91,855 new condo units in 683 projects were built between the beginning of 2012 and the end of 2016.

There are no signs of slowing down.

“We are now looking at building out the last duration of the downtown,” said Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s chief city planner. “We already have more than 275,000 people living in the core and over the next 20 years we plan to double that population.”

According to data we collected from City Hall, another 272,000 units or 3,200 towers are in the pipeline, meaning they are either under review, being appealed or are actively under construction. In fact, every two years we are building a city the size of Kingston, Ontario.



The downtown core is beginning to fill up. A simple drive along the Gardiner Expressway shows you the evidence of our rapidly growing skyline.

Click here to see a photo gallery. 

Inside the core, King West, Queen West, City Place and the entertainment district have all undergone the big build. Closer to the lake, Mimico, heading east through the Canary District, which was home to the Pan Am Athletes village, have also become their own self-contained condo communities.

What’s left of the core is now in the cross hairs of developers, with the eastern portion now being targeted.

From Bay to Parliament and Bloor down to Lakeshore, another 54 projects are in the works and could bring another 38,000 units – or 74 high-rises – to an area that’s just 4.5 square kilometers. And these towers are no joke. The tallest, which will be located at the bottom of Yonge Street, is expected to be a whopping 95 stories. The average building will be 43 stories high.


University of Toronto Professor Matti Siemiatycki, who specializes in urban planning, calls this an exciting time in Toronto.

“This really is a moment of transformation when it comes to how the face of our city is changing, how the social fabric is changing, the liveliness on the streets,” Siemiatycki says, while stressing this rapid growth is also creating a lot of challenges.

“It’s putting pressure specifically on our transportation but also on our energy, waste and water systems, our hospitals, schools and parks. We need to invest to ensure we are keeping a high quality of life.”

Yonge and Eglinton, just north of the core, is another area that is undergoing a complete transformation. By the time the new Eglinton LRT is up and running, tens of thousands of people will have moved into the area. The master plan is make Toronto more walkable and transit friendly, so areas along future and existing transit lines will be developed next.

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