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Ford government to unveil first budget since winning majority

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 11th, 2019

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government is set to table its first budget Thursday afternoon.

Premier Doug Ford has said the fiscal plan will lay out what he calls a thoughtful path to a balanced budget, though he has not said how long it will take to eliminate a $13.5-billion deficit.

The Tories pegged the deficit from the previous Liberal government at $14.5 billion after winning a majority in last year’s provincial election, however, the financial accountability officer has said it was closer to $12 billion.

The $1-billion reduction so far in the deficit is largely due to higher sales and corporate income tax revenues, Ontario’s third-quarter finances indicate.

Opposition politicians have accused the Tories of inflating the deficit so they can justify cuts to programs and services.

Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy has said he would like to cut waste and the $12.5 billion a year the province spends on interest on its nearly $350-billion debt.

Sources have said the budget will include free dental care for low-income seniors.

Education Minister Lisa Thompson has also hinted that child care news will be coming in the budget.

The Tories promised during the election that families would receive a rebate of up to 75 per cent of their childcare expenses, up to $6,750 per child until age six. For kids between six and 15, families would receive up to $3,750.

During the campaign, the Tories said it would work on a sliding scale based on family income.

Bianca Andreescu won’t play for Canada in Fed Cup due to injured shoulder

David Alter, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 11th, 2019

Bianca Andreescu is eyeing a return to the WTA Tour in May after a shoulder injury forced the rising Canadian tennis star to bow out of her fourth-round match at the Miami Open last month.

Andreescu hoped that the ailment would heal before the Fed Cup, when Canada competes against reigning champion Czech Republic in a World Group playoff on April 20 and 21.

“I’m definitely disappointed,” Andreescu said ahead of attending a documentary screening about Tennis Canada’s Fed and Davis Cup performances. “It’s always been a dream of mine to play Fed Cup and sadly I can’t play this tie but I’m sure the girls are going to do really well.”

It’s been a whirlwind 2019 for the 18-year-old tennis champion. She grabbed the attention of the tennis world after she won the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, Calif., and defeated former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber on March 17.

The Mississauga, Ont., native also picked up her first victory at a Grand Slam main draw by winning her first-round match at the Australian Open against American Whitney Osuigwe on Jan. 14.

Andreescu, ranked 23rd in the world after starting 2019 at No. 152, retired from a fourth-round match at the Miami Open on March 25 with an ailing shoulder. She has not played since then and has yet to pick up a racket. Instead, she’s been basking in her return home.

Last week she threw out the first pitch at a Toronto Blue Jays game. She was also a guest of honour at the Toronto Raptors game and Toronto FC match.

“I’m definitely getting a lot more attention than before which I think is a good thing,” Andreescu said. “It was a little overwhelming at first but I’m kind of getting used to it now.”

She packed all of those events within a week of her return home so that she could focus on being mentally and physically prepared for her return to the court.

“Right now it’s just a good time for me to be home,” Andreescu said. “I haven’t been home in a while, and I’ve been playing a lot of tennis. So maybe this is a good thing. I’m just going to stay positive throughout the whole process.”

The time off has allowed the Andreescu to go back to school at Bill Crothers Secondary School in Markham, Ont., where she has three electives to complete before receiving her Ontario Secondary School Diploma.

“I really want to graduate high school because I don’t know what’s going to happen after my tennis career and happen during my tennis career,” said Andreescu. “Maybe I want to take some courses online just to keep my mind going.”

Andreescu has yet to decide if she will do any training in Toronto or head to Montreal before she makes her way to Europe to train on clay in preparation of the French Open which starts at the end of May.

She is targeting a return to court on clay surfaces in Madrid on May 4 or Rome on May 13th.

The layoff hasn’t hurt Andreescu’s confidence. She prefers the clay surface over any other.

“It’s my favourite surface, really. I think my game compliments that surface,” Andreescu said. “I love sliding on the clay. I love competing in longer games, longer rallies. I definitely have to work on my fitness more because the points are going to be longer.”

Spring laundry hacks with Kim Shiffman!

Kyle Mack | posted Wednesday, Apr 10th, 2019

 Step up your laundry game with spring hacks from Kim Shiffman, Editor-in-Chief of Today’s Parent, to make life easier in the laundry room.

1.      Wash and dry baby and kid socks in zippered mesh bag/lingerie bag. Keeps them together so socks don’t get lost

2.      Make putting dirty clothes in the right place fun: Keep a hamper in your kid’s rooms, and teach them to play basketball with dirty clothes

3.      If you leave the wash in and it gets moldy smelling, rewash with hot water and vinegar, then another normal wash. Or use the LG app so you’ll never forget! It alerts you when the load is done.

4.      Dryer sheets aren’t recommended for kids’ sleepwear – makes them not flame retardant. Try wool dryer balls instead, which also saves up to 30% of the drying time

5.      Take your ironing and folding somewhere fun, like a room with music or tv, or listen to a podcast. Or don’t iron at all –  The LG dryer has a steaming option that removes wrinkles

6.      Some families do laundry folding parties—get the kids involved as young as five or six years old.  Consider not actually folding little kid’s clothes. Just make separate piles of shirts, tops, PJs and stick them in their respective drawers. Kids just mess up folded stuff anyway as they look through and decide what they want to wear. And they don’t care about a wrinkle or two.

7.      Don’t wash towels after every single use. They are literally just dabbing clean skin. Hang them on hooks. The exception is if you or your kids are sick.

8.      Keep a piece of white chalk in the laundry room. Treat grease stains with it. Apply, leave overnight, wash.

9.      When there are only a few items in the dryer, drying actually takes longer. If your toddler’s favourite blankie is in there and it’s bedtime, speed it up by adding a towel. It will absorb the moisture and help the items dry quicker

10.  In the spring, don’t just throw parkas, snow pants, gloves and hats in storage. Launder first! Future you will thank current you. Even if you just end up donating, you’re doing the right thing.

11.  Change bedding from warm duvets to thinner bedding – but don’t put away the warm stuff until you launder first. If you have a large capacity washer like the LG, it will fit and in the LG there are multiple setting options to ensure it won’t get damaged. Otherwise, you’ll have to hit the laundromat.

12.  Save time by doing loads at once with the LG TwinWash – your kid’s bulky stuff in the main washer and your delicates (lace bras, cashmere) in the smaller washer.

You could win a brand new LG Twin Pair. Take a selfie with your old laundry machine, and send it to contests@bttoronto.ca

Liberals say Tories dishonest for not telling Canadians about carbon tax rebates

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Apr 10th, 2019

The federal Liberals say booklets Conservative MPs are distributing in their ridings laying out a long list of tax credits Canadians should apply for when they file their taxes have a glaring omission: the new carbon-tax rebate that applies in four provinces.

“That’s atrocious,” said Liberal Rob Oliphant, who found out about the brochures because one of the constituents in his Toronto riding has a vacation property in the riding of Tory MP Jamie Schmale.

The 11-page document says on the front: “2018 Tax Guide. Claim everything you qualify for!” Inside, a note from Schmale says his goal is to make filing taxes simple and that the guide contains information “to help you identify which tax initiatives are available to you and understand the changes that have taken place.”

The brochure lists more than 30 tax benefits, from child-care deductions to medical expenses and meal claims for long-haul truck drivers. There is much emphasis on tax credits introduced by the former Conservative government and ones the Liberals eliminated, such as credits for children’s arts and sports programs, and for riding public transit. Nowhere at all is the carbon rebate, which can be worth hundreds of dollars, mentioned.

Similar brochures were sent in at least three other Ontario ridings held by Conservatives.

The Conservative Party policy is to end the carbon tax as soon as possible, arguing it just makes everything more expensive and won’t do anything to reduce emissions.

A party spokeswoman didn’t directly explain why the carbon rebate was missing from the brochures.

“Conservatives have been clear that we do not support the Liberal Carbon Tax and that we will scrap it when we form government this fall,” Kelsie Chiasson said in an email.

The “climate action incentive” is available to anyone living in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario or New Brunswick, to rebate to individual households 90 per cent of the revenues raised by the federal carbon tax. Those are the provinces that don’t have equivalent provincial prices on greenhouse-gas emissions and are being subjected to the federal version instead.

The rebate is the same regardless of income, varying only by province (because carbon-tax bills will vary depending on electricity sources, climate and other such factors) and family size. The average rebate will be $248 in New Brunswick, $300 in Ontario, $336 in Manitoba and $598 in Saskatchewan.

People living outside major cities can apply for an extra 10 per cent to account for their need to drive greater distances and their limited access to public transit.

The Liberals say most people will get more back from the rebate than they pay in carbon taxes, with only heavy users of fossil fuels seeing losses. They also point to the rebates as proof they aren’t trying to make life more expensive, but rather giving people an incentive to reduce energy use, pay less tax, and come out ahead.

Oliphant said the brochures are being funded by taxpayers as part of MPs’ office budgets, and people are trusting the information to be complete. But he said the idea of a carbon rebate doesn’t fit with the Tories’ claim that carbon taxes will make everything cost more and the omission “feels dishonest.”

“They won’t even admit that it exists,” he said. “This is wrong.”

Lisa Gittens, a senior tax professional at H&R Block, said the climate-action incentive is the one really new credit available on tax forms this year. She said people filing taxes using online software or with the help of professional accountants likely won’t miss the rebate even if they don’t know about it, because it will be automatically calculated once they enter their provinces and the sizes of their families.

She said people will have to check off a box indicating they live outside a major city to get the extra 10 per cent, which some people might miss, particularly if they are filling out their own forms on paper.

Last year about 13 per cent of Canadians filed their taxes the old-fashioned paper way, while 86 per cent used some form of electronic filing.

What next? UK’s May seeks Brexit delay, but EU wants answers

Jill Lawless, The Associated Press | posted Wednesday, Apr 10th, 2019

Prime Minister Theresa May is off to Brussels to ask for a delay to Britain’s departure from the European Union. EU leaders want to know she has a plan to break the U.K.’s political impasse, but talks between the British government and its political opponents over a compromise have yet to bear fruit. Meanwhile, Britain is scheduled to leave the EU in two days.

With Brexit once again engulfed in uncertainty, a look at what could happen next:

DELAY EXIT DAY

For two years, Britain was scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, 2019. But after Parliament three times rejected the divorce deal agreed between the U.K. government and the bloc, May admitted defeat and asked for more time.

Last month, the EU gave Britain until April 12 — this Friday — to pass a deal, come up with a new plan and seek a further extension, or leave without an agreement or a transition period to smooth the way.

Now May wants a bit more time. She has asked the EU to delay Brexit until June 30, in hope that’ll be enough time to secure, approve and implement a deal.

The 27 other leaders of the bloc will consider the request at an emergency Brexit summit in Brussels Wednesday evening. Few favour the June 30 date. Some want a longer extension, to avoid repeated crises every few weeks.

European Council President Donald Tusk has proposed a “flextension:” a delay of up to a year, but with flexibility to let Britain leave earlier if it approves an agreement.

But an extension is not guaranteed. EU countries are exasperated at Britain’s interminable Brexit crisis. French President Emmanuel Macron, in particular, wants to impose conditions on any delay to ensure Britain co-operates with the bloc.

___

NO DEAL

As it stands, Britain is due to leave the EU on Friday — with or without a deal that would cushion the country’s departure.

Most politicians, economists and business groups think leaving the world’s largest trading bloc without an agreement would be damaging for the EU and disastrous for the U.K. It could lead to tariffs imposed on trade between Britain and the EU and customs checks that could cause gridlock at ports and shortages of essential goods.

A hardcore of pro-Brexit lawmakers in May’s Conservative Party dismiss such warnings as fear-mongering. But most are opposed to leaving without a deal. Parliament has voted repeatedly to rule out a “no-deal” Brexit, and even passed a law that forces the government to ask for a delay to Britain’s exit rather than crash out.

But a no-deal Brexit is still the legal default position, and could happen if the EU refuses to grant another extension. If that happens the only way to stop Britain crashing out would be for the government to choose the “nuclear option” and revoke the decision to leave.

___

CROSS-PARTY COMPROMISE

To secure a new Brexit delay, May must convince EU leaders that she has a plan to break the deadlock that grips Britain’s political process almost three years after the country voted to leave the EU.

After failing to push through her Brexit deal with support from Conservatives alone, May last week began seeking a compromise with her Labour opponents.

Labour favours a softer Brexit than the government has proposed and is seeking a close economic relationship with the bloc through a customs union. That’s anathema to many in May’s Conservative Party, who say it would not leave Britain free to strike its own trade deals around the world.

Several days of talks have failed to produce a breakthrough, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn saying the government had not shifted from its negotiating “red lines.” Still, negotiations between senior politicians from the two sides are set to continue Thursday.

If they fail, May says she will let Parliament vote on a variety of options, including the government’s proposed deal, in hope something can command a majority.

If Britain’s politicians reach agreement around a so-called “soft Brexit,” it could quite likely get through Parliament, and would be welcomed by the EU, allowing Britain an orderly departure in the coming months.

But it could also blast open rifts within both Conservatives and Labour. Pro-Brexit government ministers could resign, and pressure would grow on May to quit. The prime minister has already said she will resign if her Brexit deal is passed and Britain leaves the EU, and rivals are already circling, eager to succeed her.

Corbyn, meanwhile, would face rebellion from a large number of Labour lawmakers who want a new referendum on Britain’s EU exit.

That instability increases the chance of an early British election, which could rearrange Parliament and break the deadlock — or result in still more stalemate.

___

NO BREXIT

Among pro-EU Britons, there is rising hope that Brexit can be stopped.

With one Brexit day gone and another likely to follow, the government has lost control of the timetable.

This week the government started preparing to take part in elections for the European Parliament in late May — acknowledgement that Britain likely won’t have left the bloc by then, and may not leave anytime soon.

Support is growing for the idea that any Brexit deal agreed by Parliament should be put to public vote in a “confirmatory referendum,” with the other option being to stay in the EU. The proposal is backed by Labour and other opposition parties, plus some of May’s Conservatives.

The government has ruled out holding another referendum, saying voters in 2016 made their decision to leave. But with divisions in both Parliament and in May’s Cabinet, handing the decision back to the people in a new plebiscite could be seen as the only way forward.

Public safety alert issued after medication stolen from downtown pharmacy

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Apr 10th, 2019

Toronto police are investigating after large amounts of several medications were stolen from a downtown pharmacy on Monday night.

Police say a pharmacy in the Bathurst and College Streets area was broken into some time between Monday night and Tuesday morning.

The suspects took large quantities of various drugs including morphine, hydromorphine, percocet, testosterone gel, OxyNEO and Tylenol 2 and 3.

All of the drugs taken could be harmful and even fatal if ingested, especially to children.

New Zealand Parliament votes to ban semi-automatic weapons

The Associated Press | posted Wednesday, Apr 10th, 2019

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s Parliament has passed sweeping gun laws that outlaw military style weapons, less than a month after mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch left 50 people dead and dozens wounded.

A bill outlawing most automatic and semi-automatic weapons and banning components that modify existing weapons was passed by a vote of 119 to 1 in the House of Representatives on Wednesday after an accelerated process of debate and public submission.

The bill needs only the approval of New Zealand’s governor general, a formality, before becoming law on Friday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke emotionally during the bill’s final reading of the traumatic injuries suffered by victims of the March 15 shootings, whom she visited in Christchurch Hospital after the attacks.

The Associated Press

Ontario to legalize tailgating; amendment to be introduced in budget

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Apr 9th, 2019

Sports fans in Ontario will soon be able to have a drink and tailgate before a game.

Premier Doug Ford’s executive director of strategic communications tweeted that the change means the government is treating adults like adults.

Tailgating will be made possible by amending a regulation that sets out the terms for special occasion liquor permits.

Permit holders would also be able to sell alcohol on their property.

The news comes after thousands of teachers and supporters descended on the legislature over the weekend to protest education changes, including larger high school class sizes.

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