Migratory birds threatened by changing environment UN warns

8 May 2008Numbers of migratory birds – considered to be some of the best gauges of the state of global biodiversity – are plunging in the face of a changing environment, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warned today. Numbers of migratory birds – considered to be some of the best gauges of the state of global biodiversity – are plunging in the face of a changing environment, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warned today.Marking World Migratory Bird Day, the agency said that the decline is being recorded for many species along all of the main migration corridors, which birds utilize on their journeys, spanning thousands of miles, between their breeding and wintering grounds.“Migratory birds are some of the most extraordinary creatures on the planet and in many countries bird watching is an economically important leisure and tourism activity,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.“But migratory birds are more than this. Their dependence on healthy habitats and ecosystems makes them among the key indicators as to whether the international community is truly addressing the decline and erosion of the planet’s nature-based assets.”The Day – focusing on the theme “Migratory Birds – Ambassadors for Biodiversity” – will be marked on the weekend of 10-11 May with concerts, films and other public events to highlight the ever-increasing threat to migratory birds and to global biodiversity.Although the reasons behind the drop in numbers of migratory birds are complex and are specific to certain species, the overall decline is a reflection of the larger environmental problem tied to the global loss of habitats and biodiversity.UNEP noted that 41 per cent of the 522 migratory waterbird populations on the routes linking Africa and Eurasia are witnessing their populations drop, and it has been reported that numbers of migratory songbirds using the same corridors are also on the decline.Meanwhile, numbers of Boreal birds in the Western Hemisphere, such as the Canadian Warbler, which migrate from northern Canada to South America, are plummeting because they are losing their forest breeding grounds.Vulnerable to changes in the environment, migratory birds are dependent on stop-over sites to rest and refuel as they make their long voyages, but these locations are threatened or disappear as a result of agricultural, urban, infrastructural and industrial development.Climate change also plays an important role, as climbing global temperatures result in larger deserts and more frequent storms, which could lead to rising sea levels and impede migration. read more

Funding injection allows UN agencies to fight outbreaks of measles meningitis in

13 April 2010The United Nations has allocated $2.7 million in emergency funding to two of its humanitarian agencies so they can help combat fresh outbreaks of measles and meningitis in Chad. The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), set up in 2006 to allow the UN to dispatch funds to tackle disasters and crises as soon as they emerge, is giving about $1.9 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) and almost $850,000 to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).The two agencies aim to vaccinate about 627,000 young Chadians against meningitis, and some 966,000 children against measles, according to a press release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) earlier this month.Outbreaks of meningitis and measles have become more and more common in Chad in recent years, and they are also becoming increasingly severe. This year an outbreak of measles has been reported in the capital, N’Djamena, and in the western and central regions of Chad, while a meningococcal epidemic has been recorded in the south. read more

New UN anticrime chief pledges to emphasize health and human rights

Yury Fedotov took up his post as the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), voicing hope that the organization will push efforts to promote economic and social progress forward.“Illicit drugs, crime and corruption cut lives short and retard prosperity, whereas justice and health spur development,” the official stressed in Vienna, where the agency is based.“We can play our party in the global fight against poverty and to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals [MDGs],” he added, referring to the eight internationally-agreed anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline.It is the poorest and most vulnerable who suffer the most, Mr. Fedotov underlined.“Whether we talk of the victims of human trafficking, communities oppressed by corrupt leaders, unfair criminal justice systems or drug users marginalized by society, we are committed to making a positive difference.”He also called today for “human and effective treatment” – not punishment – for drug users, calling drug dependence a health disorder.Mr. Fedotov, who also took over as the new Director-General of the UN Office at Vienna (UNOV) today, most recently served as Russia’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom. He has also held the position of deputy foreign minister.He succeeds Antonio Maria Costa of Italy, who served as UNODC head and UNOV Director-General since 2002. 13 September 2010The new United Nations anti-crime chief vowed today to help improve the lives of people worldwide by championing public health, human rights and justice in the fight against drugs and corruption. read more

UN meeting on desertification discusses effective approach to land management

13 October 2011Experts attending a United Nations conference in the Republic of Korea on reversing desertification today focused their attention on the “landcare approach” to sustainable land management, a community-based way designed to improve people’s livelihoods while protecting natural resources. “Landcare provides a sound, knowledge-based approach from the bottom up,” said Luc Gnacadja, the Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), whose Parties are attending its 10th session in Changwon, Republic of Korea.“We must take action in order to fight desertification, land degradation and drought with a bottom up approach, otherwise we miss meeting important international targets such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he said.Dennis Garrity, Landcare International Chair and recently designated UNCCD Drylands Ambassador, told the gathering that “what people are doing on the ground is what it’s all about.”“Landcare is all about grassroots support for land restoration and land regeneration, and that’s what makes it so valuable for the UNCCD, because we’ve learned over the years that bottom-up approaches of communities taking charge of their environment, grappling with their problems, and drawing in support from outside is the key to land regeneration throughout the world.” Experts from Australia, Iceland, South Africa and the United States discussed the challenges and successes they have witnessed in the landcare approach.Terry Hubbard and Horrie Poussard of the Australian Landcare International described a project to restore the King Parrot Creek area of Victoria that had seen an increase in soil erosion and loss of native plants and wildlife. Local landowners and others collectively began restorative efforts by volunteering their time and knowledge and saw significant improvements over several years.For every one Australian dollar invested in landcare, there was a seven-fold benefit, said Michelle Lauder of Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. The figure was based on calculations of volunteer efforts compared to the cost of paying workers and buying equipment.Hafdís Hanna Aegistóttir, the Director of the Iceland-based UN University Land Restoration Training Programme, described efforts in that country to restore degraded land and noted that landcare may help Iceland to become a carbon-neutral country.Describing the burgeoning landcare movement in the United States, Jeff Herrick of the US Department of Agriculture reiterated the importance volunteerism to conservation.Richard Selemela, the Director of Natural Resource Management in South Africa, spoke of the significance of building landcare programmes to help meet the MDGs, the internationally agreed targets to eradicate extreme poverty and boost development in poorer countries by 2015. read more

Markets mixed as Europes economy improves

The Toronto stock market inched lower on Wednesday as oil prices pulled back from recent gains and the European economy showed improvement.The S&P/TSX composite index was down 4.32 points to 12,637.87 near midday.The Canadian dollar was up 0.21 of a cent to 96.89 cents US.The move on the markets came as the European Union proclaimed an end to its longest recession. The 17 countries that use the euro saw economic output grow by 0.3 per cent in the second quarter, the EU statistics office reported Wednesday. It was the first growth recorded since late 2011.Michael Smedley, portfolio manager at Morgan, Meighen, suggested Europe’s improved economic prospects should have a positive effect on the outlook for its economy for the coming months.“You get a very slight show of confidence that has been absent for so long, the market will tend to feed off that a bit,” he said. “So you should get a continuation of moderate improvement in the overall economic state in Europe.”On Wall Street, the Dow fell 83.19 points to 15,367.82, the Nasdaq dropped 9.82 points to 3,674.63 and the S&P 500 slid 5.85 points to 1,688.31.In commodities, the September crude contract dropped 95 cents to US$105.88 a barrel. Gold stocks were up 2.6 per cent as December gold bullion rose $11.40 to US$1,331.90 an ounce. September copper increased one cent to US$3.33 a pound.Shares of Canada’s biggest wireless companies remained in the spotlight with attention focused on whether U.S. telecom giant Verizon could set up shop in this country. Industry Minister James Moore posted a tersely worded letter on his website on Tuesday in response to criticism from a board member of BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE), the parent company of Bell.“I think Canadians know very well what is at stake and they know dishonest attempts to skew debates via misleading campaigns when they see them,” Moore’s letter said.The TSX telecom sector was down 0.6 per cent with BCE shares two cents higher at $41.82.Shares of Metro Inc. (TSX:MRU) were down more than 3.5 per cent, or $2.48, to $69.47 after it unveiled plans to reorganize its Ontario grocery retail network. It says 15 stores will be affected, with an unspecified number closed and the others rebranded to the Food Basics discount banner.As of the end of 2012, it had about 264 Ontario stores under the Metro and Food Basics banners. Metro also agreed to operate Target’s in-store pharmacies in Quebec where the U.S. retailer is expected to open about 25 stores in the province this fall.Metro also reported its third-quarter profits were $149.8 million, increasing about four per cent from $144.4 million the same time last year. Sales dropped nearly one per cent to $3.57 billion.Home improvement retailer Rona Inc. (TSX:RON) posted a second-quarter loss of $38.7 million from continuing operations in the second quarter, reversing a profit in the same period last year, as it recognized restructuring costs and impairment charges related to its recovery plan.Sales for the quarter were also down, falling to $1.25 billion from $1.3 billion — missing analyst estimates. Rona shares fell 36 cents to $10.90.B2Gold Corp. (TSX:BTO) posted a big jump in second-quarter earnings on a royalty sale as well as increased revenues. The company earned $33.1 million, or five cents per share, up from $11.9 million, or three cents per share as gold revenue rose to $122.6 million from $57.3 million a year ago. Shares rose three per cent to $3.22.In the U.S., department store stocks also fell after Macy’s reported disappointing earnings for the second quarter and cut its forecast for the year. The company, which operates its namesake stores and Bloomingdales, dropped $2.07, or 4.3 per cent, to $46.43 after its profit fell short of analysts’ estimates. Macy’s blamed shoppers’ reluctance to spend for a slip in sales.Apple (NASDAQ:APPL) rose for a third day, gaining $7.62 to $497.20. Apple jumped 4.75 per cent Tuesday after activist investor Carl Icahn said he thinks Apple should be doing more to revive its stock price. Icahn also said he had a large, but unspecified stake, in the company.Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.02 per cent to 6,597.26. Germany’s DAX was 0.03 per cent lower at 8,412.67. France’s CAC-40 rose 0.6 per cent to 4,117.02.Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 1.3 per cent to close at 14,050.16. South Korea’s Kospi advanced 0.6 per cent to 1,923.91. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was nearly unchanged at 5,157.40. read more

Canadian bank fined 11 million for failing to report suspicious dealing and

OTTAWA — The federal anti-money laundering agency has levied a $1.1-million penalty against an unnamed Canadian bank for failing to report a suspicious transaction and various money transfers.It is the first time the Ottawa-based Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, known as Fintrac, has penalized a bank — and it’s being billed as a warning to thousands of other businesses.Generally, the centre tracks cash flows linked to terrorism, money laundering and other crimes by sifting through millions of pieces of data annually from banks, insurance companies, securities dealers, money service businesses, real estate brokers, casinos and others.Kevin Libin: Panama Papers ‘bombshell’ another sensationalized attack on the wealthyRoyal Bank of Canada defends practices after being named in Panama Papers leakIn this case, Fintrac spokesman Darren Gibb said he cannot legally discuss details of the bank’s infractions, and the federal agency is exercising its discretion to withhold the identity of the financial institution, which recently paid the penalty of $1,154,670.But Fintrac wants to send a strong message that it will take whatever measures are needed to encourage compliance with the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act.The agency depends on a steady flow of reports about suspicious dealings, electronic fund transfers and large cash transactions in order to produce needed intelligence, Gibb said in an interview.“The reporting to us is absolutely critical. Without those reports, Fintrac is out of business,” he said Tuesday.“We’re going to be extra-diligent to ensure that entities are submitting suspicious transaction reports when they should be.”Some 31,000 businesses across the country must furnish Fintrac with reports. The agency, in turn, provided 1,260 disclosures of financial intelligence to police and national security partners in 2014-15.The penalty announcement comes amid heightened scrutiny of Canadian financial institutions due to publication of leaked files, known as the Panama Papers, about dubious global dealings.The fine was levied against the bank for failing to report:— an attempted or actual suspicious transaction; — receipt of $10,000 or more in a single transaction; — an electronic funds transfer of $10,000 or more to a destination outside Canada; — receipt from outside Canada of an electronic funds transfer of $10,000 or more.In addition, the bank was penalized for failing to apply written compliance policies and procedures that are kept up to date and approved by a senior officer.Gibb said he could not divulge exactly how the unreported transactions came to Fintrac’s attention, nor could he discuss the nature of them.“I can’t say to you that we’ve identified money laundering or terrorism financing. What I can say is that we’ve identified an entity that has not fulfilled its obligations” under the law, he said. “The obligations are in place to ensure that we get the reporting that we need to provide financial intelligence to our partners.”The Canadian Bankers Association declined to make anyone available for an interview.In an emailed statement, the association said Canadian banks have a strong track record of compliance with the anti-money laundering regime, noting they process billions of transactions in Canada every year.On the rare occasion when a problem arises, “a bank will take immediate steps to resolve the issue and ensure that it is in compliance going forward,” the association added.Fintrac received 92,531 suspicious transaction reports from businesses across Canada in 2014-15, an 11 per cent increase over the previous year.“Yes, we’ve made significant progress, and we’re pleased by that,” Gibb said. But he quickly added: “Some sectors still have some work to do.” read more

Home affordability in Canada worst in almost 30 years Torontos worst ever

“Clearly, home ownership remains out of reach for many would-be buyers in the area,” RBC Economics said in the report. “The good news is that some relief is on the way. Recent downward pressure on prices is poised to lower ownership costs in the period ahead. The bad news, unfortunately, is that rising interest rates will take some of that relief away.”Still, the least-affordable place to purchase a home remains the Vancouver area, where affordability worsened after two straight quarters of improvement but remains better than a year ago. Outside of British Columbia and Ontario, affordability remains mostly stable, RBC said.RBC’s housing affordability measure shows the proportion of median pre-tax household income required to service the costs of owning the average home – factoring in both condos and single-family detached homes —including mortgage payments, property taxes and utilities.The Vancouver area was the least affordable in the latest quarter ended June 30, 2017 at 80.7 per cent, down 2.4 per cent year-on-year. The Toronto area was second-highest at 75.4 per cent, marking an increase of 12.7 per cent. Victoria came in third at 58.6 per cent, with a year-on-year increase of 7.3 per cent. Across Canada, RBC’s housing affordability measure hit 46.7 per cent in the latest quarter, a level not seen since the end of 1990 and an increase of 3.7 per cent from a year earlier.Many Prairie markets got some relief, with year-on-year decreases in Regina and Saskatoon to 28.7 per cent and 32.1 per cent, respectively, RBC said. Affordability deteriorated marginally in most of Quebec and the Atlantic region. In Quebec City, RBC’s metric improved slightly to 34 per cent. In the Montreal area, it worsened by 0.8 points to 41.5 per cent. In Saint John and Halifax, RBC’s affordability measure worsened to 24.5 per cent and 32.1 per cent, respectively, while it improved slightly to 27.7 in St. John’s.Affordability in Edmonton worsened slightly year-on-year to hit 30.3 per cent. In Calgary, however, affordability deteriorated by 1.5 per cent year-on-year to 39.2 per cent.Rising interest rates will further weigh on Canadians’ ability to afford a home, RBC said. After rate hikes in June and September, RBC’s economists expect the Bank of Canada to raise its overnight rate one more time before year-end and three times in 2018 for a total increase of 100 basis points.RBC Economics estimates that, everything else remaining constant, a 100 basis point increase in mortgage rates would worsen RBC’s national housing affordability measure by roughly 3.5 percentage points. Canada’s most expensive housing markets would be hit harder, RBC adds, noting Vancouver would see an almost 7 per cent increase.“This would occur at a time when housing affordability is already stretched in some of Canada’s largest markets,” RBC Economics said in the report. “While high sensitivity to a rise in interest rates highlights material vulnerability, the reality is bound to be less threatening as other factors such as income gains will mitigate at least of part of the impact.” Housing affordability in Canada hit the worst level in 27 years in the second quarter of this year, according to a Royal Bank of Canada report.RBC Economics said in a report Friday that its housing affordability measure for Canada deteriorated for the eighth straight quarter. The Toronto area was the hardest hit, where RBC says affordability declined the most compared to the previous year and hit the worst level ever measured in the city.The Ontario government’s actions in April to cool down the housing market, including a foreign buyer’s tax, did not have an immediate impact on provincial housing prices in the second quarter, RBC said.The good news is that some relief is on the way read more

Pakistan will back Sri Lanka at UN

“It would help broadening and deepening of economic and commercial relations by including key elements of investment, services, customs cooperation and standardization,” the Prime Minister added.He said that Pakistan values its relations with Sri Lanka which are characterized by cordiality and friendship and expressed the desire to further deepen and broaden these ties through regular contacts and exchange of visits. Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, says Pakistan will continue extending support to Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council and UN Security Council.The Prime Minister expressed these views in a meeting with Sri Lanka’s Minister for External Affairs Prof. G. L. Peiri in Islamabad today, the News Pakistan website reported The Prime Minister conveyed Pakistan’s desire to deepen economic ties between the two countries and to conclude an early bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with Sri Lanka. The Prime Minister said that Pakistan has always supported Sri Lanka in its endeavour to defeat terrorism and expressed Pakistan’s commitment to continue extending support to Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council and UN Security Council. The Prime Minister said that Pakistan deeply admired Sri Lanka’s unremitting endeavours for promoting economic independence, human dignity and social justice for the people of Sri Lanka.The Prime Minister also appreciated Sri Lanka’s commendable efforts in rehabilitation of the IDPs and reconstruction of the war affected areas. read more

TN ports alerted over Lanka

Additional security personnel have been deployed at each entry and exit points from both land and sea to prevent any untoward incident.CISF QRT (Quick Reaction Teams) and Marine Commandos have also been directed for patrolling in the respective areas round the clock, it said. CISF’s Intelligence Wing was also in touch with security agencies. Authorities are not taking any chances after an anonymous phone call, warning of an attack by a Pakistani group sailing from Sri Lanka, was received by a cop recently. Security has been stepped up in the state following an alert from the Intelligence Bureau last week that terrorists plan to sneak in through the Palk Strait from Jaffna in Sri Lanka and attack Madurai and Mayiladuthurai. Three main ports in Tamil Nadu (TN) have been put on alert following inputs of possible terror attacks using the coastal routes between India and Sri Lanka, the Press Trust of India reported. The security agencies are coordinating with the three port authorities to “thwart any untoward incident.”Union Shipping Minister GK Vasan has instructed chairmen of all the three major ports in the state – Chennai, Tuticorin and Ennore – to take all precautionary measures and to be “fully alert”, a release from Chennai Port Trust said. “Ports chairmen are in constant touch with the security agencies like Navy, Coastguard and Coastal Security Police, in maintaining close vigil on the situation and thwart any untoward incident,” it said.Security at the famous temple at Ramanathapuram district and the Pamban bridge have also been tightened.Security has also been stepped up at the Atomic Power Plant at Kalpakkam and ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. read more

Lankan accused of theft in UAE denies charge in court

A Sri Lankan, one of three Sri Lankans accused of breaking into a man’s villa while he was on holiday in Belgium with his family and stealing valuables worth Dh1 million, has denied the charge, the thenational.ae reported.The Dubai Criminal Court was told that only one of the three, a 47-year-old, has been arrested. He was stopped while trying to leave the country through Sharjah International Airport but the other two had already got away with most of the stolen valuables. “My mother sent her maid to clean up the house for our return home and the maid found the place in a mess so called my mother, who sent my two brothers to check and then they called police,” said the Emirati homeowner. In August last year, prosecutors said the trio broke into the villa of the 37-year-old Emirati in Al Muhaisnah 1, using a hammer and crowbar to force open an iron safe in one of the bedrooms where valuables including jewellery, money, watches and expensive pens were stored. He added that the suspect said they carried out the burglary at 10pm. In court on Monday morning, the man denied a theft charge. (Colombo Gazette) An Emirati policeman said the man who was arrested was questioned and confessed that he and the other two had agreed while in Sri Lanka to obtain visit visas to the UAE and then steal valuables from a number of houses before leaving.“They noticed that no people were in this house, and after keeping it under surveillance for a few days to make sure no one was there, they jumped the wall and broke in,” said the officer. read more

Three Indian fishermen arrested bottom trawler detained

The Fast Attack Craft attached to the Northern Naval Command on routine patrol, arrested the Indian fishing poachers while they were practicing bottom trawling in Sri Lankan territorial waters, about 13 Nm northwest of the Kovilam Point. Three Indian fishermen were arrested and a bottom trawler was detained for engaging in illegal fishing practices in Sri Lankan waters.The arrest was made by a Fast Attack Craft belonging to the Northern Naval Command yesterday, the Navy media unit said today. The fishing trawler was brought to SLNS Elara in Kareinagar and the fishermen to SLNS Uththara in Kankesanthurei and they were later due to be handed over to the Jaffna Assistant Director of Fisheries for onward legal action. (Colombo Gazette)

Namal blocked from boarding flight to the US from Russia

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s son Namal Rajapaksa says he was blocked from flying to the US from Russia.Rajapaksa, who was in Russia to observe the just concluded Russian Presidential elections, tweeted saying that he had been informed by Emirates Airlines in Moscow that he will not be able to travel to the US. Russia and the Rajapaksa family are known to be very close. Namal Rajapaksa had told the Russian media that the he had observed that the Russian elections were free and fair.Following the Russian elections the Russian Ambassador in Colombo made a courtesy call on Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. (Colombo Gazette) “Valid reason yet to be received. US has the Sovereign right of course. Sure it has nothing to do with my name,being part of #lka opposition or my travel from #Russia,” Rajapaksa tweeted. He says he was told that the airline had been informed by US officials not to allow him to board the flight to the US. read more

Shammi Silva elected Sri Lanka Cricket President

Ravin Wickramaratne and K. Mathivanan were elected as Vice Presidents.Mohan de Silva was elected as the Secretary of the Sri Lanka Cricket board beating Nishantha Ranatunga. (Colombo Gazette) Shammi Silva was elected as the President of the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) board at the SLC elections held today.Shammi Silva had secured 83 votes at the elections beating Jayantha Dharmadasa who secured 56 votes.

Walmart Tesla working to end solar panel fire dispute

NEW YORK — A Walmart lawsuit against Tesla over fiery rooftop solar panels is being sealed by the court and both companies say they look forward to addressing all issues.In joint statements Friday, the companies said they look forward to re-activating the panels once both sides are certain that all concerns have been addressed.Neither company would say if the lawsuit had been dropped, but New York State Supreme Court records show it was “returned for correction.” It was not accessible online early Friday.Walmart sued Tesla for “gross negligence” Tuesday, saying that the electric car company’s energy division installed solar panels that went up in flames on seven of its store rooftops.The Associated Press

US economy grew at a moderate 2 annual rate last quarter

WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy slowed in the spring, and many economists think the slowdown will continue through the second half of the year, a possible headwind for President Donald Trump’s hopes that a surging economy will provide the backdrop for his 2020 re-election campaign.The Commerce Department reports that the gross domestic product, the country’s broadest measure of economic health, advanced at a moderate 2% annual rate in the April-June quarter, down from a 3.1% gain in the first quarter. The new estimate was lower than the government’s initial estimate a month ago of 2.1% annual growth.Trump has pledged to boost GDP growth to annual rates of 3% or better, but many economists see GDP slowing sharply after hitting 2.9% last year.Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press

WatchVancouver to rake in 30 million from empty homes tax in first

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press VANCOUVER — The city of Vancouver’s new empty homes tax is expected to bring in $30 million in revenue in its first year.Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said $17 million has already been collected from owners of almost 8,500 properties that were determined to be vacant or under utilized for at least six months of the year.“For those who didn’t rent their empty property and chose to pay the empty homes tax, I just want to say thank you for contributing to Vancouver’s affordable housing funding and making sure we can invest more in affordable housing,” Robertson said at a news conference Monday. “For those who did rent their empty homes, thank you very much for adding to the rental housing supply here in Vancouver. It’s desperately needed.”Metro Vancouver home sales slow down in March but prices stay highRevised B.C. housing tax still a turn off for out-of-province homeowners‘This bloody tax is pushing us against the wall’: Retirees, out-of-province residents call B.C. ‘speculator tax’ unfairThe tax is the first of its kind in Canada, requiring homeowners who do not live in or rent out their properties to pay a one per cent levy based on the assessed value of the home.Robertson said the tax was intended to address the city’s near-zero vacancy rate.The most recent figure from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation puts the city’s rental vacancy rate at 0.8 per cent, up slightly from the previous year, the mayor said.Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said $17 million has already been collected from owners of almost 8,500 properties. It’s unclear yet if the tax has increased the availability of rental accommodation, Robertson said, adding that the city is developing better data collection methods to monitor the impact of initiates like the tax more closely.The city previously said about 60 per cent of properties affected by the tax are condominiums.The tax on the properties where owners said their home was empty ranged from $1,500 to $250,000, Robertson said, noting the highest tax bill came from a $25-million home.The funds will support the city’s affordable housing initiatives and residents can provide feedback on exactly where the money should be spent.Robertson said increasing capacity at homeless shelters or adding to the city’s rent bank, which provides one-time interest-free loans to low-income residents in a financial crisis, are among the possible initiatives that could benefit.The median tax due is just under $10,000 and Robertson said anyone who doesn’t pay up will face fines and have the bill added to their property taxes next year.“Those who are not playing ball here and who are skirting the system, we will get you,” the mayor said.Nearly 99 per cent of homeowners completed an empty homes tax declaration.The tax cost the city $7.5 million to implement and annual operating costs for the first and subsequent years are pegged at $2.5 million.Audits are underway and the city said just under 1,000 complaints or disputes have been filed that need to be addressed in the coming months.Robertson said it will be up to city council to decide whether the tax is having the desired effect, and that will likely take a few years of data to determine.“I would say at this point it looks like some signs of success,” he said. read more

WatchOttawa says Ford governments call to drop retaliatory tariffs against US would

“While we’re standing up against illegal U.S. tariffs and supporting steel and aluminum workers in Ontario, Doug Ford’s government is nowhere to be seen,” Bains wrote. “We’re not aware of any efforts by the Ontario government to persuade any American leaders to drop the tariffs — no meetings, no phone calls.”Ontario Economic Development Minister Todd Smith noted that Premier Doug Ford met at the auto show in Detroit with car makers, who are concerned about the tariffs.“We continue to burn up the phone lines in the U.S. to remind them that these tariffs are hurting them just as much as they’re hurting us,” he said. “Ontario is doing its part, now its time for the federal government to do theirs.”Ford has suggested to the federal government that Canada’s tariffs should be dropped first, Smith said, though he admitted there is no indication doing so would lead the U.S. to in turn remove its tariffs.While we’re standing up against illegal U.S. tariffs and supporting steel and aluminum workers in Ontario, Doug Ford’s government is nowhere to be seenFederal Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains Peter J. Thompson/National Post files “But clearly something has to be done,” Smith said. “These tariffs have been in place since June of last year and there’s been no movement on this.”Smith and Quebec Economy and Innovation Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon sent a letter Monday to Morneau, calling on Ottawa to secure the permanent removal of all tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.The tariffs were imposed last year by the U.S., and the American commerce secretary has said they were designed to address the world’s overproduction and overcapacity of steel. The federal Liberals were criticized last fall for signing a new North American trade pact, which includes the U.S., without securing any guarantees from Washington that it would lift the levies.Ottawa has announced a financial aid package for industries caught in the crossfire, including up to $2 billion in new funding and support for workers in steel, aluminum and manufacturing sectors.Canada has rejected the premise of the American duties — that its metals exports pose a national-security threat to the U.S. — and has been fighting for the removal of the tariffs. TORONTO — Ottawa is dismissing a call from Ontario’s economic development minister to drop retaliatory tariffs against the United States, saying doing so would mean “unilateral surrender” to the Americans.The federal government applied tariffs on $16.6-billion worth of American imports of steel, aluminum and other products after the U.S. imposed steel and aluminum levies last year.Ontario’s economic development minister had said the tariffs are hurting industries and workers in both Canada and the U.S., and said Ottawa dropping its countermeasure tariffs could lead the U.S. to drop theirs.Federal Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains rejected the suggestion Monday, saying in a statement that his government has been hard at work pressuring the Americans to end the trade dispute. ‘Just get it fixed’: Big business plans all-out blitz on Washington to end Trump’s trade war U.S. finance chair says steel, aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico should go before new NAFTA passed Soft on Rusal, tough on Canada: Pressure on Trump to cut tariffs on Canadian aluminum producers “The Ford Government’s call for Canada to unilaterally and unconditionally remove its counter-tariffs would equal unilateral surrender to the Americans,” Bains wrote. “The reciprocal tariffs are critical to pressuring the Americans to end this dispute once and for all.”Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has discussed the tariffs over the phone with U.S. President Donald Trump and Finance Minister Bill Morneau has met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.Bains said the last time any Ontario official visited Washington was five months ago.Steel at a Hamilton, Ont., mill. read more

Plight of worlds cities described in new UN report on urban settlements

Introducing the publication at a press conference in New York, Habitat Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka said the challenge of a divided city was the main message in the report. “Not unlike Charles Dickens’ time 150 years ago, the city is increasingly divided,” she said. “The problems are the result of poverty and exclusion, in the context of globalization.”The Habitat chief said globalization had created opportunities, but had also led to many challenges, particularly for cities, which were now engaged in cut-throat competition to attract business. “Such competition has not necessary benefited all city residents,” she said, pointing out that in many urban centres, there were very affluent central business districts in one area, and slum and squatter settlements in another. Africa, she said, posed a special challenge, because people there were moving away from wars in the countryside. “Hope lay in good governance and international solidarity,” she added. Jay Moor, the coordinator of the report, told the press that one of the messages from the analysis was that institutions had not been developed well enough to manage cities. “Indeed, the process of governing cities is just now being learned, and in very few places is it being done successfully,” he said. “Many people have said that national governments are losing their authority in a globalizing world. In some ways, they are losing control over liberalized financial elements of globalization, but they still play a very strong role in development and regulation.”The new report – released just two days before the UN General Assembly is due to convene a special session to appraise recent global progress in the development of human settlements – is a situation analysis that paves the way for a more analytical in-depth version of Habitat’s flagship report “Global Report on Human Settlements,” which was also issued today in New York. read more