Jerusalem: Israel remained on high alert on Friday after wildfires fed by tinder dry conditions destroyed around 40 homes. There were no reports of casualties from Thursday’s fires as the emergency services evacuated homes in the path of the blaze in the centre of the country. Addressing a crisis meeting on Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked foreign governments which had helped tackle the blaze. Croatia, Cyprus, Greece and Italy sent firefighting planes, while Egypt, one of Also Read – ‘Hong Kong won’t rule out Chinese help over protests’only two Arab governments that have signed a peace treaty with Israel, sent two helicopters. Several roads across the danger zone in central Israel remained closed for fear that the fires would reignite amid the unseasonable heat. Temperatures have topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) across much of the country for several days. In 2016, wildfires damaged or destroyed around 700 homes in Israel and the occupied West Bank, and sent more than 13,000 hectares (32,000 acres) of woodland up in smoke.
New Delhi: Vistara announced on Friday it has leased six aircraft from Singapore-based BOC Aviation to boost its domestic growth and will deploy them to meet the “sudden drop” in capacity in the market. Vistara has leased four Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft to be delivered in May 2019 and two Airbus A320neo powered by CFM LEAP 1A engines, scheduled for delivery in the second half of 2019, it said in a statement.At present, the full-service carrier connects 24 destinations, operates over 850 flights a week served by a fleet of 22 Airbus A320 aircraft. The airline said it has recruited nearly 500 former employees of Jet Airways, including pilots, cabin crew, engineers and other staff to support the next phase of expansion of its domestic operations. Also Read – SC declines Oil Min request to stay sharing of documentsDue to acute lack of funds, Jet Airways suspended its operations on April 17, leaving more than 20,000 employees in the lurch. Leslie Thng, chief executive officer of Vistara, said, “Our focus on serving the domestic market has remained unwavering even as we prepare to become an international airline. These leased aircraft will be deployed to meet the sudden drop in capacity in the market and to aid convenience of travellers.” Thng said the decision to induct different aircraft type in Vistara fleet is a carefully evaluated one, which is both economically and commercially viable, and will eventually help in expanding the airline across India. Also Read – World suffering ‘synchronized slowdown’, says new IMF chiefIn March, Civil Aviation Secretary P S Kharola said Vistara has been given permission to operate international flights. Vistara’s relationship with BOC Aviation dates back to 2014, when the airline announced to lease its first 20 Airbus A320 family aircraft. Last year, for its domestic, short-haul and medium-haul international operations, Vistara placed an aircraft order of a combination of purchased and leased aircraft totalling 50 from the Airbus A320neo family (including the A321neo), with deliveries scheduled between 2019 and 2023. Additionally, the airline has purchased six Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft that are to be delivered between 2020 and 2021 and will be used for long-haul international operations.
New Delhi: Services were affected for nearly two hours on the Red Line of the Delhi Metro due to a technical snag in the Dilshad Garden-Shahdara section of the corridor on Wednesday, officials said. The Red Line connects Rithala in Delhi to Shahid Sthal (New Bus Adda) in Ghaziabad. “Due to an OHE (overhead electricity) issue on the Dilshad Garden-Shahdara section, train services were affected. As a result, trains were temporarily run in two separate loops,” a senior DMRC official said. Also Read – Cylinder blast kills mother and daughter in Karawal Nagar Services between Shahdara and Dilshad Garden stations were run on a single line until the sang was rectified, he said. Only one station Jhilmil falls on the Shahdara and Dilshad Garden section. The DMRC had posted on Twitter around noon time that services were affected and trains were run on two separate loops. Later in another tweet, the DMRC said, “Normal services resumed at 1:45pm”.
New Delhi: BJP state chief Manoj Tiwari Thursday raised the issue of pollution in River Yamuna in the Lok Sabha and demanded that steps be taken to stop it. “Yamuna is in danger. It is more in danger around Okhla where 3,000 houses are being built along Yamuna banks. There should be an inquiry into this and steps should be taken to check pollution of Yamuna,” Tiwari said in the Lok Sabha. Speaking during the Zero Hour, Hasnain Masoodi (National Conference) said Kashmir is cut off from India every month for at least 10-12 days and demanded an early completion of the Banihal-Qazigund Road Tunnel to ensure that commuting becomes convenient. Also Read – Kejriwal ‘denied political clearance’ to attend climate meet in Denmark Stating that tickets on the Delhi-Srinagar route are costlier than that of Delhi-Dubai, Masoodi also sought intervention of the Ministry of Civil Aviation to ensure that air fares remain in check. Meanwhile, as CPIM member A M Ariff sought to read out his speech from his phone, BJP MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy said the House should come out with a bulletin on how to use advanced technological devices like iPad. To this Speaker, Om Birla said a bulletin would be issued.
New Delhi: The latest circular which clarified the eligibility for availing disability pension by armed forces personnel was issued after data analytics found that the provision meant for the needy was being misused, the CBDT chairman has said. Taking to PTI, CBDT chief P C Mody said the circular issued on June 24 was not a new directive but only in clarification to the stated policy. “We have full respect for the soldiers working in the armed forces. If there is any disability, then this provision is there but what happened was that over a period of time, the data analytics showed that many were claiming it and that it was being misused. Also Read – Maruti cuts production for 8th straight month in Sep”To stop this, a clarificatory circular was issued. If disability happens due to action, then this pension is untaxed as it has been,” the CBDT chief said. The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), which frames policy for the Income Tax Department, had issued circular no 13 of 2019 stating “such tax exemption will be available only to armed forces personnel who have been invalidated from service on account of bodily disability attributable to or aggravated by such service and not to personnel who have been retired on superannuation or otherwise.” Also Read – Ensure strict implementation on ban of import of e-cigarettes: revenue to CustomsA CBDT circular acts as a policy directive for tax authorities across the country while assessing the income, tax and the exemptions of an assessee. Soon after this was issued, defence and war veterans expressed their anguish. The Army, through its official social media posts, said that over the years, broad-banding and the compensation awarded for disability with income tax exemption had led to a rise in the number of personnel claiming disability even for lifestyle diseases. “Indian Army is concerned for all personnel who are invalidated out of service in combat conditions or otherwise, and need additional support and discourages those who seek financial gains through their disabilities,” it added. The trend is worrisome, that too when the security challenges to the nation are on the rise, the Army said on Twitter. Following the controversy, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s office had also tweeted a letter, saying ineligible personnel had gained from the disability benefits provided by the government to soldiers. Armed forces personnel, including from the Navy and the Air Force, get separate pension if they suffer any kind of disability in the line of duty. The amount depends on their rank and the kind of disability. A group of disabled war veterans of these forces had expressed their resentment at the move, saying, “Disability compensation is not only limited to war or operation disabilities, but is also available to all other medical conditions that arise while a person is serving in the military.” “In fact, as per rules, all disabilities arising in service are presumed to be related to service conditions since a person joins the military after a series of tests for physical and mental fitness,” the veterans said in a letter.
Dubai: India captain Virat Kohli retained his number one spot in the latest ICC Test batsmen’s rankings, a statement from the international body said on Tuesday. Kohli is on 922 points with New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson (913) just behind him and Cheteshwar Pujara (881) third in the rankings list. In the Test team rankings, India remained in top position followed by New Zealand (2) and South Africa (3) with England (4) and Australia (5) the others in the top five. In the bowlers’ list, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin are sixth and 10th respectively. Also Read – Puducherry on top after 8-wkt win over Chandigarh Meanwhile, veteran England pacer James Anderson was ruled out of the four-day Test against Ireland starting on Wednesday due to a right calf injury. Anderson, who was overtaken by South Africa fast bowler Kagiso Rabada in November last year and subsequently by the present No. 1 Pat Cummins of Australia, is ranked second and would have had a chance to bridge the 16-point gap in the one-off Lord’s Test before featuring in a potential direct contest with Pat Cummins in the subsequent Ashes series. Also Read – Vijender’s next fight on Nov 22, opponent to be announced later Anderson’s fellow England fast bowler Stuart Broad (19th) will be looking to retain a top-20 place, which he maintained since 2009, while Moeen Ali (25th, 621 points) is only 12 points behind his best ever rating points achieved in August 2017. Captain Joe Root is the highest-ranked batsman on either side in sixth place while Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler are in 26th and 27th places, respectively. For Ireland, Kevin O’Brien’s scores of 40 and 118 on debut against Pakistan and a subsequent half-century against Afghanistan have lifted him to 68th place while Gary Wilson is 140th in the batting table. Stuart Thompson is their highest-ranked bowler in 64th position with Tim Murtagh just two places behind. Boyd Rankin, who played one Test for England in 2014, would be looking to improve his 106th position. In the all-rounders’ list, the best ranked Indian is Jadeja at third spot sitting behind West Indies’ Jason Holder and Shakib Al Hasan of Bangladesh.
New Delhi: The oral testimony of witnesses is enough “to show your Dadagiri (bullying tactics)”, the Supreme Court on Friday told former Jharkhand minister Yogendra Sao, who has challenged his conviction and sentence in a 2011 extortion case.The top court said this while agreeing to hear Sao’s plea challenging the April 26 order of Jharkhand High Court which dismissed his appeal against the conviction and two-and-a-half year sentence in the case. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’A bench of Justices A M Sapre and Indu Malhotra issued notice and sought response from the Jharkhand government on the plea. Senior advocate Rakesh Khanna, appearing for Sao, said the magisterial court did not have privilege to see entire call detail records (CDR) which included the period of alleged crime. “Allegation is that I made a phone call and asked for money but the complete CDR was not filed. The CDR, which was filed before the trial court was till the month of March while the alleged occurrence of crime had taken place on April 24, 2011 and August 25, 2011,” he said. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KKhanna said the trial court relied upon the testimony of prosecution witnesses and the informant who was an interested party. “The oral testimony is enough to show your Dadagiri (bullying tactic). We cannot re-appreciate the whole evidence. There are concurrent findings against you by two courts,” the bench observed. The top court, however, said that it will examine the matter and sought response from the state government in two weeks. On April 26, the Jharkhand High Court had refused to interfere with trial court’s January 28, 2015 order convicting and sentencing Sao for two-and-a-half year rigorous imprisonment. Sao was booked by the police on the charges of extortion on a complaint from a manager of Ramgarh Sponge Iron Private Limited and a case was registered against him on August 25, 2011.
Mumbai: The release date of actors Sidharth Malhotra and Parineeti Chopra-starrer “Jabariya Jodi” has been postponed for the fourth time. The film will now hit screens on August 9. “Jabariya Jodi” was first scheduled to release on May 17 but was pushed to July 12 when Hrithik Roshan-starrer “Super 30” released. It was then pushed again for August 2 release. Sources close to the makers of the film say that the decision was taken after considering that there are too many releases on August 2 and previously released films like “JudgeMentall Hai Kya” are enjoying a solid run. Adding to that, exhibitors across India came together and requested the makers to move ahead to August 9 to avoid clutter. “Jabariya Jodi” will now enjoy a solo release. Directed by Prashant Singh, “Jabariya Jodi” is based on ‘Pakadwa Vivah’ (forced marriage), which was once rampant in Bihar.
Lahore: Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur is not surprised by Mohammed Amir’s decision to retire from Tests at the age of 27 as he feels the pacer’s career in the longest format was considerably damaged by the spot-fixing ban he served. Amir was banned for five years for his involvement in the 2010 spot-fixing scandal in England. He returned to all formats of the game in 2015 but announced his retirement from Tests on Friday after having played 36 Tests with 119 scalps in his chequered career. Also Read – Puducherry on top after 8-wkt win over Chandigarh “He (Amir) had five years out of the game…In those five years, he didn’t do anything. His body was not up to the rigours of day in, day out Test cricket,” Arthur told ‘ESPNCricinfo’. “We pushed him as much as we could during the England and South Africa series, because he is such a good bowler whom we wanted during those tours. We’ve tried everything we possibly could with Amir. “He could have managed those five years better. He’d be the first one to acknowledge that. But I understand where he was in his whole life, so it was a tough period for him. I understand all that,” Arthur said. Also Read – Vijender’s next fight on Nov 22, opponent to be announced later Arthur felt Amir would have been one of the best Test fast bowlers in Pakistan’s history had he not lost those five years to the spot-fixing ban. “The Amir hype all those years ago was justified because he is a quality bowler. When the ball swings there’s not much better. But he’s not the bowler now that he was in 2009 and 2010. He was different, his body was different,” he said. “Making a connection between the bowler now and then would be wrong. But had he not had those five years out of the game, I think he would be up there with the very best Pakistan have ever had,” he said. The South African said that the left-arm fast bowler had been thinking about it for over a year. “It was on the cards for a long while. Amir had been speaking to me about it with me for some time now. His Test career was taking a strain on his body,” Arthur said. “It’s not about management here. It’s about his desire to play Test cricket and the effects it has on his body… reluctantly I accepted his decision because that’s what he wanted to do and that’s what he thought was best for himself.” Arthur said the management had tried to ease Amir’s workload over the past year, and experimented with the possibility of making him an overseas-only bowler. “Of course there was (a possibility Amir would only play away). We managed him through the South African series. He didn’t play any Test cricket during the UAE last year. That was part of his management, and we started putting that in place because we wanted him for the South African series.” Amir finished as the most prolific Pakistan bowler at the recent World Cup with 17 wickets, which only six bowlers bettered, and Arthur said the team will now have a “rejuvenated” limited-overs bowler in him. “I’ve got a very soft spot for Mohammad Amir. As a person and as a cricketer, I admire him greatly. Yes, I am disappointed he won’t be playing Test cricket for us. But it was made in the best interests of his white-ball cricket in mind,” the head coach said.
Thiruvananthapuram: A Kerala court on Tuesday granted bail to suspended IAS officer Sriram Vekitaraman, who was arrested for alleged drunken driving that caused the death of a journalist here. Judicial First Class Magistrate Aneesa A granted bail after perusing the chemical examination report of Venkitaraman’s blood samples, which was found negative for alcohol content and the case diary of the police. “Bail application allowed”, the judge said, accepting the defence argument that there was no alcohol content in the blood sample of the accused. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’Venkitaraman’s blood sample was taken nine hours after the mishap after he initially refused to provide it and after getting himself admitted in a private hospital. The IAS officer was arrested on August 3, hours after the luxury car driven by him in an alleged inebriated condition while returning from a private party, hit journalist, K Muhammed Basheer, killing him on the spot. He was later remanded to 14 days judicial custody. The government had on Monday suspended the 33-year-old officer, who was serving as the Survey Director. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) had also been constituted to probe the case. 35-year-old Basheer, Thiruvananthapuram Bureau Chief of Malayalam daily “Siraj”, was on his home from work when the mishap occurred at around one am on Saturday.
New Delhi: Delhi’s air quality has been oscillating between good and satisfactory categories for the past one week, making it one of the longest spells of clean air in the national capital this year, authorities said on Friday. The authorities have attributed increased rainfall with approaching western disturbance as the main reason behind the improvement in air quality. According to the Centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting (SAFAR), the overall air quality index (AQI) of Delhi was 44 on Friday which falls in good category, while the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) said the AQI was recorded in satisfactory category at 59. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murder An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered ‘good’, 51 and 100 ‘satisfactory’, 101 and 200 ‘moderate’, 201 and 300 ‘poor’, 301 and 400 ‘very poor’, and 401 and 500 ‘severe’. The level of PM2.5 (particles in the air with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometre) was recorded at 44 and the PM10 level was recorded at 21 on Friday, SAFAR said. The AQI was recorded at 69 on Tuesday, 63 on Wednesday and 75 on Thursday. Officials said it is the longest spell of clean air experienced by Delhiites this year. Also Read – Two brothers held for snatchings The air quality is predicted to be in good category for the next three days, according to SAFAR. “Overall air quality of Delhi is in good category. Wide spread rain helped to the sudden improvement of the air quality. Increased rain fall activity is likely in association with approaching western disturbance and monsoon low, fairly widespread to widespread rainfall and isolated heavy rain falls are expecting over the weekend,” it added. According to the CPCB, PM2.5 levels in the national capital dropped by 7.3 per cent in 2018 when compared to 2017 and by 14.8 per cent over 2016. Similarly reduction in PM10 levels in 2018 is 8.6 per cent over 2017 and 16.5 per cent over 2016.
Mumbai: Jailed media baron Indrani Mukerjea, the prime accused in the killing of her daughter, on Thursday termed the arrest of former Union finance minister P Chidambaram in the INX media money laundering case as “good news”. Chidambaram was arrested on August 21 by the CBI in the INX Media corruption and money laundering case. Indrani Mukerjea and her husband Peter Mukerjea are former promoters of the INX Media Group. “His (Chidambaram) arrest is good news. He is now cornered from all sides,” Indrani Mukerjea told reporters in a sessions court where she was produced to attend trial in the case of killing of her daughter Sheena Bora. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c details She further said the bail granted to the former Union minister’s son Karti Chidambaram in the INX Media case should also be cancelled. Indrani Mukerjea had earlier recorded her statement under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), claiming she and her husband met P Chidambaram at the latter’s office in Delhi’s North Block. She also claimed in her statement that the former Union minister had asked her to help his son Karti Chidambaram in his business and make overseas remittances in lieu of granting Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval to INX Media.
Three deaths occur every day, on an average, concerning two-wheelers on Delhi/NCR roads – this is the horrific fact. And, in the rest of the country too, fatal road deaths account for a mindboggling number. The Union government has taken a much-required step and increased cash penalty on offenders, primarily to stem deaths on the seemingly innocuous roads of our country. The transport minister reminded citizens that India tops the list of countries with fatal road accidents and to correct the long-pending anomaly, fines, which actually act as a deterrent, need to be hiked. Also Read – A special kind of bondYet, politics has again assumed centre-stage. It is disheartening to see a number of political leaders grabbing the limelight by voraciously expressing solidarity with law-breakers who are keen to emphasise that the steep fine be eased – so that they can flout the law day-in and day-out without any impunity and without digging any measurable hole in their pocket. While Chandrayaan-2 evokes pride, this routine political hullaballoo on rolling back fines against law-breakers dampens the idea of India becoming a truly modern society. Where are we headed? In this era of technology, while we are striving to become the viswaguru again, this medieval mindset takes us many steps back. It is especially disheartening to see political leaders from the opposition and some even from the present treasury benches come up with this retrograde façade. Is it all about appeasement and caring a bare minimum for the law of the land – but one mustn’t forget that politics is after all empty when in violation of people and their well-being. Also Read – Insider threat managementLife is precious and human life, the most precious. Surely, roads and accidents are not the appropriate place to lose one’s life to untimely death. Respect for the law is of utmost importance and should be upheld by one and all. Political leaders, especially, should be responsible for paving any iota of negativity on the psyche of the people on the subject. Rather than reducing the challan rates, cars and two-wheeler riders should be encouraged to follow the rule and remain within the boundary of the yellow line. In fact, the government, especially the Union transport minister, should be lauded for this long-overdue step of increasing the fine amount for violating traffic rules, which has been initiated after much ado. One minuscule percentage of law enforcement agencies may be taking advantage and indulging in malpractice, which is condemnable, but that is not reason enough to seek a rollback on the fine amount. Such instances should be reported to the concerned higher authorities for appropriate punitive action against the black sheep of the law enforcement agencies. There are several interlinked issues on traffic and a holistic approach is most definitely required. The ultimate intention is to pave the way for smooth, safe, free-flowing traffic in our cities without any accidents, especially avoidable fatal accidents. For safe traffic, one most important factor is good and respectful driver behaviour – besides good roads, good vehicles and good enforcement. This good behaviour is scanty on our roads and demands organised inculcation. An old aphorism says, ‘catch them young if you want them to deliver’. Thailand’s capital Bangkok was notorious for traffic problems even a decade ago. The Thai government then decided to teach traffic rules and regulations to children, beginning from kindergarten itself. Transportation and traffic rules were introduced in the curriculum for all. And then, the results also proved to be satisfactory. Accidents were down, drivers’ behaviour on the road improved, road rages reduced and as an overall impact, the city of Bangkok received the blessing of smooth traffic. Another aspect, important for overall traffic improvement is parking in Central Business Districts (CBDs). Across civilised countries, parking rates in CBDs are very stiff and also vary during the day. Office time rates are obviously higher than the normal time. A similar approach should be taken in our country on this issue. For example, in Delhi, Nehru Place, Connaught Place, Ajmal Khan Market, South Extension Market, Lajpat Nagar, etc., are places with much higher footfall. So, the parking rates in these areas, especially during the office working hours, should be much higher, which actually would act as a deterrent as people will avoid bringing their private vehicles and opt for public transport instead. One can’t be selfish in ignoring the larger picture and importance of the situation in its totality. Good sense should prevail, and the sooner the better! (The author is a senior IAF officer, former OSD to LG, Delhi and has been closely associated with UTTIPEC in NCT of Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal)
TORONTO – The brother of a woman missing in Toronto says a widespread community search for his sister is helping his family get through a difficult time.Zubair Afzal said more than 100 people have joined the effort to find his younger sister, 30-year-old Zabia Afzal, a PhD student who has been missing since Thursday.Afzal’s family is heartened to know there are so many people concerned about her, the woman’s brother said.“It’s the one thing that keeps us going,” he said Monday. “Looking at the friends, looking at the community that’s come out with support. We’re trying to have positive thoughts.”Zubair Afzal said 15,000 posters have been plastered all over Toronto — from the east-end community where his sister was last seen to the downtown core and up to York University, where she is a student.“She’s a very smart, caring individual,” he said. “She especially fights for women’s rights.”He says that his sister is also very communicative, so it’s out of character for her to disappear without telling anybody.The family has also launched a social media campaign, and hundreds of people have tweeted and posted using the hashtag “FindZabia.”Two police forces are investigating the disappearance. York regional police say she was reportedly last seen near Woodbine Beach in Toronto on Thursday morning.Officers in York Region are collecting and investigating tips from the public, while Toronto police are searching the water around where she was last seen.They’re asking anyone with information about Zabia Afzal’s whereabouts to come forward.Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled Zabia Afzal’s first name.
TEL AVIV, Israel – President Donald Trump says peace in the Middle East can be achieved only by working together. He says, “there is no other way.”Trump spoke during a brief airport ceremony after he arrived in Israel on his first visit as president.Since taking office in January, Trump has been bullish about wanting to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve a peace that so far has been elusive. Trump meets later in the day with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.On Tuesday, Trump sits down with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.At the airport, Trump urged both sides to take advantage of the “rare opportunity” that he says currently exists under his administration to bring security, stability and peace to the region and its people.
OTTAWA – The federal government’s bug-addled public service pay system saw a fresh spike in problems last month, the result of new labour contracts and summer hiring, officials said Friday.Public Services and Procurement Canada managed to stabilize the backlog of pay change files that were being dealt with in March and April, deputy minister Marie Lemay told a teleconference.But the backlog surged by about 10 per cent last month when the Phoenix system was inundated with new pay requests, she said.The system was jammed by pay changes made to accommodate new collective agreements coming into force for roughly 24,000 government employees working as financial managers, auditors, scientists and patent examiners, among others.In addition, about 5,000 summer students were hired.There are roughly 345,000 pay change transactions currently in the system, about 265,000 more than the system’s average monthly capacity of about 80,000, officials said.“All this means the number of transactions awaiting processing has grown,” said Lemay.At least one union representing civil servants predicted the backlog could grow larger still as new collective agreements come into force.“The government should have foreseen this challenge months ago,” said Steve Hindle, vice-president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.“The number of pay transactions resulting from implementation of new collective agreements is only going to increase over the coming months.”The government said last month it was hoping to enlist 200 temporary workers on top of the 300 hired to date to deal with the Phoenix issues, which initially left tens of thousands of public servants underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all.Lemay said Friday she expected up to 230 new pay system employees could be hired over the next two years, 90 of them at the government pay centre in Miramichi, N.B.“We need the capacity,” said Lemay. “It absolutely will help us get through that queue.”How long it will take to tame the backlog will depend on how quickly the department can hire — and train — new compensation advisers, said Lemay, noting that intensive “boot camp” training sessions were underway for the latest new hires.The government said it will spend $142 million in hopes of bringing the Phoenix system to what it calls a “steady state.”The Liberals blamed the expense on the Conservatives, who they said axed hundreds of workers who handled pay claims before Phoenix was brought on line.“The previous government eliminated over 700 compensation jobs in departments, resulting in a shortage of capacity to implement a new pay system,” said Steven MacKinnon, the parliamentary secretary to Public Service and Procurement Minister Judy Foote.“We inherited this mess, but we are committed to fixing it.”Had those jobs not been eliminated, the pay system problems could have been significantly reduced, Lemay suggested.“As part of the consolidation of compensation advisers in Miramichi, we lost experienced experts before Phoenix was launched,” she said.“We can now clearly see that this caused a critical gap during our transition to the new pay system. Having that expertise available during the implementation would have been a game changer.”The Conservatives, however, argued the Liberals knew of the pay system problems before deciding to launch Phoenix, and certainly had time to beef up staffing levels to cope with recent changes in civil service contracts.“It’s stunning that the deputy minister said her department was unprepared for things like summer students and new collective agreements, even though these factors had been anticipated for over a year,” said Conservative public service deputy critic Kelly McCauley.“The Liberals have mismanaged the Phoenix pay fiasco from Day 1 and taxpayers are going to be forced to pay for their mistakes.”— Follow @tpedwell on Twitter
OTTAWA – Temporary shelters set up in Cornwall, Ont., to house asylum seekers will remain on standby until Oct. 1, but the province’s immigration minister said Tuesday that, for now, it doesn’t look like they’ll be needed.But Laura Albanese said if there’s one lesson to be learned from how the federal and provincial governments have dealt with thousands of people crossing over the border this summer, it’s that Canada has to be ready at any moment to handle them.“It may just be an anomaly, but at the same time, given the times we’re living in, given what we see going on in Europe, the Mediterranean, any country, any province has to be attentive and on the alert,” Albanese said Tuesday.Part of being ready is knowing who is coming and who is already here and Albanese said the federal government needs to reveal more of that data.Information sharing is part of the mandate of the federal-provincial task force set up in mid-August to manage the arrival of hundreds of people a day, mostly through an unofficial border crossing in Quebec. The group is scheduled to meet again on Friday in Ottawa. Albanese said she’s expecting an update on current levels, but also hopes to learn a bit more about the population already here.While the vast majority of the nearly 7,000 people who’ve arrived just since July are believed to be Haitian, not much else is known. Although Quebec has said that a third of new arrivals are under 18, the Canadian Press has been asking the federal Immigration Department for a population profile of the crossers since last week and has yet to receive a response.The Quebec government is ramping up plans for schools for the children and exploring the possibility of temporary work permits for adults. Albanese said Ontario is, so far, not rolling out similar programs, given the relatively small number of arrivals from the current group expected to stay in Ontario — less than 10 per cent, she said.Those who will stay are part of the population that’s been housed in Cornwall, Ont. to await the first stages of their applications for asylum. Both a government facility and tents were set up for them, with officials estimating up to 500 people would seek temporary shelter there.Albanese said the latest figures she had were that 199 were at the NAV centre and those numbers would keep going down. Still, the temporary facilities will remain at the ready throughout September, she said.The RCMP said Tuesday they are not ready to release updated figures for August but the trend — at least in the number of people they are apprehending at the border — does seem to be going down.But among the details Albanese is looking for: what’s happened to those who came before this group?When earlier this year groups of asylum seekers began arriving in Manitoba, the assumption was most would go on to Ontario. Whether that happened remains unclear, she said.That no one has been apprehended crossing illegally into Ontario this year is a matter of geography, Albanese said. It also doesn’t mean Ontario isn’t facing an increasing number of claimants arriving by other means.Prior to the spike in arrivals in Quebec beginning in July, Ontario was on track to receive more asylum claimants than any other province. Between January and June, 9,450 claims were filed there, compared with 6,635 in Quebec.Funds allocated in the province’s spring budget should help with providing the services newcomers require, but Ontario will be asking Ottawa for more financial assistance, Albanese said.
All of the talk about tax reform, this week, may have some people confused. After all, the tax code isn’t exactly the easiest thing to read.Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau said small business owners have an unfair advantage that could create two classes of Canadians, arguing the current system is unsustainable.Terri Holowath, Managing Partner at Catalyst Accountants and Taxation, said despite Morneau’s assertion, proposed tax changes will have a disproportionate effect on family owned businesses.“The legislation is very broad and it will have an impact not only on the wealthiest of Canadians, but a lot of small and mid-sized businesses,” she said.She used the example of a feedlot company, owned by five unrelated individuals, where only one is actively engaged in the business. “That company can declare a proportionate dividend to the five unrelated share holders with no adverse consequences to the four inactive share holders under the draft legislation,” she explained.But if those people were related, there would be a huge tax hit if the inactive shareholders were paid a dividend.Holowath said it also affects people looking at retirement, using the example of ranchers whose wealth typically lies in land and herds. “Mom and dad, they sell the heard within the company, we pay the corporate small business rate of 12.5 per cent, which is what it is right now, and the cattle are converted into cash,” she explained.The ranchers also pay a low personal tax rate, but under changes to the passive investment rules, Holowath said they could be taxed at an effective rate of 70 per cent.
OTTAWA – The inclusion of the phrase Islamophobia in a hotly debated motion passed by the House of Commons last year was meant as an example of forms of racism, the Liberal MP who sponsored the proposal said Monday.Iqra Khalid told the House of Commons heritage committee that her motion calling for parliamentarians to condemn Islamophobia and for a study on systematic racism and religious discrimination was about the study itself that began Monday.“It uses the example of Islamophobia to make a larger point about the problem of all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination — that we have to find ways to tackle that broad problem in Canada as a whole,” Khalid said.Khalid said she was motivated to introduce M-103 after hearing several stories of racist acts against different faiths in the fall of 2016. When she looked into the issue, she found the statistics to provide context to the problem were lacking and something had to be done.“The objective of the motion was to bring forward this study, it is upon this committee as a whole to take that unified approach to study the issue, to work with each other to find those recommendations to assist us as policy makers,” she said.Khalid’s motion passed in a vote of 201-91 last spring. It called on MPs to recognize something had to be down to “quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear,” and to that end, the House ought to condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and direct the heritage committee to study the issue, including how better to gather hate crime data.The conflict around the motion centered largely around the word Islamophobia, setting off protests on Parliament Hill and arguments across the country over the meaning and implications of the phrase.Khalid told the committee she defines it as “irrational fear or hatred of Muslims or Islam” that leads to discrimination.But opponents say the word it is vague and essentially means criticism against Islam of any kind is forbidden, and some saw Khalid’s motion as the first step in criminalizing that criticism. Conservative news outlet Rebel Media seized on that issue with gusto, forcing it into the Conservative leadership race as contenders were grilled on their positions.The Conservatives had sought to remove the phrase and instead broaden the motion to refer to multiple faiths.They lost over objections from the Liberals that they would be watering down Khalid’s effort. Several Conservatives raised their own motion in quizzing Khalid on Monday about her intentions.“Both of us would have liked to have found ourselves on the same side of the vote in the House on the issue,” Conservative David Anderson said.“We are sir,” Khalid replied.Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said she had never seen as much “fomented anger, concern and misconception” around a House of Commons motion as she heard around Khalid’s.She and other MPs told Khalid they’d received calls that the motion would lead to Islamic religious law, known as Sharia, being introduced in Canada or that it would give Islam a protected status in Canada greater than that of other religions.Khalid was asked to directly address some of the specific concerns, but didn’t tackle them all, saying while there were misconceptions, it was time to move forward.“The conversation that Canadians had over the past number of months was a very important conversation,” Khalid said.“It is a great way to lead up to this study.”
CARDSTON, Alta. – A southern Alberta landlord is hoping the courts will help him with a squatter living in a small shack sitting on a trailer in the driveway of the man’s rental property.“What can you do? Our hands are tied and nobody’s prepared to help,” said Ivan Negrych, who is attempting to remove Bob Cox from the property in the town of Cardston, about 235 kilometres southeast of Calgary.“It’s kind of turning into a nightmare.”Negrych said he had been renting the five-bedroom home to Cox’s former common-law wife. The woman and two daughters allowed him to move in after he was injured in a car accident about 18 months ago. She moved out Sept. 30 and Negrych rented out the property to another person within days.“He moved in and now he’s refusing to move out,” said Negrych.He said Cox, who wasn’t reachable by phone, is perfectly happy living in the small wooden, windowless shack still parked in the driveway.“It’s roughly 12 feet by 8 (feet) and it’s on a little channel-frame trailer with little wheels on it. It has no brakes. No electricity. He’s pulling electricity from the house from an extension cord.”Cox says he has squatter’s rights. He told CTV News he hopes to move soon, but isn’t ready to do so yet.“I don’t want to be in Ivan’s way,” he told CTV.The problem, said Negrych, is Alberta’s Residential Tenancies Act.“Once (tenants are) in, you can’t get them out. It takes several months, because the process is so long … to get a judgment and eviction court order,” Negrych said.He’s working on getting that order now, he added.Negrych said he asked the RCMP for assistance but was told it’s a civil matter.“They can’t touch him and, in fact, the police asked me to leave the property because I was trespassing and hadn’t given him a 24-hour written notice, which is part of the … act.”A court date has been set for Nov. 7.Negrych said he has given Cox an eviction notice and watched him roll it up and throw it in the garbage. Even if the judge does grant a removal order, it could be between four weeks and four months before Cox can be legally removed, he said.— By Bill Graveland in Calgary. Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter