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April 18, 2014

Deal reached to ease tensions in Ukraine

Filed under: economics, marketing — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 7:53 am

GENEVA—Top diplomats from the United States, European Union, Russia and Ukraine reached agreement Thursday on immediate steps to ease the crisis in Ukraine.

The agreement, reached after seven hours of negotiation in Geneva, requires all sides to refrain from violence, intimidation or provocative actions. It calls for the disarming of all illegally armed groups and for control of buildings seized by pro-Russian separatists during the protests to be turned back over to authorities.

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It also gives amnesty to protesters who comply with the demands, except those found guilty of committing capital crimes.

Monitors with the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe will be tasked with helping Ukraine authorities and local communities comply with the requirements outlined in the agreement. And Kyiv’s plans to reform its constitution and transfer more power from the central government to regional authorities must be inclusive, transparent and accountable — including through the creation of a broad national dialogue criminal records.

The tentative agreement could put on hold — for now at least — economic sanctions the West had prepared to impose on Russia if the talks were fruitless. And that would ease international pressure both on Moscow and nervous European Union nations that depend on Russia for their energy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the U.S. and its European allies for having what he called a double standard and said he hoped he would not have to deploy troops to Ukraine.

Ukraine was hoping to use the Geneva talks — the first of their kind over the crisis that threatens the new government in Kyiv — to placate Russia and calm hostilities with its neighbour even as the U.S. prepared a new round of sanctions to punish Moscow for what it regards as fomenting unrest.

Meanwhile, Russia was honing a strategy of its own: Push the West as far as possible without provoking crippling sanctions against its financial and energy sectors or a military confrontation with NATO.

In a television appearance in Moscow on Thursday, Putin denied claims that Russian special forces were fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine. He called the Ukrainian government’s effort to quash the uprising a “crime.”

In Washington, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said the U.S. would send non-lethal assistance to Ukraine’s military in light of what he called Russia’s ongoing destabilizing actions there. He told a Pentagon news conference that the military assistance to Ukraine will include medical supplies, helmets, water purification units and power generators.

Ukraine has asked for military assistance from the U.S., a request that was believed to include lethal aid like weapons and ammunition. Obama administration officials have said they were not actively considering lethal assistance for fear it could escalate an already tense situation.

The U.S. has already sent Ukraine other assistance, such as pre-packaged meals for its military.

In Brussels, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the military alliance would increase its presence in Eastern Europe, including flying more sorties over the Baltic region west of Ukraine and deploying allied warships to the Baltic Sea and the eastern Mediterranean. NATO’s supreme commander in Europe, U criminal history.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, told reporters that ground forces also could be involved at some point, but gave no details.

Officials said a full-scale Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine would result in broad U.S. and European sanctions on key Russian economic sectors, including its powerful energy industry. However, European nations are divided on whether to limit its access to Russia’s oil and gas supplies, and a vote to sanction must be unanimous among the EU’s 28 member states.

The sanctions that could be levied in the aftermath of the Geneva meeting were expected to focus on Putin’s close associates, including oligarchs who control much of Russia’s wealth, as well as businesses and other entities they control. It was unclear whether those sanctions would change Putin’s calculus, given that the U.S. and the Europeans already have launched targeted sanctions on people in Putin’s inner circle.


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April 17, 2014

Captain may have been one of the first to flee sinking ferry: Report

Filed under: Mortgage, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 11:08 pm

MOKPO, SOUTH KOREA—An immediate evacuation order was not issued for the ferry that sank off South Korea’s southern coast, likely with scores of people trapped inside, because officers on the bridge were trying to stabilize the vessel after it started to list amid confusion and chaos, a crew member said Thursday.

Meanwhile, the coast guard said it was investigating whether the ferry’s captain was one of the first ones off the sinking ship.


Heartbreaking tweets from last moments on ferry

South Korea ferry passengers say they were told not to evacuate

Photos: South Korea ferry sinking

The first instructions from the captain were for the passengers to put on life jackets and stay put, and it was not until about 30 minutes later that he ordered an evacuation, Oh Yong-seok, a 58-year-old crew member, told The Associated Press. But Oh said he wasn’t sure if the captain’s order, given to crew members, was actually relayed to passengers on the public address system.

Several survivors also told the AP that they never heard any evacuation order.

The loss of that precious time may have deprived many passengers of the opportunity to escape as the Sewol sank Wednesday, not far from the southern city of Mokpo.

Fourteen people, including a female crew member, at least five students and two teachers, were confirmed dead by coast guard officials Thursday night. But the toll was expected to jump amid fears that more than 280 missing passengers — many high school students — were dead. Coast guard officials put the number of survivors Thursday at 179.

Video obtained by AP that was shot by a survivor, truck driver Kim Dong-soo, shows the vessel listing severely as people in life jackets cling to the side of the ship to keep from sliding. A loudspeaker announcement can be heard telling passengers to stay in their quarters.

The increasingly anxious search for the missing was hampered all day Thursday by strong, dangerous currents, rain and bad visibility. Officials said divers would continue trying overnight to enter the ship, hoping for gentler currents.

There were 475 people aboard, including 325 students on a school trip to the tourist island of Jeju in the south of the country. The ferry had travelled overnight from Incheon on the northwestern coast of South Korea and was three hours short of its destination when it began to list. The cause is not yet known.

The 146-metre Sewol now sits — with just part of its keel visible — in waters off Mokpo, about 470 kilometres from Seoul.

Oh, a helmsman on the ferry with 10 years’ shipping experience, said that when the crew gathered on the bridge and sent a distress call the ship was already listing more than 5 degrees, the critical angle at which the ship can be brought back to even keel.

At about that time, a third mate reported that the ship could not be righted, and the captain ordered another attempt, which also failed, Oh said. A crew member then tried to reach a lifeboat but tripped, prompting the first mate to suggest to the captain that everyone should evacuate, Oh said.

The captain agreed and ordered an evacuation, but Oh said that amid the confusion and chaos on the bridge he does not recall the message being conveyed on the public address system.

By then it was impossible for crew members to move to passengers’ rooms to help them because the ship was tilted at an impossibly acute angle, he said. The delay in evacuation also likely prevented lifeboats from being deployed.

“We couldn’t even move one step. The slope was too big,” said Oh, who escaped with about a dozen others, including the captain.

At a briefing, Kim Soo-hyun, a senior coast guard official, told reporters that officials were investigating whether the captain got on the first rescue boat, but didn’t elaborate.

Passenger Koo Bon-hee, 36, told the AP that many people were trapped inside by windows that were too hard to break. He wanted to escape earlier but didn’t because of the announcement that said passengers should stay put.

“The rescue wasn’t done well. We were wearing life jackets. We had time,” Koo, who was on a business trip to Jeju with a co-worker, said from a hospital bed in Mokpo where he was treated for minor injuries. “If people had jumped into the water … they could have been rescued. But we were told not to go out.”

It is not clear if the captain’s actions violated any procedures, and he may have believed at the time that it was still possible to control the vessel, which would have made the order to evacuate unnecessary.

Worried and angry parents of the students gathered at Danwon High School in Ansan, which is near Seoul, while other relatives assembled on Jindo, an island near where the ferry slipped beneath the surface, leaving only the blue-tipped, forward edge of its keel visible.

In Mokpo, relatives of the dead students wailed and sobbed as ambulances drove away with the bodies, headed to Ansan. The families, who spent a mostly sleepless night at the Mokpo hospital, followed the ambulances in their cars. At the school, some desperate relatives lashed out in frustration, screaming threats at journalists. On Jindo island, one woman passed out and was carried to an ambulance.

The family of one of the dead, 24-year-old teacher Choi Hye-jung, spoke about a young woman who loved to boast of how her students would come to her office and give her hugs.

“She was very active and wanted to be a good leader,” her father, Choi Jae-kyu, 53, said at Mokpo Jung-Ang Hospital while waiting for the arrival of his daughter’s body. Choi’s mother, sitting on a bench at the hospital, sobbed quietly with her head on her knee.

While more than 400 rescuers searched nearby waters, coast guard spokesman Kim Jae-in said that in the next two days, three vessels with cranes onboard would arrive to help with the rescue and salvage the ship. Divers were working in shifts in an attempt to get inside the vessel, he said, but strong currents wouldn’t allow them to enter.

Kim said that divers planned to pump oxygen into the ship to help any survivors, but first they had to get inside.

The water temperature in the area was about 12 C, cold enough to cause signs of hypothermia after about 90 minutes of exposure, officials said. The ocean was 37 metres deep in the area.

Kim said coast guard officials were questioning the captain, but declined to provide details or speculate on the cause of sinking.

“I am really sorry and deeply ashamed,” a man identified by broadcaster YTN and Yonhap news agency as the captain, 68-year-old Lee Joon-seok, said in brief comments shown on TV, his face hidden beneath a grey hoodie. “I don’t know what to say.”

Kim Han-sik, president of Chonghaejin Marine Co., the ship’s owner, also apologized separately, bowing deeply and saying, “I committed a sin punishable by death. … I am at a loss for words. I am sorry. I am sorry.”

The last major ferry disaster in South Korea was in 1993, when 292 people were killed.


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April 16, 2014

If filed, plane lawsuits might not get heard in US

Filed under: management, news — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 10:40 am

BEIJING (AP) — Since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing, some lawyers have claimed they can get several millions of dollars in damages for each lost passenger by taking the cases to the United States. But past lawsuits show U.S. federal courts are more likely to throw such cases out if the crashes happened overseas.

Major disasters draw lawyers looking to sign up clients for big lawsuits, and the missing Malaysian plane, which was carrying mostly Chinese passengers, has been no exception. Lawyers from various firms have descended on a Beijing hotel where relatives of the passengers have been staying, and have even traveled around China to visit them in their homes.

The Chinese relatives have said their main focus remains on the search for the plane, so lawyers have had little luck so far in signing up clients here, despite dangling the potential of major damage awards.

“This is not the right point in time to discuss legal matters because nothing has been found yet and everybody has no idea what exactly happened to the plane,” said Steve Wang, a representative of some of the Chinese relatives.

Relatives can expect to get at least about $175,000 from Malaysia Airlines for each lost passenger under terms of the Montreal Convention, an international treaty governing air travel compensation. The relatives can also sue the carrier in Malaysia or their home countries for further damages.

Chinese made up two-thirds of the 227 passengers aboard Flight 370, which disappeared March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing. Searchers looking in a stretch of the southern Indian Ocean have yet to find any debris from the plane.

Malaysia Airlines said in an email that it was focused on helping the families of the passengers and 12 crew members, and that “other matters will be dealt with appropriately.”

Some lawyers have argued that the families could still sue in America if they alleged the plane’s U.S. manufacturer, the Boeing Co., was somehow responsible for the disaster.

But such lawsuits are likely to be rejected if they’re filed in the United States because federal courts there have dismissed many similar foreign air crash cases, especially if most of the plaintiffs are not American.

The courts have tossed out lawsuits against U.S. parts makers in connection with the 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean. They also dismissed lawsuits against Boeing in the 2008 Spanair flight that crashed on takeoff in Madrid and the 2005 Helios Airways flight that crashed near Athens, Greece, when a loss of cabin pressure caused the people on board to lose consciousness.

The U.S. courts have ruled that it would be more convenient for the claims to be heard by a court in the country where the crash happened or where the investigation is taking place, making it easier to obtain witnesses and evidence.

“Courts with crowded dockets are likely to dismiss foreign plaintiffs where there are language problems, esoteric laws and/or missing witnesses,” Joseph Sweeney, an emeritus professor of law at Fordham University in New York, wrote in an email.

Sweeney said dismissal of foreign claimants based on such grounds has been “almost customary” since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 1981 to throw out lawsuits resulting from the crash of a plane in Scotland.

American courts are a popular forum for lawsuits on damages related to air crashes because juries are often sympathetic to the plaintiffs and are perceived as being more likely to award sizable damages. In domestic air crashes, juries have awarded plaintiffs sometimes millions of dollars per passenger.

For the same reasons, they attract lawsuits even when the crashes take place outside America and involve non-U.S. airlines and passengers and crew who are citizens of other countries.

“America is the land of liability opportunity,” said Professor Steve Dedmon, an aviation law expert at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona, Florida, campus. “We are very plaintiff friendly.”

Some attorneys are already telling relatives they should consider suing Boeing, because it made the 777 plane. Boeing has declined to comment.

“As long as the possibility that the Boeing plane is related to the incident is not eliminated, there are no limitations on seeking compensation from Boeing,” said Wang Guanhua, a Chinese-based lawyer working for Ribbeck Law Chartered, a Chicago firm.

Wang was speaking by phone from the eastern province of Zhejiang, where he had visited a number of relatives in their homes. His visits to family members have also taken him to four major Chinese cities. Wang said the relatives would best benefit from suing Boeing in the U.S. and that he believed they could get $6 million in damages for each passenger.

Ribbeck Law was criticized last month by a Cook County Circuit Court judge for filing a petition asking the court to order Malaysia Airlines and Boeing to turn over any documents related to the plane’s disappearance. Judge Kathy Flanagan described the request as improper and threatened to impose sanctions if the firm tried a similar motion again.

Other attorneys have criticized the claims of multimillion-dollar settlements for foreign families as misleading. “Neither we nor any responsible lawyer would presently say that there is any case that can be brought in the United States,” Justin Green, a partner at aviation accident law firm Kreindler & Kreindler LLP in New York, wrote in an email. “We will need the wreckage in order to establish a case against Boeing.”

Another team of lawyers has argued that rather than take the litigious route in the U.S., the families are better off negotiating a settlement with Malaysia Airlines’ insurers.

“We want a quicker settlement and a reasonable settlement,” said David Tang, a London-based lawyer working with U.K. firm Stewarts Law and an American firm, who have teamed up and say they’ve been approached by family members for advice.

Tang was in Beijing this past weekend meeting with Chinese relatives at a hotel where they’ve been staying. He showed the relatives an information sheet describing how insurance payments for loss of life differ according to nationality.

“What we argue is that a Chinese life should not be worth less than an American’s, or whatever,” Tang said.

The legal team, if hired by the families, intends to demand more than $1.75 million for each passenger, James Healy-Pratt of Stewarts Law wrote in an email.

If Chinese families sued the Malaysian carrier in China, they could get around 1.5 million yuan ($250,000) per passenger, depending on their age, job, income and other factors, according to Beijing-based aviation lawyer Zhang Qihuai.

In Malaysia, a court would probably not stray too far from the $175,000 compensation limit set by the Montreal Convention, said Jeremy Joseph, a Malaysian aviation lawyer. “The judicial trend for awarding damages in Malaysia is very conservative. It is not the trend here for courts to issue massive awards in damages to the millions,” he said.


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April 14, 2014

Stephen Harper calls Russian action in Ukraine the worst post-Cold War threat to world peace

Filed under: Homes, technology — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 12:28 pm

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the world must recognize that Russia’s activities in Ukraine pose the worst threat to global peace since the end of the Cold War.

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April 13, 2014

Six Flags theme park planned for Dubai

Filed under: economics, technology — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 4:40 am

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Dubai could soon have some new roller coasters to go with its man-made islands and the world’s tallest skyscraper.

Newspapers in the Middle Eastern emirate reported Sunday that local property developer Meraas Holding has reached a deal with Six Flags Entertainment to build a theme park in the city’s largely industrial outskirts.

The park will be in the Jebel Ali area, which is home to the region’s biggest port and aluminum smelter. It is expected to open in 2017. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Dubai previously had a deal with Six Flags and several other companies to build multiple theme parks in a different area known as Dubailand. Plans for that Six Flags park were scrapped in the wake of Dubai’s financial crisis, which came to a head in 2009.


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April 11, 2014

Major economies express confidence about growth

Filed under: economics, news — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 4:32 pm

WASHINGTON • Finance officials of the world’s major economies expressed confidence Friday that they can meet an ambitious goal of boosting global growth by $2 trillion over the next five years.

That’s despite a variety of threats including rising political tensions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Finance ministers and central bank presidents of the leading rich and developing nations issued a joint statement that papered over substantial differences in such areas as central bank interest rate policies and whether to hit Russia with tougher sanctions because of its dealings with Ukraine.

The final Group of 20 communique pledged to keep working on concrete economic reforms that could boost global growth by 2 percent over the next five years. But finance officials concede that the economic reforms needed to achieve that goal will in many cases be politically difficult.

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey said all the finance ministers realized that hard decisions would have to be made in terms of reforming labor market policies and dealing with budget deficits.

“It is hard but that is the only way we are going to grow the economy,” Hockey, who is chairman of the G-20 this year, told reporters at news conference following the group’s two days of discussions.

The finance ministers agreed to develop concrete proposals for each of their countries and present those plans at a September meeting in Australia in preparation for a G-20 leaders’ summit on Nov. 15-16 in Brisbane that will be attended by President Barack Obama and leaders of the other nations.

The United States was represented in the discussions Friday by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

Lew on Thursday had raised the possibility in a meeting with Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov on Thursday that the Obama administration was willing to impose “additional significant sanctions” if Russia escalates the Ukraine situation.

Treasury said in a statement that Lew described Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula as “illegal and illegitimate.”

That tough language from the U.S. was missing from the statement issued by the G-20, a group that includes Russia as a member.

Instead, the G-20 finance officials said they were closely monitoring the economic situation in Ukraine, “mindful of any risks to economic and financial stability.”

The group endorsed the $14 billion to $18 billion loan package that the International Monetary Fund has developed to help Ukraine avoid a financial collapse. IMF officials have said the IMF support program will likely be approved by the agency’s board of directors by the end of this month or early May.

The United States and various European nations have already imposed an initial round of sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

The United States is raising the prospect of tougher penalties if Russia attempts to annex parts of Eastern Ukraine, but European officials have been hesitant to go further, worried about possible economic retaliation by Russia.

The United States came in for criticism in the G-20 communique for the failure of Congress to approve U.S. funding for the IMF that is needed to implement a reform program that the 188-nation lending agency adopted in 2010.

That program would give the IMF more resources to help countries in economic distress and provide greater voting to emerging economies such as China.

But the measure has languished in Congress for years and supporters failed again in March to win congressional approval.

The G-20 officials said they were “deeply disappointed” with the continued U.S. delay and said if approval was not obtained by the end of this year, the IMF should explore other options. The statement did not explain what options might be available if there is continued U.S. inaction.

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said that the IMF will have to consider what alternatives exist to move forward with IMF reforms.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters that more leadership was needed from the United States, referring to America as “the indispensable nation … we need you.”

The G-20 statement dropped a lengthy section that had been included in the February statement concerning the need for continued low interest rate policies by major central banks.

Asked about that change, British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbore said, “I wouldn’t read too much into that” and joked “we’re trying to keep the communique much shorter.”

He noted that the Federal Reserve and the Bank England were moving cautiously to reduce stimulus efforts as the U.S. and British economies improve. However, some critics have expressed concerns that there is a danger that central banks could move too quickly to reduce support before labor markets have completely recovered.


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August 1, 2013

Jobless Claims in U.S. Fall to Lowest Level in Five Years - Bloomberg

Filed under: Mortgage, term — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 7:12 am

Claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly dropped to the lowest level in more than five years, extending swings typical for the month of July.

Applications for unemployment insurance payments declined by 19,000 to 326,000 in the week ended July 27, the fewest since January 2008, from a revised 345,000 the prior week, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. The median forecast of 50 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 345,000. A government analyst said no states were estimated, and the data were still being influenced by the auto plant shutdowns that play havoc with the figures at this time of year.

Businesses have been operating with tight workforces as they wait for signs of a sustained pickup in consumer demand. A slowdown in firings might signal that employers are becoming more confident in the recovery and preparing to grow payrolls, which would encourage household spending, the biggest part of the economy.

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June 3, 2013

Fire kills dozens at poultry plant in northeast China

Filed under: legal, technology — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 11:54 pm

BEIJING  •  Fire swept through a poultry processing plant in northeastern China on Monday, trapping workers inside a slaughterhouse with only a single open exit and killing at least 119 people in one of the country’s worst industrial disasters in years.

Survivors described panic as workers, most of them women, struggled through smoke and flames to reach doors that turned out to be locked or blocked.

One worker, Guo Yan, 39, said the emergency exit at her workstation could not be opened and she was knocked to the ground in the crush of workers searching for a way to escape.

“I could only crawl desperately forward,” Guo was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua News Agency. “I worked alongside an old lady and a young girl, but I don’t know if they survived or not.”

The accident highlights the high human costs of China’s lax industrial safety standards, which continue to plague workplaces despite recent improvements in the country’s work safety record. It also comes amid growing international concern over factory safety across Asia after the collapse in April of a garment factory in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 people.

Besides the dead, dozens were injured in the blaze in Jilin province’s Mishazi township, which appeared to have been sparked by three early morning explosions, Xinhua said. The provincial fire department attributed the blasts to an ammonia leak. The chemical is kept pressurized as part of the cooling system in meat processing plants.

It was one of China’s worst recent industrial disasters, with the death toll the highest since a mining cave-in in September 2008 that claimed 281 lives.

State broadcaster CCTV quoted workers as saying the fire broke out during a shift change when about 350 workers were at the plant, owned by Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Co.

Some employees raised the alarm shortly after the shift began at 6 a.m. local time, and then the lights went out, causing panic as workers scrambled to find an exit, Wang Fengya, 44, told Xinhua.

“When I finally ran out and looked back at the plant, I saw high flames,” she said.

The fire broke out in a factory building where chickens were being dismembered, and spread rapidly, with industrial boilers exploding, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported on its microblog. Only a side door to the building was open with the rest of the exits locked, the newspaper said.

It quoted an unidentified worker as saying the fire engulfed the building in three minutes, leaving too little time for many to flee.


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June 2, 2013

Ontario Finance Minister demands talks with Ottawa on transit funding

Filed under: legal, news — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 11:22 am

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa is demanding a meeting with his federal counterpart to break the gridlock on the funding of transit.

In the wake of federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s refusal to allow any regional increase to the 13 per cent harmonized sales tax to bankroll new public transit, Sousa said Sunday the two governments urgently need to talk.

“I am . . . writing to request a meeting with you on this critical issue as soon as possible,” the provincial treasurer wrote in a letter to Flaherty obtained by the Star.

Sousa’s missive was a response to the federal finance minister’s broadside Thursday when he warned that tinkering with the HST would contravene the 2010 tax agreement between the two levels of government.

“We did not lower the GST to have it taken away from Ontarians by the (Premier Kathleen) Wynne government with a news sales tax hike,” wrote Flaherty, referring to his cut to the federal tax from 7 per cent to 5 per cent prior to harmonization.

“As you are well aware, the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Coordination Agreement signed by the government of Ontario does not allow for the provincial component of the HST to vary between regions within the province,” the federal treasurer continued.

“Any proposal to raise the rate of the provincial component of the HST within municipal or regional boundaries would contravene the agreement,” he said, referring to Metrolinx’s recommendation last week to raise the HST locally.

“Let me be clear, our government will not accept such a proposed regional sales tax increase on the residents of the Greater Toronto/Hamilton Area,” wrote Flaherty.

But Sousa said the federal treasurer is putting the cart before the horse.

“As you are well aware, the province has not asked the federal government for any changes to the harmonized sales tax,” he wrote Sunday.

“However, since 2010, we have repeatedly requested that the federal government invest in a national transit strategy — with dedicated infrastructure dollars for the building of more transit,” said Sousa.

“This is not only an economic, social and environmental imperative, it is also an urgent obligation of national importance,” he said quick payday loan.

“Moreover, given the (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper government’s commitment to job creation through Canada’s Economic Action Plan, your government would be a natural partner in the creation of an estimated 987,700 person years of employment over the next 20 years through Metrolinx’s $50 billion Big Move projects.”

Sousa, who represents Mississauga South, and Flaherty, representing Whitby-Oshawa, are well-versed on the commuting challenges that grip Greater Toronto. They are both GO train riders who regularly hear about traffic headaches from their neighbours and constituents.

Still, the provincial Liberals and the federal Conservatives appear to be on a political collision course over new taxes to fund transit infrastructure.

Both parties dominate the GTHA electorally and each wants to be seen as a champion for the region.

To Sousa, that means Ottawa has to step up.

“Unfortunately, your government’s current investment in transit through the Building Canada Fund provides only four per cent of the necessary funding needed to address the transit and transportation deficit in the GTHA,” he told Flaherty.

“Congestion is also a significant challenge for businesses. The Toronto Region Board of Trade states that all levels of government must be involved, including a more prominent role by the federal government.”

Indeed, board president Carol Wilding, who estimates congestion costs the region’s economy $6 billion a year, also wants to sit down with Flaherty to discuss the matter.

But embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, a close Flaherty friend and political ally, said on Twitter Sunday that “Kathleen Wynne’s Metrolinx plan takes the easy way out — passing the burden onto taxpayer.”

Ford, under fire over a video that appears to show him smoking crack cocaine and making racist and homophobic slurs, opposes any new taxes to pay for transit.

A 1 per cent increase to the HST is the linchpin of Metrolinx’s transit investment strategy designed to raise $2 billion annually to fund 13 big-ticket transit projects.


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May 31, 2013

ORNGE helicopter crash:

Filed under: money, technology — Tags: , , , — Gogo @ 10:50 pm

A chalk message in a child’s messy printing is scrawled on the sidewalk outside the home in Burlington where Chris Snowball lived.

“Snowball residence!” the pink printing reads. A happy face and an arrow point to the home where Snowball, one of the paramedics who was killed in the ORNGE helicopter crash on Thursday, lived with his wife and three children.

As Snowball’s family paced outside the home, his wife, Allie Scott, said she can’t believe her partner of almost 22 years is gone.

“ORNGE called me at 3:30 in the morning, to tell me they lost contact,” she said, admitting she thought it was something minor.

“Then they called me at 7:30 this morning. They said there were no survivors. All four crew members did not survive,” the 36-year-old daycare worker said, her voice breaking.

Scott said she will always remember Snowball as a fantastic father who loved fishing, nature, his children and his comfortable jeans and raggedy sweatshirts.

Chris Snowball’s 60-year-old father, John Snowball, said his son was supposed to celebrate his 39th birthday next week.

“He was the most responsible kid I’ve ever known,” he said, adding that he was often away when Chris was growing up because he was a railway engineer, and Chris would keep the house running, even as a child.

“Kids should be playing outside and what not, but not Chris. He was always helping his mother and taking care of his brother,” he said.

At a very early age, Chris decided he wanted to be a paramedic, his father said, and he became more passionate about the work as he went to school at Niagara College. He got his first job in Cape Breton Island and came back to Burlington a few years ago to be closer to his family.

He said he just talked to his son on Thursday evening on Facebook.

“He said he was bored on his late night shift and I said I had to go because I had to work early in the morning. He said ‘I love ya’ and I said I loved him, too,” he said.


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