Manitoba insurance revokes Star Trek fan’s licence plate, says message is offensive

Update

Pampers Ontario Licence Plate. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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Manitoba Public Insurance asked a Star Trek fan to “surrender” his licence plate after complaints its message — ASIMIL8 — is offensive to indigenous people.

WINNIPEG—Manitoba Public Insurance has revoked a Star Trek fan’s personalized licence plate after receiving complaints that its message — ASIMIL8 — is offensive to indigenous people.

Nick Troller has been driving around with the plate for two years.

It’s held within a Star Trek licence frame that also bears the quotes, “We are the Borg,” and “Resistance is Futile.”

Troller tells CTV Winnipeg that on his favourite show, an enemy race of aliens called the Borg travel through the galaxy trying to assimilate other cultures into their own.

He says he thought the plate was funny and notes strangers and other Trek fans have complimented him and asked to take photos with the plate.

But Troller got a phone call Wednesday from a staff member at Manitoba Public Insurance who told him two people had complained that the word “assimilate” is offensive to indigenous people.

He also received a letter from MPI on Thursday demanding he “surrender” the plate immediately, telling him he can either get a new plate or a refund on the $100 charge.

photo by fightyourtickets.ca

“But that’s not the point,” says Troller. “We’ve become way too sensitive. You can’t say anything anymore to anybody.”

Ry Moran, from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, insists the word “assimilate” is too offensive to be on a licence plate.

“For basically the entirety of this country’s history, indigenous peoples have been forcibly assimilated through really extremely destructive means and ways,” he says.

“Words like that, meant or not, have an actual impact on many people.”

MPI’s policy states that “plates cannot contain a slogan that could be considered offensive.” MPI says it takes such complaints “very seriously” and will investigate why the plate was approved in the first place.

photo by fightyourtickets.ca

Licence plates are property of the Crown and there is no appeal process.

Troller’s situation is reminiscent of a controversy in Nova Scotia, where a man named Lorne Grabher’s personalized GRABHER plate was revoked after a complaint that it was offensive to women.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said earlier this month that it plans to sue the Nova Scotia government over the revocation, which it sees as an infringement on freedom of expression.

photo by fightyourtickets.ca

The JCCF’s John Carpay said the GRABHER licence plate revocation is part of a wider trend in Canadian society.

“Canadians are becoming increasingly less tolerant of free expression,” he said. “You have more and more people who believe that they have a legal right to go through life without seeing or without hearing things they find to be offensive.”

Should the LSUC limit Contingency Fees?

Update: see previous posts – April 23, 2017 Ontario has the most expensive auto insurance premiums in Canada and their rising again, April 15, 2017 Ontario roads safest in country but drivers pay the highest premiums, new report says, April 15, 2017 Ontario roads safest in country but drivers pay the highest premiums, new report says

A report by David Marshall, former CEO of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, found that the rates of death and injuries in Ontario are among the lowest in Canada, yet Ontarians pay the highest auto insurance premiums in the country.

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The report by David Marshall calls for faster and more efficient delivery of care to accident victims to avoid protracted legal disputes over benefits all too common under the current system.

The widespread use of personal injury lawyers to battle insurance companies indicates a “failure” in Ontario’s auto insurance system, says a government-commissioned report.

“There is clear urgency to make the accident benefits system simple and accessible without the need for legal representation,” says the report, written by David Marshall, former CEO of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. “In many ways, the need to have lawyers involved to negotiate settlements in what should be a straightforward, no-fault, accident benefits system signals a failure in the system.”

Marshall’s report, titled Fair Benefits Fairly Delivered: A Review of the Auto Insurance System in Ontario,” looks at the costs associated with Ontario’s auto insurance system and makes 35 recommendations to improve it. The report calls for faster and more efficient delivery of care to accident victims to avoid protracted legal disputes over benefits — disputes all too common under the current system.

Marshall states that personal injury lawyers charge approximately half a billion dollars in contingency fees annually, while insurance companies spend roughly the same in legal fees and expenses to defend claims. Every year, between 25 per cent and 35 per cent of claimants — about 15,000 to 20,000 people — hire lawyers to deal with their insurance companies, the report says.

“Clearly, a better way to deliver fair benefits to accident victims needs to be found,” the report says.

Claire Wilkinson, a Burlington personal injury lawyer and president-elect of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, which represents about 1,200 personal injury lawyers, said she agrees that if the accident benefits system functioned properly, people wouldn’t need lawyers.

“It’s always felt like a David-versus-Goliath battle,” Wilkinson said. “Individuals don’t have the financial ability to fight the power and financial resources of the insurance industry. So they turn to personal injury lawyers because we give them a voice and the ability to fight, to try to level the playing field.”

Marshall was appointed by the provincial government in February 2016 to review Ontario’s auto insurance industry and his report was quietly posted online this month. He is not giving media interviews, according to the Ministry of Finance.

As reported in the Star last week, Marshall’s study found that the rates of death and injuries in the province are among the lowest in Canada, yet Ontarians pay the highest auto insurance premiums in the country.

In the report, he singles out personal injury lawyers as contributing to increasing costs and recommends that contingency fees — “you don’t pay unless we win” — be limited, while advertising and referral fees be banned or restricted.

A Star investigation published in January found that clients were often in the dark about how the contingency system works, including what fees their lawyers were taking versus what fees the lawyers were actually allowed to take. In one case the Star found, a woman injured in a car accident hired a lawyer on contingency and ended up with just 25 per cent of the total settlement paid out by the insurance company.

Marshall recommends measures to improve transparency surrounding contingency fee arrangements, including making insurance settlement cheques payable jointly to lawyers and their clients so victims understand how much of the total payout they will receive. Additionally, Marshall says clients should be informed in writing of their right to appeal fees charged by their lawyers and where to do so. The Star found many personal injury lawyers do not inform their clients in writing that they are entitled to appeal their legal fees to the provincial fee assessment office.

Marshall recommends that contingency fee agreements also be filed with the province’s insurance regulator, which would perform spot checks to ensure fairness.

Under the current system, Marshall notes, lengthy legal battles often mean accident victims do not receive timely assistance with their injuries and as a result suffer financially. Many are forced to turn to “settlement loan” companies that provide temporary funds without a credit check but at high interest rates.

“There should be very little, if any reason to have to hire a lawyer or resort to a finance company to provide a bridge loan, especially in cases where there are minor injuries,” Marshall writes.

Wilkinson, from the trial lawyers association, takes issue with Marshall’s recommendations, saying her group and the Law Society of Upper Canada were already addressing many of the concerns identified in the report. For instance, the law society voted this year to cap referral fees and provide more guidance on acceptable advertising practices, she noted. The ceiling on referral fees has yet to be determined, but recommendations from a law society working group looking at the issue are expected this week.

Wilkinson said making settlement cheques jointly payable to lawyers and their clients could create logistical problems if the two parties live in different cities. And she said clients already have to sign releases that state clearly how much their cases are settling for before they receive their money.

Wilkinson noted that restricting the amount of contingency fees lawyers charge could create “a serious access-to-justice problem.” She said her group is working with the law society to create a standardized contingency fee retainer agreement that would be easy for the public to understand.

“The Marshall report, in a couple of places, seems to suggest personal injury lawyers are part of the problem here,” she said. “We are not in opposition to our own clients. We are working together to try to get our clients fair compensation.”

Although Marshall’s report states insurers spend roughly the same amount on legal fees and expenses that lawyers charge in contingency fees, Steve Kee, a spokesperson for the industry group Insurance Bureau of Canada, says no one really knows how much money lawyers actually take from settlements.

“While our services, products and premiums are regulated, legal fees are not. No one knows exactly what lawyers pay their experts for their own assessments, so we have no idea how much of this money never makes it in the hands of accident victims,” he said.

“In the best interest of all Ontario drivers, we believe lawyers should be required to submit to the Superintendent of Insurance all information about their fees — including contingency fee arrangements, disbursements to expert witnesses, court-awarded and settled costs, and referral arrangements.”

Canadians have been paying income tax for 100 years

Update:

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The Canada Revenue Agency’s T1 General 2016 Income Tax and Benefit Return Form. Canadians have been paying income for 100 years. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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What began as a “small wartime generator” now accounts for 51% of all federal revenues

Oh Canada: If it feels like you’ve been paying taxes for 100 years, you’re right. Canada’s personal income tax hits the century mark this year.

And what began in 1917 as a small wartime revenue generator has ballooned to accounting for 51 per cent of federal revenues today and a “costly, complex behemoth that’s difficult to administer and makes Canada very uncompetitive,” concludes a new collection of essays by the Fraser Institute.

“The fears policymakers had in 1917 when the personal income tax was introduced — that governments would become dependent on it and that it would hurt our competitiveness — have all come true 100 years later,” says William Watson, associate professor and acting chair of the department of Economics at McGill University and a senior fellow at the right-leaning public policy think tank.
Officially named the War Tax Upon Incomes, it came into effect on Sept. 20, 1917. Though it was to be reviewed as a revenue generator after the war, “at least one MP confidently predicted, and celebrated, that it was here to stay,” notes Watson.
And boy was that guy right.

It launched with a 4 per cent tax on all income over $1,500 for single people. For everyone else, the personal exemption was $3,000. In today’s dollars, those exemptions would be worth about $24,500 and $50,000 respectively. By comparison, the basic personal exemption for 2016 is $11,474.

As a share of total federal revenue, income tax was a mere 2.6 per cent in 1918.

The main impetus for its creation was actually something that was also controversial at the time: conscription.

“A phrase in the air that summer was ‘the conscription of wealth’,” writes Watson in one of the essays. “If young men were to be conscripted, wealth should be, too.”

The finance minister at the time said the income tax was needed to finance the up to 100,000 additional soldiers, sailors, and airmen that conscription would deliver.

There were no credits or exemptions for children or other dependents, and no capital gains tax like today.

Canada Revenue Agency’s headquarters in Ottawa. The Canada Revenue Agency was known as the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) until a federal government reorganization in December 2003, when customs enforcement was moved into the Canada Border Services Agency, part of the Public Safety Canada portfolio. The CCRA was short-lived, having been created in a November 1999 reorganization of the federal government, where it had been known for many years under its statutory name, the Department of National Revenue. Before 1927, it was known as the Department of Inland Revenue. It was also referred to as Revenue Canada under the Federal Identity Program of the Treasury Board of Canada. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

The little tax really grew during World War II, with a flat 20 per cent surtax imposed on all income tax payable by anyone other than corporations in 1939. That was followed by the introduction of a new tax on income known as the National Defence Tax.

One of the essays in the collection, entitled “Zero to 50 in 100 Years”, argues that Canada’s personal income tax rates on its best and brightest workers have made the country uncompetitive compared to other developed countries and most U.S. states.

“Canada is already uncompetitive with the U.S. on personal income taxes, and with the Trump administration vowing to reduce taxes further, that gulf will likely grow,” Watson said.

“It is ironic that a tax that was anathema to federal politicians during the first 50 years after Confederation, and that many believe was brought in and sold as a temporary wartime measure, has come to be the dominant source of federal government revenue,” says an essay by Lakehead University economics professor Livio Di Matteo.

Even the income tax form itself has ballooned. It was just 23 lines long in 1917, and now has 328 lines.

Watson noted that the one certainty about personal income taxes is that “finance ministers never stop tinkering with them.” And that its death “is not inevitable but it might be desirable.”

Ontario has the most expensive auto insurance premiums in Canada and they’re rising again

Update: see post of April 15, 2017 Ontario roads safest in country but drivers pay the highest premiums, new report says

A 24K gold bar, weighing approximately 28 pounds. If you live and drive in Ontario, you should have an extra one of these tucked away to pay for the most expensive auto insurance premiums in Canada. Ontario drivers pay an average insurance premium of $1,458 per vehicle, which adds up to $10 billion a year.  photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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Provincial watchdog says approved rates in the first quarter rose on average by 1.24 per cent.

Auto insurance rates in Ontario rose in the first months of 2017, just as a government-commissioned report called the system one of the least effective in Canada.

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario says approved rates in the first quarter increased on average by 1.24 per cent.

In 2013, the Liberal government promised a 15-per-cent average cut by August 2015, but after that deadline came and went, Premier Kathleen Wynne admitted that was what she called a “stretch goal.”

The new approved rates put the government even further away from that already missed target, with the average cut since 2013 now a little over 7 per cent.

A report by Ontario’s auto insurance adviser quietly posted last week found that the province has the most expensive auto insurance premiums in Canada despite also having one of the lowest levels of accidents and fatalities.

David Marshall found that the average auto insurance premium in Ontario is $1,458, which is almost 55 per cent higher than the average of all other Canadian jurisdictions.

If Ontario’s premiums were closer to the Canadian average of about $930 it would save Ontario drivers almost 40 per cent — or about $4 billion a year, he wrote.

The system favours cash settlements in lieu of care, Marshall found. Sprains and strains — the majority of claims — often take more than a year to settle and about one-third of overall benefit costs goes toward competing expert opinions, lawyers’ fees and insurer costs to defend claims instead of going to treatment, he wrote.

Marshall’s recommendations include adopting a “care not cash” approach, exploring better ways to care for people who are catastrophically injured and making lawyers’ contingency fees more transparent.

The government says it will consult with stakeholders on the recommendations.

It has already lowered the maximum interest rate that an insurer can charge for monthly auto premium payments, prohibited minor at-fault accidents from boosting premiums and introduced a winter tire discount.

‘What does it mean for me?’ Ontario Tenants, landlords full of questions about new rent control rules

Update:

New rent control rules announced Thursday come after weeks of increased pressure on the government in light of stories about massive rent increases people, many featured as part the CBC Toronto series ‘No Fixed Address.’

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Rent control announcement promises protection for tenants living in units built after 1991

The provincial government’s announcement Thursday that it is extending rent control to all units built after 1991 has left many tenants and landlords with questions, many of which weren’t answered by the Ontario Fair Housing Plan.

Audience members reached out to CBC Toronto with those queries, so we put them to the ministry in an attempt to clarify the new rules in different scenarios.

Condo’s continue to spring up in the downtown core. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

Rent increase notice came before April 20

Joshua and his girlfriend got a notice on April 15 that their rent would be going up $300/month as of August 1. Will they have to pay?

Any notices of rent increases given before April 20 would fall under previous rules, meaning all units built after 1991 would not be subject to rent control. Since Joshua received his notice on April 15, his landlord has the right to raise his rent above the rate increase guideline.


Rent increase notice came on April 20

Susan received a notice from her landlord on April 20 — the same day the government announced new rules — saying her $1,500/month rent would be going up $300 in 90 days. What can she do?

The government’s new legislation, which is likely to pass considering the Liberals have a majority, enacts the rent control change as of April 20. This means any above-guideline increases made on or after April 20 would be against the law. For 2017, the increase is set at 1.5 per cent.

She could report her landlord to the Landlord and Tenant Board, but the landlord could also apply to the board for an exception if certain criteria are met.

Toronto condo apartment rent

Landlord gives eviction notice for ‘personal use’

Bob is Laura’s landlord. He tells Laura he wants to use his condo for himself and serves her with an eviction notice. The new law says tenants will be “adequately compensated” if this happens. What does this mean for Laura?

A ministry spokesperson says this information will be outlined when the government introduces the legislation, which will happen on Monday. Initial debates on the legislation are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. So right now, it’s unclear how much Bob would have to pay Laura.


Landlord’s hydro bills surpass inflation

Mary is a landlord and has seen her hydro and utility bills jump more than the rate of inflation. With rent increases now staying in line with inflation, what options does she have for raising her tenant’s rent?

As before, Mary will be able to apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for an above-guideline increase. She will still have to wait 12 months between increases and give 90 days written notice.

Landlords can apply if there are unusually high increases in property taxes or utility costs. But under the new law, Mary will not be able to apply for an above-guideline increase if any elevator work orders in her building are outstanding.


Rental ‘bidding war’

Mike wants to lease his condo at $1,700/month. Seven people submit rental applications, but Kevin offers Mike $1,800/month. Does Kevin get the condo?

There are no provisions in the Ontario Fair Housing Plan to stop rental bidding wars from happening. With the vacancy rate sitting at one per cent in Toronto, supply is still the lowest it’s been in seven years — meaning rental bidding wars are likely to keep happening and Mike can lease his condo to whoever he wants.

Condo vacancy

Landlord ups rent between tenants

Sarah decides to move out of her $1,900/month lease after one-year. Her landlord decides she’s going to list the condo at $2,700/month on MLS. Is she allowed to do this?

Landlords can increase the rent by any amount they wish in between tenants. There is nothing in Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan that protects rental rates between leases.


Seniors-only building increase

Lilian has a fixed income and lives in a seniors-only residence built in 1995. Her rent increases $100 every year, which is above the rental rate increase guideline. Is she protected under the new proposed legislation?

The government’s plan applies to all “private rental units” in Ontario, which are outlined by the Residential Tenancies Act. Not covered by the act are nursing homes, educational accommodations (dorms) and non-profit co-op housing — to name a few. But “most retirement homes” are covered by the act. However, because Lilian’s residence was built after 1991, she would have been exempt from rent control prior to April 20.

Poster of video clip


Landlord maintenance fees go up

Sam owns three condos in the same building and rents them out. After a flood, his maintenance fees have shot up exponentially. What can he do to recoup some of his costs from his tenants?

Sam can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for an above-guideline rent increase for capital expenses, which include major repairs or renovations that are not part of normal maintenance.

The board will schedule a hearing. The tenants are allowed to challenge their landlord’s application at the hearing. For capital expenses, the board can allow a landlord to increase rent by up to three per cent above the guideline for three years in a row. There is no limit to increases allowed because of taxes and utilities.

What questions do you have about the new Ontario Fair Housing Plan? Email us.