Ontario’s contractors punished for prematurely cracked roads, $8M construction bonuses slashed

Update:

New provincial highway action plan addresses costly repairs to premature cracks in pavement on roads that should last 15 years . photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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Highway construction action plan fixes Ontario’s costly repairs to roads that should last 15 years

Ontario will stop giving highway contractors certain bonuses for asphalt quality after the auditor general reported some were tampering with samples.

It’s one of several dozen items the Liberal government says it will address in an Action Plan for Highway Construction Contracts and Oversight released Friday.

In her annual report, the auditor general slammed the government for poor road contractor oversight, saying pavement on some Ontario roads and highways that is supposed to last 10 to 15 years starts to crack after just two or three.

She also found that the ministry was paying $8 million in bonuses each year to contractors who provide the quality of asphalt required in their contract, and bonuses even went to contractors who tampered with their asphalt samples just to get them.

Motorists often find the quality of road repairs to be sub-standard, requiring many unnecessary repairs. Photo by fightyourtickets.ca

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca says the measures in the action plan will go into effect this construction season to ensure “Ontario’s highway network can withstand regular use and our harsh climate.”

He says Ontario will also be conducting more inspections, requiring suppliers to certify that they are providing high quality asphalt cement and creating an expert panel to advise the ministry on contract provisions.

Assaults on Toronto Parking Enforcement Officers Double in Last Few Years

Update:

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Some parking enforcement officers are overzealous while issuing parking tickets to meet their quota. photo by fightyourtickets.ca.

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After a female parking officer was allegedly pushed by a taxi driver while issuing a ticket near Yorkville earlier this week, the Toronto police parking enforcement unit is sounding the alarm about a sharp increase in assaults against its officers, saying they’ve more than doubled in the last two years.

Assaults against the officers climbed steadily from 16 in 2014 to 37 in 2016, representing an increase of more than 100 per cent, according to parking enforcement operations supervisor Brian Moniz. This year alone, there have already been another seven assaults, he says.

The majority of the incidents involve officers being pushed, shoved or having their feet or arms hit or run over by vehicles, Moniz told CBC Toronto.

“Unfortunately, a lot of times I think people just see the uniform and they obviously don’t know us as individuals. We’re human just like everyone else,” said Peter Bouhs, a shift supervisor with Parking Enforcement West.

“They don’t realize that when they’re assaulting one of us, we are actually peace officers in the course of our duties — and they will be charged with that,” he said.

parking enforcement Toronto
The Toronto Police parking enforcement unit is warning about a sharp increase in assaults against its officers, saying incidents more than doubled in the last two year

Bouhs says general frustrations among drivers, the hustle and bustle of city life and simply a bad day often can make the routine job of a parking officer a challenge.

Parking Enforcement Officers are told not to ticket motorists while they are sitting in their parked vehicles. Often these directives are ignored by parking enforcement officers who are attempting to meet their daily parking ticket quota. photo by fightyourtickets.ca.

Racism, physical assaults not uncommon

And he’s not alone.

Nigel Fernandes has been doing the job for some nine years. During that time, he says he’s experienced everything from obscenities hurled at him, racial remarks and once had a woman drive over his foot.

“Fire [services] came and literally had to cut my foot out of my boot,” Fernandes said. “One foot is probably a quarter of an inch larger than the other, so I do notice.”

The job can take a toll on officers, says Fernandes, who see everything from severe accidents to children being left alone in vehicles.

“It’s an emotional beat-down every day but we learn to persevere and work through,” he said.

Bouhs says another possible explanation for the increase could be a spike in fines by the city for certain kinds of offences.

His Worship Patrick Marum was appointed to the court as a Justice of the Peace on September 7, 2006. As a result of Judge Strathy’s decision in Association of Justices of the Peace of Ontario v. Ontario (Attorney General) [2008] O.J. No. 2131 (Superior Court of Justice), the mandatory retirement age for justices of the peace is now age 75.
Sometimes, an overuse of street and traffic signs makes it confusing for motorists to understand whether it is permitted to park or not. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

Fines for certain offences up too

Last spring, the city raised fines by as much as $110 for drivers caught blocking a sidewalk, parking in a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane, double parking or stopping in a TTC zone.

Parking officers are trained to avoid confrontation at all costs and calmly explain to people what their options are for fighting tickets in court, says Bouhs.

“But if they feel that they are in danger, then we’re obviously going to call the police,” he said.

Ultimately, he’d like the public to understand officers are just doing their jobs.

“You don’t want to have a criminal record over a parking ticket. It’s just not worth it.”

As for the taxi driver in Wednesday’s incident, he was arrested, police said in a a release Friday — and charged with assaulting a peace officer.

 

TransUnion, Equifax fined by U.S. watchdog for misleading consumers about credit scores

Update:

Credit monitoring companies such as Equifax and TransUnion offer consumers a peek at their credit histories.
Credit monitoring companies such as Equifax and TransUnion offer consumers a peek at their credit histories. ((iStock))

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Firms must pay $23 million US in fines and reimbursements

Two of the largest credit monitoring firms have been fined by a major U.S. financial watchdog for misleading consumers about the value of the services they provide.

Equifax and TransUnion — based in Atlanta and Chicago, respectively — have been fined a total of $5.5 million US for luring unwitting consumers “into costly recurring payments for credit-related products with false promises,” the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said in a release. In addition to the fine, both companies have been ordered to reimburse consumers for $17.6 million they shouldn’t have been charged for services.

Credit scores

Along with others in the industry, both companies make money by selling consumers information about their credit histories, which is used to determine the rates and loan amounts they will be offered by lenders in the future. They both also sell services aimed at keeping their private information safe and secure, also with an aim of making customers more credit-worthy.

One of their major services is to give customers their credit score, which is a number tabulated to summarize their overall credit-worthiness. A higher score means the person is a solid bet to repay a loan. A lower score means they are less so — and by extension might need to take steps to improve their credit. One of the services the companies offer to help do that is known as credit monitoring, which the companies sell for as much as $16 per month.

The reporting agencies base the scores on a consumer’s history of paying off debt, how much debt they carry and other factors.

But the CFPB said the scores sold to consumers by TransUnion and Equifax were not typically used by lenders to make credit decisions.

Instead, lenders evaluate potential borrowers by using an array of credit scores, which vary by score provider and scoring model. Different credit “scores” are not necessarily correlated to each other, a CFPB report from 2012 found, which means consumers could be misled about their actual credit-worthiness if they paid attention solely to the information being given to them from one company.

“TransUnion and Equifax deceived consumers about the usefulness of the credit scores they marketed, and lured consumers into expensive recurring payments with false promises,” said CFPB director Richard Cordray. “Credit scores are central to a consumer’s financial life and people deserve honest and accurate information about them.”

The agency says TransUnion has been misleading consumers about their actual credit scores since at least 2011. Equifax, meanwhile, was doing the same between 2011 up to 2014.

TransUnion said in a statement it continues to believe that its advertising has been clear and has complied with laws.

“Our trial credit monitoring service has given consumers low-cost access to their credit report and credit score and allowed them to conveniently cancel monitoring services at any time online or by phone,” the company said. “However, we are committed to making improvements to our consumer experience, and over the past several months we have worked co-operatively with the CFPB to be the industry leader in designing the enhanced, voluntary marketing disclosures that go beyond the current legal and regulatory requirements to which we agreed as part of this settlement.”

TransUnion noted that the company’s practices in Canada are not included in the CFPB action.

“Consumer solutions offered by TransUnion Canada remain in compliance with all applicable local laws,” TransUnion said. “As always, we remain committed to providing consumers with access to information about their credit that can help them make informed financial decisions.”

Equifax noted that the CFPB’s investigation continued for nearly three years, and said it made changes to address the agency’s concerns soon after the investigation began. “While Equifax does not believe it has violated any laws and has not admitted any liability, Equifax determined it was in its best interest to resolve the matter with the CFPB,” the company’s statement said.

Know your consumer rights in Ontario if you want to join a gym

Update:

Queen's Park. Through lack of enforcement, Premier Wynn and Labour Minister Kevin Flynn are allowing workers to be exploited with consequences far and few between for the employers breaking the laws of Ontario. Even when an employer refuses to pay a worker what there owed, the likelihood is that that employer will not have to pay; even after the Ministry of Labour is made aware of the violations of the <a href=
Queen’s Park. Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act protects those who want to join a gym or to leave a gym. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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Ministry of Government and Consumer Services

As the New Year begins, Ontario is reminding consumers about their rights when they join a gym or fitness club.

January is the perfect time to put healthy lifestyle goals into action. It’s also a time when gyms and fitness clubs offer tempting financial incentives like free passes and time-sensitive promotions for classes and memberships.

Before you sign a contract, make sure that the gym or facility you choose is the right fit for you:

  • Hours and class times are convenient for you
  • Trainers and instructors are knowledgeable
  • Facilities are clean and not overcrowded.

If you’re ready to make a commitment to a gym or fitness club, remember you have consumer rights that protect you under Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act.

You have a 10-day cooling-off period

You have the right to cancel a gym membership within 10 days of receiving a written copy of your contract, without providing a reason. All you need to do is give notice to the business, preferably in writing. Use this 10-day cooling-off period to test out the facility to see if it’s right for you.

You have the option to pay monthly

You can choose to pay month-to-month instead of paying up-front for the whole year. The business can charge up to 25 per cent more for monthly payments than the total cost of the annual, up-front fee. However, monthly payments provide flexibility and convenience.

All contracts must end after a year

The gym or fitness club must send you a renewal notice between 30 and 90 days before your contract expires, listing any changes to your new contract. If you receive a renewal notice and do not respond to it, the business has the right to renew your contract. Ask about the club’s renewal policy and how you will be contacted to renew.

Protecting consumers is part of our plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives.

Quick Facts:

  • The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services dealt with more than 1,110 gym and fitness club-related complaints and inquiries between 2015 and 2016. Most common topics included contract cancellations, billing disputes and the 10-day cooling-off period.
  • Contracts for a gym or sports club membership or for classes such as martial arts or dance are called personal development services under the Consumer Protection Act. The rules apply where pre-payment of more than $50 is required.
  • Consumer Protection Ontario is an awareness program from Ontario’s Ministry of Government and Consumer Services and other public organizations, known as administrative authorities, that promote consumer rights and public safety.

Additional Resources:

 

Know Your Rights Before Joining a Gym

TTC – Fare Prices Rise in 2017

Update:

TTC Streetcar stopped at intersection with passengers boarding and exiting. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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2017 TTC Fare Increase

On Monday, November 21, the TTC Board approved a fare increase to take effect on January 1, 2017.

The Board approved a 10 cent increase to the cost of a token and PRESTO e-purse, as well as a $4.75 increase to the cost of a Metropass. Senior/Student fares (cash and tickets) will increase by 10 cents. The cost of a Day Pass will increase to $12.50 and Downtown Express Stickers will increase to $43.00.

The TTC Board also voted to freeze the current price of adult cash fares.

Adult2016 fareCurrent new fare
CashCurrent fare is $3.25New fare is the same, $3.25
TokenCurrent fare is $2.90New fare has changed to $3.00
PRESTO E-PurseCurrent fare is $2.90New fare has changed to $3.00
Weekly PassCurrent fare is $42.25New fare has changed to $43.75
Regular MetropassCurrent fare is $141.50New fare has changed to $146.25
VIP Tier 1 (50-249)Current fare is $127.25New fare has changed to $131.75
VIP Tier 2 (250-499)Current fare is $125.75New fare has changed to $130.25
VIP Tier 3 (500+)Current fare is $124.50New fare has changed to $128.75
MDPCurrent fare is $129.75New fare has changed to $134.00
Post Secondary MetropassCurrent fare is $112.00New fare has changed to $116.75
Senior/StudentCurrent FareNew Fare
CashCurrent fare is $2.00New fare has changed to $2.10
TicketCurrent fare is $1.95New fare has changed to $2.05
PRESTO E-PurseCurrent fare is $1.95New fare has changed to $2.05
Weekly PassCurrent fare is $33.00New fare has changed to $34.75
Regular MetropassCurrent fare is $112.00New fare has changed to$116.75
MDPCurrent fare is $102.75New fare has changed to $107.00

Children 12 years of age and under continue to ride free.

Other Fares2016 fareCurrent new fare
Day Pass/Group/Family Pass/E-TicketCurrent fare is $12.00New fare has changed to $12.50
GTA Weekly PassCurrent fare is $61.00New fare has changed to $63.00
Downtown Express StickerCurrent fare is $41.50New fare will change to $43.00

 

Pass Vending Machines

Located in select Subway Stations, the Pass Vending Machine offers a variety of passes for purchase by credit card and debit card.

  • Monthly Metropasses passes are sold starting the 24th of the month prior to the month they are valid.
  • Weekly passes are sold from the previous Thursday, until the Tuesday of the week for which the pass will be used.
  • The Pass Vending Machine (PVM) accepts payment by debit card and credit card (Visa, Mastercard, or American Express).
  • Some subway stations have more than one PVM; the passes sold in each PVM may differ and are subject to availability.
Pass Vending Machine – Sales Locations and Pass Types

Bathurst

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Adult
weekly

Bay

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

Bloor-Yonge

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Adult
weekly

Broadview

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Adult
weekly

College

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

Davisville

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Adult
weekly

Don Mills

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

GTA
weekly

Downsview

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

GTA
weekly

Dundas

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

Dundas West

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

Eglinton

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

Finch

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

GTA
weekly

Islington

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

GTA
weekly

Kennedy

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

King

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

Kipling

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

GTA
weekly

Main Street

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

North York Centre

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

Osgoode

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Adult
weekly

Ossington

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Adult
weekly

Queen

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Adult
weekly

Queen’s Park

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

Scarborough Centre

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

GTA
weekly

Sheppard-Yonge

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

Sherbourne

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

St Clair

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Adult
weekly

St George

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

St Patrick

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

Union

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

GTA
weekly

Warden

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Post-Secondary
monthly

Adult
weekly

York Mills

Adult
monthly

Senior/Student
monthly

Adult
weekly