Monthly Archives: January 2019

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Foreign buyers aren’t to blame for Vancouver real estate chaos, says CMHC CEO

The CEO of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) says Vancouverites shouldn’t be blaming foreign buyers for the rise in home prices, or the recent decline.

Speaking to the Vancouver Board of Trade on Wednesday, Evan Siddall said the Vancouver real estate market of recent years has created a divide in the city’s population.

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“Rising housing prices have begun to create unhealthy tensions that are seemingly pitting Vancouverites against one another: established homeowners against younger families trying to get a foothold in the market and existing residents against newer arrivals,” Siddall said.

The tension toward foreign buyers, most notably displayed through the implementation of a 15 per cent foreign buyers tax in July, is not founded in fact, according to Siddall.

The former Goldman Sachs managing director cited domestic residential investing, population and economic growth, Canada’s tax laws, and supply issues as factors driving Metro Vancouver’s overheated housing market, along with foreign investment.

“While foreign investment clearly is a factor, it is not the only one.”

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: City of Vancouver says it mistakenly gave $1.5M break to real estate developer

Siddall also took aim at the media for their coverage of the Vancouver real estate market, but didn’t claim it was “racist.”

“When a white person buys a house, we don’t notice. When somebody of a different colour does, we do. That’s not good economics,” he said. “It’s a more captivating story than it is that somebody who has the same complexion as me bought a house for $30 million. Why is that not just as newsworthy?”

Responding to those who called the recent fall in home prices and sales activity since the foreign buyers tax proof of overseas influence, Siddall said the cooldown was beginning before the tax was announced. He also added similar taxes in Sydney and Hong Kong have been ineffective.

On July 29, the last business day before the B.C. foreign buyers tax was implemented, more than $850 million in residential property transactions involving foreign nationals in Metro Vancouver were registered. That was equal to more than 55 per cent of all transactions registered in Metro Vancouver on that day.

In contrast, the period of Aug. 2 to 31 saw 60 transactions in Metro Vancouver that involved foreign nationals. The total value of the properties transferred was $46.9 million, which, the government said, was less than one per cent of total Metro Vancouver transactions during that period.

READ MORE: Foreign buyers 1.3 per cent of Vancouver sales

READ MORE: Vancouver home sales plummet nearly 39% in October

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver’s November statistics report showed a continued drop in sales across the region, particularly in the detached housing market.

Siddall stressed that anxieties around the housing market shouldn’t be taken out on foreigners.

“It is vitally important that housing be a source of strength for our communities and for our economy,” he said. “We cannot allow it to become a wedge that divides us, separating neighbours and communities, and creates tensions between newcomers and those that have been here longer.”

With files from

Donald Trump to nominate James Mattis as secretary of defense

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump said Thursday he will nominate retired Gen. James Mattis to be his defense secretary, making the announcement at a post-election victory rally in Cincinnati.

Mattis, 66, is a Marine Corps general who retired in 2013 after serving as the commander of the U.S. Central Command.

READ MORE: Washington, Wall Street veterans get top jobs in Donald Trump Cabinet

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His selection raises questions about increased military influence in a job designed to insure civilian control of the armed forces. The concerns revolve around whether a recently retired service member would rely more on military solutions to international problems, rather than take a broader, more diplomatic approach.

For Mattis to be confirmed, Congress would first have to approve legislation bypassing a law that bars retired military officers from becoming defense secretary within seven years of leaving active duty.

Mattis has a reputation as a battle-hardened, tough-talking Marine who was entrusted with some of the most challenging commands in the U.S. military. In a tweet last month, Trump referred to Mattis by his nickname “Mad Dog” and described him as “A true General’s General!”

Mattis would be only the second retired general to serve as defense secretary, the first being George C. Marshall in 1950-51 during the Korean War. Marshall was a much different figure, having previously served as U.S. secretary of state and playing a key role in creating closer ties with Western Europe after World War II.

The only previous exception to the law requiring a gap after military service was for Marshall.

WATCH: While en route to Japan, U.S. Defense Secretary Carter was asked his opinion about James Mattis and whether he was qualified enough to be Defense Secretary

Although his record in combat and his credentials as a senior commander are widely admired, Mattis has little experience in the diplomatic aspects of the job of secretary of defense.

Richard Fontaine, president of the Center for a New American Security, described Mattis as a defense intellectual and as a military leader who distinguished himself in combat.

“He knows the Middle East, South Asia, NATO and other areas and has evinced both a nuanced approach to the wars we’re in and an appreciation for the importance of allies,” Fontaine said in an email exchange. “If he were to get the nomination, I suspect that he could attract a number of very talented people to work with him.”

READ MORE: Donald Trump interviews cabinet hopefuls in very public audition process

But Mattis hasn’t been immune to controversy. He was criticized for remarking in 2005 that he enjoyed shooting people. He also drew more recent scrutiny for his involvement with the embattled biotech company Theranos, where he serves on the board.

Born in Pullman, Washington, Mattis enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1969, later earning a history degree from Central Washington University. He was commissioned as an officer in 1972. As a lieutenant colonel, Mattis led an assault battalion into Kuwait during the first U.S. war with Iraq in 1991.

As head of the Central Command from 2010 until his retirement in 2013, he was in charge of both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Mattis commanded the Marines who launched an early amphibious assault into Afghanistan and established a U.S. foothold in the Taliban heartland.

As the first wave of Marines moved toward Kandahar, Mattis declared that, “The Marines have landed, and now we own a piece of Afghanistan.”

READ MORE: Trump and ‘Mad Dog’: ‘A true General’s General’ under consideration for defense role

Two years later, he helped lead the invasion into Iraq in 2003 as the two-star commander of the 1st Marine Division.

In 2005, he raised eyebrows when he told a San Diego forum that it was “fun to shoot some people.”

According to a recording of his remarks, Mattis said, “Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. … It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up front with you, I like brawling.”

He added, “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” Mattis continued. “You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

Mattis was counselled to choose his words more carefully.

A year later, Mattis came under scrutiny during one of the more high-profile criminal investigations of the Iraq war, the shooting deaths of 24 Iraqis by Marines.

READ MORE: Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric likely to fuel terrorist efforts to recruit fighters

The Iraqis, who included unarmed women and children, were killed by Marines in the town of Haditha after one of their comrades was killed by a roadside bomb. Eight Marines were charged in connection with the killings — four enlisted men were charged with unpremeditated murder and four officers who weren’t there at the time were accused of failures in investigating and reporting the deaths.

As commander of the accused Marines’ parent unit, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Mattis ultimately dismissed charges against most of the Marines.

As a top Marine general, Mattis pushed for the military to adopt blood-testing technology developed by Theranos.

As reported by The Washington Post , Mattis first met Theranos founder Elizabeth A. Holmes in 2011. A year later, according to emails obtained by The Post, Holmes used her connection to Mattis to pressure him to intervene after a Pentagon official raised concerns that the company was distributing its technology without approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

The emails show within hours after Holmes asked Mattis for help, he forwarded her email to other military officials asking them,”how do we overcome this new obstacle.”

Mattis joined the Theranos board the same year he retired. The company, which raised hundreds of millions of dollars on the promise of breakthrough blood-testing technology, was forced to invalidate two years of patients’ test results after the reliability of its proprietary blood-testing machinery was questioned by internal and government whistleblowers and investigative reporting by The Wall Street Journal.

Letestu, Draisaitl lead the way for Edmonton Oilers in 6-3 win over Winnipeg Jets

Mark Letestu and Leon Draisaitl each had two goals and an assist as the Edmonton Oilers used their power play to double up the Winnipeg Jets 6-3 on Thursday.

The Oilers went 3 for 4 on the power play, including Letestu’s pair, and continues to be one of the best road units in the league after entering the night with the seventh-best power play away from home.

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  • More help on the way for Winnipeg Jets with return of Toby Enstrom and Mathieu Perreault

  • Matthews helps Toronto Maple Leafs win 4-2 over Edmonton Oilers

  • Bryan Little returns to lineup as Winnipeg Jets win second straight game

  • Coyotes continue dominance over the Edmonton Oilers

  • Winnipeg Jets snap skid by beating Nashville Predators 3-0

    READ MORE: Edmonton Oilers GM says improvement visible in almost every area as team sits atop its division

    Patrick Maroon and Benoit Pouliot also scored for Edmonton (13-10-2) and Connor McDavid chipped in with three assists.

    Jets rookie Patrik Laine had two power-play goals to lift his season total to 15 — good for second behind Sidney Crosby’s 16. Bryan Little had the other for Winnipeg (11-13-2).

    READ MORE: Wayne Gretzky, Teemu Selanne see potential in Jets rookie Laine

    Cam Talbot made 21 saves for his 12th win of the season. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 23 of the 29 shots he faced before Michael Hutchinson came in to make four saves in just over 12 minutes of relief.

    Winnipeg went 2 for 4 with the man advantage thanks to Laine’s two one-timers.

    Little opened the scoring just 35 seconds into the game, firing a shot from the slot past Talbot high stick side. It was his first of the season after missing 23 games because of a knee injury suffered just minutes into Winnipeg’s season opener.

    The Oilers responded soon after with a power-play goal at 2:31. With Chris Thorburn off for high-sticking, Letestu’s third of the season came off a redirect on a Draisaitl point shot that beat Hellebuyck high glove side.

    Following Laine’s first, Edmonton found the equalizer 51 seconds into the second period as Draisaitl scored his eighth of the season on the power play, quickly picking up a rebound off a McDavid shot and sliding it past Hellebuyck.

    Letestu’s second of the game at 5:06 of the second period doubled his season goal total, while Milan Lucic and McDavid earned the assists.

    Maroon scored the eventual game-winner with his seventh of the season at 11:43 of the second on a wrist shot from the sideboards to make it 4-2.

    Laine and Draisaitl traded goals early in the third before Pouliot deflected an Andrej Sekera point shot at 7:33 to make it 6-3 and chase Hellebuyck from the game.

    The Oilers return to Edmonton for their next two games against Anaheim and Minnesota on Saturday and Sunday. The Jets, meanwhile, visit Central Division opponents St. Louis and Chicago in a weekend back-to-back as they attempt to put a halt to their six-game road losing streak.

Saskatoon property tax increase set at 3.89% in 2017 civic budget

After 17 hours of discussions, Saskatoon city council decided on a 3.89 per cent property tax increase in the 2017 civic budget.

For the average home in the city with an assessed value of $325,000, homeowners will pay an additional $66.18 in property taxes over the course of the year.

“While it is a back-to-basics budget in many ways, it also signals some significant changes in the way we’re doing a number our core operations,” Mayor Charlie Clark said.

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  • Saskatoon age-friendly initiative aims to give voice to older adults

  • City holds firm in contract dispute with Saskatoon Transit workers

    READ MORE: Saskatoon city council shelves branding, reduces Remai Modern funding

    During Wednesday’s discussions, council unanimously moved to cut $75,000 dollars from the Remai Modern art galley’s budget.

    The move was offset Thursday by a decision to increase Saskatoon Access Transit’s budget. A new access bus was already budgeted, but the extra money will allow transit to staff the bus.

    “You know people wait a week to book a bus and when they have appointments and things, that’s a real problem,” Coun. Bev Dubois said.

    Coun. Troy Davies motioned to increase funding to a bundle of social programs, which would have resulted in a 0.01 per cent increase in the property tax.

    His motion was defeated.

    “The kids in our wards are our responsibilities just as much as provincial or federal. So I would expect us to continue to lead the way and we’ll see if I can find a different way to do it,” Davies said.

    READ MORE: Commission approves $3.32M increase to 2017 Saskatoon police budget

    For a fifth consecutive budget, Davies brought up the need for more hockey rinks in the city.

    Council voted in favour of a $79,900 decision to add a new employee to provide support to city councillors.

    In total, the City of Saskatoon will add the equivalent of 57.4 full-time positions in 2017.

Toronto senior found guilty of 2nd-degree murder in death of long-term care home resident

TORONTO – A Toronto senior who used his cane to attack a fellow long-term care home resident more than three years ago was found guilty late Thursday of second-degree murder in the woman’s death.

Peter Brooks, 76, had pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of 72-year-old Jocelyn Dickson.

He was also charged with the attempted murder of another fellow resident, 91-year-old Lourdes Missier, but was found not guilty on that charge.

Brooks, who has been in custody and attended his trial in a wheelchair, had testified that a spirit in a dream had told him to “beat the crap” out of the two women and insisted he didn’t actually intend to harm anyone.

WATCH: Toronto senior testifies at second-degree murder trial (Oct. 18)

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A second degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence. A sentencing hearing is set for January to determine parole eligibility.

His trial heard that late one night in March 2013, Brooks used his cane to attack Dickson and Missier in their beds at the Wexford Residence in Toronto’s east end.

Brooks’ defence lawyer had urged jurors to find the elderly man not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder, arguing that Brooks has dementia and was unable to appreciate the nature of his actions.

But the Crown argued Brooks was not delusional and knew his actions were not only legally wrong, but morally wrong as well.

The trial heard Brooks, who came to Canada from Jamaica decades ago, had testy relations with both Dickson and Missier, who he described as “annoying” and aggravating him constantly.

The jury heard Brooks attacked Missier first, swinging his cane at the head of the woman who was awake at the time and raised her hands to protect herself. She was left with fractured fingers, bruises and lacerations on her face.

READ MORE: Toronto senior on trial for murder says spirit told him in a dream to beat up 2 women

While staff were responding to what happened to Missier, Brooks quietly made his way to another floor, where Dickson, a woman who was paralysed on one side of her body, was asleep in her bed, the trial heard.

Using his cane once more, Brooks delivered at least seven distinct blows to Dickson’s head causing “massive” injuries that led to the woman’s death, the Crown has said. The force of the blows was strong enough to break off the top of Brooks’ cane.

The trial heard that Brooks then tried to make his way to the room of another woman he had a rocky relationship with but was stopped by staff who, only after a violent struggle, were able to wrestle away his cane.

Brooks’ lawyer had argued that his client believed residents at the Wexford were “conspiring against him” and consequently felt justified in his actions because of his delusional belief.

The defence lawyer also suggested staff at the nursing home completely mishandled the situation on the night of the attacks, calling them “incompetent and ill-equipped.”

READ MORE: Lawyer says Toronto senior charged with murder should be found not criminally responsible

Brooks testified he believed the women who were attacked were united in an alleged attempt to have him moved out of the facility.

Two forensic psychiatrists who testified at the trial found Brooks had dementia, though they disagreed on the level of the condition, with one saying it was mild and the other saying it was moderate.

Both psychiatrists also agreed Brooks has damage to the frontal lobe of his brain – which deals with impulse control, emotional regulation and perspective – appeared disinhibited, and did not appear to appreciate the seriousness of the proceedings against him.

The psychiatrists disagreed, however, on the extent of the dementia’s effect on Brooks and his actions – one found it was only probable that Brooks was acting on a delusion on the night of the attacks while the other said it was possible.

READ MORE: How seniors’ home safety changed since cane-beating death of resident

The trial also heard from a geriatric psychiatrist who assessed Brooks a year before the attacks and found the senior represented a “chronic risk” to the home’s frail residents.

Dr. Stephen Barsky told the trial that he examined Brooks in April 2012 after receiving reports of three incidents of aggression by the man against other residents at the home and found the man somewhat irritable, sarcastic and not fully co-operative.

Barsky said he had concerns about Brooks’ level of judgement and felt the senior would be better off in a psychiatric group home where there might not be other frail elderly people he could prey on.