TVO.org: New report warns that Ontario must change its fiscal ways

TVO.org: New report warns that Ontario must change its fiscal ways

An aging population will make it difficult for Ontario to handle its debt and budget challenges over the next 35 years, according to a new report from the province’s Financial Accountability Office.

“Over the next three decades, Ontario will experience major shifts in its population and the economy as the large baby-boom cohort transitions from work into retirement and eventually into old age,” said David Wake, the temporary financial accountability officer, at press conference at Queen’s Park on Thursday. “Without significant changes to Ontario’s fiscal policy, the FAO’s projections suggest that the province will face substantial long-term budgetary challenges.”

The report is the FAO’s first long-term budget outlook, and it contains strong warnings for this and future Ontario governments about the province’s fiscal position.

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TVO: Multi-sport athlete soldiers on at the Invictus Games

TVO: Multi-sport athlete soldiers on at the Invictus Games

here was a time when Sergeant Brenda McPeak preferred not to talk about her health issues — but competing in this year’s Invictus Games has made her feel comfortable discussing them.

cPeak joined the Canadian Forces as a reservist when she was still in high school. Six years later, she joined the regular forces as a mobile support equipment operator, driving large vehicles, such as trucks and buses. “We deliver all the goods to the front-line guys,” she says. “We deliver all their food, their ammo, their beans and bullets, as we call it, and their mail. And transport even the troops sometimes.” In 2003, McPeak was sent on the very first rotation to Afghanistan — for eight months, she helped build the Canadian camp in Kabul. “Every day I was out on the roads from camp to camp, going to the Brit camp, the Germans, the Italians.”

Even being in a support role in the military can take a physical toll. “Being a trucker’s hard on your body, lifting supplies and fuel cans and water cans,” McPeak says. In 2012, she suffered a back injury. “I think that it was festering over time.” She’d just been posted to Gander, Newfoundland, and was unpacking at her new home. “I was picking clothes out of a box, and snap, crackle, pop, my back went.”

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TVO: Meet a veteran who’s in it to win it at the Invictus Games

TVO: Meet a veteran who’s in it to win it at the Invictus Games

After Mike Trauner lost his legs in December 2008, doctors told him he’d never walk again and would be in a wheelchair the rest of his life. But eight months later, he walked the five-kilometre Canada Army Run in Ottawa on prosthetics. And this week in Toronto, he’ll be competing in rowing and cycling at the Invictus Games.

That day in 2008, Trauner came close to losing more than his legs.

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TVO: ‘Everybody’s there to give’r’: Veteran serves Canada in a new way

TVO: ‘Everybody’s there to give’r’: Veteran serves Canada in a new way

At the 2017 Invictus Games, being held in Toronto from Sept. 23 to 30, retired sergeant Tyron Lincoln will be competing in three different sports — wheelchair rugby, cycling, and track and field — even though he battles chronic pain.

An accident that occurred while he was loading a bomb onto a fighter jet left him with a linear skull fracture. “So I suffer from severe headaches,” he explains. “I suffer from severe pain all the time. So I’m at a pain management clinic, and they can’t do nothing. The doctor just tells me, ‘You know what, you’ve got to live with it.’”

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TVO: Veteran finds a new community at his first Invictus Games

TVO: Veteran finds a new community at his first Invictus Games

For most of Al McFarlane’s 35 years with the Canadian Forces, he served as an aviation technician in the Air Force. But near the end of his military career, he worked at Defence Research and Development Canada as a crash and casualty investigator, studying the protective equipment worn by members of the Forces who died in Afghanistan. “We’d have to go to the morgue and pick up all the personal protective equipment that was on the bodies, take it back to our lab, and try and see how we can make that gear more efficient, safer for the troops in theatre,” he says.

McFarlane remembers exactly how many casualties he saw: 89. He had to analyze everything from their socks to their flack vests. At a certain point, he started responding personally to the victims. “I learned their names and I learned their faces,” he says.

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TVO: New report says GTA small businesses need to think big

TVO: New report says GTA small businesses need to think big

A new report argues small and medium-sized GTA businesses need to trade more with the world — and especially Europe — to boost economic growth.

According to the report, published Wednesday by the Toronto Region Board of Trade, only 4 per cent of Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (those with fewer than 500 employees, also known as SMEs) export. That’s compared to 28 per cent in Germany, 27 per cent in France, and 24 per cent in Japan. Among G7 nations, Canada finishes last.

By comparison, 23 per cent of large Canadian firms trade internationally. The report found that if the same proportion of SMEs did so, they would generate $225 billion more in exports and create 2 million new jobs.

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TVO: Liberals roll out rules for rolling up in Ontario

TVO: Liberals roll out rules for rolling up in Ontario

Ontario’s Liberal government announced today that as of next July, consumers will be able to buy marijuana online and at 40 LCBO-run retail outlets.

The date is in line with the federal government’s plan to legalize pot by July 1, 2018. By the end of 2020, 150 small stand-alone stores should be up and running across the province. The legal age for purchase will be 19, one year higher than the minimum set by the federal government earlier this year.

Edibles and oils will not be on sale in Ontario, only dried cannabis, in line with federal requirements. The province is waiting on federal guidance on labelling and packaging, and had no comment on the potency of the pot that would be on offer.

Consumption will be limited to private residences, at least at the start. So while individuals will be able to spark up in their backyard, they won’t be allowed to use the drug in public spaces, at work, or in their cars. Yasir Naqvi, Ontario’s attorney general, said there may be opportunities in the future for licensing private establishments for the consumption of pot.

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TVO: Five things Canada wants in a new, progressive NAFTA — and how they could play out

TVO: Five things Canada wants in a new, progressive NAFTA — and how they could play out

The first round of negotiations toward a new North American Free Trade Agreement starts Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland laid out Canada’s priorities in a speech at the University of Ottawa earlier this week.

Besides promising to modernize the trade deal, cut red tape, ease the movement of professionals across borders, and improve government procurement, Freeland emphasized that Canada would seek to make NAFTA a “more progressive” deal.

To this government, making the deal more progressive means adding chapters on labour safeguards, the environment and climate change, gender rights, and Indigenous issues, and it means reforming investor-state dispute resolution.

“Freeland was really focusing on a new agenda, or pushing out the envelope of what’s possible,” says Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Centre in Washington. “And I think she did that because it’s important to Canadians, and it’s important to the Trudeau government.”

“When I look at Freeland’s agenda, I say, wow, good luck with that. Trade agreements are tough, and it’s really hard to put binding commitments into trade agreements that encourage positive behaviour,” she says. “Trade agreements are much better at the ‘thou shalt not’ stuff … But we don’t really know what’s possible to achieve until you put the stuff on the table.”

So what could these new progressive chapters look like?

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TVO: Five things business wants from the Ontario government

TVO: Five things business wants from the Ontario government

Ontario’s standing committee on finance and economic affairs criss-crossed the province in July, hearing out labour groups, businesses, and other interested parties on Bill 148 — the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act. The bill includes a $15 minimum wage, more personal leave and vacation time, and measures to prevent employers from changing or cancelling shifts on less than 48 hours’ notice.

But some businesses are wondering how they’ll manage to deal with the changes. “Bill 148 is ill-advised,” says Karl Baldauf, vice-president of policy and government relations at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “The government has not provided for the kind of economic analysis that you would expect from a piece of legislation that’s going to have such profound impact as quick as it will on the Ontario economy.”

Earlier this summer, we asked labour groups what they wanted the government to add to Bill 148. So what do businesses want the government to do?

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TVO: Should we privatize Canada's airports?

TVO: Should we privatize Canada's airports?

Although it wasn’t included in this year’s federal budget, the government could still move on privatizing Canadian airports. Recent reports reveal the Liberals have asked consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to advise on how the feds could “act as a commercial adviser assisting with additional analytical work with respect to advancing a new governance framework for one or more Canadian airports” — in other words, how changes to the way Canadian-owned and -operated airports might be made.

Canada’s eight largest airports have since 1992 been run by private non-profits on land leased from the federal government. According to a report by the C.D. Howe Institute released earlier this year, Canada is the only country in the world that does things this way.

“The Mulroney government had us going down the path of full [privatization], but the Chrétien government made a promise to halt it in the early 1990s,” says Benjamin Dachis, associate director of research at the C.D. Howe Institute. “What they came up with instead was a classic Canadian comprise of starting along a path but not going all the way, because nobody was sure at the time what fully for-profit airports would look like.”

Disagreements over the best path forward have persisted ever since. Even airport authorities disagree: Ontario’s two biggest airports, Toronto’s Pearson and Ottawa’s Macdonald–Cartier, are on opposite sides of the fight.

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