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Canada's House Prices Spike, But Economists Call It A ‘Soft Landing'

Canada’s House Prices Spike, But Economists Call It A ‘Soft Landing’.

The Huffington Post Canada  |  Posted: 03/17/2014 11:14 am EDT

house prices canada

Some economists are calling it a “soft landing,” because sales volumes have fallen and aren’t coming back up, but house prices in Canada showed no signs of easing up in February.

Prices for sales of previously owned homes jumped 10.1 per cent in the year to February, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) reported Monday.

The average price for a re-sold house in Canada in February was $406,372, up from around $368,000 in February of last year.

But CREA trimmed its sales forecast for the rest of the year, noting that a slump in sales volumes isn’t showing signs of rebound. It now expects 463,000 sales this year, compared to 475,000 forecast in its December outlook.

TD economist Diana Petramala noted that the number of sales is down 9.3 per cent from its peak last August, and picked up by just 0.3 per cent in February.

Those are “signs of a soft landing,” Petramala wrote in a client note.

“The performance of Canada’s housing market over the last few months is largely reflective of a cooling in Canadian housing demand. Sales are moving at a pace that is neither too hot, nor too cold,” Petramala wrote.

She noted that the one thing that hasn’t happened is a slowing in house price growth, “but that too will likely come.” She says house prices are rising because of a shortage of supply in some cities, but that will be solved as new homes come online.

But she suggested prices of single-family homes could still keep going up.

“Most of the overbuilding occurred in the multi-unit segment of the market and will likely not help alleviate some of the supply constraints building in the more popular single-family home market,” Petramala wrote.

— With files from the Canadian Press

Canada’s House Prices Spike, But Economists Call It A ‘Soft Landing’

Canada’s House Prices Spike, But Economists Call It A ‘Soft Landing’.

The Huffington Post Canada  |  Posted: 03/17/2014 11:14 am EDT

house prices canada

Some economists are calling it a “soft landing,” because sales volumes have fallen and aren’t coming back up, but house prices in Canada showed no signs of easing up in February.

Prices for sales of previously owned homes jumped 10.1 per cent in the year to February, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) reported Monday.

The average price for a re-sold house in Canada in February was $406,372, up from around $368,000 in February of last year.

But CREA trimmed its sales forecast for the rest of the year, noting that a slump in sales volumes isn’t showing signs of rebound. It now expects 463,000 sales this year, compared to 475,000 forecast in its December outlook.

TD economist Diana Petramala noted that the number of sales is down 9.3 per cent from its peak last August, and picked up by just 0.3 per cent in February.

Those are “signs of a soft landing,” Petramala wrote in a client note.

“The performance of Canada’s housing market over the last few months is largely reflective of a cooling in Canadian housing demand. Sales are moving at a pace that is neither too hot, nor too cold,” Petramala wrote.

She noted that the one thing that hasn’t happened is a slowing in house price growth, “but that too will likely come.” She says house prices are rising because of a shortage of supply in some cities, but that will be solved as new homes come online.

But she suggested prices of single-family homes could still keep going up.

“Most of the overbuilding occurred in the multi-unit segment of the market and will likely not help alleviate some of the supply constraints building in the more popular single-family home market,” Petramala wrote.

— With files from the Canadian Press

Ontario's Job Market Squeezing Out Middle Earners: Report

Ontario’s Job Market Squeezing Out Middle Earners: Report.

The Huffintgon Post Canada  |  Posted: 03/16/2014 1:11 pm EDT  |  Updated: 03/16/2014 1:59 pm EDT

ontario jobs

Ontario’s job market is shifting away from full-time, permanent work and towards part-time and temporary work, and middle-wage jobs are being squeezed out in the process, says a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

According to CCPA economist Kylie Thiessen, middle-skilled jobs are disappearing and are being replaced by both high-skilled and low-skilled jobs.

“More Ontarians are earning either below $30,000 per year or above $60,000 compared to 2000, while the share of workers earning between $30,000 and $60,000 (in 2011 constant dollars) has shrunk from 31 per cent in 2000 to 26.5 per cent in 2011,” the report said.

Some of that has to do with the rapid erosion of manufacturing jobs, the report argues.

“At the turn of the century, manufacturing jobs made up more than 18 per cent of Ontario’s labour market. By the end of 2013, after shedding 290,000 jobs over 13 years, the manufacturing sector represented only 11 per cent of the jobs in Ontario.”

The big shift to part-time and temp work began long before the recession of 2008-09, the report notes, with those types of jobs outgrowing full-time jobs since the start of the century.

Service jobs and construction jobs — the product of Ontario’s ongoing housing boom — have picked up the slack from manufacturing.

The report notes “a dramatic increase in service-related jobs and precarious work,” with service jobs now accounting for 79 per cent of all jobs up from 73 per cent in 2000. In all, one million service jobs have been created in Ontario since the start of the century.

But the province still hasn’t fully recovered from the recession. Because of population growth, Ontario would need another 270,000 jobs to get back to employment levels seen in 2008, before the recession.

ccpa employment rate

Ontarians are spending more time unemployed when they lose their jobs. The average duration of unemployment is now at 22 weeks, a 50-per-cent increase since 2009, the report says. Only Quebec has longer unemployment duration.

The province’s ongoing housing boom has picked up some of the slack from disappearing manufacturing jobs, with some 140,000 new construction jobs created since 2000.

But about 55 per cent of those new jobs are in Toronto alone, highlighting the fact that inequality among regions is growing.

While job losses have been spread fairly evenly across the province, job gains have been concentrated in certain areas, such as Toronto, Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo and Barrie, which all saw more than 20-per-cent increases in jobs since 2000. Hamilton-Niagara, London, Windsor-Sarnia and northwestern Ontario have seen net job losses in that time.

The report said that government austerity at both the federal and provincial level has also contributed to lacklustre job growth in recent years.

ccpa unemployment

Ontario’s Job Market Squeezing Out Middle Earners: Report

Ontario’s Job Market Squeezing Out Middle Earners: Report.

The Huffintgon Post Canada  |  Posted: 03/16/2014 1:11 pm EDT  |  Updated: 03/16/2014 1:59 pm EDT

ontario jobs

Ontario’s job market is shifting away from full-time, permanent work and towards part-time and temporary work, and middle-wage jobs are being squeezed out in the process, says a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

According to CCPA economist Kylie Thiessen, middle-skilled jobs are disappearing and are being replaced by both high-skilled and low-skilled jobs.

“More Ontarians are earning either below $30,000 per year or above $60,000 compared to 2000, while the share of workers earning between $30,000 and $60,000 (in 2011 constant dollars) has shrunk from 31 per cent in 2000 to 26.5 per cent in 2011,” the report said.

Some of that has to do with the rapid erosion of manufacturing jobs, the report argues.

“At the turn of the century, manufacturing jobs made up more than 18 per cent of Ontario’s labour market. By the end of 2013, after shedding 290,000 jobs over 13 years, the manufacturing sector represented only 11 per cent of the jobs in Ontario.”

The big shift to part-time and temp work began long before the recession of 2008-09, the report notes, with those types of jobs outgrowing full-time jobs since the start of the century.

Service jobs and construction jobs — the product of Ontario’s ongoing housing boom — have picked up the slack from manufacturing.

The report notes “a dramatic increase in service-related jobs and precarious work,” with service jobs now accounting for 79 per cent of all jobs up from 73 per cent in 2000. In all, one million service jobs have been created in Ontario since the start of the century.

But the province still hasn’t fully recovered from the recession. Because of population growth, Ontario would need another 270,000 jobs to get back to employment levels seen in 2008, before the recession.

ccpa employment rate

Ontarians are spending more time unemployed when they lose their jobs. The average duration of unemployment is now at 22 weeks, a 50-per-cent increase since 2009, the report says. Only Quebec has longer unemployment duration.

The province’s ongoing housing boom has picked up some of the slack from disappearing manufacturing jobs, with some 140,000 new construction jobs created since 2000.

But about 55 per cent of those new jobs are in Toronto alone, highlighting the fact that inequality among regions is growing.

While job losses have been spread fairly evenly across the province, job gains have been concentrated in certain areas, such as Toronto, Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo and Barrie, which all saw more than 20-per-cent increases in jobs since 2000. Hamilton-Niagara, London, Windsor-Sarnia and northwestern Ontario have seen net job losses in that time.

The report said that government austerity at both the federal and provincial level has also contributed to lacklustre job growth in recent years.

ccpa unemployment

Corporate Tax Avoidance 'Scheme' Hurting Canada, Expert Says

Corporate Tax Avoidance ‘Scheme’ Hurting Canada, Expert Says.

 

offshore tax havens

As Canadians dutifully file personal income tax returns during the coming weeks, consider this: many profitable companies pay little or no tax.

In an interview this week on The Sunday Edition, Dennis Howlett, executive director of Canadians for Tax Fairness, says these multinational corporations set up subsidiaries in tax havens such as Ireland, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands and devise ways to transfer profits there from Canada. There are no laws to prevent this.

“There’s been a proliferation of tax havens,” Howlett explains to host Michael Enright. “Now, a quarter of all direct Canadian foreign investment going abroad is going to tax haven countries. That’s about $170 billion sitting in tax havens, so it’s become a huge problem.”

An additional concern for Howlett’s organization is Canada’s low corporate tax rate, which the Conservative government established with no guarantee or requirement from corporations that they spend it on job creation or other benefits to the country.

Currently, the rate is about 25 or 26 per cent, depending on the province. It’s so low that Howlett has actually heard complaints from the U.S.

“I was in Washington a year or so ago when I met with some of the congressional staff there, who were complaining about Canada becoming a tax haven,” he says, “because our corporate tax rates are now 10 points below the U.S.”

Culture of ‘secrecy’

He reveals that according to Bloomberg LP, few multinationals even pay that low rate. Of the TSX 60 – the top 60 companies trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange – only four paid 25 per cent tax or more between 2007 and 2011.

Thirteen per cent of these corporations paid less than 5 per cent in taxes and more than half paid less than 10 per cent. Much of this tax evasion is done secretly.

“The secrecy allows people to open shell companies or trust accounts where they don’t have to identify who the ultimate beneficial owner is,” Howlett explains. “So an account can be opened up in the name of a local lawyer or some other person who acts as an intermediary. That way they can hide the fact that they’ve got money sitting in an account and it’s very hard for the Canadian Revenue Agency to figure out who’s got money hiding in Barbados or Cayman Islands or wherever it is.”

He adds that severe cuts at Revenue Canada – more than 3,000 public servants, more than any other government department – have hampered the government’s ability to investigate cases of corporate tax avoidance: “The problem is unless there is some credible threat of being caught, more and more people get into this tax-haven, tax-avoidance scheme.”

He says the situation has become so serious that some corporations are trying to “put the brakes on” tax cuts, as they witness the effects on critical areas of the Canadian economy, such as education, health care and infrastructure.

Global efforts are underway for reform. The G8 and G20 summits asked the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to devise a new international corporate tax system.

“Ultimately, I think we need a unitary taxation system where multinational corporations have to report their global profits, and the profits should be taxed where the economic activities occur and the value is created,” Howlett says. “If the corporations aren’t paying their fair share, ordinary taxpayers are shouldering more of the tax responsibility.”

Corporate Tax Avoidance ‘Scheme’ Hurting Canada, Expert Says

Corporate Tax Avoidance ‘Scheme’ Hurting Canada, Expert Says.

 

offshore tax havens

As Canadians dutifully file personal income tax returns during the coming weeks, consider this: many profitable companies pay little or no tax.

In an interview this week on The Sunday Edition, Dennis Howlett, executive director of Canadians for Tax Fairness, says these multinational corporations set up subsidiaries in tax havens such as Ireland, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands and devise ways to transfer profits there from Canada. There are no laws to prevent this.

“There’s been a proliferation of tax havens,” Howlett explains to host Michael Enright. “Now, a quarter of all direct Canadian foreign investment going abroad is going to tax haven countries. That’s about $170 billion sitting in tax havens, so it’s become a huge problem.”

An additional concern for Howlett’s organization is Canada’s low corporate tax rate, which the Conservative government established with no guarantee or requirement from corporations that they spend it on job creation or other benefits to the country.

Currently, the rate is about 25 or 26 per cent, depending on the province. It’s so low that Howlett has actually heard complaints from the U.S.

“I was in Washington a year or so ago when I met with some of the congressional staff there, who were complaining about Canada becoming a tax haven,” he says, “because our corporate tax rates are now 10 points below the U.S.”

Culture of ‘secrecy’

He reveals that according to Bloomberg LP, few multinationals even pay that low rate. Of the TSX 60 – the top 60 companies trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange – only four paid 25 per cent tax or more between 2007 and 2011.

Thirteen per cent of these corporations paid less than 5 per cent in taxes and more than half paid less than 10 per cent. Much of this tax evasion is done secretly.

“The secrecy allows people to open shell companies or trust accounts where they don’t have to identify who the ultimate beneficial owner is,” Howlett explains. “So an account can be opened up in the name of a local lawyer or some other person who acts as an intermediary. That way they can hide the fact that they’ve got money sitting in an account and it’s very hard for the Canadian Revenue Agency to figure out who’s got money hiding in Barbados or Cayman Islands or wherever it is.”

He adds that severe cuts at Revenue Canada – more than 3,000 public servants, more than any other government department – have hampered the government’s ability to investigate cases of corporate tax avoidance: “The problem is unless there is some credible threat of being caught, more and more people get into this tax-haven, tax-avoidance scheme.”

He says the situation has become so serious that some corporations are trying to “put the brakes on” tax cuts, as they witness the effects on critical areas of the Canadian economy, such as education, health care and infrastructure.

Global efforts are underway for reform. The G8 and G20 summits asked the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to devise a new international corporate tax system.

“Ultimately, I think we need a unitary taxation system where multinational corporations have to report their global profits, and the profits should be taxed where the economic activities occur and the value is created,” Howlett says. “If the corporations aren’t paying their fair share, ordinary taxpayers are shouldering more of the tax responsibility.”

Enbridge Gas Price Hike Could See Customers Paying 40% More

Enbridge Gas Price Hike Could See Customers Paying 40% More.

OTTAWA – The harsh reality of this winter’s exceptionally cold weather is catching up to millions of natural-gas users in central Canada.

The natural-gas company Enbridge has applied to Ontario regulators for a nearly 40 per cent hike in the energy rates it charges customers, just one month after predicting that its massive storage capacity should mute any price increase.

But it has been so cold, for such an extended period, that the utility says it was forced to buy more natural gas — at a much higher cost — than expected.

“For a customer that does burn 3,000 cubic metres of gas a year, the increase for them is going to be in the order of $400,” said Enbridge energy supply and policy director Jamie LeBlanc.

Normally, such a household would typically pay roughly $1,000 annually for natural gas.

If approved by the Ontario Energy Board, the rate increase would take effect April 1.

But once taxes are added, the price increase is closer to 50 per cent, says former Liberal MP and energy-market watcher Dan McTeague, who advocates capping taxes on home-heating fuels.

“My estimate is that, within a year … the federal government will have probably pocketed an additional half billion dollars from the misery of Canadians trying to keep themselves warm,” he said.

“And that to me is outrageous.”

Other natural-gas suppliers are expected to also apply for rate increases as they are forced to buy more expensive energy supplies on the open market.

Households heating with propane and oil have already experienced a price shock.

Propane customers in eastern Ontario and western Quebec saw their home heating bills nearly double in January and February compared with what they were paying in November.

Even those with fixed-price contracts have seen their bills go up because they’ve been using more energy.

Natural-gas prices in Ontario are set every three months, and Enbridge said it doesn’t expect prices to remain high.

“We don’t believe that this is a long-term natural gas event,” said LeBlanc.

“A typical winter we wouldn’t see this type of pricing.”

But that’s cold comfort for people on fixed incomes, such as seniors, who have had to absorb the energy price increases by spending less on other necessities including food, as well as cutting back on non-essential purchases.

“People are suffering,” said McTeague.

Enbridge and other utilities have energy assistance programs available for low-income households, as well as payment plans to spread out the cost of heating over a longer period of time.

They also offer tips for conserving energy by turning down thermostats, reducing hot water use and, as a longer-term solution, retrofitting homes for better efficiency.

Earlier this week, a preliminary report to the ministers of natural resources and industry predicted that a propane shortage that hit Ontario and Quebec would continue until temperatures warm up.

“Given current production, storage, transportation and export trends, tight supply and high prices are expected to continue for the remainder of the high-demand winter season,” said the report made public Tuesday.

“Consumers of propane, including households that cannot easily switch to other fuels, will continue to be significantly impacted.”

The federal government asked the National Energy Board and Competition Bureau to review the propane market after supplies dried up and prices skyrocketed.

The report said there were four main factors for the shortage — a colder-than-normal winter across eastern Canada and the U.S., exceptional use of propane to dry wet crops in the U.S. midwest, and already-low inventory before the peak winter season and “rapidly growing” U.S. propane exports to overseas markets.

But it offered no recommendations on how to mitigate shortages and energy price shocks in the future.

Canada's Super-Rich To Swell In Number, Knight Frank Says

Canada’s Super-Rich To Swell In Number, Knight Frank Says.

The number of ultra-rich Canadians is set to boom over the next decade, according toa new report from real estate consultancy Knight Frank.

The company’s annual report forecasts the number of “ultra-high net worth individuals” (UNHWIs) in Canada will grow 19 per cent between 2013 and 2023, to a total of 5,068 individuals.

UHNWIs are defined as people who have at least $20 million in assets, not including their primary residence.

Toronto will lead the way, with a 23-per-cent jump in ultra-rich people to a total of 1,456 by 2023. Montreal will see an 18-per-cent jump, to 613 people, the study forecast.

Only data for Canada’s three largest metro areas — Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver — was broken out in the survey.

Vancouver is forecast to be the laggard, with only a 9-per-cent increase in ultra-rich, to 278. That might be bad news for the city’s wildly expensive high-end real estate market.

The total growth in UHNWIs in Canada mirrors growth rates in other parts of the developed world, such as the U.S. (up 21 per cent by 2023), Japan (up 15 per cent) and Switzerland (up 19 per cent).

But those growth rates are far below those forecast for the developing world — that’s where the real boom in the ranks of the super-rich will take place, Knight Frank says.

Vietnam and Indonesia will see the number of super-rich more than double (166 per cent and 144 per cent growth, respectively), while China will see the number of billionaires there grow by 80 per cent.

Even at that growth rate, China won’t be able to beat the U.S. for highest number of billionaires by 2023, with the U.S. sporting 503 of them compared to China’s 322.

The number of super-rich people in the world grew by 3 per cent last year, the report said, with nearly 5,000 people joining their ranks. The total number of these people now sits above 167,000.

Their ranks grew by 59 per cent over the last decade, with the Middle East, Latin America and Africa all seeing at least a doubling of the number of super-rich.

Canada’s Super-Rich To Swell In Number, Knight Frank Says

Canada’s Super-Rich To Swell In Number, Knight Frank Says.

The number of ultra-rich Canadians is set to boom over the next decade, according toa new report from real estate consultancy Knight Frank.

The company’s annual report forecasts the number of “ultra-high net worth individuals” (UNHWIs) in Canada will grow 19 per cent between 2013 and 2023, to a total of 5,068 individuals.

UHNWIs are defined as people who have at least $20 million in assets, not including their primary residence.

Toronto will lead the way, with a 23-per-cent jump in ultra-rich people to a total of 1,456 by 2023. Montreal will see an 18-per-cent jump, to 613 people, the study forecast.

Only data for Canada’s three largest metro areas — Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver — was broken out in the survey.

Vancouver is forecast to be the laggard, with only a 9-per-cent increase in ultra-rich, to 278. That might be bad news for the city’s wildly expensive high-end real estate market.

The total growth in UHNWIs in Canada mirrors growth rates in other parts of the developed world, such as the U.S. (up 21 per cent by 2023), Japan (up 15 per cent) and Switzerland (up 19 per cent).

But those growth rates are far below those forecast for the developing world — that’s where the real boom in the ranks of the super-rich will take place, Knight Frank says.

Vietnam and Indonesia will see the number of super-rich more than double (166 per cent and 144 per cent growth, respectively), while China will see the number of billionaires there grow by 80 per cent.

Even at that growth rate, China won’t be able to beat the U.S. for highest number of billionaires by 2023, with the U.S. sporting 503 of them compared to China’s 322.

The number of super-rich people in the world grew by 3 per cent last year, the report said, with nearly 5,000 people joining their ranks. The total number of these people now sits above 167,000.

Their ranks grew by 59 per cent over the last decade, with the Middle East, Latin America and Africa all seeing at least a doubling of the number of super-rich.

Immunity For Telecoms Targeted In Campaign Against Bill C-13

Immunity For Telecoms Targeted In Campaign Against Bill C-13.

The Huffington Post Canada  |  By Posted: 03/05/2014 3:20 pm EST  |  Updated: 03/05/2014 3:59 pm EST

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Telecom companies would be granted immunity for handing over information on their customers without a warrant under a law meant to target cyberbullying, civil liberties groups say.

OpenMedia is leading a coalition of organizations that are lining up against Bill C-13, which the Harper government tabled last fall in response to a series of high-profile cyberbullying cases.

Digital law experts and civil liberties groups say the law goes far beyond targeting online bullying, and essentially revives many of the elements of a controversial earlier online spying bill.

The Tories pulled the plug on that proposed law in 2012 after then-Public Safety Minister Vic Toews caused controversy by asserting that opponents of the bill aresiding “with child pornographers.”

The new proposed law, Bill C-13 or the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, “will allow authorities access to the private lives of millions of law-abiding Canadians, even if they’re not suspected of wrong-doing,” OpenMedia said in a statement released Wednesday.

“Bill C-13 would let those authorities create detailed profiles of Canadians based on who they talk to and what they say and do online. The legislation also provides immunity to telecom providers who hand over the private information of Canadians without a warrant,” the group said.

University of Ottawa digital law professor Michael Geist wrote last November that the proposed law would essentially allow authorities to request data on any telecom subscriber, regardless of whether the request is in connection to the investigation of a crime.

It simply opens the door to requests for voluntary assistance for any reason whatsoever,” Geist wrote.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay says the bill will not erode internet privacy rights, and telecom companies will only be granted immunity if their disclosure of subscriber data complies with the law.

But Geist and others have accused MacKay of misleading the public by suggesting these disclosures would always involve a warrant, which is not the case. Telecom companies already have the right under the law to disclose subscriber data to authorities without a warrant.

Critics have charged the government with creating a legislative “Trojan horse” by tacking on these new provisions to a bill ostensibly meant to protect against cyberbullying.

“They’re bringing through the back door what they couldn’t get through the front door,” OpenMedia executive director Steve Anderson told Huffington Post Canada.

Anderson said the Harper government has been “more successful with the branding” of this bill, thanks to its use of the cyberbullying issue as a way to frame the bill.

He said his organization is not opposed to the cyberbullying elements of the bill, and said he could support the NDP’s proposal to split off that part of the bill from the rest. That part of the bill would make it illegal to distribute “intimate images” without the consent of the person in the images.

But the parts of the bill dealing with access to subscriber information “need to be fixed,” Anderson said.

Anderson noted that law enforcement groups such as the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have been lobbying heavily for the bill.

The telecom immunity provisions are similar to those introduced in the U.S., where civil liberties groups attempted to sue telecom companies for eavesdropping on subscribers without a warrant in the years after 9/11.

The 2008 FISA Amendments Act provided immunity to telecoms from such lawsuits. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law in 2012.

Since then, a series of documents from the NSA, leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, have indicated that warrantless online surveillance by governments may be far more extensive than previously thought.

Leaked documents from Snowden illustrated that Canada has helped allied countries to carry out warrantless surveillance. The documents also indicated Canada’s electronic spying agency, CSEC, collected data from Canadians’ computers at an airport WiFi hotspot, though a federal watchdog later said Canadians were not tracked during that experiment.

Many anti-cyberbullying activists have hailed the legislation. Carol Todd, mother of cyberbullying victim Amanda Todd, wrote in a blog at HuffPost Canada last year that the bill would have saved her daughter’s life.

MacKay has said the government would like to see the bill pass into law this spring.

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