'Borrowed' car bluff at border costs Ottawa man more than $6,500

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Cycling projects costing 30% more than anticipated, city report says

23 February 2017 17:07:17 Ottawa Citizen - News

Expanding the city’s cycling network has cost 30 per cent more than what was originally forecast just over three years ago, transportation planners say. “Site-specific conditions such as contaminated soils, poor slope stability and utility conflicts are difficult to anticipate during master planning and have resulted in increased project costs,” the planners told council in a report published this week. New accessibility standards also require upgraded traffic signals, another unanticipated cost that will now be considered in new cycling projects. In finding savings, the city has been forced to hold off on other intersection upgrades and to reduce the length of cycling projects. Upper-government funding has also helped with the extra costs. The good news is, the city is on track to seeing eight per cent of all transportation trips inside the greenbelt made by bike. The city set a target of achieving the eight per cent “modal share” for bikes inside the greenbelt by 2031. The citywide target is five per cent. Twenty-four automated counters feed the city information on bike trips between April and October, and while the counts don’t definitively inform the modal split rate, planners are confident the data shows cycling is on the rise in Ottawa. The modal share at the end of 2016 was five per cent, based on counter data. The rate was about four per cent in 2012. The city published the mid-term report on the $70-million Ottawa cycling plan, which council approved in November 2013. According to the city, 216 kilometres of bike infrastructure has been added since 2011 and another 72 kilometres are expected to be added by the time this term of council expires near the end of 2018. That means by the end of 2018, there will be nearly 1,000 kilometres of bike infrastructure across Ottawa. The city expects there will be 983 kilometres by that time, an improvement from the 695 kilometres in 2011. The city wants to tweak to the cycling plan in the central east part of the city. Instead of adding "sharrow" pavement markings on Donald Street, the city wants to draw bike lanes on McArthur Avenue since the road is wider and there’s a lower demand for street parking. There will be no extra money needed, the report says. The cycling plan makes 26 recommendations to be completed by 2031. The city has done four with another eight expected to be done by the end of the council term. City planners are asking for council’s permission to modify the winter cycling network as the city adds new bike infrastructure. The city started maintaining a 40-kilometre winter cycling network during the 2015-2016 winter. The winter cycling network could now include O’Connor Street between Fifth Avenue and Laurier Avenue, and Main Street between Clegg Street and Lees Avenue. The new Mackenzie Avenue cycle track could also be added when there’s an eventual connection to the O’Connor bikeway via Wellington Street, but that's not expected until 2020-2025. Adding more routes to the winter cycling network means more money will be needed for maintenance. One kilometre translates into $13,000 per year. The city will have to build the extra costs into each annual budget. Council’s transportation committee is scheduled to discuss the report during a meeting Wednesday. jwilling@postmedia.com twitter.com/JonathanWilling

Vice null Time23 February 2017 17:07:17


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'Borrowed' car bluff at border costs Ottawa man more than $6,500

07 February 2017 18:16:58 Ottawa Citizen - News

Honesty is the best policy, border officials warn after an Ottawa man paid a steep price for pretending he borrowed from a friend a car that he'd actually just bought in the United States. It was a costly mistake when his tale began to unravel. The 45-year-old man was trying to return to Canada after a day of shopping in Ogdensburg, N.Y. on Jan. 15. He declared $300 in goods and claimed a friend had loaned him the American-plated vehicle he was driving. But on secondary inspection, Canada Border Services Agency officers searched the man's phone and car and found emails and documents showing he'd bought the car over the Internet and concocted the story to avoid paying duties and taxes. He soon confessed to the scheme. The car was detained and the man's card under the NEXUS program, which is designed to speed border crossing for frequent travellers, was taken away. By failing to declare the vehicle, which officials valued at $12,084, the man was trying to evade $700 in duty and taxes and a $295 fee to the Registrar of Imported Vehicles. Instead, he had to pay those charges plus a $6,646 penalty before getting the car back. “The single best thing you can do to save time returning to Canada is to simply be open and honest with the CBSA officer," said Leanne Sullivan, chief of operations at the Prescott port of entry. "If you are not sure about what to declare, don't hesitate to ask a CBSA officer at a port of entry.” The border agency warned that not declaring or falsely declaring goods means officers can seize them, either permanently or until the traveler pays a penalty of 25 to 80 per cent of their value. They can also expect closer scrutiny the next time they make a trip across the border, the agency warned.

Vice null Time07 February 2017 18:16:58


Ontario funds in vitro fertilization procedures for 6,500 patients

10 January 2017 21:19:03 Brampton-News (from http://rss.metroland.com)

The provincial government is celebrating the completion of the first year of its Ontario Fertility Program. Since December 2015, when it launched, the province has provided more than 6,500 people with funding for in vitro fertilization (IVF) and related services. IVF services, if paid for privately, cost approximately $10,000.

Vice Alle News Time10 January 2017 21:19:03


Reevely: Ottawa demands more of neighbouring paramedics, but paying less

07 December 2016 23:45:50 Ottawa Citizen - News

Ottawa has sought nearly twice as much help from neighbours' ambulances since it stopped paying for it this year, say the paramedic services that have had to supply it. "They’ve created rules to suit themselves knowing full well that their neighbours will have to pick up the slack and we have no recourse in the matter," says Michael Nolan, Renfrew County's paramedic chief. Sometimes more than half of Renfrew's 10 ambulances will be sucked in to deal with Ottawa's emergencies, he says. Renfrew County paramedic chief Michael Nolan. "When I've got three ambulances to cover 7,000 square kilometres in Renfrew, yeah, I think I have a reason to be frustrated," Nolan says. He says Ottawa counts on his paramedics to cover calls in West Carleton routinely. Ottawa ambulances sometimes cross the border the other way, but it's rarer. Renfrew's figures say that in the first six months of 2015, Renfrew ambulances answered calls in Ottawa 132 times, while Ottawa ambulances went to Renfrew 40 times, a difference of 92 calls in Ottawa's favour. In the same period this year, the gap had grown to 130. For Prescott and Russell, the gap is bigger: 176 calls in Ottawa's favour last year, 360 this year. This is the problem illuminated by a Ministry of Health investigation of the way Ottawa deployed and dispatched ambulances one night last August. The ministry found Ottawa's dispatchers sent the wrong ambulances to several calls and answered low-priority calls that should have waited, and that paramedics frequently took longer than they should have to book back in after transferring patients to hospitals. An Ottawa-specific policy that takes ambulances out of service for restocking and cleaning if they're at their home bases within half an hour of the end of a shift plays a role, too, the ministry said. Ottawa paramedic chief Anthony Di Monte, with city manager Steve Kanellakos. Ottawa's paramedic chief and acting general manager of all emergency services, Anthony Di Monte, said this week that only one of the alleged dispatching errors was legitimate and there are good reasons for the other behaviour. That misses the point, say Ottawa's neighbours. Add up all their paramedic teams and they're still smaller than Ottawa's $86-million operation, but they're required to subsidize the urban service. The Ontario government covers half the cost of paramedic services, which are run by municipalities. In exchange, the province says the nearest available ambulance has to answer a call, no matter where that ambulance is from or where it's supposed to be. All of Ottawa's neighbours say that's the way it should be: they're all happy to answer calls on the edge of Ottawa and to go wherever they're needed if there's a big crisis. "If we have a major accident or a retirement-home fire, we’re going to need their help. And vice-versa," says Prescott-Russell's paramedic chief, Michel Chrétien. "We just want to keep our vehicles, as much as possible, serving our residents." Until 2008, the province also had a rule saying municipalities had to compensate each other when that happens. Ottawa had long-term agreements for that with its neighbours that expired at the end of last year and the city has simply refused to renew them. They have to keep providing the service. We stopped paying for it. And the imbalance is suddenly always in our favour. "It's not always been the case," says Kurt Greaves, the chief administrator in Lanark County, where the differential rose from 59 calls in the first six months of 2015 to 111 calls this year. "It works both ways. We’ve sent cheques to Ottawa when they do more calls than we do. But that doesn't seem to happen now." "I’ve got shifts where I’m doing more calls in Ottawa than I am in my own community," says Prescott-Russell's paramedic chief, Michel Chrétien. Part of the reason is that Ottawa runs the dispatch service, so its dispatchers can order Prescott-Russell's ambulances around directly. "I don’t think they intentionally do it, but they favour their own service. At the end of the day, they do what they have to do, but it ends up being favourable to them," Chrétien says. Part of the reason is a fluke of geography. Prescott-Russell has relatively big towns like Rockland and Embrun near its western edge, so it stations ambulances in them. They're frequently summoned into Cumberland when Ottawa ambulances based there get called deeper into the city. Also, the nearest hospital within Prescott-Russell is in Hawkesbury, way to the east. Prescott-Russell ambulances are much more likely to transport patients to the Montfort Hospital or the General or Civic hospital campuses. "Once we go to Ottawa, we become part of their fleet all of a sudden," Chrétien says. Leave a patient at a hospital in Ottawa and it's almost impossible for paramedics to get back out of town. In one case, Prescott-Russell paramedics handled a car crash on Prince of Wales Drive. Nolan, from Renfrew, says the other night one of his crews got pulled from Arnprior to Nepean, to answer a non-urgent call that Ottawa hadn't been able to get to in an hour and a half. Furthermore, the neighbour paramedics don't get an automatic half-hour of cleanup time after transferring a patient, no matter what, the way Ottawa paramedics do. They get only as long as they need to get their ambulance back in service. "The expectation is it should take you 20 minutes to transfer care, but the expectation is that you’re still available," Chrétien says. So Prescott-Russell paramedics will find themselves at hospitals next to Ottawa ambulances, then get sent to Ottawa calls because their Ottawa counterparts get a pause the Prescott-Russell crews don't. Nolan says his paramedics clean, gas up and restock their ambulances while they're on shift but answer calls if they have to. "In Ottawa, they hand the truck off to an equipment-supply technician who does the cleaning and resupply for them," Nolan says. Meanwhile, ambulances are out of service. "They haven’t optimized the resources that they have." Di Monte has acknowledged that Ottawa's had a shortage of paramedics — a respectfully expressed dig at city council, which sets his budget. Call volumes have risen by four to five per cent, year in and year out, and the budget hasn't. In the 2017 budget not yet passed , Ottawa's paramedic service is due for a $5.2-million boost, which Di Monte said should reduce demand for our neighbours' ambulances. Chrétien estimates the cost of running one ambulance at $1.4 million to $1.5 million a year, so we're talking about four more ambulances on the street at most. The neighbouring chiefs are skeptical it'll reverse the trend but they're glad to see something happening. "Any addition is definitely going to make a difference, that’s for sure," Chrétien says. "They're playing catch-up now. ... It seems like the only time they’re able to move things forward is when we yell and scream." dreevely@postmedia.com

Vice null Time07 December 2016 23:45:50


Ottawa police expect to overspend on OT by more than $2 million

20 October 2016 23:46:35 Ottawa Citizen - News

Ottawa police are expecting to blow their overtime budget by $2.4 million by year's end and are blaming the "significant pressure" on what officers counter are understaffed units and a record year for shootings and homicides. Yet despite the forecast on overtime, the force still expects to have a balanced budget by the end of year and won't increase its overtime budget for 2017. In a financial status update expected to be received by the police board Monday, the force said the overtime deficit ballooned by an additional $250,000 after a national outlaw biker run by the Hells Angels at the now-defunct Nomads clubhouse in Carlsbad Springs. Police said the additional costs were coming from "a number of sources" and for the first time, detailed which units had the most "significant" costs during the first nine months of the year. The force attributed high overtime numbers to the homicide squad, "special projects," the tactical unit, the guns and gangs squad and emergency services unit. At the time the report to the board was written, there had been 14 homicides and 54 shootings. There have now been 15 and 55, respectively. Police said the overtime budget is based on an average annual number of eight to 10 homicides. The additional costs from the guns and gangs unit — staffed by two sergeants and eight detectives — are causing what the force called a "considerable pressure." The tactical unit executes warrants for both homicide and gang investigations, while the emergency services unit — which is composed of officers from other sections who are then called out for specific operations — conducts ground and evidence searches for the same investigations that are causing overtime in other units. The force also said "staffing pressures" contribute to the deficit, but did not specify from where those pressures were coming. The force will also see a "one-time surplus" of $2 million this year after budgeting more than necessary to cover salaries after a contract settlement for officers in 2015. The rank-and-file are still without a contract for 2016. syogaretnam@postmedia.com twitter.com/shaaminiwhy

Vice null Time20 October 2016 23:46:35


New Year's Eve twin fireworks display to cost more than $200K

13 September 2016 18:55:26 Ottawa Citizen - News

The federal government will spend more than $200,000 on memorable New Year's Eve fireworks displays in Ottawa to usher in Canada's sesquicentennial.

Vice null Time13 September 2016 18:55:26


Patients without borders: Medical tourism trade show comes to Ottawa

08 September 2016 23:03:33 Ottawa Citizen - News

Thinking about a nip, tuck or, say, angioplasty in exotic surroundings? A trade show is coming to Ottawa this weekend that showcases offerings for medical tourists from about 30 hospitals and clinics in countries from Argentina to South Korea. Pablo Castillo, the organizer of Destination Health , is expecting about 1,000 potential medical tourists to attend the show, which runs at the Shaw Centre on Saturday and Sunday and features a roster of speakers, including Dr. Brian Goldman, the host of CBC's White Coat, Black Art. Medical tourists seek treatment in other countries for all kinds of reasons: getting access to newer (and sometimes unproven) procedures, circumventing wait times and avoiding adverse medical consequences brought on by lengthy wait times. And costs can be much lower. Breast implants cost $3,500 U.S. in India (they cost $10,000 in the U.S., according to Castillo's numbers). An angioplasty can be had for a bargain basement price of $3,300 ($57,000 in the U.S.) and a knee replacement can be found for $6,200 ($50,000 in the U.S.). Rhinoplasty — or a "nose job" — costs $3,500 in Mexico ($8,000 in the U.S.) and liposuction is $2,800 ($9,000 in the U.S.). Dental treatment is a fast-growing sector of medical tourism. In Costa Rica, dental implants are $900 compared to $2,800 in the U.S.c Cosmetic surgery is only part of it, says Castillo. Some people travel for hip and knee replacements, others for stem cell therapies considered unproven in Canada. Gastric bypass surgery is popular. "People wait for years to get gastric bypass. They can have it right away in other countries." Patients even travel for cardiac procedures and cancer treatment. "People who are are told they only have two years to live, they want to explore other alternatives," says Castillo, who for the past five years has run a company called MedBrick , which facilitates travel for medical services and offers products such as medical complication insurance. For many countries, medical tourism is a growing industry. In 2000, Blue Shield of California introduced Access Baja HMO, the first American outsourcing plan that allowed members to access services in Tijuana, Mexico. In 2002, Dubai Healthcare City opened as a "free economic zone" aimed at luring medical tourists to Dubai. India offers a special medical visa, which lasts for up to a year. Pablo Castillo is organizer of Destination Health, a medical tourism trade show that runs Sept 10 and 11 at the Shaw Centre. Patients Beyond Borders, established in 2007 to promote medical tourism, estimates 11 million people travel abroad to seek medical care and the global market is growing at a pace of 15 to 25 per cent a year. There are no readily available figures for the number of Canadians who leave the country seeking medical attention, According to a Fraser Institute report based on the results of its annual survey of physicians in 12 specialty areas, more than 52,500 Canadians received non-emergency medical attention abroad in 2014. In a 2015 report, the Conference Board of Canada said those leaving Canada for non-emergency medical attention spent $447 million in 2013. For patients, there are expenses other than medical costs to be taken into account, such airfare, accommodations and insurance for the patient and perhaps the expenses of a companion or caregiver, as well as the risk of medical error or unexpected side-effects. Medical tourism can also cost Canada taxpayers. In March, an Alberta study published in the Canadian Journal of Surgery reported that more than $560,000 was spent treating 59 bariatric medical tourists for complications of surgery received abroad between 2012 and 2013. "In my experience, there are winners and losers in the industry," says Valorie Crooks, a professor at Simon Fraser University and Canada research chair in health service geographies, who will be speaking at the trade show in Ottawa. "Medical tourism allows consumers more choice, and it allows the recipient countries to enhance their own medical systems. But sometimes it also cuts out local patients in destination spots." Medical tourism has a ripple effect in Canada as well, says Crooks. Doctors in Canada are asked to order prescriptions and remove stitches. Patients usually travel with a family member or friend. That person often has no idea how much care they will have to provide to the patient. There are also huge variations in the levels of service, says Timothy Caulfield, a professor at the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta. Patients sometimes get surgeries they don't need, says Caulfield. And sometimes when they return from having surgery in a another country, they ask doctors in Canada to manage post-surgical care for unproven treatments or protocols that are not used in Canada. Effectively, patients are queue-jumping‚ and asking the Canadian medical system to pay. "It's a complex phenomena," he says. "I don't like to see it presented as a consumer choice." Crooks doesn't deny that Canadians are going abroad, but says it's unclear whether it is a trickle or a flow. There are about a dozen facilitation companies in Canada who act like travel agents for medical tourists. At this point, it's a niche business, says Crooks, who suspects many patients are immigrants returning to their home countries for treatment because they are familiar with the medical systems. "We have no tracking. We have no reliable numbers. There's no reason for hospitals abroad to report numbers," she says. "Because people are in search of numbers, the numbers are treated as truth. It's incredibly harmful. Policy decisions are being made on these numbers." Castillo says it would be difficult to get data from every medical provider abroad, but he believes the Fraser Institute numbers of more than 50,000 non-emergency procedures a year outside the country are accurate. "Let's keep in mind that these numbers do not take into consideration the patients that did not get their family doctor involved in the decision to travel abroad for care," he says. "I believe the numbers are actually higher than the ones reported by the Fraser Institute." This is the second such trade show Castillo has organized. Last year's show in Montreal attracted 20 exhibitors and about 500 visitors. For the Ottawa show, Castillo has signed on exhibitors from Germany, Argentina, Costa Rica, Thailand, the U.S., Mexico, the United Kingdom, South Korea, the Dominican Republic as well as other parts of Canada — patients who travel from province to province for treatment are still medical tourists. Admission to Destination Health is free for students and those under 18, and general admission for access to both days is $10. Admission, plus Goldman's speech, is $20. jlaucius@postmedia.com

Vice null Time08 September 2016 23:03:33


After cruiser stolen, police seeking man who borrowed suspect vehicle

03 August 2016 03:48:27 Ottawa Citizen - News

Having released the man they arrested after a police cruiser was stolen and used as a getaway car, Ottawa police are now honing in on someone who may have borrowed his car. After Sunday night's wild police pursuit in Westboro, police initially arrested a 37-year-old man in Aylmer, Que. Though the force first said he was facing multiple charges, the man was later released without charges. The Citizen has learned the arrested man's wallet and ID were found by police in the car they first chased, prior to it being dumped by a suspect fleeing on foot. But police do not believe that man, whose ID they found, is the one who robbed a convenience store, led officers on a pursuit by car, ditched the vehicle, ran on foot, then backtracked to steal the cruiser. The police car was later dumped near the corner of Lanark and Beechgrove avenues. Police now believe the man they initially arrested had loaned his car out and that it was used by someone else. Ottawa police said in a statement Monday they were still investigating just what happened after authorities responded to a break-in alarm Sunday night at a store on Richmond Road near Woodroffe Avenue. After a brief vehicle chase, then a foot chase through Hintonburg park, police said, “a scuffle” broke out resulting in a single discharge of the officer’s firearm. Neither the suspect nor the officer were injured. syogaretnam@postmedia.com twitter.com/shaaminiwhy

Vice null Time03 August 2016 03:48:27


Lawsuit settlements cost federal government more than $575M in 2015

30 December 2015 01:48:45 Ottawa Citizen - News

Despite a legion of taxpayer-funded lawyers, federal documents show the government shelled out more than $575 million as a result of lawsuits brought against it in the last fiscal year. The payments, which included damages awarded by the courts as well as out-of-court settlements, were for everything from accidents involving government vehicles to abuse claims from indigenous Canadians to the use of excessive force by the RCMP and Correctional Services officers. There were also numerous disputes between the federal government and private companies, and between the government and its own employees. Meanwhile, the government had a mixed record when using the courts to recover millions of dollars lost to tax evaders, fraud and smuggling. The government estimated more than $121 million was lost through such crimes in 2014-15. The figures are contained in the most recent Public Accounts, an annual report tabled in the House of Commons that gives a comprehensive breakdown of all federal government revenues and expenditures in the last fiscal year. All told, the federal government paid more than $547 million in out-of-court settlements last year and only $32 million in actual court-awarded damages. By far the largest group of payments was $377 million to settle more than 3,600 abuse claims filed by aboriginals. These were part of the $1.9 billion in compensation set aside by the previous government for those who were forced to attend a residential school. Among the other notable out-of-court settlements were: Nearly $73 million to settle a class-action lawsuit for more than 1,000 disabled RCMP veterans whose disability benefits were clawed back; Almost $50 million to settle a class-action lawsuit for an estimated 14,000 disabled military veterans whose disability benefits were clawed back; More than $11 million to a B.C. developer, K L Land Partnership, which sued after buying some land near Vernon from National Defence that turned out to still contain Second World War-era explosives; More than $5.2 million for dozens of motor vehicles crashes involving the RCMP that caused bodily injuries; More than $2.5 million for more than 20 cases in which RCMP were alleged to have caused personal injury, used excessive force, or falsely arrested someone; More than $3 million to two companies that specialized in equipping and guiding hunters in Alberta and B.C. that sued Parks Canada; And $1.7 million to Benamar Benatta, an Algerian refugee who was turned over the U.S. after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on suspicion of being a terrorist. Benatta is now a Canadian citizen. The Public Accounts report does not say how many lawsuits actually ended up going to litigation. But of those that did, the government ended up having to pay nearly $33 million in court-awarded damages. Many were less than $10,000, but among the notable payments the government made were: Nearly $20 million to a U.S. cruise ship company that the RCMP had contracted to provide vessels to house police officers and other security personnel during the Vancouver Olympics. Cruise Connections Charter Management successfully sued after the Mounties terminated the deal, then banned the company from bidding on a new contract; More than $4.2 million to cover the Manitoba Métis Federation’s legal costs after the Supreme Court found the federal government had failed to live up to obligations it made to end the Red River Rebellion in 1870; And more than $2 million to cover the legal costs of five First Nations on the west coast of Vancouver Island after the courts upheld their historic claim to a commercial fishery controlled by the federal government. Meanwhile, the report said the Canada Revenue Agency had launched 201 court cases against individuals and companies alleged to have collectively stolen more than $106 million from the government. There was no estimate on how much the agency believed it would actually recover. The agency did report 143 successful convictions for fraud or tax evasion during the year. However, the agency expected to recover only about half of the more than $12.4 million associated with those cases. At the same time, the Canada Border Services Agency reported about $2.6 million in lost revenues due to under-reporting and smuggling at the border, with nearly $1.9 million not expected to be recovered. lberthiaume@ottawacitizen.com Twitter.com/leeberthiaume

Vice null Time30 December 2015 01:48:45


6,500 used car buyers to be hit with tax bill

30 September 2015 19:28:59 Brampton-News (from http://rss.metroland.com)

6,500 people who bought used cars in May to get bill from Ontario tax man

Vice null Time30 September 2015 19:28:59