Unifor Banner






Your Health

Contact Us









Do you need to
buy rental-car


planning: How
not to outlive
your money


How an
driving conviction
can affect your
car insurance


Pros and Cons
of Retiring
in Las Vegas


What to do if
you just can't
wait until the
next rest stop


7 paths to
a fulfilling


When can I
legally pull over
to answer a text
or phone call?


Not knowing the
"Move Over"
law could cost
you $490


Academy Award
March 3, 2014


New test
coming soon
for elderly


stock up on
bulbs in wake
of ban


How mature
drivers get their
groove back


I didn't file a
claim. Will my
insurance go
up anyway?


Three surprising
ways liquor
and cars can get
you arrested


7 no-brainers
to save on gas


How can I tell
my husband
he's a terrible


What is funeral procession protocol?

For oil changes, which matters most: time or mileage?

Mark Cullen's spring gardening advice

CAW Local 584
Service Award
The Knights


At 90, saving,
sharing and
for 100


Long-term care
insurance can
be expensive


will keep car
safe for winter


5 tips for
Cyber Monday


Here's what to
do if your car
skids on ice


Ripping off
Grandma: Why
seniors should
practise tough


Is it better
to buy or
lease a car?


Our kids think
we need a
seniors' home


Ooma helps get
rid of monthly
phone bills


9 ways to protect
yourself from
computer fraud


2012 income
tax season:
11 questions
you are afraid
to ask


The final
winner list
of 2012


How to beat the
three villains
that can steal
your retirement


ABS brakes can
add to stopping


I cut my phone
and cable bills
by asking


Car warning lights should
never be


How winter
tires differ
from snow


55,000 eligible
Canadians aren't
getting CPP.


Map publishers
facing a
rough road


Should I always have collision coverage?

Automated bill
payments not
always a good


Kids are
safest with
behind the
wheel: study


Few would trade
health benefits
for $10,000 cash


How old is too old to drive?

How to choose
an executor for
your estate


Why do I need a
lawyer to help
me with my will?


How to
eliminate your
car's dreaded
'blind spot'


Five common
road offences
you might not


Lease a car or buy it? Some pros and cons

Should I rust-
proof my new


CPP survivor
benefits start
at $2,500


The 3 worst
things drivers
do, according
to top racer


The final
winner list
of 2011


What to wear
to a funeral


Burial vs
The options


5 things to
consider when
choosing a
funeral home


Is it a good idea to prepay your funeral?

What happens if you declare bankruptcy

Oil changes: who’s right – automaker or dealer?

3D: mainstream in homes in two years?

Cross-Border Shopping Tips

How often do I need to change my oil?

Click on a
date on any


The hidden cost of 'free' rewards

Should I fill my tires with nitrogen?

Hands free
driving laws


Picking the best among the classic Mustang, Camaro and Challenger

`Just a silly spider bite' leaves senior paralyzed

Gratuitous Tips on Tipping

 Life span vs. age at retirement

Why auto Ins rates are rising

New Border Travel Requirments

CAW Pension Rally Video
April 23, 2009

Calling on Retirees
Upcoming Rally


Clock ticks on drivers who
need new
Border licence

Ontario’s Drinking &
Driving Law
has changed
May 1, 2009

They're Shutting Detroit Down
Music Video

CAW/GM 2009

Beatles Songs
& Videos

Listen to
John Rich's
New Song

View any Newspaper from any city in the world

2009 Academy Award Winners

Click on the
year you were
born and read
the news for
that year

Square One Senior Discounts

Flash Back
to 1990

Ratification of 2008 Contract

Chrysler Bargaining report 2008

Article by Sam Gindin on Panic Bargaining 2008

A clear choice: plasma or LCD?

Solidarity Forever - The Words & Music

10 Q&A's on Canadian Pension Income Splitting

Poem: An Old Man's Last Stand

To flash, or not to flash, for cops?





Other Stuff

East Court Ford East Court Ford Lincoln

Do you need to buy
rental-car insurance?

The Globe and Mail
Oct. 30 2014

It's been a long flight and you're feeling tired as you exit the airport toward the car rental office. You can't wait to get a car to get to that beach-side villa, the one you found a great deal on over the Internet. The car rental itself was dirt cheap, too, especially since you glossed over the added insurance on the website.

However, as you're signing for the car, the clerk behind the counter asks: "Would you like the added insurance? Otherwise, you'll be liable for the car." You freeze, your tired mind wondering what that even means. "I'm insured on this," you think. But are you? Do you get the added liability coverage or stick with your own insurance? There isn't one simple answer.

"When you get to that desk, that's the last place you want to make that decision," says Steve Kee of the Insurance Bureau of Canada. Kee says that getting as much information about your own insurance before you go to the rental office is key to both protecting yourself and saving money, because the onus lies with the renter to ensure coverage for any claims. Whatever coverage you have is not necessarily the same as that of someone else.

"You want to check your limits and, again, some people's insurance is fine," says Kee. "Sometimes [with] a credit card, you need to check what the policy will include; does it include third-party liability? Not every card, not every situation will be the same."

For example, say you have just basic car insurance on an older beater; that's the coverage you'll have on the rental if you decline the added agreement. If you have an at-fault accident in the rental, you're on the hook for repairs to the vehicle or, in a worst-case scenario, the cost of the car at its present-day value. It's a good bet that rental is newer and more expensive than your car is.

Insurance and liability coverage rates vary not just by company, but also by region. Rates for a car rented in Toronto, regardless of where you drive it, is different than say, in Chicago. That's because repair costs are different from region to region. As well, some companies have added fees in the event of an accident; National Car Rental, Alamo Rent A Car and Enterprise Rent-A-Car (all owned by the same company) will charge a rental fee for a damaged car for every day it's in a repair shop. Does your car insurance or credit card cover that? Those fees are waived if you purchase the rental company's "collision damage waiver" – which is not so much insurance as it is an agreement between renter and the company that says, if the car is damaged or stolen, the renter won't be liable.

Stephen Menon advocates getting the facts before renting, but his focus is on credit cards. He's the associate vice-president for consumer card products at Toronto-Dominion Bank.

"Typically, car rental, collision, loss and damage insurance is available on our platinum or premium products, those with annual fees," says Menon. "You can check online for the terms and conditions for your card ... Or, simply give us a call from the number on the back of your card, or come into a branch, and we can walk you through your coverage."

Calling is important because, again, there are stipulations on the coverage that you may not think about.

"There are certain countries that are bound to be excluded, for various reasons," Menon says. "Also, exotic cars may not be covered, so it's important to check the terms of your card to understand the coverage you have. But with the typical car rental, you should be covered."

If you need to rent a large van or truck, chances are good your car insurance doesn't cover larger commercial vehicles. U-Haul offers an agreement that not only covers the truck itself but also the contents. It won't, however, cover a motorized vehicle you may be towing.

Generally, you won't pay a deductible for rental company coverage, but that's important to check. And having rental coverage isn't a free pass to have an accident, either. A serious crash, one that has to be reported to the police, will affect your insurance rates, as it will be reflected on your driving record at renewal time – just as it would if you got a speeding ticket in a rental.

Ultimately, you are responsible for the car you rent, whether you use your own vehicle insurance, credit card or the rental company's supplementary insurance.

"It's important for people to make that first call to your insurance company, to find out if everything would be okay," says Kee. "An extra 10-minute phone call can save you a heck of a lot of frustration."


Posted from Las Vegas Advisor - Oct 30, 2014

You’ve done your online due diligence and gotten the best rental-car deal you could find. You’ve resisted upsells. You’ve done your homework on insurance coverage. You’ve signed on the dotted line and received the ignition key. You’re standing in front of your rental car.

Like it or not, you still have another series of hurdles to clear.

First, in what condition do you find the car? Is it brand new and shiny without a scratch on it? Is it dirty or dusty enough that it could hide big dents? Do the tires have plenty of tread? Is the registration current? Does the interior smell of cigarette smoke? Is it "gently used," as they say in the (gentle) used-car business, with a paint chip here and a small ding there? Is the windshield pitted, even slightly? Are there any dents in the roof or dimples in the undercarriage? (Not joking; keep reading.)

If you spot a scratch, dent, chip, ding, or pit while you’re examining the car – anything that could come back at you for not being noted beforehand – inform an attendant. You’ll either need to document the damage or, in extreme cases, request a different vehicle. A lazy, incompetent, or malicious attendant might try to slough off a ding or a scratch, saying something like, "It doesn’t count," or "That won’t be held against you." But don’t believe it. Everything counts. Everything will potentially be held against you. You’ll be held accountable if you don’t have incontrovertible proof that the car wasn’t perfect when you found it. On occasion, you’ll be held accountable even if you do have incontrovertible proof.

Which is why the experts strongly recommend that you allot plenty of time to not only closely examine the car before you accept it, but also photograph or videotape it after you do. In short, pull out the cell phone or camera and start collecting evidence.

If you’re in a dark or dim parking garage, drive the car to where the light is adequate for picture-taking. Shoot at least two close-ups of the exterior of the car, including the front and rear windshields and bumpers, the fenders, tires, roof, and even the undercarriage. (Sound excessive? In researching this QoD, we read a story in which Enterprise, which showed up repeatedly as one of the most aggressive rental companies when it comes to damage claims, billed a customer weeks after he returned the car for several hundred dollars in damage it supposedly found underneath the car. Who knows when, or even if, it happened?)  

Several shots of the interior should include the dashboard, all seats, ceiling, and trunk. If you want to be extra careful, take snapshots of the wheels and under the two bumpers. You can’t take too many photographs as evidence. And whether you’re shooting stills or video, hold the camera steady and time-stamp the photos, or state the date and time into the video.

Retain the images or videos (ideally transferring them to your computer) for six months. According to one ombudsman, six months was "the longest I’ve seen a car rental company wait to file a damage claim."

In addition to the photos and/or video, a lot attendant should provide a form with a diagram on which you note the condition of the vehicle and identify any problems. Don’t leave the lot without recording any pre-existing damage on this form and having a car-rental employee sign it and give you a copy.  

Finally! You’ve attended to all the condition details and now it’s time to get into the vehicle and drive off. But … not so fast. Do you know how to start the car? To put it into gear?  

Don’t scoff; new cars these days have all kinds of tech you might’ve never seen before. Anthony Curtis had occasion to rent a car recently and wound up in a pickup truck; he spent ten minutes looking for the gear shifter before asking someone where it was. (It turned out to be the round knob near the radio that looked like the volume control.)

Do you know how to turn on the ignition, lights, and windshield wipers? Do you know how to open the trunk and the gasoline fill door? When in doubt, ask. Also, check to see that there’s an operating manual in the glove compartment. If you’re renting the car for any length of time, chances are that at some point, you’ll have to refer to it.

An excellent precaution is to have AAA or another road-rescue service, with the an extended-towing option. You never know when you might need it, especially in a rental car for which you’re liable, but it’ll almost always be in some sort of emergency.

Speaking of which, what if the worst happens and you’re in an accident?

This is an area of major controversy. These days, rental companies take a hard line with customers who damage their vehicles. Indeed, we’ve heard a number of stories from Vegas visitors who insist car-rental companies trumped up damages; they claimed scratches or dents for which they were billed were either pre-existing or didn’t exist at all.

God forbid you’re in a major accident, but if you are, the claims process is straightforward, since no one, presumably, is disputing the damage. (One or another party might dispute the fault, but that’s for the insurance companies to determine.)

Most of the disputed damage claims are for little scratches, dings, and dents that you didn’t notice, that probably occurred when you were parked and out of the vehicle, or perhaps when a pebble hit the windshield on the freeway. (Windshield cracks are the number-one source of rental-car damage claims.)

If you’re aware of damage that occurred while you had the vehicle and alert an employee to this fact, you’ll most likely fill out a claim form on the spot. Signing the form is your admission of the damage and your agreement to pay for it. Think you shouldn’t be responsible for damage to the car while it was parked or for a pebble that dinged the windshield? Think again. If the car was damaged while it was in your possession, you’re liable.

One ombudsman writes, "Recently, some rental companies have begun charging a renter’s credit card a deductible even when there’s been no formal damage estimate. I’m skeptical of that practice. While it may be legal, I think you’re better off waiting for a bill before paying up, or asking your insurance to settle the claim."

If you paid for the rental-company insurance, you just won the wager. But if you didn’t, you’ll have to file a further claim with your personal-insurance or credit-card company (and do it promptly; there’s often a time limit on filing claims).  

If you’re not aware of damage to the car, you’ll be surprised to learn about it when you receive a letter from the rental-car company (or its insurance carrier). That’s why you should go through the same evidence-collecting process upon returning the car that you did before accepting it. Date- and time-stamp the photos or video. Then find an employee, walk around the car, and have him or her sign off on the condition form, presumably certifying that you’re returning the car in the same condition in which you rented it.  

The ombudsman adds, "If no one is available, go inside, ask for the name and email address of the branch manager, and send the manager a brief email with your name, rental number and a few snapshots of the car as you returned it. Is that overkill? No, and especially not if you are using your own insurance, as opposed to the optional Collision Damage Waiver offered by the rental company. It signals to the rental location that filing a frivolous claim against you will be difficult."

What if you receive a letter from the rental-car company, accusing you of damaging the car and billing you for the average $800, including the cost or repairs and loss-of-use and diminished-value fees? Naturally, you’ll peruse everything carefully, paying particular attention to the license-plate number; if it’s not the same as your car, you’re obviously in the clear. (This is also true if you receive a letter with a parking ticket or photographic evidence of a moving violation, such as failing to pay at a tollbooth or running a red light.) And obviously, if you have your own photographic evidence disputing the company’s claim, send it back and chances are the whole thing will be dropped.

What if it isn’t? Then, you’ll have to go on the offensive, which is beyond the scope of this answer; google "disputing rental-car damage claim" and good luck.

However, we will say that you should be alert to possible scams. Signs of those include an amount that approaches $500 (the usual car-insurance deductible); damage to the roof or undercarriage (yes, here we go again); exorbitant cleaning fees (for example, for pet hair or cigarette smoke, when there were no animals or smoke in the car); and other suspicious claims that quiver your red flag.  

So there you have it, everything that commonly goes wrong during the car-rental process. Are you deathly afraid to rent a car now? Don’t be. The original question mentioned that one in six people who rent a car experience some sort of damage to it. This means, of course, that five in six people (83%) don’t have any problems and, presumably, most of those who do are adequately insured.

So grab your best rental-car deal, make sure you’re adequately insured, collect evidence of the car’s condition before and after the rental, and don’t worry, be happy.

UPDATE: 10-29-2014  We're actually posting some "Updates" to this one before it even goes live, since we've been accumulating email responses all week with regard to this car-rental trilogy, and we saved the "damage" stories until now. Thanks to everyone who's taken the time to share their stories, good and bad, and their additional tips and insights into navigating this potential minefield. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say, so do like Deke says and don't worry, be happy!


  • "I'm sure everyone has war stories. Here are a couple of mine:
  • 1. I was at Enterprise in Seattle. The were out of full size cars but the agent steered me towards a shiny new Dodge Ram pickup truck and I thought “why not?” I pointed out a small poc mark dent in the rear chrome bumper but he pulled out a plastic card and said “no problem, any dent smaller than this circle is not an issue.” When I returned the truck a few days later that dent became an issue. I repeated what the check-out agent had told me and I thought it was over. A week later I received a letter and a bill from Enterprise claims in Texas. I thought “no problem, I have Alaska Airlines VISA rental car insurance.” It was then I found out the VISA insurance in the fine print excludes pickup trucks! I argued with Enterprise over the next six weeks or so mainly about the check-out agent and his plastic card. Eventually it all went away.

    2. I rented a nice Volvo S-80 from Hertz at the Boston airport. I didn’t realize it at the time but that evening when we stayed at a hotel in Boston, someone keyed both sides and the front of the car. It had been raining and I didn’t notice the damage. The next night we valet parked at the Mohegan Sun in CT. When I retrieved the car a couple of days later I noticed the damage. I assumed my irate tone of voice and talked to several casino execs about it. Finally I got them to agree they would pay for the damage (even though I later realized it had probably happened in Boston). However when I returned the car about a week later it was also raining and the scratches were difficult to see and they didn’t say a word. I never heard from Hertz.

    3. I rented a nondescript full size car from Hertz in Las Vegas. After 5 days we were driving down I-15 to turn in the car when someone threw a large item (rock, piece of concrete?) at the car which hit the passenger-side door with a loud bang. I didn’t stop – freeway, you know – but when I was checking in the car the agent noticed the dent. “You’ll have to go inside and talk to one of our agents” he told me. The whole place was very busy so instead, my wife and I just hopped on the shuttle back to the airport. I never heard from Hertz. I’m not sure what the moral of these stories is. Maybe try disappearing. Or try returning the car on a rainy day. Or rent from Hertz. If none of those work, act righteous and stand on the high moral ground. . Fortunately I’ve never been in a serious accident with a rental car – yet!"

  • "You said you wanted to hear about valet horror stories... At the Marriott/Atlanta downtown the valet sideswiped the rental van. I thought something was strange when the valet brought up the van on the wrong side. Sure enough--the entire side of the van (the side that was not visible when he brought the car up to us) had been scraped on something. Damage to the entire side of the car!) Called for the manager. He said, 'well just drive to your meeting. We'll discuss later.' We said no way! Took a cab and returned to meet with the hotel. The Marriott declined responsibility saying the valet was a subcontract. I carry the Diners Club Card since they provide 'primary coverage'. Nonetheless, demanded that the valet service work with the car rental company--don't involve me! National Rent a Car billed for the damage (over $2000 as I recall) plus a week of "loss of use" while the car was repaired. The valet service finally took responsibility and paid the bill! Big hassle--luckily we found the damage immediately and confronted the employee--if we had driven the car off the property I assume they would have declined responsibility!"
  • "When I rented from Hertz in Las Vegas it was so dark and poorly lit in the garage I could not inspect the car for dents, etc. This is a common ploy of rental firms. I now take a flashlight with me to inspect the car and routinely take a video of the exterior with my cell phone. This has paid off on several occasions when a small dent or scratch was noted on check in and I simply showed the tech the video where this dent or scratch was already there."


Retirement planning: How
not to outlive your money

Ian McGugan
The Globe and Mail
June 13, 2014

Shortly after my great-uncle and great-aunt retired, they came up with what seemed like a foolproof plan.

They would take the modest pension that my Uncle Jim had accumulated since emigrating from Scotland, sell their house, and say goodbye to brutal Lake Erie winters forever. As my Aunt Mary told my parents, they intended to spend "the last few years we have left" enjoying the sun and heat of Florida.

Good plan. Bad timing.

The year was 1969. Over the next few years, rampant inflation gobbled up the real value of their pension. Every dollar they possessed lost half its buying power in the first decade of their Florida retirement.

And those "few years"? They stretched on and on. Uncle Jim passed away at 86; Aunt Mary just kept on going. She died in 2000, shortly before her 101st birthday.

Uncle Jim and Aunt Mary taught me that life's twists can derail even a reasonable retirement plan. Their example underlines an important truth: Stuff happens. Perhaps you live longer than you expected. Perhaps investments don't perform as you hoped.

Retirement is ultimately an exercise in risk management – and dealing with risk involves an educated understanding of how unforeseen events can sabotage your golden years.

The greatest single hazard is what planners call "longevity risk" – the possibility that you may outlive your money.

Actuaries tell us that a woman who is now 65 can expect to live, on average, to 88, while a man can look forward to reaching nearly 86. Remember, though, that those are averages – about half of retirees will outlive those figures. In fact, if you are now a 50-year-old woman, there is nearly a 10 per cent chance that you will live to celebrate your 100th birthday.

How do you plan for a retirement that may be as long, or longer, than your working life? For the dwindling number of Canadians who are members of defined-benefit plans with automatic cost-of-living adjustments, there's little to worry about. For most of us, though, there is a lot of risk in planning three decades ahead – especially given two additional hazards.

One is the danger of inflation eating away at the purchasing power of our savings. It doesn't have to be the out-of-control inflation of the 1970s – over the course of a couple of decades, even a modest 2 per cent annual rise in living costs can blow a hole in the purchasing power of a pension that's not adjusted for rising prices.

Then there's market risk as well. In theory, a steadfast investor who builds a well selected stock portfolio should do well over time. But, in practice, the payoff can require more patience than most people possess.

Someone who held an S&P 500 index fund for a decade between 2000 and 2010 would have lost money (excluding currency gains). An investor unlucky enough to retire in 2000 or 2007 with a bulging stock portfolio would have seen their holdings nearly instantly eviscerated.

A good retirement plan should address longevity risk, inflation risk and market risk. Here are the pros and cons of three key risk-management tools:


An annuity is essentially a contract with an insurance company, which guarantees to pay you a steady stream of income until the day you die.

If you don't already have a pension, it makes good sense to devote part of your savings to purchasing an annuity. By doing so, you gain some peace of mind as well as the ability to invest the rest of your portfolio more aggressively.

But there are drawbacks. Annuity rates are tied to interest rates. With rates so low today, annuities are expensive. Plus, most offer no protection against inflation.


Taking a part-time job in the early years of your retirement can make a big difference to your financial picture. Earning even $4,000 a year replaces the income you could reasonably expect to generate from a $100,000 portfolio. It also provides a buffer against unexpected inflation.

The obstacle, of course, is that many people find it difficult to find employment in their senior years. And some of us simply never want to see a workplace again.

Your portfolio

Many people can achieve big gains from simply adjusting their portfolios to reduce the cost of investing and to ensure the right mix between income producers (like bonds) and more inflation-proof investments (like stocks).

The problem? Many people don't like managing their own money. If you've never taken an interest in investing, retirement is not a good time to start taking charge of your own portfolio.

The bottom line

It all sounds very intimidating – but doesn't have to be. Despite their challenges, Uncle Jim and Aunt Mary never complained, but simply found ways to live on less.

They enjoyed their retirement. You can too.


How an impaired driving conviction can affect your car insurance rates

The Globe and Mail
Jun. 12 2014

Drunk driving is risky – and insurance companies say they don't like risk.

"In our view, an impaired driver is more likely to be a repeat offender and has an increased risk of causing a serious accident," says Glenn Cooper, spokesman for Aviva. "Those convicted of impaired driving, even if not involved in an accident, have made an unsafe choice putting many others at risk."

Like most private Canadian insurance companies, Aviva won't insure drivers convicted of impaired driving for three years after the conviction. Drivers who can't get insurance from a regular company have to move to facility insurance, "the market of last chance for drivers who cannot find insurance elsewhere," Cooper says.

That coverage comes with a price. It can cost up to $8,000 more a year than regular insurance.

Risky business

We asked several insurance companies for actuarial evidence to explain why the hike is so high.

Intact Insurance said their data shows that drivers with an impaired conviction are 30 to 40 per cent more likely to be involved in an accident.

"Why do drivers with an impaired conviction pay higher premiums? The obvious answer is because they're a higher risk," says CAA spokesman Kristine D'Arbelles. "We don't have any actual data that shows impaired drivers will reoffend one or two or three times, but impaired convictions tend to be a chronic issue."

MADD Canada says 30 per cent of drivers with an impaired conviction get another within 10 years.

If insurance is too high, some drive without it

Drivers with drunk driving convictions should be paying less than they're paying in Ontario, says MADD CEO Andrew Murie.

"In Ontario, a typical impaired conviction will move your insurance premiums from around $2,000 to between $8,500 and $10,000 a year – that's a lot of money," Murie says.

Because facility insurance is unaffordable for many drivers, some don't tell their insurance companies they've had a DUI, Murie says. Or, they drive without insurance entirely. Neither choice is good for the other drivers on the road, he says.

"If you don't tell them and just keep making your payments, the insurance company won't insure a crash if you have one," Murie says.

Insurance companies might not know you've had an impaired driving conviction until they check your abstract. And they don't do that as often as you might think. A 2013 U.S. poll from InsuranceQuotes.com found that only 31 per cent of drivers saw their premiums rise after traffic tickets.

"We often find in cases where we discover an existing customer has a new conviction for impaired that he/she also had prior impaired convictions," says Aviva's Cooper.

A break for drivers with ignition interlocks?

Murie says private insurers should follow the lead of Canada's government-run insurance companies and allow drivers with DUI convictions to keep their insurance and pay an extra surcharge of up to $1,000 a year if they've installed an ignition interlock.

"We need to keep these people in the system," Murie says."If they're putting on this interlock which does not allow them to drive impaired, they should be eligible for a significant reduction."

The device is a breathalyzer that doesn't let your car start if your blood alcohol level is above a set limit. Drivers also need to give breath samples while driving to keep the engine going.

Ontario and every other province except New Brunswick and Newfoundland has an interlock requirement, Murie says.

"The data shows that this technology works, it's not like they'll have to wait 10 or 15 years for the data," Murie says. "It boggles my mind that they're not doing this."

MADD has asked insurance companies to offer a break for interlock users, Murie says, but they've had no takers.

"I don't think insurance companies will willingly do it on their own," Murie says, "It will have to be up to the Superintendent of Insurance."


Pros and Cons of
Retiring in Las Vegas

Las Vegas Advisor
June 10, 2014

We don't often see Las Vegas promoting itself as a retirement destination. Rather, Las Vegas seems to us to be much more interested in short-term visitors with plenty of money than long-term residents moving here for myriad personal reasons.

Perhaps it's because Las Vegas' self-promotion is geared more to the four-sizes-fit-all of gambling, dining, entertainment, and shopping. By contrast, the motivations for residency, including retirement, tend to be particular, exclusive to individuals. Since you don't specify your own reasons for wanting to retire here, we can only comment in general on how Las Vegas is perceived as a retirement destination by pundits, analysts, and list-makers.

On the con side, a list published by Huffington Post (January 2014) included Las Vegas as among the seven worst places to retire. It cited not only the high foreclosure rate, but specified "bank-seized 'vampire' and homeowner-abandoned 'zombie' foreclosures." It also pointed to negative job growth, an unemployment rate 6% higher than the national average, and poor access to doctors. "Only 69.7% of Las Vegans have a usual source of health care, much lower than the national average at 82.4%, according to a study by the Commonwealth Fund."

Another example: On Sperlings' list of the 300 best places to retire, Las Vegas didn't rank in the top 100 (#129). "Although it's a fact that the weather is great and housing is pretty cheap, the city received negative scores for crime, economy, and access to good health care."

Neither did Las Vegas appear on TopRetirements.com's top 100 places to retire in 2014 (Mesquite ranked #33, Reno #73).

Las Vegas was nowhere to be seen on the Forbes' list of the top 25 best places to retire, U.S. News and World Report's list of best places to retire on $75 a day or for under $40,000 a year, or even Kiplinger's "top-ten tax heavens" in the U.S.

Beyond the volatile housing market, questionable health care, and a crime rate higher than the U.S. average, the prevalence of gambling could be enough of a temptation that some people wind up risking or losing their retirement savings. This is especially true for those who've become accustomed to a certain level of comps earned as visitors, which can change with a local address.

In addition, summers are sweltering, which impacts just about everything, including utility bills, auto maintenance, outdoor activities, travel, and health. Winter temperatures also surprise some new residents; the average low temperature in January is 37.

And although there are many nice neighborhoods, having to drive everywhere might prove off-putting to some, as could concerns about the future water supply.

Then there's the flip side, the arguments in favor of retiring here.

In February, Las Vegas was named the #1 best place to retire by MoneyJournal.com, an e-magazine, on its annual list of top tens. The website especially liked the extent of the recovery of the local economy and the active housing market, with lower home prices attractive to retirees (assuming that they'll buy houses when they retire here). Other advantages cited included abundant dining options, plenty of casinos, a warmer climate the majority of the year, and no state income tax.

One of Las Vegas's biggest draws, certainly, is that it has neither a state income tax nor an inheritance tax, leaving retirees with more money to enjoy while they're still alive and to pass on. Nevada's entire tax structure is resident-friendly; a majority of state taxes are collected from visitors.

According to several surveys, Las Vegas' cost of living is 5.8% lower than the U.S. average.

In addition, there are numerous 55+, active-adult, age-restricted, and retirement communities in all varieties: homes, villas, condos, townhomes, and apartments, most located in gated subdivisions for security.

Las Vegas is also an easy place to fly in and out of.

Chances are, you'll recognize your priorities somewhere in the above pros and cons and have a better idea if Las Vegas is an attractive retirement option for you. At the least, we hope we've given some food for thought to point you in the right direction for further research.


What to do if you just can't wait until the next rest stop

The Globe and Mail
May 6, 2014

Sometimes, you can't wait for the next gas station or rest stop (or don't know when it's coming) and you have to pee at the side of the road. Especially if you have kids in the car - sometimes they just can't wait. Is it illegal, even if you find some bushes or if nobody else is coming down the road? Could a little tinkle get me a criminal record?

Urine, big trouble? Probably not, as long as you're smart about it where and how you take your impromptu rest stop, police say.

"Let's just say that in my 30 years of policing, I've never charged anyone with peeing on the side of the highway," says Ontario Provincial. Police Sgt. Pierre Chamberland. "Generally speaking there's no issue, unless they're impeding traffic or doing it in such a way that they're exposing themselves."

Pee breaks aren't addressed in Ontario's Highway Traffic Act, but pulling over is illegal on the 400-series highways except for emergencies, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) says in an email statement.

Where pulling over is not illegal, "drivers should ensure their vehicle is parked as far from the edge of the highway as possible," the MTO says.

Would a pee break count as an emergency? It can certainly feel like one. It's up to police to decide what charges to lay.

Penal code?

Chances are, you wouldn't be charged with exposure under the Criminal Code of Canada, says Vancouver Police Constable Brian Montague.

"For a criminal charge, the actions of someone generally have to be for a sexual purpose." Montague says. "Many places may have a health by-law that may be applicable. In Vancouver it is against a city health by-law to urinate in public."

That could carry a $250 fine, but "officers have a great deal of discretion and not all incidents would result in a ticket," Montague says.

A cop might not buy "but officer, I was stung by a jellyfish," on the way from Sudbury – but they probably know what you're going through.

"Everybody with kids has had to pull over for this at some point," Chamberland says.

A UK couple tried to get their local government to close a spot used by motorists for pee breaks near their home, but a judge quashed the ruling, saying that the motorists weren't visible in the act.

The Internet is flush with advice on how to urinate on the side of the road. Tips include finding a tree, bush or shielding yourself with the car door.

Other drivers on the highway are probably busy speeding, texting , so a little pee break isn't a big deal in comparison.

If you're really shy, a wide-mouthed plastic bottle or even a portable urinal might come in handy.

When you are driving along a road and your indicator is still on right turn, and the person waiting to come from the right sets off, are you liable if a collision occurs? Or should the person on the right wait until he is sure I am turning right? Is he guilty of proceeding while unsafe? — Alberta driver

If your signal is on but you're not actually turning, the other guy's usually at fault if he hits you.


7 paths to a fulfilling retirement — which
is for you?

Nanci Hellmich
USA Today
Mon Apr 07 2014

People who are retiring sometimes just think about getting another job doing the same thing they've done all their lives, says Marie Langworthy, 65, a retired school administrator. But they really need to step back and and ask themselves: What do I really want to do? What do I enjoy? What am I good at?

Langworthy and Carolee Duckworth, 67, a retired Web design professor, wrote Shifting Gears to Your Life and Work After Retirement to help people see themselves in a new way. "Our goal is to help you come up with a mission statement for the rest of your life," says Duckworth.

They have identified seven retirement paths that retirees might take:

Life of leisure

Many retirees cultivate at least a partial life of leisure, pursuing hobbies passions or interests like fishing, golfing, and gardening.

Life of volunteerism

Volunteerism can provide structure, meaning and purpose to retirees' lives.

Life of a traveler

Rather than just travel as a visitor to places, stay a while. "I suggest staying in places for a week or more; so you get to know the people, not just see the museums," Duckworth says.

Life of engaging new work

Try work that's something completely different from what you did most of your lifetime.

Life of entrepreneurship

This involves identifying a need that could be fulfilled and going after it.

Life as a Creative

These are people who create art, design, music — new ideas, services and solutions to complex problems. "Coming back to your creative self is one of the glories of retirement," Duckworth adds.

Life of a student

Some study for the pleasure of learning; others to train in a new area of work or to become skilled or knowledgeable in an area of interest.


When can I legally pull
over to answer a text or phone call?

The Globe and Mail
March 21, 2014

For Ontario's distracted driving law, what exactly constitutes legal parking? Does the engine have to be turned off? Do the keys have to be removed from the ignition? When can you legally use your phone?

Put simply, you can't touch a hand-held phone when you're driving unless you're pushing the hands-free button or calling 911, says Ontario's MTO.

"Ontario's law makes it illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email using hand-held cell phones and other hand-held communications and entertainment devices," the MTO says in an email statement. "The law also prohibits drivers from viewing display screens while driving, such as laptops or DVD players, that are unrelated to the driving task."

On March 18, 2014 the fine for breaking that law will rise from $155 to $280.

The MTO says drivers can touch a device to turn on or off the hands-free function, but otherwise they can't physically touch the device while driving. That includes giving instructions to the GPS and playing MP3s/

If you're parked or safely pulled over and not impeding traffic, then you're not driving. You can use the device from behind the wheel without getting charged.

There is a hitch. You have to follow other traffic laws. If it says No Parking, you can't park there. You have to be lawfully, or legally, parked. That means you can only park where parking is allowed. If there's a No Parking sign, then it's not lawful parking.

"You have to be safely in park to use a device, but the engine doesn't have to be off and the keys don't have to be out of the ignition," says Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Pierre Chamberland.

If you're pulling over, you can't pull over where it's not allowed. For example, pulling over is banned on 400-series roads unless it's an emergency.

"If the situation is not an emergency, drivers are advised to exit the freeway at an interchange or pull into the nearest service centre," the MTO says.

If you're in traffic but not moving, like at a stop light or in traffic jam, it's illegal to use your device, even if you put your vehicle in park.

"If you're stopped in traffic, you're still driving – you're just not moving," says Chamberland. "You still have to pay attention to the lights and to other vehicles."

Deadly consequences

This week, an OPP blitz is targeting Ontario drivers who won't ditch their devices on the road.

"People are not abiding by this law and I don't know why," says Chamberland. "They're raising the fines and there's still debate in the government about adding demerits – we're hoping that will make a difference."

In 2013, distracted driving was the number one cause of death on roadways: 78 people were killed in collisions involving distracted driving, the OPP says.

That's compared to 57 impaired-driving deaths and 44 speed-related deaths. Since 2010, distracted driving has killed 325 people in Ontario.

Hands-free allowed, but is it safe?

Ontario's distracted driving law allows hands-free calling. But a 2013 study by the University of Utah and the American Automobile Association showed talking on a hands-free phone was nearly as distracting to drivers as talking on a hand-held phone, says the Canadian Automobile Association.

"We are not the only ones who have conducted this type of research," says CAA spokesman Kristine D'Arbelles in an email. "More and more studies show that cognitive distraction (from) hands-free devices is as dangerous as physical distraction."


Not knowing the "Move Over" law could
cost you $490

March 17, 2014
Eric Lai
Toronto Star

Enacted in 2003, the "move over" law is hardly a new one. It's been extensively reported by media outlets and all Ontario drivers were also personally notified via a notice with every licence or plate renewal letter.

Yet, during my ride-along with York Regional Police recently, virtually no one complied.

Here's what the law states: Section 159 (2,3) HTA requires motorists approaching, on the same side of the road, a stopped emergency vehicle with red or red/blue lights flashing, to slow down.

If there are multiple lanes in your direction of travel, you must vacate the lane adjacent the emergency vehicle, if it can be done safely.

For example, if there are two lanes in your direction of travel, and police/fire/ambulance are stopped on the right shoulder with lights flashing, drivers approaching in the same direction of travel should move into the far left lane, if it can be done safely. If you can't move over safely (i.e. would cut-off left lane driver), you must slow down while passing the stopped emergency vehicle.

Similar "move over" laws exist across Canada except in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, and Yukon.

Some provinces extend the law to protect tow trucks and "amber light" roadside workers (Ontario does not). Your passing speed may also be legislated, for example, Alberta states 60 km/h maximum, or the posted limit if lower. In Ontario, you must slow to below the posted limit as necessary to avoid endangering roadside personnel.

In the U.S., 49 states have similar laws where drivers must move over or slow down to 20 mph (32 km/h) below the limit.

Despite all efforts to publicize Ontario's decade old "move over" law via news media, internet, mailings, billboards and police campaigns, I observed near-zero compliance on a night shift with York Police Sgt. Ryan Hogan.

During a roadside traffic stop on Hwy 404, countless motorists illegally zipped past us in the adjacent lane. Only four cars moved over. The rest came within mere centimeters of striking Sgt. Hogan, the police vehicle and/or the stopped violator at well over 100 km/h.

Any contact at those speeds could be fatal to all, including the impacting driver.

On Hwy 7, while stopped in the curb lane, not only did drivers not move away, some even changed lanes so they'd illegally pass alongside. Others didn't change out of our lane until the last second – which makes it hazardous for drivers behind them who may not see the stopped emergency vehicle ahead in time.

The "move over" violators Sgt. Hogan stopped claimed total ignorance of the law – and that could've cost them a $490 fine and three demerit points. But for roadside emergency workers, your failure to comply could cost them their lives.

UPDATE: Two nights later, York Constable Wade Nethercott was struck and injured by a vehicle that failed to move over in Newmarket.


List of winners at Sunday’s 86th annual
Academy Awards presented by the Academy
of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave

Actor: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Directing: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty, Italy.

Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave.

Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze, Her

Animated Feature Film: Frozen

Production Design: The Great Gatsby

Cinematography: Gravity

Sound Mixing: Gravity

Sound Editing: Gravity

Original Score: Gravity Steven Price.

Original Song: “Let It Go” from Frozen

Costume: The Great Gatsby

Makeup and Hairstyling: Dallas Buyers Club

Animated Short Film: Mr. Hublot

Documentary Feature: 20 Feet from Stardom

Documentary (short subject): The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life

Film Editing: Gravity

Live Action Short Film: Helium

Visual Effects: Gravity

New test coming soon for elderly Ontario drivers

The Globe and Mail
Feb 1, 2014

On April 21 in Ontario, new changes to the licence testing for people aged 80-and-over will take effect. The Ministry of Transportation's new evaluation includes a vision assessment, in-class group education, review of the driver's record and two short exercises, the latter to determine if further assessment is required.

The big change is with the two exercises (click on this link), require drivers to draw the hands of a clock to 11:10, and to cross out each "H" from rows of letters. They are designed to evaluate basic auditory language skills, memory, motor functioning, and ability to plan and organize.

Dr. Louisa Gembora, an independent clinical psychologist specializing in rehabilitation and a driving instructor, says: "The clock drawing exercise seems simplistic, but it's reliable and viable – we've used it for many years, providing the evidence to implement it."

There is predictable anger among seniors who mistake a driver's licence with a membership-for-life card, or who understandably believe clean driving records should speak amply on their behalf.

"It's rank discrimination," Tom Trent, 84, of Kichener, Ont., wrote to me after the MTO announced the changes to reassess drivers when they hit 80.

The new evaluation procedure came from years of work with CANDRIVE, an interdisciplinary group of researchers seeking to keep the elderly driving safely. Brenda Vrkljan, assistant professor with McMaster Univeristy's School of Rehabilitation Science and a member of the CANDRIVE team, says the ministry is embracing the organization's work.

The test determines how your brain is actually working, rather than how you may make yourself appear to be functioning for a short time period.

"We put our best self forward in a test, but cognitive tests like the ones now included will reveal gaps that can be missed," Vrkljan says. "We are constantly looking for evidence-based, fair testing that protects the individual as well as public safety."

Is the government coming after Tom and his friends? Is there a conspiratorial movement to strip older driver of freedom and independence?

My mother passed a crash scene 40 years ago. The sight of the boy's backpack lying on the ground haunted her. An elderly driver had hopped a curb and pinned a young pedestrian to a fence with his vehicle. The lad lost his leg. The old man was in shock, declaring he'd never seen him, never seen the curb. It happened on the route I took home from school. .

Impaired vision, dementia and failing cognitive skills affect an individual's ability to drive. Choosing to evaluate drivers as they age is evidence-based. Statistics Canada reports that drivers over 70, when adjusted for miles driven, rank second in percentage of crashes only to those the wild teenage boys we hear so much about. And it's the seniors who are more likely to die.

Presently, Ontario requires doctors to report patients whom they believe to have diminished competence behind the wheel due to medical conditions or prescriptions . Alberta requires medical exams beginning at aged 65, and anyone can report a driver they believe to be dangerous. B.C. stipulates medical exams as a condition of renewal starting at age 80. Saskatchewan has a gradual delicencing for compromised drivers, based on times driven, distance and time of day. The AAA motor club in the U.S. says, "Seniors are outliving their ability to drive safely by an average of seven to 10 years."

I called Tom back, explained the changes, and said the test was a better, fairer judge of cognitive ability. Discrimination, based on age? Yes, but it's predicated on evidence. At 90 minutes, the test takes half the time of the old one and is a far better measure of a senior's ability to handle a car.


Canadians stock up
on incandescent bulbs
in wake of ban

January 14, 2014

The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Jan.

It has hardly been a stampede, but Canadians have stepped up their purchases of old-style incandescent light bulbs, as buyers stockpile them in the wake of the first phase of a ban on manufacturing the power-guzzling product.

Retailers report a jump in sales as a result of the Jan. 1 implementation of federal rules that prevent 75-watt and 100-watt bulbs from being made or imported into Canada. At the end of this year, 40- and 60-watt bulbs will also come under the ban.

But the rules allow sales of the existing inventory of the 100-watt bulbs (very few 75-watt bulbs are sold in Canada), and retailers have lots in stock that they say will last for months.

"We've seen a spike, there's no question," said Ron Cleary, senior merchant for electrical products at Home Depot Canada Inc. But he expects the flurry to burn out quickly as customers realize there are many other options.

Home Depot will likely have inventory of the old 100-watt bulbs until at least March, Mr. Cleary said.

At that time the retailer will have stocked up with 72-watt halogen-incandescents, a slightly more expensive bulb that looks and behaves much like the old ones but which meets the new federal rules because it uses 28-per-cent less electricity to generate the same amount of light. It also lasts much longer than old style incandescents.

Other alternatives include compact fluorescents (CFLs), which have fallen sharply in price in recent years, and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, which are still expensive – as much as $30 per bulb – but have also come down in price recently. Both use dramatically less power than incandescents and last much longer.

Despite the higher-cost bulbs, the government says lower household energy use means that consumers will save more than $750-million by 2025.

Canadians spend about $300-million a year on light bulbs.

Still, there is resistance among some consumers to give up the old-style bulbs. Ontario Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant has been lobbying to have the government cancel the phase out of incandescents. She has an online petition (stopthelightbulbban.ca) on the go to try to get the rules repealed.

In the United States, the backlash is even stronger, as some see the rule change as a conspiracy among big government, lighting manufacturers, and environmentalists. One website (freedomlightbulb.org) channels the views of those who say the ban on incandescents makes no sense and is an assault on individual freedoms.

The United States is actually well ahead of Canada on cutting out incandescents. It banned manufacturing or importing of 100-watt bulbs in 2012, and eliminated 40- and 60-watt bulbs on Jan. 1 of this year. British Columbia is also ahead of the rest of Canada, banning 100-watt incandescents in 2011.

In both countries, specialty incandescent bulbs – such as decorative lamps and those used in ovens, refrigerators or three-way fixtures – will be allowed indefinitely.

Among the more widespread complaints about the changeover is that most CFLs do not work with dimmers, and that they contain mercury so they must be disposed of carefully. LEDs do not face these issues, they are still considerably more expensive. While some consumers didn't like the look of early CFLs and LEDs, both now come in a range of of hues (from yellowish warm to cooler bluish).

Sales of incandescents have been "gradually dying out for the last few years," said Alison Rennie, operations manager for the Living Lighting chain, as alternatives have come to market and people warm to the idea of energy-saving bulbs.

A delay in the incandescent ban (Ottawa originally planned it for 2012 but pushed it back to 2014) gave bulb-makers time to improve their replacement products, she added. "I'm glad we had the two-year delay because the manufacturers weren't ready."

Selling light bulbs that cost substantially more but will last for years requires a different marketing approach, said Rina Varano, a merchandiser for lighting and electrical products at Rona Inc.

She said that in the past, light bulbs were often used as loss leaders – a way to get consumers into the store. Now they are sold as an environmentally friendly technology that is worth a higher price because of the long life. Eventually sales will decline as the long-life bulbs become more ubiquitous.

While most consumers are willing to make the change, it can be an expensive up-front investment for businesses buying large quantities of bulbs, even though energy savings will help defer the costs over time.

Andrew Cowan, an independent consultant who sells lighting systems and products in Toronto, said his commercial customers – restaurants, office buildings and condominiums, for example – are scrambling to get the old bulbs because they like the look they create, and the fact that they are easily dimmable.

With the 100-watt incandescents no longer being manufactured or imported into Canada, and the ban on 60-watt bulbs looming, the pricing of remaining inventory has risen, Mr. Cowan said. He used to be able to sell them in bulk for as low as 39 cents each, but now charges around 89 cents.


How mature drivers get their groove back

Advanced training course aimed at older drivers
sharpens their skills — and their confidence

Toronto Star - Wheels.ca
By Carola Vyhnak
Dec 24, 2013

SHANNONVILLE—An exhilarated Marr Kelly, fresh off the skid pad, is saying she would bring her 80-year-old mother here if she hadn't hung up her car keys last year.

Funny, I was just thinking I couldn't imagine my 89-year-old mother dodging cones or doing 360s through puddles — yet she stubbornly refuses to stop driving.

Which is the whole point of the "mature" drivers program offered by Brack Driving Concepts: testing and sharpening the road skills of older motorists.

The goal is to teach ways of coping with other drivers and situations, or even get them to realize — often to family members' relief — that their driving days are over.

Kelly and I are among half-dozen participants who turned out for advanced driver training at Shannonville Motorsport Park one recent rainy day. Aimed at improving drivers of all ages, the day-long program is a longer, more-intensive version of the course for seniors.

With more than four decades of driving behind me, I'm more stewing hen than spring chicken at the wheel, but I've opted to put my skills to the test with the younger crowd.

Kelly, a lifelong car lover, is here at the behest of her bucket list, which says "be the best driver I can be in any circumstance."

She comes away impressed after a full day, which includes an hour of classroom instruction on the basics of driver position, mirrors, tires, braking and cornering, followed by numerous laps on a closed road course and skid pad, all monitored by an in-car coach.

"This could save lives," says Kelly, who manages a university sports medicine clinic in Toronto. "It's a confidence issue," she adds, musing that her mother probably would have kept driving if she'd taken the course.

The shorter, five-hour version for older folks puts them through the same paces, but with less time in class and on the track.

Instructor Chris Teixeira reminds us that driving is an "incredibly complicated task" and that the single most-important component is vision. That means constantly looking at least 10 cars ahead, as well as checking behind and on either side.

The "look ahead" mantra quickly hits home when we're on the track, trying to pinpoint the apex in a series of corners of different shapes and lengths.

I have school owner Bill Brack himself riding shotgun with me, calling out instructions. He's a three-time Canadian Driving Champion and a motorsport hall of famer who beat Gilles Villeneuve.

Brack has just done several hair-raising (to me) laps to demonstrate the fine art of cornering, and here I am bouncing off curves and trying valiantly to work up a head of steam after signalling other drivers to pass.

But something incredible happens under his tutelage. I lose my fear. I get better and go faster. And I'm thrilled to discover my creaky, aging Chevy Malibu that has travelled almost 300,000 km can still take it. There's life yet in the two old girls.

This is what our instructors want from us: to learn what the car and driver are capable of doing. That's what builds confidence and the ability to handle road challenges in the real world.

"If you had to get out of the way quickly, you can do it and know your car can do it," Brack explains.

It's all about safety for Newmarket mother Anna Trankovskaya, who drives her two children to school every day.

"Over time, you get bad driving habits," she says. "I just want to improve on basic skills." She comes away with "better control and more confidence."

Toronto resident Manish Khera worries about navigating the city's "very aggressive driving landscape," especially when his 5- and 7-year-olds are on board.

After a day on the rain-slicked track and skid pad, he's lost his tunnel vision and gained a grip on "efficient cornering," says the satisfied motorist, whose wife sent him to Shannonville as a 40th birthday present.

A dandy idea, too, for someone's 90th.


I didn't file a claim.
Will my insurance
go up anyway?

The Globe and Mail
November 9, 2013

In addition to wondering whether your premium may increase, should the accident be reported to your insurance company, and what are the possible consequences of not doing so?

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, you must notify your insurer as soon as possible about any accident that must, by law, be reported to police, or for which you intend to make a claim under the policy. Auto insurance varies between provinces. In Alberta, total damages from both vehicles over $2,000 must be reported to the police. In Ontario, it's $1,000.

"In every insurance policy in Canada, there is a condition referred to, outside of Quebec, as statutory conditions," says Natalie Dupuis, senior product manager, auto, at RBC Insurance. "And it spells out the fact very clearly, that if there is damage to a person, property or your own automobile then you need to give notice with full particulars of all the information, and also give your insurance company your full co-operation. Some provinces go on to stipulate how many days you have to submit that information."

You believe you're at fault, and are understandably concerned about your future premiums. But just because you inform your insurance company of the accident doesn't mean you have to proceed with a claim.

It makes sense that you want to pay out-of-pocket for damages less than a thousand dollars, rather than pay a deductible and trigger a rate increase. However, what looks simple at the scene of an accident can turn out to be much more complicated.

"What sometimes happens is people think it's only small. They don't report it, and suddenly they get an estimate back from the other party," says Dupuis. "The other party has gone ahead and repaired the damage, and there's a $3,000 bill waiting for them at home. Wait – you said it was only going to be a thousand dollars!

"Well, they lifted the hood, found more damage and have gone and repaired it. Now they turn to their insurance company, well now, there's a problem. That's still a very simple one; not involving any lawyers or injuries. But sometimes people go home and they get headaches or start to hurt from the accident, and now it's more than just damages.

Now it's three to six months since the accident occurred. So, the sooner a situation can be put under control with professional advice the more contained it is."

In most provinces the other driver has up to one year to file a claim against you. In Alberta, it's two years.

In Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, if you're not at fault in an accident your company pays for your damages and does not go after the other insurance company. In Alberta, if you're not at fault, your insurance company will pay your damages and then turn to the at-fault insurance company to recoup – the technical term is "subrogate" – the damages.

If you pay for the damages and no claim is put forth for your damage or for the other party's damage, then your rates won't go up. But you should let your insurance company know about the accident.

"By calling your insurance company to say you've had an accident, you're at fault, you think it's minor and you'd like to pay for the damages yourself – at least you've met the conditions of your contract. You've called your insurance company and let them know. Plus, they may give you some advice as to what to do. If the other party changes their mind and goes to their insurance company, at least your information is already on file," says Dupuis.


Three surprising ways
liquor and cars can
get you arrested

Drinking and driving? Obviously. But here are three
things you probably DIDN'T know were illegal

Toronto Star
October 29, 2013

We all know drinking and driving is a huge no-no. But some of the finer points of the law as it pertains to liquor and vehicles may surprise you, not to mention get you in trouble. Here, Wheels columnist Eric Lai shares some common actions you might not know are illegal:

1: You can't drink liquor even if your car is turned off and you're not in it.

Under the Liquor Licence Act, having an open liquor container in a vehicle, or liquor readily available to the driver (in the front seat) are offences. In a pickup without a backseat or locking cargo area, front seat transport is okay, provided the container seals are unbroken.

Drinking alcoholic beverages in or around your vehicle is illegal, whether or not the ignition is on. It's considered unlawful consumption.

Some examples include drinking beer when parked in public areas, such as a parking lot, by the lake, or in a park.

2. Tailgate parties are illegal.

"Tailgate parties" where revellers drink beer in a stadium, ballpark or arena parking lot are also against the law.

Alcoholic beverages may only be consumed on private property or a location that possesses a permit, notes York Regional Police Const. Laura Nicolle. "Drinking in a public parking lot is definitely illegal."

You can have a drink in a motorhome, provided it's parked at its overnight location, such as an RV site, and is actually being used as a temporary or permanent residence at the time, rather than as a means of transportation.

3. Drinking in a parked car is illegal (if the key is with you)

If your car or truck is parked on the street outside your home and you decide to watch a video on the in-car DVD player while having a beer, charges of unlawful consumption/open container, impaired care or control of a motor vehicle, or public intoxication (walking back to your house) might all apply, depending on the circumstances.

Even if you're asleep, parked on the roadside to sleep off a bender, you may still be charged with impaired care or control of a motor vehicle — provided you have the key in your possession.

The point is: while referred to as "drinking and driving" laws, in many instances you don't actually have to be drinking or driving at the time for charges to apply. An open container or being intoxicated with a car key in your pocket will suffice.


7 no-brainers to
save on gas

By John Okoye
August 22, 2013

As gas prices continue to rise, many drivers are left wondering how best to curb the cost of fuel. Depending on where you live and how much you drive, gas expenses can be a significant hit to your wallet.

Of course there are hybrid cars available, but maybe you aren't ready to make the jump just yet. Maybe you just want to hang on to the vehicle that you have for the near future. Fortunately, there are many simple steps that you can take to cut down on the cost of fuel.

1. Fill up your tank efficiently

While it may be tempting to fill your gas up in increments, it is also likely to cost you more money. The need to travel back and forth to refill your gas tank ends up being more expensive than simply filling up your tank completely.

"Fill the tank full", says Stephanie Nelson, CEO of Couponmom.com. "The more money you try to save by adding $10 today and $20 tomorrow will be wasted since you have to travel to the station."

2. Find the lowest gas rates

You would be surprised at the difference in gas prices in any given area. For this reason, finding the cheapest gas available can save you a significant amount of money each month. Luckily, there are apps available that make this process simple.

"Gas Buddy is one of the most popular gas price checking tools, and it has been for many years now," said Lou Carlozo, contributor for Dealnews. "It ranks among the granddaddies when it comes to finding low gas prices."

3. Use cash back rewards

There are several Cash Back Rewards systems that can help you cut down considerably on fuel costs. These rewards may be from credit cards, bank accounts or even grocery store coupons. Some of these programs simply reward you with cash back for each visit to the pump while others allow you to put your rewards towards things like student loan repayments and savings accounts.

According to research released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration this past winter, American households spent almost $3,000 worth of gasoline in 2012. With 3% back on these purchases consumers would be rewarded with close to $100 back in their pockets just by using the Cash Back Rewards card."

4. Remove clutter from vehicle

A great way to improve your car's fuel efficiency is to get rid of any unnecessary and heavy items that may be in your trunk. While they may not seem like an inconvenience, these items are actually weighing your vehicle down and forcing it to burn more fuel to compensate for the weight difference. By simply removing these items from your car, you can easily improve your fuel efficiency.

5. Inflate your tires

Make sure that you keep your tires adequately inflated. Driving with improper tire pressure is not only dangerous, but it's also fuel inefficient. According to the U.S Department of Energy, inflating tires can increase fuel efficiency by up to 3.3% alone. Check your vehicle manual and find out your car's optimal tire pressure level. Be sure to monitor it at least twice a month.

6. Don't speed

Speeding is one of the least efficient ways to drive your car. If you are looking to cut back on fuel expenses, try driving the speed limit. You may not get where you are going quite as fast, but it will save you a great deal of gas and money.

"Drive the speed limit and you'll decrease your gas costs - fuel efficiency drops tremendously once you exceed 60 mph," said Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers. "Avoid sudden accelerations and sudden stops as well. Take advantage of cruise control when driving on the highway if your automobile comes with that feature."

7. Tune engine

Maintaining your engine is a great way to keep your car as fuel efficient as possible. Take your car to a mechanic and have an emissions test done. While fixing minor engine problems can end up saving you about 4% of your gas tank, repairing major engine problems can raise your fuel efficiency by up to 40%. That will make a huge difference at the pump.


How can I tell my husband he's a terrible driver?

The Globe and Mail
August 16, 2013

'My husband is a terrible driver. ... a truly horrible driver. He tailgates constantly and can't even keep the car in the lane. On highways, he routinely hits the rumble strips. ... and even that is not enough to convince him that he's not staying in the lane. He thinks he's a great driver. So now our oldest daughter is 16 and ... he wants to teach her to drive. WHAT DO I DO?"

I came across this letter to an advice columnist in the Washington Post. It wasn't in a driving section; it was where it should be: a living section. Because this isn't a driving issue, it's a behavioural one. "Send her to a professional," came the reply.

A young woman pulled me aside a few months ago, said that she wasn't a good driver, and asked if I had any advice on how she could get better. I paused for a couple of beats, because nobody ever admits they are poor drivers. This girl had progressed through the necessary lessons, but knew it wasn't enough. The first thing I did was tell her it was just as important that she recognized it, as it is rare.

Telling someone they're a terrible driver is like telling them they're a terrible lover. They won't believe you, it will anger them, and now they're going to wonder who else agrees with you. They might also start to question all those times they've been stuck driving alone.

For most, driving is not an innate skill. It takes practice, experience and dedication. Enjoying it isn't enough to make you good at it; you have a role when you're piloting a car that involves the rights and safety of everybody else on the road as well as your passengers. Some people respect this, and some just don't care. It's an uphill battle when people use the yardstick of how many crashes they've been in as a measure of their competence behind the wheel. I don't want to leave a bunch of angry near-misses in my wake, either.

An instructor once noted that our natural line of vision is still essentially that of a caveman: we are looking low and near so we can chase after a woolly mammoth on foot to catch it. In a car, we have to aim at something farther away that we'll get to much faster, and much of driving is vision. If a driver is still chasing woolly mammoths, he's going to be routinely surprised by that car pulling out of the driveway.

Here's a handy litmus test to determine a driver's skill: you either feel safe when they're behind the wheel or you don't. There are also many categories of bad drivers. There are those who don't have enough experience and can get better; there are those who are experiencing a deterioration of health or loss of cognitive skills at the twilight of a driving career; and there are those who believe they are excellent drivers and think I'm talking about somebody else.

If the number one fight between couples is about money, I'm going to venture that driving is up there, too. The choices are bleak – you can say nothing as you grind your teeth down to nubs, or you can say something and start another fight.

Something the advice seeker up top seems to forget however, is that daughter has been driving with her dad for all her life now. Bad habits get ingrained through automotive osmosis: that speed limits are merely suggestions, that stop is short for stop-tional, and it only matters if you get caught. He is not only endangering her safety, he is passing along his terrible habits.

The answer was good, but incomplete. Many people can see the wisdom in letting a pro teach your teen how to drive. But I worry about a bigger issue: how do you empower your kid to refuse to drive with someone they feel is endangering them? Do you yourself leave room for someone to express that concern to you?

Physicians will tell you it's a brutal battle telling an older driver it's time to hang up the keys, but what about someone who is just a terrible driver? Inattentive is as dangerous as aggressive; overly cautious deserves its own category. Sometimes people confuse being able to afford an expensive car with being good at driving it.

As for the woman who asked about her husband, I'm glad she's worried on behalf of her daughter. But why on earth is she still driving with someone she considers a menace? Rumble strips shouldn't be used like bumper guards at a bowling alley or training wheels on a bike, and if your marriage can't survive a talk about driving, good luck when the money troubles start. Or your in-laws come to stay for a month.


What is funeral
procession protocol?

Globe and Mail
July 22, 2013

It used to be that everyone on the road would stop or pull over and allow a funeral procession (also known as a cortege) to pass in a continuous line.

In some areas of the United States, motorists in a funeral procession have the right of way, but in Canada, for the most part, the rules of the road prevail.

"There are different situations in different provinces, but the overall rule is you really don't get special privileges," says Suzanne Scott, executive director of the Funeral Service Association of Canada. "There are situations where there will be police involved that will help a procession stay together, but generally on the roads in Canada for funerals you have to follow all the same rules.

"So, if you're in a procession and you come upon a red light, you must stop, just like always. In fact, there have been cases where cars have gone through red lights and there's been a red light camera and they will get a ticket. You may even see a policeman sitting there just to make sure everybody is safe and sound and gets to where they need to go, but it doesn't mean you get to ignore the rules of the road," says Scott.

For state funerals or the repatriation of veterans, the traffic flow may be regulated by police, but generally a funeral procession is driver-beware.

"It used to be that funeral processions would get police escorts; we're not doing that with the OPP any more," says Constable Linda Wolf with the Ontario Provincial Police. "Sometimes they'll hire a private security company with the flashing purple lights that are sometimes seen on funeral escort vehicles. But they don't have the authority to go through a red light.

"What it comes down to is that the motoring public should give a little respect and courtesy to a passing funeral, but beyond that they're not obligated to pull over or to stop if they have the green light," says Wolf.

As you've noticed, a procession can cause confusion on the road, especially at an intersection. "The best bet and the safest suggestion for all would be to follow the traffic signal as you would at any other time. If you don't, it gets into a situation where one person will stop, but if it's a two-lane highway or roadway, someone else may not stop and it could become a serious situation," says Wolf.

Funeral directors often hand out maps or give directions, and advise those travelling to the cemetery to turn on their four-way flashers or hazard lights. Vehicles at the front are typically marked with flags or flashing purple lights. Many funeral directors also advise mourners that they should meet at the cemetery, rather than attempt to travel in procession.

"I would hope that etiquette would still be that you pull over and try and let them go by together. I know I do, and I see lots of people who do, but that's not always the case. You can't expect it any more unfortunately, especially in urban settings," says Scott.

When safe to do so, it's courteous and respectful to allow mourners to proceed uninterrupted, just remember: the rules of the road still apply.


For oil changes, which matters most: time or mileage?

The Globe and Mail
July 15, 2013

Most vehicles have recommended maintenance at either time or distance points. As my driving is low mileage, why is it important to follow the time points? Why not just follow the mileage points? – James

As you point out, maintenance schedules are based on time or mileage intervals.

While it may seem to make sense to delay oil changes due to low mileage, the problem is that low mileage. For example, the oil in an engine acts not only as a lubricant, but as a cooling agent and a method of pulling nasty minute and possibly damaging particles caused by wear into the filter and boiling off harmful chemicals caused by combustion.

Those particles or chemicals might remain in the oil of a lightly used engine. As well, oils and other fluids can break down over a period of time, losing their effectiveness.

One reason for following the recommended intervals is to ensure warranty coverage, the other is to ensure a long and trouble-free life for the engine, transmission, etc.

If the vehicle is off warranty and you don't intend to keep it for years, the monies saved by delaying maintenance may be appealing, but only for the short term.

One important factor to keep in mind when looking at the suggested maintenance schedule is whether your driving pattern falls into the "normal" or "severe" category. You might be surprised to learn that the majority of Canadian drivers fall into the "severe" list, not because we drive like racers but because of our climate and geography.

Severe conditions include frequent trips of less than 15 kilometres, lots of stop-and-go driving, cold weather operation, towing a trailer, dusty roads and idling for long periods. Notice there is no mention of excess speed; the opposite is the case, infrequent use or short hops that never allow the engine and transmission to achieve proper operating temperatures.

I have a couple of vehicles that cover low mileage – 1,000 to 2,000 km a year – one still under warranty and one past that stage. I change the oil annually regardless of mileage or time and ensure that other suggested service items are addressed as well.


Mark Cullen's spring gardening advice

By: Mark Cullen
Toronto Star
May 11, 2013

Q: Can I use the grass seed and lawn fertilizer that I have stored from last year?

A: If it was kept dry, yes. Temperatures do not change the efficacy of either grass seed or fertilizer, but moisture will. In the case of the seed, mice will wreak havoc but not change the germination viability of it, either.

Q: Can I plant now?

A: There's a loaded question. If you want to plant frost-tender vegetables or annual flowering plants, you are best to wait until May 24. . So-called "hot crops" like tomatoes and cucumbers thrive in soil that is over 18C. There is no harm in waiting a week or two after the 24th of May if you are unsure.

All other plants can be planted now. Trees, shrubs, evergreens, roses, and perennials, to name a few. See my column in last week's Homes & Condoslast week's Homes & Condos section, at thestar.com, for details.

Q: Can I prune my cedar hedge (or lilac, or maple tree) now?

A: Yes and no. You can prune up to one-third of cedars any time of year. Evergreens lend themselves to spring pruning as most of their growth takes place in late May and June. The flush of new growth always looks good after a haircut.

Flowering shrubs will not be harmed by a spring pruning but you will remove the blossom buds if you prune before they flower. Remember this: spring-flowering shrubs set their blossom buds in the autumn while late-summer flowering shrubs set their buds late spring and early summer. You can't go wrong by pruning a shrub six to eight weeks after of its flowering period.

Trees are generally best pruned this time of year. Hardwood trees like birch and maple will bleed sap excessively if they are pruned while dormant. I recommend that you prune them while in full leaf.

Q: Can I move my peony now?

A: Perennial plants can be moved now, but do not leave it much later. Peonies are quite forgiving if you move them in spring, but they prefer to be moved in September. Hosta, monarda, daylilies and the like will move nicely this time of year.. Time is of the essence. Dig them with a garden fork or use a sharp spade or shovel. Then cut them as you would a pie: once in half and then in quarters. Replant the divisions or give away to gracious friends and neighbours.

Q: How do I treat grubs in my lawn?

A: In We now treat the white and grey grub with beneficial nematodes — microscopic worms that eat grubs and exist naturally in our soil. Timing is critical: spring is one period of application and the other is late August and September. The grubs migrate through the soil, moving up near the surface during these two windows of time, where they are most accessible to the nematodes. After application, it is important to water very thoroughly to move the nematodes to the root zone — the feeding area — of the grubs.

Q: How do I kill the weeds in my lawn?

A: Now we talk about controlling weeds, not killing them. These days we compete them out of existence and it is easy to do — it just takes a few changes and patience. Follow my recipe below and you will eliminate 90 per cent of your weeds within two years. Not a quick fix, but a permanent one:

1. Cut your lawn seven to eight 8 cm high. The higher the grass blades, the deeper the roots and more drought tolerant your lawn.

2. Use a mulching mower which returns the nitrogen-rich, natural goodness of the cut grass blades back to the root zone of your lawn.

3. Apply a quality lawn fertilizer that contains high nitrogen that is slow- release. I use Golfgreen.

4. Re-apply fertilizer once in late spring/early summer and again in fall.

5. Water seldom but when you do, apply it deeply since the grass roots will follow the water down.

6.Where bare patches exist , spread three to four centimetres of triple mix or lawn soil over the area and broadcast quality grass seed at the rate of 500 grams per 40 sq metres.Rake smooth, step on it to bring seed and soil in firm contact, and water thoroughly until established.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener,author, broadcaster and garden editor.


CAW Local 584 Receives Community Service Award from The Knights Table

Thanks to both our Active and Retired members for their
support both financially and through volunteering.

Knights Table


At 90, saving, sharing
and planning for 100

By James Daw
Dec 24 2012

Alex and Esther are able to save and share much of their $80,000 annual income, yet are still concerned about their future.

"Our doctor tells us that we will live to 100," the 90-year-old husband writes by email.

He and his equally remarkable wife no longer travel far; yet remain socially active, in "reasonably good health", and fully capable of managing their own finances.

Alex does worry about dying first, however. Much of their income would disappear; 40 per cent of his employer pension and Canada Pension, and all of his Old Age Security.

His wife and daughter — whom they support by paying her mortgage—would depend more on investment income, and draw more from savings. Interest rates are low, but not expected to remain so indefinitely. Stock markets are volatile.

"I have not used a financial adviser for over 12 years," Alex writes. "My wife feels I should get some advice regarding our financial situation."

We turned to Shelley Smith, a personal financial planner with TD Waterhouse Financial Planning. She proposed one way to cut monthly expenses, and two strategies to raise and secure income.

Step One: Approximately half of the couple's nonregistered savings are in bank accounts or guaranteed investment certificates (GICs), not earning enough interest after taxes to keep up with rising prices.

"I recommend they pay off their daughter's ($94,000) mortgage balance at maturity next August, thereby reducing their monthly debt obligation," Smith suggests.

It's a waste to pay 4.6 per cent interest for the mortgage while earning far less on their savings. Eliminating the mortgage would cut their expenses by $8,400 a year. Yet, by waiting until August, they would avoid an early payment penalty.

To avoid hard feelings within the family, Alex and Esther might consider adjusting their wills to reflect this early distribution from their estate.

Step Two: Smith recommends the couple keep $10,000 of nonregistered savings for emergency needs, and invest the remaining $60,000 in a way that would pay a blend of taxable interest and tax-paid capital.

They could choose the type of annuity available from banks that would guarantee payments for a set number of years, or one that would pay for life (with a guaranteed payment period) from a life insurer.

The option Smith suggests is a 'return of capital' mutual fund, designed to provide a tax-efficient monthly cash flow from a nonregistered account. The portion of the investor's original investment that gradually paid back to him or her is not considered income or capital gains, and is therefore not taxable. Investors are able to defer capital gains tax until they redeem their investment.

"For example," Smith notes, "an ROC fund with an 8 per cent annual distribution would provide the couple with a consistent monthly income of $400."

"While Alex's work pension will reduce by $1,000 (per month) upon his death, Esther will still receive $1,200 monthly, (not fully indexed to inflation). This amount, in addition to her government pensions and new investment income of $400, will provide her with a stable monthly income of approximately $2,300, sufficient to cover the household expenses.

"Once we include the annual income of $19,475 from registered retirement income funds, Esther's total annual income increases to $47,000."

Step Three: Don't give up on the stock market.

"Given their age, Alex and Esther would like advice on whether they should move out of equity assets and into GICs," says Smith.

"But with real interest yields at zero (after deducting for the loss of purchasing power due to inflation), assets perceived to be safe will result in erosion of their purchasing power over the next 10 years.

"Savers are having to buy different (riskier) asset classes to try and achieve the return they have received in the past. However, with a reasonable time horizon and a focus on quality, dividend-paying companies, their expected returns should be better than GICs.

"They may be perceived as riskier than a GIC over the short term, but greater exposure to equities (stocks) is more likely to help this couple meet their retirement income needs."

Step Three B: Don't give up on bonds, but don't rely on them exclusively.

Alex and Esther have a significant portion of their registered retirement income funds invested in bonds, at a time when the interest yield on government and high-quality corporate bonds is at an all-time low.

"With bond yields between 2 and 3 per cent, there is little remaining for investors after taxes and inflation," says Smith.

"Fixed income securities continue to provide stability and capital preservation, (but) from a total-return perspective, Alex and Esther's retirement income needs will be better served through a diversified portfolio (including stocks and bonds)."

"I am not recommending that everyone move into equities, but client goals cannot be achieved in fixed income alone as the returns of the past cannot be repeated going forward," says Smith.

The clients
Esther 88, Alex 90

Their situation
They have ample income and assets to reach age 100, as their doctor predicts they will do together. But Alex is helping a daughter, and if he were to die, Esther would receive less pension income.

The strategy
Pay off their daughter's 4.6 per cent mortgage and invest $60,000 to guarantee Esther $400 of monthly income. Choose dividend-paying stocks of solid companies over guaranteed income certificates, and keep bonds as part of diversified portfolio.


Home: $425,000
Retirement income funds: $153,000
Tax-free savings: $45,000
Non-registered savings: $165,000
Total: $788,000

Annual income
Pensions $53,000
Retirement income funds: $19,475
Interest, dividends: $7,525
Total: $80,000

Income taxes: $11,00
Property taxes: $4,000
Car expenses: $3,000
Utilities: $2,500
Household: $8,300
Insurance: $2,500
Miscellaneous: $3,500
Charity: $700
Daughter's mortgage: $8,400
Savings $35,600
Total: $80,000


Long-term care insurance
can be expensive

December 23, 2012
Toronto Star
By shery lsmolkin

A new guide from the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association highlights the increasing cost of long-term care and reasons for buying long term care insurance. However the high cost and restrictive provisions of long-term care coverage may make it inaccessible for those who need it most.

Long-term care is described in the guide as ongoing around-the-clock care in either a specialized residential care facility or by a professional or family member in your own home. In general, long-term care homes offer higher levels of personal care and support than those typically offered by retirement homes or supportive housing.

The CLHIA reports that in-home care including meal preparation, personal care and skilled nursing could add up to $35,000 to $65,000 a year, depending on the level of services required.  Local Community Care Access Centres administer the limited provincial subsidies available for at-home care.

However, all residential long term care is subsidized by the Ontario Ministry of Health with most Ontario residents currently required to pay only about 35 per cent of the actual cost. For example, based on the type of accommodation, residents are responsible for the following amounts:

  • Basic or standard accommodation   $1,674.14/month
  • Semi-private: $1,947.89/month
  • Private: $2,274.86
Residents who cannot afford the full amount for basic accommodation can apply for a rate reduction.
“One reason the industry is focusing on a need for long-term care insurance is the concern that with the aging workforce, Ontario will no longer be able to maintain the government subsidies at this level,” says Caring for Clients financial planner Rona Birenbaum.

Related: How can an advisor help me assess my insurance needs?

But underwriting rules for long-term care insurance are very rigorous. For example, any person who is using an assistive device (e.g. wheelchair, walker or motorized scooter) is not eligible for coverage. Applicants with a variety of pre-existing conditions (e.g. dementia, metastatic cancer and stroke) are also ineligible.

Furthermore, premiums for long term care insurance can be very expensive for limited coverage.

I asked Birenbaum to get a hypothetical quote from Manulife Financial for a 50 year old couple (John and Mary) for a maximum of $300,000 shared coverage that would pay $3,000/month to a residential facility or $1,500/month for non-facility care with a waiting period of 90 days.

This means that in total John and Mary will have 100 months (8.33 years) of residential care benefits of $3,000/month they can draw on. If one predeceases the other, the balance of the protection will be passed on to the second spouse and the premium reduced to single life.

To qualify for benefits under the policy, John or Mary will have to show that at least two of the following cannot be performed without substantial help:

•    Bathing
•    Dressing
•    Toileting
•    Transferring (e.g., moving from a chair or out of bed)
•    Maintaining continence
•    Eating

The basic monthly premium is $210.40. With the addition of inflation protection and a return of premium at death, the premium increases to $375.38/month, with the premium level guaranteed only for five years.

“Because John and Mary may never need the service or qualify for it, I would prefer that they have the money to use for other things,” says Birenbaum. She suggests that money they spend on travel and other lifestyle enhancements in the first 10 years of retirement can be re-allocated to health care in later years.

She also advises clients to use their liquid resources such as RRSPs, pensions and other savings to fund retirement to age 90, leaving real estate as a hedge to sell later in life when they may need long term care.

Renters and people without paid up properties do not have this option to fall back on, but she says it’s also likely people of modest means will not be able to afford premiums for long-term care insurance in addition to other ongoing expenses.
“In long-term planning for my clients I prefer to focus on life, disability and critical illness insurance plus helping them to accumulate sufficient assets to self-insure for long-term care,” says Birenbaum.

Where there is a real need for long-term protection, she suggests critical illness insurance that can be converted to long-term care insurance. For example, Sun Life guarantees that a long-term care product is available at the time of conversion  between ages 60 to 65 and insured clients do not have to answer questions about their health.

See: A guide to long-term-care insurance, CLHIA

Related: Financial Planning: Facing the final facts


Preparations will keep
car safe for winter

December 21, 2012

When the weather outside is frightful, a little advance preparation will take the scare out.

A few preventive vehicle maintenance steps can help keep you from being stranded in severe weather:

Check the battery and charging system for optimum performance. Cold weather is hard on batteries.

Clean, flush and put new antifreeze in the cooling system. As a general rule of thumb, this should be done every two years.

Make sure heaters, defrosters and wipers work properly. Consider winter wiper blades and use cold-weather washer fluid. Typically, wiper blades should be replaced every six months.

If you're due for a tuneup, have it done soon. Cold weather magnifies existing problems such as pings, hard starts, sluggish performance and rough idling.

Check the tire tread depth and tire pressure. If you'll be driving in snow and ice, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads. During cold weather, check tire pressure weekly.

Check the brakes. The braking system is the vehicle's most important safety component.

Inspect the exhaust system for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous if you'll be driving with the windows closed.

Check to see that exterior and interior lights work and headlights are properly aimed.

Be diligent about changing the oil at recommended intervals as dirty oil can spell trouble. Consider changing to "winter weight" oil. Check the fuel, air and transmission filters.

Keep the gas tank at least half full to decrease the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing.

Check the tire pressure of the spare in the trunk.

Stock an emergency kit with an ice scraper and snow brush, jumper cables, flashlight, flares, blanket, extra clothes, candles, matches, bottled water, dry food snacks and needed medication.

That's the advice from the experts at the Car Care Council, the source of information for the "Be Car Care Aware" consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair.


5 tips for Cyber
Monday shopping

Cyber Monday

November 24, 2012
By Marc Saltzman
Toronto Star

Canadian retailers have jumped onboard the "Cyber Monday" bandwagon, where shoppers are encouraged to go online the Monday after U.S. Thanksgiving to score great deals.

Whether you need an excuse to shop or not, gadget lovers can take advantage of great deals on Monday, November 26. If you want to ensure you're getting a good price, consider some of the following tips before you pull out your credit card.

Do your homework: If you know what you want - such as a new iPod touch, digital camera or lightweight laptop – compared prices at online retailers, but also calculate the shipping costs, too. Some websites, like DealGenius.ca, will compare product prices for you, across multiple retailers. Be sure to read professional and customer reviews of products before you buy.

Related: More Canadians to shop by mobile phone

Do more homework: Some Canadian sites like RedFlagDeals.com will also highlight great deals on tech products found on the web. These sites will advertise some of the more aggressive sales on the main page, but you can also click to see coupons, flyers and group deals -- from WagJag, DealFind, Groupon and LivingSocial – that can also help you save cash.

Save on shipping: If you're looking to buy a few products, do as much as you can at one online store as they'll typically wave the shipping costs when you buy over a certain amount. Also, you're more likely to see free shipping when you shop at Canadian online retailers opposed to American ones (since they'll probably only ship for free to the U.S.).

Related: 8 tips to safer online shopping

Auction sites, classifieds: While they're less likely to have Cyber Monday specials – compared to regular retailers, consider online marketplaces, such as eBay, or online classifieds sites like Kijiji and Craigslist. Contrary to popular belief, not all goods on eBay are "previously enjoyed" (about half are brand new, says eBay) and if you don't want to bid for something, many items can be purchased outright.

Let's get digital: While many still prefer media that's tangible – such as a video game, Blu-ray Disc, book or music CD – remember prices are generally better if you buy that media digitally. Therefore, if you're shopping for a murder-mystery lover who owns a Kobo eBook reader, gift a digital best-seller they can download via a code. Or what about an iTunes gift card to download the latest Pixar animated flick instead of buying it on disc? You get the idea.

Related: Should you let sites save your credit card info


Here's what to do if
your car skids on ice

Here's what to

November 22, 2012
Toronto Star

Some parts of the country have already been hit with a first blast of snow, a reminder for everyone else to prepare for the coming challenges presented by winter driving, experts say.

"Too many people decide to fill up on washer fluid and get their winter tires on after the first snowfall hits. Check any automotive store where they sell and install winter tires and you'll see long, long lineups when it first starts to snow," said Scott Marshall, director of training for Young Drivers of Canada.

"Get your winter tires, get your winter supplies ready — like now."

Marshall said now is also the time to bone up on winter driving strategies.

"The fact is, how we drive in everyday conditions is for ideal conditions, and driving in the wintertime is not ideal."

That means be prepared to drive slower, steer more smoothly and brake earlier.

"Skids and slides are caused by change, either change of direction or change of speed," he said.

Drivers should be looking far ahead to anticipate the need to change speed, to steer into another lane or turn.

"Start braking earlier than you normally would by coming off your gas, let the car's idle speed start to slow you down … and then gently apply the brake in a smooth fashion, you want to avoid the sudden sharpness of a brake," Marshall said.

Braking should be done before steering the wheel for a turn, he added.

"It's always best to do all your braking in a straight line before you're making a turn, that way your wheels have a chance to grip better."

Heading too quickly into a turn can cause a nightmare scenario for drivers: a fishtail, when a vehicle's rear wheels lose traction and send the car spinning.

"The weight differential all shifts to the front of the vehicle (when braking) and if you steer a bit too sharply, because there's less weight at the back of the vehicle, it could cause your car to fish tail," Marshall said.

If that starts to happen, drivers should steer into the skid. So if the car's rear wheels begin drifting to the left while making a right-hand turn, the driver should turn the wheel left.

Slamming on the brakes while driving too fast can also cause the wheels to lock, which propels the car forward out of control. Putting the car into neutral or stepping on the clutch pedal will help slow it down and regain control.

Another potential problem is driving over a patch of slippery black ice. Anne Marie Hayes, an instructor with Canadian Tire Drivers Academy and president of Teens Learn to Drive, said drivers who suddenly hit black ice need to focus on retaining control and shouldn't panic.

"Understand that if you do hit black ice, patches are usually around six metres or less — so there is a beginning and there is an end," Hayes said.

"Take your foot off the accelerator when you start to lose traction, keep your eyes high looking ahead … and then as soon as you start to gain traction again, put your foot back on the accelerator and gently accelerate."

Drivers who are nervous about encountering dangerous conditions may want to stick to the right lane whenever possible, she added.

"Then you only have one lane of moving traffic next to you, which is a good thing, and in an emergency you can use the shoulder of the road," said Hayes.

If drivers aren't feeling confident about their ability to drive safely they should definitely stay off highways, added Marshall.

"If you feel for your comfort zone you're going to be going slower than most other drivers then leave the highway, go on a road that has a slower speed limit," he said.

"If you find that other drivers are driving too quickly for your ability and for your safety and comfort zone then you don't want to be near them anyway."

A long list of groups — Transport Canada and the Canadian Automobile Association among them — recommend winter tires, but some drivers are still skeptical of how much they're really needed.

Winter tires actually come in handy as soon as the temperature drops below 7C, even if the roads are completely clear of snow, slush and ice, said Sachin Deshpande, spokesman for Michelin.

"An all-season tire is made from rubber compounding that starts stiffening below seven degrees Celsius and if the compounding stiffens, what essentially happens is your grip pad becomes smaller, the tires are not as malleable as they should be and you start losing traction," Deshpande said.

"Whereas the rubber compound in a winter tire is softer, so what happens is it stays soft even in freezing temperatures and that is why it gives you the optimal grip."


Ripping off Grandma: Why seniors should practise tough love

The Globe and Mail
October 16, 2012

The Bank of Grandma and Grandpa needs to toughen up.

It's one thing for seniors to plan inheritances for family members and provide cash gifts when affordable.

Where they must set limits is in co-signing or guaranteeing loans for relatives.

Seniors guaranteeing loans is bad business and it also comes dangerously close to elder financial abuse, an unseen but serious problem that can leave seniors destitute.

Elder financial abuse means the illegal or unauthorized use of seniors' assets – money or property. Laura Tamblyn Watts, a lawyer and senior fellow at the Canadian Centre for Elder Law, said research shows one in 12 seniors will experience financial abuse. Given how under-reported the problem is, she suspects the actual figure is one in eight.

Seniors are a natural target at a time when debt levels are high, economic growth is modest and the divide between rich and poor is wide. "The seniors that we have right now have an overwhelmingly cautious financial vision – they were the savers," Ms. Tamblyn Watts said. "They may not have a lot of money, but they've saved, they've been careful and they've been prudent."

The research firm Harris/Decima issued a study in 2006 that estimated $1-trillion would be transferred from seniors to younger family members in the 20 years following the report. Some relatives are too impatient to wait, though. Estimates show that one-half to two-thirds of elder financial abuse cases involve family members, Ms. Tamblyn Watts said.

Asking a senior to co-sign or guarantee a loan is a form of elder abuse when he or she is not in a financial position to pay the entire amount being borrowed without suffering financial harm. "Most people don't realize that when you guarantee or co-sign a loan, you're as good as taking out the loan yourself. You're completely liable for that sum," Ms. Tamblyn Watts said.

There are few statistics on financial elder abuse in Canada, but a 2009 report by insurer MetLife pegged the total annual loss suffered by victimized seniors in the United States at $2.6-billion (U.S.). Anecdotal evidence from that country suggests seniors who co-signed or guaranteed mortgages were hit hard when the housing market crashed several years ago, Ms. Tamblyn Watts said. "We've seen massive foreclosures on seniors and massive poverty as a result of loans guaranteed and foreclosures when the bubble burst."

In less severe outcomes, a senior might have to use up a big part of his or her savings to make good on a loan. Or, a long paid-off house might have to be remortgaged. Seniors are especially vulnerable to these setbacks because they don't typically have the time or means to replace what's gone. Ms. Tamblyn Watts said it's possible in rare cases to reverse a senior's commitment on a loan, but doing so is both difficult and expensive because of legal costs.

Ideally, a senior would co-sign or guarantee a loan for a relative and then have no further involvement as the debt is repaid in a timely way.

But Ms. Tamblyn Watts said the type of person asking for help getting a loan is often a bad risk. "We call it the unsuccessful grandson, or the nephew in the basement – someone who has never been completely successful in life and has a new enterprise. That situation almost always goes awry."

Seniors may also be asked to guarantee or co-sign loans for family members who are trying to make a fresh start, possibly after a divorce.

Ms. Tamblyn Watts said that whatever the pitch from a family member, seniors tend to think in terms of family loyalty rather than what makes financial sense.

A suggestion for seniors on how to take a business-like approach to requests for help with a loan: If repaying the loan would in any way jeopardize your financial security, say no. Put another way, don't guarantee or co-sign a loan unless you can afford to give the same amount of money as a gift.

Seniors should be vigilant about financial abuse by investment advisers, contractors and caregivers as well as family members. But it's the latter group that Ms. Tamblyn Watts has her eye on. Her reasoning is that while seniors have been financially responsible, their baby boom children haven't matched that standard in many cases.

"People used to wait until their parents died until they went after the money," she said. "Today, with longevity being what it is and with increased financial pressures, what we're seeing is boomers going after the assets of their parents while they're alive."


Is it better to buy
or lease a car?


Toronto STar
October 9, 2012

To lease or not to lease? That is the question. To buy? Perchance to own? What's cheaper? What's better for my bottom line?

With a nod to Shakespeare – Will, Deals of the Week apologizes for invoking your great words in a crass car column – buying is cheaper than leasing, although the marketplace is awash in some very interesting, even attractive lease deals.

Take the Honda Civic LX ($17,740). Honda Canada is offering current Honda Finance Lease customers owners a $500 "pull-ahead" (Stackable Lease Maturity Cash) to sweeten a new deal, and it can be combined with a $500 cash bonus (Consumer Incentive Dollars), and lease support of 1 per cent, which would reduce the 48-month lease rate offer reported by www.carcostcanada.com to .99 per cent.

So what's all that mean in hard dollars, in monthly payments? The number is $194.09 a month with no down payment, not including taxes and the $1,495 freight charge. But you'll need to do all the parts of the deal to get that payment. That is, nail down the two $500 rebates that drive down the capital cost to $16,740. Make sure you also get Honda's own posted $8,515.20 residual rate, which reduces the amount amortized to $8,224.80.

You see, the payment calculator on Honda Canada's website does not factor in the two $500 offers and the posted interest rate I found there for 48 months is 1.99 per cent. The figure quoted in a www.carcostcanada.com pricing report details Honda Canada's Lease Maturity Support offer, which as we said, effectively reduces your rate to a very tidy .99 per cent.

A sub-$200 monthly payment on a new Civic is pretty attractive for anyone on a tight monthly budget. The problem is, after four years of making that payment, you'll still need to come up with the $8,515.20 lease buyout, or sign up for a new lease and more monthly payments.

As Eric Evarts writes at www.consumerreports.org, "The head-turning lease deals that grab attention in print, radio, and television advertising this time of year tend to be heavily subsidized, enabling very low lease payments." However, he continues, "What the ads don't tell you, of course, is that after years of making these low payments, covering the most expensive years of a car's life, you still don't own a car…But, the better deal long-term is to buy a reliable car and hold on to it."

If you can afford it, of course – afford the monthly payment – then buying is a better deal than leasing over time. You will without question get the best long-term deal if you do your research, run the numbers and negotiate hard with your dealer. Obviously, however, at some point the dealer will reach a bottom line offer below which he or she simply cannot go and remain in business.


Our kids think we
need a seniors' home

David Eddie
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 30, 2012

The question

My husband and I are both almost 80. We live on government pensions plus a small disability pension from the Korean War. We are not "consumers" so we do okay. But our children worry about us. For example, we have driven the same car for the past 22 years. It runs well, even with 400,000 kilometres. Our children, however, bought us a 2009 car. I would rather keep driving my old one. They think we should go into an assisted living place, but we want to keep driving to Mexico each winter, where the cost of living is much less. There, we live in a small house in a small village. We drive home for the summer and stay in a campground. How can we get our children to leave these decisions up to us? Or should we listen to their ideas, then do what we want?

I had to read this question twice before it sank in that you spend your whole summers camping.

Holy DIY, Batman. I tried to camp with my wife, Pam – once. It started to rain. I was trying to start a fire. She was trying to put up the tent. Neither of us was meeting with much success.

I became testy and snapped at her. The look in her eyes said: "Should I go through the bother of divorce and a custody battle and all that, or would I get away with it if I just killed him here and buried his body in the woods?"

We made up, but I swore, then and there: never again.

And yet you and your husband maintain "happy camper" status all summer, then tootle down south (in a car so well maintained you've squeezed 400,000 kilometres out of it) to spend the rest of the year in a Mexican fishing village, swimming, tanning, eating tacos and sipping tart, tangy margaritas (I'm speculating here, just please let me have my fantasy) while the rest of us slosh through the slush, shiver in the frigid air and shovel snow – all on a pair of tiny pensions?

Why would you need to go into an "assisted living facility"? People should come to you for assistance in living their lives with such facility!

Assisted living facilities, or ALFs, in my understanding, are aimed at people who are, to use the jargon of that world, having trouble with ADLs ("activities of daily living"), e.g. shopping, cooking for oneself, grooming and so on. Often, people in such facilities have some kind of disability or difficulty with mobility and/or are afraid to leave their house for fear of injury.

Meanwhile, you two are toasting weenies over the campfire and throwing Frisbees on the beach. In the autumn of your lives, you're living the dream – my dream, anyway: endless summer.

It's hard to understand why your kids would want to intercede in your lifestyle at all, let alone stuff you in a home.

(You mention a "disability pension" – could it have something to do with that? It sounds as if you're coping with whatever it's for rather well.)

Whatever the reason, their impulse is grounded in love and compassion, I'm sure.

I'd push back, though. They're being annoying and ageist. Just because you're octogenarians doesn't mean you can't be independent and self-sufficient – as you emphatically seem to be.

Your husband fought in the Korean War, sounds like! What have they ever fought, besides traffic?

I'm not talking about just listening to them quacking, then ignoring them. That way leads to danger. They might get some sort of ball rolling, achieve busybody consensus, and next thing you know a nurse is bringing your morning mush and asking for details of your bowel movements.

You don't want that. That's why I'm saying: push back.

Sit them down. Explain to them you're doing just fine, you appreciate their concern, but you'd appreciate it just as much if they took their proboscises out of your affairs and allowed you to live your lives as you see fit.

You know what I'd do if I were in your flip-flops? Gather the meddlesome offspring around the campfire and say: "We appreciate your concern, but it's unnecessary. We've got an idea. Why don't you just give us a cheque for what it would cost for a year of assisted living and we'll spend it on surfing lessons? We've always wanted to learn to surf."

They ought to get the hint. Don't take any money from them, of course. But about that car your kids gave you … if you don't use it and they won't take it back … well, heck, it's yours, after all. Why not sell it and spend the money on a series of delightful al fresco Mexican dinners, maybe a tour of the Mayan pyramids?

Life is short, after all.

David Eddie is the author of Damage Control, the book.


Ooma helps get rid of
monthly phone bills

This gadget lets you make free phone calls across Canada.

By Marc Saltzman
Toronto Star
April 13, 2012

The Ooma home phone service is now available in Canada.

It sounds very promising - a box that lets you make free, unlimited calls to anywhere in Canada and there are no phone bills to pay - and so I wanted to take it for a spin to see if it really worked.

The answer is yes. And very well, at that.

But there is a $230 cost which might be a deterrent to some. After that, however, this thing pays for itself after a few months - especially for those who make a lot of long-distance calls to friends and family to other parts of Canada.

Ooma Telo is a black device that plugs into your high-speed modem or router via an Ethernet cable (included). Then you plug a landline into the Ooma Telo, be it a wired phone or cordless one. That's all there is to the set-up, other than registering the device on a website with a code you get in the box and choosing from one of the available 10-digit phone numbers, such as 647-555-1212 (more on this below).

Related: How to get rid of monthly phone bills

The Ooma uses VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology, which means it relies on your Internet connection to place or accept calls. Surprising, the audio quality of the calls is virtually indistinguishable from a regular landline. Ooma says its second-generation VoIP service employs five technologies collectivity referred to as PureVoice HD, to help ensure a high level of clarity. The service also has a nice sound effect when you first pick up the receiver, before it kicks into the dial tone.

Those concerned about how much data is used, Ooma only consumes about 350MB of data per month, based on 500 minutes of talking.

This service also includes a few basic features, such as voicemail, caller ID, call waiting and of course, 911 service, which requires you to register your address, just like other VoIP solution. The Ooma box has glowing blue touch-sensitive buttons on top to access most of these features.

After the initial outlay , it's free to make calls anywhere in Canada. But you do have to pay $3.98 a month for a regulatory compliance fee, 911 service fee, and taxes.

Related: Pros and cons of Internet phones

There is an optional Ooma Premier service that costs $9.99/month, which lets you also call anywhere in the U.S., and talk for as long as you like. It also has call screening, three-way conferencing, call forwarding, blacklisting, distinctive ringtones (for different people) and a multi-ring option, where both home and cellphones ring at once.

Another optional, one-time charge is if you want to port your existing phone number for $39.99. Otherwise, Ooma customers can choose a new home phone number for free from 28 Canadian area codes.

While I don't love the cost of the unit north of $200, Ooma says the average Canadian phone bill is $40 a month, therefore this service pays for itself after six months. And those who spend a lot of money on long distance within Canada will save even more, of course. Ooma also offers inexpensive international calling plan to 61 countries for about a penny per minute -- I called someone's mobile phone in the UK and it cost me all of 12 cents.

And all calls made between Ooma devices anywhere in the world are always free.

A potential issue, though, is if you want your home phone base to be in, say, a kitchen, so you can easily pick up voicemail while cooking dinner, but your modem or router is in a home office. You can opt for an Ooma wireless adapter for $49.99, but that adds even more to the cost. There are other add-ons, too, like an Ooma Bluetooth adapter ($29.99) that allows you to answer mobile phone calls on your landline, while the Ooma Mobile HD app ($9.99) lets you make free calls on your iOS (iPhone, iPod touch or iPad) or Android device.

Related: Bell to charge $2 for paper bills

Overall, Ooma Telo is an excellent product that lives up to its promise and could save you money in the long run. One thing you might want to keep in mind before you switch, however, is if you're on a discounted "bundle" plan with Bell or Rogers, for example; pulling out of the landline service could make your other services go up, such as TV, Internet and wireless.

And what could make the product better? If it offered unlimited U.S. and Canadian calling in the basic plan instead of the U.S. only part of the $10/month premium plan. And a reduced cost for the Ooma Telo unit would be more appealing (it sells for $196.32 on Amazon.com in the U.S., for example).

Canadians interested in picking one up can do so at Costco, Costco.ca, Amazon.ca or London Drugs.


9 ways to protect yourself
from computer fraud

By Marc Saltzman
Toronto Star
April 9, 2012

Identity theft isn't anything new – be it a pickpocket on the street, a waiter copying your credit card information at a restaurant or someone looking over your shoulder to see your PIN at a bank machine.

Increasingly, however, identity thieves are going online, sending out "phishing" scams, Trojan viruses or other high-tech means to retrieve information you type on a public computer's keyboard.

Here are a few ways to reduce your risk:

Email from your bank: If you receive an email from your bank or credit card institution asking you to confirm your account information, it's a phishing attempt that will take you to a phony website. Banks and credit card companies don't send you emails asking for this information. Look at the URL and you'll see it's not your bank. Do not click on the link, which will take you to the spoof site. When in doubt, contact your bank directly.

Better passwords: Pick a password for your bank, company site or social networking home that's at least seven characters and use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Don't use your child's name, dog's name or your phone number. And for heaven's sakes, don't use "12345" or "password."

Related: 5 ways to take care of your PC in 2012

Secure purchases: Don't buy anything online with a credit card unless the website is secured with SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), indicated by an icon of a padlock in your web browser. If you shop on eBay, use a secure payment method — like PayPal or a credit card — to protect your purchases in case of a dispute (never send cash or cheque).

Anti-malware software: Good anti-malware software can detect suspicious emails and websites. I use Norton Internet Security 2012 from Symantec, but there are other good products out there. Some free alternatives are available at Download.com, but most only handle viruses and spyware.

Microsoft updates: Microsoft releases software fixes on a regular basis. Choose "automatic updates" in your operating system or web browser's security settings. These fixes plug holes that hackers exploit. Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 has extra tools that can detect malicious websites.

Related: How to protect your smartphone from fraud

Home wireless: If you set up a wireless network in your home, make sure to use the security features. A "WPA" and "WPA2" password is better than the older and weaker "WEP." If a neighbour joins your network, they not only will get free Internet access but could possibly read your files, slow down your performance and help you reach your monthly Internet data cap prematurely.

Public networks: Try to avoid entering confidential information on public computers a hotel, library, airport lounge or school. These systems may contain "keylogger" software that records everything you type. Also, be sure to delete your browsing history after surfing on a public computer (including your cookies, form data, history and temporary Internet files) and never click "yes" for the site to remember your password or login information.

Free Wi-Fi caution: While it might be tempting to sniff for free Wi-Fi networks at a café or hotel, they could be the work of nearby hackers out to access files on your PC. This is sometimes referred to as a "rogue network." Be sure to ask what the establishment's wireless network name is to ensure you're logging on to the correct one.

Related: The best free software for students

Over-the shoulder-snoops: Watch out for snoops at cafés, schools or on airplanes. While you might not need one of those special mesh screens that make it hard for people to see what you're typing, try to turn down the brightness of your laptop screen, reduce the font size and be aware of what you're typing while in public.


2012 income tax season:
11 questions you
are afraid to ask

James Daw Toronto Star
March 5, 2012

It’s never wise to fib, fiddle, or fake on your tax return. The longer you get away with dodging tax, the worse it will be when you finally get caught.

But who doesn’t think about accepting cash and not declaring it, or exaggerating write-offs? Well, it’s not worth it if you are caught. Before you travel down that road, read the answers to these and other related questions.

What happens if I don’t report my income?

If your income is low, you could miss getting money from the government to raise children, or to help pay rent, food, sales taxes, etc. If you owe taxes, and fail to file a tax return, you will be charged interest plus a penalty equal to 5 to 17 per cent of taxes owed.

If you are convicted of evading taxes, you might get free room and board — in jail — like Daniel Frank Kobelt. The Burnaby, B.C., maker of marine products was sentenced to two years, less a day last October.

He had attempted to avoid taxes by claiming Canada’s constitution does not permit taxation of living, breathing persons; only corporations. Naturally, Canada Revenue Agency told him he was crazy. Even so, Kobelt did not disclose $1.77 million of personal income he earned in 2005 and 2006. Now he must also pay double the $512,867 in taxes he would have owed.

What are my chances of a tax audit?

That’s not something CRA discloses. But chances of an audit are far better than most lotteries, because targeting suspicious cases pulls in billions of extra dollars annually. CRA estimates 12.2 per cent of small businesses do not comply with tax law, and nearly half of those it targets for audits. Audits are almost a sure thing if a former spouse, employee, tenant, competitor, or customer calls the CRA’s informant lead centre (1-866-809-6841).

“People think they only have a three-year window when tax returns can be checked, but in case of fraud there is no statute-barred exemption,” says Katz.

What’s the worst that could happen?

In the year ended last March, there were 204 taxpayers convicted of tax evasion or fraud. Kobelt was sentenced to jail last October. In November, Brothers & Wright Electrical Services Inc. of Markham was fined $165,000, or double the tax evaded, by claiming that construction expenses for two directors’ cottages were company expenses.

Also in October, Michael Habash of London was fined $28,746 for evading as much in Goods and Services Tax when he operated Carey’s Bar and Grill.

I forgot to report income, but my employer will have told the CRA. Should I worry?

Yes, says Nancy Belo Gomes of KPMG LLP. “The CRA has started to get really tough on taxpayers who repeatedly forget or fail to report T-slip income.”

More often now the agency is imposing a 20 per cent penalty on top of federal and provincial income taxes, as prescribed by Subsection 163(1) of the Income Tax Act. So, it’s cheaper to file an amendment to your tax return than to wait for CRA’s computers to catch the oversight.

CRA says it was able to collect an additional $600 million in fiscal 2011 after comparing individual returns with the information slips supplied by employers and financial institutions.

I deliberately left out income. What should I do?

Use CRA’s voluntary disclosure program to negotiate a deal to pay the tax, without interest or penalties, says Gomes. A tax preparer may negotiate a binding settlement without identifying you.

Search the CRA website for details.

Move smartly to volunteer and pay as soon as you have a deal. You won’t qualify if CRA starts an investigation first, she warns.

It’s not hard for the CRA to catch landlords who are not declaring rental income. Computers can match the tenant’s home address and claims for tax credits with the landlord’s address and income.

Is stuff I sell on eBay taxable?

Not if you’re just selling your old stuff. The CRA only looks for sellers who make it a business. Anyone who frequently buys and sells goods, or even homes, should report their profit, after expenses, as income.

Can the CRA track rent that our tenants pay in cash?

It sure could! The tenant is likely to file a tax return and give your property as the address. He or she may also report the amount of rent paid to claim Ontario’s property tax credit. CRA’s computers can easily cross-check tax returns.

Are travel rewards gained from work trips taxable?

Only in some circumstances: You are converting the points to cash; you are granted reward points as a form of remuneration or with the deliberate intent of avoiding tax.

I don’t declare income from a foreign source. Has the risk of getting caught increased?

“Yes it has,” says Gomes. Most of Canada’s major trading partners have already signed agreements. This year new agreements with Dominica and Netherlands Antilles came into force. Agreements with Aruba, Costa Rica and Saint Lucia will come into force later. Negotiations are under way with 14 other states including Antigua and Barbuda and the British Virgin Islands.

I was born in the U.S. Is it too late to file tax returns under their amnesty program?

No, it’s not too late says Steve Sherman of Cross Border Tax Services in Toronto.

Taxpayers will have a choice whether to file eight years of returns under the recently extended (January 9) Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative or to file six if you can offer a “reasonable cause” for not knowing you had to file. The voluntary option was extended “until otherwise announced”. Each approach has its benefits and risks.

What is becoming evident, says Dean Smith of Cadesky and Associates LLP, is that taxpayers should become compliant before the Internal Revenue Service comes after them. U.S. citizens and Green Card holders living outside the U.S. are also expected to file a Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report (FBAR) if total foreign financial accounts in a tax year exceed $10,000 (U.S.).

A lawyer seems to endorse a risky tax strategy in a letter I’ve seen. Should I trust him?

The advice should be regarded with suspicion if the promoter of a tax shelter lawyer hired the lawyer. If you proceed, expect CRA to ask hard questions. So far, more than 150,000 taxpayers who have been denied $5 billion in charitable tax credit claims after participating in dodgy tax-avoidance schemes.

Now lawyers who provided advice are being targeted in the courts. In January, lawyers at Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP agreed — while denying any errors — that it would contribute to a partial, $11 million payment to 3,000 participants in the Banyan Tree Foundation tax-shelter scheme. Halifax tax lawyer Edwin C. Harris Q.C., also failed to escape a class action suit on behalf of 9,925 participants in the ParkLane Donations for Canada Charitable Gift Program.


How to file an audit proof tax return

How to avoid these 8 tax-filing mistakes


The final winner list of
2012 Academy Awards

Best Cinematography: Robert Richardson, "Hugo"
Best Art Direction: Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schavo, "Hugo"
Best Costume Design: Mark Bridges, "The Artist"
Best Makeup: Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland, "The Iron Lady"
Best Foreign Language Film: "A Separation"
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, "The Help"
Best Editing: Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
Best Sound Editing: Phillip Stockton and Eugene Gearty, "Hugo"
Best Sound Mixing: Tom Fleischman and John Midgley, "Hugo"
Best Documentary: "Undefeated"
Best Animated Feature: "Rango"
Best Visual Effects: "Hugo"
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
Best Original Score: Ludovic Bource, "The Artist"
Best Original Song: Bret McKenzie, "Man or Muppet"
Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, "The Descendants"
Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"
Best Live Action Short: "The Shore"
Best Documentary Short: "Saving Face"
Best Animated Short: "The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore"
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
Best Actress: Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady"
Best Picture: "The Artist"


How to beat the
three villains
that can steal your retirement

Globe & Mail

January 30, 2012

Building a strong financial castle to fund your retirement is hard. If you’re not careful, you may discover a hole in your vault and three villains sneaking off with the family jewels.

To see these predators in action, let’s begin by considering a portfolio that follows the total return of the S&P/TSX Composite index as shown in the graph below. The index has performed well since 1970 with an average annual return of 9.4 per cent.

But these happy returns don’t factor in the annual fees charged by funds. These typically range between 2 per cent and 2.5 per cent for Canadian stock funds and are called management expense ratios (MERs).

Problem is, funds – on average – have a hard time beating the index’s returns before fees. They tend to trail badly after fees. Indeed, there are theoretical reasons to think that funds, as a group, merely yield index returns less the fees they charge.

The fee line on the graph is based on the uncharitable view that funds achieve index returns minus a 2 per cent annual fee. Over the period, those seemingly small charges reduce the size of the ending portfolio by more than 50 per cent. Such is the misery of compounded fees.

Fund fees are one thing but the crown also likes to extract a pound of flesh. The third line on the graph – the one just under the fee line – represents the returns of the index after the 2 per cent fund fee and a 23 per cent tax on gains from the prior peak levied annually.

The point here isn’t one of precision – after all, different investors are subject to different tax burdens – but to highlight why proper tax planning is important. Stingy investors want to legally reduce taxes and fees, all else being equal.

Inflation is the third sapper of wealth and the last line on the graph shows the combined impact of 2 per cent annual fees, 23 per cent annual taxes on gains, and inflation.

The result? The 9.4 per cent starting annual return for the index is reduced to a mere 1.3 per cent after fees, taxes, and inflation are taken into account. Put in dollar terms, instead of growing each dollar invested to $43.20 over the period, you’d only be left with $1.70 after fees, taxes, and inflation.

But you can foil two of the villains. Fund fees can be reduced by favouring low-fee active funds or lower-fee index funds and exchange-traded funds. On the tax front, you can save via TFSAs or defer taxes by using RRSPs or opting for longer holding periods.

The bar chart shows several different low-fee and low-tax scenarios. For instance, a 0.3 per cent annual fund fee and a zero tax rate would have put $6.40 in your pocket, adjusted for inflation, per dollar invested. That’s a darn sight better than $1.70.

The moral of the story? Be sure to keep a close eye on fees and taxes. If you don’t, a pack of villains might run off with the bulk of your retirement portfolio.

Norman Rothery, PhD


ABS brakes can add to stopping distances

November 25, 2011

Many motorists overestimate their braking skills and their vehicle's braking ability.

This time of year, tire grip levels start to diminish as temperatures drop and road surfaces change. We soon could be driving on snow, ice, slush or asphalt covered in sand, salt or water and each of these variables has an effect on how well our tires grip and how effective our brakes are.

The ideal gap from the vehicle in front of us should be at least two seconds. That gives us time to assess the situation and determine the appropriate action, which works out to be approximately half a second to a second. Then we will need another half a second to react and actually apply the brakes.

More: Here's why it pays to brake slowly

More: Here's the secret to surviving winter driving

Keep in mind, studies show that the vast majority of drivers do not apply the brakes hard enough in the first stages of emergency braking and lose valuable stopping distance.

In temperatures below seven degrees Celsius, winter tires will shorten your stopping distances on all types of road surfaces and especially on ice and snow compared to all season tires. On ice and snow, a quality brand of winter tire can shorten stopping distances by 50 per cent, compared to an all season tire.

Here is a fact that catches a lot of motorists by surprise: if the vehicle we are driving is equipped with ABS brakes, our stopping distances on ice and snow will be longer than if our vehicle did not have ABS brakes. In older vehicles and less expensive vehicles, ABS can lengthen our stopping distances by up to 50 per cent compared to non-ABS. In more modern vehicles and, in particular, ones with very sophisticated ABS braking systems, the difference is not so pronounced.

When we double our speed, our braking distances are not twice as long. They are four times as long. In other words, if it takes our vehicle 50 metres to stop from 50 km/h, it will take 200 metres to stop our vehicle from 100 km/h. Our braking distances will square with our speed. Which means our braking distance would be an astounding 450 metres if we tripled our speed to 150 km/h

When driving on wet roads, we can expect our braking distances to at least double, compared to a dry road. On snow or icy roads we are looking at braking distances that are a staggering 10 times longer.

All vehicles are not created equal and that also applies to braking efficiency. High performance sports cars and sedans usually have the most effective braking systems and shortest stopping distances. The most expensive vehicles tend to have the most sophisticated ABS systems and the biggest brakes. Pickup trucks tend to have the longest stopping distances of all vehicles followed by minivans and SUVs.

Adding weight to the vehicle or towing a trailer also makes braking distances noticeably longer. When towing a trailer full of snowmobiles, we have to at least double all the stopping distances.

The worst case scenario would be an older pickup truck with ABS on old all-season or off-road tires pulling a trailer full of snowmobiles on a wintery day. It seems to me that this is not an uncommon sight on our roads each winter.

We all have to give our braking the respect it deserves. In winter conditions, slow down and leave more space for the vehicle in front.

Give your brakes a break and you won't end up stuffed into the vehicle in front trying to come up with an excuse for why you couldn’t stop in time


I cut my phone and
cable bills by asking

November 20, 2011
By Jennifer Stewart

Toronto Star

After seeing ads for discounted prices on phone, internet and television plans, I looked into my own services to see how I could reduce my monthly bill.

We were paying $112 a month, or $1,334 a year for a basic television and phone plan with five calling features.. With a few calls, I was able to save $42 a month on my three services – a savings of $504 a year.

Here's how:

Compare prices

I called several other companies, including Rogers, to get prices on their products with similar plans to mine. Armed with this knowledge, I called Bell to negotiate a better price. When calling the competitors, I told them that I was a Bell customer contemplating switching my services. They wanted to provide me with their best prices to motivate me.

By bringing these competitor prices back to our service provider and asking them to match them, we reduced our television price from $44 a month to $30 a month.

Speak to retention

Another option is to speak with retention. This department's purpose is to keep current customers, and often, they can adjust your bill so that you don't take your business elsewhere. If you don't get where you want with a customer service rep, asking to speak with retention is always an option.

By doing this, we cut out Internet bill from $50 a month to $31.

Change your Plan

We were paying $51 a month for our phone bill. This included 1,000 minutes of long distance. I called Bell to find out how many of those minutes I had actually used in previous months. It turns out I was only using half of the minutes I was paying for. Given this, I changed to a 500 minute per month plan and reduced my phone bill to $42.

If you're looking to cut back on your monthly television, phone and Internet bills, one thing I've learned is that your provider is motivated to reduce your bill and will likely do so to compete with other companies. However, if you don't ask, don't expect to save. You need to do your homework and be persistent.

Also, don't be afraid to switch service providers if it means increased savings. Most services do not have cancellation fees and most new service providers will waive start up fees for new customers.


Car warning lights
should never be ignored

Sandy Liguori
October 25, 2011

As today’s vehicles have become more sophisticated and dependent on technology, the number of warning lights has multiplied, and they have become far more sensitive to the inner workings of your car.

If you’ve driven a vehicle for any length of time, then you’ve probably seen — and probably ignored — a few warning lights in your time.

A recent study by CarMD showed that over 50 per cent of people driving with the check-engine light on have driven like that for more than three months.

I’ve heard horror stories where drivers have failed to heed critical warning lights, hoping that a problem would magically go away. Their naiveté inevitably led to major engine failures and costly repairs.

Almost every day, service departments at new car dealerships run diagnostic tests and perform repairs on vehicles, where warning lights have alerted drivers about a potential problem.

Dashboard warning lights are designed to detect signs of engine failure or mechanical/operational malfunction. If it’s a critical warning light, the issue should be addressed immediately.

In some cases, this means pulling the car over and having it towed to a repair facility. Sometimes a self-diagnosis can identify the problem. In my experience, it’s always better to err on the side of caution than to pretend a problem doesn’t exist.

Ignoring a critical warning light not only jeopardizes the safe operation of your vehicle, it could compromise your manufacturer’s warranty coverage as well.

Here are some common critical warning lights that are installed on modern passenger vehicles and light duty trucks:

Oil Pressure Light. This light refers to possible low oil levels, a worn or broken oil pump or excessive main bearing wear. Ignoring it could result in a seized engine or major engine damage.

Brake Warning Light. This could refer to driving with the handbrake engaged, low brake fluid level or worn out brake pads. Brakes are the most important part of your vehicle; they affect the safety of the driver and all occupants. Don’t ignore this light!

Air Bag SRS. If this warning light comes on, your air bag is not going to inflate on impact, which could jeopardize your safety. Malfunction is usually caused by a crash sensor fault, bad electrical connection or air bag module malfunction.

Engine Temperature Light. This means the coolant level is low, the cooling fan isn’t working or the thermostat is failing to open. If this light flashes on, stop driving immediately, turn off the engine, and seek mechanical assistance. Driving while the temperature light is on can do serious and expensive engine damage.

Battery Charging System Warning Light. This usually refers to an alternator failure, loose or torn alternator belt, faulty battery or a broken wire. The light indicates a problem with the charging system; get it repaired at your earliest convenience.

Tire Pressure Warning Light. This light could be triggered by a flat tire, low tire pressure, tire pressure light not reset or bad air pressure sensor. Excessively worn tires or insufficient tire pressure not only affects fuel economy, it poses a risk.

Some warning lights are less critical than others, such as Service Engine Soon, Seatbelt Warning Light, Low Fuel, Door Ajar, Over Drive Off and Service Reminder.

Whether you own or lease a vehicle, warning lights (critical or not) should never be taken lightly. In some cases, a flashing light represents nothing more than a loose connection, or an on-board computer module that has to be reset, which is a quick and inexpensive procedure.

For more information about warning lights, consult your owner’s manual or contact a service advisor at your local new car dealership.


How winter tires differ
from snow tires

Snow Tires

Richard Russell - Globe and Mail
October 22, 2011

There are two factors that determine how well a tire grips the road – tread compound and tread design.

The compound is made up of a mixture of products, chemicals and production methods. The design is not only what you see, but the structure of the tires beneath the tread.

In the old days, a winter tire was called a snow tire and it had a much more aggressive tread pattern designed to cut into snow. Many people still use the term snow tire – but in reality tire companies no longer offer such a product.

As chemistry and production became more sophisticated, so did tires. The old snow tire was replaced by the winter tire. The difference was a tread designed to grip both snow and ice and remain supple in cold conditions.

These are critical factors. That old snow tire may have bitten into deep snow thanks to those big lugs and deep, wide grooves. But it got hard when cold and was not as good as a summer or all-season tire in wet or dry conditions, especially on ice.

The development of winter tires involved more closed tread patterns that remain supple in cold conditions and project thousands of little edges to grip ice. Because they do not stiffen up and have treads designed to throw off snow, they continue to be effective in snow.

The tire industry considers seven degrees Celsius as a key point. Below that, all-season tires stiffen up and offer much less grip while above that, winter tires become softer and start to wear excessively.

This has led to a new class or type of tire, all-weather, as opposed to all-season. These new tires are a hybrid of sorts, combining a compound that remains flexible in extreme cold with one that does not become too soft in warm weather.

These new tires, generally at the high end of a company's range, pass all the severe weather tests necessary to wear the "mountain/snowflake" symbol recognized by Transport Canada and the Rubber Association of Canada, yet can be used year-round.

But that is not to say they are the ultimate tire, that they are perfect in all conditions. Once again, we have a compromise.

The compounding and design that allows these new all-weather tires means they re not as supple and suited to extreme cold conditions as a pure, no-compromise, winter tire. Similarly, they cannot hold a candle to quality summer tires in terms of outright grip when turning or braking in hot conditions. Ironically, we have all-season tires that are decent in spring, summer and fall but fall off when it gets cold and all-weather tires that are decent in fall, winter and spring but fall off when it gets hot.

Some like it hot – summer tires; some like it cold – winter tires; and some straddle the fence, not liking it hot or cold. All-season or all-weather, both are compromises. The best and safest solution is two sets of tires, one of which should be winter tires.

With winter approaching, the temperature of the surface of the road in the morning will be single digits, and often below that seven-degree point. A pure summer tire will offer minimal grip at that point and an all-season tire will be falling off while winter and all-weather tires will be coming into their element.

Do not associate the need to change tires with the arrival of snow. The critical issue is temperature. That's why consumers should stop thinking and talking about snow tires and switching to winter tires.


55,000 eligible Canadians aren't getting CPP. Why?

By Gordon Pape | Aug 22, 2011
Toronto Star

When it comes to finances, many of us are at a kindergarten level. Millions of Canadians have no understanding of some of the most basic concepts needed to function in today's world, from budgeting to handling debt.

The federal government's Task Force on Financial Literacy was more diplomatic in its language but that was the essence of its message to the government and the Canadian people in its final report, published earlier this year.

Recent polls confirm that the level of financial knowledge among Canadians is discouragingly low. For example, in June 2011 the non-profit Investor Education Fund, which is funded by the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC), released a study which reported that the average score for respondents who were asked 23 questions about personal finance was only 50 per cent. Taking 60 per cent as a passing grade, only 29 per cent of Ontarians scored well. The survey found that knowledge of financial planning and goal setting was extremely low.

"As a matter of note, every question was answered correctly more often by people who are putting away money for retirement now than by those who are not," the survey concluded. "This echoes a finding in many other studies that people are more likely to get informed when they are personally involved and need to make decisions."

In other words, people aren't going to take the time to learn about money out of academic interest. There has to be a tangible, real-life benefit involved to motivate them.

Well, how about this for an incentive: Ignorance and/or indifference costs Canadians billions of dollars every year — that's right, billions! Here are some almost unbelievable numbers from the findings of the Literacy Task Force.

•Roughly 160,000 eligible seniors do not receive the Old Age Security benefit (representing almost $1 billion in pre-tax benefits).

•About 150,000 eligible seniors do not receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

•Approximately 55,000 eligible Canadians are not receiving Canada Pension Plan benefits.

•The take-up rate for the Canada Education Savings Grant is just 40 per cent.

•The median RRSP contribution represents only 6 per cent of the total eligible room available.

As might be expected, the Task Force called for more financial education, both for young people and adults. That's clearly necessary. However, in what I regard as a very pertinent comment, the report zeroed in on the same motivation issue that was highlighted by the Investor Education Fund. All the courses and books in the world won't help if people aren't willing to allocate time to learn.

"Research shows that people are most interested in financial learning when it is associated with real money or a real financial decision," the Task Force report states. "Those 'teachable moments' include when workers join a pension plan or workplace retirement savings scheme; when consumers are seeking financial advice or considering the purchase of a financial product or service; or when individuals apply or check their eligibility for, or obtain benefits from, government programs."

This is directionally a good suggestion, but it is too limited. "Teachable moments" may arise any time. They aren't limited to joining a pension plan or applying for a government program. For example, it's a "teachable moment" when you prepare your tax return, apply for a credit card, consider buying a house, take out a student loan, make an RRSP contribution, or work on the family budget. Anything that involves a financial decision offers an opportunity to learn something about good money management.

I believe that the real key to improving financial literacy quickly is to provide people with easy access to tools that will help them solve their immediate problem while educating them in the process.

For example, not long after the Task Force report came out, it was announced that the very first application (app) created for Research in Motion's new tablet computer, PlayBook, was designed to help people enrol in company pension plans. The idea is to make it easier and less stressful to complete the paperwork necessary to sign up. Not surprisingly, it was created by Sun Life Financial, which administers many corporate plans in this country.

Sun Life's senior vice-president of senior retirement service, Thomas Reid, described the app "a real catalyst for changing behaviour." He added: "We actually are quite convinced it's going to be very powerful in getting higher enrolment rates."

Obviously, a higher enrolment rate would be good for Sun Life's business. But it would also be good for the financial future of the people who sign up, some of whom might not have done so had the process not been made so easy.

This may be where some of the best solutions to financial illiteracy ultimately lie: in the creation of wide range of user-friendly money apps for popular devices like the iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Galaxy, and all the other new electronic gizmos.

In fact, many already exist. One example is Account Tracker, made for Apple products. It was chosen as App of the Month by Zoomer magazine in the May issue. In its review, the magazine described it as easy to use and said it can "turn any account and budgeting nightmare into a manageable situation."

Some other iPhone financial apps that are available include Tomorrow's Gas Price for Canadians, Canada Sales Tax Calculator, Canada Income Tax Calculator, HMP Canadian Mortgage Calculation, ATM Locator Canada, AM Canadian Mortgage Advisor, iTip Calculator Canada, Tax Man RRSP, and Canadian Taxes Discounts and Tips. Many financial institutions also offer their own apps, usually at no cost.

Even though both are Apple products, many iPhone financial apps are not available for iPad and the choices for tablets in general are still very limited. A search of the Apple app store only turned up one specifically for Canadians: the TurboTax Refund Calculator, a very basic app that is also available on the Intuit Canada website. There are hundreds of finance-related apps. But a lot of them are games or gambling related while others are media apps (e.g. Bloomberg, CNBC) and teaching tools for children. Some are not suitable for Canadians because of our different tax laws, retirement savings options, etc.

Among the best iPad bets according to customer ratings are Account Tracker ($2.99), a budgeting and expense application; Pocket Expense ($1.99, also available in a stripped-down free version), which will track bill payments, categorize expenses, and more; Currency (free), which provides exchange rates for more than 100 currencies; Budgets for iPad (free); and Debt Free ($0.99) which helps you work out a plan to get rid of credit card debt.

My advice is to check out what is available for your specific device. Apps that enable you to track stock markets, follow business news, prepare a budget, or perform basic financial calculations don't need to be modified for Canadians but many others do. Once you have found an app you think meets your needs, do an on line search to see if you can find any reviews of the product, especially if it is relatively expensive. There's no point spending money only to discover that the app you've purchased won't solve your problem.


Map publishers facing
a rough road

Anna Halkidis, manager of community relations and strategic partnerships of CAA, says many members stick with the classic flip maps for the detail it offers, but an electronic version is now available online. (Aug. 17, 2011)

By Vanessa Lu
Toronto Star
Aug 20, 2011

When Don Boyes was driving up north last week, heading to a cottage where he had never been before, he brought along his iPhone.

Armed with an app that serves as a GPS device, he could manoeuvre all the right turns along the roads.

Suddenly at one point, where cellphone service became spotty, he lost his connection, and his directions. But Boyes, a senior lecturer in the geography department at the University of Toronto, wasn't worried, because his car's glove compartment is stuffed with paper maps that could guide him to his destination.

About 15 minutes later, he got his phone connection back, but Boyes says this incident illustrates why he thinks paper maps won't disappear.

"I hope people will still have them around. I don't think we're at a point where we can rely 100 per cent on technology," said Boyes, who specializes in Geographic Information Systems, where databases are attached to a map.

He points to horror stories of individuals who blindly followed the voice on their GPS, telling them to drive toward a lake or the wrong way on a highway, saying millions of data points have to be recorded, so there can be mistakes.

"It is interesting how psychologically, people want to depend on these things and want to believe that they are always right," Boyes said, adding sometimes people ignore their common sense because that's what the GPS says.

Even though more people will be using electronic maps and new technology, Boyes believes a digital divide remains in Canada, with smartphone use at about 33 per cent.

"It's going to change as prices come down, and people see the value of it," he said. "But I hope if people are driving in the country or some place where they haven't been before, will keep that paper map handy."

The summer is peak travel season and the south central Ontario offices of the Canadian Automobile Association has seen an increase in requests for maps, especially for domestic travel, despite online mapping programs and GPS.

Requests for the classic TripTik — the precursor to Google maps, where members can request individualized routes through Canada and the U.S. — has fallen almost in half in the last decade.

This year, the CAA in this region expects to issue about 80,000 classic TripTiks, complete with arrows to highlight the route, down from about 150,000 a decade earlier, said Anna Halkidis, manager of community relations and auto travel.

"There's far more detail. You can see where there is construction, gas and lodging, or areas of interest," she said. "It's not a typical Google map or MapQuest map."

Halkidis says many members stick with the classic flip maps for the detail it offers, but an electronic version is now available online.

Peter Heiler, CEO of Map Art Publishing Corporation, an Oshawa-based map company, said demand for paper maps has fallen by at least half, with the peak being in 2005.

"It's a tough business," Heiler said. "The problem is maps have to be updated, whether you sell one or 10.

"But people still like paper maps. They are friendly for some people. You can open them up and have an overview," he said. "I think there will continue to be a market for it."

"If you're listening to your navigation system, you really don't know where you are, or don't know where the lake is in relationship to where you are."

Heiler estimates that the consumer map business — from maps, books and atlases — is worth about $30 million today in Canada, and seems to have stabilized after a dramatic drop in sales.

Police departments, delivery companies and taxi drivers often have both electronic navigation systems and paper maps in their cars and trucks, he said.

Heiler believes paper maps are sometimes more attractive because they are often updated annually, compared with online or GPS maps that sometimes lag behind, due to the cost of mapping all the data navigation points.

Despite the boom in mapping apps and new technology, paper maps will continue to serve a purpose, he said.

"If you're going to visit a new city, and you've looked at a map, and you know where the water is, where the train station is, you have a nice overview," Heiler said.

"On a GPS, turn right, go left, do this, do that, you don't really know where you are."

Questions about map reading

Are we producing a generation of people who can't read a map?

University of Toronto's Don Boyes credits the advent of Google maps for making people comfortable with maps, in the context of where you are and where you need to go, getting from Point A to Point B.

But if Boyes put someone in the middle of nowhere with a paper map and compass, he isn't sure they would be able to find their way out, by using only landmarks and a compass.

Can map reading have an impact on aging?

Map Art's Peter Heiler believes map reading does force the brain to work in different ways from a GPS navigational tool.

"It does do a different mind exercise, to study a map and try to retain the trip in your memory, and maybe the places you might want to stop off in the trip," Heiler said.

McGill University researchers last year presented studies that showed the way we navigate the world today may affect how well our brains function as we age.

When people are trying to find their way, there are two different strategies. One is a spatial navigation strategy where people build cognitive maps using things like landmarks as visual cues. The other is a stimulus-response strategy, going left or right, as the most efficient way to get from point A to point B. If you use a GPS, that stimulus-response may seem familiar.

In the McGill study, those who navigated spatially had increased activity in the hippocampus, an area of the brain believed to be involved in memory and navigation and play a role in finding shortcuts or new routes.

The study found health young adults tended to use a spatial approach when navigating a virtual maze, while older adults used a response strategy.

That shift may lead to atrophy of the hippocampus, a risk factor for cognitive problems in normal aging and in Alzheimer's disease.


Should I always have
collision coverage?

Globe & Mail
August 14, 2011

Let's remember the basics when it comes to collision insurance for a car that you own. "By law, under the Insurance Act, you don't have to purchase 'physical damage insurance' – which is also known as collision or comprehensive," says Anne Marie Thomas, a manager at InsuranceHotline.com

Collision covers the repair or replacement cost of your vehicle if you're involved in an at-fault accident. What if you're involved in a collision and not at fault? "In Ontario, if you're not at-fault and you don't have collision insurance you're still covered; the section of your policy that responds in that case is called the direct compensation section," says Thomas.

There is, however, an exception. "One thing for the consumer to be aware of is if you're hit by an unidentified third party, also known as a hit-and-run, even though you're not at fault, that type of loss is paid out under the collision section of your policy," says Thomas.

Making a decision about when to stop paying collision insurance on an older vehicle is a matter of doing your due diligence. You need to consider the maximum an insurance company will pay if you're involved in an at-fault accident and your vehicle is written off.

Searching your local automotive classified ads should put you in the ballpark. Then work through the math and make the decision. Look at the cost of a replacement, your premium, the deductible, the settlement you'd receive and consider the likely increase in your insurance costs if you make a claim.

If you find that the average cost to replace your car is $2,000, subtract your deductible, which is the amount you'd be required to pay in an at-fault accident before an insurer covers any expenses. Let's say your deductible is $500. Then subtract the collision portion of your insurance premium – say it's $200 per year. So if you have a loss, in this example, you'd net $1,300 in compensation.

The example above is only based on paying for collision insurance for one year. If you remain accident-free through year two, three, four and beyond and meanwhile your car is depreciating, you're spending more money for less coverage every year.

There's no rule of thumb, it all comes back to math – and the amount of financial risk you're willing to or can absorb.


Automated bill payments not always a good idea

August10, 2011
By Krystal Yee
Toronto Star

Many personal finance professionals will tell you that automating your finances is one of the best ways to manage your money. You can automate your pay cheque deposits, deposits to savings, RRSPs and investment accounts, as well as all of your monthly recurring bills.

But when you think you're making your life easier by automating everything and not having to stress about whether you paid the bills on time, you might be doing more harm than good. Automating your finances can lead to bad spending habits, because you aren't conscious of where your money is going. And, when all of the work is being done for you, you might not check on your accounts as often as you should.

I personally only automate the essentials – such as my pay cheque from my full-time job, my mortgage payment, and my maintenance fees. Everything else – such as utilities, cell phone, internet/cable, credit card bills, and taxes – I make as manual payments.

Here's why:

My income fluctuates

Even though I have a full-time job, my income can fluctuate wildly from week to week, depending on how much money I bring in from my part-time and freelancing jobs. While it's possible to budget and automate when your income varies, I find it's a lot easier (and a lot less stressful) to manually enter in bill payments. Especially when not all companies and services offer monthly billing cycles that end at the end of each month. Instead, I keep track of when my payments are due by tracking them in Quicken, as well as in a Google calendar. That way, I always know that I have money in my account to pay each invoice.

I like seeing progress

It is extremely satisfying to click a few buttons and see bills getting paid, or my savings account growing. It's proof that my hard work is worth something, and it reminds me that my goals are real and attainable. It's a feeling you can't get when the bank does all of the work for you.

Don't forget to read the terms and conditions

Sometimes life can get busy, and by the time you get around to looking through your cell phone bill, you might have already had the payment deducted from your account. I worked in a call centre for a company whose terms and conditions stated that receiving payment is your acknowledgment and agreement to all of the charges on the invoice. So it's important to look through your invoices in a timely manner, as well as carefully read through your terms and conditions of service with each company.

It forces me to pay attention

Over the past five years, I've made it a habit to log into my online bank accounts at least three times each week. This year I caught two fraudulent charges on my credit card. If my credit card bill payments were automated, I would be much less inclined to check my accounts as often, or as closely, so I might have missed catching and disputing those charges.

Companies make it so easy to automate payments. From your Netflix account to your gym membership to those domain names you've never used that keep auto-renewing every year – sitting down to pay your bills might take an extra hour out of each month, but it really forces you to see where your money is going. It helps you have a better relationship with your finances, and you might realize that you're paying for a lot of things that you just don't use.


Kids are safest with grandparents behind the wheel: study

Kids may be safest in cars when grandma or grandpa are driving instead of mom or dad, according to a U.S. study that surprised researchers

Lindsey Tanner

Toronto Star
July 19, 2011

CHICAGO—American kids may be safest in cars when grandma or grandpa are driving instead of mom or dad, according to study results that even made the researchers do a double-take.

“We were surprised to discover that the injury rate was considerably lower in crashes where grandparents were the drivers,” said Dr. Fred Henretig, an emergency medicine specialist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the study’s lead author.

Previous evidence indicates that car crashes are more common in older drivers, mostly those beyond age 65. The study looked at injuries rather than who had more crashes, and found that children’s risk for injury was 50 per cent lower when riding with grandparents than with parents.

The results are from an analysis of State Farm insurance claims for 2003-07 car crashes in 15 states, and interviews with the drivers. The data involved nearly 12,000 children up to age 15.

Henretig, 64, said the study was prompted by his own experiences when his first grandchild was born three years ago.

“I found myself being very nervous on the occasions that we drove our granddaughter around and really wondered if anyone had ever looked at this before,” he said.

Reasons for the unexpected findings are uncertain, but the researchers have a theory.

“Perhaps grandparents are made more nervous about the task of driving with the ‘precious cargo’ of their grandchildren and establish more cautious driving habits” to compensate for any age-related challenges, they wrote.

The study was released online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Northwestern University Professor Joseph Schofer, a transportation expert not involved in the research, noted that the average age of grandparents studied was 58.

“Grandparents today are not that old” and don’t fit the image of an impaired older driver, he said. “None of us should represent grandparents as kind of hobbling to the car on a walker.”

Grandparents did flub one safety measure. Nearly all the kids were in car seats or seat belts, but grandparents were slightly less likely to follow recommended practices, which include rear-facing backseat car seats for infants and no front-seats. But that didn’t seem to affect injury rates.

Only about 10 per cent of kids in the study were driven by grandparents, but they suffered proportionately fewer injuries.

Overall, 1.05 per cent of kids were injured when riding with parents, versus 0.70 per cent of those riding with grandparents, or a 33 per cent lower risk. The difference was even more pronounced — 50 per cent — when the researchers took into account other things that could influence injury rates, including not using car seats, and older-model cars.

The study does not include data on deaths, but Henretig said there were very few. It also lacked information on the types of car trips involved; for example, driving in busy city traffic might increase chances for crashes with injuries.

Schofer, the Northwestern professor, said other unstudied circumstances could have played a role. For example, grandparents could be less distracted and less frazzled than busy parents dropping their kids off at school while rushing to get to work or to do errands. Driving trips might be “quality time” for older drivers and their grandchildren, Schofer said.


Few would trade health benefits for $10,000 cash

July 13, 2011
By sherylsmolkin
Toronto Star

Results from the 2011 sanofi-aventis Health Care Survey reveal that Canadian employees value peace of mind over cold, hard cash.

When offered a choice between $10,000 and their workplace health benefits, 59 per cent of survey participants chose to keep their benefits. Even when the ante was raised to $20,000, half still opted for their current medical coverage. Nearly twice as many employees over 55 (66 per cent) would stick with their health plans as compared to their 18-34 year old co-workers (34 per cent).

Laura Mensch, VP of Insurance Solutions at ADP Canada says older workers are driving these results. "The average age of the workforce is now over 45 and these people have experienced serious chronic and even catastrophic illnesses. They don't want to risk major medical bills in the last 20 years of their working life."

However in light of the economic downturn and its lingering hangover, Manulife Financial VP of group marketing services Marilee Mark finds these results somewhat surprising. "You'd think more people would take the money. There is obviously a high awareness of the value of benefits, particularly as a safety net."

A typical employer spends $3,000 to $4,000 per employee on health benefits, with drugs making up 60 to 80 per cent of the total. Because health care costs are increasing by 12 to 14 per cent a year, there is pressure on employers to manage costs to keep their plans affordable.

But employees place such a high value on their group health care plan that a significant number (41 per cent) are prepared to pay higher premiums to maintain their current benefits.In contrast, over one-quarter of the employees surveyed would prefer increased co-pays by people who use the services instead of across the board premium hikes. Only 12 per cent believe benefit cuts are the answer.

"The one thing that is clear is the reluctance to reduce benefits," says Aon Hewitt Consulting VP Art Babcock. "At 12 per cent, that's the lowest it's been historically."

Mensch thinks the trend will be to hybrid plans that include core catastrophic insurance for claims over a certain amount along with a health spending account that provides choice for employees at different ages and different stages of life.


How old is too
old to drive?

Globe & Mail
July 4, 2011

How do we decide when someone is too old to drive? Or perhaps just too old to drive at night? Or only too old to drive on the highway at any time?

Good questions and the answers matter as the first baby boomers turn 65 this year. To that end, a new national study on licensing policies for older drivers suggests we might have an incipient mess on our hands.

A Canadian research team found that Canada is a regulatory patchwork of requirements "for license renewal, reporting practices," and "appeals processes." As a result, options for restricted licenses largely depend on where someone lives, note researchers, Anita Myers from the University of Waterloo, Brenda Vrkljan from McMaster University and Shawn Marshall from the University of Ottawa.

As is often the case in Canada, the provinces and territories generally disagree on how to identify and regulate older drivers, says a news release, noting the study was funded by the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation and Transport Canada.

Transport Canada data, in fact, shows that in 2009 there were 3.25-million licensed drivers aged 65 and older in Canada. That's 14 per cent of the total driving population, reports the study. Now sit down and consider this: the number of senior drivers is expected to more than double in the next decade.

Said Myers: "While older drivers are involved in proportionately fewer collisions than younger drivers, they are more likely to be seriously injured or die as a result. The rate of fatal collisions starts to rise at age 70 and continues to increase for drivers in their 80s and 90s."

What's the problem with aged and aging drivers? The researchers suggest a greater likelihood of vision and other health problems that may compromise driving safety.

Not all provinces require drivers to undergo a medical review once they turn 70, 75 or 80. To do so is expensive and interestingly enough, says the study, has shown minimal impact on fatalities.

The researchers suggest that experts agree on one thing: "The focus should be on identifying potentially medically-at-risk drivers regardless of age and thoroughly assessing each person's capabilities for continued safe driving."

All well and good, but this means the health care system – doctors – could be facing yet another demand: identifying increasing numbers of older patients with chronic conditions while lacking valid tools to determine fitness-to-drive.

Meanwhile, many seniors want to keep driving; it provides freedom of mobility and such independence is important. At the same time, "Licensing authorities are under pressure to expand restricted licenses for older drivers, comparable to graduated licenses for novice drivers," says the study.

So what should authorities do? Put in place a comprehensive approach to licensing older drivers or something else? Or muddle along and simply do nothing?


How to choose an executor for your estate

May 27, 2011
By Jen Stewart Toronto Star

Part of the process of creating a will is deciding who will be the executor.

As I have quickly learned figuring out who this person should be is no easy feat. This person will have a significant and time-intensive role, gathering my assets, paying my debts and dividing what remains to my beneficiaries.

There are nit-picky things too, like canceling credit cards and subscriptions and closing accounts. It can also be emotional, perhaps beginning with funeral arrangements. (See a detailed description of the role below.)

"A lot of people feel that choosing an executor is bestowing an honour or it is something that should be given to the eldest child or used to make someone feel better,” said Shawn Pudsey, a Huntsville-based lawyer. “In reality, it is best to look at it like a job, and not a fun one. The primary consideration when making this decision is who would be best for the role.”

Other considerations include:

Does this person want it? : Before you decide on someone, reach out to that individual and determine if they are comfortable with the role, and whether or not they would be able willing to fulfill the duties in its entirety.

Understanding what's involved: It may be a good idea, according to Pudsey, to bring your proposed executor with you to meet with a lawyer to fully understand what is involved before they sign on.

Have a back-up: To be safe, name a back-up executor in case the person you choose dies or cannot fulfill the duties for some reason. This will save you the headache of re-creating your will.

Your Duties As Executor

What does it mean to probate an estate?
Probate is the process of getting the court to rule that a will is legally valid. The estate consists of any land, house, money, investments, personal items and other assets that the deceased owned. The person who died and made the will is called the "testator".

What is an executor, and what does the executor do?
The executor is named in a will. In general, the executor gathers up the estate assets, pays the deceased's debts, and divides what remains of the deceased's estate among the beneficiaries.

How do you confirm that you were named as the executor?
You need to get the original version of the will to check this. If it's not at the deceased testator's home, the will may be in a safety deposit box or at the office of the lawyer who drafted the will.

To look in the safety deposit box, phone the bank and make an appointment. Take the key, a death certificate and your own identification. If the will is there and names you as executor, the bank will let you take the will. You and a bank employee will then list the contents of the safety deposit box. You need to keep a copy of that list.

The other thing you can do is search for a wills notice at the Vital Statistics Agency. The testator or the testator's lawyer may have registered a wills notice with Vital Statistics. This notice tells where the testator planned to keep the original will. If a wills notice was registered, you'll be able to locate and obtain the original version of the will and confirm that you were named as the executor. For the Vital Statistics Agency office closest to you, call 250.952.2681 or check the Vital Statistics website at www.vs.gov.bc.ca.

Decide if you want to be the executor
If you haven't yet dealt with any of the estate assets, you cannot be made to act as the executor. Acting as an executor can be very challenging, and you should only take on this responsibility knowing that the task will be time-consuming and stressful. Once you begin the process of dealing with the estate assets, you're legally bound to complete the job, and you can only be relieved of your responsibility by a court order.

Consider hiring a lawyer
If you decide to act as the executor, consider whether to hire a lawyer to do the paperwork and advise you of your obligations. If you do, the estate pays the lawyer's fees. Ask the lawyer how the legal fees will be calculated, whether as a percentage of the estate or on an hourly basis. But because unexpected matters often arise in estates, it may not be possible to get an exact estimate of the fees. In large or complicated estates, it's a good idea to hire a lawyer and an accountant.

Your first decision as executor may be about funeral arrangements
The funeral is your responsibility, although you'll want to consider the wishes of the deceased person and their relatives. The funeral parlor will ordinarily order you copies of the death certificate. You may take the funeral bills to the bank where the deceased kept an account. If there's enough money in the account, the bank will give you a cheque from that account to pay the expenses.

You must also confirm that the will is the deceased's last will
You can confirm this by checking with the Vital Statistics Agency at the office closest to you. Most lawyers send a wills notice to Vital Statistics for every will they prepare. Vital Statistics will then send you a Certificate of Wills Search. This tells you if there's a record of the will and where the will is kept. You need this certificate when you apply to the court for probate. If you can't find the original will, the search results may help you locate it.

Cancel charge cards and protect the estate
You should cancel all the deceased person's charge accounts and subscriptions. Also ensure that the estate is protected. Make sure valuables are safe and that sufficient insurance is in place. You should immediately change the locks on the apartment or house, and put any valuable things into storage. As for insurance, most insurance policies are cancelled automatically if a house is vacant for more than 30 days, so ask the insurance agent about a "vacancy permit."

All potential beneficiaries must be notified
The Estate Administration Act requires that all beneficiaries (as well as certain family members who would be heirs if there was no will, or who are eligible to apply to the court to change the will) must be given a written notice, plus a copy of the will. This is generally done by the estate's lawyer.

The next step is to prepare and submit the necessary probate documents
The probate documents are submitted to court to get probate. Usually, you must get probate of the will to handle the deceased's estate. You'll also have to pay the probate fees as assessed by the court registry. The deceased's bank will usually allow you to take these funds out of the deceased's account.

Be aware that you don't always have to apply for probate
It depends on the type of assets in the estate. Certain assets don't require probate. Land owned in joint tenancy with another person doesn't require probate. If the deceased person owned land or a house in joint tenancy with another person, you only have to file an application in the Land Titles Office along with the death certificate. This will register the land in the name of the surviving joint tenant.

Also, probate isn't required for joint bank accounts or vehicles owned jointly. Again, the death certificate is usually sufficient to transfer these to the surviving joint owner.

In addition, RRSPs and insurance policies, which typically name a beneficiary to receive the proceeds in case of the person's death, aren't considered part of the estate, and therefore don't require probate. You should give the death certificate to any insurance companies and RRSP administrators that the deceased person had plans with. They'll want the death certificate before paying money to a beneficiary.

What about stocks and bonds?
If the estate includes securities, such as stocks and bonds, you may have to apply for probate in order to transfer them. You should check with the financial institution or transfer agent involved for each security in the estate because they'll have different requirements.

Also deal with any pensions the deceased had
If the deceased paid into the Canada Pension Plan, immediately apply to your local CPP office to tell them of the death and obtain any death, survivor or orphan benefits. Most funeral directors can provide you with information and forms regarding CPP death benefits. You should also check with the deceased person's employer about any benefits available there. If the deceased was receiving an old age security pension or other pensions, you also need to tell those pension offices of the death. Note that any CPP or old age security cheques for the month after the month in which the person died must be returned uncashed.

Certain income tax returns must be filed, and income tax may have to be paid
You need to file tax returns for any years for which the deceased didn't file a return. If the estate made any income after the date of death (such as rental income or interest on bank accounts), then tax returns will have to be filed for the estate for each year after death, until the estate is wound up or paid out. The estate must pay taxes before the estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries.

Now you can pay the estate's debts
Depending on the circumstances, you may want to advertise for possible creditors so you can make sure all legitimate debts are paid. This is to protect yourself against creditor claims that arise after you distribute the estate. As the executor, you could be personally liable if you don't pay the deceased's debts before you distribute the estate. You should talk to a lawyer about this.

Be aware of the Wills Variation Act
The Wills Variation Act allows any child or spouse of the deceased to apply to the court to vary or change the terms of the will. This Act has a six-month deadline (starting from the granting of probate). You should wait for six months to distribute the assets or obtain releases from each potential claimant. Remember that you are responsible if you distribute the assets to the wrong people and could be sued.

Get tax clearance
It's wise to obtain a tax clearance certificate from the Canada Revenue Agency. This certificate confirms that all income taxes or fees of the estate are paid. This is an important step because the tax department can potentially impose taxes that you don't know about.

Finally, you're ready to distribute the estate to the beneficiaries
But before distributing the assets as directed in the will, you should submit a full accounting of the estate's financial activities and obtain a release from each beneficiary. Your accounting will usually include a claim for reimbursement of expenses you've paid yourself. You'll have to decide if you also want to claim a fee for acting as executor. This fee can be up to 5% of the estate and is taxable income. If you want to claim a fee, the amount you claim should be included in the accounting that you send to the beneficiaries.

Why do I need a lawyer to help me with my will?

Wed May 25, 2011

Wills can be tricky. For example, if you are leaving something to someone in your will, that person can't witness when you sign. Even pulling out a staple can lead to questions about your will.

Dealing with wills and estate plans requires a special understanding of law, taxes, and money matters. Here's a quick look at the reasons you may want to get a lawyer, and the dangers of not getting legal advice.

Why do I need a lawyer for my will?

When you write your will, a lawyer helps you:

• Understand what you need to do and why
• State your true wishes so they will be carried out the way you want them to be
• Make sure your will follows the laws of your province
• Reduce taxes and other costs your loved ones may face after your death
• Make sure your estate can be quickly settled
• Choose someone to care for any children you may leave behind (called a guardian).

A lawyer who deals with wills knows how to make your wishes clear so they will be carried out the way you wanted them to be. This becomes even more important if your estate is complex, or if you have concerns that someone will try to fight your will.

Example: What if you decide you don't want to leave money to a person who is expecting to get some? There are right ways and wrong ways to do this. If you make mistakes, the person you cut out can fight your will by going to court. Then your loved ones will have to deal with a dispute after your death.

What are the dangers of not using a lawyer?
There are many ways that you might make your will invalid without meaning to. Mistakes can be costly, and can start family disputes. Those you care about may not get what you wanted them to have.

Remember: Most people need a lawyer to help with their wills.
Even if you choose to write out your own will, it's still a good idea to get some professional legal advice. It's the best way to ensure your final wishes will be carried out the way you intended.


How to eliminate your
car's dreaded 'blind spot'
Blind Spot

Ian Law
May 15, 2011

A good number of collisions are caused by our lack of using the mirror, a simple device that has its origins in vanity.

If only we used our mirrors to look at others as much as we look at ourselves we could save ourselves a lot of trouble, money and even some lives.

Most modern cars have three mirrors. A rearview mirror positioned in the middle of the vehicles' interior on the windshield and two side-mounted mirrors located on the leading edge of the driver- and passenger-side doors. These latter two are referred to as side-view mirrors.

Your mirrors are an important safety feature that allow you to see where and what traffic is doing behind and to the side of you. The intent is to prevent you from striking the side of an adjacent vehicle or from "cutting off" a passing vehicle. They are not intended for applying makeup or checking your teeth for foreign objects. Their sole purpose is to save you from a collision.

This raises the question, "Why do so few of us use them or know how to adjust them correctly?"

To use them properly, they first need to be set correctly.

The rearview mirror, which is usually adhered to your windshield, should be aimed directly out your rear window and slightly biased to the passenger side. You should not see your own head in the rearview mirror unless you suffer from a narcissism complex. Every driver should be checking their mirrors every five to 10 seconds to ascertain what traffic is doing behind and around them. Many rear-end collisions could be avoided if each of us checked our mirrors as we came to a stop at a traffic light, stop sign or in traffic congestion.

The most common mistake with mirrors is not positioning the side-view mirrors correctly. The majority of drivers like to set their side-view mirrors so that they can just see the side of their vehicle when they glance in the side mirror.

If you are currently setting your side-view mirrors in this position, you are missing the big picture. With your mirrors set this way, you will also notice you can see cars behind you in your side-view mirrors. You now have three mirrors showing you the same picture making two of them redundant.

Your side-view mirrors are just that, "side-view mirrors," and are there to show you what is beside you, not what is behind you. To obtain this view, and eliminate your car's dreaded blind spot, you will need to turn these side-view mirrors outward. The ideal way to have your mirrors positioned is as follows.

As a vehicle comes up to pass you in the left lane, it will first appear well behind you in the rearview mirror. As it progressively gets closer to you in the left lane, it will eventually disappear from view in the rearview mirror and, as it does, it should then begin to appear in your side-view mirror. For most vehicles, you will then notice that the passing vehicle will remain in the side view mirror until it eventually appears in your peripheral vision as it leaves the view of the side mirror. You have now eliminated your blind spot.

You should not be able to see the side of your car in the mirrors if set properly, hence losing your point of reference, but this is the safest way to position them. On another note, the passenger side-view mirror on most modern vehicles is convex in shape. This means that it has a curvature that allows a wider field of vision at the expense of depth perception. In other words, it is more difficult to judge how close the other vehicle is in relation to your vehicle. Because of this curvature the passenger side usually does not need to be aimed as far to the outside as the driver's side.

Here are four more tips to help you set your mirrors properly.

1. Do NOT try to adjust your mirrors while driving. Wait until you have come to a stop at a red light or have someone help you adjust your mirrors in a parking lot. Taking your eyes off of traffic in front of you to adjust your mirrors while moving can lead to a serious crash.

2. To get a "rough setting" on your side-view mirrors, try this simple procedure. For the driver's side, sit in your normal driving position and lean your head over so that your head just touches the driver's side window. Adjust the side-view mirror outward so that you can now just see the rear corner of your vehicle. When you return to your upright seating position, you will not be able to see the side of your vehicle in the side-view mirror. This should be close to the correct position. For the passenger side, lean your head over to the middle of the vehicle and set the passenger side-view mirror so that you just see the side of your vehicle. This will get you close to the ideal location and now some fine-tuning is all that is required.

3. You will invariably say to yourself, "I don't like this" at first. It is only because you are not comfortable with this new setting yet. A lot of this feeling has to do with the fact that you no longer have a point of reference when looking in your mirror. The rear corner of your car gave you comfort only because you were able to locate other objects in relation to your vehicle. Please have peace of mind in that you do not need to see the side of your vehicle during your drive. It will be still be there when you reach your destination.

4. Do not stop checking your blind spot simply because you have eliminated it. I know of some instructors that suggest you no longer need to do a shoulder check with your mirrors set this way. Not taking your eyes off the road to check your blind spot means always keeping your eyes on what the traffic in front of you is doing. Although this can be a good thing, not checking your blind spot can mean you may miss the vehicle making a lane change from two lanes over on multi lane roads. Continue to check your blind spots before making a lane change.

Give yourself time to get comfortable with these new mirror settings. Soon, you'll wonder how you ever drove safely with your old mirror positions.


Five common road offences you might
not know

Throwing a cigarette butt out the vehicle window constitutes a "litter highway" violation.

May 10, 2011
Eric Lai
Special to the Star

Following up on a previous article outlining five common traffic offences drivers may not be aware of, here are five more common violations that you may commit without realizing it.

Information below was verified by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. Charges are at police discretion and subject to interpretation by the courts.

1. Driving with the lap belt secured but the shoulder belt portion under your arm or behind your back is a "fail to properly wear seatbelt" violation under S. 106(2) HTA. Improper seatbelt use would obviously increase your risk of serious injury in a crash.

2. Throwing a cigarette butt out the vehicle window constitutes a "litter highway" violation under S. 180 HTA. This is a common cause of roadside grass fires.

3. Drivers with a pet sitting in their lap risk a "drive while crowded" charge under S. 162 HTA. This is because the animal could interfere with their control of the motor vehicle, particularly in an emergency collision-avoidance scenario.

Consider a screen divider to keep unruly pets in the cargo area of SUVs, or a doggie seatbelt harness to secure your furry friend. Note that all airbag-equipped seating positions are potentially fatal to animals should the airbag deploy.

4. Ironically, one burned out tail light on your car or truck isn't an offence, but a nonfunctioning licence plate light at night or in darkness is a violation under S. 62(19) HTA.

Section 62 (1,2) HTA requires only one working tail light on motor vehicles at night or in poor visibility. However, for your own safety, drivers should ensure that all vehicle lights are working properly.

5. Most drivers realize that jumping the green light to turn left ahead of stopped oncoming traffic at an intersection is wrong (where neither side has an advance green). But you might be surprised to learn that this action falls under the new "street racing/aggressive driving" legislation and violators may face an on-the-spot driver's licence suspension and vehicle impoundment for 7-days, and a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted under Ontario Regulation 455/07, clause 3(8)(iv).


Lease a car or buy it?
Some pros and cons

John Leblanc
Special to the Star
April 28, 2011

You've done your test drives and you've picked your new vehicle. You've gone through the colour charts and looked at all the options. Now comes the question: "How do I finance it?"

For those not fortunate enough to have the cash on hand to buy a new vehicle outright, the lease versus loan question is a tough one — especially because of the changes in the new car market caused by the recent economic downturn.

Because of a sudden drop in new vehicle residual values for some makes and models, and the crisis in the financial market, many automakers simply got out of the leasing business in the last few years.

But by all accounts, leasing is back. However, in general, interest rates aren't as low as they once were, and for some models and makes, residual values aren't as high, resulting in larger amounts to finance.

All of these changes only mean that doing your homework on the "leasing versus loan" question is more important than it ever was.

You may already know that leases and loans are just two different ways of financing. One pays for the use of a vehicle; the other funds the purchase. And each has its own pros and cons.

So, say you're considering either leasing or borrowing a $40,000 vehicle. When you buy, you have to borrow for the entire $40,000 — plus interest charges, plus sales taxes, plus administration fees — all up front.

When you lease, you pay the difference in what the vehicle is worth today new, and what it will be worth used at the end of the term (which is usually 36 to 48 months). If that $40,000 vehicle has an estimated resale value of $23,000 after 36 months, you pay only for the $17,000 in depreciation — plus interest charges, plus sales taxes, plus administration fees.

You can see why leasing offers significantly lower monthly payments than buying. You can also see why leasing a vehicle that suffers low depreciation is important as well.

Faced with the decision to lease or loan, you have to not only look beyond the financial comparisons (rates, terms, required deposits, administration fees), but also review your lifestyle priorities:

— Is having a new vehicle every two or three years with no major repairs more important than long-term cost?

— Are long term cost savings more important than lower monthly payments?

— Do you like to own your vehicle, as opposed to having lower up-front costs and no down payment?

— Is the thought of having your vehicle paid off enticing, even if that means higher monthly payments for the initial few years of ownership?

In the end, leasing usually does not build equity, while buying a vehicle (and paying it off) does.

Even simpler: leasing equals lower payments, no equity; borrowing equals higher payments, with some equity.

In either case — lease versus loan — choosing a vehicle that will retain its value after three or four years is essential, and will pay off in the long run.


Should I rust-proof
my new car?

Globe and Mail
April 25, 2011

Ever wonder why you don't see as many rust buckets on our roads these days? The difference between vehicles from the 1980s and modern cars is that galvanized metal is now used to prevent rust from occurring. Galvanization is the process of coating the metal with zinc to prevent corrosion.

So why are dealers even offering additional rust protection? Isn't galvanization enough?

"One thing about coated metal is that it's a bit vulnerable to stone chipping. Most people, especially in Canadian winters, are driving in situations with stones and sand, and these can damage the paint and metallic coating, and leave the ferrous materials exposed to corrosion. Most vulnerable is the area inside the wheel wells, and immediately behind the wheels," says Dr. Joseph McDermid, a professor of mechanical engineering at McMaster University.

Tips in some vehicle manuals include immediately touching up any stone chips or scratches in the paint; repairing your vehicle as soon as possible if it's damaged due to an accident, or any other cause which destroys the paint and protective coating; and hosing off the undercarriage at least once a month, especially if you've driven on salted or dust controlled roads, or near the ocean.

On top of the manufacturer's built-in corrosion protection system, some dealerships offer additional rust protection packages. These can range in price from a few hundred to well over $1,000. They vary from a protective coating sprayed on the underbody of the vehicle, to full-body and interior packages with electronic corrosion protection.

An electronic corrosion protection system is a block of metal placed under your car with an electrical connection, which will corrode instead of the metals in your car. It's a standard corrosion protection technique, called cathodic protection, which is used in gas and water pipelines.

"Cathodic protection has a very firm fundamental electrochemical basis. It's pretty smart; but you've already got that in your car. The metallic coatings are a form of cathodic protection. The metallic coating – the zinc – will corrode before the steel does. So all you're doing is putting another chunk of metal onto a system where there's already a bunch of metal to do the same job," says McDermid, who also holds a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada/U.S. Steel Canada/Xstrata Zinc Industrial Research Chair in Zinc-Coated Advanced Steels.

"My opinion is that offering additional rust-proofing is a bit of a scare thing. But what I would always personally do is make sure you have your wheel wells sprayed, because those rubbery, rust-proofing coatings help protect the wheel wells from stone-chipping damage. I also think mud flaps are a really good investment, because they help prevent stone chipping," says McDermid.

Many car manufacturers already have rubberized coating inside the wheel wells, so check this before you take action. If you're going to opt for a spray-on undercoating, it's imperative that the area is spotlessly clean.

Other motorists swear by oiling the underside of their vehicles. Oiling is temporary though; it's like applying furniture polish. You have to do it repeatedly, as with any regular maintenance. Again, the vehicle should be clean. Some mechanics and motoring enthusiasts argue, however, that an oily underside traps dirt and moisture, and can lead to corrosion.

With a brand-new car, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with an anti-perforation guarantee, and the corrosion protection system already designed into your vehicle. Make sure you keep your car clean, and if you're really worried, treat your wheel well area to a good protection coating.



CPP survivor benefits
start at $2,500

March 09, 2011 By Sheryl Smolkin
Toronto Star

If your spouse died recently you should immediately apply for survivor benefits under the Canada Pension Plan, even if you are already collecting a CPP retirement pension.

CPP Survivor benefits are payable to a spouse, common law spouse and children who are under 18 (or until age 25 if they are still in school.)  The size of the cheque depends on how long the deceased contributed to the program (a minimum of three years), his or her age at the date of death, and the amount of your CPP retirement pension.

Benefits payable include a maximum one-time lump sum of up to $2,500 plus a maximum monthly pension in 2011 of:

-  $529.09 if you are under age 65.
-  $576 if you are over age 65.
-  $218.50 for each child.

But you are entitled to receive a maximum of $960/month in combined benefits. According to Service Canada, the average CPP retirement benefit paid in September 2010 was $504.50. If you were receiving the average amount and your spouse died earlier this year, you would be entitled to an additional amount of up to $455.50 in survivor benefits.

Richard Shillington prepared a report on the take up of government benefits for the Task Force on Financial Literacy. He says there is considerable confusion between CPP survivor and retirement benefits. Often individuals are receiving either benefit but are not aware they are entitled to both.

For example, Marie Baxter’s husband died close to her 65th birthday and she applied for both CPP survivor and CPP retirement benefits at the same time. The department made an error and she only got her survivor benefits. Ten years later when she requested a replacement T4 slip, a clerk advised her she had not been receiving her own retirement pension.

Retroactive CPP payments are typically limited to 11 months unless the government makes an administrative error. Baxter finally received back payments for the full period without interest, but only after the media took up her cause.

So remember -- if you don’t apply for survivor benefits, you won’t get them. And after you make your application check to see that you are getting correct amount and ask questions if it doesn’t look right. “When you get a CPP cheque there is no way of knowing how much you are getting from retirement and how much you are getting from survivor. It’s just a number,” Shillington says.


The 3 worst things drivers do, according to top racer

Lorraine Sommerfeld
Special to the Star
March 6, 2011

We keep trying. Everyone writing in this section, every level of government, every police force — everyone.

We keep telling people how deadly our roads can be. And if it feels like the headlights are on but nobody's home (when they've bothered to put their lights on at all), you would think we would get sad and bitter and shut up.

But we don't.

Collision fatality rates are coming down, but that's because car manufacturers are implementing new technologies that basically save you from yourself.

You'll note I used the word "collision." You should start using it too. There is essentially no such thing as an accident on our roadways. You may be on the horrible receiving end of someone else's mistake, but driver error is never an accident.

I met a man this week who knows a great deal about driving. Generally acknowledged as Canada's most versatile and long-running racing champion, Ron Fellows has won at every level of competition from sports car racing to NASCAR to the 24 Hours of LeMans, and competed on virtually every race track in North America.

His career spans decades; by the late 1990s he was moving into his role as the primary development driver for GM's Corvette C5-R program and he remains one of the top technical advisors for GM Racing. He teaches at the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch near Las Vegas, while making his home here in Mississauga.

All of this is interesting, and attests to the fact that he is an excellent driver. But I wanted his take on the conditions of our roads for another reason: he wins a lot of Most Popular Driver awards from fans. He's a helluva nice guy. I figured if readers are sick of the rest of us trying to explain why you shouldn't drug and drive, or text and drive, or speed or run red lights or blow off stop signs, maybe you'd listen to him.

"Top three worst things drivers do," I asked him. He exhaled heavily, eyes glancing around the coffee shop. You can tell he instantly knows the three things, but is searching for a way to make his words count. He has three kids; he knows people tune out instruction in general, and lengthy instruction in particular.

"Stay out of the left lane. Just, get out. If you're not passing, get out of that lane. Period. And passing on the right. That's insanity. Do not pass on the right," he said.

I asked if this was one and two, or all one. "One and two. They're that important," he smiled.

"In Europe, you just don't see this. You don't pass on the right, because there is a passing lane. Here, we have badly trained drivers. They are trained to pass the test, but the level of instruction is abysmal."

Fellows is a huge proponent of simulators being used in driver training.

"Kids are already familiar with doing things like this. It may be more of an adaptation for older people, but the level of skill involved is superior to any classroom and road-only training that most schools do. Look for training using simulators," he suggests.

Before I can ask, he's arrived at No. 3. "Awareness. There is a total lack of awareness on our roads," he says, leaning forward. Distracted, inattentive and unprepared; with two of his kids driving and a third coming up, Fellows is facing the same concerns of many parents.

"Parents are putting high performance cars into their kids' hands, cars that 12 years ago were race cars. Poorly trained drivers are operating race cars," he says, shaking his head.

So, where does this all lead to? Every journalist, every instructor, every cop, every emergency room worker, every firefighter and paramedic and now this top-flight road racer, all keep having the same conversation: better driver training.

When do we start taking it seriously?


The final winner list of 2011 Academy Awards

Art Direction: "Alice in Wonderland."

Cinematography: "Inception."

Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, "The Fighter."

Animated Short Film: "The Lost Thing."

Animated Feature Film: "Toy Story 3."

Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, "The Social Network"

Original Screenplay: David Seidler, "The King's Speech"

Foreign Language Film: In a Better World, Denmark

Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, "The Fighter"

Original Score: "The Social Network", Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Sound Mixing: "Inception"

Sound Editing: "Inception"

Makeup: "The Wolfman"

Costume: "Alice in Wonderland"

Documentary (short subject): "The Warriors of Qiugang"

Live Action Short Film: "God of Love"

Documentary Feature: "Inside Job"

Visual Effects: Inception

Film Editing: The Social Network

Original Song: "We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3" by Randy Newman

Directing: Tom Hooper, "The King's Speech"

Actress: Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"

Actor: Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"

Best Picture: "The King's Speech"

Oscar wins by film

The King's Speech: 4

Inception: 4

The Social Network: 3

The Fighter: 2

Toy Story 3: 2

Alice in Wonderland: 2

Black Swan: 1

The Warriors of Qiugang: 1

God of Love: 1

Inside Job: 1

The Wolfman: 1

The Lost Thing: 1

Here is the full list of the nominees

Best Picture:

"Black Swan," "The Fighter," "Inception," "The Kids Are All Right," "The King's Speech," "127 Hours," "The Social Network," "Toy Story 3," "True Grit," "Winter's Bone."


Javier Bardem, "Biutiful"; Jeff Bridges, "True Grit"; Jesse Eisenberg, "The Social Network"; Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"; James Franco, "127 Hours."


Annette Bening, "The Kids Are All Right"; Nicole Kidman, "Rabbit Hole"; Jennifer Lawrence, "Winter's Bone"; Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"; Michelle Williams, "Blue Valentine."

Supporting Actor:

Christian Bale, "The Fighter"; John Hawkes, "Winter's Bone"; Jeremy Renner, "The Town"; Mark Ruffalo, "The Kids Are All Right"; Geoffrey Rush, "The King's Speech."

Supporting Actress:

Amy Adams, "The Fighter"; Helena Bonham Carter, "The King's Speech"; Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"; Hailee Steinfeld, "True Grit"; Jacki Weaver, "Animal Kingdom."


Darren Aronofsky, "Black Swan"; David O. Russell, "The Fighter"; Tom Hooper, "The King's Speech"; David Fincher, "The Social Network"; Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, "True Grit."

Foreign Language Film:

"Biutiful," Mexico; "Dogtooth," Greece; "In a Better World," Denmark; "Incendies," Canada; "Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)," Algeria.

Adapted Screenplay:

Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy, "127 Hours"; Aaron Sorkin, "The Social Network"; Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, "Toy Story 3"; Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, "True Grit"; Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini, "Winter's Bone."

Original Screenplay:

Mike Leigh, "Another Year"; Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson and Keith Dorrington, "The Fighter"; Christopher Nolan, "Inception"; Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, "The Kids Are All Right"; David Seidler, "The King's Speech."

Animated Feature Film:

"How to Train Your Dragon," "The Illusionist," "Toy Story 3."

Art Direction:

"Alice in Wonderland," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1," "Inception," "The King's Speech," "True Grit."


"Black Swan," "Inception," "The King's Speech," "The Social Network," "True Grit."

Sound Mixing:

"Inception," "The King's Speech," "Salt," "The Social Network," "True Grit."

Sound Editing:

"Inception," "Toy Story 3," "Tron: Legacy," "True Grit," "Unstoppable."

Original Score:

"How to Train Your Dragon," John Powell; "Inception," Hans Zimmer; "The King's Speech," Alexandre Desplat; "127 Hours," A.R. Rahman; "The Social Network," Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Original Song:

"Coming Home" from "Country Strong," Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey; "I See the Light" from "Tangled," Alan Menken and Glenn Slater; "If I Rise" from "127 Hours," A.R. Rahman, Dido and Rollo Armstrong; "We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3," Randy Newman.


"Alice in Wonderland," "I Am Love," "The King's Speech," "The Tempest," "True Grit."

Documentary Feature:

"Exit through the Gift Shop," "Gasland," "Inside Job," "Restrepo," "Waste Land."

Documentary (short subject):

"Killing in the Name," "Poster Girl," "Strangers No More," "Sun Come Up," "The Warriors of Qiugang."

Film Editing:

"Black Swan," "The Fighter," "The King's Speech," "127 Hours," "The Social Network."


"Barney's Version," "The Way Back," "The Wolfman."

Animated Short Film:

"Day and Night," "The Gruffalo," "Let's Pollute," "The Lost Thing," "Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)."

Live Action Short Film:

"The Confession," "The Crush," "God of Love," "Na Wewe," "Wish 143."

Visual Effects:

"Alice in Wonderland," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1," "Hereafter," "Inception," "Iron Man 2."


What to wear to a funeral

Cassandra Szklarski
The Canadian Press
Feb 24 2011

Black is still the traditional colour to wear at a funeral, but these days the bereaved are more likely to switch it up when attending a memorial service, say observers and etiquette experts.

Mourners in bright colours, jeans, plunging necklines and even shorts can regularly be seen at what used to be sombre farewells, bemoans Peter Post, the great-grandson of the late manners maven Emily Post.

"I have been somewhat taken aback at times by the clothes that people choose to wear to what is a respectful and sort of a solemn occasion," Post says from the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vermont. "I've seen people show up in shorts, which I thought was wrong."

But those extreme cases are rare, says Toronto funeral director Jordan Benjamin while conceding that strict conventions about what to wear to a funeral service have loosened.

"In the past, where it may have been all black and dark colours, I think it's more a question of people dressing respectfully and dressing for the weather, whatever that may be," says Benjamin, whose family has provided Jewish funeral services at the Benjamin Park Memorial Chapel for four generations. "Most of the time they're still in the darker shades."

Still, there are enough infractions to get Clinton Kelly of TLC's What Not to Wear in a fit over poorly dressed mourners. "I hate when people wear jeans and sneakers to a funeral," says Kelly, who advocates wearing black or grey. "That really bothers me. It's just disrespectful. It's like, would you show up in pyjamas if you could?"

Saskatoon pastor David Tumback says he's noticed dressed-down mourners, too, but doesn't believe it in any way signals disrespect. "People have taken a more casual approach to everything; of course, this also has a spillover effect in the church," says Tumback, who serves a relatively young Catholic congregation of about 2,000 families.

When it comes to funerals, even pastors have turned away from black, he notes.

"The wearing of the black vestments is an option but I'm going to say the great majority, and probably about 90 per cent, wear white vestments at a funeral because it's a symbol of joy," says Tumback, who was ordained in 1995.

Society's changing view on how best to honour the dead has shifted the way in which some people regard funerals, adds Post. He recalls a service that concluded with a standing ovation for the deceased, giving the ceremony an air of celebration rather than sorrow.

"The whole audience stood up and it became like this really positive sort of recognition of the specialness of the person rather than just a sort of a tearful farewell," he says.

This was certainly the case at a packed public funeral for theatre legend William Hutt in 2007, an emotional ceremony that in many ways served as a tribute to his life. Among more than 400 people who packed an Anglican church to remember the Stratford Festival icon was an actress dressed in a brightly coloured floral print dress and an actor in a cream suit.

One of Tumback's most memorable services had him looking out over a sea of purple, when the family of a young girl who had died requested that mourners wear her favourite colour.

"And that was, I thought, a really kind of a cool gesture and certainly it assisted the family in mourning," says Tumback, noting that he, too, wore purple.

"The funeral was in December and our advent colour is purple so I was in purple as well. It just kind of worked out that way."

Still, even if there is a relaxed dress code, Post cautions against straying too far from tradition. The danger of offending a grieving family when emotions could still be raw is considerable.

"You can be safe about that much more easily by wearing something that is more subdued, something that is not drawing attention to yourself in that kind of situation," he advises.

"It's about paying respect to the people who are really going through a terrible loss and are mourning. You don't want to wear a Hawaiian shirt, but you can wear anything that's sombre," says Kelly, who also has stern words for revealing clothing. "I have seen cleavage at a funeral, which I think is also inappropriate because God is watching. God is watching us from above and He can see right down in there.

"Or She is watching. I don't mean to be gender specific."

Burial vs cremation:
The options

Burial versus cremation is a basic choice.

By Ryan Starr | Feb 23, 2011

The choice of burial versus cremation brings with it a number of things to consider.

Burial usually is a more expensive option because you need a grave, coffin and some kind of memorialization, whether a headstone or plaque, for example. Cremation is often cheaper because there are fewer services and products to buy. You don’t need a casket, embalming or a plot, an important consideration in places such as Toronto where burial space is limited and priced at a premium.

A burial can cost as much as $10,000, in addition to other expenses and services, such as the funeral itself, visitation and body preparation. Picking out a plot is typically done in advance, mainly because a person wants to be certain they are buried at the place of their choosing.

“Most people pre-plan the cemetery first, because it’s location-specific,” says Eileen Fitzpatrick, president of The Simple Alternative Funeral Centres. “If Mom and Dad are buried in a particular cemetery, the son or daughter might want to ensure they’re buried next to them.”

Grave sites are priced much the same as any other real estate: it’s all about location, location, location. “It’s like housing,” says Daniel Reid, director of sales and marketing for Park Lawn LP. “A spot that’s $2,000 in Aurora, for example, might be $5,000 in Toronto.”

If a loved one passes away but didn’t secure a grave site, funeral service providers can co-ordinate the purchase of a plot. But preplanning and pre-paying for this ensures you are laid to rest where you want to be.

Note that if a body is buried in Ontario it must be done in a cemetery. And when you buy a site in the cemetery, you don’t own the actual land, you own the internment rights.

Once you’ve secured a grave site, you’ll want to consider the kind of monument or memorialization you’d like. Prices here vary according to the size, shape, and type of material used.

You could have a marble statue/sculpture or a granite headstone that costs between $2,000 to $10,000. A cheaper option would be a simple bronze marker (with or without a granite base), which could run you anywhere from $500 to $1,000.

You also have to pay for the internment of the body – the digging and filling back in of the grave. For example, York Cemetery in North York charges $926 for the internment of an adult at “standard depth.”

One of the biggest costs is the casket, which can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the materials used: wood, steel, copper or bronze, with bronze being the most expensive. The average casket purchase is around $2,500 to $3,000, says Jim Cardinal, president of Cardinal Funeral Homes. He adds that a typical casket is oak with a high gloss finish, priced at about $2,800.

The interior and shell design of the coffin also determine price, Cardinal notes. “A simple square casket with a flat top will be less than a casket with a curved body and swell top.”

Most funeral homes carry a selection of caskets and are required to offer inexpensive models. You also can source your own casket by purchasing it from a local retailer such as The Casket Store and The Casket Depot in Toronto.

A provider may not refuse to serve you or charge you extra because you supply your own casket, says Ontario’s Board of Funeral Services (BFS), the organization that regulates the industry.

The average cremation can be less than a quarter the cost of a burial. It all depends on the location of your final resting place, the price of the container your remains are placed in, and the type of memorialization you choose.

Basic Funerals and Cremation Choices, for example, charges $1,685 for cremation; $1,825 with an urn (this price doesn’t include the funeral itself). Another provider, Cremation Care Centre, offers cremation services for $1,412.

Cremation has become an increasingly popular option in Ontario. In 56 per cent of the 88,174 total deaths registered in Ontario in 2009, the body was cremated, according to the Office of Registrar General. (In certain religions and cultures, such as Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism, cremation is mandatory.)

Note that funeral homes do not offer cremation services; a crematorium is a separate facility, typically located at a cemetery.

A casket is not required, but crematoriums require that the body be enclosed in a “rigid container of combustible material,” says the BFS.

Bedford Funeral Services in Toronto offers a basic particle board container for $250, a pine container for $695 and cremation urns starting at $225.

You can choose for your remains to be located in an indoor glass niche – a wall of cubby holes in which the urn is placed, with a glass front on it where personal effects can be added. Or you can bury the urn in the ground in the cemetery.

“Some people like being outside because of nature, trees, birds,” says Reid. “Others prefer inside where it’s warm, comfortable. It’s really a personal preference.”

An indoor final resting place tends to be more expensive than burying the urn in the ground in the cemetery. “Because you don’t require a lot of space, you’re buying less ground,” Reid explains.

You don’t need to buy an urn, mind you; after the cremation the ashes are returned in a plastic box.

That said, you do have to pay for the opening and closing of the grave: digging the dirt, placing the urn in the ground, refilling the grave and re-sodding. Beechwood Cemetery in Concord, Ont. charges $926.60 for a standard internment.

But cremated remains don’t need to be dealt with at the time of the funeral. Families might have other plans based on your pre-planned specifications or their own preferences. It could be you want your ashes scattered at your cottage or on your favourite golf course.

While it is legal to scatter ashes on Crown land in Ontario without seeking permission, you must secure the approval of any private land owners before doing so on their properties.

You’ll also want to consider what kind of memorialization you’d like. Traditional memorials include upright granite monuments or a bronze plaque lying flat on the ground. “This is your permanent marker,” notes Reid. “It says who you are, where you’re from and where you came from.”

Even if you do choose to have your ashes scattered, funeral planners recommend you have a final spot marked so people can visit you and pay their respects. (At York Cemetery, for example, a memorial located in a “scattering area” costs $971, with a $333 minimum charge for an inscription.)

“It’s always good to have a final resting place, and it creates a legacy for your family down the line,” Reid says. “You don’t want to put things in a closet, because it doesn’t do your family any good.”


5 things to consider when choosing a funeral home

By Ryan Starr | Feb 22, 2011

People typically select a funeral home because it has been recommended to them, they've been there before and the location is convenient for friends and family.

Most of the 100 or so funeral homes in the GTA accommodate all faiths and cultures, although many groups have favoured spots that cater to their community. For example, Benjamin's Park Memorial Chapel and Steeles Memorial Chapel perform a large portion of the services for Jews and in most cases the remains are buried in Jewish cemeteries.

Service providers catering to the Muslim community in the GTA include the Islamic Foundation of Toronto, Scarborough Muslim Association and Aftercare Cremation and Burial Service. These companies will look after the transporting of the body to a Mosque, where it is bathed and enshrouded, and then transfer it to the cemetery to be buried.

Muslims have traditionally been buried in non-denominational cemeteries across the GTA, but there are plans for a Shia-Sunni Muslim cemetery in Richmond Hill.

No matter the faith, the basic costs of a full service funeral remain the same. The average for a service, visitation, body preparation and interment or cremation is $4,663, according to the Ontario Board of Funeral Services, which regulates the industry. Benjamin's says their average is about $4,800, while Aftercare says it is about $4,000 in their case.

If you go no frills, the costs can come down 50 per cent or more.

Here are the five things to keep in mind when looking for a funeral home:

1. Ask friends and family for a recommendation. How were they treated? What services were provided and at what price?

2. Ensure the funeral home is able to accommodate your religious and cultural needs.

3. Call around or go online and compare prices and features. Get a final quote in writing.

4. When getting a quote the main components include the cost of the body preparation, service, burial/cremation and the casket/burial container.

5. Every funeral director and transfer service operator is required by law to have price lists available at no charge and without obligation.

All funeral homes are overseen by the Board of Funeral Services a self-regulating body, set up under the Funeral Directors and Establishments Act. The board serves as a consumer protection agency and is the place to go when you have a complaint.

The board offers compensation when:

1.A pre-paid funeral contract has been cancelled and funds and interest accrued were not appropriately paid out;

2.A prepaid service was not fulfilled and a person was forced to go elsewhere; or excess pre-paid funds were not returned to the estate of the beneficiary.

3.There are allegations of professional misconduct or incompetence.

"There are protections to make sure the standards are consistent and that there's accountability," says Doug Kennedy, managing director of operations at Turner & Porter Funeral Directors. Kennedy sits on the Board of Funeral Services and is the past president of the Ontario Funeral Services Association.

Some funeral service providers allow you to arrange funerals online, so you don't have to actually visit a home. This can be convenient, especially in cases where a funeral hasn't been pre-planned and you don't live near the deceased whose funeral you are arranging.

Online services tend to be more affordable because they have less overhead than a conventional funeral home.

One example of a company that offers Web-based services is Basic Funerals and Cremation Choices, a Mississauga-based licensed funeral establishment that has a physical funeral home location, but it mainly targets the online market.

Customers can peruse options and prices or chat with an online funeral director, then contact the provider via e-mail or phone to finalize details and payment.

"There's really no reason you need to pull someone from their home and away their family at a time like that, especially for the arrangement process," says the company's CEO Eric Vandermeersch. Basic Funerals doesn't offer funeral services at its location, but acts as an intermediary, arranging funerals with partner funeral providers across Ontario. So its costs are lower and the savings can be passed on the client.

As such, a basic cremation through Basic Funerals costs $1,695; a burial and graveside service costs $1,800; and a basic funeral with casket is $3,200 (including taxes, fees and disbursements).

"If you compare what we offer to a traditional funeral home package, our services cost on average 50 per cent less," Vandermeersch says.

Basicfunerals.ca can also film the service and stream it over the Web, particularly handy in a place like Toronto, Vandermeersch notes, where "there's so many people here who have extended family elsewhere in the world."

Beckett-Glaves Family Funeral Centre in Brampton also broadcasts funeral services online.

A growing number of traditional funeral providers also enable customers to browse options and obtain a quote online, but recommend that pre-planners eventually pay a visit to the funeral home.

"A funeral is not like buying a CD or book online," says Jim Cardinal, president of Cardinal Funeral Homes. "There's a lot more involved - decisions we want to make sure people are clear on."

If you don't want a funeral

Cases where a funeral isn't required, a transfer service offers the most basic options for dealing with the deceased.

A transfer service will remove the body from the place of death, put it in a container, deliver it to a cemetery or crematorium, and file the necessary documents with the government.

Known as direct disposition, this service costs on average $1,626, with the price of the casket or burial container around $340, according to Ontario's Board of Funeral Services (BFS), which regulates the industry.

A transfer service is truly no frills. By law it is not allowed to provide visitation or funeral services, nor any kind of body preparation, such as embalming.

Of the more than 27,000 deaths registered in Ontario in 2009, just over 3,600 (or 13 per cent) were handled by transfer services, according to the BFS.


My mother's pre-paid funeral story

February 22, 2011 By Alison Griffiths

  When your mother dies, right there in front of you, after days of dragging life into her lungs -- each breath a rattling torture -- you don’t think about what happens next.  But, in short order you are thrown into what happens next.  The required decisions can’t wait.  Ironically, death can be so slow but the aftermath unfolds so quickly.

When my parents moved from B.C. to Ontario in 2007 to be near my family, my father gave me a just-in-case list of his financial affairs which included a notation indicating he and my mother had pre-paid funeral arrangements in 1998.

Death seemed a long way off, so I didn’t ask him about it.  It turned out to be only two years. When my mother died in late 2009, my father reminded me of the policy.  The problem was he had paid for it in Victoria and none of us thought to transfer it to Ontario.  The other problem was that no copy of the policy could be found and he couldn’t remember the name of the company.   I started calling funeral homes.  Since Victoria has the reputation for being the city of newlyweds and nearly deads, there were no shortage of companies in the burial business.   Call number seven or eight turned up the right place.

Fortunately, the policy was transferable -- or most of it.  My father had paid $1800 each for a fairly straightforward funeral including transportation of the remains (I never thought of this), cremation and a service.  Oddly, though my father’s policy included cremation and urn, my mother had two policies and the one including cremation and urn was not transferable from Victoria.  Nor were newspaper obituary notices included in the package.  I didn’t know any of this until after we bid adieu to my mother at a family feast of lobster (one of her favorite dishes), soft butter rolls and champagne. 

She actually wasn’t fond of bubbly but she would have enjoyed the toast.   My father didn’t want a service and he preferred to buy the flowers himself.  Even with those eliminated and the simplest urn purchased, the bill came to over $3,600, leaving a unexpected balance owing of $1149 after the policy from Victoria had been transferred.  The funeral home in Ontario claimed to have outlined all the costs.  I claimed the newspaper charges for the obituary had not been separated out and I believed I had not been informed that only part of my mother’s policy was transferable.  Fortunately, the funeral home in B.C. agreed to “release” the additional policy and after many negotiating e-mails back and forth the additional charges only came to a couple of hundred dollars.  

The cautionary tale here is that if you know an elderly relative has a pre-paid policy and if you are likely to be involved in funeral arrangements, ask for a copy of the It can be uncomfortable to talk about death, but if the person had the foresight to prepare for their own passing, chances are they won’t have trouble talking about it.


Is it a good idea to
prepay your funeral?

Victoria Glencross is a funeral director and pre-need manager at the Cardinal Funeral home in Toronto.

Victoria Glencross is a funeral director and pre-need
manager at the Cardinal Funeral home in Toronto.

Colin McConnell/Toronto Star By Ryan Starr
Feb 21, 2011

Funerals aren't cheap. On average it costs around $7,400 for the funeral itself and everything that surrounds it, according to Ontario's Board of Funeral Services (BFS), the organization that regulates the industry.

For most people, the funeral planning process is a mystery. If the death is sudden, things unfold in a hurry with lots of tough and expensive choices to be made quickly. If the death is expected, there's more time to plan, but the financial decisions are just as difficult.

Today Moneyville launches a series examining the financial considerations and logistics involved in organizing a funeral, including pre-planning and pre-payment; the variety of funeral options; selecting a grave site and funeral service provider; and what you need to know about cremation or internment. The series continues all week online.

There were a little over 88,000 registered deaths in Ontario 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available. A little more than half of the subsequent funerals involved cremation with the rest ending up as a burial.

Setting aside the emotional stress surrounding death, there are ways to contain the financial stress of a funeral. It all starts with a plan.

Among the things you need to consider:

• Your preference of funeral home and cemetery;

• Whether you want a traditional service or a casual get-together;

• If you prefer cremation or burial; and the kind of urn or casket you'd like.

Once that basic decision has been made there are different choices for each type of funeral. What remains the same is that you must decide how you'll pay, whether out of pocket, drawing down a trust account set up long ago or cashing in an insurance policy.

Difficult though it may be to think about, some form of pre-planning makes it a lot easier later on. Pre-planning ensures the bulk of the costs are paid for up front and guaranteed, despite the passage of time and inflation. Planning ahead also means you can outline your personal preferences, ensuring you head into the hereafter just the way you want.

Of course it's tough to provide a totally accurate sense of typical funeral costs, given the wide variety of choices out there. "There are as many options as there are people," says Eileen Fitzpatrick, president of The Simple Alternative Funeral Centres, part of the group that operates Mt. Pleasant Cemetery.

Funeral planning doesn't have to involve spending money up front. You can just put your preferences on file with a service provider, you could outline what you want in an addendum to your will, or you can simply discuss the matter with family and friends.

But pre-paying for your funeral is common practice. As of 2009, 230,814 people had pre-paid funeral contracts had been purchased in Ontario, totalling more than $1.4 billion in funerals, according to the BFS.

"People do it because they want to have peace of mind and get their affairs in order," says Jim Cardinal, president of Cardinal Funeral Homes. "All decisions can be made ahead of time when you're thinking clearly and you're not under any kind of time restraints. Plus, you can shop around."

Costs vary widely depending on where you live and the services you select. These can include the funeral facilities and vehicles, the casket/vault or urn, disbursements (fees for the cemetery/crematorium, religious service, newspaper announcements etc.), your final resting place (grave, crypt or niche) and what sort of monument or memorialization you want.

On of the most important funeral-related decisions — where you want to be laid to rest — is often made well in advance.

"People are more likely to pre-plan at a cemetery than at a funeral home," says Daniel Reid, director of sales and marketing for Park Lawn LP, a group of six Toronto-area cemeteries and crematoriums." They want to make sure they can get a spot in the cemetery where they want to be."

When it comes to the funeral itself, there are two ways to pay in advance. The first option is to deposit the money in a trust account, where it will earn interest until the time the funds are used to cover the funeral costs (or the funeral services contract is cancelled).

The other option is to purchase insurance. You pay for your funeral either in one lump sum or through an installment plan (terms range from one to 10 years). An insurance policy covers only the funeral cost, not the specifics of the ceremony itself; these must be arranged separately with a funeral service provider.

Cardinal notes that a person is fully insured once that first cheque goes through. "So you could make a $500 deposit, the paper work goes in, and if you die before your next payment, you've got your funeral."

Only a licensed funeral provider can accept prepayment funds, and BFS says that the provider cannot make any items mandatory, nor can they require you to purchase specific services or supplies.

Once you've made your arrangements, the funeral service provider must give you a copy of the contract, signed by both parties. The document should have an itemized list of services you've agreed to purchase and how much you'll pay for them.

The contract must identify the purchaser and the beneficiary or recipient (the person for whom the services are to be provided) and the name of the provider you're dealing with. It should also clearly state whether or not it is guaranteed.

Under a guaranteed contract, if there aren't enough funds to cover the services arranged in advance — because of rising costs — no additional money will be owed at the time of your death, provided the terms of payment have been met. (Taxes, however, are not guaranteed.)

If there is money left over, the balance is returned to the deceased's estate, though Cardinal notes that a small administration fee is usually retained by the provider.

A non-guaranteed contract means that if there are insufficient funds for the funeral, the shortfall will need to be paid for by your estate or whomever is charged with managing your affairs.

By law you can cancel a pre-arranged contract at any time before the services or supplies have been rendered. Upon cancellation, the provider must refund your money.

These days it is possible to do much of the funeral planning on the Web, without requiring a face to face meeting with a service provider (at least initially). Many funeral homes offer a variety of information and quotes online, enabling you to shop around.

While pre-planning your funeral helps alleviate stress on your loved ones at the time of your passing, service providers suggest leaving a few things for your family to decide.

"It's really nice for those left behind to make a few decisions, because they want to," Cardinal says. "When everything's done up tight as a drum, it can be a disappointment."



What happens if you declare bankruptcy

By Michael Lewis | Mon Jan 10 2011
Toronto Star

When Valerie Freeman entered the commerce degree program at Ryerson University, she couldn't help but notice the credit card come-ons that seemed to be everywhere — in the student halls, pubs, even residences.

An optimistic 19-year-old, she took up the offers and was approved on the strength of her future income. Freeman, freshly armed with plastic, indulged in outings at the nearby Eaton Centre for stress-relief shopping.

It turned into more and more; she bought clothing, shoes, gifts, a laptop, "You name it, I charged it," Freeman told the Star.

She rang up $12,000 in consumer debt before she'd completed her second year of studies. "The stores were just so close by and it was so convenient. It didn't feel like I was spending real money," Freeman says.

She managed to arrange a debt consolidation line of credit at a bank — and ran that to its limit with a few more shopping trips. More than $42,000 in the red, she was in full-blown panic mode.

"I couldn't go to my parents. I spent the money and I needed to be an adult and get myself out by myself."

Freeman contacted debt counseling agency Credit Canada, which negotiated a payment scheme with the credit card vendors. She pays $955 a month toward her debt and plans to increase the amount, thanks to a new job and a raise.

She managed to avoid bankruptcy and the black mark she think a "consumer proposal" (see below) would have left on her credit rating. She graduated in 2002 and says she will be debt-free by March 2012.

But for many others the tough choices may be just around the corner.

With the number of insolvencies — which include both bankruptcies and the less-drastic consumer proposal — was 22.5 per cent higher in October than the pre-recession levels recorded in 2007-2008, James Callon, superintendent of bankruptcy, took an unusual step Friday. He warned Canadians they may be an interest rate hike, or "a major life event" away from the harsh realities of insolvency.

So, what are the warning signs of impending financial crisis, and what are the options for survival?

• The hallmarks of consumer insolvency — defined legally as having assets insufficient to cover debts — include delinquent loans, unpaid property and income taxes and harassment from collection agencies. Often, serious difficulties are triggered by job loss, serious illness or divorce.

• Canadians can avoid impending bankruptcy a number of ways. They can plead their case with creditors and negotiate a private arrangement. More formally, they can file a consumer proposal. That's a legal process under the federal Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act that has serious implications since the individual may be forced into bankruptcy if the proposal is rejected by creditors.

• If a proposal is denied and bankruptcy is unavoidable the process begins with the good news: the filing brings legal proceedings and creditors' attempts to collect debts to a halt.

• The next step in bankruptcy is for assets to be assigned to the trustee in bankruptcy for distribution among creditors.

• Mandatory counseling on managing financial affair follows.

• If requirements are met, an automatic discharge from bankruptcy can be ordered in nine months for first-time bankrupts who do not report income that is defined as surplus.

• You're discharged from the repayment of all eligible debts.

"I just think it's very important right now for consumers to be educated on managing debt and avoiding major troubles," said Laurie Campbell, executive director of Credit Canada, a Toronto-based not-for-profit agency that offers no-charge consultation and assessment.

Bankruptcy is a profound step, a complex legal process that leaves a black mark on the consumer's credit report for up to 10 years, but one that can also provide a fresh start.

It will wipe out eligible liabilities — credit card balances, personal loans, certain tax obligations and payday advances. Debts not removed through bankruptcy include some student loans, child and spousal support, fines and most court-ordered restitution payments.

The bankruptcy process begins when an insolvent individual retains a licensed trustee, as required by statute, and provides an under-oath disclosure of liabilities and assets, including all assets disposed of in the year leading up to the filing.

Debtors in bankruptcy are required to surrender credit cards and release copies of pay stubs and proof of other income to the trustee, who calculates any so-called surplus income that must be earmarked for debt repayment.

Bankruptcy rules allow individuals enough money to live, but require that at least half of the surplus income, any take home amount in 2009 above a threshold of $1,870 per month for a single person, be disbursed to creditors.

If an insolvent person has surplus income of more than $200 per month, the consumer will remain in bankruptcy for a minimum of 21 months, or 36 months if previously bankrupt. Also, if there are tax debts above $200,000 that account for more than 75 per cent of total debt, an automatic discharge is not in the cards. A court hearing will be required to end the bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy trustee Robert Shier, of Stern Cohen Shier Inc. in Toronto, said its crucial that amount of income that will be deemed surplus be accurately estimated up front the so that there are no surprise arrears owing when the process is complete.

He also said a discharge is not automatic, particularly if the debtor fails to demonstrate that they have learned from their financial mistakes. In such cases, the bankruptcy court can impose conditions that must be met before a discharge. The court can absolutely refuse a discharge, but rarely does so.

The Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act also mandates at least two credit counseling sessions for applicants.

After filing for bankruptcy, the debtor's property is assigned to the trustee, who sells any assets and divides proceeds among creditors. Normally, lenders can withdraw money directly from the bank account of an individual in the bankruptcy process.

Rules allow two bankrupt persons in a close financial relationship to have their cases dealt with as one file, although bankruptcy does not normally affect a spouse unless they have co-signed a loan. The trustee will help the debtor complete forms, including property assignment and financial disclosure documents that must be signed and filed with the bankruptcy court's official receiver, who may also require an examination under oath.

If the applicant follows the rules, a meeting with creditors is generally not necessary. Employment is unaffected except, for example, in cases where the debtor needs to be bonded for work.

Bankruptcy involves administrative costs, including court fees, mailing costs, and government-set fees for filing. Any GST credits or tax refunds will be lost. In most cases, only creditors and those involved in the process will know about the bankruptcy filing. There is a filing fee to be paid to the Superintendent of Bankruptcy. The minimum charge for a trustee in bankruptcy's service is $1,800.

Credit counseling agencies typically charge 10 per cent of the applicant's debt to negotiate a reduced payment program, with the fee added to the payments.

Debtors in a bind who want to avoid the seizure of assets that bankruptcy requires have options. These include a debt consolidation loan or a consumer proposal, The latter option has gained in popularity since changes to the bankruptcy act in September 2009 gave consumer more flexibility in filing proposals.

In a proposal, a licensed trustee files a request with creditors to extend payment periods, reduce amounts and eliminate interest. The consumer is typically eligible to reapply for credit two or three years after the debt is paid, although consumers complain that debts can linger on credit reports long after they should have been expunged.

Debt counselors say proposals make sense when the insolvent individual is prepared to pay a premium for quick resolution, when the process of being discharged from debts is likely to be contentious, and if the debtor aims to continue in business or maintain a professional accreditation.

Proposals are also the best bet if the insolvent person wants to retain assets such as a property or pending inheritance, and when there has been a previous bankruptcy.

Holding onto a home in bankruptcy requires that the debtor pay all of the equity to the trustee before the bankruptcy is complete. Bankrupt persons in Ontario can retain personal possessions, motor vehicles, furnishings, trade tools and farm property up to specific limits, while most pension plans, some life insurance policies and certain RRSPs are also exempt from seizure.

Debtors must owe less than $250,000 excluding a mortgage on a principal residence to qualify for a proposal arrangement, which must still be accepted by creditors. If creditors refuse and mediation fails, bankruptcy may be the only option.


Oil changes: who’s right – automaker or dealer?

Eric Lai - Toronto Star

July 19, 2010

Q: I bought a new 2009 Ford Escape last August. When I picked up the car, I was shown in the owner’s manual that the oil change interval is 6-months or 12,000 km. As expected, it says to change more frequently in severe operating conditions.

I took it in for its first oil change in February with 7,000 km on it. When I got it back, the window sticker said the next service date is May 5, 2010 or 10,867 km. That would put the next oil change at 3-months and 3,900 km, which seems like over-servicing to me.

The letter I received dated May 7, 2010 from the dealer said: “Our records indicate that your 2009 Ford Escape is due for its next scheduled maintenance. Regular scheduled maintenance reduces the risk of costly repairs; maintains your warranty; and maximizes resale value.”

Is the dealer suggesting my warranty is void if I don’t take it in according to their own schedule of 3-months or 4,000 km, as opposed to the automaker’s stated 6-months or 12,000 km service interval?

Being retired, I’ve only put on 1,700 km since the last oil change. And most of that was highway driving at normal operating temperature, rather than frequent short trips in cold weather that would constitute severe operation.

A: Kerri Stoakley, communications manager for Ford of Canada, replies:

Proper maintenance protects you from major repairs resulting from neglect or inadequate maintenance, and may even help increase the resale value of your vehicle.

As per the Customer Information Guide (in your owner’s manual package), Ford of Canada recommends a dealership service visit every 6-months or 12,000 km, under normal operating conditions, for an oil and filter change, as well as a multi-point inspection.

A dealer may recommend a more frequent interval if you make frequent short trips, drive in stop-and-go traffic, idle for long periods, drive in dusty air conditions, tow a trailer or live in a cold-weather region.

As the vehicle owner, you know your driving habits best and can decide if your vehicle may require more frequent service as outlined in your Customer Information Guide.

Q: Is my new car warranty void if I have oil changes on my 2009 Ford Escape done anywhere but the dealership. For example, if I took it to an independent garage or even did the job myself?

A: Kerri Stoakley, communications manager for Ford of Canada, replies:

Regardless of who performs the maintenance, it is the vehicle owner’s responsibility to make sure that all of the required scheduled maintenance is performed, and that the parts and fluids used meet Ford engineering specifications.

Failure to perform scheduled maintenance as specified in the Scheduled Maintenance Services section of the Customer Information Guide will invalidate warranty coverage on parts affected by improper maintenance.

Ford dealerships have factory-trained technicians and use only Ford-approved parts.

Make sure that receipts for completed maintenance work are retained with the vehicle and have the dealer complete the Scheduled Maintenance Validation Record.

Eric Lai adds:

If servicing the vehicle yourself, consult your owner’s manual for the correct grade and viscosity of motor oil for your vehicle (e.g. SM 5W20).

Though any Ford-approved aftermarket oil filter will suffice, if you wish to install the identical Ford Motorcraft oil filter and/or motor oil that the dealership technicians would use – and thereby eliminate any debate that the parts used meet Ford standards – it’s available to do-it-yourselfers at the dealership parts counter.

Retain all receipts for parts in case of a warranty claim.


3D: mainstream in
homes in two years?
A soccer fan watches a live 3D TV soccer match between Arsenal and Manchester United, in a pub in London January 31, 2010. REUTERS/Jas Lehal

July 11, 2010
Georgina Prodhan - Reuters

Watching 3D television at home could become mainstream in as little as two years as prices for 3D TV sets drop and events like the soccer World Cup raise awareness of the technology.

Although many believe that consumers will never want to wear 3D glasses at home, and 3D TVs have only been on sale for a matter of months, a combination of factors points to faster adoption of 3D than of previous new technologies.

Often, new technology finds itself in a chicken-and-egg conundrum in which consumers do not buy new equipment until content is available, while media companies are not motivated to produce content until consumers buy the equipment to consume it.

But TVs are already on sale from Samsung that convert two-dimensional signals into 3D in real time, meaning that consumers can already start to enjoy images leaping out of the screen, even with little original 3D content yet available.

The technology is not yet perfect but could soon eliminate the need for equipment that studios use to upgrade 2D to 3D -- made by the likes of India’s Prime Focus -- which many analysts consider potential choice investments.

Stu Lipoff, a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers -- the world’s largest technical society -- said: “It’s one of the most remarkable things I’ve seen in 30 years in engineering.”

“The processing power is comparable to what five years ago you’d only find on a supercomputer in a university lab,” he says of the technology, which is made by businesses like Texas Instruments, Broadcom and NXP.


Samsung, which was first to market, is expected to sell the lion’s share of 3D TVs this year, but Sony, Panasonic and LG Electronics are not far behind.

Sony hopes 3D models will make up 10 per cent of the more than 25 million LCD TVs is aims to sell in the next fiscal year. .

Technology research firm ISuppli expects 4.2 million 3D TV sets to be sold this year, or about 2 per cent of all LCD TVs, rising to 78 million in 2015.

Interest in 3D has grown fast, both among experts and the general public.

Public enthusiasm for 3D has been driven by the blockbuster movie “Avatar”, released at the end of 2009, which single-handedly raised awareness to 60 per cent from 40 per cent among U.S. consumers, according to TV analyst Stewart Clarke of research firm Informa.

Sports are also a fertile ground for 3D as the viewer feels the excitement of being placed in the middle of the action, instead of being a distant observer.

Walt Disney’s sports broadcaster ESPN used the soccer World Cup to launch its first 3D channel, and ESPN’s president told Reuters this week the network had had “off the charts” success with its coverage.

In Britain, satellite broadcaster BSkyB and its major shareholder News Corp are making big bets on 3D. Sky plans to launch a 3D channel this year after whetting appetites with 3D broadcasts of Premier League soccer in bars.

“It’s absolutely incredible. It’s fantastic. It’s the biggest development since black and white,” said Robert Kerr, a 27-year-old projects consultant, near London’s Westfield mall.

Asked whether he would buy a 3D TV, he said: “Personally, I’d always wait for the price to come down. When it comes down to about 1,200 pounds ($1,820 U.S.), I wouldn’t hesitate. In 18 months, definitely.”

Currently, 3D TVs cost about one-and-a-half times as much as equivalent 2D high-definition sets, but prices are falling.


Typically, new consumer technology is considered to reach a take-off point when 20 per cent of the population has it.

In the past, consumers have kept TV sets for an average of about 11 years, but far faster replacement cycles for other consumer electronics such as cellphones are changing attitudes.

Informa believes 3D TV will take off only after the need to wear glasses has been removed, which it forecasts will happen some time after 2015. But the IEEE’s Lipoff says it is not unreasonable to believe it could happen in two to four years.

LG has recently started offering 3D TV sets that can be viewed wearing so-called passive glasses that are far cheaper and lighter than battery-powered active-shutter glasses.

The televisions are more expensive because more of the work is done inside the set -- a 47-inch TV costs $2,200 in the United States -- but the glasses cost next to nothing.

Technology to view 3D without glasses does exist -- chipmaker Intel demonstrated a version at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas -- but is limited by only being viewable from certain angles.

As such, it is more likely to succeed on screens watched by a single viewer like computer and cellphone displays.


Shopping Tips

June 2010 by Erin Joyce

As the Canadian dollar hovers near parity, many Canucks' thoughts turn to shopping in the United States. The allure is understandable - not only is the loonie's value rising as the U.S. economy remains unstable, but the stories of unheard of discounts a mere border crossing away is hard to resist. Whether you're Canadian or American, here's what you need to know about cross-border shopping.

Before You Leave

To cross the border, you'll need a passport or an Enhanced Driver's License (EDL). Valid document substitutions and/or conditions that may prevent you from entering either Canada or the U.S. are listed on each country's respective border websites.

If you are traveling with valuable items, you may want to declare them as you leave your home country. If the item has a serial number, border services will provide you with form to list the items and identification numbers so you'll have proof you did not purchase them on your trip. Items without a serial number, like jewelry, may require an appraisal report a receipt and a signed dated photograph from a recognized jeweler or insurance agent. With that much hassle, it's really just better to leave your precious jewels at home. (To learn more about Canada and it's currency, see Canada's Commodity Currency: Oil And The Loonie.)

When to Go

In general, the worst times to cross the border are during holidays, long weekends and rush hour traffic. The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) updates estimated wait times for crossing every hour on its website, as does the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website. Of course, this is only really helpful if you live relatively close to the border.

In terms of maximizing your dollar value, when the Canadian dollar is on par (or reaches parity) with the U.S. dollar, as it did on April 6, 2010, for the first time since July, 2008, it means that the loonie will buy more American product than it would if the Canadian dollar were lower in relation to the greenback. Conversely, when the U.S. dollar is higher in relation to the Canadian dollar, Americans might want to consider taking a trip north.

How to Pay

You might think that, once you've entered the new country, you'll automatically reap the savings – not so. If you pay using your credit card, the transaction does not occur immediately, so you may miss out on the low exchange on which you had carefully planned.

Debit transactions are processed instantly; your bank will likely charge fees for charging internationally. ATM machines will charge you a per-transaction fee that will vary machine to machine, but will likely be under $5. According to Kathleen Crislip of About.com, the real problems are the fees your own bank will charge you – up to 3% per transaction (including withdrawals).

Cash is your best option for these spending sprees, but there are downsides to carrying wads of cash. For one thing, if it is lost or stolen, you can't replace it. Also, flashing that much green could make you an easy target for theft. If you are hoping to maintain some control over how much you spend, carrying only a predetermined amount of cash could help keep you under budget – but you also may not realize how quickly you are going through it.

Paying Duty

Once the fun part is over and you're ready to take your new purchases home, you'll need to know the rules about what you can and can't bring back, and on what you'll owe duty. As a citizen, you have the right to bring back a set amount of items without paying any duties. The following charts from each country's respective border website help clarify the basics.

Canadian Citizens Reentering Canada

Period of Absence

Personal Exemptions


Less than 24 Hours



24 Hours



48 Hours


Only ONE of the following items can be imported both duty-free and tax-free:

  • 1.5 litres (53 imperial ounces) of wine;
  • 1.14 litres (40 ounces) of liquor;
  • a total of 1.14 litres (40 ounces) of wine and liquor; or
  • 24 x 355 millilitre (12 ounce) cans or bottles (maximum of 8.5 litres) of beer or ale.

All of the following items can be imported both duty-free and tax-free:

  • 200 cigarettes;
  • 50 cigars or cigarillos;
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) of manufactured tobacco; and
  • 200 tobacco sticks.


Seven Days


Same as 48-hour absence

Source – CBSA




American Citizens Reentering the U.S.

Period of Absence

Personal Exemptions


Less than 48 Hours


Up to 10 non-Cuban cigars, 150 milliliters (5.1 American fluid ounces ) of alcoholic beverages and 50 cigarettes.

More than 48 Hours


Up to 100 cigars, one liter (35.2 American fluid ounces) of alcoholic beverages (if you are older than 21 years of age) and one carton of 200 cigarettes may be included within your exemption.

Joint Declaration


Families who reside together and travel back together may combine their personal exemptions if they have been gone longer than 48 hours.

Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Items of Note
It's important to remember that items not made in the U.S., Mexico or Canada will not be subject to the NAFTA agreement. Canada also has free trade agreements with Panama, Jordan, Columbia, Peru, Costa Rica and Israel, among other nations, so make sure you keep an eye on where your items are made, and check the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada website if you are unsure. If that cute t-shirt you bought is made in China, and you have exceeded your personal exemption, you will have to pay duty on it.

Keeping it Local
Shopping over the border can be a great experience, and it can save you a lot of cash. However, if it's a straight bargain you're after, make sure you factor in all of the charges before you head out. After paying sales tax on your items, you may have to pay tax again at the border. And there is the argument that buying local supports your home economy – but if Canadian retailers aren't willing to keep their prices in line with the dollar's value, it might just be worth it to take a little trip. (For more, check out Why Things Are Getting A Little Loonie.)


How often do I need
to change my oil?

Better built engines mean longer intervals but there is no one-size-fits-all answer

Rob MacGregor

Rob MacGregor

Published on Thursday, May. 06, 2010 Globe & Mail


I’m confused about my oil change interval. In the good old days, I used to change my oil every 3,000 miles – whatever that is in kilometres. I just bought a 2009 Ford Fusion and I have been told that I should have the oil changed every 7,500 kilometres, but if my math is even close, that’s almost 4,700 miles.

I went to one of those quickie oil change places and they told me to change every 6000 kilometres and a friend of a friend told me he goes 10,000 kilometres between changes.

What’s with all the different mileage numbers? Isn’t oil, oil?


You know Ken; it’s amazing how big an issue this is. There are blogs and forums all over the Internet posting this question, and according to Barb Samardzich, vice president, powertrain engineering for Ford, this issue is poised to take on a life of its own.

At the American Petroleum Institute (API) Automotive/Petroleum Industry Forum last month, she noted that Ford will be initiating a 10,000-mile oil change interval – that’s more than 16,000 kilometres between motor oil changes.

Just to illustrate that there isn’t much new under the sun, I’ll throw in a little trivia here. I was cleaning out some of my dad’s old magazines and came across this article from a February 1961 edition of Argosy Magazine (Vol. 352, No. 2).

It began with (and I’m not making this stuff up):

“Don’t get an inferiority complex if you are befuddled by the contrary instructions on oil changing for you new car. If you read the 1961 owner manuals, Plymouth will tell you to change oil every 2,000 miles, and so would any of the other cars made by Chrysler divisions. On the other hand, Ford tells you to change every 4,000 miles for all except the Lincoln, which has an interval of 6,000 miles. In the General Motors group, it is 4,000 for the Chevrolet, the Corvair and the Pontiac and 3,000 for the Oldsmobile models. Buick says 2,000 to 3,000; Cadillac, 4000 in summer and 5,000 in winter; Rambler, 2,000 to 3,000 ...”

Never mind being a car owner then, imagine trying to run a service centre.

So how do the car manufacturers get away with such high-mileage numbers between changes? Ken, engines are made to much higher tolerances since those days. New engines are sealed, that is, they no longer use external venting of crankcases. This not only prevents crankcase fumes from dirtying our air, it also prevents most air-borne particles from entering the inside of the engine. This is a key factor if the engine manufacturers want to keep the inside of an engine clean – along with the oil. The cleaner they can keep the oil for a longer period of time, the more they can extend the oil change intervals.

You see, not only do oils lubricate but they also clean internal engine parts that get splashed, sprayed, and soaked. Oils seal vital internal engine gaps such as piston rings to cylinder walls and seals that surround rotating things such as crankshafts and camshafts. Finally, oils cool. As this liquid travels throughout the engine (and the same thing goes for transmissions and final drives), it comes in contact with all the moving operational pieces, including the pistons. Heat from the combustion process is transmitted to the cooling system, but for this discussion, the combustion heat is also absorbed by the motor oil. This heat is then removed and brought to the oil pan where the moving air across the outside of the pan removes some of that heat.

While all this process goes on, oil life deteriorates. In older engines, the sealing wasn’t as effective, the crankcase venting was exposed to atmosphere, the cooling was as effective (this is illustrated by the extensive use of aluminum and cooling fins on modern oil pans), and filtration was not as thorough as it is today.

Combine this with a vehicle’s worst enemy: short trips with extended idling, and the recipe for lubrication breakdown is complete.

Not to mention, that each time engine oil is changed, there is the opportunity for spillage and the old oil has to be disposed. It’s a safe bet that Environment Canada and the Environmental Protection Agency have also had an effect on the responsibility of the petroleum and auto industries to clean up their act.

The best advice I can give you is to follow the recommendations as outlined in the owner’s manual. It sounds odd, but you will probably find yourself following the “Severe Conditions” section in the Maintenance Guide of your manual.

There you go Ken. Everything old is new again. Or everything old is still the same. Or – I’m so confused ...


Click a date on any calendar

What Happened On This Day...






























































































































































































































































































































































































The hidden cost of
'free' rewards

Toronto Star Dec 13, 2009

On the back of a recent issue of Bon Appétit magazine, a group of attractive, smiling young people is gathered around a white-cloth covered table, sipping wine and laughing.

The tag line is "Guess who's paying for dinner? Your points."

It's an ad for a credit card and the implication is clear: Use your card often enough and you'll get something in return.

Canadians are crazy for rewards programs. Collectively, there are 114 million active members of rewards programs in Canada, according to Colloquy, the market research arm of LoyaltyOne, the group that owns the Air Miles program.

That's more than four rewards programs for every man, woman and child in the country.

"When you can take a whole family on a trip and not pay anything, I think that's fantastic. That's worth thousands of dollars. Why wouldn't you do it?" says Lynda Fishman, a 52-year-old children's camp director in North York.

Fishman has at least three credit cards with rewards programs on them, and an Air Miles card she can use on its own to collect points. None comes with annual fees and they've produced enough points to send her family of five to Florida for a week.

She also earns a $150 bottle of Chanel perfume every few months with her Shoppers Drug Mart loyalty card. "I shop there whenever they have the 20 times bonus points on everything in the store."

In the minds of most consumers, these rewards are "free." But, of course, they're not.

They come out of the pockets of retailers like Jim Stonley and Zafar Khokhar, co-owners of the Esso station at Front St. E. and Sherbourne St. in Toronto.

The pair say they pay nearly $11,000 a month on average in credit card fees and see little benefit, even from Esso-brand loyalty cards.

Indeed, they say they pay twice when a customer swipes their Esso points card – once to process the transaction and again when the customer redeems them because the points do not cover the full cost of the product or service.

Stonley and Khokhar say they feel they have to accept any credit card the consumer presents or risk losing their business to competitors. But the costs are starting to add up.

Profit margins on gas average 5 cents a litre. Credit card processing fees are on average 2 per cent. So, when the price of gas goes up, the credit card processing fee also increases and eats into the margins.

"It's quite a lot of money for a small business person," Stonley said.

Many loyalty programs are part of a retailer's marketing program. Retailers pay to join Air Miles because it helps drive cardholders to their stores. Shoppers Drug Mart uses its Optimum card to attract customers and push selected merchandise by doubling or tripling the points on those items.

These kinds of loyalty programs make up about 80 per cent of the rewards program market in Canada.

Consumers don't seem to mind that the costs may be hidden in the prices of things they buy. Indeed, the Consumers Association of Canada opposes anything that would reduce the value of rewards programs, such as caps on credit card interest rates and fees.

Nearly half of Canadians use a credit card simply because it offers rewards, citing first points, then flights and finally cash as their preferred rewards, according to Chicago-based research firm Mintel International Inc.

Retailers say there is a fundamental problem in the way credit card programs are funded. They foot the entire bill but they do not derive all the benefits and say they have no ability to negotiate the rates.

That's because merchant "swipe" fees are based largely on something called the "interchange rate."

"I can tell you, without a doubt, that all of the credit cards that come with rewards programs are fully paid for by the merchants," says Diane Brisebois, president of the Retail Council of Canada. The council estimates such fees now cost merchants $4.5 billion a year, or roughly 2 per cent of the value of every purchase. That amounts to nearly $400 per household, assuming these costs are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.

The Bank of Canada concluded credit cards have become the most expensive form of payment for merchants. The average debit card transaction costs 12 cents, but a credit card transaction costs 2 to 4 per cent of the value of the sale, according to the central bank.

Credit card companies say interchange keeps the system running smoothly. In a two-way network, where both sides have to agree to participate, it ensures banks have an incentive to issue cards to consumers, and merchants have an incentive to accept them, they say.

The fee is collected by the merchant's bank and paid to the cardholder's bank to compensate the card issuer for the cost of bringing cardholders into the system, the credit card companies say.

"Interchange is determined by MasterCard and makes up part of the fee paid by the merchant," Kevin Stanton, president of MasterCard Canada, told a Senate committee hearing earlier this year.

Merchants and small business owners say the system encourages a weird form of reverse competition in which credit card companies compete for the banks' business by raising the interchange rate at the merchants' expense.

This wasn't a problem as long as merchants felt the rates were reasonable and negotiable, Brisebois says. That's no longer the case.

Ever since most of Canada's banks outsourced their merchant-acquiring business to third parties, it's been a lot tougher for merchants to strike deals on credit card processing fees.

"The merchant used to deal directly with the branch manager of their bank. The merchant could negotiate with the manager, who wanted to keep the merchant's banking business," Brisebois explains.

The situation took a turn for the worse after the credit card companies fiddled with their interchange rate structure and introduced a new class of "premium" cards. After years of relatively steady, predictable fees, both Visa and MasterCard expanded the number and kind of rates retailers pay from two or three rates to between 19 and 21.

The new premium cards, such as Visa's Infinite card, come with more perks for consumers but cost merchants more to accept.

Retailers say these cards now represent 25 per cent of the value of all transactions and have a huge and unpredictable impact on the fees they face at the end of the month.

The bankers' association says premium cards represent just 9 per cent of their credit card accounts and benefit the merchant by bringing in higher net worth customers.

Industry experts, such as Andrew Davidson of Mintel International Inc., say premium cards were created to offset banks' rising loan losses during the economic downturn.

Add in other interchange changes and these new premium cards helped boost processing fees more than 10 per cent for Visa and nearly 20 per cent for MasterCard in the 12-month period ending last February, retailers say.

The credit card companies dispute the retailers' figures, saying they have raised rates for some types of transactions and lowered them for others so the overall impact is neutral. The retail council says the new rates are designed to boost credit card use in grocery stores, gas stations and coffee shops where consumers prefer to use cash or debit.

Initially, credit cards were cheaper than cash or cheques and had the added benefit of reducing the risk of theft, says Andrew Ching, a marketing professor at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. Now, with the market saturated, banks began to use their reward programs to compete for market share, and to penetrate under-represented markets, such as grocery and gas.

Fishman, the points-collecting camp director, shrugs off retailer complaints. She accepts credit card payments from clients. "It's just another cost of doing business."


Nitrogen versus old-fashioned air in Your Tires

Rob MacGregor Globe & Mail Dec 2009

For the nitrogen versus old-fashioned air the jury is still out.

I hate to sound like a fence-sitter but because this technology is new, it's difficult to commit to a firm statement one way or the other.

The theory behind using N is that the molecules are slightly larger than air, which is really a makeup of 78 per cent nitrogen and 22 per cent oxygen. That small concentration of oxygen molecules is just enough to create a dilution of the overall mix, allowing for a greater chance of the air molecule to literally leak between the rubber molecules. This is the norm with tires. Many of you will have experienced this when leaving a vehicle or a boat trailer unattended for more than a month. The tire pressures will drop off noticeably through this process.

Another advantage to N is the fact that it is non-corrosive, unlike air or more importantly, the oxygen in the air. Oxygen has been blamed for the rust that forms on the inside of a mounted tire and wheel assembly, because as everyone knows, rust is simply the combination of oxygen and iron, or iron-oxide. With only nitrogen inside the tire/wheel combination, there is no way for rust to form.

But the downside of nitrogen is that there is not much in the way of infrastructure support for refilling your tires. This is the biggest push back on this issue and it's a strong case, not to mention that there is usually an added cost by installing N.

I actually had a set of new tires installed on my car and was asked if I wanted to use nitrogen. Based on the info above I elected to go with good old-fashioned air.

The case is getting stronger and stronger in favour of N, especially when you get front men like Jay Leno advocating for you. His video is on this web site: http://www.getnitrogen.org/


Lest We Forget
We Remember!

Salute to a brave and modest nation - Kevin Myers, 'The Sunday Telegraph', LONDON :

Until the deaths of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan , probably almost no one outside their home country had been aware that Canadian troops are deployed in the region.

And as always, Canada will bury its dead, just as the rest of the world, as always will forget its sacrifice, just as it always forgets nearly everything Canada ever does.. It seems that Canada 's historic mission is to come to the selfless aid both of its friends and of complete strangers, and then, once the crisis is over, to be well and truly ignored.

Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of the hall, waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance. A fire breaks out, she risks life and limb to rescue her fellow dance-goers, and suffers serious injuries. But when the hall is repaired and the dancing resumes, there is Canada, the wallflower still, while those she once helped glamorously cavort across the floor, blithely neglecting her yet again.

That is the price Canada pays for sharing the North American continent with the United States , and for being a selfless friend of Britain in two global conflicts.

For much of the 20th century, Canada was torn in two different directions: It seemed to be a part of the old world, yet had an address in the new one, and that divided identity ensured that it never fully got the gratitude it deserved.

Yet its purely voluntary contribution to the cause of freedom in two world wars was perhaps the greatest of any democracy. Almost 10% of Canada 's entire population of seven million people served in the armed forces during the First World War, and nearly 60,000 died. The great Allied victories of 1918 were spearheaded by Canadian troops, perhaps the most capable soldiers in the entire British order of battle.

Canada was repaid for its enormous sacrifice by downright neglect, its unique contribution to victory being absorbed into the popular memory as somehow or other the work of the 'British'.

The Second World War provided a re-run. The Canadian navy began the war with a half dozen vessels, and ended up policing nearly half of the Atlantic against U-boat attack. More than 120 Canadian warships participated in the Normandy landings, during which 15,000 Canadian soldiers went ashore on D-Day alone.

Canada finished the war with the third-largest navy and the fourth-largest air force in the world. The world thanked Canada with the same sublime indifference as it had the previous time.

Canadian participation in the war was acknowledged in film only if it was necessary to give an American actor a part in a campaign in which the United States had clearly not participated - a touching scrupulousness which, of course, Hollywood has since abandoned, as it has any notion of a separate Canadian identity.

So it is a general rule that actors and filmmakers arriving in Hollywood keep their nationality - unless, that is, they are Canadian. Thus Mary Pickford, Walter Huston, Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg, Alex Trebek, Art Linkletter and Dan Aykroyd have in the popular perception become American, and Christopher Plummer, British.

It is as if, in the very act of becoming famous, a Canadian ceases to be Canadian, unless she is Margaret Atwood, who is as unshakably Canadian as a moose, or Celine Dion, for whom Canada has proved quite unable to find any takers.

Moreover, Canada is every bit as querulously alert to the achievements of its sons and daughters as the rest of the world is completely unaware of them.. The Canadians proudly say of themselves - and are unheard by anyone else - that 1% of the world's population has provided 10% of the world's peacekeeping forces.

Canadian soldiers in the past half century have been the greatest peacekeepers on Earth - in 39 missions on UN mandates, and six on non-UN peacekeeping duties, from Vietnam to East Timor, from Sinai to Bosnia.

Yet the only foreign engagement that has entered the popular non-Canadian imagination was the sorry affair in Somalia , in which out-of-control paratroopers murdered two Somali infiltrators. Their regiment was then disbanded in disgrace - a uniquely Canadian act of self-abasement for which, naturally, the Canadians received no international credit.

So who today in the United States knows about the stoic and selfless friendship its northern neighbour has given it in Afghanistan ?

Rather like Cyrano de Bergerac , Canada repeatedly does honourable things for honourable motives, but instead of being thanked for it, it remains something of a figure of fun. It is the Canadian way, for which Canadians should be proud, yet such honour comes at a high cost. This past year more grieving Canadian families knew that cost all too tragically well.

Lest we forget.


Hands free driving laws

DriverSense - Kevin Fleming
August 2009

Many Canadian provinces and U.S. states are adopting hands free cell phone laws.  This is what you, the driver, need to know.

It’s no secret that driving a vehicle while distracted is incredibly dangerous to both you and other drivers on the road.  One major distraction that has crept up on lawmakers throughout Canada and the United States is the cell phone.  Cell phones do indeed make our lives easier is countless ways, but there is a time and a place for such convenience.  It is not a convenience that one should abuse while behind the wheel.  We need our full wits about us when driving and, needless to say, governments in many provinces and states have taken action in this regard.  This is what you need to know about hands free driving laws in Canada.

What’s So Bad About Talking Or Texting While Driving?

Before discussing hands free laws, we first need to take a look at what effect a lack of attention on roadways has.  A rather informative research paper by the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) reveals a lot about what occurs to a driver when they are too concerned with their cell phones.  Specifically, the OMA points out that cell phone use while driving contributes to a reduced field of vision, inconsistent speed, safe following distance infractions, delayed braking and lack of a full response to stoplight changes.  On top of those reasons, the OMA also found that drivers who paid more attention to their cell phones tended not to pay attention to their mirrors, experienced a lack of stoplight inspection and did more hard braking.

Plainly, the dangers of paying too much attention to your cell phone while driving are numerous and quite real.  Even though it is not mentioned, the most obvious danger of cell phone use while driving is the potential to cause an accident.

Canadian Law

Currently, there is not a widespread Canadian law governing the use of cell phones while driving.  However, a few provinces have taken the initial step to curb cell phone usage while driving.  The provinces that have made it illegal to talk or text while driving are Quebec, Newfoundland, Labrador and Nova Scotia.  In other words, if you are caught talking or texting while driving, you may face a potentially stiff fine and points on your driver’s license.

The next province to officially ban the use of cell phones while driving is Ontario (along with emailing, watching DVDs, playing with video games and operating MP3 devices).  The law was recently passed in April, but it does not take effect until November.  Once November comes around though, drivers caught breaking this law can be subject to a maximum fine of $500 (CAN).  Under the current configuration, there will be no points charged to one’s license, but if you are found to be endangering others on the road (or off), you can face a maximum fine of $1000 (CAN) and six points added to your license.

What Do I Do?

Seeing that many provinces are now cracking down on cell phone usage while driving, you, the driver now have to take action.  I know that it may seem like an ingrained habit to talk or text while driving, but there are safer alternatives that are in line with the law.

Use the speakerphone.  Almost all modern cell phones have a speakerphone function, which can be activated at the touch of a button.  If that is not your style, check out your cell phone a bit more to see if it has Bluetooth technology included in it.  If your phone has Bluetooth, go out and spend a little money on a hands-free earpiece.  They are simple little devices that fit into your ear and connect with ease to your phone.  If your phone does not have Bluetooth, it most likely came with a 'wired' earpiece that hooks up to your phone via a small jack on the side or bottom of it.  It may not be as convenient as a Bluetooth device, but it works.

If none of those options fit your needs, do the simple and right thing if you have to make or take a call.  Pull over somewhere convenient and then deal with the cell phone.


Picking the best among the classic Mustang, Camaro and Challenger
Best Classics

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Scott Burgess Det News

Lots of cars used to come strapped with muscle, they've been on display along Woodward Avenue all week. With big V-8s crammed under their hoods, they bubbled with power at every stop light.

But times have changed. Direct injection has replaced scoops, and computers have replaced cables. Wrenching just about any new car today requires a lab coat and degree from MIT.

But for the first time in nearly 10 years, the modern interpretations of three classic pony cars are available as new models: the Mustang, the Camaro and the Challenger. These names are so recognizable that you don't need to include their respective brands, Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge. People just know.

Each model comes in three basic forms: Basic (think V-6); Mid-level (think sporty); and Ferocious (think mean and snarling).

Around Detroit, people know the difference. Recently, I drove the Ford Shelby GT500 through a parking lot, and a little boy pointed out the car to his father. "Look Daddy, a Mustang."

"No, that's a GT500," the father corrected him.

There is a difference. The Challenger SRT8, the Camaro SS and the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 have no other competition, and figuring out the best among the three is no easy task.

There's no changing the minds of loyalists. A Ford man knows with all his heart that Mustangs rule, and the Chevy lover and Mopar maniac are just as confident. But everyone else knows you can only buy one: So which one is it? It's a task more difficult than you think: I love all three for slightly different reasons.


Each car offers a distinctive look and follows a slightly different path -- though all conjure up their respective heritage without duplicating it.

Challenger: This is the most retro of the three cars. Reintroduced in 2008, the Challenger draws the most from its past. The four headlamps set deep in the grille. The long body has added a few pounds around its waistline, approaching middle age with the same demeanor as many of its owners.

Mustang: The GT500 joins the redesigned 2010 Mustang with a new exterior and clean, fast lines. It's modern but points back to its roots. Like the Challenger, it's thicker than the original, but carries it well. The new Mustang includes sequential blinking tail lights and the chamfered corners.

Camaro: Of the three, the Chevy is the most modern and futuristic-looking. Its small greenhouse, chiseled lines and big back end give it a unique look. It's a generation removed from the traditional Camaros with the design based on the concept car shown a few years ago at the Detroit Auto Show. That car was loosely based on the 1967 Camaro. The end result: Perfection.

Winner: Draw


While each exterior stands on its own merits, the same is not true of the interiors. Every carmaker provides all the high-tech amenities car owners want, such as Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free phone operation, top-of-the-line stereos, but only one stands above the others.

Challenger: Simple and clean, the Challenger offers the most space of the three. It's the only coupe of the three that can seat five people -- the others can only carry four. However, the big hulking dashboard comes across as cheap and the finishing details need to improve. It's a nice start, but it feels incomplete.

Camaro: The interior space is comfortable and sophisticated. Recessed speedo and tach gauges add to the car's appearance and I never missed the navigation system, knowing OnStar was just a push of a button away. Real metal trim would have fared much better than the plastic designed to look like metal. There's a lot more attention paid to peripheral details, such as door inserts and ergonomic controls, and the seats are extremely comfortable.

Mustang: Ford has had the most time to improve its interior because it has never discontinued the model. The additional time pays off with an all new dash with aluminum trim. The gentle, curving center console feels balanced, and shortening the emergency brake means your knee will no longer rest against the handle while driving. The plethora of accessories provides everything an owner could want. Ford's voice-activated infotainment system Sync is ahead of the others.

Winner: Mustang


All of these cars offer more power, more abilities and more, well, power, than any person really needs. They will blow their historical counterparts from the '60s off the road. Each also provides an incredible V-8 rumble that no turbocharger can ever duplicate. Listening to them idle is a mechanical symphony.

Camaro: Combine a 422-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8 and an independent suspension, and you've got a great ride. The SS may have the strength of 40 mules, but it races on the highway like a thoroughbred. The steering is clean and provides great feedback without working out your forearms. The Camaro manages 24 miles per gallon on the highway, which is 2 mpg better than the Ford and 5 mpg better than the Dodge.

Challenger: The legendary 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 gives the Challenger SRT8 a little more muscle than the Camaro. But it needs it because of its length and size. Both the Camaro and Mustang feel smaller on the open road, though the Challenger in straight line takeoffs is excellent.

Mustang: It may have the smallest V-8 in the bunch, but the supercharged 5.4-liter engine crushes the competition when it comes to raw power producing 540 horses. It's the kind of power that surges through you when hit the accelerator. Additional suspension tuning and great tires helps the GT500 handle corners better, despite having the solid rear axle. But there's almost too much power surging through this car. Hit a concrete seam through a big turn and you'll learn how scary axle hops can be.

Winner: Camaro

Overall winner

For many people who want to own a modern-day muscle car, the price will be the first consideration. The Camaro SS is nearly $10,000 less than the Challenger SRT8 and $17,000 less than the GT500, making it a steal by comparison.

However, Ford has created an entire series of Mustangs out of its pony car with its partnership with Carroll Shelby. Furthermore, the GT500 can come as a drop top, something the Challenger and Camaro do not offer. (A convertible Camaro is due to arrive in 2011 and Dodge has no plans to produce a convertible Challenger.) Really, there is something for everyone. But if I were to pick an all-round, top-of-the-line muscle car, the crown would go to the GT500. It's the complete package with power, comfort and an engine note that grumbles sweet nothings.

But in this race, coming in second is not bad either.


`Just a silly spider bite' leaves senior paralyzed

Oakville woman unable to walk two weeks after run-in with black widow

Aug 13, 2009
John Rieti
Staff Reporter

Joan Brunet pulled one last weed from the wet ground of her Oakville garden, then watched in horror as a spider latched on to her finger, oozing a clear, whitish venom into her hand.

Panicked, the senior shook her hand and finally knocked the spider off, but seconds later, she was drenched in sweat, losing control of her body as her vision blurred.

By the time an ambulance arrived, Brunet was still conscious, but said the spider bite had turned her body to "jelly."

Doctors were puzzled at first, but an entomologist ruled the bite to be from a black widow.

"I couldn't move my arms, I couldn't close my hands or anything," she said yesterday from Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital, where she has been since she was bitten July 28. "Now I've got just about everything back."

Though she is slowly regaining mobility in her arms, Brunet still has no feeling below her knees and can't yet walk.

After the bite, she struggled into the house and managed to pour an entire bottle of rubbing alcohol over her swollen red and blue hand, dulling the pain.

Then she fell to the floor, almost completely paralyzed. She managed to call her daughter in Toronto, who called an ambulance.

Brunet remembers telling her daughter, "You cannot call the ambulance, it's just a silly spider bite."

Brunet's encounter was unusual. A black widow's neurotoxin is usually reserved for its insect prey and the spiders are naturally timid, preferring to retreat than attack.

"Their behaviour is such that we don't come across them that much," Royal Ontario Museum entomologist Antonia Guidotti told the Star.

In the last year, there have been two other northern black widow sightings in the GTA. Brunet said an Australian patient in a nearby hospital bed was shocker to hear of a black widow bite in Ontario. Another patient and avid gardener encouraged her to talk to the press, so GTA gardeners would be aware of dangerous spiders and wear gloves.

Northern black widow females – the poisonous ones – can be recognized by hourglass-shaped orange colouring on their abdomens.

Gratuitous Tips on Tipping

Not knowing the proper tip or gratuity for a service can be very unsettling. The rest of your party might not know it, but inside you may feel highly stressed as you walk up to the coat check or curbside check-in. The challenge is not everyday situations, but when you are taken out of your normal environment. For example, if you travel only occasionally, hotel tipping etiquette can be a real mystery.

Remember that tipping is discretionary. If you don't think tipping is necessary in a particular circumstance, then don't tip. This is a guide for people who are planning to tip and want to know the customary amount. If you think tipping in general is stupid, then don't tip. But don't complain that the minimum wage is too low. Don't complain that the only new jobs being created are low income.

This is a guide. It is not implying a moral obligation to tip. That said, if you are using a service that is widely-known to be a tipped service, such as restaurants, bars, hair salons, valet parking, etc., then I believe there is a moral obligation to tip for good service. Here is why - a waiter at a restaurant provides you service with the expectation of being compensated a minimum of 15% for quality service. If you don't intend to tip, then you should tell the waiter up front so that he can decide whether or not to provide you the service.

Have mercy!

Have you had a hard day traveling or at work? Do you feel a little grumpy? Were you sharp with someone?

Well, guess what! People in service industries don't always have great days either. Show them a little mercy and assume the best about them. Maybe your waiter is a little absent-minded because his mother is sick in the hospital.

Instead of skipping the tip, talk to the manager about poor service.

Pre-tax or post-tax?

This is a common question. Custom says that tips are calculated pre-tax, but many people just use the total bill either for the sake of simplicity or to be more generous. In other words, either way is fine.

Coupons and gift certificates

If you received a coupon or gift certificate, how do you calculate the tip? Tipping is always based upon the normal price of the good or service. If you get a coupon for 20% off, then tip on the original price. The amount of work done by the server is not less because you paid less. If you have a coupon for a free entree, then tip based upon the regular price of the entree.

Many gift certificates today act more like a debit card. A $50 card is the equivalent to $50 cash, but it can only be used at the named store or restaurant. In that case, you can use the card to pay for the tip as well as the food or service. If you have a gift certificate for a free meal or spa treatment, call the manager before you go and ask if the gratuity is included. If it is not, ask for the estimated value of the gift certificate, and then tip in cash based upon that amount.

But the service is already so expensive!!

With proper tipping etiquette, the percentages of your tips do not change because of the cost of the service. Let's take a hair salon, for example. Of course, you can always tip on the lower end of 10-20%. But if you are going to go to a more expensive salon, then it is assumed that you can afford $120 plus tip. If it is really a big crunch for you, then I would recommend going less often or finding a salon that is more within your budget.

Tipping the Owner

This is the question I get asked most via email - do you tip the owner of a company when he or she provides your service. The answer used to be no. Now it is yes.

Christmas Holiday Tipping Etiquette

Christmas is a great time of year to remember those people who serve you regularly. Since it only occurs once a year, holiday tipping can be a source of holiday stress, but it need not be so. I recommend a gift or a tasteful Christmas card with a tip inside. Delivery should occur in the month of December prior to Christmas day. Tip those who serve you all year long and with whom you have a personal relationship.

  • Maid - one week's pay. This is for maids in your employ whom you pay directly. If you use a service and never know who is coming out, don't tip at all.
  • Gardener - $20-50.
  • USPS Mail carrier - Non-cash gifts with value up to $20. This is for mail carriers that you know and see regularly. Read more below.
  • UPS - Regular driver - $15.
  • FedEx - Not allowed to accept cash gifts, but a gift up to $25 in value is permissible.
  • Apartment building superintendent - $50-200. Tip less if you tip throughout the year.
  • Apartment Doorman/concierge - $10-80 or more each, depending upon building. The fewer doormen the building has, the more you tip each one. Those who serve you more should get a bigger tip.
  • Apartment building handyman - $15-40 each.
  • Apartment building elevator operators - $15-40 each.
  • Shampoo - $10
  • Manicurist/pedicurist - $15 or more
  • Hairdresser/stylist - $15 or more
  • Massage therapist - $15 or more.
  • Newspaper carrier - Daily - $25 - 50, weekend - $10
  • Regular overnight delivery person - $10-30
  • Teacher - $25-100. Give a gift certificate to a bookstore or office supply store. If you know the teacher's hobbies or interests, then a gift certificate would be nice from the local movie theater, hobby shop, mall, fine restaurant or day spa. Some teachers might feel uncomfortable receiving gifts around grade time. If you are unsure, ask your principal first.
  • Coaches, tutors, ballet instructors, music teachers - A small gift from your child.
  • Garbage collector(s) - $15-30 each. Nowadays, most garbage collectors are really truck drivers. The truck has an arm that does all the work. If this is your situation, there is no need to tip.
  • Baby sitter - One night's pay, plus a small gift from your child.
  • Full-time nanny - One week's to one month's pay based on tenure, plus a small gift from your child.
  • Au pair - One week's pay, plus a small gift from your child.
  • Day care service - $25-70, plus a small gift from your child.
  • Parking attendants - $10-20 each
  • Personal trainer - $60-100 upon reaching goal.
  • Country Club - I believe in tipping at Christmas regardless of the club's tipping policy. I recommend a minimum of $50 for your waiters, locker-room personnel, front-desk employees, and golf professionals. For head waiters or special service, make it $100.
  • Dog groomer - 1/4 - 1/2 cost of a session.
  • Dog walker or sitter - 1-2 week's pay.

Gifts for USPS Mail Carriers

There are rules regarding gifts for USPS mail carriers. I'll quote them from the a USPS article.

While many Postal Service™ customers have traditionally thanked their mail carrier with gifts of cash during the holiday season, this practice puts our employees at risk of violating federal law.  The Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch ("Standards"), specifies that Postal Service employees may not accept gifts from outside sources (including Postal Service customers) or gifts given to them because of their official positions. Postal Service employees are also prohibited from soliciting gifts from outside sources.

There are a number of exceptions and exclusions to the general gifts rule . Postal Service employees may accept the following items:

  • Snacks and beverages that are not offered as part of a meal.
  • Items with little intrinsic value (i.e., greeting cards, plaques, pens, coffee mugs, etc.).
  • Perishable items (i.e., flowers, chocolates, cookies, etc.); if the items are clearly worth more than $20, employees should share them with others in the Postal Service workplace.
  • Items with a market (retail) value of $20 or less.
  • Gifts motivated solely because of a personal relationship.
  • Gifts for which the employee has paid market (retail) value.
  • Gifts paid for by the Postal Service.

Postal Service employees may not accept cash  - in any amount or form (bills, checks, money orders) - from an outside source.


At the airport

The first opportunity to tip during travel is usually upon arriving at the airport or train station. Here are some tipping guidelines:

  • Porter or skycap - $2 per bag or more if the bags are heavy. $2 extra for curbside check-in is optional. If you arrive late and he helps you get to your flight on time, tip an extra $5-20.
  • Electric cart driver - $2-$3 a person.
  • Wheelchair pusher - If they are just pushing you down the ramp from the gate to the plane (or in reverse), then nothing. If it is from the ticket counter to the gate/plane or from the gate/plane to the luggage carousel, then $5 is appropriate. Tip more if they help you with your luggage ($1-2 per bag) or if they help you to your car. If they are pushing you from one terminal to another (long distances), then $10-20 would be appropriate plus extra for luggage. Tip less if they are unpleasant or rude.
  • Flight attendant or other in-flight personnel - Nothing .
  • Charter pilot - Nothing. It is not necessary to tip pilots unless they provide extra services. Then it is whatever you deem appropriate for the service.

Tipping on Trains

Tipping on trains can be very confusing because most people don't travel by train often and the situations can be confusing. For instance, sometimes the meal is included, sometimes it isn't.

  • Dining car waiters, stewards and bar car waiters: 15 percent of bill (or estimated cost of meal when included)
  • Red caps, or porters: $1 per bag
  • Sleeping car attendant: $5 per passenger per day

Ground transportation

  • Taxi, limo, paid shuttle, or van driver - 15% of the total fare. Up to 20% if the driver helps with the bags or makes extra stops. No less than $1. If someone else is picking up the tab, they are responsible for tipping also. Be careful, the rate quoted for limos often includes gratuity.
  • Driver of courtesy shuttle - $1-$2 per bag if he helps with the bags.
  • Auto dealership shuttle driver - Nothing.

At the hotel

Before you arrive at a nicer hotel or resort, inquire as to whether gratuities are included in the price of the room. Some hotels are now charging a daily fee that covers all tipping for hotel services. If there is not a daily fee, these rates are appropriate:

  • Valet or parking attendant - $1-3 is appropriate for parking or returning the car. It is not necessary to tip for parking, but always for returning the car.
  • Doorman - If he hails you a cab, $1-2. If he helps you with your bags in or out of the car, $1 a bag. Use $1-2 per bag if he carries them all the way to the room. If he just opens the door, nothing. If he is helpful with directions or restaurant recommendations, $5.
  • Bellman - When he helps you with your bags, tip $1-2 per bag. Give him the tip when he shows you your room. If he just carries the bags to the front desk and then disappears, save it for the person who carries the bags to your room. Upon checkout, tip a bellman who helps with your bags. Tip more for additional services.
  • Front Desk - Typically there is no tip for the front desk, but if they help you with early check-in or late check-out, tip $1-2.
  • Concierge - $5-10 for help with hard-to-get dinner reservations or theater tickets. Tipping is optional for just plain advice, but $5 is the minimum. Tipping can be done at the end of the trip or at the time of service, just keep is straight so that you are fair.
  • Butler - $5-10 per service or $50-100 per night. Very special services like meals when the restaurant is closed are more like $50.
  • Room Service - If gratuity is included, add nothing or $1. Otherwise add 15-20% to the total charge.
  • Delivery of special items - If you request extra pillows or an iron, tip $1 per item received, minimum $2.
  • Maid service - $3-5 per day typically, up to $10 per day depending upon how much mess you make. Tip daily because there might be a different maid each day. Leave the tip on your pillow. Err on the side of being generous, and tip on the last day also. If they change out your linens by request, give $1-2 each time.
  • Bath Butler - 15-20%. Bath butlers are not very common. They draw a luxurious bath for you with your choice of available options such as champagne, candles, chocolates, aromatic salts, rose petals, music, etc.
  • Swimming pool or gym attendant - Nothing, unless you require special services such as extra seating or inflating pool toys; then it is $2-5. If you want the same deck chairs every day, then tip $2-3 per chair beginning the first day.
  • Tanning Butler - $5-10 per lotion application.
  • Ski Valet - $2-5 per person, per day. A ski valet helps with rentals, stores shoes and provides dry boots each day, and stores your gear at the end of the day. They also provide trail maps, ski lift times, rides to the lift, etc. If he serves as a guide on special trails, tip an extra $50.
  • Hotel maintenance staff or Technology Engineer - Nothing to replace a light bulb, fix the air conditioning, internet access, etc. If they teach you how to do something on your computer that is not a responsibility of the hotel like burning a CD, then tip $10-20.
  • Personal Shopper - Personal shoppers don't typically work for the hotel. 10% of the total purchases is appropriate. You can also have the hotel send them a gift of jewelry or wine. Recommending their services to others is a great tip.
  • Spa Technician - Most hotels automatically include an 18% service charge in the bill. If it is not included, tip 18%. If the service is provided in your room, the hotel will typically add a separate fee of $25-40 to your treatment - the 18% tip is on the new total.

Tipping at a Bed and Breakfast (B&B)

Many, if not most B&Bs have a no-tipping policy in the US and Canada. In other countries it varies. It never hurts to tip, but it is definitely not expected, and many B&Bs specifically ask that you do not. Most are family owned and the price they charge covers everything.

The safest bet is to inquire at the specific Bed and Breakfast where you plan to stay before you arrive.

If there is hired housekeeping staff, then tip the same as at a hotel.

Tour guides

Check ahead. If the tip is not already included, give 10-15% of the tour price. No less than $1-2 for a half-day tour, $3-4 for a full-day tour, and $5-10 for a week-long tour. This is a per-person rate. Tip private tour guides more. If the bus driver is particularly helpful with bags, then tip $1-2 per bag.

  • Boat trip - If the trip is over 3 hours, tip $10-$75 depending upon the cost of the excursion and the quality of service.
  • Outdoor guides (fly fishing, horseback riding, river rafting, etc.) - 15% of the cost of the service. Some companies have a no-tipping policy. Check when you book the trip.
  • Private Yacht Charter - Tip the crew 10-20% of the charter fee based upon the quality of service. Hand the gratuity to the Captain for distribution to the crew.

Cruise ships

Many cruise ships have a no-tipping policy. Find out in advance. If you are supposed to tip, find out if it is done at the end of the trip or at the time of service. Oftentimes, at the end of the cruise you are provided envelopes with suggested tip amounts. If you are supposed to tip, budget about $20 per day.

  • Waiter - $3 per day per person.
  • Cabin steward - $3 per day per person.
  • Bus boy - $1.5 per day per person.
  • maitre d' - Not necessary unless special services provided.
  • Bar steward - Usually, 15% is automatically added to bill.

Restaurants or bars

If you get awful service, talk to the manager. The manager cannot correct the situation if he doesn't know about it. Skipping the tip will not accomplish anything, and the next poor customer who gets that server will get the same service you did.

If you are buying the meal and someone offers to get the tip, tell them they can buy next time, and you pay the whole thing. This prevents any uneasiness about them seeing the amount of the bill or worrying that they will be stingy on the tip.

Restaurants report a percentage (around 12%) of the gross sales for food and beverage to the IRS for their staff. This means that if you have a $200 food bill and $200 wine bill, the restaurant will report 12% of $400 or $48 as income to the server. In other words, the server has to pay tax on it whether you tip it or not. If the restaurants do not report it accurately, the restaurant and the wait staff get audited by the IRS.

Please don't get hung up on the 12%. It is just a reasonable example. I recommend tipping 10-15% on the alcohol and 15-20% on the food. 10% on the wine is perfectly acceptable. Whether to tip 10 or 15 percent would depend in large part on how helpful the server was in choosing the wine and serving it.

  • Food server - 15-20%.
  • Self-service restaurant or buffet - Nothing unless there is some service. Tip 10% if the server delivers all or part of your meal or keeps your drinks refilled.
  • Takeout - If you get good service, in other words, the waiter gets and packages the food, then at your choice you can tip $1-2 or up to 10%. Nothing is really necessary.
  • Drive through - Nothing.
  • When breakfast is included in the price of the hotel room - Estimate the value of the meal by looking at a menu. If there is no breakfast menu, consider the quality of the hotel and the price of an evening meal, then make your best estimate. Your tip is 15-20% of your estimate.
  • Teppanyaki chef - 15-20% of the total bill. The gratuity will be split among the wait staff and the chef.
  • Counter service - 15-20%.
  • Cocktail server - 15-20%. For free drinks in Vegas, tip $1-2 per round.
  • Bartender - 15-20% or $1 per drink. If at the bar before a meal, settle up with the bartender before you go to your table.
  • Wine steward or sommelier - 10% of wine bill.
  • If a bar has a cover charge, you do not tip on it.
  • Busboys - Nothing, unless he did something extra special like cleaning up a huge mess. Then give him $1-2.
  • Maitre d' - Nothing, unless he gets you a special table or the restaurant is full and you had no reservation. Then give $5-10 or more.
  • Coat check - $1
  • Restroom attendant - $1
  • Separate checks - If you want separate checks, ask the server to go ahead and add 18% gratuity to each check.
  • Musician that visits table - $2-3 if you make a special request. Optional if he just stops by and plays.
  • Musician in lounge - $1-5

Double time

If you hold a table for two serving periods, make sure that you tip double. In other words, if you spend enough time at a table that a waiter could have typically gotten two parties seated and served, then compensate him for his time by tipping him twice. I like to ease his mind by telling him this about half-way through.

Barbers, salons, spas

  • Barber - $2-3
  • Hair Stylist or Color Specialist - 10-20%. $3-5 extra for last-minute service.
  • Hair extensions - 10-20%, regardless of the cost of the service.
  • Shampoo or other assistant - $2-5 for each person. Hand the tip directly to the person providing the service.
  • Manicure or Facial- 15%
  • Massage therapist - No tip if at doctor's office. 10-15% otherwise. If they come to your home or hotel room, find out in advance whether a tip is included in the price.
  • Electrologist, laser hair removal - Nothing.
  • Salon or spa package - Determine in advance whether a service charge is included. If none is included, then 15-20% split among the service providers. You can ask for it to be divided, pay each person at the time of service, or leave it in envelopes available at the front desk.
  • If the salon messed up your service, and you return for a re-do, do not tip again.
  • Owner who provides any of the above services - Follow the rules above.
  • The location of the service provider is irrelevant in determining the tip. It doesn't matter if they work in a salon, rent their space, or work out of their home.

Country club

At many golf or country clubs, tips are included in your monthly bill. 57% of country clubs have a no tipping policy. It is worthwhile to look it up or check with your club first.

  • Shoe shine - $2 per pair.
  • Golf cart girls - 15%, minimum of $1-2. Round it.
  • Small errands - $5. What's a small errand? Running to the store, sending a fax, calling a cab.
  • Bag guy - $1-2 per bag.
  • Large errands - $10-20. For concierge-type services of ordering flowers, obtaining hard-to-get theater tickets, etc.
  • Golf caddies - $15-25 per person above any fee for the caddy.
  • Golf or tennis pro lessons - Nothing.
  • Restaurants - same as at any other restaurant. See above.


Many contracted services for weddings include tips in the final bill. Make sure you read your contract carefully so that you are not double tipping. As always, if you receive service above and beyond what you expected, extra tipping is recommended.

  • Civil ceremony officials - $50 - $75, more if travel involved
  • Wedding planner - Nothing.
  • Minister, priest, rabbi - Minimum of $100, more if travel involved. Give the gratuity to the best man who will in turn give it to the officiant following the ceremony.
  • Coat check - 50 cents per guest.
  • Limo driver - 15% of the total fare. Make sure the tip is not included already in the bill.
  • Florists - Only necessary when service is beyond expectations, up to 15%
  • Photographers - Only necessary when service is beyond expectations, up to 15%
  • Bakers - Only necessary when service is beyond expectations, up to 15%
  • Reception Musicians or DJs - Only necessary when service is beyond expectations, up to 15% or $25-50 per person.
  • Open bar at receptions - There are two views on this. Some say tip $1 for each visit to the bar. Other's contend that the tax and tip are included in the cost of the open bar, and that the guest should only tip if it is a cash bar. I lean toward the latter view, but it never hurts to be generous. If you are the host of the event, make sure it is not included. If it is not included, the tip is 15-20%.
  • Catering hall wedding coordinator - $50 for the coordinator, and something less for the assistant ($25). Make sure it is not included in the price of the event.
  • Banquet captain - $20-100.
  • Wedding organist, musician or soloist - First check whether or not the gratuity is included in the rental of the church. If not, $50 per person or $75 per person for close friends.

Funeral Etiquette

The tip or gratuity for the clergyman who performs a funeral service is called the honorarium. The amount of the honorarium is typically $50-200. The amount is personal and varies based upon many factors:

  • How much of the service does the clergyman perform, and does it include a graveside service?
  • How many ministers are speaking at the service.
  • How well do you know the minister?
  • How good of a job does he do?
  • What is customary for the area?
  • How much can you afford?

When my daughter died, I had two ministers from my church perform the services. One spoke for the memorial service, and the other did the graveside. Both refused the honorarium. When this happens, wait a couple of months and do something special for him. Be sure to send a thank you card regardless.

If you are still not sure how much to give, then ask for some help from the funeral director. He will know what is customary.

You do not tip a funeral director.

Tipping Caterers

Tipping Caterers can be a real mystery. The best thing to do is to talk to the caterer in advance. Most caterers have a service charge that is included in the bill and is distributed to the cooks, driver and wait staff. If there is no service charge or it is not for the people doing the work, then tipping 15% of the entire bill is appropriate. This amount should be divided among the servers by the on-site manager. If it is included, you don't need to tip any more. Of course, if someone really goes out of his way for you, then feel free to tip that individual extra, remembering that it will be extra.

Tipping Movers

There are many things to consider in a move. A professional mover is going to be careful to protect your floors, walls, doorways, and belongings. That said, it is unlikely that your move will go perfectly, whether you are moving yourself or paying someone else to do it. Something will get broken. The question that matters is were they being careless, or was it a genuine accident? Every time I have moved furniture myself, I have caused more damage to my home than movers ever had. I take this into consideration when I look at accidents.

Tipping occurs at the completion of the job. Consider providing lunch if the move extends over lunch, and always provide beverages for the movers.

  • One mover - limited move - 1-10 items and nothing over 20 pounds - $10-20
  • One mover - difficult move - The degree of difficulty changes based upon stairs, narrow passages, small elevators, large or heavy items, appliances, etc. - $20-50.
  • Multiple movers - Basically tip each mover the same as above, but lower it by $5-10 for each mover. Feel free to pool the tip and give it to the supervisor for distribution, but don't lower the amount because you combined it. The problem with combining the tip is that you cannot reward people based upon their individual performances.
  • Car Shipping - There is not much information available about tipping the truck drivers. $20-25 is probably appropriate.

Emergency roadside service

Consider the level of danger. Tip an additional amount if it is roadside service versus in a parking lot.

  • Towing service - $5 - $20 depending upon circumstances and your desperation.
  • Jump start - $3 - $5
  • Tire change - $4 - $5
  • Locked out of car - $5 - $10

Miscellaneous services

  • Accountants - Nothing.
  • Appliance repairman - Nothing.
  • Auto mechanic - Not necessary. If you insist, tip about $10-20 for bills up to $500, and $50 for bills over $500.
  • Bagger at grocery store - Check in advance to see if the store has a no tipping policy. Most have one. If it doesn't, then $1-3 for the bagger and $1-5 for the person who loads your car.
  • Baptism - Nothing.
  • Car detailing - 15%
  • Car salesman - Nothing.
  • Car wash - $2-3 for a car; $3-5 for an SUV or large vehicle. If there is a tip jar, leave your tip there. It will be split among the workers. Otherwise, tip the person(s) who did the cleanup after the wash.
  • Carpet cleaners - Nothing.
  • Clown at children's party - $15-25 depending upon the quality of the performance and the heat level of the day. Others say 15-20% of the performers fee.
  • Contractors, installers, and home remodelers - Nothing. Offer a cool drink instead.
  • Cosmetologist at makeup counter - Nothing. Makeover specialist at department store - Nothing unless you used over 15 minutes of her time and then bought nothing.
  • Electricians and plumbers - Nothing. Offer a cool drink instead.
  • Exotic club - Nothing. Shame on you. I can't believe you would even ask.
  • Farriers or horse haulers- Nothing.
  • Financial planners - Nothing.
  • Graphic designer - Nothing.
  • Interior designer - Nothing.
  • Maids - Nothing, except at Christmastime. See above.
  • Mary Kay representative - Nothing.
  • Mortgage loan officer - Nothing.
  • Nurses - Nothing.
  • Painters (house) - Nothing. Offer them a cool drink instead.
  • Personal shopper or salesperson at department store - Nothing.
  • Pet groomers - Most pet groomers are paid based upon a commission, not a regular salary or hourly wage. Typically your tip is 15% of the bill or $2 per dog, whichever is greater. If your dog is difficult, then tip more. Obviously, don't tip if the quality is poor.
  • Pet sitters - Tipping is not required, but most pet sitters will appreciate a tip. 15% is appropriate if you want to tip.
  • Physical therapist - Nothing.
  • Piano tuner - Nothing.
  • Realtors® or real estate agents - Nothing. The best way to say thanks is to refer people to them.
  • Sports arena in-seat food service - This one is tricky. At most arenas you tip the person who takes the order 15%. You tip at the time of payment, not delivery. The best thing to do is to ask before you order. You definitely do not need to tip both the order taker and the deliverer unless you split it.
  • Shoeshine - $1-2.
  • Swimming lesson instructor - Nothing.
  • Tailor or seamstress - Nothing.
  • Tattoo or piercing artist - 10-20% or whatever you can afford. It isn't necessary, but it is appreciated.
  • Telephone, security, cable, satellite, internet installers or repairmen - Nothing.
  • Title company closing agents - Nothing.
  • Travel agents - Nothing.
  • Tree removal service - Nothing.
  • Weekly lawn or landscaping service - Nothing.
  • Window tinting service - Nothing.
  • Window washer - Nothing.

Tipping for Deliveries

  • Furniture or appliance deliveries - $5-10 per person. If the delivery is huge, then $20 per person.
  • Grocery delivery - Usually included in the fee.
  • Pharmacy deliveries - Nothing. If you insist, $2-3 per delivery, not per prescription.
  • Flower deliveries - $2-5 for normal deliveries and $5-10 for large ones.
  • UPS/Fed Ex - None.
  • Dry Cleaning or Laundry Delivery - Nothing. Most services instruct drivers not to accept gratuities.
  • Liquor delivery - 10-15%.
  • Newspaper - Nothing except at Christmastime. See above.
  • Pizza deliveries or other food deliveries - 15%, but not less than $2.
  • Delivering a big box like a TV to your car - Nothing. Most stores prohibit employees from receiving tips, and the employee may be subject to discipline for doing so.

Full-Service Gas Stations

If you receive service (clean windshield, check fluid levels, etc.), the tip varies from $1-5 depending upon how much they do. $1-2 for a good job on the windshield, and $3-5 for windshield and fluid check. If you have to ask the person to do these things or they do a poor job, then I wouldn't tip anything for windshield only or $1-2 for the full whammy.

There is one big exception. If the price of gas at the self-service pumps is $1.70 and the price for full-service is $2.50, then they are already charging you for the service.

Casino Tipping

Before we talk about casino tipping, let's discuss a budget. Before you go to a casino, you should determine how much you are willing to lose before you call it quits. Gambling is fine for entertainment, but it is not a good means of wealth accumulation. If the odds weren't in the house's favor, casinos would not make as much money as they do. Gambling without a budget is poor stewardship of your money. I personally recommend against gambling. I know too many people who didn't expect to have a problem but are now addicted to gambling. It can ruin families and finances.

Casino workers are a part of the service industry and make 2/3 of their income from tips. Without tips, they are grossly underpaid.

One general rule for tipping at a table is that you tip when you are winning, not losing.

  • Craps or blackjack dealer - $5+ chip per session. If you prefer, you can place a side bet for the dealer up to 10%. The size depends upon the table's minimum bet; however, it need not ever exceed $25. At a $5 table, the tip would be a $1 chip. At a $25 table, use a $5 chip.
  • Poker dealers - $5+ chip per session. You may tip 10% of your winnings, but not to exceed $25.
  • Roulette dealers - $5+ chip per session.
  • Keno writers/runners - $1+ for first ticket. If you play a lot, tip more. 5% if you win.
  • Drinks waiter - $1+ chip per drink. Remember that you are getting free drinks because alcohol lowers your inhibitions and you will gamble more.
  • Slot machine changers - These guys are pretty much obsolete because most machines today spit out paper receipts of winnings. If you do have a machine that pays in coins, tip $1+ chip per change, plus 5% on a jackpot, not to exceed $25.
  • Slot machine attendants - $1-2 chip when they repair your machine.

Tip Jars

They're showing up everywhere -- tip jars. Most people hate them. Where is it appropriate to leave a tip in a tip jar? We'll cover some of the basics.

  • Starbucks - Nothing.
  • Any fast-food restaurant - Nothing.
  • Buffet-lines or cafeterias - Nothing. If there is a person who comes around and keeps your tea glass full, tip him personally $1-2.
  • Donut, bagel or coffee shop - Nothing.
  • Sports arena concession stands - Nothing.
  • If you get the idea that tip jars are out of place at any food-service establishment that does not actually bring the food to your table and keep your drinks refilled, then you are correct.
  • Laundry service - Nothing.
  • Car wash - $2-3 for a car; $3-5 for an SUV or large vehicle. If there is a tip jar, leave your tip there. It will be split among the workers. Otherwise, tip the person(s) who did the cleanup after the wash.


 Life span vs. age at retirement

1. Most Creative Years in the Life

The Nobel Laureate, Dr. Leo Esaki, delivered the distinguished lecture entitled "Innovation and Evolution: Reflections on a Life in Research" in the University of Texas at Dallas in the afternoon of Feb. 23, 2002 during the 2002 US National Engineering Week. In this lecture, Dr. Esaki indicated that most of the great discoveries and innovations by the Nobel Laureates occurred at the average age of 32 even though the Nobel prizes were awarded 10 or 20 years afterwards. Furthermore, Dr. Esaki indicated that the peak creativity of most scientists occurred around the age range of 20 to 30 years. As one gets older, the experience increases but the creativity decreases steadily with the age.

It is, therefore, very important to stimulate, encourage and cultivate many young people to get interested in science and engineering at their young age and to provide the optimal R&D environment for these very powerful young scientists and engineers to unleash their very strong creativities during their most precious and creative years around the age of 32.

2. Longevity Vs. Retirement Age

The pension funds in many large corporations (e.g., Boeing, Lockheed Martin, AT&T, Lucent Technologies, etc.) have been “Over Funded” because many “late retirees” who keep-on working into their old age and retire late after the age of 65 tend to die within two years after their retirements. In other words, many of these late retirees do not live long enough to collect all their fair shares of pension money such that they leave a lot of extra-unused money in the pension funds resulting in the over-funded pension funds.

Dr. Ephrem  (Siao Chung) Cheng provided the important results in the following Table 1 and the associated chart from an actuarial study of life span vs. age at retirement. The study was based on the number of pension checks sent to retirees of Boeing Aerospace.

Table 1 – Actuarial Study of life span vs. age at retirement.

Age at


Average Age

At Death
































Table 1 and the chart indicate that for people retired at the age of 50, their average life span is 86; whereas for people retired at the age of 65, their average life span is only 66.8. An important conclusion from this study is that for every year one works beyond age 55, one loses 2 years of life span on average.

The Boeing experience is that employees retiring at age of 65 receive pension checks for only 18 months, on average, prior to death. Similarly, the Lockheed experience is that employees retiring at age of 65 receive pension checks for only 17 months, on average, prior to death. Dr. David T. Chai indicated that the Bell Labs experience is similar to those of Boeing and Lockheed based on the casual observation from the Newsletters of Bell Lab retirees. A retiree from Ford Motor told Dr. Paul Tien-Lin Ho that the experience from Ford Motor is also similar to those in Boeing and Lockheed.

The statistics shown in the Pre-Retirement Seminar in Telcordia (Bellcore) indicates that the average age that Telcordia (Bellcore) employees start retirement is 57. Therefore, people who retire at the age of 65 or older are minority as compared to the number of early retirees.

The hard-working late retirees probably put too much stress on their aging body-and-mind such that they are so stressed out to develop various serious health problems that forced them to quit and retire. With such long-term stress-induced serious health problems, they die within two years after they quit and retire.

On the other hand, people who take early retirements at the age of 55 tend to live long and well into their 80s and beyond. These earlier retirees probably are either wealthier or more able to plan and manage their various aspects of their life, health and career well such that they can afford to retire early and comfortably.

These early retirees are not really idling after their early retirements to get old. They still continue doing some work. But they do the work on the part-time basis at a more leisure pace so that they do not get too stressed out. Furthermore, they have the luxury to pick and chose the types of part-time work of real interest to them so that they can enjoy and love doing that “fun” work at a more leisure pace. 

The late retirees are small in number, tend to die quickly after retirement and disappear from the population of old people beyond the age of 70. Late retirees, therefore, have very little weight on the statistical average life expectancy of the population of “old people” dominated by the early retirees.

Several years ago, a Japanese friend of mine told me that most Japanese people retire at the age of 60 or earlier. This may be one of the factors contributing to the long average life span of Japanese people.

3. Changing Trend of US Pension Plans

The traditional pension plans of many major US companies used to place a lot of value on the experience of long-term older employees by increasing the pension money rapidly and nonlinearly for long-term employees as their age + service year increases beyond the threshold of the rule of 75. Most long-term employees cross this critical threshold at about the age of 55. On the other hand, the early retirees incur very heavy penalty in pension and in other associated retiree benefits (e.g., employer paid medical insurance, employer paid life insurance, death benefits for family, etc.) when they retire before they meet the rule of 75.

However, in recent few years, many large US corporations are switching from their traditional retirement pension plans to the new portable Cash Balance Plans. The new portable cash balance plans are much more favorable to the younger employees but are very unfavorable to the long-term older employees. Some older long-term employees found that when their employers switched from the traditional pension plans to the cash balance plan, their pensions were reduced by 30% to 50%.

One of the implications of this trend towards the new cash balance plan is that the US corporations are now placing more value on the higher creativity and adaptability of younger employees and less value on the experience of the older employees. This is consistent with the accelerating pace of innovations and technology advances. The creative and dynamic younger employees are better positioned, than the older employees do, to keep up with the faster pace of technology advances.

4. Conclusion and Recommendations

The most precious, creative and innovative period in your life is the 10-year period around the age of 32. Plan your career path to use this precious 10-year period wisely and effectively to produce your greatest achievements in your life.

The pace of innovations and technology advances is getting faster and faster and is forcing everybody to compete fiercely at the Internet speed on the information super-highways. The highly productive and highly efficient workplace in USA is a pressure-cooker and a high-speed battleground for highly creative and dynamic young people to compete and to flourish.

However, when you get older, you should plan your career path and financial matter so that you can retire comfortably at the age of 55 or earlier to enjoy your long, happy and leisure retirement life into your golden age of 80s and beyond. In retirement, you can still enjoy some fun work of great interest to you and of great values to the society and the community, but at a part-time leisure pace on your own term.

On the other hand, if you are not able to get out of the pressure-cooker or the high-speed battleground at the age of 55 and “have” to keep on working very hard until the age of 65 or older before your retirement, then you probably will die within 18 months of retirement. By working very hard in the pressure cooker for 10 more years beyond the age of 55, you give up at least 20 years of your life span on average.

By Sing Lin, Ph.D.  林星雄 博士

Member of National Council of

Chinese Institute of Engineers – USA/Greater New York Chapter, and

Member of Board of Director of

National Taiwan University Alumni Association – Greater New York

March 2002


Why auto rates are rising

Jun 04, 2009

No matter what the economic climate, we would all like to be bailed out of higher auto insurance premiums.

Certainly that was a dominant theme during our online forum yesterday on thestar.com. Here is a sample of the questions and answers. To read the complete hour's worth of discussion, look under my columns on the website.

Q: Is it true that the business model of the auto insurance industry is based on collusion and fraud? I asked for rates from five brokers and their quotes were almost all identical.

A: There are three possible explanations for the similarity in prices quoted.

1. You happened to call five brokers that represent the same insurers. A handful of insurers that sell through brokers account for a high proportion of Ontario auto insurance business. Three other larger insurers (State Farm, The Co-operators and Allstate) do not sell through brokers. Other insurers market directly to affinity groups such as university alumni, for example TD Meloche Monnex, underwritten by Security National.

2. You have recent at-fault claims or driving infractions that make you such a high-risk driver only a couple of insurers – or the high-risk industry pool known as the Facility Association – would accept you as a policyholder.

3. Insurers have an acute streak of irony and have put out the word to brokers to direct all conspiracy theorists to Kingsway General.

You could use the online rate quotation services (insurancehotline.com, kanetix.ca, myinsuranceshopper.ca) to look for better rates than you were quoted.

Q: I found out that Grey Power hiked their rates by 15 per cent. Because of this I changed our car, van, and house insurance to another firm and got a much better rate for the same coverage. We have never had an at-fault accident and think Grey Power's move is unfair. Why are they allowed to do this?

A: Grey Power puts the bulk of its customers with Trafalgar Insurance, a subsidiary of Intact Financial Corp., which is the former ING Canada. Trafalgar has had two general rate increases approved by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario in the past year: 4.88 per cent for renewing customers last November, and 4.5 per cent starting June 1, for a combined increase of 9.6 per cent.

Your 15 per cent increase was obviously above the average, and I cannot guess the reason. Your business may not have been with Trafalgar, or your vehicles, neighbourhood or the Grey Power group of drivers may have had an increase in claims costs that was higher than average.

FSCO looks at the company's claims losses relative to premiums before approving rate increases and allows for companies to make a profit. Many Ontario insurers are complaining that their cost of injury claims is rising quickly, and will be applying for more rate increases if the government does not come up with a reasonable solution to the rising cost of claims, one that controls the amount of money spent on minor sprains and strains while leaving enough money to care for those with more serious brain and other injuries.

Q: I retired at the end of May. I called my insurance broker. I will not be driving to work any more. I was told to wait six months and then call them and to submit a form and return it to them. Should the broker adjust my premium now? Why wait six months? It does not make much sense to me.

A: Some insurers only adjust their rates at the time of contract renewal, while some (I am thinking of the Chieftain option with Dominion of Canada General) will adjust rates sooner, which has its advantages when rates are falling, but not when rates are rising, as is now the case. You could ask about your company's refund policy, shop the market for a cheaper rate based on your new driving status, and then judge whether it would be worthwhile to switch sooner.

Just be aware that some companies may have applied for rate increases that could kick in later. To get an idea about which companies have and have not raised rates, you could visit the website fsco.gov.on.ca and look under auto insurance and auto quarterly rate approvals.



New Border Travel Requirments 



Buy North American
Remember your kids are watching!

Click here for short video (or right click and save target as....)




Save Our Pensions

Thanks to all Our Retirees
That Participated!

Barkley Don
Berry Doug
Blackstock Reg
Brown Pat
Christensen Jon
Collins Norm
Cuthbert Jeanne
Cuthbert Ken
Devriese Ric
Donnelly Dave
Galbraith Reg
Goodison Jerry
Hart Stu
Hart Stu (Son)
Holtman Frank
King Tony
Koloff Steve
Lang Barry
Lang Kathy
Leblanc Dennis
Macdonald Ramsey
Marek Frank
Marek Joe
Mauser Frank
Moran Dave
Nearing Byron
Rouse Sy
Russell Bill
Schouten Henry
Scott Carney
Scott Doug
Shaw Helen
Shaw Orville
Speirs Pete
Sproats Bill
Stevenson Bob
Tellier Guy
Thompson Alec
Thompson Kevin
Von Zuben Ted
Vugts Joe
Vugts Joe (Wife)
Waller Ernie
Wilski Chris
Wilski Pauline
Zammit Charlie 

Also Thanks to Local 584 for their support and providing transportation.

Activists Converge on Queen’s
Park for Massive Pension Rally 

Over 15,000 demonstrators lined the grounds of Queen's Park, waving flags and holding placards outside the Ontario Legislative Building on April 23, demanding immediate action from governments and corporations to protect workers pensions.  

The event brought together union and non-union activists, community groups and senior organizations from across the province, a symbol of what CAW President Ken Lewenza called the “collective power of people” in his fiery speech to the crowd.

“Employers are taking advantage of this economic crisis to roll back the progress workers have made over the years to improve their standard of living,” Lewenza said. “But we’re going to use the collective power of the people to win economic and social justice.”

Lewenza was joined by labour leaders Ken Georgetti (President of the Canadian Labour Congress), Wayne Samuelson (President of the Ontario Federation of Labour), Smokey Thomas (President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union), and Sid Ryan (President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees – Ontario).

“Workers will not be fodder in this mess – workers didn’t cause this mess,” said Ryan.

CAW Retired Workers Council President and National Executive Board member Len Harrison spoke about the important contributions retired workers make to communities across the country every day through their tireless volunteer efforts.

Harrison, a General Motors retiree from CAW Local 199 in St.Catharines, Ontario, has been outspoken on the desperate need to ensure the Ontario Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund is fully backstopped by government. Premier Dalton McGuinty has indicated the Fund was in jeopardy should a major corporation, like GM, go bankrupt.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath spoke about the connection between manufacturing job losses in the province and the growing pension crisis, calling on the government to backstop the Fund and increase the maximum monthly payout from $1,000 to $2,500.

Former CAW Local 1530 President Mary Jane MacKinnon, who represented workers at Nortel in Belleville, Ontario, and General Motors Salaried Pension Organization President Brian Rutherford, representing non-union employees at General Motors in Oshawa, also spoke at the rally.

The pension crisis is not just an issue that affects workers in the manufacturing sector, but one that touches all workers across the country, Lewenza said.

“It’s about working people having the right to retire with dignity and respect, and not having to worry about their pension and retirement income.”

Labour rallies will continue across the country in the coming weeks as part of the Canadian Labour Congress’ Get Real! It’s the Economy campaign.

Check the CAW website for more information: http://www.caw.ca/en/7317.htm

Don't Touch Our Pensions

Pension Rally

Fighting Back makes a Difference

The likelihood of a bankruptcy by one, two or all of the big 3 is relatively high. What is bankruptcy and how will it affect you? Why are the corporations and both the Federal and Provincial governments demanding concessions to retirement pensions and benefits? Why are retirees and workers being blamed for the present situation in the Auto industry? What can we do as Retirees to fight this?

These and many more questions were raised at an Auto Council meeting in Toronto on Monday April 6th. It is hard to comprehend the severity of the possible consequences we could all face over what may transpire over the next few crucial weeks. This letter is not intended to cause you unnecessary worry and grief but to inform you of what may happen and to build some support.

Gm and Chrysler have dominated the news over the past few months while Ford has been perceived as being safest and healthiest and most likely to succeed of the big 3. Once you start looking at Ford’s situation a little closer you find that they too are in a financial crisis. They too have borrowed billions from private institutions, this being done just before the big economic downturn when credit was more accessible.

Ford of Canada has recently been leaking anonymous information to the media in order to get a message across that Retiree Benefits and their legacy costs are too high and have to be cut in order for them to be competitive. They have also publicly stated that the GM deal did not go far enough and they want the cuts to be a lot deeper. It’s a proven fact that cuts to wages and pensions will not make a difference, even if we went without any pay at all this would only keep the company going for an extra week or two. The bottom line is they need to start selling cars, if no one buys their vehicles, no one will survive.  

Both Tony Clement and Dalton McGuinty are demanding more concessions and are focusing in on Retiree pensions and benefits and are threatening to end any financial relief to GM and Chrysler if cuts are not made which in turn is encouraging Ford to ask for even more reductions.

The government does not have the legal ability to reduce or take away pensions or benefits but they want the corporations to do it. We have earned our pensions during our working life and these are contractual commitments made and cannot be resolved at the bargaining table.

These politicians are the same people that are guaranteed a lifetime pension after only two terms in office (6 Years), how dare they ask to give up ours. They are also the ones saying that no government monies will be used for pension shortfalls. They are also the same politicians that allowed the corporations to take holidays from their pension funding obligations even when the corporations were making billions of dollars in profits.

The most recent figures as of December 2008 give the funding of pensions at the Big 3 at, GM 57%, Chrysler 91% and Ford 73%. Since this time the stock markets have taken enormous hits causing these funds to drop on average anywhere from 20 to 25%. That could have the Ford pension at possibly 54% funding. In a worst case scenario in a total wind up of the Ford Pension Plan in bankruptcy a retiree would only be eligible for 54% of their pension and no benefits. 

In 1980 the Ontario government started up the PBGF (Provincial Benefit Guarantee Fund) which guaranteed a worker a minimum of $1000.00 per month in the event of a pension wind up. Since then a government task force was set up to review this plan and they came back suggesting that this amount be raised to $2,500 a month. In the meantime there has been talk of this fund going bankrupt and the government is backing away from any commitments to fund it.

Bankruptcy could be a very real option and the attached document should be read so you can understand what happens in this situation and how it will affect retirees. * (Click here for Document)

If what you’ve read so far has made you uneasy then you’re not alone, the CAW bargaining committee has many concerns and many variables to contend with as I’m sure you know from the media coverage. The reassuring note comes from CAW President Ken Lewenza who has committed to fight for retirees and has already put the corporations and governments on notice that retiree pensions and benefit takeaways are not on the table. In order for him and the bargaining committee to successfully achieve this they will need the support of all the retirees. Their fight is also our fight!

Who would have thought that we would be in this position today.  What happens over the next few weeks will determine what state our pension and benefits will be in for many years to come. Can we make a difference, you bet we can.  All of the things we enjoy today were not always easy to obtain and in most cases were hard fought. I believe that the time to fight to save what we have is now and we have to show that we are all in this together.

We have to show the government and the corporations that we stand together in this fight and we refuse to burden the blame for the global financial meltdown and become pawns where the little guy, who can least afford it has to make all the sacrifices.  We have to let them know that they have no right to touch or even threaten to reduce or take away what we have earned and is rightfully ours.

On April 23, 2009, 12 Noon we will be asking all retirees and their spouses to give up a few hours to join thousands of others in a rally at Queens Park to not only show support for our union’s fight but to all other pensioners who are just as vulnerable in today’s economic climate. We cannot be silent, just your presence will make a big difference. Let’s all stand up and be counted.

If you would like to participate in this rally then please email me back with your support and I will be in contact with you as soon as more of the details become available. Please pass this message along to all your Retiree friends.  

In Solidarity,

Chris Wilski
CAW Local 584 Retirees Chapter


What Would It Mean for the Auto Industry?
(Click here for Leaflet)


April 18, 2009

Dear Retirees:

In the fall of each year CAW Loc.584 invites all our retirees and their spouses, to our annual Thanksgiving Dinner. This event becomes more and more successful every year but still there are a number of you that do not participate, I guarantee if you attend you‘ll be thoroughly delighted with meeting friends from the plant that you haven't seen in a while or just re-new past acquaintances (I hesitate to use old). Participation as a group is what it’s all about.These are times of celebration and like now, times of crisis and survival.

Hopefully you have been keeping pace lately with the crisis in the economy, more specifically the Auto Industry. And surely by now you must realize retirees have become the latest scapegoats for the Corporations, the Federal and Provincial governments and let’s not leave out the fence sitting media.

Now imagine, the spokespersons for the corporations who have millions stashed away in offshore accounts from the hours we toiled for the past 30-40 years and they will get millions more when they leave. Then you have the likes of Harper, Clement, McGuinty and Flaherty, people who have held office for short periods of time with good wages and lucrative expense accounts, and after two terms in office (6yrs.,) will receive indexed pensions for LIFE worth more than you were making working overtime. Now they are sticking their noses in the collective agreement process the parties agreed upon. These nervy conceited politicians are doing everything possible to crush unions. They want to steal what benefits we have left, and drive our pension income into poverty levels.

What concessions did they demand when the banks and the financial communities were getting billions of your tax dollars? No (they say) we will go back and we’ll kick the working class again, the pensioners, they're vulnerable, pushovers. Watch the news, everyday you see Lewenza and his CAW leadership fighting to keep our industry alive, making sure retirees, their spouses, partners, and surviving spouses maintain what income and benefits we have left, yet still work out some compromise suitable to get this economy back on its feet.

In my 30-40 years of involvement, no CAW or UAW leader has ever been faced with a crisis of this magnitude, this new young courageous leader and his peers who inherited this mess, need to know that WE will be there for them on APRIL 23/09 We all have a responsibility to participate and support our cause, call your friends neighbors, car pool to the buses.

We need your participation now and let’s show them that our pensions can’t be touched.

Call or e-mail if you can attend. Contact Chris at cwilski@rogers.com or Frank at frank@3ringstudios.com or phone 519 534-1776

Frank Marek 
Vice Chair
Loc.584 Retirees  





Alt. Committeeperson- Shift 3

            Vito Bellomo     109    Elected

                                         Terri Fletcher           65 

Total Ballots:  175

Spoiled Ballots: 1


Alternate Benefit Rep

Geoff Riddle    84

             Melony Luffman    89     Elected

Total Ballots:  175

Spoiled Ballots:  2

Recording Secretary

Dan Armstrong   163    Elected

                                 Mariola Lombardi   60

Total Ballots:  227

Spoiled Ballots:  4

Trustee (3)

Chris Moody   162    Elected

Alison White   162    Elected

Kim Timmins   134    Elected

                                   Pat Riley   123         


Spoiled Ballots: 2


Sergeant at Arms

John Honcharsky   143    Elected

                               Arlene Rudolph       81

Total Ballots:  227

Spoiled Ballots:  3


Plant Chairperson

Kim Clout   109    Elected

                                      Richard Green   31

                                      Tim Borden   67

Total Ballots: 209

Spoiled Ballots:  2


Committeeperson – Shift 2

Gary Rumboldt  119     Elected

                                  John McCloskey   88

Total Ballots:  209

Spoiled Ballots:  2


Committeeperson – Shift 3

Damien Long  109    Elected

                                    Bryan Levasseur   99

Total Ballots:  209

Spoiled Ballots:  1


Committeeperson – Shift 3

Terri Fletcher   85    Run-off

Vito Bellomo   93    Run-off

                                    Andrew Calbery   30

Total Ballots:  209

Spoiled Ballots:  1

Alternate Benefit Rep

Melony Luffman   69    Run-off

                                 Claudio Parise   57

                                 Geoff Riddle   80    Run-off

Total Ballots:  209

Spoiled Ballots:  3

Education Chairperson

Mark Machado   135    Elected

                                  Chris Englund   85

Total Ballots:  227

Spoiled Ballots:  7


Human Rights Chairperson

Ariff Azees   136     Elected

                                    Melony Luffman   85

Total Ballots:  227

Spoiled Ballots:  6


Women's Committee Chairperson

Lisa Bogden   147    Elected

                                    Tammy Dempsey   75

Total Ballots:  227

Spoiled Ballots:  5


Alternate EAP Rep

                                   Michelle Harwood   67

Glen Swatman   138    Elected

Total Ballots:  209

Spoiled Ballots:  4


CAW Council Delegate (2)

                                Kim Clout   109    Elected

Dave Champagne   161    Elected

                               Gary Rumboldt   64

                               Richard Green   33

                               Tim Borden   65

Spoiled Ballots:  1

CAW Convention Delegate (2)

                                Kim Clout   124    Elected

Dave Champagne   183    Elected

Terri Fletcher   40

Tim Borden   83
Spoiled Ballots:  3




President.                               Dave Champagne             Acclaimed


Vice President.                       Ken Donaldson                Acclaimed


Financial Secretary.                Arvin Gangwar                 Acclaimed


Recording Secretary.              Dan Armstrong                 Accept
                                              Mariola Lombardi             Accept

Trustee (3 Required)              Chris Moody                    Accept
                                              Alison White                    Accept
                                              Kim Timmins                    Accept
                                              Pat Riley                           Accept

Guide.                                    Barb Morrison                  Acclaimed

Sergeant at Arms.                      
                                              John Honcharsky              Accept
                                              Arlene Rudolph                Accept

Plant Chairperson.                  Kim Clout                        Accept
                                              Richard Green                  Accept
                                              Tim Borden                      Accept

Committee Person                 Gary Rumboldt                  Accept
#2 shift.                                  John McCloskey               Accept


Committee Person                  Bryan Lavasseur               Accept
#3 shift.                                  Damien Long                    Accept

Alternate Committee Person   Justin James                      Acclaimed
#2 shift.                                         

Alternate Committee Person   Terri Fletcher                    Accept
#3 shift.                                  Vito Bellomo                    Accept
                                              Andrew Calberry              Accept

Health and Safety.                  Thayne Smith                     Acclaimed

Alternate Health and Safety.   Steve Burns                       Acclaimed

Benefits.                                 Sharon Burton                   Acclaimed

Alternate Benefits.                  Melony Luffman                Accept
                                              Claudio Parise                   Accept
                                              Geoff Riddle                     Accept

Education Chairperson.           Mark Machado                Accept
                                              Chris Englund                    Accept

Social Services Chairperson.  Penny McCabe                 Acclaimed

Recreation Chairperson.         Sandy Pitman                    Acclaimed

Human Rights Chairperson.    Ariff Azees                        Accept
                                              Melony Luffman                Accept


Women's Committee              Lisa Bodgen                      Accept
Chairperson.                          Tammy Dempsey               Accept

Women's Advocate.                      


EAP.                                      Michelle Harwood            Accept
                                              Glen Swatman                   Accept

Alternate EAP.                       Nasir Naghar                    Acclaimed


By-laws Committee                Tammy Dempsey              Acclaimed
2 required.                             1 Position Vacant
CAW Council                        Kim Clout                         Accept
2 required.                             Dave Champagne              Accept
                                             Gary Rumboldt                   Accept
                                              Richard Green                   Accept
                                              Tim Borden                       Accept

CAW Convention                  Kim Clout                         Accept
2 required.                             Dave Champagne              Accept
                                              Terri Fletcher                    Accept
                                              Tim Borden                      Accept

Labour Council Delegate        Damien Long                     Acclaimed
 3 required                              Penny McCabe                 Acclaimed
                                              John McCloskey               Acclaimed

Election Committee

Election Committee

Retiree Voting

Retiree Bob Stevenson Voting

Check Out the 2010 Ford Fusion


Clock ticks on drivers who
need new licence

Province admits many won't get them in time

May 06, 2009 04:30 AM
Rob Ferguson

Ontario motorists can now apply for the new high-security enhanced drivers' licences that will be among the only documents U.S. border guards will accept as proof of identification starting June 1, but the odds of getting one by the deadline are tight.

Transportation Minister Jim Bradley unveiled the new licences yesterday, acknowledging that everyone who wants one will "probably not" get one by the deadline because 15-minute interviews required as part of the application process won't begin until May 19.

"Some will but not all," Bradley told reporters, suggesting passports are an alternative that can be used more widely because the licences are good only for land and water crossings to the U.S.

The new licences are proof of Canadian citizenship and contain a radio frequency identification chip.

The Liberals took too long to get the new licences out and missed their own winter deadline, which could hamper traffic flow across the border for some people, said Progressive Conservative transportation critic John O'Toole.

"You didn't get it done," he charged in the Legislature.

The licences, which cost $40 on top of the $75 licence fee, are available only at ServiceOntario centres in nine major cities – not at transportation ministry licence bureaus.


Ontario’s Drinking &
Driving Law is changing.

On May 1st, 2009 new sanctions come into effect in Ontario to prevent drinking and driving and increase road safety. 

What's changing?

Currently, a driver who is stopped by police in Ontario and who is found to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) between 0.05 and 0.08 (more commonly known as the warn range) would have their driver's licence immediately suspended for 12 hours.  The suspension wouldn't be recorded or tracked.
Effective May 1st, warn range driver's licence suspensions will be tracked and drivers will face new, increasing sanctions:

First Time:

*           three-day licence suspension
*           $150 Administrative Monetary Penalty

Second Time (within five years):

*           seven-day licence suspension
*           Mandatory alcohol education program
*           $150 Administrative Monetary Penalty

Third Time (within five years):

*           30-day licence suspension
*           Mandatory alcohol treatment program
*           Six-month ignition interlock licence condition
*           $150 Administrative Monetary Penalty

Subsequent infractions (within five years):

*           30-day licence suspension
*           Mandatory alcohol treatment program 
*           Six-month ignition interlock
*           Mandatory medical evaluation
*           $150 Administrative Monetary Penalty

These roadside licence suspensions cannot be appealed. Suspensions will be recorded on the driver’s record. For up to five years, these roadside suspensions will be considered when determining consequences for subsequent infractions.

The introduction of these new sanctions is an important change to help prevent drinking and driving and promote community safety.

For further information on impaired driving sanctions and road safety in Ontario, please visit the the Ministry of Transportation's Web site (www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/impaired/index.shtml).  For information about how alcohol affects the body, blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and factors that affect BAC, please click here (www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/impaired/fact-sheet.shtml#bac).

Please drink and host responsibly.  If you are planning to drink, the safest choice is not to drive.  As a host, please encourage your guests to use designated drivers, take public transit or taxis.    








The Beatles


A Day in the Life
A Hard Day's Night
A Taste of Honey
Across The Universe
Act Naturally
All I've got to Do
All My Loving
All Together Now
All You Need Is Love
And I Love Her
And Your Bird Can Sing
Anna (Go To Him)
Another Girl
Any Time At All
Ask Me Why
Baby It's You
Baby You're A Rich Man
Bad Boy
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Blue Jay Way
Can't Buy Me Love
Carry That Weight
Come Together
Cry Baby Cry

Day Tripper
Dear Prudence
Devil In Her Heart
Dig A Pony
Dig It
Dizzy Miss Lizzie
Do You Want to Know a Secret
Doctor Robert
Don't Bother Me
Don't Let Me Down
Don't Pass Me By
Drive My Car
Eight Days a Week
Eleanor Rigby
Every Little Thing
Everybody's Got Something to Hide
Except For Me and My Monkey

Everybody's Trying to be My Baby
Fixing a Hole
Flying (instrumental)
For No One
For You Blue
Free As A Bird
From Me To You
Get Back
Getting Better
Glass Onion
Golden Slumbers
Good Day Sunshine
Good Morning, Good Morning
Good Night
Got To Get You Into My Life
Happiness is a Warm Gun
Hello, Goodbye
Helter Skelter
Her Majesty
Here Comes The Sun
Here, There And Everywhere
Hey Bulldog
Hey Jude
Hold Me Tight
Honey Don't
Honey Pie
I Am the Walrus
I Call Your Name
I Don't Want to Spoil the Party
I Feel Fine
I Me Mine
I Need You
I Saw Her Standing There
I Should Have Known Better
I Wanna Be Your Man
I Want To Hold Your Hand
I Want To Tell You
I Want You (She's So Heavy)
I Will
I'll Be Back
I'll Cry Instead
I'll Follow the Sun
I'll Get You
I'm a Loser
I'm Down
I'm Just Happy to Dance with You
I'm Looking Through You
I'm Only Sleeping
I'm so tired
I've Got A Feeling
I've Just Seen a Face
If I Fell
If I Needed Someone
In My Life
It Won't Be Long
It's All Too Much
It's Only Love
Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey
Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand
Lady Madonna
Let it Be
Little Child
Long Tall Sally
Long, Long, Long
Love Me Do
Love You To
Lovely Rita
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Maggie Mae
Magical Mystery Tour
Martha My Dear
Maxwell's Silver Hammer
Mean Mr. Mustard
Money (That's What I Want)
Mother Nature's Son
Mr. Moonlight
No Reply
Norwegian Wood
Not a Second Time
Nowhere Man
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Octopus's Garden
Oh! Darling
Old Brown Shoe
One After 909
Only A Northern Song
P.S. I Love You
Paperback Writer
Penny Lane
Please Mister Postman
Please Please Me
Polythene Pam
Real Love
Revolution 1
Revolution 9
Rock and Roll Music
Rocky Raccoon
Roll Over Beethoven
Run For Your Life
Savoy Truffle
Sexy Sadie
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
She Loves You
She Said, She Said
She's A Woman
She's Leaving Home
Sie Liebt Dich
Slow Down
Strawberry Fields Forever
Sun King
Tell Me What You See
Tell Me Why
Thank You Girl
The Ballad of John And Yoko
The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill
The End
The Fool On The Hill
The Inner Light
The Long And Winding Road
The Night Before
The Word
There's A Place
Things We Said Today
Think For Yourself
This Boy
Ticket to Ride
Till There was You
Tomorrow Never Knows
Twist and Shout
Two of Us
We Can Work It Out
What Goes On
What You're Doing
When I Get Home
When I'm Sixty-Four
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Why don't we do it in the road
Wild Honey Pie

With a Little Help From My Friends
Within You Without You
Words of Love
Yellow Submarine
Yer Blues
Yes It Is
You Can't Do That
You Know My Name
You Like Me Too Much
You Never Give Me Your Money
You Really Got a Hold on Me
You Won't See Me
You're Going to Lose That Girl
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
Your Mother Should Know

The Beatles video from Albums:

Please Please Me
With The Beatles
A Hard Day's Night
Beatles For Sale
Rubber Soul
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Magical Mystery Tour
The Beatles - White Album
Yellow Submarine
Abbey Road
Let It Be
Past Masters Volume 1
Past Masters Volume 2


Shutting Detroit Down
Listen to John Rich's New Song

My daddy taught me
In this county everyone’s the same
You work hard for your dollar
And you never pass the blame
When it don’t go your way

Now I see all these big shots
Whining on my evening news
About how their losing billions
And it’s up to me and you
To come running to the rescue

Well pardon me if I don’t shed a tear
Cuz they’re selling make believe
And we don’t buy that here

Because in the real world they’re
Shutting Detroit down
While the boss man takes his
Bonus pay and jets on outta town

DC’s paying out the banker
As the farmers auction ground
And while their living up on Wall Street
In that New York City town
Here in the real world they’re
Shutting Detroit down
Here in the real world they’re
Shutting Detroit down

Well that old mans been working
Hard in that plant most all his life
And now his pension plans
Been cut in half and
He can’t afford to die
And it’s a crying shame
Cuz he aint the one to blame
When I look down and see his
Callused hands Well let me tell you friend
It gets me fighting mad

Because in the real world they’re
Shutting Detroit down
While the boss man takes his
Bonus pay and jets on outta town

DC’s paying out the banker
As the farmers auction ground
And while their living up on Wall Street
In that New York City town
Here in the real world they’re
Shutting Detroit down
Here in the real world they’re
Shutting Detroit down


UAW Ford



View any Newspaper from any city in the world



2009 Academy Award Winners

A list of winners at last night's Academy Awards:

Picture: Slumdog Millionaire

Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Actor: Sean Penn, Milk

Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader

Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Supporting Actress: Penélope Cruz, Vicky Barcelona

Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire

Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black, Milk

Foreign-Language Film: Departures

Animated Feature Film: WALL-E

Animated Short Film: La Maison en Petits Cubes

Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire

Costume Design: The Duchess

Art Direction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Makeup: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Live Short Film: Spielzeugland (Toyland)

Documentary Feature: Man on Wire

Documentary Short: Smile Pinki

Visual Effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Sound Editing: The Dark Knight

Sound Mixing: Slumdog Millionaire

Original Score: Slumdog Millionaire

Original Song: "Jai Ho" from Slumdog Millionaire



Click on the year you were born
and read the news for that year.  

_1900_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1900.html )  
                  _1901_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1901.html )  
                  _1902_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1902.html )  
                  _1903_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1903.html )  
                  _1904_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1904.html )  
                  _1905_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1905.html )  
                  _1906_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1906.html )  
                  _1907_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1907.html  
                  _1908_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1908.html )  
                  _1909_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1909.html )  
                  _1910_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1910.html)  
                  _1911_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1911.html )  
                  _1912_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1912.html )  
                  _1913_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1913.html )  
                  _1914_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1914.html )  
                  _1915_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1915.html )  
                  _1916_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1916.html )  
                  _1917_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1917.html )  
                  _1918_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1918.html )  
                  _1919_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1919.html )  
                  _1920_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1920.html )  
                  _1921_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1921.html )  
                  _1922_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1922.html )  
                  _1923_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1923.html )  
                  _1924_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1924.html )  
                  _1925_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1925.html )  
                  _1926_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1926.html )  
                  _1927_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1927.html )  
                  _1928_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1928.html )  
                  _1929_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1929.html )  
                  _1930_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1930.html )  
                  _1931_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1931.html )  
                  _1932_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1932.html )  
                  _1933_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1933.html )  
                  _1934_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1934.html )  
                  _1935_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1935.html )  
                  _1936_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1936.html )  
                  _1937_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1937.html )  
                  _1938_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1938.html )  
                  _1939_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1939.html )  
                  _1940_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1940.html )  
                  _1941_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1941.html )  
                  _1942_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1942.html )  
                  _1943_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1943.html )  
                  _1944_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1944.html )  
                  _1945_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1945.html )  
                  _1946_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1946.html )  
                  _1947_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1947.html )  
                  _1948_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1948.html )  
                  _1949_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1949.html )  
                  _1950_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1950.html )  
                  _1951_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1951.html )  
                  _1952_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1952.html )  
                  _1953_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1953.html )  
                  _1954_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1954.html )  
                  _1955_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1955.html )  
                  _1956_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1956.html )  
                  _1957_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1957.html )  
                  _1958_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1958.html )  
                  _1959_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1959.html )  
                  _1960_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1960.html )  
                  _1961_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1961.html )  
                  _1962_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1962.html )  
                  _1963_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1963.html )  
                  _1964_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1964.html )  
                  _1965_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1965.html )  
                  _1966_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1966.html )  
                  _1967_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1967.html )  
                  _1968_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1968.html )  
                  _1969_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1969.html )  
                  _1970_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1970.html )  
                  _1971_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1971.html )  
                  _1972_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1972.html )  
                  _1973_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1973.html )  
                  _1974_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1974.html )  
                  _1975_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1975.html )  
                  _1976_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1976.html )  
                  _1977_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1977.html )  
                  _1978_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1978.html )  
                  _1979_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1979.html )  
                  _1980_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1980.html )  
                  _1981_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1981.html )  
                  _1982_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1982.html )  
                  _1983_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1983.html )  
                  _1984_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1984.html )  
                  _1985_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1985.html )  
                  _1986_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1986.html )  
                  _1987_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1987.html )  
                  _1988_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1988.html )  
                  _1989_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1989.html )  
                  _1990_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1990.html )  
                  _1991_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1991.html )  
                  _1992_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1992.html )  
                  _1993_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1993.html )  
                  _1994_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1994.html )  
                  _1995_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1995.html )  
                 _1996_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1996.html )  
                  _1997_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1997.html )  
                  _1998_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1998.html )  
                  _1999_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/1999.html )  
                  _2000_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/2000.html )  
                  _2001_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/2001.html )  
                  _2002_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/2002.html )  
                  _2003_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/2003.html )  
                  _2004_ ( http://www.infoplease.com/year/2004.html )  
                  _2005_ (http://www.infoplease.com/year/2005.html  )
                  _2006_  (http://www.infoplease.com/year/2006.html )   


Square One Senior's Discounts

Click Here





Ford workers accept pact
Security from sudden layoffs cited as a key benefit

September 24, 1990

IN AGREEMENT: Ford Motor Co. employees, members
Bob Luffman, Steve Godsoe, Tony King, Bob Bates, Bill Russell, Chris Wilski, Neil Cunning and Ernie Mackay 
(Left to right)

Almost 13,000 Ford workers have ended
their nine-day strike by voting a resounding
91 per cent approval of their new contract.
"1 believe, over-all, this agreement is the
best we've ever negotiated,"a happy union
president Bob White said after yesterday's

White said his Canadian Auto Workers'
settlement with Ford Motor Co.of Canada
should set a pattern, not only for Ford's com
petitors, but for legislation on both federal
and provincial levels.

"I see no reason why (prime Minister)
Brian Mulroney can't make this into a law,"
Whlte said."He said he was going to make
this the best country in the world and he did
nothing. And it's a pattern for the province,

White said the section of the contract calling
for one year notice of any workplace closing and six months notice of any job loss as a result of technological change represented
the biggest gains.

"All the gains were important,"White
said."I feel very good about It."

"We think, all the way around, it's a good,
responsible contract that's in the best interests of the company and employees, "Ford spokesman Jim Hartford said. "We're happy to be in a position to get the plants back in operation."

White said he was to meet with the General
Motors of Canada bargaining committee
today and will see Chrysler people tomorrow.
"Basically, we'll talk timetable, "White

One of the most unusual gains from Canadian
Ford, especially for a large unionized
corporation, is a $500 vacation bonus.

Among other benefits are:

-Wage increases of 7.5 per cent the first
year, 6.7 the second and 4.8 per cent the
third year. The increases raise the base rate
to $21 an hour from $17.83 cents an hour.

-Three extra days off a year to give workers
more long weekends.

-A $100 million fund to pay workers who
take early retirement and provide income
supplements, payable for up to three years,
for those who lose their jobs.

-Agreement by the company to place
$250,000 a year into a fund for food banks
and to alleviate national disasters.

Ford of Canada normally makes more
than 10,000 cars and 3,200 trucks a week in
its southern Ontario plants.

Torontro Star
(thanks to Bob Luffman & Ross Lowery for this submission)

Ratification !

New 2008 - 3 Year Contract


Bramalea to Pay New Retirees
Buyout Packages of $75,000
plus a $35,000 car Voucher

Approx 43 workers are Participating


Retirees now eligible for an additional $2,600 vehicle discount in addition to the'A' Plan


The ratification results are as follows:

Production: 69% in favour

Skilled Trades: 72% in favour

Parts Depot: 93% in favour

*Office Unit: 100% in favour

*The office unit is not calculated in the main total.


Saturday May 3, 2008
CAW/FORD Bargaining Report

2008 Contract Brochure

Click here for Brochure


CAW - MS Powerpoint Presentation


Video Clip of Bob Chernicki


Bramalea CAW Local 584 votes 93% to Accept Agreement


Pictures From Ratification Meeting















Click Here


The CAW and Panic Bargaining:

Early Opening at the Big Three

Sam Gindin - May 2008

Read it here


Read Bob White's Response to this article


Adobe Reader is required & Available Here
Adobe Reader


A clear choice: plasma or LCD?
Plasma TVs, which use more electricity, can offer a superior picture because they can display truer black colours and have higher contrast ratios than LCD screens

Choosing between the two technologies may hinge on price and how the TV will be used

Tom Katsiroubas
Special to the Star

It's an inevitable question when looking for a flat-panel HDTV these days: Will it be plasma or LCD?

It was easier when there were only cathode-ray tubes and choice came down to size and brand. Now, we are confronted with different and confusing technology options. How do you choose between plasmas and LCDs?

Price could be one way.

Plasma HDTVs 50-inches or larger cost less than similar sized LCD HDTVs, but the price gap is closing, especially with the popular 42- to 46-inch sizes.

As for life expectancy, both plasmas and LCDs are capable of running around 60,000 hours, or eight hours a day for 20 years, before half brightness occurs. And they are both now capable of an exceptional 1080p HD resolution.

Plasmas are known to be somewhat of an electricity hog, but Barry Murray, marketing director at Panasonic Canada, feels that tag is a bit unfair.

"Government regulations require plasmas to list the maximum watts used, when, in fact, they consume closer to half that power in real-world conditions," he says. "Plasmas light each pixel individually, as required, but LCDs always have a backlight running and block the light to produce colours."

With all this in mind, how do we choose?

Ultimately, it comes down to how you want to use your HDTV.

If you are a videophile looking for the true home-theatre experience, an HDTV plasma might be the way to go.

Generally, plasmas are known for their superior picture performance because they can display truer black colours than LCDs. Plasmas can run a very low level of luminance to create the colour black and have higher contrast ratios than LCDs, producing a more detailed true-to-life picture.

LCD HDTVs are no slouches on picture quality but they still can't block out enough of the underlying backlight to produce the same level of blacks as plasmas.

Plasmas are also believed to offer smoother and more realistic video motion with quicker pixel refresh rates, but LCDs are quickly catching up.

The new 120Hz refresh technology being incorporated in LCDs is considered one of the biggest breakthroughs in some time, according to Patrick Lapointe, director of marketing for LCDs at Sony Canada.

"Our MotionFlow technology (120Hz refresh) provides smoother motion and seamless action for sports scenes," he says. "By doubling the number of frames on the screen every second, the eye perceives much less judder (instability) and blurriness than before."

Viewing angles are also better on plasmas, up to an extreme 160 degrees. At that angle, you would be just about beside the screen with no loss of brightness or colour saturation. Higher-end LCDs like ones from Sony have decent viewing angles and are fine for most family room seating arrangement.

Of course, if you don't have an HDTV set-top box from your television program provider or a Blu-ray DVD player, you just won't get the video quality you'd expect. If your TV set-top box or DVD player doesn't support the new HDMI interface, they probably don't provide HD video.

If you plan to also hookup a PC/Mac or a game console such as an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, you might want to consider an LCD HDTV.

While plasmas can do an excellent job projecting these, they still have a slight risk of burn-in, a permanent ghostlike image associated with prolonged display of a static image. LCD HDTVs are immune to burn-in so they are the safe bet, but they do suffer from stuck or dead pixels (permanently lit or unlit).

Another reason to consider an LCD is viewing distance. LCDs tend to have a smoother picture in a shorter viewing distance, making it optimal for using a computer or game console with it when you want to get up close. But note that if you are hooking up a computer, you won't get a decent picture unless it has a DVI or HDMI video card.

The language of high-def TV

HDTV: High-definition television, a standard agreed upon in 1997 by the "Grand Alliance" of electronics manufacturers and content providers. It was the first major upgrade since the advent of TV just after World War II. Involves three major resolutions: 720p, 1080i and 1080p.

RESOLUTION: A measure of the amount of picture information used in a TV image; closely correlated to image quality.

The three major resolutions refer to the number of horizontal lines used; the letter refers to whether scanning is done in progressive or interlaced fashion.

SCANNING: The number of times an image is flashed on the screen per second. Two types: progressive, which displays all lines with each scan, and interlaced, which alternates between even and odd numbers with each scan.

PIXELS: Derived from "picture elements." Horizontal and vertical lines on a modern digital television are made up of pixels.

The more pixels, the better the image quality. HDTVs with a resolution of 1080p use more than 2 million pixels – 1,920x1,080 – which is more than 60 times more than standard-definition televisions (230x300).

FLAT PANEL: Modern digital televisions based on either plasma or LCD technology that are thin enough (less than 6 inches or so) to hang on a wall. Also called "direct view."

PROJECTION: Types of television based on either front- or rear-projection technology.

Rear-projection models are much larger and deeper than direct-view flat panels and are, generally speaking, being replaced by them.

Front-projection units, based on LCD or digital-light-processing (DLP) technology, are an excellent alternative for large-screen images in certain optimized conditions, but there are disadvantages.

LCD: Liquid crystal display, the major rival to plasma in large-screen, flat-panel HDTVs.

PLASMA: The major rival in large-screen, flat-panel HDTVs.

CRT: Cathode ray technology, the large, bulbous TV tubes most of us grew up watching.

Excellent picture quality, but not capable of being made in sizes larger than 35 inches or so. Very few manufacturers make them at all any more.

BLU-RAY: One of two major high-resolution technologies competing to replace DVDs.

HD DVD: The other major high-resolution technology competing to replace DVDs.

DVI: Digital video interface, a hardware/software protocol for linking computers to televisions. Likely to be replaced by HDMI.

PROGRESSIVE SCANNING: All image lines are displayed simultaneously with each scan.

INTERLACED SCANNING: Even and odd lines of a TV image are displayed alternately with each scan.

DOLBY DIGITAL SURROUND: Also known as AC3 or 5.1 surround. It's the main audio specification under the HDTV and DVD specifications.

It calls for the encoding of five discreet digital channels of audio (the "5") and one subwoofer channel (the "1").

To play it properly, the end user must have a "Dolby Digital" receiver with five discrete amplifiers (one for each channel of audio), five identical full-range speakers, plus one powered subwoofer.



Early Army Picture

Konrad Wilski in Army



This is dedicated to my Dad, Konrad Wilski. I am not only blessed with the greatest parents in the world but also blessed to have them both still here to share good times with. I want to say I love you both very much.






Also here is an account of my Dad's Story
from his early years in Poland through
the War Years from him personally.

Click here to read his own Story in his own words.

Solidarity Forever

A Song by Ralph Chaplin

To Play Song Click Here

When the union's inspiration through the workers' blood shall run
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one
For the Union makes us strong

Solidarity forever, solidarity forever
Solidarity forever
For the Union makes us strong

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite 
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?  
Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?  
For the union makes us strong

It is we who ploughed the prairies, built the cities where they trade
Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid
Now we stand outcast and starving 'mid the wonders we have made
But the union makes us strong 

All the world  that's owned by idle drones is ours and ours alone 
We have laid the wide foundations, built it skyward stone by stone 
It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own  
While the union makes us strong

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn
We can break their haughty power gain our freedom when we learn
That the Union makes us strong

 In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold
Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousandfold
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old
For the Union makes us strong


Solidarité Mes Frères Et Mes Soeurs

Paroles françaises: J. Baumgarten 1915

Nous engraissons le capital et ses usines
Enchaînés du matin au soir à la machine
Pour notre peine, des salaires de famine
Mais l'union nous rendra forts

Solidarité mes frères et mes soeurs
Solidarité mes frères et mes soeurs
Solidarité mes frères et mes soeurs
Ensemble nous vaincrons

Mais si un jour nous arrêtons tous nos machines
Mais si un jour nous occupons tous nos usines
Puissants patrons vous ferez alors tristes mines
Car l'union nous rendra forts.

En combattant pour elle, la classe ouvrière
Apportera un ordre nouveau sur la terre
Au coude à coude restons unis, prolétaires
C'est l'union qui nous rend forts.



Ralph Chaplin was a poet , artist, writer and organiser for the Industrial Workers of the World. He wrote this song in 1915 just six months before his fellow IWW songwriter Joe Hill was executed. It was to become the anthem of the American labour movement. It goes to the tune of the American Civil War song John Brown's Body. Ralph Chaplin said "I wanted a song to be full of revolutionary fervour and to have a chorus that was singing and defiant"

Thanks to Bernard Carney for permission to use his version of the song from his 1996 CD "Stand Together". Visit Bernard's website at http://bernardcarney.com/

10 Q&A's on Canadian
Pension Income Splitting

Q.1 What is pension income splitting?

A.1 Beginning with 2007 income tax returns, Canadian residents will generally be able to allocate up to one-half of their income that qualifies for the existing pension income tax credit to their resident spouse (or common-law partner) for income tax purposes.
The amount allocated is deducted in determining the net income of the person who actually received the pension income, and it is included in computing the net income of the spouse or common-law partner. Pension splitting affects the calculation of income and tax payable for both persons, so they must both agree to the allocation in their tax returns for the year in question.

Q.2 Is it necessary to contact the payer of the pension?

A.2 Splitting eligible pension income does not have any effect on how or to whom the pension income is paid, so it does not involve the payer of the pension. Information slips will be prepared and sent to the recipient of the pension income in the same manner as previous years.

Q.3 Who qualifies for pension income splitting?

A.3 A pension recipient (pensioner) and his or her spouse or common-law partner can elect to split the pensioner's “eligible pension income” received in the year if:
• they are married or in a common-law partnership with each other in the year and are not, because of a breakdown in their marriage or common-law partnership, living separate and apart from each other at the end of the year and for a period of 90 days commencing in the year; and
• they are both resident in Canada on December 31; or
o if deceased in the year, resident in Canada on the date of death; or
o if bankrupt in the year, resident in Canada on December 31 of the calendar year in which the tax year (pre- or post-bankruptcy) ends.

Q.4 What is “eligible pension income”?

A.4 Eligible pension income is generally the total of the following amounts received by the pensioner in the year (these amounts also qualify for the pension income amount):
• the taxable part of annuity payments from a superannuation or pension fund or plan; and
• if received as a result of the death of a spouse or common-law partner, or if the pensioner is age 65 or older at the end of the year:
o annuity and registered retirement income fund (including life income fund) payments; and
o Registered Retirement Savings Plan annuity payments.
Note: Old Age Security and Canada or Quebec Pension Plan payments do not qualify. And, payments from an unfunded supplementary employee retirement plan (SERP) do not qualify .

Q.5 How do individuals elect to split eligible pension income?

A.5 The pensioner and spouse or common-law partner have to make a joint election in prescribed form with their income tax returns for the year on or before their filing due date (generally April 30 of the year following the tax year, or June 15 if self-employed). The new Form T1032, Joint Election to Split Pension Income, will be available by January 2008. The 2007 income tax return will include a new line for the pensioner to deduct the amount of pension allocated to the spouse or common-law partner. A new line will also be added for the spouse or common-law partner to report the allocated pension income.

Q.6 Who will claim the tax withheld at source from the eligible pension income?

A.6 The income tax that is withheld at source from the eligible pension income will have to be allocated from the pensioner to the spouse or common-law partner in the same proportion as the pension income is allocated.

Q.7 Will pension income splitting affect the pension income amount?

A.7 The pensioner will be able to claim whichever amount is less: $2,000 or the amount of his or her eligible pension income after excluding amounts allocated to his or her spouse or common-law partner.
The spouse or common-law partner will be able to claim whichever amount is less: $2,000 or the amount of his or her pension income that is eligible for the pension income amount, including the allocated pension income.
Note: A pension that qualifies for the pension income amount in the hands of the pensioner does not necessarily qualify for the pension income amount in the spouse or common-law partner's hands because eligibility can depend on age (see Q.4).

Q.8 Does pension splitting affect the Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) credit, Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB), and other federal or provincial benefits and tax credits?

A.8 Allocating pension income to a spouse or common-law partner reduces the pensioner's net income and increases the spouse or common-law partner's net income. As a result, benefits and tax credits that are calculated based on the total of the net incomes of both spouses or common-law partners—such as the GST/HST credit, CCTB, and related provincial or territorial benefits—will not change as a result of pension splitting.

However, pension splitting will affect any tax credits and benefits that are calculated using one individual's net income, such as the age amount, the spouse or common-law partner amount, and the repayment of Old Age Security benefits.

Q.9 If pensioners intend to split pension income when filing their returns, can they ask for a reduction of tax being withheld from the eligible pension income during the year?

A.9 The CRA cannot approve a reduction of tax withheld at source based on an election to split pension income.

Q.10 If pensioners intend to make this election when filing their 2007 returns, can they reduce their instalment payments?

A.10 Many individuals, including pensioners, are required to pay tax by instalments, and the CRA issues instalment reminders to them indicating the amounts to be paid by each instalment due date. However, as an alternative to paying the amounts shown on the reminders, instalment payments can instead be made based on either the individual's prior-year net tax owing and CPP payable, or his or her estimated current-year net tax owing and CPP payable.

Under the current-year option, an individual can estimate his or her current-year net tax owing for 2007 based on the intention to split pension income. However, if the instalment payments are insufficient, instalment interest may be charged. More information about instalment payments and instalment interest charges is available in Pamphlet P110, Paying Your Income Tax by Instalments.


An Old Man’s Last Stand


When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a small hospital near Tampa, Florida, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value.

Later, when the nurses were going through his meager possessions, They found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.

One nurse took her copy to Missouri . The old man's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas edition of the News Magazine of the St. Louis Association for Mental Health.  A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem.

And this little old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this " anonymous" poem winging across the Internet.

Crabby Old Man

What do you see nurses? ..What do you see?
What are you thinking.....when you're looking at me?
A crabby old man, ...not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .......with faraway eyes?

Who dribbles his food.......and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice....."I do wish you'd try!"
Who seems not to notice .the things that you do.
And forever is losing .......... A sock or shoe?

Who, resisting or not...........lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding .... The long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking?   Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse......you're not looking at me.

I'll tell you who I am .......... As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, .....as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten.......with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters .......who love one another

A young boy of Sixteen ..with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now. .......a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty ......my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows......that I promised to keep.

At Twenty-Five, now .......... I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide .... And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty ....... My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other ........ With ties that should last.

At Forty, my young sons ...have grown and are gone,
But my woman's beside me.......to see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more, ......... Babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children ..... My loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me ............... My wife is now dead.
I look at the future ...............I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing......young of their own.


And I think of the years....... And the love that I've known.

I'm now an old man.........and nature is cruel.
Tis jest to make old age ......look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles..........grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone........where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass ..... A young guy still dwells,
And now and again .......my battered heart swells
I remember the joys........... I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living.............life over again.

I think of the years ..all too few......gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact........that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people ..........open and see..
Not a crabby old man.  Look closer....see........ME!!

Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within.....we will all, one day, be there, too!


To flash, or not to flash,
for cops?


No evidence' that charge of flashing beams to
warn of speed traps is illegal driving practice

Jim Kenzie

Special to the Star

Jan 26, 2008

I'm a huge supporter of the police, but you wonder who counsels them on public relations.

They wonder why the driving public often does not co-operate with them, when they pull stunts like they did March 24 last year.

Brad Diamond, producer of TSN's Motoring 2008 (full disclosure: I appear on this show) lives near Broadview and Danforth Aves. Every Saturday morning he goes out for his usual four-buck coffee.

On this day he was driving westbound on the Prince Edward Viaduct, which connects Danforth Avenue and Bloor Street across the Don Valley. He spotted a radar trap nailing eastbound drivers, and passed it at approximately 49.999 km/h. It's there all the time so it was no surprise to him.

Of course, like most concerned citizens, he has often wondered: if radar is supposed to be a traffic safety measure, why would they run it on a bright sunny Saturday morning, on a three-lanes-each-way bridge, with excellent visibility in all directions, without a single intersection, store, home, school or in fact much human activity at all?

Surely, there are more dangerous places they could be trying to slow people down?

Let alone more important public safety initiatives the police could be doing?

Can you say "fishing hole," boys and girls?

Okay, so speeding is speeding, and speeding is against the law everywhere. But seriously.

As any concerned citizen would do if he knew someone was possibly going to break a law – especially if he knew the cops were lying in wait at the potential scene of the crime – Diamond flicked his headlights at oncoming traffic.

As you would. And as you would, most of the oncoming traffic did slow down.

Now, still assuming, perhaps naively, that slowing traffic down to make the roads safer is the objective of radar (it never works, but that's a story for another day), you'd think the cops would be happy that Diamond was assisting in their cause.

You'd think they'd want everybody flashing their headlights, all the time. Who'd take a chance at speeding then?

But no, stationed at the west end of the bridge were a couple more cruisers, pulling people like Diamond over for warning people about the radar trap.

$110 and no points.

I checked the Highway Traffic Act (HTA). I could find no reference to radar speed traps at all, let alone anything about it being illegal to warn other drivers about them. After all, traffic reporters and some websites even announce their locations.

The ticket said the offence was "flashing head beams" in contravention of the HTA, section 169.

Never mind that I have been in the car game for more than 30 years and have never heard the term "head beams."

I checked section 169 and nowhere does it mention radar traps in there.

Sgt. Cam Woolley of the Ontario Provincial Police told me that this law was put in place a few years ago to prevent "civilian" vehicles from impersonating emergency vehicles, notably tow trucks trying to bully their way through traffic to be first on the scene of a wreck.

Nothing at all about radar.

What's more, Diamond's Chevy Tahoe was not producing "alternating"' flashes of light. "Alternating" means one, then the other (just like police cars and other emergency vehicles can do), not both on/both off.

Not only was there no harm, there was no foul.

In our legal system, the legislature passes the laws, the police enforce them. It is not up to the police to make up their own laws – that's what they call a police state.

If the legislature decided in its collective wisdom to make warning of radar speed traps illegal, how hard would it be to pass an unambiguous law to that effect?

I can even help: "It is unlawful to warn other drivers about upcoming radar speed traps; never mind that they don't improve traffic safety."

Okay, the legislature might choose different wording.

The fact is, the legislature has not chosen to pass a law like this, or anything remotely like it.

If Diamond had been standing on the sidewalk holding a neon sign reading, WARNING! RADAR AHEAD!', there would have been nothing the cops could have done.

Needless to say, he decided to fight the ticket.

He contacted the prosecutor, saying the law in question had nothing at all to do with what he allegedly had done, but she said they were going to proceed with the court case.

Okay then, Jan. 10 it would be.

I had a 30-page script ready to go as Diamond's representative. (My dad, who was a lawyer, would have been proud of me. I hope.)

At traffic court, you first present yourself to the prosecutor, who asks how you're going to plead. You'd think anyone who didn't just pay the ticket in the first place and who had shown up at 9 a.m. to fight it would plead not guilty, but some didn't.

You also may have the option of pleading guilty to a lesser charge, which the first case of the morning did.

We were about fourth on the docket.

The prosecutor called Diamond to the bench, asked his name, read the charge, and asked how he pleaded.

"Not guilty, your worship,"' he responded.

Then the prosecutor said, "The police officer has no evidence in this case, your worship."'

"Case dismissed,"' said the justice of the peace.

WHAT? The police officer has "no evidence"? If he had no evidence, why the heck did he lay the charge in the first place?

The fact is, he had no law upon which to base the charge, because Diamond had not done anything illegal.

They assume that you will assume you had in fact done something illegal, fork over your cash, and they smile all the way to the bank.

Now, dad always said that in court, you take a win any way you can. But we were disappointed not to take it to trial so as to set a precedent against this little Buford T. Justice scam by the Toronto Police.

Someone more paranoid than me might suspect they did not want it to go to trial for that very reason, so as not to put their scurrilous behaviour on the trailer for all time.

Now, maybe the "no evidence"' gambit is traffic court shorthand for "the cop didn't show up." But usually with fishing holes, they expect a certain number of people to fight the tickets and schedule the cop for court duty.

I guess we'll never know.

I don't blame the individual cop here, although some of them are clearly overzealous in their pursuit of tickets, quotas, or whatever other pressures they face from their superiors.

But I think it is disgusting that police management sends cops out there to lie in wait to ticket unsuspecting law-abiding citizens when they have to know that what they're ticketing them for is not against the law.

And if they didn't know that before, they sure do now.

Toronto Star



Home | News | About us | History | Gallery | Contact Us | Retirees | Links | Benefits | Humour