Brampton woman convicted of manslaughter in sister-in-law’s death

By Laura Fraser, CBC News

 

A jury found Mandeep Punia guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter in the death of her 27-year-old sister-in-law on Saturday, after acquitting the Brampton woman of second-degree murder.

Punia’s husband — Skinder Punia — was also found guilty of acting as an accessory after the fact to manslaughter in the death of Poonam Litt.

Litt was reported missing in February 2009. Her remains were found on a property in Caledon Village, about 25 kilometres northwest of Brampton, three years later.

The young mother worked at a dental office a few blocks from her home and walked there each day. But on the morning of Feb. 5, 2009, she never arrived.

Litt had a young daughter and was pregnant at the time of her death.

Her husband, Manjinder Litt, travelled to India on Jan. 13, 2009, which was the last day he saw her, according to police at the time of the search.

At Punia’s first court appearance, police said Litt’s husband had never been considered a suspect in her disappearance.

Punia will be sentenced May 27.

CBSA officers find suspected opium in shipment from India at the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) announced today the seizure of 15 kg of suspected opium at the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport.

On April 15, 2016, CBSA officers were conducting routine examinations at a courier facility on the airport grounds. A shipment originating from India and described as “toiletries” was selected for further inspection. An X-ray of one of the bottles inside the shipment showed anomalies and once opened, officers discovered that it was filled with a brown tar-like substance with an earthy odour. Subsequent drug testing proved positive for suspected opium. In total, 15 bottles were found to contain suspected opium.

“Smugglers will go to any extent to conceal contraband but our officers used their training and experience to deter the shipment from making it to its intended destination.” says  Mark Leonard, CBSA Director, Outports and Postal Operations District, Greater Toronto Area Region.

The suspected opium was turned over to York Regional Police.

Your kid’s prom just got even more expensive

POLLY MOSENDZ, WASHINGTON POST

 

Parents are accustomed to being treated like human cash machines during prom season, spending close to $1,000 to guarantee that a high school dance doesn’t become an emotional catastrophe.

A hundred bucks for tickets, and hundreds more for fancy clothes-even the corsage costs $20. And before any of that begins, your kid wants $300 for a promposal. Wait, a what?

A promposal is an elaborate invitation to the prom – a concept that first gained Web traction in 2011 and now is an institution alongside limo rentals and after parties. Asking someone to the prom has been tradition for as long as there have been school dances. But the concept of promposing took on new life in the digital era. Teens now plot grandiose events to gain the attention not only of their potential date, but of everyone else on social media, in turn generating YouTube channels, Twitter , and, of course, listicles.

Students lucky enough to experience a promposal are sometimes on the receiving end of an outrageous, and often complex, feat of planning. One promposal that went viral involved the purchase of Kanye West’s popular sneaker, the Boost. Another promposal, less expensive but much more difficult to pull off, involved Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz reading on behalf of a teenager.

For the rest, it can be expensive cosmetics, Beyoncé tickets, or even a puppy. One thing they all have in common is that parents are picking up some, or all, of the tab.

Predictably, brands have gotten in on the action, looking to capitalize further on the already expensive event. National Promposal Day, March 11, was registered this year by Men’s Wearhouse Inc., which rents tuxedos for the occasion. A branded social media campaign about the day reached more than 2 million Facebook and Instagram users, and a promposal-themed SnapChat filter, made available to students at more than 18,000 American high schools, was used almost a million times.

It’s unclear how many teens ended up with dates that day, but Men’s Wearhouse is hoping it’ll lead to a boost in sales and rentals. Not to be outdone, prom dress retailers are latching onto the phenomenon in store and posting about promposals on company blogs. “We know our customers are receiving proposals, and they like reading about them,” explained Devin VanderMaas, director of marketing for Faviana, a special occasion dress retailer in New York City. “It’s also one of the more searched keywords right now. Girls who are most likely going to buy our dress are also Googling promposal stories. That’s another way for us to find new people and have them discover our brand.”

Golden Asp, a prom dress retailer in Pennsylvania, also published several promposal-themed blog posts, including the “Ultimate Promposal Guide.” Owner Jon Liney says he often hears tales of promposals from his staff and customers: “When you see a trend like this, that just adds to the significance of prom; it has to help sales.”

You know something has arrived in the teen consciousness when credit card companies take notice. Visa, which tracks prom-related expenses in an annual nationwide survey, added promposal costs to the total prom bill for the first time last year. The company found the average American household with teenagers spent $324 on promposing. Promposal spending varies around the country: New England families with teenagers come in at $431 per promposal, compared with $342 in the West, $305 in the South and $218 in the Midwest. Promposals are so prolific that they’re becoming the most expensive part of the event.

Total spending on the prom, which includes the cost of clothing, transportation, tickets, food, photographs, and the after party, is down since 2013, when it was $1,139, according to Visa. In 2014, it fell to $978 and again last year by 6 percent, to $919.

Conventional wisdom would assume wealthier families spend more on proms, and promposals, but Visa found families making less than $25,000 per year spend $1,393 on proms, compared with families that earn more than $50,000 spending just $799. Visa referred to the finding as “disconcerting,” but the study didn’t explain why this might be the case. In fact, low-income families are often encouraged to turn to charitable organizations, such as Operation Prom, for free prom dresses and tuxedos. The New York nonprofit is considering expanding those services to include promposals.

“We’ve thought about these promposals over the past two years as they’ve increasingly gotten popular,” said Operation Prom founder Noel D’Allacco. She’s working on making her organization part of the process, considering whether to encourage wealthier students to use her organization for their promposal and in the process help fund prom expenses for those less well-off. “We’ve been trying to get creative for what we can do to help that promposal come true.”

At the other end of the spectrum, getting a professional to plan a promposal is an extra chunk of change. Sarah Glick, a proposal planner at New York City’s Brilliant Event Planning, charges $495 for a concept design and a minimum $2,500 for executing the promposal. The company has been approached about a dozen times to plan a promposal, but the clients chose not to go ahead due to the price. The Heart Bandits, a Los Angeles proposal planning firm that charges $1,000 for promposal services, has received about 30 inquires about promposals and planned at least five, according to founder Michele Velazquez.

Teens have no incentive to cut cost with parents still subsidizing this much of the total prom spending

Despite the growing trend, not all teenagers are wooed by pricey promposals. “I’ve seen on Twitter where boyfriends buy their girlfriends hundreds of dollars worth of makeup to ask them, which I think is ridiculous,” said Meghan, 16, from Pueblo, Colo., whose parents requested that she be identified only by her first name. “People buy their girlfriends fishes, and puppies, and clothes, all kinds of stuff. It’s crazy.” Meghan was promposed to more simply: Her date purchased a Starbucks coffee and wrote ‘Prom?’ on the side and carried a poster reading ‘This is hard to espresso … but I’ll take a shot.’

With promposals on the upswing, parents find themselves more willing to foot the bill: In 2014, parents surveyed by Visa said they were planning to pay for 56 percent of prom costs. The next year, parents upped the amount to 73 percent. “Teens have no incentive to cut cost with parents still subsidizing this much of the total prom spending,” Visa determined. At the Heart Bandits, parents normally pay, but the teenager goes through the planning process with Velazquez’s team, filling out a questionnaire about the prospective date.

As for teenagers wooed with puppies, Beyonce ticks and more, planner Glick expects the trend will affect the traditional proposal market in the coming years. “It sets the bar so high for these girls. Where are they going to go from here for their own marriage proposal?”

Apparently, paying $4,000 for an engagement ring won’t be enough anymore.

Guest Editorial: Kidnappings and killings abroad

OTTAWA CITIZEN

 

Until the gruesome execution of John Ridsdel by the group Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines, Canadians kidnapped by thugs around the world have either eventually been freed, or at least have remained alive. Ridsdel’s killing puts us in grim company with other countries whose citizens have suffered similar agonizing deaths.

The death also raises fresh questions about government policy when a citizen is taken by a criminal gang in another country. Should we negotiate? Pay ransom? Do we have an obligation to take extraordinary measures?

Some say no: International law does not require a government to go to extreme lengths to ensure the safe return of a citizen who, after all, has chosen freely to be in a dangerous place. Diplomat Robert Fowler travelling to Niger; Journalist Mellissa Fung reporting from Afghanistan; writer Amanda Lindhout going to Somalia — each was an intelligent person who chose to go to a perilous place.

Indeed, extraordinary measures to help such people might endanger others, goes this argument. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the point Tuesday, vowing that Canada “does not and will not” pay ransom, because this allows “terrorist organizations” to continue their mayhem, including threatening other Canadians abroad.

But “Canada”, of course, is not the same thing as “families.” The latter are likely to pony up whatever they can to bring a loved one home; the official policy of a country is beside the point.

Real-world events, meanwhile, are rapidly overtaking judgmental thinking about the “they knew what they were doing” types of travellers. Our nationals work abroad — Ridsdel was a mining executive, for instance — or are dual citizens visiting their other country, or are doing good work for international NGOs. At any given time, millions of Canadians may be outside our borders. And while it seems obvious that travel to, say, Syria, is dangerous, modern events have shown that a night in the wrong Paris club or café can also be fatal, as can a flight through Brussels.

In such a world, Canada’s luck was bound to run out sooner or later. There are no pat policy pronouncements that can make this reality go away.

Laura Jones: Lack of affordability hampers small business

By LAURA JONES

 

Pete McMartin’s recent column, Running on Empty: The Westside loses its garages, gives an excellent glimpse into the challenges facing many businesses: “Vancouver isn’t only becoming a prohibitively expensive city in which to live, but one, also, in which it’s difficult for small independent businesses to survive.”

It is in vogue for politicians to worry about affordability for the middle class. But what of affordability for small business owners who are themselves typically middle class and who support thousands of middle class jobs?

For the business owners McMartin interviewed, property taxes were a significant factor in their decision to close, with each paying around $100,000 a year in property taxes. When you consider how many auto repairs it would take to pay this tax bill alone, you start to understand the affordability challenges that small business owners face. Business owners also pay provincial and federal income taxes, as well as EI, CPP, and WCB premiums for employees.

On top of government tax bills, business owners must generate enough money to cover the business of being in business — paying for supplies, equipment, rent, employee wages, and their own wages. Artist Andy Warhol captures the creativity this takes: “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

Yet the art of running a small business is one that many municipal politicians continue to undermine by making it unaffordable. Overspending has fuelled punitively high levels of property taxes. A resident on an average value property in Vancouver ($1,532,937) pays $5,395 in property taxes while a small business owner pays $22,710 (part of this is provincial school taxes, which are also unfairly high).

For some municipal politicians, including Vancouver’s mayor, support for the “living wage” has become a way to translate concern over affordability into a more concrete policy position. The idea is to pay city staff and those that contract with the city a wage that covers basic costs for a family of four with two income earners. New Westminster was the first municipality to adopt it in 2011.Vancouver’s “living wage,” according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is $20.64 an hour or roughly $40,000 a year. The living wage policy is not so great for small businesses that get shut out of contracting with the city for things such as food deliveries and ground maintenance if they can’t pay their staff the living wage.

In Vancouver, we continue to lose businesses even while our population grows — between 2012 and 2014, there were 987 fewer business licenses issued.

Do these well-intentioned mayors realize that most small business owners fall below the living wage themselves? Business owners earning less than $40,000 a year outnumber those earning more than $250,000 by a ratio of 4 to 1. In fact, about a third of business owners earn less than $33,000 a year, and two-thirds earn less than $73,000 a year.

In the quest to make things affordable for the middle class, policies like the living wage miss the point. A thriving middle class and a healthy small business sector go hand and hand. When small businesses do well, they can afford to hire more and pay more, which is the point. Shouldn’t supporting the art of small business get at least as much attention as the living wage debate does?

The businesses that McMartin interviewed are not alone. In Vancouver, we continue to lose businesses even while our population grows — between 2012 and 2014, there were 987 fewer business licenses issued. Until municipalities get more serious about listening to small business, you can expect more McMartin stories in your neighbourhood. Which begs another important question: How do municipal governments think they will achieve their “affordability”, “sustainability” and “livability” goals without small business?

Laura Jones is executive vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

As Pattullo Bridge partially closes for repairs, drivers fan out to other crossings

By KELLY SINOSKI

 

Lane closures on the Pattullo Bridge for the first day of major deck repairs Monday sent thousands of drivers to seek alternate routes, including the already congested Alex Fraser Bridge.

Traffic on the Pattullo, which was reduced to one lane in each direction, was down 40 per cent during the Monday morning rush hour, with only 17,300 vehicles tallied between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. compared with 30,000 on a typical Monday at this time of year, according to Surrey’s traffic division. The bridge links Surrey and New Westminster.

The partial shutdown, which will remain in effect until October, is expected to put more pressure on three other crossings over the Fraser River — the Alex Fraser, the tolled Port Mann Bridge and the George Massey Tunnel — which together draw an estimated 300,000 vehicles daily. The Pattullo usually sees about 78,000 vehicles per day.

“They’ve only got so many options don’t they?” Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said. “Any time a vital piece of infrastructure goes down, it’s bound to cause disruption. That’s the cost of safety. It should be a new bridge.”

TransLink, which owns the Pattullo Bridge, has been forced to repair the nearly 80-year-old crossing while it waits for funding to build a new one. The $25-million rehabilitation includes major work on the deck, including the bearings, approaches, structural foundation and timber piles, to make it structurally sound.

The transit authority had warned commuters to consider taking transit, cycling, carpooling or find alternative routes while the bridge deck was being repaired, noting there would likely be increased congestion and delays during construction.

The bridge will have only one lane open in each direction except for two nights a week and one weekend a month, when it will be closed to all vehicle traffic. Bicycles and pedestrians will still have access to the bridge during the closures.

B.C.’s transportation ministry, which owns the Alex Fraser Bridge and George Massey Tunnel, said there was no evidence traffic had increased in the Massey Tunnel but there was a significant uptick in traffic on the Alex Fraser. 

An email from spokeswoman Trish Rorison said the ministry didn’t expect to have specific numbers until Tuesday, but “we are seeing an increase in volumes on the Alex Fraser with this work underway.”

B.C.’s Transportation Minister Todd Stone said on Friday the province is considering strategies to manage traffic around the Alex Fraser, which has been experiencing increased congestion, especially around Annacis Island.

The ministry has been “pulling together a comprehensive operational plan” ahead of the Pattullo rehabilitation work, according to the email from Rorison, which includes a dedicated traffic diversion monitoring team as well as more cameras to monitor congestion, and portable message signs to let people know what’s going on.

The ministry will also add more tow trucks to to better respond to incidents and remove vehicles that break down as well increase frequency of highway patrols to monitor congestion, incidents and control traffic.

 Stone noted longer term options include putting in new interchanges at Sunbury and Nordel Way, which would be costly but would help address the congestion.

“We’re looking at the entire road network to see if there isn’t a better way to flow traffic around the Alex Fraser Bridge,” Stone said, adding the province has set aside money for the upgrades but will require federal support. “At certain times of day there’s a growing challenge around congestion.”

Meanwhile, Stone urged commuters to consider using the tolled Port Mann Bridge as an alternative while the Pattullo is being repaired. However, he insisted the province has no plans to lift the tolls on the Port Mann while the rehabilitation work is underway, saying that revenue is needed to pay off the crossing.

“Give Port Mann a shot,” he said.

Some drivers heeded his advice, with another 3,000 vehicles using the tolled crossing Monday morning, bringing the total rush-hour traffic to about 28,000 from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., according to the Transportation Investment Corp., which maintains the bridge for the province. That figure is typical of a summer weekday in June or July, said TI Corp. spokesman Greg Johnson, who added that nice weather often gets people out driving more.

“We did see new drivers trying out the Port Mann today. It looked like it was a busy morning but traffic was free-flowing and there weren’t any incidents,” Johnson said, adding he expects the traffic to fluctuate as drivers figure out the best option for their commute.

“What we do expect is drivers are going to take some time and choose … the pendulum is going to swing back and forth probably for a couple of weeks before they choose their preferred (route).”

Consumer insolvencies on the rise in B.C.

British Columbians are heading toward bankruptcy in increasing numbers, and easy access to credit suggests that trend is likely to continue.

The number of B.C. consumers filing for bankruptcy or making repayment proposals to creditors has risen by 8.3 per cent in the last year, from 948 in February 2015 to 1,027 in February 2016, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy.

That mirrors a Canada-wide trend. The country as a whole has seen a 9.7-per-cent jump in consumer insolvencies, led by Alberta, where the number rose by an astounding 47.4 per cent in the last year.

Judy Scott, a trustee with MNP Debt in Surrey, said that she expects to see a gradual increase in insolvencies in coming years if interest rates stay low. Once rates go up, there could be a dramatic spike.

“If you look to the debt-to-income ratio, it’s currently at a record level. That’s an indication of the availability of consumer credit and the willingness of people to use it,” Scott said.

“Given the amount of debt that people are carrying and their willingness to continue increasing that debt, it’s going to result in increasing insolvencies.”

Credit card debt is playing a big role in the insolvency cases that come into Scott’s office, but she also sees a fair number of people defaulting on student debt payments, vehicle financing and lines of credit.

“We see a lot of people who are using credit to cover their rent and food and other living expenses. That’s typically a big warning sign,” Scott said.

And even with extremely low interest rates, some homeowners are taking on too much mortgage debt or refinancing to pay for other big purchases.

The online records for B.C. Supreme Court are littered with the stories of recent bankrupts.

They include people like Daniel Annand, a handyman who filed for bankruptcy in 2013 after taking on more than $200,000 in tax debt while helping a relative recover from a drug addiction and stave off foreclosure on her home.

Some have gone down the insolvency road before. Kipling Keylock was assigned into bankruptcy for a second time in 2012 after a series of failed real estate projects in the Comox Valley and an audit from the Canada Revenue Agency that found he had failed to report nearly $1 million in income.

A recent trend, however, is for people with heavy debt loads to offer proposals to their creditors for settling their debts rather than filing for bankruptcy.

“It shows … a desire to address the debt in a way that is fair to the parties and is manageable for them,” Scott said.

But she cautioned that the proposal route might not be right for everyone, and said getting professional advice is key for anyone whose financial situation is heading toward dangerous territory.

Scott’s key piece of advice for people carrying big debt loads is simple: Write out all your monthly living expenses as well as your minimum debt payments.

“Doing a budget is a really good idea. That might sound a little trite, but it really is, because it shows people how much they’re spending,” she said.

“A lot of people just don’t psychologically face that. When you write it down, it really makes an impression.”

And she has a rule of thumb for figuring out if you’re really in trouble: “Look at what it would take to pay off your debt over a period of 36 months. If you can manage that level of payment, you’ve got a reasonably good shot at paying it off on your own. If that payment looks a bit intimidating for you, you need to get some advice.”

The vitamin that made elderly mice live longer, and stopped their organs from aging

By Zoe Demarco

Scientists say that they have found evidence that an already-celebrated vitamin can stop the aging process of organs in mice. It could also have the potential to treat degenerative diseases in humans.

Called nicotinamide riboside (NR for short), the vitamin was given to elderly mice. Compared to their non-vitamin taking counterparts, the mice were better able to regenerate their muscles and organs. They also lived longer.

The study was published Thursday in the journal Science.

As humans, mice, and other mammals age, our muscles and organs are less able to regenerate and repair themselves when they’re damaged. This leads to many common age-related disorders, according to Medical Xpress.

Gavin Young/Calgary Herald

Gavin Young/Calgary HeraldNicotinamide riboside has also been shown to regenerate brain and skin cells.

The scientists, from Switzerland, Brazil, and the University of Ottawa, first looked at how mitochondria change with age. Mitochondria, often called the “powerhouse of the cell,” are the parts that keep it full of energy. The scientists found that the mitochondria’s ability to function properly was important for stem cells — the cells responsible for regeneration — to stay healthy as well.

“We demonstrated that fatigue in stem cells was one of the main causes of poor regeneration or even degeneration in certain tissues or organs,” Hongbo Zhang, one of the authors of the study, told Medical Xpress.

This is where nicotinamide riboside comes in. It’s a precursor to a molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+ for short), which helps mitochondria function.

So, basically, nicotinamide riboside helps to form NAD+. NAD+ keeps the mitochondria working. The mitochondria keeps stem cells healthy. And stem cells help our organs to regenerate.

NR is closely related to heart-healthy vitamin B3. Other studies have shown that it has the ability to boost metabolism and has the same regenerative abilities on the brain and skin cells.

“This work could have very important implications in the field of regenerative medicine,” said Johan Auwerx, head of the study. “We are not talking about introducing foreign substances into the body but rather restoring the body’s ability to repair itself with a product that can be taken with food.”

While the study produced no negative side effects in the mice, the regenerative effects apply to all cells, even harmful ones such as those that cause dementia. Further studies are planned, said Medical Xpress.

Police seek help with unsolved Surrey homicide

Police are seeking information and witnesses in relation to the homicide of a man found dead in a car three years ago .

Vimal Chand, 29, was discovered on Feb. 20, 2013 in the family vehicle near Hyland Elementary School at 66 Avenue and 140 Street.

On Friday, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT), with the help of Chand’s sister, released a video to remind the public of this homicide and to locate witnesses who have not been spoken to.

It can be viewed on the IHIT website at  www.homicideteam.ca

Chand had a criminal record, including a conviction for assault with a weapon. But his sister told CBC News he was a family man who hadn’t been leading a high-risk lifestyle.

Anyone with information about the homicide of Vimal Chand, or any other investigation can contact IHIT by telephone at 1-877-551-IHIT(4448)  or by email at ihitinfo@rcmp-grc.gc.ca

If you wish to remain anonymous contact Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or on the web atsolvecrime.ca

By Surrey North Delta Leader

Move over RRSP, TFSA: Here are 7 strategies for maximizing investment returns you might not know about

By Jason Heath

Investors tend to focus first and foremost on gross returns. Since an investor only gets to keep their net return after-tax, tax should be an important factor when it comes to investment decisions. The most basic example of this is to make the most of available tax shelters. Most people are aware of tax shelters like RRSPs, TFSAs and RESPs, but, if you are self-employed, you can even create your own tax shelter by incorporating and leaving some of your income in a corporation, paying a lower tax rate than you would otherwise pay personally. Jason Heath outlines seven more considerations for how to make your investments more tax-efficient.

How the wealthy can beat Ottawa’s new rules by becoming low-income to save big on their taxes

A new tax strategy for high-income earners: Ted Rechtshaffen outlines how a family can maintain their $180,000-lifestyle on taxable income of just $30,000.

  1. Investors with RRSPs and TFSAs may think that they don’t need to worry about the tax implications of their investments, but that isn’t true: foreign dividends earned in a TFSA are subject to withholding tax from the source country, and Canadian mutual funds or Canadian-listed exchange-traded funds that own foreign stocks are also subject to withholding tax on the dividends earned in an RRSP. Furthermore, RRSP withdrawals will be taxable someday, so how big to grow an RRSP and when to take withdrawals is another important tax consideration for registered accounts.

U.S. stocks that trade on a U.S. stock exchange are not subject to withholding tax when held in an RRSP — but they are in a TFSA. So RRSPs may be a better option than TFSAs for U.S. stocks. But where you hold non-U.S. foreign stocks depends on your overall asset allocation and whether you have non-registered investments as well.

  1. 2. Investors with non-registered investments should consider leaning more towards earning capital gains or Canadian dividend income. Capital gains are only 50 per cent taxable in a non-registered account. Canadian dividends are taxed at a lower rate than interest or foreign dividends, but the exact tax rate varies depending on your tax bracket.
  2. Real estate investment trusts (REITs) and limited partnerships (LPs) generally pay out distributions to investors that take different forms. While some of the income may be considered taxable dividend income, some portion may also be considered return of capital. Tax is not immediately payable on return of capital, but will reduce your cost base on an investment and increase the taxable capital gain when you ultimately sell it. REITs and LPs can boost after-tax returns in a taxable account.
  3. 4. In the ETF space, Purpose Investments’ corporate class ETFs currently allow investors to switch between different funds without incurring taxable capital gains. Horizons Exchange Traded Funds offers swap-based ETFs that convert taxable interest and dividends into deferred capital gains.

Corporate-class mutual funds have higher fees and promote active management versus their lower-fee, passive ETF cousins, but can also reduce tax on non-registered investments. CI Investments is the largest in the corporate class mutual fund industry in Canada, with over 60 offerings. But, the recent federal budget will do away with the tax-free switching option available to corporate-class investors later this year, so the clock is ticking on this particular corporate class tax efficiency.

  1. Universal life insurance has a savings feature that can be allocated into various active and passive investment options that grow tax-free. Fees tend to be higher than non-insurance solutions, so fees and tax savings need to be compared. Whole life insurance invests some of your premiums on a tax-free basis by the insurance company into unique asset classes, such as private placement bonds, residential and commercial mortgages, private equity and policy loans to other policyholders. Commissions are generally high up-front, so a whole life policy should not be a short-term commitment.
  2. Rental real estate can be extremely tax-efficient. Mortgage interest is tax-deductible and a financed rental property can sometimes create tax refunds. Even cash flow positive properties can have income sheltered from tax by claiming depreciation on your tax return.
  3. Flow-through shares can earn tax-effective returns and create tax refunds in excess of 50 per cent of your investment. The government incentivizes investors to buy flow-through shares issued by junior resource companies. These shares are especially risky and that is why tax refunds are used to attract investors.

In summary, there are many different tax-efficient ways to invest, but keep in mind that tax should never be the primary decision-making factor. A thorough understanding of retirement and estate objectives should be a starting point for any investment plan. From there, seek out tax-efficient returns, because when all is said and done, you only get to keep the after-tax amount.

Jason Heath is an advice-only / fee-only Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and income tax professional at Objective Financial Partners Inc. in Toronto