Canadians’ rising household debt key risk to economy, Bank of Canada warns

BARBARA SHECTER, FINANCIAL POST

The key vulnerabilities to the Canadian financial system continue to be elevated household debt, imbalances in the housing market across the country, and “fragile” fixed-income market liquidity, the Bank of Canada said Thursday in its year-end review.

But the central bank says new “household vulnerabilities” will be mitigated over time by new housing finance rules, which are expected to slow the housing market.

In the December report, the second of two assessments of risk each year, the Bank of Canada noted that mortgage rates are rising in response to government and regulatory changes to housing finance rules, as well as higher long-term bond yields that are increasing lender funding costs.

However, though global economic growth has picked up in the second half of the year, Canadians continue to labour under record debt loads.

“On a national basis, household indebtedness has continued to rise and, more importantly, so has the proportion of highly indebted households in many Canadian cities,” the report said.

Highly indebted individuals are key targets of the new federal measures aimed at cooling the housing market, but it will take time for the changes to have the desired effect, Carolyn Wilkins, senior deputy governor of the Bank of Canada, said at a news conference Thursday.

“It’s not something that will be a matter of weeks. That’ll be over the next few years, so it will take some time for that risk to come down,” she said.

Since the Bank of Canada’s last report on financial system stability in June, federal, provincial and municipal authorities have introduced policies and rules aimed at tamping down skyrocketing home prices, particularly in Toronto and Vancouver. These include British Columbia’s land transfer tax that applies to foreign buyers, and more stringent federal requirements to qualify for insured mortgages across the country. In addition, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions is ratcheting up the amount of capital banks must hold against riskier mortgages.

“Taken together, the changes will have the greatest effect on household indebtedness by improving the quality of future borrowing,” the Bank of Canada report says.

If new measures requiring a higher qualifying rate for borrowers had been in place during the 12 months leading up to September of 2016, 31 per cent of high-ratio mortgages issued nationally would not have qualified, the report says. High-ratio mortgages are those with a loan to value of more than 80 per cent.

The report notes that tightened rules for obtaining portfolio insurance or other low-ratio mortgage insurance should also influence household debt by making refinancing and long-amortization transactions more expensive or less available.

For now, the national ratio of debt to disposable income is approaching 170 per cent, with strong growth in mortgage credit, and consumer credit. And it is growing at or slightly above the rate of income growth.

“The proportion of borrowers with high mortgage debt relative to income continues to increase in many Canadian cities,” the report said.

“This trend is partly fuelled by rising house prices, particularly in Toronto and Vancouver.”

Almost half of the high-ratio mortgages originated in Toronto in the third quarter had loan-to-income ratios that exceeded 450 per cent, up from 41 per cent a year earlier.

What’s more, the Bank of Canada report says, high loan-to-income mortgages are spreading beyond Toronto to nearby cities including Oshawa and Hamilton. It these cities, the proportion of high-ratio mortgages with loan-to-income ratios exceeding 450 per cent has more than doubled over the past three years to 25 per cent.

One area where risk has diminished slightly since the Bank of Canada’s report in June is the potential fallout from low commodity prices.

To some extent, “we’ve come past that,” Stephen Poloz, Governor of the Bank of Canada, said at Thursday’s news conference. He said prices have come up from lows and shown more stability in the past six months. Still, the central bank is keeping an eye on the continuing impacts on households in oil-dependent provinces.

“We don’t see it as a major risk, but it’s important to understand that it’s not over,” Poloz said.

Beyond household debt and the mortgage market, the central bank’s report also weighed in a segment of the capital markets that is drawing attention at the international level: bond market liquidity.

An in-depth market survey conducted by the Canadian Fixed-Income Forum, an industry group assembled by the central bank, found that there are “pockets where liquidity problems are more evident,” Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz said in a statement Thursday.

These pockets include corporate bonds and certain repo markets.

However, it is too early to determine that regulatory changes are behind the liquidity issues, since markets have yet to fully adapt to the new regulatory requirements, Poloz said. In addition, he said comparisons to the market before the 2008 financial crisis may not be the best standard for comparison “because liquidity was excessive and virtually costless at that time.”

Poloz said the Bank of Canada will keep tabs on the fixed income market, particularly since new regulations are likely to make liquidity marginally more costly, and market-making less lucrative.

“We will continue to monitor market behaviour and to engage with market participants, while pursuing work on the impact of regulatory reforms at the international level,” he said.

Two men with the same face, or one man lying about having two identities to stay in Canada?

By Adrian Humphreys

An Alberta restaurant worker from Pakistan has been ordered out of Canada after facial recognition software analyzed his driver’s license photo and declared he is really someone else entirely.

While Farhan Mahmood says it is a bizarre case of two men with the same face, Canada Border Services Agency says its use of biometric technology caught a man who shouldn’t be in Canada.

It is among the first reported cases of CBSA proactively using facial recognition data to probe immigrant status although the technology has been a priority interest for the agency for years.

CBSA says Farhan Mahmood, 38, and Muhammad Irfan, 39, are the same person — in the flesh but not on paper.

Irfan came to Canada from Pakistan in 2003 and was refused a work permit that year and again in 2004. Immigration records show he left Canada on Sept. 23, 2003.

Although Irfan didn’t get a work permit, he did get an Alberta driver’s license on Feb. 26, 2003, a process that included having his photo taken.

Mahmood says he first came to Canada from Pakistan on Nov. 13, 2005, and obtained a work permit that year.

Even to an untrained eye the Irfan image and Mahmood images have striking similarities.

On April 11, 2007, Mahmood walked into the same Edmonton service office and had his photo taken for his driver’s license. Both photos were entered into the Alberta Motor Vehicle System called MOVES.

Mahmood and Irfan both applied for a permit to work at the same restaurant owned by Tariq Chaudhry, who sponsored both applications.

In 2014, Mahmood filed a lawsuit against Chaudhry alleging abusive labour practices. The split between the two was acrimonious and shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Chaudhry reported to CBSA that Mahmood’s real name was Irfan.

Regardless of the motive behind Chaudhry’s tip, CBSA investigated Mahmood’s identity.

Irfan’s 2003 driver’s license photo was run through the Alberta MOVES database: the system flagged Mahmood’s 2007 driver’s license photo as a 100% match and his 2012 photo as an 82.5% match.

At the request of CBSA, Gord Bryant, supervisor of Alberta’s facial recognition unit, did a manual comparison as well. He concluded the photos are “the strongest possible match.”

CBSA sought to have Mahmood kicked out of Canada on the grounds he misrepresented himself.

It wasn’t easy for the various checks and balances in the system to decide what to do with him.

He continuously denied he is Irfan — or that Irfan is him — and denied previously entering Canada using that name.

Last year, the Immigration and Refugee Board heard from Mahmood and Chaudhry, the spiteful tipster, as well as CBSA at a hearing.

Mahmood said he was in Pakistan, not Canada, in 2003: he got married on Feb. 14, 2003, to Rizwana Kausar and their daughter was born on Dec 17, 2003. But he provided little documentation to prove it.

Chaudhry’s evidence was described in court as “combative and self-serving and lacking credibility in many areas.” Although his words were given little weight, his tip was deemed accurate.

“Even to an untrained eye the Irfan image and Mahmood images have striking similarities,” said George Pemberton, the IRB adjudicator, in his decision.

Pemberton agreed Mahmood and Irfan were the same person, however, he did not declare him inadmissible to Canada because there was no evidence he had ever been asked if he had previously been denied a work permit.

The government’s appeal to the IRB’s appeal division brought a different ruling, finding there was adequate reason to consider Mahmood inadmissible.

Mahood then appealed to the Federal Court, which settled the matter in a decision released last week. Justice Glennys McVeigh dismissed his appeal.

Immigration and Refugee BoardImages from the facial recognition report the government used to determine that Farhan Mahmood and Muhammad Irfan are the same person.

CBSA is increasingly using facial recognition analysis to root out duplicitous duplicates. It is usually touted as a way to catch terrorists, gangsters and human smugglers.

CBSA this year planned to test facial recognition technology through a live video feed to match travellers against a database of previously deported persons in an operational border context, according to a Privacy Impact Assessment the agency filed.

In a 2014 facial recognition pilot project, CBSA ran 1,000 photos of wanted fugitives through databases. The test found matches for 15 who had alternate identities, Canadian Press reported.

In a few previous cases, facial recognition checks have led to immigration charges or removals from Canada of foreign nationals, including a Turkish man who applied for status as a Syrian refugee, but the published cases show the searches were initiated by other government agencies.

In this case, CBSA requested the search of Alberta’s database and caught a cook.

Mahmood’s lawyer, Martin Stoyanov, said he wouldn’t recommend that his client speak with the media about his case.

Requests to CBSA for information on its use of facial recognition went unanswered prior to deadline.

Windsor police make record seizure of crystal meth and more

By CRAIG PEARSON, WINDSOR STAR

Following a 12-week undercover investigation Windsor police have seized an estimated $180,000 in drugs, including the force’s largest ever haul of crystal meth.

Officers made buys from street-level and mid-level dealers and seized 850 grams of crystal methamphetamine, among other drugs. The operation started in September and uncovered a growing meth problem in Windsor, including with blue product like that featured on the acclaimed TV series Breaking Bad.

“Meth has gone crazy,” Staff Sgt. Frank Providenti, the head of the department’s intelligence unit, said Thursday during a press conference at police headquarters.

“In Windsor, it’s now the drug of choice. Before we had a problem with crack cocaine. It’s still out there but not to the extent it used to be. Crystal meth is now easier to get and has a better bang for your buck.”

The other alarming finding from the investigation — which included dangerous undercover work from more than one officer — is the rise in fentanyl, including “bootleg” and powdered versions of the sometimes fatal drug.

Providenti said at least two or three people in Windsor have died from fentanyl overdoses in the last year and that further investigation might prove the number is actually higher.

Besides more than 850 grams of methamphetamine the latest operation netted: eight fentanyl patches, six grams of fentanyl powder, 105 oxycodone pills, 3.6 grams of cocaine, 0.3 grams of crack, 129 MDMA pills, 0.1 grams of heroin, seven hydromorphone pills, and 11.7 grams of marijuana.

“This is a significant seizure,” Providenti said, noting that many of the drugs confiscated will now be more difficult to find in Windsor over the holiday period.

Police have charged 15 people, though four suspects have yet to be arrested. Most arrests in the operation were made two days ago.

Canada-U.S. border pre-clearance program approved, despite Trump worries

By Jeff Lee

Bus, train and cruise ship travel between Canada and the U.S. is set to speed up now that a pre-clearance bill has been adopted by the U.S. Senate, matched by impending Canadian legislation.
One of the first beneficiaries of the new law will be Vancouver-based tourist train operator Rocky Mountaineer, which was part of a pilot project approved earlier this year.
Once matching Canadian legislation is approved next year the company expects passengers travelling to the U.S. will be pre-cleared at Rocky Mountaineer’s facilities, meaning they no longer have to stop at the border. Another pilot project is at Montreal’s main train station.
The new bill, called the Promoting Travel, Commerce and National Security Act, is expected to be signed by Barack Obama in one of his last acts as U.S. president. It builds on an established pre-clearance program now in place at eight Canadian airports, including Vancouver.
In signing the bill into law, the Obama government would pre-empt concerns that the new Donald Trump presidency would tighten border access. Companion Canadian legislation, Bill C-23, received second reading in Parliament in June and is set to receive final reading.
In 2015 over 12 million passengers travelling to the U.S. were cleared at U.S. Customs facilities inside Canadian airports. The new bill also adds two more airports, Toronto’s Billy Bishop and Quebec City’s Jean Lesage.
Proponents of the program have long sought to expand the system to include rail and bus travel in hopes of reducing waits at border stations without compromising security.
The plan is to establish U.S. customs offices on the Canadian side of the border allowing travellers, in theory, to get screened more quickly, zip through the actual border, and ease logjams that slow travel and commerce.
“This is good news for both Canadians and international travellers and will have a positive impact on our business. We have been working with government on this project since its inception and are pleased to see continued momentum,” said Rocky Mountaineer president Steve Sammut.
“Once Canadian legislation has passed, we will continue developing a pre-clearance program for our guests that will ensure an even more seamless journey between our two great countries.”
The passage of the bill is also being hailed by the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, a public/private group made up of Canadian western provinces and Pacific Northwest states, who say pre-clearance will strengthen the region’s $55-billion travel and tourism sector.
PNWER said the program will also benefit travellers using the Amtrak Cascades, Victoria Clipper, Black Ball and Washington State Ferries, as well as cruise lines operating out of Vancouver and Seattle.
“Pre-clearance has been an important issue here in the Northwest, especially because we have the most pre-inspection sites that can be upgraded to pre-clearance, and we’re excited to see it passed,” PNWER Executive Director Matt Morrison said in a statement. “The U.S. and Canada share one of the best trade relationships in the world, but improving the flow of goods and travellers across the border will greatly benefit region’s interconnected travel and tourism economy.”
Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, also saluted the bill in a tweet Saturday. ”Preclearance is a win-win for enhanced security and prosperity on both sides of the border,” he said.

Golden’s Sikh heritage recognized on new Stop of Interest sign

A new Stop of Interest sign was unveiled in Golden today, recognizing the community’s early Sikh pioneers and the role they played in Golden’s history.

“This new Stop of Interest recognizes the important contributions early Sikh settlers made in Golden and throughout the Interior of B.C.,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone. “This is a good example of the Stop of Interest signs we want to add across the province, to tell the stories of how B.C. was shaped through the contributions of many different ethnicities and cultures.”

“We acknowledge the Gurdwara in Golden as the first in B.C., and quite likely the first in North America,” said Pyara Lotay, on behalf of the local Sikh community. “We thank the B.C. government for recognizing Golden’s Sikh pioneers and their place of worship with this Stop of Interest.”

The sign recognizing Golden’s Sikhs was originally a small local area history sign located next to the ‘Golden’ Stop of Interest sign at the viewpoint off Golden View Road. The new sign will replace the ‘Golden’ Stop of Interest sign, and the refurbished ‘Golden’ sign will be relocated to a site to be selected in consultation with the Town of Golden.

“The story of our community’s Sikh pioneers is one of hard work and determination,” said Golden mayor Ron Oszust. “This Stop of Interest means a lot to our present-day Sikh residents, and highlights an important chapter in the rich history of our region, of which we’re all proud.”

B.C.’s Stop of Interest signs were first installed in 1958 to commemorate the Colony of B.C.’s centenary and recognize significant historical places, people and events. The ministry is refurbishing existing signs in need of repair and updating language where necessary.

In addition, the Province is adding up to 75 new Stop of Interest signs. British Columbians are invited to submit ideas for new Stop of Interest signs and share interesting stories that could be told to people travelling B.C.’s highways. Submissions will be accepted through Jan. 31, 2017.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will install the majority of the new Stop of Interest signs in late spring/early summer 2017.

A new Stop of Interest sign was unveiled in Golden today, recognizing the community’s early Sikh pioneers and the role they played in Golden’s history. BC Transportation and Infrastructure (facebook.com)
A new Stop of Interest sign was unveiled in Golden today, recognizing the community’s early Sikh pioneers and the role they played in Golden’s history. BC Transportation and Infrastructure (facebook.com)

Golden’s Sikh heritage recognized on new Stop of Interest sign

GOLDEN – A new Stop of Interest sign was unveiled in Golden today, recognizing the community’s early Sikh pioneers and the role they played in Golden’s history.

“This new Stop of Interest recognizes the important contributions early Sikh settlers made in Golden and throughout the Interior of B.C.,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone. “This is a good example of the Stop of Interest signs we want to add across the province, to tell the stories of how B.C. was shaped through the contributions of many different ethnicities and cultures.”

“We acknowledge the Gurdwara in Golden as the first in B.C., and quite likely the first in North America,” said Pyara Lotay, on behalf of the local Sikh community. “We thank the B.C. government for recognizing Golden’s Sikh pioneers and their place of worship with this Stop of Interest.”

The sign recognizing Golden’s Sikhs was originally a small local area history sign located next to the ‘Golden’ Stop of Interest sign at the viewpoint off Golden View Road. The new sign will replace the ‘Golden’ Stop of Interest sign, and the refurbished ‘Golden’ sign will be relocated to a site to be selected in consultation with the Town of Golden.

“The story of our community’s Sikh pioneers is one of hard work and determination,” said Golden mayor Ron Oszust. ” This Stop of Interest means a lot to our present-day Sikh residents, and highlights an important chapter in the rich history of our region, of which we’re all proud.”

B.C.’s Stop of Interest signs were first installed in 1958 to commemorate the Colony of B.C.’s centenary and recognize significant historical places, people and events. The ministry is refurbishing existing signs in need of repair and updating language where necessary.

In addition, the Province is adding up to 75 new Stop of Interest signs. British Columbians are invited to submit ideas for new Stop of Interest signs and share interesting stories that could be told to people travelling B.C.’s highways.

Submissions will be accepted through Jan. 31, 2017. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will install the majority of the new Stop of Interest signs in late spring/early summer 2017.

Golden’s Sikh heritage recognized on new Stop of Interest sign

GOLDEN – A new Stop of Interest sign was unveiled in Golden today, recognizing the community’s early Sikh pioneers and the role they played in Golden’s history.

“This new Stop of Interest recognizes the important contributions early Sikh settlers made in Golden and throughout the Interior of B.C.,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone. “This is a good example of the Stop of Interest signs we want to add across the province, to tell the stories of how B.C. was shaped through the contributions of many different ethnicities and cultures.”

“We acknowledge the Gurdwara in Golden as the first in B.C., and quite likely the first in North America,” said Pyara Lotay, on behalf of the local Sikh community. “We thank the B.C. government for recognizing Golden’s Sikh pioneers and their place of worship with this Stop of Interest.”

The sign recognizing Golden’s Sikhs was originally a small local area history sign located next to the ‘Golden’ Stop of Interest sign at the viewpoint off Golden View Road. The new sign will replace the ‘Golden’ Stop of Interest sign, and the refurbished ‘Golden’ sign will be relocated to a site to be selected in consultation with the Town of Golden.

“The story of our community’s Sikh pioneers is one of hard work and determination,” said Golden mayor Ron Oszust. “This Stop of Interest means a lot to our present-day Sikh residents, and highlights an important chapter in the rich history of our region, of which we’re all proud.”

B.C.’s Stop of Interest signs were first installed in 1958 to commemorate the Colony of B.C.’s centenary and recognize significant historical places, people and events. The ministry is refurbishing existing signs in need of repair and updating language where necessary.

In addition, the Province is adding up to 75 new Stop of Interest signs. British Columbians are invited to submit ideas for new Stop of Interest signs and share interesting stories that could be told to people travelling B.C.’s highways. Submissions will be accepted through Jan. 31, 2017.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will install the majority of the new Stop of Interest signs in late spring/early summer 2017.

200 kg of cocaine was seized, Gurpreet Singh Cheema, Gurpreet Singh, Tejinderpal Singh Sandhu, Jasmail Singh Sander and Parmjeet Singh Sandhu charged

The Canada Border Services Agency, along with RCMP, show cocaine seized during a drug importation investigation at the Coutts border crossing that focused on commercial vehicles.

 

The Canada Border Services Agency, along with RCMP, show cocaine seized during a drug importation investigation at the Coutts border crossing that focused on commercial vehicles.

Global News / Braden Latam

 

RCMP say just over 200 kg of cocaine was seized in a drug importation investigation in southern Alberta that focused on commercial vehicles.

The drugs were seized at the Coutts border crossing on three separate dates.

During the first seizure on Sept. 2, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers searched a commercial truck entering Canada with a load of televisions.

According to the RCMP, officers discovered 60 packages of cocaine weighing 69 kg stashed in the vehicle.

The second seizure was two days later, on Sept. 4. CBSA officers searched a truck containing a shipment of novelty items.

According to RCMP, concealed within the load were 34 packages of cocaine.

Tejinderpal Singh Sandhu, 34, is charged with importing a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking.

The third seizure took place on Oct. 10. According to the RCMP, CBSA officers found 83 bricks of cocaine hidden throughout the cab of a commercial vehicle carrying produce.

Jasmail Singh Sander, 53, of British Columbia, and Parmjeet Singh Sandhu, 31, of Ontario, are charged with possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking and importing a controlled substance.

In all three instances, the commercial trucks were operating for commercial trucking companies based in British Columbia.

The Canada Border Services Agency, along with RCMP, show cocaine seized during a drug importation investigation at the Coutts border crossing that focused on commercial vehicles.

The Canada Border Services Agency, along with RCMP, show cocaine seized during a drug importation investigation at the Coutts border crossing that focused on commercial vehicles.

Global News / Braden Latam

Federal financial picture eroding, as government announces new capital spending, infrastructure bank

Jason Fekete, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA – The federal government’s fiscal position has deteriorated by billions of dollars since the budget, at the same time it’s ratcheting up capital spending and creating a new Canada Infrastructure Bank to dramatically overhaul how large projects are planned, funded and delivered across the country.
As the federal financial picture continues to erode – and spending increases – the Liberal government said Tuesday in its fall economic update it has no timetable for balancing the budget and acknowledges it doesn’t know when the gusher of red ink will end.
The new Canada Infrastructure Bank is one of the federal government’s centerpiece items announced in an economic update that – once again – downgrades projected growth and forecasts that a worsening financial situation will soon gobble up all of the billions of dollars in fiscal contingency that was included in the spring budget.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau also announced in the economic update the government is committing $81 billion in new infrastructure spending over the next 11 years on public transit, green projects, and social infrastructure. However, most of the funding is earmarked for several years down the road, beyond the government’s current four-year mandate.
“Today is about the long term,” Morneau told reporters prior to delivering the economic update in the House of Commons.
“We know that the economic situation that we’re in is challenging.”
The Liberal government projects its budgetary balance will be $1.7 billion worse in the current 2016-17 fiscal year than it forecast in the budget, when factoring in economic developments, new spending and announcements.
Add it up, and the government’s fiscal position is $31.8 billion worse over the next five years than it forecast in the March budget, completely devouring within two years the $6 billion in annual contingency that was built into the forecast to absorb unexpected economic shocks.
Between 2016-17 and 2021-22, the government is expecting to run approximately $130 billion worth of combined deficits.
The government now projects the deficit will hit $25.1 billion in 2016-17, but it will only hit that target after using all of the $6 billion contingency that had been included in the budget. The budgetary shortfall is expected to increase to $27.8 billion in 2017-18 after using the $6 billion contingency next year.
By 2021-2022, the government believes the deficit could still be nearly $15 billion, and there’s no timeline or apparent plan for getting finances back into balance.
“We lost the contingency… Now it’s gone, we spent it. And we have this $130 billion of additional debt,” said former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page, now the head of the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa.
“Hopefully in the budget we’ll see a stronger fiscal planning framework, more fiscal rules, more deficit targets, maybe spending rule targets.”
The government, at this point, is no longer planning a contingency for future years amid a fragile economy. It is instead using the $6 billion that was allocated as contingency each year to lower its deficit projections in future years.
Starting in the upcoming 2017-18 fiscal year, the Liberals will start rolling out the next phase of its infrastructure funding, promising $81 billion more over 11 years.
The funding will include: $25.3 billion for public transit projects such as subways and light rail; $21.9 billion for green infrastructure like interprovincial transmission lines, renewable power projects, and water treatment facilities; and $21.9 billion for social infrastructure such as affordable housing, early learning and childcare, and cultural and recreational infrastructure.
As well, $10.1 billion will be allocated to a trade and transportation fund for more efficient corridors to international markets, and $2 billion for rural and remote communities for projects like building roads and expanding Internet connectivity.
“We’re talking about big, bold, historic investments in infrastructure,” Morneau said.
The Liberals will table legislation in 2017 to create the Canada Infrastructure Bank, a Crown Corporation the government says will provide “innovative funding and financing” to help get more infrastructure projects built in Canada, in partnership with municipal, provincial and Indigenous partners.
The infrastructure bank will target large institutional investors to help finance “transformational” projects in Canada and get them built more quickly and at less of a financial risk to taxpayers. The government hopes to leverage potentially $4 or $5 of private sector investment for every $1 in federal, provincial and municipal funding for a project.
For example, a major $500-million infrastructure project that would traditionally be equally funded between three levels of government could instead see municipal, provincial and federal governments contribute $100 million combined, while private investors would cover the other $400 million.
The infrastructure bank will invest at least $35 billion from the federal government into large projects that boost economic growth, through loans, loan guarantees and equity investments.
Roughly $15 billion of the federal funds will come from funding already announced for transit, green projects and social infrastructure, with another $20 billion available for investments that result in the bank holding assets, either in equity or debt.
“The Canada Infrastructure Bank, governments and investors will work together to identify a pipeline of potential projects and identify investment opportunities that provide the biggest economic, social and environmental returns,” says the economic update.
Other initiatives announced in the economic update include:
The government will create a new Global Skills Strategy that seeks to implement a two-week standard for processing visas and work permits for low-risk, high-skill talent for companies doing business in Canada;
The Liberals are planning to spend $218 million over five years to create an Invest in Canada Hub, which it calls a “high impact sales force” to promote the country globally and convince companies to invest in Canada;
Introduce new legislation to make the Parliamentary Budget Officer an independent officer of Parliament, giving it more autonomy and greater access to information held by government departments and Crown corporations. The PBO’s new mandate will also include costing of political party platform proposals; and
New legislation for Statistics Canada to give the Chief Statistician of Canada greater powers over the production and release of official statistics, and appoint the chief statistician to fixed five-year terms based on merit. The National Statistics Council will also be replaced with a newly created Canadian Statistics Advisory Council to improve independence, relevance and transparency for national statistics.
The Liberals are also promising to open up the doors to the ultra-secretive Board of Internal Economy, the multi-party committee that makes spending and administrative decisions for the House of Commons and members of Parliament.

Vikram Toor and Ashim Raza killed in Friday-night shooting in Surrey

By GLENDA LUYMES

Two young men are dead after a shooting Friday evening in Surrey.

Police were called to 159th Street and 110th Avenue just before 7:30 p.m. and found 19-year-old Ashim Raza and 24-year-old Vikram Toor suffering from gunshot wounds. One of them was pronounced dead at the scene, while the other was taken to hospital, where he later died.

According to a homicide team press release, investigators believe the shooting was independent from the gangland violence that has rocked the Lower Mainland in recent weeks.

Two men were shot while inside a car near the intersection of 159 St. and 110 Ave. on Friday night in Surrey.

“It is early in the investigation, but police are making every effort to establish the motive for the shooting,” said Cpl. Meghan Foster. “We ask that the public exercise vigilance, while we work to find justice for our victims and their families.”

The shooting happened in Fraser Heights, a quiet, family-oriented neighbourhood north of Highway 1, near an elementary school, playground and sports fields.

Photos from the scene show what appears to be a body covered by a yellow tarp hanging out of a vehicle with a window blown out. A box of firecrackers appears to be resting beside the car.

The homicide happened hours after the province’s public safety minister Mike Morris made a statement reassuring the public that police are working tirelessly to try to put an end to a recent string of gang-related violence.

Police have linked two killings and several shootings this month to gang involvement.

There have been 56 shootings in Surrey so far this year.