Bank of Canada holds interest rate, warns of ‘significant uncertainties’

OTTAWA – The Bank of Canada held its benchmark interest rate steady on Wednesday and warned that it is keeping a watchful eye on “significant uncertainties” weighing on the outlook for the economy.
The scheduled rate announcement arrived as the central bank tries to assess the direction of U.S. economic policy under President Donald Trump — and the potential fallout from any policy changes he makes.
The bank has said some U.S. proposals, which include a border tax and protectionist policies, would have “material consequences” for Canadian investment and exports.
In an unusually short statement, the Bank of Canada used strong language when referring to uncertainties, as it did in the news release that accompanied its last rate announcement on Jan. 18.
At that time, two days before Trump’s inauguration, the bank indicated that “uncertainty about the global outlook is undiminished, particularly with respect to policies in the United States.”
On Wednesday, the statement said it was “attentive to the impact of significant uncertainties weighing on the outlook.”
As widely expected, the trend-setting target for the bank’s overnight interest rate stayed at the same level it’s been since July 2015: 0.5 per cent.
In explaining the decision by Governor Stephen Poloz’s council, the bank said improvements seen in recent economic data releases have been consistent with its projections.
The central bank also expects growth in the fourth quarter of 2016 — as measured by real gross domestic product — might come in slightly stronger than predicted because of recent consumption and housing data releases. Statistics Canada is scheduled to release those GDP figures Thursday.
On the downside, however, the bank said Canadian exports continue to face competitiveness challenges while the job market has seen weaker growth in wages and hours worked.
The bank made a point of emphasizing how Canada’s labour market conditions have contrasted with a much-stronger U.S. performance.
This was a way for Poloz to signal that Canada is not at the same point of the economic cycle as the U.S., said TD senior economist Brian DePratto.
DePratto expects the Bank of Canada to keep rates unchanged through 2017 even as the U.S. central bank lifts rates a couple of time over the next year.
If anything, he said Canadian rates will probably move down before they go up, especially if policy changes made by Trump slow Canada-U.S. trade.
“Anything that dampens that relationship is going to be growth negative here and could potentially mean a Bank of Canada reaction,” said DePratto, adding that interest rate policy divergence would likely weaken the Canadian dollar.
While a weaker currency could help help lift growth by encouraging exports, consumers would likely have to pay more for imported goods, like fresh fruit from places like California.
On inflation, the bank said Wednesday that it’s looking past January’s surprisingly robust headline figure of 2.1 per cent. It said the number was a result of a temporary jump caused by higher energy prices that were largely tied to the implementation of carbon-pricing policies in Ontario and Alberta.
The Bank of Canada made its rate decision amid ongoing uncertainty surrounding the policy agenda of the country’s largest trading partner.
Analysts were hoping to learn more about the bank’s thinking when it comes to potential U.S. policy changes, but the brief statement offered few details.
The Bank of Canada has yet to factor in the full range of economic policies expected under Trump in its projections.
Trump has pushed for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, though he has said the changes to the deal would only involve “tweaking.”
The U.S. proposals have created significant concerns within Corporate Canada and for the federal government.
On Wednesday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau met his new U.S. counterpart, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, for the first time. Morneau and the federal government have been trying to figure out Trump’s plans and how they may affect Canada.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

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.

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)

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.

Randeep Sarai appointed as the new chair of LPC Pacific Caucus

SURREY, BC – Liberal British Columbia Members of Parliament chose Randeep Sarai to be the new Pacific Caucus Chair this week.

“Over the past twelve months our government has been working hard to accomplish real change and we are keeping to the promises that we made in the last federal election. It’s been a busy and exciting year for British Columbia and there is still much work to be done,” said Randeep Sarai.

“I’m honoured to have been chosen by my British Columbia colleagues to represent them as Pacific Caucus Chair, I’m looking forward to working together to help build a stronger and more prosperous Canada as well as work to ensure that British Columbia is the best place to call home.” said MP Sarai.

As a community leader, a lawyer and a real estate developer, Randeep Sarai has invariably focused his efforts in Surrey. His dedication and excellency in these endeavors have framed his ability to be diligent, inventive and devoted when representing you as your Member of Parliament for Surrey–Centre.

Randeep was born in Vancouver and raised in South Burnaby. He graduated from UBC with a Bachelor of Arts and went on to complete his Bachelor of Laws Born at Queen`s University in Kingston, Ontario. He was a Founder and has served as a Director of Virsa – Supporting Youth Strengthening Families Society and helped start South Asian Community Coalition Against Youth Violence, which successfully championed for the creation of the Integrated Gang Task Force. Randeep has been engaged in community work from a very young age, much of it learned through the examples set by his late Father. “Giving back” were common words used and discussed in the Sarai household. He supported his Father to raise funds to fight against Polio thru the local Rotary Club, build their local temple, and organize food drives.

Randeep has also always been passionate about civic responsibility, including the need to make positive contributions to public policy, participation in the electoral processes at all levels, and supporting initiatives that focused on enhancing the quality of life for those less fortunate. Randeep regularly participates and comments on municipal bylaw issues, public policy issues and has been regular commentator on political issues on local Metro Vancouver media outlets.

Currently, he and his wife, Sarbjeet, are raising three children who attend Surrey schools and are very active in sports, recreation, arts and cultural activities. During his spare time, Randeep cherishes time with his family, including the newest member, a young Labrador puppy named Mr. Cuddles, and enjoys activities such as yoga, soccer and jogging.

He is committed to making Surrey the most transit friendly, low crime, metropolitan centre in Canada. Randeep believes the right voice, sound understanding and a commitment to a multi pronged approach can curb the current crime escalation that plagues the city and prevent any further increase in traffic congestion.

Trudeau defends Iraq mission secrecy, accuses Tories of endangering lives

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government’s clampdown on information about Canada’s mission in Iraq is necessary to protect Canadian soldiers on the ground.

But interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose says the government is trying to hide the fact the troops are engaged in combat with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The heated exchange in the House of Commons came after military officers revealed recently that Canadian soldiers are spending more time on the front lines and engaging in more firefights with ISIL.

But neither the officers nor the government would provide specific details.

Speaking in question period, Ambrose said the military held more briefings and provided more information about Canada’s role in the fight against ISIL under the previous government.

She also said Canadians shouldn’t have to learn about the mission from Twitter.

But Trudeau accused the Conservatives of putting Canadian soldiers in harm’s way with their openness while they were in power.

He said that unlike the previous government, the Liberals would not endanger soldiers for a communications exercise.

The Canadian Press

Bains will consider targets if no improvement to diversity on corporate boards

OTTAWA — The Liberal government hopes that proposed legislation requiring publicly traded companies to disclose the gender composition of their corporate boards and senior management will lead to greater diversity, but will consider imposing specific targets if the new measures don’t work.

“We want to send a clear signal that diversity is important and you need to explain what your diversity policies are and we feel that will start moving the needle,” Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains said in an interview Wednesday, adding that changes happened when the United Kingdom and Australia brought in voluntary measures.

“But in a few years, if we don’t see progress — in a few years, if we don’t see meaningful results — then we will re-evaluate our position and look at all other options at that time,” Bains said.

Last month, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-25, which would, among other things, amend the Canadian Business Corporations Act to require publicly traded companies to disclose to their shareholders the number of women on their corporate boards and in senior management, as well as their policies on diversity — or explain why they do not have any.

The Canadian Business Corporations Act affects nearly 270,000 companies, but these changes would only affect those that also issue shares and report to a securities commission — including about 600 companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange, a government official said last month.

The bill, developed following consultations that began under the previous Conservative government, came up for a second reading debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

The legislation will not include targets, which is something that Catalyst, an international non-profit organization that pushes for the advancement of women in the workplace, has been calling for as the most effective way to improve the numbers.

“The rationale is simple: it’s impossible to measure progress without first having something to measure it against,” Deborah Gillis, president and CEO of Catalyst, wrote in the foreword to a June report on the issue.

The Ontario government adopted that recommendation, setting a gender diversity target for businesses to have 30 per cent of their directors be women by 2017 and 40 per cent by 2019.

There is a long way to go.

The Catalyst report showed that in 2014, women filled 20.8 per cent of the board positions at Canadian stock index companies.

The Canadian Securities Administrators, which represents provincial securities regulators, has said that despite new rules in 10 participating jurisdictions that are aimed at improving corporate gender equity at companies traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange, women occupied only 12 per cent of the positions last year.

And of the 677 companies included in the sample, the review found that 45 per cent of them did not have a single woman board member.

Bains said the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is doing what it can to set a good example in the public sector, such as committing to gender parity in cabinet.

“We also wanted to send a clear message to corporate Canada, to businesses, that look, diversity is good for business and we need you to step up and show leadership,” Bains said.

He acknowledged, however, that even his own department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development has work to do.

More than half the members of the Science, Technology and Innovation Council are women, but two boards within the portfolio —the Competition Tribunal and the Copyright Board — have no women among their combined total of seven positions.

“We know government can and must do better,” he said.

The Canadian record on gender equity also came under some international scrutiny on Wednesday, as the World Economic Forum released a report showing that Canada was ranked 35 on the overall global index, sharing a first-place ranking when it comes to educational attainment, but coming in 36th place for economic participation and opportunity.

Bains said promoting diversity and increasing the number of women on corporate boards is the right thing to do, but it can also have a positive impact on the bottom line.

“Innovation is all about having diversity of thoughts, ideas and perspectives,” Bains said.

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press

Judge sides with Jaggi Singh over fingerprinting complaint

Well-known activist challenged established practice of fingerprinting as part of summary charge proceedings

(CBC News)

A defendant facing summary offence proceedings in a municipal court cannot be compelled to give fingerprints, a Montreal judge ruled Friday.

The ruling followed a complaint by Montreal activist Jaggi Singh, who is being tried in the Municipal Court of Montreal on a mischief charge.

Singh called the ruling is a victory for privacy rights.

“We all have our right to privacy and we all have a right to not hand over information to anybody we don’t want to,” he said.

Singh was charged with a hybrid offence, meaning the prosecution could elect to proceed with a more serious indictable offence, or a less serious summary charge, which would be tried by judge alone.

  • Jaggi Singh

Jaggi Singh called the practice of fingerprinting people facing summary offence proceedings ‘completely inappropriate and illegal.’ (Radio-Canada)

The crown chose the latter, leading Singh to argue that there was no reason for him to be fingerprinted.

Defendants are routinely compelled to provide their fingerprints and mugshots when facing summary charge proceedings in municipal court, despite their less serious nature.

Singh called the practice “completely inappropriate and illegal” and cited both the Identification of Criminals Act and a Supreme Court of Canada decision from 2009 — R. v. Dudley — to support his complaint.

Crown prosecutor Alexander Tandel asked Judge Randall Richmond to reject Singh’s motion, arguing that fingerprints allow police and the courts to better understand and consider a defendant’s previous charges.

Richmond sided with Singh in his ruling.

“I conclude that a defendant cannot be compelled to give his fingerprints for a hybrid offence after the Crown has made an election to proceed summarily,” he wrote in his decision.

Singh is due back in municipal court next week for another hearing on his original mischief charge.

Thousands crowd legislature grounds to greet royal couple

The Duchess of Cambridge greets a large crowd of admirers during the welcoming ceremony at the B.C. legislature on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016.   Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist

Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, began their week-long tour of British Columbia and the Yukon in Victoria Saturday with a welcome ceremony that honoured Canadian military service, young people and First Nations in front of a lively crowd of thousands.

“Catherine and I have asked to meet as many people from as many walks of life as we can while we’re here,” he said in a speech at the legislature, where an estimated 25,000 people were in the crowd. “We’re very much looking forward to learning about how Canadians are tackling some of the biggest challenges of the day.”

The prince recalled his visit to B.C. as a teenager in the late 1990s, when he was a heartthrob greeted by screaming girls. “We feel very fortunate to have time to get to really know parts of this country that we did not get to visit in 2011 but of which I have very happy memories as a shy teenager,” he said, pausing and grinning. “A few of you remember it too well, I think.”

At the legislature, the crowd’s biggest screams came at the first sight of the royal couple’s children arriving at 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron at Victoria International airport, shown on a large screen. The Royal Family arrived 10 minutes ahead of schedule on a military plane carrying Prince William’s seal. They were greeted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, Premier Christy Clark and her bowtie-sporting teenage son Hamish, Gov. Gen. David Johnston and his wife Sharon, and Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon.

The Prince William emerged from the plane holding the hand of three-year-old Prince George, dressed in a light blue sweater and shorts. Kate — wearing a blue maple leaf hat by British design house Lock and Co. and the Queen’s maple leaf brooch — carried 16-month-old Princess Charlotte. Prince George appeared more interested in a Sea King helicopter landing at the base than he did in the official receiving line, while Princess Charlotte waved goodbye to the plane.

This was the first of two public appearances the children will make during the visit. The second will be at their departure from Victoria at the downtown seaplane terminal on Oct. 1.

The family left in a motorcade of two dozen vehicles that stopped at Government House, where they will stay for the week, before heading to the legislature. People stood on the side of the highway from the airport to downtown Victoria cheering and taking photos as the royal motorcade passed. Overpasses were packed with waving people. The windows of the car carrying the royals were down so that they could wave back.

Some of the thousands waiting at the legislature lawn had staked out spots before dawn.

“We got here around 6:15 a.m. and a few other ladies were already here,” said Sarah Larson, who drove down from Courtenay with her mother Gloria Zimmer Friday night.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to see them … I’ve been researching royal stuff all week,” said Larson, who sat on a blanket alongside the red carpet walkway with snacks, travel Boggle and enough crosswords to fill the day. Larson also prepared a bouquet with the Canadian and Union Jack flags and small picture of a friend who died. “She was a major royals fan. She would have loved this.”

Emily Emery and her mother Jill Boudreau drove from Mount Vernon, Washington, for the event. “I admire their work and how they use their celebrity for good. They’re big on children’s health and as a nurse, I admire them,” Emery said.

Patrick Wilson stood for nearly 12 hours at a metal gate along the red carpet to see the royal couple. He said as a First Nations person, from the north Island Kwakiutl First Nation, it is meaningful for him to see the Royal Family’s interest in B.C.’s Indigenous peoples. “I don’t have the words for it but it’s good,” said Wilson, wearing a cedar bark top hat.

The royal couple arrived at the legislature around 5:30 p.m., about a half hour behind schedule.

A solemn ceremony at the legislature cenotaph marked the start of the ceremony, featuring the skirl of bagpipes and a lone bugler.

The cheerful crowd grew silent as Kate and William placed a wreath at the cenotaph. Retired colonel Paul Paone, who was with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, was happy to see a new plaque honouring Afghanistan veterans unveiled. “It’s absolutely wonderful,” he said. “It took long enough.”

William and Kate spoke at length with three veterans, including Gordon Quan, who served as a commando in Burma during the Second World War.

Also meeting the royal pair were Afghanistan veterans Cpl. Mireille Poulin and Petty Officer Wayne Clarke. Prince William, who flew helicopters in the Royal Air Force, asked Poulin what kind of helicopters were used in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The royal couple was welcomed to traditional Lekwungen territory by Esquimalt and Songhees dancers as they walked the red carpet to the stage with the prime minister and his wife, the Governor General and his wife, the lieutenant governor, and the premier and her son. They were met by a line of local politicians, including Mayor Lisa Helps, First Nations chiefs, Victoria MLA Carole James and federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

In his speech, the Governor General noted that the royal couple first came to Canada in 2011 as newlyweds of three months, “and now you’ve come back as a family. We couldn’t be happier for you,” he said. For Canada, the monarchy “represents a family and reminds us that people come first.”

Trudeau got a few laughs when he jested about travelling with kids. “As any parent who has travelled with children knows, it is a whole different experience when you bring your family with you. I want to commend you and thank you for introducing our part of the world to Prince George and Princess Charlotte,” he said.

“Though let me caution you from my own experience, if they’re anything like our kids, getting them back on a plane after a visit to our beautiful West Coast will really be a challenge.”

William and Kate rewarded many of the fans who’d spent hours waiting to see them with greetings as they walked along the red carpet after the ceremony.

“He said he liked my flower,” said Teresa Bell, who shook Prince William’s hand on the walkabout. Bell and her friend Kisha Cook, both from Nanaimo, wore black decorative fascinators. “I can’t believe it.”

Standing next to them, Lori Hitchcox said she was shaking after her encounter with the prince.

“He asked if I lived in Victoria. I said yes. And he said, ‘I see we’re taking up most of your city,’ ” said Hitchcox, wearing a maple leaf scarf. “I told him I loved his grandmother. He was so sincere. They really are as nice as they look.”

Monique Girard was surprised to be approached by the duchess while holding her six-month-old daughter Scarlett. “She told me that after this small stage, it only gets better,” Girard said. “I told her that she’s beautiful. It was like this goddess in front of me.”

Kate told Girard and Loreen Topping that she wished she had brought her children, particularly Prince George, so that they could enjoy the lights on the legislative buildings.

Dayna Mottishaw and her friend Courtney Simcoff were decked out in pearls, fascinators and tea cups.

“We’re both moms of young kids so it’s not easy to get out and do something like this,” said Mottishaw. It panned out. They saw the royal couple up close and shook the prince’s hand. “He really looks you in the eye.”

Mottishaw said it was a once in a lifetime chance to see the royals, then quipped, “Although I am off to see the Royals tonight. They’re playing Prince George,” she said, referring to the local hockey game.

After the one-hour ceremony, the duke and duchess returned to Government House, where they had private meetings with the prime minister and Governor General. They are scheduled to leave Victoria today at 10 a.m. by seaplane for a day of events in Vancouver.