Ontarians Open Your Wallets… Wide! Liberal Budget 2016.

Nine years, Ontario has elected Liberal governments and for nine years, the taxpayers in this once mighty province are facing a budget whiledeeply in debt.

In fact, when the Ontario Liberals unveil their budget today, it’s going to include some really fancy talking and no mention of increasing taxes, yet it’s the only way they can eliminate the deficit and put a stop to the massive debt.

How massive is the debt?

Ontario has the largest debt of any sub-national government in the world!

The world!

Taxpayers pay an astounding $11-billion dollars a year on interest on the debt. Think about how many unions could be paid off with those funds, gas plants moved or documents shredded…

The Wynne Liberals will likely blame the Ontario Conservatives, or the Federal Conservatives, but they have already started to leak the “tax” increases coming down the pipe for Ontarians, including 4.3 cents to the price of a litre of gas plus an increase of $5/month to our natural gas bill – in order to protect the environment, no less…

Where the rest of the “savings” come from is unknown at this time, however, healthcare and education are likely to take a big hit.

Additionally, while it’s great that grocery stores are able to sell wine, the Liberals are likely to set a new minimum price for that bottle through this budget and add additional taxes on top of it.

Here is a recap of the “highlights” of the budget:

  • Ontario’s net debt will hit $308 billion in 2016-17.
  • Ontario’s debt is the largest of any sub-national jurisdiction in the world
  • Ontario taxpayers are paying $11.8 billion in interest payments per year
  • Interest on Ontario’s debt is going to increase to $13.1 billion by 2018-19
  • University and college tuition will be free for students from families with incomes of $50,000 or less.
  • More than half of students from families with incomes under $83,000 will receive non-repayable grants (which exceed the cost of an average tuition).
  • A carton if cigarettes will increase by $3.00, effective at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
  • Taxes on tobacco rise at the rate of inflation each year over the next five years.
  • The minimum price for a bottle of wine rises to $7.95.
  • The LCBO will be increasing their mark-up on wine to compensate for the fact consumers can purchase them at grocery stores, so in June there will be a 2% hike, followed by 2% hikes in 2017 and 2018 with a 1% hike in 2019.
  • There will also be annual increases of about 10 cents in the tax on wine sold in private retail outlets, increasing from 16.1 cents to 20.1 cents over four years
  • The $30 fee for Drive Clean vehicle emissions tests will be eliminated in 2017-18 – not the test – just the out of pocket cost which taxpayers will be paying to the tune of $60 million/year.
  • Hospitals will get their first funding increase in five years, up $345 million, plus $12 billion over 10 years in capital grants for about three dozen major hospital projects
  • The threshold for seniors to be eligible for cheaper drugs rises from $16,018 to $19,300.
  • The Liberals have committed $333 million over five years to redesign and improve autism services.


So as the Liberals promised, the Liberals shall deliver.  Spend, spend, debt, deficit, spend…  To the highest debt in the world.

The Conservatives are going to have a huge headache cleaning this mess up in 3 years!

Parenting News: Head North (Ontario) This Holiday Season

Now is the perfect time to book your holiday getaway up north.

Make this Christmas and New Year’s Eve the most memorable one yet – surrounded by a picturesque country setting with great shows, fine dining, soothing spa treatments, outdoor adventures and spectacular accommodations.

There are many events and family activities to choose from:

  • Enjoy the play Twas The Night Before Christmas presented by the Huntsville Theatre Company until December 19th;

  • Take the kids for a magical ride to visit Santa on an antique stream train;

  • Experience the pride and joy of Muskoka Heritage Place as this historic treasure chugs merrily along through winter wonderland;

  • Travel to Santa’s Village in Bracebridge, Muskoka, during SantaFest Dec. 19-22, with sleigh rides, petting zoo, marshmallow roasts and more;

  • Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area presents its annual Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade from 5pm on December 24th; and

  • Visit Arrowhead Provincial Park’s famed Ice Skating Trail, opening towards the end of December.

Take some time to visit the region’s craft breweries and wineries including Muskoka Lakes Winery, Lake of Bays Brewing, and Highlander Brew, among others; all offering tours and tastings, even during the holidays. Work off the holiday calories with some epic outdoor adventures such as dog sledding, snowshoeing, downhill skiing, and more, or perhaps just stay warm and enjoy the wellness and pampering at one of the relaxing spas in the region.

Dine, dance and delight at all there is to enjoy this New Year’s Eve, including:

  • The hundreds of outstanding dining establishments open year-round, including Inn at the Falls in Bracebridge and Sherwood Inn near Port Carling;

  • Hidden Valley Resort in Huntsville, Muskoka is offering a great package that includes a one-night stay, fabulous buffet plus a DJ party with balloon drop and champagne at the stroke of 2016;

  • For a rocking New Year’s Eve in the style of Creedence Clearwater Revival, get your tickets for Peter’s Players in Gravenhurst, Muskoka for the incredible tribute band; and

  • Attend the Cottage Country Comedy Festival at the Gravenhurst Opera House. Headliners include Jim Nasiopoulos, Mike Rita & Adrian Cronk. After-party with live music by WinnieBrave.

For more information, please visit Explorer’s Edge.

Proud Recipient of a 2015 Ontario Volunteer Service Award

On June 16th, The 2015 Ontario Volunteer Service Awards were handed out in Toronto, which recognizes individual volunteers for continuous years of commitment and dedicated service to an organization. 


This year both my wife and I received an award for 15-years of volunteering with an organization call Jewish Family and Child Services (JF&CS).

Jewish Family & Child supports the healthy development of individuals, children, families, and communities through prevention, protection, counselling, education and advocacy services, within the context of Jewish values.

Their priority areas are;

1. Increasing Safety and Security

2. Reducing the Effects of Poverty

3. Improving Mental Health and Wellness

My wife and I became volunteers in the Big Brothers / Big Sisters program to assist the JF&CS staff with the planning and coordinating over events for the programs’ participants and volunteers.  Over the past 15 years we have met a lot of incredible volunteers and incredible children who have grown up to be amazing young adults.

None of this would have been possible without the hard work and support of Andrea Pines, the Volunteer Coordinator for Big Brothers / Big Sisters.

We also try to model what it means to be a good person to our children and I recall a picture being published of our oldest boy – at probably 3 months old – strapped to my wife in a child carrier and the 3 of us set off to an event.  We try to include all of our kids in the event planning as well as at the event so they will understand that giving their time might seem like such a small gesture, but to some people it means a lot.

Obviously we do this for the organization, and not for the recognition, and I’m hesitant to publish this except I hope down the road, my kids will be able to read this and realize that volunteering is important and that it’s been a part of their lives since they were born (and their Dad expects them to continue doing it!!)

The awards ceremony is a lovely ceremony where volunteers are presented with stylized trillium pins and personalized certificates.

Provincial Election Primer 2014: St. Paul’s. Undecided? Read this! (updated)

The provincial election is coming up fast – On June 12th, 2014 and Ontarians have a very tough decision on their hands. Stuck with 3 underwhelming candidates for Premier of Ontario, the field would appear to be wide open as to who will win and whether the government will be a majority or a minority.

Expect another coalition government, propped up by the NDP again, but expect this time that PC leader Tim Hudak (if he’s still there and not replaced by Doug Ford) will actually force the Liberal government to add some Conservative goodies into the budget as Premier Kathleen Wynne did for the NDP every time.

But I wanted to take a look at the riding I live in, St. Paul’s, an affluent Toronto riding almost completely residential and includes both the mansions of Forest Hill and the multicultural neighbourhoods that straddle St. Clair Avenue west of Bathurst Street.

Thank you to the CBC for all of this data below;

The population in this riding from the 2006 census is 111,131, down 1.2% since the previous census taken in 2001.  Politically, Liberal Dr. Eric Hoskins has held this seat since beating PC Sue Ann Levy in a by-election in 2009 by 5,330 votes.  The seat had previously been Liberal, held by Michael Bryant since 1999.  Bryant relinquished his seat in May 2009 to lead Invest Toronto.  Bryant quit Invest Toronto after being charged in the death of bicycle courier Darcy Allan Sheppard in downtown Toronto (the courier you may recall grabbed a hold of Bryant’s car and was threatening him when Bryant sped away and Sheppard flew off his bike on the street where he died).

You could say this riding is somewhat of a Liberal strong hold, which is interesting considering this riding contains the second largest amount of wealth in all of Canada, and typically wealth = Conservative, and that south of St. Clair is very left-wing.  For this reason I am constantly amazed that there is no strong Conservative candidate in the area campaigning for the removal of Hoskins.

Take the last provincial election from 2011.  Dr. Hoskins easily won after garnering 25,052 votes, or 58.41% of the vote.  Second was PC Christine McGirr with only 8,971 votes, or 20.92%.  The NDP candidate David Hynes came in right behind McGirr with 7,121 votes, or 16.60% of the vote, and votes were given to the Green Party candidate, Judith Van Veldhuysen (1,172, 2.73%), the Libertarian candidate John Kittredge (332 votes, 0.77%), the Family Party candidate Mike Rita (88 votes, 0.21%) and these two parties;  SPO Keith Pinto (83 votes, 0.19%)
and NOH David Vallance (73 votes,  0.17%).

A Liberal landslide, and having just moved into the riding, I did not see or hear from or of McGirr at any point in the campaign, but did receive tons pricy, glossy flyers from Hoskins.  The same held true this year – more on that later.

Let’s take a closer look at the riding’s demographics, and compare the rate in the riding to the provincial average and the average in Canada.  Of note will be the extremely low unemployment, the above average number of seniors but what should really jump out at you is the average annual household income figure and the percentage of people in this riding with a post-secondary degree.  It’s outstanding and a really good reminder for kids to stay in school!

From 2006 census:

Unemployment Rate:

St. Paul’s 6.2%
Ontario 6.4%
Canada 6.6%


St. Paul’s 15.67%
Ontario 13.56%
Canada 13.71%

Home Owners:

St. Paul’s 20.11%
Ontario 26.61%
Canada 26.92%

Average Family Income:

St. Paul’s $166,814
Ontario $90,526
Canada $82,325

Post-Secondary Degrees:

St. Paul’s 48.41%
Ontario 33.54%
Canada 33.35%

This riding is pre-dominantly Jewish, followed by Philippino, then Caribbean, and Native Canadian.


The 2014 Candidates

Conservative Justine Deluce
Liberal Dr. Eric Hoskins
NDP Luke Savage
Green Josh Rachlis
Libertarian John Kittredge
Freedom Party of Ontario Mike Rita

So let’s take a closer look at the candidates:

Deluce, being the newcomer and with very little literature on the street and no buzz, she is the candidate people will vote for if they do not vote for Hoskins, so she is playing the come and find me game.  So I did.

Justine Deluce is bilingual, and is / was, the COO at Chestnut Park Real Estate, so she understands the challenges of running a business in a competitive environment, and she also must be perfectly aware of some key concerns for Ontarians – and the folks in St. Paul’s – of creating and maintaining jobs, and keeping the economy rolling.  If the “bubble” ever bursts, it’s the owners of these $2 million – $10 – million dollar homes who will need to create new businesses, downsize their homes and keep employing quality people and keeping the economy driving, so knowing this, Justine takes aim at pointless red tape which act as barriers to progress. 

Justine believes in fiscal responsibility, transparency and being accountable for the management of taxpayer dollars.  SCORE!
Being in real estate, Justine already has the proven experience of working in an industry where success is synonymous with trust, accountability and knowledge.  SCORE!
Fittingly, Justine served at Queen’s Park as a senior policy advisor for several Ministers in the Health and Long-Term Care and Citizenship, Culture and Recreation portfolios.  If you recall the demographics in the St. Paul’s riding, these were all key concerns among the community.Justine has volunteered and raised funds for a number of not-for-profit organizations in her community including, Project Sunshine, Home Horizon, the Royal Ontario Museum, The Power Plant Gallery and the True Patriot Love Foundation.  She has a particular interest in the issues of mental health, addictions and related research.Justine has a BA in French from the University of Western Ontario and an MBA from the University of Edinburgh. She also earned her Private Pilot’s Licence at an early age. She has lived in Toronto since 1987.
The current MPP is Dr. Eric Hoskins, and honestly, after living in the riding for 4-years and being as politically active as I am, I have yet to see Dr. Hoskins, except come election time.  I find his pamphlets to be self-promoting and rightly, he shy’s away from Kathleen Wynne  as much as possible.  The current, and 4th flyer received at my house is a letter-sized 4-page glossy with a full-size picture of the Doctor.  Without even having to open this, I can tell you what I will see inside;
Dr. Hoskins is a great guy.  He’s helped poor people overseas, he is involved in helping the poor and impoverished and he will have pictures of himself at events representing each and every demographic in our community.  There will be a picture of him at a synagogue, probably with Jewish men wearing kippot (because it’s the best way to distinguish these men from any other male, right?), and with a Philippino female, with a Jamaican man, and with seniors (usually women), children (all smiling of course) and with his family and probably one with Premier Wynne.  It’s his thing.  He’s a candidate for everyone!
But what has he accomplished in this community?  What has the last 3-years brought us, which would entice us to put an “x” by his name again?
I cannot think of anything, but according to his flyer he AND Premier Wynne have added nearly 500,000 net new jobs in Ontario.  Okay, but this riding has an unemployment rate at 2%, meaning this is just a statistic and otherwise unimportant.
Invested $295 million in a Youth Jobs Plan which has created over 11,000 jobs for the 2% unemployed in his riding where almost half of the people have a post-secondary degree and according to Statistics Canada live in a family with an average household income of almost $170,000.
Invested $15 billion in transit including the Eglinton LRT, which is an utter disaster just north of the St. Clair disaster which he watch unfold.  If Dr. Hoskins were to knock on doors and ask the community in HIS riding he would find out that people in HIS riding are fed up with the planning behind, the construction underway and the lack on direction given to the LRT – set to open in 2020, by the way – and are fed up with not being able to use their roads or leave their driveways without having to wait in a line-up of cars for 15 minutes.
Standing up for tenants and protecting their right to affordable rent in a riding where houses start at $1 million dollars, if they want to rent in this riding, they don’t need your “support”.
Standing up for seniors, and low-income residents by raising the minimum wage even though studies have shown that every cent increase in the minimum wage places small businesses in financial distress as already high property taxes, low community support and increasing costs across the board result in streets in his riding like Eglinton and St. Clair to be devoid of businesses which do not have the words “MASSAGE” glowing in neon come nightfall.  I guess it’s easier to buy a vote by offering more money to those in the community with the least.
Dr. Hoskins protects our environment in the riding of St. Paul’s because earlier this year the Liberal party put policies in place to end the use of coal to generate electricity.  So now every $10 million dollar house on the other side of Bathurst Street – the ones with the solar panels installed on them – are going to have to get rid of their coal fireplaces… Damn.  Too bad traffic gridlock on Eglinton an St. Clair have seen car emissions spike.
Dr. Hoskins vision includes this last item, “Responsible and sustainable community development with genuine community engagement”.  I’m not sure what that means, I mean, I do, but in reality, it’s a throwaway line saying very little.  Personally, I’d like to actually see Dr. Hoskins in the community other than at photo opportunities and I would like to see a political flyer tailored to the community – with successes for the community – and not a self-promoting piece of literature about his and Kathleen Wynne.
I think Dr. Hoskins has lost touch with what the job description is for a Member of Provincial Politics in the riding of St. Paul’s.  His policies are not aimed at the riding and none of his personal achievements warrants any votes for him from this riding, let alone the gift of representing our riding again for any length of time.
Sadly, I don’t think people in this riding take the time to see the damage done by the McGuinty / Wynne tandem.  They know the NDP are not right for Ontario (hello Bob Rae) and they compare Tim Hudek to Mike Harris because that is what the Liberals have to do in order to turn the attention away from their complete devastation of the province of Ontario.  Once a “have” province, now a “have not” province.
All things being considered, and with 3 underwhelming choices for Premier, think logically about what Ontarians did after Mike Harris cut, cleaned house and Ontario went on for years as a powerhouse.  They exercised their democratic right and voted in another party.
I think it’s time to exercise our democratic rights and send a very clear message to the Liberal Party in Ontario.
(Apologies to NDP candidate Luke Savage – he lost me when I saw he lives in the Annex – but he will get the left-vote but I have serious concerns that even with a Masters in political science, he cannot understand the complexities of this community and the way to handle the amount of wealth here without wanting to re-distribute it.)
Even bigger apology to Green Party candidate Josh Rachlis who commented below, and included a link to a song he wrote about St. Paul’s.  I strongly suggest you listen to the song and take a look at Josh’s platform.
The Green Party has always intrigued me because of the importance of keeping the planet healthy and keeping our food and water safe for consumption, however, I have always felt their policies were either poorly defined or an after thought.  After having a look at Josh’s platform, I no longer think that.
Aside from being very bright – I can pick that up just listening to Josh speak, I think if the playing field were even among parties, he would be right in the thick of things come election night.
The Green Platform includes:

1. Focus on your job by lowering payroll taxes for small businesses

2. Get you home faster by paying for the transit infrastructure we need

3. Invest in your home to help you save money by saving energy

4. Improve your children’s education by merging the public and separate school boards

5. Make good on our promises to address child poverty

6. Give young adults a chance to contribute to our world

7. Putting your food and water first by protecting farmland and water

8. Getting our fair share by making industry pay a fair price for our shared resources

9. Restore your confidence that our communities & natural heritage will not be damaged by development

I honestly have no idea what the first point entails and I worked at Revenue Canada (Canada Revenue Agency for 11 years, most of them handling payroll, and I believe the only reduction employers can make is to reduce the actual tax component of the payroll source deductions because a reduction in CPP reduces the amount employees have for retirement and a reduction in EI reduces the amount employees pay into the system, thus the amount they are able to take back out should they need to.

Numbers 2 and 3 are great, although a little vague, while number 4 is a brilliant idea to reduce costs and increase service.  Number 9 is also a great initiative.

So while I would like to see a little more detail in their platform, I believe the Green Party needs to take the next big step and either merge with an existing party, or force the issue and start getting candidates into parliament.


All-in-all, voting is your democratic right!  So get out there and vote!

How Awesome is This! Win Safari Niagara Passes here!

Safari Niagar_Logo  As a father of 3 young children, we are always looking for fun, exciting things to do on the weekends with them which are hopefully mentally and physically stimulating, educational and hopefully interesting for us as well.  After 8 years of being a dad, we’ve been just about everywhere here in Toronto and surrounding area and I thought we had visited, heard of, or knew of all the great places to visit until I came across Safari Niagara.

Have you heard about Safari Niagara before?  Have you been there?  Did you know it is only 10 minutes from Niagara Falls in Stevensville, Ontario, and did you know that Safari Niagara is for visitors of all ages and all abilities and not only are there animals on a 150-acre, privately owned and operated nature park, which is home to more than 750 animals of native and exotic mammals, reptiles and birds.

If that is not enough to do in a day, then there is also these activities:Safari Niagara Rainbow (giraffe)

  • educational guided walking tours (free)
  • an educational, narrated tram ride/tour
  • interactive, educational demonstrations including birds of prey and threatened species presentations
  • petting farm-yard
  • catch-and-release fishing

If that is not enough fun, there is also other activities including ropes course*, bungee*, Safari Rides*, paddle boating, kite-flying and playing at the large playgrounds, sandbox and animal-themed splash pad. (* June 1st to labour day).  Forget visiting for one day, we could live here!

Here is what you might not know about Safari Niagara is that their vision;

Safari Niagara’s vision is to provide people of all ages and abilities the opportunity to meet animals and birds up close. It is hoped that such interaction with nature will inspire future conservationists and naturalists. In a world where children experience fewer exchanges with nature, Safari Niagara provides an unprecedented opportunity for kids to view, experience and learn about many animal and bird species that share our planet while engaging in a fun and rewarding adventure.

Safari Niagara is also home to one of Canada’s largest steel sculpture exhibits, on loan by artist Rod Dowling and the park includes an outdoor 90,000 square-foot outdoor amphitheatre which hosts the annual Safari Niagara Summer Concert Series of live concerts (check out the current list of concerts here), and the park also offers plenty of shaded picnic areas, a counter-service restaurant and gift shop.

Safari Niagara is open to the public on May 11, 2013 and closes October 14, 2013 (It is closed August 14th for a private event).

From June 1st to Labour Day, your 2013 Season Passes and Day Admissions included unlimited use of the Adventure Zone Activities: Ropes Course, Bungee, Safari Rides, and our newly expanded Gator Tram Ride*!

Read about Safari Niagara’s amazing history here.White Lions_Safari Niagara photo

The Contest!

The kind folks at Safari Niagara have given me 2 family day passes – good for 2 adults and 2 children  – to give away, for the 2013 season.

How to win:  Get the word out!  Share this post, like the link, and post a comment on this blog, through Twitter, or Facebook.  The more social media places you share this post on, the better are the chances of winning!

It’s that easy.

How will you know if you won?

Well starting today, July 24th, I will be taking down the names of everyone who posts, likes and shares this article and at the end of 2 weeks, I will put all those names into a hat and let my kids pick the 2 winners.  I will then arrange and mail out the passes to the winners ASAP so the winners can get out and enjoy the park with their family.

Needless to say, it’s the perfect way to wind up a summer!

So check out their website, and get posting / sharing and linking Safari Niagara and get ready to win with The Urban Daddy.  Who knows, we might even see you there!