Monday, August 22, 2016

Rogers and their junk mail continues

Rogers is getting sneakier. Now they don't put their return name on their junk mail. Now I am forced to open it up to make sure it's them, and re-tape the envelope, add the president's name (Guy Laurence) and return to sender.

But here's a clue that it is Rogers. If you look at the number on the Canada Post stamp, you will see it's 7197477. That was the same number as on my last piece of junk mail from Rogers. So next time I won't have to open the mail, I only need to check the stamp number and I'll know if it's them.

Dear Guy, your junk mail is coming back to you today.

Sincerely,
Patricia Maloney




Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Dealing with pesky addressed junk mail

I get addressed junk mail frequently. You know who it's from, and they have my address on the envelope, but there is no return address. They obviously don't want you to send their junk mail back to them.

Solution? Look up the name of the president of the company and the company's head office mailing address and put it on the envelope. And "return to sender".

Rogers seems to be one of the worst culprits as I get addressed junk mail from them often (ie both this week and last week and many times before.) Though Bell does it as well.

So I Googled and discovered that Guy Laurence is the President and CEO of Rogers. So I'm returning his junk mail to him.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Bank of Montreal must be joking

The Office of the Corporate Secretary 
BMO Financial Group 
1 First Canadian Place, 21st Floor 
Toronto, Ontario M5X 1A1 
Email: corp.secretary@bmo.com

Dear President William Downe,

I just received a Bank of Monteal Mastercard statement. Can you please tell me if this is a joke?

The statement contained one line item posted on June 15:

Inactivity fee............................................Reference no. 000001742531....................10.00

If it is a joke, someone has a sick sense of humour. Why would I pay $10.00 because I am NOT using my Mastercard? That is the silliest thing I have ever heard. I'm sure you will agree.

Seems to me that BMO made 1.2 billion dollars last year. Don't you think that's enough money? Is it really necessary to squeeze $10.00 out of every consumer who isn't using their credit card?

Well I've made a tough decision. It took me about, oh, 1.2 seconds. I actually called your office but I was going to have to wait 5 to 10 minutes to speak to someone. Waiting on hold just seemed so, you know, unfriendly.

In any event, I can take a hint. BMO doesn't really care about my business. So you can go ahead and cancel my card. I won't be needing it anymore.

Sincerely,
Patricia Maloney

Monday, June 20, 2016

News 1310 is better anwyay

Since CFRA went on their firing spree earlier this year, I've switched to 1310 News. Much better station. Much better news.

Mark Sutcliffe is great from 9:00 to 1:00 mornings, and I don't miss CFRA's call in shows. Too much blah blah blah. I far prefer the knowledgeable guests Mark has on his show.

Lovely. Brilliant. And definitely Grand.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Stupid people don't help a lovely village

We have been here in Lahinch for the past five weeks from Canada.

We love it here in County Clare Ireland. The people are lovely, the scenery is brilliant, food is grand, and the Smithwicks is the best. We have also visited Ennis, Ennistymon, Corofin and Galway, always taking the local bus.

Every morning we also walk along the promenade in Lahinch, then down along the gravel pathway that runs between the ocean and the golf course. It is a beautiful walk and we greatly enjoy it.

The problem is that we frequently see dog droppings along the path. We have also noticed that there are hefty fines for those droppings, as there are signs all along the way. We also noticed that there are even stations where dog owners can get convenient bags to allow them to easily scoop and poop, so there is no excuse not to pick up after one's dog.

In Canada we also have this problem, as I am sure many other locales do as well. But one morning on our walk we witnessed two young women who were walking a total of six dogs. They were ahead of us on the path. Three of their dogs defecated--all at the same time. We watched in disgust as the owners studiously turned away and continued on their way. Truly it was awful to see this. There is even a sign posted about the danger of dog feces (Toxocariasisto children. Yet these two young women presumably didn't care a whit.

On our return from our walk, we saw another woman who was cleaning up garbage from the side of the road. She said that she chose to do this, and we thought wow, good on you. So we know that it isn't all the people of Lahinch who ignore good outside manners and care for their village.

Some local enforcement of dog droppings would go a long in keeping Lahinch beautiful and safe from ignorant owners. After all, what good are hefty fines if there is no enforcement?




Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Points missing from Loblaws purchases

Loblaws has a Points program. Buy stuff and get points on certain items that you "load" onto your card every week.

Except your points are not always correctly given to you.

Recently I started noticing that the points I was supposed to get, I never received. After multiple emails to PC points the problem has been sort of fixed. 

Except yesterday I noticed that I didn't receive my 7500 points (for spending over $75), and I also didn't receive my points for peppers. Once again I had to contact Loblaws.

So...my advice to Loblaws shoppers is to check your receipts, and compare to the items that you "loaded" onto your card the previous Friday to ensure you have correctly received your points.

Here is Loblaws email address to bug them if you are missing points: memberservices@pcplus.ca


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Ontario government discriminates against Ottawa property owners

Why do Ottawa residents pay a lot more for property taxes than property owners in Toronto? In fact I have learned that I pay 36.4% more for my property taxes than the same property assessment if I lived in Toronto.

Why? From a city of Ottawa employee:
"1) The Province allows the City of Toronto to share the costs of social housing and general welfare assistance by forcing GTA municipalities to share Toronto’s costs. In addition, both the riders of the Toronto Transit system and the Province fund more of the cost of public transit in Toronto than in Ottawa. 
2) The residential class in Toronto shoulders a lower percentage of total property taxes than Ottawa’s residential class. This is due to the Province’s property tax legislation and Toronto’s decision to keep business property taxes high."
So the Ontario government funds more of Toronto's transit system than Ottawa's transit system, and for some reason we in Ottawa pay more of the total tax burden. You can view the full exchange below, although the answers are confusing. But what is crystal clear, is that the government of Ontario apparently favours Toronto over Ottawa. Why is that?

Check it out for yourself. Have a look at your own property tax assessment and see what your property taxes are, and what your property is assessed at. Your tax assessment in on your tax bill. Then use this calculator provided by the city of Toronto to calculate what your property taxes would be if you lived in Toronto, and you'll see that a property of the same assessment will pay a lot less taxes.

Notice that two of the answers I received below (**) were responded with a
"That is a political question and best posed to the Premier and members of Queen’s Park."
So I've now asked the same question to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Ted McMeekin.

I'll let you know when he responds.

(As well, right now in Ottawa we are learning that our bus fares are probably going up.)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Here are my formatted questions, along with the city's answers. Note that a presentation was done in 2006 and is referenced in the exchange.

My first email, and the city's response:

Q. I've been watching real estate prices in Toronto. And I've noticed that the property taxes there are about 1/2 of what they are in Ottawa, for the same value of home. Can you please explain to me why our taxes are twice as high as Toronto's property taxes?

A. This is a question that comes up every few years. Your resident makes the observation that a home with the “same value” in Toronto is paying less than a home in Ottawa with the “same value”.
I stress the words “same value” because that would imply same size, square footage, proximity to downtown, other amenities, etc...Is a home in Ottawa assessed at say $400,000 equal to a home in Toronto with the same assessed value? That is not an easy question to answer.

The more meaningful comparison is what is the average residential value in both cities and what are the corresponding taxes. The City Manager did an extensive analysis and presentation to Council during the 2006 budget to try to dispel a number of "myths" surrounding the property tax situation in Ottawa as compared to Toronto. I have attached his slide deck for your information - slides 31-48 are of particular relevance to this discussion. Although this work was done almost 10 years ago, the underlying reasons for the differences between Ottawa and Toronto have not changed significantly.

In 2005, the average residential value in Ottawa was $247,000 while in Toronto it was $330,700 Based on the tax rates for that year, the Ottawa homeowner would have paid ~$2,500 while the Toronto homeowner would have paid $515 less for city services. The next obvious question is - why is the Ottawa homeowner still paying more?

There are 2 main reasons for this - I've summarized these from the slide deck.

1) The Province allows the City of Toronto to share the costs of social housing and general welfare assistance by forcing GTA municipalities to share Toronto’s costs.  In addition, both the riders of the Toronto Transit system and the Province fund more of the cost of public transit in Toronto than in Ottawa.

2) The residential class in Toronto shoulders a lower percentage of total property taxes than Ottawa’s residential class. This is due to the Province’s property tax legislation and Toronto’s decision to keep business property taxes high.

I then asked for clarifications. Here are my second set of questions based on the previous answer and the slide deck.

Q. I notice that the slides refer to the 2006 budget. Will an up to date analysis be done for 2016, which is 10 years later?
A. This was an analysis conducted through the City Manager’s Office in response to questions raised at that time which was shortly after amalgamation. As far as I know, there is no direction form Council to conduct another study.

**Q The Province funds more of the cost of public transit in Toronto than in Ottawa". Why does the province give more to Toronto than Ottawa for transit? 
A. That is a political question and best posed to the Premier and members of Queen’s Park

Q. The slide states that "Toronto’s decision to keep business property taxes high." Why doesn't Ottawa raise business taxes in order to redistribute the tax burden?
A. That is a complex question and not an easy one to explain. It stems from the 1997 Provincial legislation – “Fair Municipal Taxation Acts”. Prior to 1997, the property taxation system was very different from what it is currently.  Prior to 1998 amounts paid by businesses consisted of 2 components – a property tax and a “business occupancy tax” (BOT) which had a different tax rate depending on the type of business being operated on the property.

That system was eliminated.

The new system looked at what each property class (residential, multi-residential, Commercial, Industrial) was paying in property taxes at the time (1997)  including BOT.  That established the relative tax burdens -  i.e. how much each class was paying to the municipality relative to each other.

That established the starting point and allowed municipalities to continue raising the same relative amount of total taxation from each property class as was raised before the change.  As shown in the slide deck, given that Toronto has a much higher commercial / industrial tax base than Ottawa, more taxation revenue is derived from those classes.

However municipalities were not permitted to increase the tax burden on commercial and industrial classes – i.e. raising more property taxes relative to the other classes.

In fact, the Province wanted municipalities to decrease the tax burden on businesses by shifting some of the tax burden to the residential class.  The Province introduced “ranges of fairness” which effectively allowed municipalities to shift taxation from commercial / industrial classes but not vice versa.

As you can appreciate, shifting more property tax burden onto residential properties would have resulted in much larger tax increases for homeowners.

I realize that this is a difficult topic to explain but I hope that gives you a sense of the issues.

Q. Why are residential taxes discounted in Toronto?
A. They aren’t “discounted”.  Just that more of the tax burden is borne by the commercial / industrial classes as described previously.

**Q. Why does the province bestow upon Toronto beneficial cost sharing for social housing and general welfare assistance by forcing GTA municipalities to share Toronto’s costs? 
A. Again that is a political question and best posed to the Premier and members of Queen’s Park