Accidental Americans punished by US-Canadian agreement
Most Canadians are not aware of the extent of the machinations of our current government under Harper. Everyone knows they have pushed through things by hiding them in omnibus budget bills, but there is one in particular that most Canadians are not aware of.
What I am writing about is the signing of an intergovernmental agreement allowing the overreaching US FATCA law to become the law in Canada as of July 1.
This law overrides all previous tax treaty laws that were in place.
What does this means for ordinary Canadians who have some kind of connection with the US? They may have their private bank account information handed over to the IRS (balances, deposits, withdrawals and payments) to be assessed for possible “failure to file” (US tax returns), with the possibility of huge bankrupting penalties being levied against them.
Canadians could have their private financial information turned over if they have any kind of “indicia” – meaning place of birth, address in the US (holiday home), bank account transfers to or from US accounts or marriage to an American. Even snowbirds could find themselves on the wrong side of the tax fence if they overstay in the US (as determined by the US, NOT Canada).
I know that many people in the Beach have US connections. I am one of them. I am known as an “accidental American” who was born in the US but came here as a small child. I have never lived there since, never worked there, and never used any services of the US. I am a Canadian through, and through and yet now I find that me and my Canadian-born spouse may have all of our private financial information turned over to the IRS.
I have discovered that I cannot even renounce my unwanted US citizenship because I could be subject to crippling penalties and extremely costly back filing charges (running in the $10,000 to $20,000 range).
All this for not owing one penny in actual tax to the US, since I pay taxes in Canada.
Why should anyone be subject to anything like this, just due to their place of birth?
Yet the Canadian government is allowing this. Imagine what they would have said if China had asked for the same thing? Or Eritrea?
Oh wait, Eritrea DID! And what did the Harper government do? They kicked their ambassador out of Canada! But when the US threatens us with sanctions unless they turn over access to information on all Canadians of US origin they said, “Here you go, anything else you’d like? Just ask!”
There is a determined group of Canadians who are pursuing a court case under the Charter. More information can be found at adcs-adsc.ca. For more general information on accidental US “persons” of all types see the Isaac Brock Society’s website, isaacbrocksociety.ca.
A possible tragedy becomes story of hope
Those of you who know me know I believe the glass is always half full.
Those times when it is pouring rain, gloomy and nothing is going right, I remind myself of how lucky I am to have had a Dad who taught me to find the rainbow, look at the bright side of things, look for the beauty, all that positive stuff.
So on March 6, my birthday, when I slipped on the ice, it was devastating – nothing like this had ever happened to me before. What about keeping my business going, how do I walk Betty, or shop or cook?
What comes around goes around – oh, did I forget to insert that along with the half-full glass?
My neighbour Moss came running when I called him, and got my coat, ID, socks for my very cold feet and my keys (can’t do without them).
I had the nicest ambulance drivers, who had their vehicle side-swiped – before I was loaded, thank God – and stayed with me in emergency when they didn’t have to.
My neighbour Patty brought me flowers and a BIG card from the kids. All in all the stay in the hospital (4 days) was one pill, a visit to the washroom, a meal, and one blood-taking after another, all with a smile from the great nurses.
My second operation was great and I got to see the two metal plates and 14 screws that now secure my ankle and leg.
While in the emergency ward I emailed my neighbours, asking them to let Betty out to do her business and so on. My neighbour Nancy, a nurse, came to see me, making sure I was OK, lowering my anxiety and assuring me that my house, dog and cat would all be looked after.
My friends William and Ruth picked me up, and my anxiety was very high with having to manage my stairs on crutches, but my neighbour Patti came over and put her body right behind me just like we were attached, giving me assurance that I would not fall backwards – what a relief!
My neighbour Irene walked Betty six days a week for three months, and Betty just loved the walks on the beach. I would laugh when she would come home all wet from the water and snow and coated in sand.
My neighbours Fred and Glenda drove me to physio for three weeks, until I was able to drive.
I was so fortunate that my client, Allan, kept me on, managing a project along with the general contractor. I couldn’t go to the site, but was able to get everything done from my temporary office on my main floor. My neighbours Ian and Fred would make runs to get plans printed, and Patty would do any scanning I needed (the scanner was in my office in the basement).
My general contractor, Joe, dropped everything to install handrails into the basement and grab bars in the bathtub. My neighbour Debby loaned me a bathtub seat so I could sit and shower; I never knew that a shower could be such a glorious thing.
I don’t believe that stories like this are uncommon but I do think that we forget to open our eyes and look.
A man across the street is in a scooter. One of the neighbours, Ian, the day before heading off for a holiday – the day most people would be packing and getting ready – built a ramp so the husband could have some mobility in the back yard. The day Ian returned from his holiday he built a second smaller ramp so the husband could get out of the back yard on his scooter.
I am telling these stories because I believe that we all go through things that cloud our vision of that rainbow, and sometimes only see the glass half empty, and this happens to all of us.
So the next time your day is not going so well, the kids are whining or sick, your neighbour is (in your opinion) taking advantage of your good nature, you think your spouse is not pulling their weight, or you feel that you are being ignored, remember: LET IT GO. It is only hurting you and blocking the rainbow.
No fan of plan for Kew Gardens “improvements”
So, let’s just get this straight: In a city increasingly paved over and condo-ized, with more and more people desperate for a bit of green space, we are going to spend $650,000 to “improve” – that is to say, to increase the amount of pavement in – Kew Gardens, the grassy envy of so many downtown neighbourhoods?
That’s the plan led by our local BIA and supported by our councillor, Mary-Margaret McMahon. They say the plan has had extensive public consultation. In fact, while there’s a working committee of “stakeholders,” there has been one public meeting (in March) and one open house on June 16.
The designs on display by Plant Architect Inc. (or maybe the firm was Paving Architect Inc.?) were drawn in such a way that the park’s two already existing paved paths were minimized off to the sides, leaving a large “empty” expanse of grass in the centre of the drawing for the landscape architect’s proposed new paved path (even though it is in actuality not far from the existing ones).
The land slopes away from the Queen Street sidewalk sharply enough that the project is likely to cost more than it’s budgeted for – probably closer to $1 million – and the additional construction needed to raise that ground is likely to cause further disruption to already stressed park trees.
Why is taxpayers’ money being spent “improving” a natural gem in our neighbourhood that’s beautiful and working fine, when so much of our city is an aesthetic disaster and falling apart (including the Beach streetscape)?
The BIA says it wants additional seating and a paved area for people to linger because Beach retailers are desperate. I’m sympathetic to the retailers, but paving more of our park won’t help them. Our shopping district is suffering because high rents and development pressures are driving out distinctive small retailers.
There are many more creative solutions to enhance Queen Street East that don’t entail messing with parkland – decorative street lighting or paving, making Queen Street an artist-friendly zone by funding more artist takeovers of empty storefronts, for example. A village in Austria recently garnered attention by inviting international architects to redesign its bus shelters.
Or would it be smarter to spend this money figuring out how to compel developers to build significant public space into their projects (maybe set their buildings back, to allow public seating on the street) or require them to make significant streetscape improvements with every condo project that’s allowed?