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‘Living the Newfoundland dream’ for 8 years, St. John’s trainer must now leave the country

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Like so many other Newfoundlanders, Machel Rayner had to leave the province for work.

It was September and the personal trainer had accomplished a goal of his own: he received permanent residency in Newfoundland and Labrador, the province he’s called home for eight years.

However, there was one more thing he had to do.

Rayner needed to find a good paying job. One that could support him, his two younger siblings, and his mother back in his home country of Jamaica.

But that one move — temporarily relocating to Halifax for work — put him at odds with the rules of the Newfoundland and Labrador government immigration program, which insisted that he stay put inside the province. The expulsion threw his life. and the lives of his family, into flux. 

« I was distraught. I was weak in the knees, » Rayner, 31, said in an interview Wednesday.

« I cried at the airport. I … feel as if I let everyone down. »

Love of Newfoundland

Nearly a decade ago, while working at a Sandals resort in Jamaica, Rayner was approached by a couple from Newfoundland who sold their province as a place where the charismatic Rayner could live and thrive.

Intrigued, he applied to do his undergrad at Memorial University and was accepted.

Machel Rayner, seen in a CBC story from 2011, was known for his singing and dancing when he worked at Tim Hortons in the Aquarena in St. John’s. (CBC)

The province upheld all his expectations, he said.

I had to think on my feet as I have been doing since I was 19, sending them to school right through since Kindergarten. I have to find a way to keep providing for them– Machel Rayner

« Everyone here is friendly. They go out and beyond to make sure that I’m comfortable here, » he said.

« The university professors, they are as helpful as they possibly can and it’s always a first name basis, which is quite a bit difficult for me, » Rayner laughs. « Because back home it’s all sir and madam. »

Rayner’s contagious laughter, positive outlook, and big smile caught the attention of CBC cameras in 2011, while he was working behind the counter at Tim Hortons at the Aquarena in St. John’s.

Machel Rayner holds a photo of himself from his Memorial University convocation. It’s one of many items he is packing into storage as he leaves the province behind. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

He would sing and dance for customers to brighten their day.

After completing his degree in kinesiology at MUN, Rayner brought his positive outlook to the gym, where he sang and danced for clients looking to improve their physical fitness.

He was « living the Newfoundland dream, » taking chilly walks along the edge of the North Atlantic with his Newfoundland dog Jam Jam and giving a hearty nod and « whattaya at, b’y? » to anyone who passed by.

Cash-strapped in the city

But after his employer cut one of the fitness programs Rayner taught at a local gym, he suddenly found himself losing out on $10,000 a year — or about 25 per cent of his annual income.

« With that reduction in income, I was financially stifled. I couldn’t meet my bills with my regular livelihood and also take care of my diabetic mom back home, » Rayner said.

« So, I had to think on my feet as I have been doing since I was 19, sending them to school right through since kindergarten. I have to find a way to keep providing for them. »

Rayner had already saved enough money to bring his younger brother Shaquille, 23, to the province, where he’s currently studying to be an electrical engineer at the College of the North Atlantic.

Machel Rayner, 31, and his brother, Shaquille, 23, pose in front of an iceberg perched in the chilly North Atlantic ocean. (Submitted)

His youngest brother, who is 21, is set to arrive next year.

Rayner needed to find money to fulfil the wish he made his mother eight years earlier to get his little brothers to Canada.

« I wasn’t thinking. I was just thinking about how to provide for my family because if my income is cut, there’s a ripple effect on everyone else. »

He didn’t have any luck securing a higher paying job in Newfoundland, but Rayner did get an offer in Halifax.

« I was hesitant in going because Newfoundland is home, » Rayner said.

« This was a temporary move because my other brother is coming. I have to prepare for him and be here when he arrives. »

Axed from N.L. program

By leaving the province for work — albeit temporarily — Rayner said he was automatically removed from the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Nominee Program.

While it wouldn’t discuss the case, the Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour said that the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Immigration Agreement requires immigrants to live and work in this province as they pursue permanent residency.

The certificate is granted to people who have skills that the province can use to address specific economic development and labour market needs.

Federal immigration and refugee protection regulations require that people « must intend to reside » in the province which nominated them.

Machel Rayner is leaving behind his three-year-old Newfoundland dog named Jam Jam. (Submitted)

Without the program, Rayner either has to leave the country voluntarily within two weeks and start the process over again, or appeal — and run the risk of being banned from Canada for a minimum of one year.

The appeal hearing is too risky, Rayner said. Instead, he is leaving his younger brother, his fitness clients and dog behind.

« I never had a pet in my life, » he said. « I truly am going to miss my Newfoundland dog. She meant a whole lot to me. »

Packing 8 years of memories

If Rayner was told about the stipulation, it simply slipped his mind, he said, adding he originally applied for his residency three and a half years ago.

On Wednesday, Rayner and his brother Shaquille packed a small storage unit in St. John’s full of Rayner’s things. His framed diploma from Memorial University perched atop a pile of possessions collected over eight years.

Working two jobs and seven courses, Shaquille will shoulder the family financial burden — for now.

It was something I did wrong, by not reading the fine print.– Machel Rayner

« All my mom has been doing is praying that I don’t return [to Jamaica] and that there’s some sympathy, » Rayner said.

« But it will [end] up on my little brother now to continuously send $100 back home so they can eat for two weeks. »

It’s on me, Rayner says

In recent years the Newfoundland and Labrador government has put a big push on immigration.

With more citizens dying than being born, the population is dwindling and is in desperate need of a boost.

A provincial Liberal immigration action plan released last year indicated the province has a « roadmap » to welcoming 1,700 newcomers annually by 2022.

Machel Rayner had hoped to bring his mother to Newfoundland and Labrador with him and his two brothers. It’s a promise he still wants to keep. (Submitted)

Now, one of their long-time residents is leaving.

Rayner may have worked on the beach at a Sandals resort, but he grew up in one of Jamaica’s toughest neighbourhoods, Trench Town in the capital of Kingston.

He doesn’t know how long reapplying to come back to Newfoundland will take or if he’ll ever be allowed back, but remains his upbeat, optimistic self.

He’s not jaded by his experience. Nor does he blame the province.

« It was something I did wrong, by not reading the fine print. And I will just have to see what’s the best route to come back. »

The Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour did not accept CBC’s offer for an interview with the minister, citing privacy concerns over discussing specific cases.



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Anglais

Modest price gains expected in real estate in 2019

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Canadian realtors are predicting modest gains in the Toronto area re-sale housing market in 2019 — a return to a pre-bubble balance that will see home prices climbing in the low single digits.

Royal LePage is expecting a 1.3 per cent price gain to an average of $854,552 next year, including houses and condos, in the Toronto area. That’s a sliver above the company’s 1.2 per cent national forecast.

Re/Max is slightly more optimistic, forecasting a 2 per cent price increase in the Toronto region, compared to the 1.7 per cent Canada-wide. The relative calm is a relief after the turbulence of recent years, said executive vice-president Christopher Alexander.

“Buyers are going to be more cautious,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of fear of the unknown. That is going to affect consumer confidence a little bit.”

Royal LePage CEO Phil Soper said 2018 was the first year in two decades when the market actually went backwards but the outcome could have been far worse.

The correction has been tough for mortgage-related businesses and real estate brokerages. But, Soper said, “It was a beautiful thing because the prospect of a difficult and economically dangerous deep correction was looming when we had prices increasing at 30 per cent per annum.”

How good the next year’s market is for buyers and sellers will depend on where they’re located, said Re/Max’s Alexander. Toronto continues to be a hot market, particularly west of Yonge St., but some of the 905 municipalities lowered the average price 4 per cent for the region this year, he said.

Re/Max forecasts a better year for some of those in 2019. Oakville could see prices climb as much as 5 per cent after a 12 per cent dip this year. Mississauga and Brampton, which experienced a flat 2018, are anticipated to have 4 per cent price gains. Durham Region could see a 3 per cent increase after a 5 per cent drop in 2018, says the company.

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Alexander had no figures for York Region, where the market’s recovery has lagged.

Soper suggested that some 905 communities will benefit by demographic trends next year.

“We don’t forecast (sales) volumes, but we believe volumes will pick up as the year goes on,” he said.

There is a pent-up demand among aging baby boomers for more suitable accommodation, said Soper. As well, millennial condo owners, who are having children, are looking for more space that could put more pressure on suburban houses in 2019.

The shortage of listings is also expected to be a challenge in the coming year. That’s because people like to list when the market is frothing, said Soper. They don’t recognize that a lack of competition can be a good thing, he said.

On the front lines, the lack of listings is challenging for realtors, said Harvey Kalles agent Ira Jelinek, who has been in the business 12 years.

“Sellers are hanging tight and the market is very scarce,” he said. “I’ve been looking for a house in the Cedarvale and Forest Hill area for about six months and nothing has come up. Nobody is selling.”

He expects “moderate” single-digit price gains next year with “a nice equilibrium between buyers and sellers.”

“I think it’s going to be more of the same (as the late part of 2018) — a healthy, balanced market where things won’t sell in two days at crazy record level prices,” said Jelinek. “A real estate agent has to work. You can’t just put a sign on the lawn.”



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City to rebuild Maple Leaf Pool – Regina

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Sharp public outcry has turned the tide for the embattled Maple Leaf Pool.

On Tuesday night, Regina city council voted unanimously to replace the 72-year-old facility in the Heritage neighbourhood. It had been scheduled to close in 2019.

“We know that the people of this city want  that pool replaced, and replaced in a hurry,” Councillor Bob Hawkins emphatically remarked.

Councillors cited a slew of emails and phone calls supporting the ageing pool in addition to a weekend protest and more than a dozen delegates presenting at budget.

“There’s a lot of newcomers in our neighbourhood,” Heritage Community Association executive director Shayna Stock said. “About 20 per cent are First Nations or Metis, and it’s a mix of lower income families and working class families, so the pool is really a hub for the community.”


READ MORE:
Regina residents protest closure of Maple Leaf Pool

“We changed our minds. We’ve changed the focus back to a local pool that’s critical- the centerpiece of a community. We understand, we agree,” Mayor Michael Fougere said.

Hawkins pushed to have a new pool open by 2020- though administration felt that was a little too ambitious.

“2020 we would start construction. 2019 we’d do design. You can’t move any quicker than that,” City manager Chris Holden said.

Administration will report back with funding options early in the new year, though council discussed financing through debt and increasing the mill rate at Tuesday’s meeting.

A proposal from Hawkins to pay for it through a .45 per cent mill rate increase was squashed after much debate.


READ MORE:
Maple Leaf pool the focus of Regina’s budget debate

Council heard there is almost $17 million in debt dedicated to replacing Wascana Pool with a new water park by 2021. While Maple Leaf Pool will be a priority, the proposed destination outdoor aquatic facility is not off the table.

“It may be a modified one, but I don’t think we’re going to be talking about the end of the destination (aquatic facility),”Fougere added. “I think we’re talking about moving forward on both projects.”

While details on construction and a price tag may be hazy, it appears the Maple Leaf Pool has a new lease on life.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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Meng Wanzhou is out on bail — but could be in legal limbo for years

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Meng Wanzhou says she hasn’t read a novel in 25 years.

As the lawyer for Huawei’s chief financial officer told B.C. Supreme Court Justice William Ehrcke Tuesday, the 46-year-old has been too busy raising a family and helping her father grow his company into a global telecommunications giant.

Defence lawyer David Martin said his client practically welcomes the constraints Ehrcke considered before granting her $10 million bail under strict supervision: more time to spend with her daughter, to catch up on her love of literature — and who knows, maybe even to consider getting her PhD?

Meng, who was arrested in Vancouver at the request of U.S. officials, is accused of violating international sanctions against Iran through a « hidden » Huawei subsidiary called Skycom.

U.S. prosecutors claim she put American banks in legal jeopardy by lying about the relationship between the companies, inducing them into « carrying out transactions that they otherwise would not have contemplated. »

Meng Wanzhou left B.C. Supreme Court in downtown Vancouver around 8 p.m. local time, nearly five hours after the judge delivered his decision. (CBC)

The U.S. wants to see her extradited.

But if the legal precedents Ehrcke considered in granting Meng her freedom are anything to go by, she may have time to finish War and Peace, Anna Karenina and the complete works of Marcel Proust before her extradition odyssey is done.

« This has been an unusual case, » the judge said as he wrapped up the day, which drew crowds so large the sheriff had to set up televisions in the lobby. 

The proceedings spoke to a number of Vancouver stereotypes: a part-time yoga instructor, a real estate agent, an insurance salesperson and a homemaker all came together as last minute sureties to guarantee the freedom of a woman whose father with an estimated worth of $3.2 billion US.

And all of this on a day with torrential rain.

Left holding the bag

In considering bail, Ehrcke had to balance Meng’s risk of flight against the guarantees of friends who put their own property on the line as sureties.

He considered the examples of Rakesh Saxena and Lai Changxing, two men who fought long battles against extradition.

It took 13 years before Saxena was deported to Thailand, where he was jailed for fraud.

And Lai — once considered one of China’s most wanted men — fought deportation for more than a decade before being sent back to face charges of bribery and theft.

Both men lived under house arrest and were eventually freed pending the resolution of their cases. Saxena was placed under house arrest again after violating the conditions of his release.

Lai Changxing fought deportation from Canada for years. His case was one of the examples the judge considered in granting bail to Meng. (Chuck Stoody/Canadian Press)

Ehrcke also considered the case of Michael Wilson, an accused fraudster, who — like Meng — was wanted for extradition to the U.S. and who — also like Meng — had multiple sureties step forward.

But Wilson fled to Vietnam with two of those guarantors in a bid to escape justice, leaving the other two holding the bag.

Wilson’s actions cost one of them $200,000. The friends who stepped forward for the Huawei CFO could be on the hook for as much as $3 million if she flees.

‘Myriad’ reasons to avoid the U.S.

Meng was arrested just over a week ago on a provisional arrest warrant as she passed through Vancouver International Airport en route to Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina and France.

Prosecutors claim the fact she hasn’t stepped foot in the United States since 2017 is proof she’s avoiding possible arrest in that country.

But Ehrcke rejected that argument, pointing out that people have « myriad » reasons for avoiding the United States in the past two years.

U.S. President Donald Trump chats with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Tensions between the two countries have been rising. (Andy Wong/Associated Press)

The judge didn’t mention Donald Trump’s name — but the tense relationship between the U.S. president and China’s leadership has simmered in the background from the moment Meng first stepped foot in court.

« There’s a larger macro struggle going on between the United States and China, » Martin told the court during his client’s first appearance — proceedings to which the CBC News has since listened.

Many of the people who packed the courtroom for three days running questioned the timing and motive of the arrest. They applauded Ehrcke’s final decision and some congratulated Meng’s husband as he left the courtroom.

Supporters decried the allegations and one man walked outside the courthouse and shouted, « We love Huawei. »

Patience and time

The arrest of a Canadian in China on the same day that Meng’s release was to be decided increased the air of intrigue.

And Trump’s assertion that he might intervene in the case against Meng if it would help national security interests or close a trade deal with China only helped reinforce the sense that the case may ultimately be decided in Washington and Beijing, not Vancouver.

For now, though, Meng is confined to a strict radius of locations in Vancouver, Richmond and parts of North and West Vancouver.

She’ll pay for round-the-clock shifts of security guards to watch her every movement — sworn to arrest her if she breaches the terms of her parole.

She’ll swap her green prison sweats for an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet.

And she’ll finally get to pick up a book. To paraphrase War and Peace, she may learn that patience and time are the strongest warriors of all.



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