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City of Toronto land transfer tax revenues miss target for first time

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The City of Toronto’s budget-balancing golden goose — the land transfer tax — is sick.

For the first time since the tax on real estate exchanges was introduced in 2008, revenues that used to gush into Toronto’s operating budget will miss the target — $818 million this year — recommended by city staff and approved by city council, staff acknowledged Monday.

In fact, those revenues are expected to fall short by $99.2 million, or 12 per cent, “primarily driven by lower residential market activity,” says a finance update going to city council this Thursday.

Luckily for residents and the services they expect, other underbudget expenses and overbudget revenues are expected to propel the city to a year-end overall budget surplus of $14.7 million.

But the missed target is proof, says Councillor Gord Perks, that warnings were justified from him and Toronto’s former city manager about the perils of leaning so hard on land-tax revenues.

“For the last eight years, in order to keep (property) taxes low, Mayors (John) Tory and before him (Rob) Ford relied on the land transfer tax to get them through, and now we can’t do that any more,” Perks (Ward 4, Parkdale—High Park) said in an interview.

“Looking ahead we will face a stark choice between keeping taxes low to protect the interests of people who own their own homes and cutting services, or keeping services at good levels and increasing taxes.

“Luckily we didn’t lose big time this year but it should be a very sobering reminder to all. If we don’t have healthy finances, you will not be able to get a seat on the bus, you will not be able to get your kid into a (city-subsidized) daycare, your pothole will not get fixed, the library hours in your neighbourhood will get cut.”

City staff forecast, when the tax was introduced, a very modest boost to Toronto finances. But by 2015, with a roaring real estate market seemingly eager to best every target set by city council, annual revenues had jumped to a half-billion dollars.

Council escalated expectations every year, more than quadrupling the original target to help pay for increased demands on city services while keeping property tax hikes at or below the inflation rate.

City manager Peter Wallace, who left his post earlier this year, repeatedly warned city council against relying too heavily on such an unpredictable revenue source, urging either an increase in property taxes or new revenue sources to avoid future service cuts or big hikes in user fees.

Toronto’s ability to keep “kicking the can down the road” were ending, he said.

Councillor Gary Crawford, budget chief during Tory’s first term that recently ended, said he knew land transfer revenues had “softened” but was surprised by the size of the dip.

Last May a finance official told councillors that increased commercial real estate transactions should make up for the slumping residential sector and “we think we’ll be able to meet” the target.

Crawford said he needs to learn what’s behind the big drop. City council faces, in deliberations for the 2019 spending blueprint to be set in February, “a much tighter budget cycle — we will have to look at expenses and different ways of income generation,” he said.

He rejected Perks’ criticisms, saying the situation is not so dire and there are signs of a real-estate rebound. But he agreed with the frequent critic of the Tory administration that “we have to ween ourselves off the land transfer tax.”

Council has looked at new revenue sources, or “tools,” in the past. Facing a need for transit funding in 2013, council looked at a host of options, including reviving the car tax killed in 2011, a levy on owners of parking spots at malls and other businesses, and a gas tax, but rejected them all.

In late 2016 council backed Tory’s plan to toll the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway, only to have then-premier Kathleen Wynne say no in the face of complaints from 905-belt MPPs.

Ford and his councillor brother Doug, now Ontario premier, wanted to kill the land tax altogether.

Tory aide Don Peat on Monday noted the overall budget surplus, adding the mayor is determined to keep his re-election promise to limit property tax hikes to the inflation rate or below.

“Every year, Councillor Perks routinely predicts budget calamity and calls for sky-high tax increases — while he is entitled to expressing that opinion, voters have endorsed the Mayor’s fiscally responsible approach that invests in key areas, like transit, while keeping taxes low,” Peat said in an email.

Enid Slack, an internationally renowned expert on municipal finance at the University of Toronto, said of the revenue reckoning: “Land transfer tax revenues can be very volatile but municipal expenditures tend to be stable over time. For this reason, it is difficult to rely too heavily on land transfer taxes to pay for municipal services.”

The Toronto Real Estate Board has long criticized Toronto’s tax. Von Palmer, who speaks for the board, said the city can reduce its reliance by bringing rates in line with inflation, meaning buyers of many homes at or below average price would no longer be hit with the top rate, and by raising the threshold at which first-time homebuyers pay no land transfer tax.

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider



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These US entities partnered with the Wuhan Institute of Virology — time for a criminal investigation?

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(Natural News) The Wuhan Institute of Virology from which the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) is believed to have “escaped” has a number of questionable partnerships that are worth looking into in light of the pandemic.

Most of them are universities, including the University of Alabama, the University of North Texas, and Harvard University. There is also the EcoHealth Alliance, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Wildlife Federation.

While the relationships between these entities and the Wuhan Institute of Virology may be completely innocent, there is no way to really say for sure without a proper investigation. And this is exactly what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is calling for, as is the nation of Australia.

Pompeo and the folks down under, along with millions of Americans, would really like to know the true origins of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19). An increasing number of people simply are not buying the narrative that the novel virus originated in bat soup at a Chinese wet market, and this even includes mainstream media outlets like Fox News.

The only way to really determine what was going on at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and who else might have been involved. is to open the place up for an international investigation. But communist China is against this, of course, accusing Australia of “petty tricks” and collusion with the United States.

“Overnight, I saw comments from the Chinese Foreign Ministry talking about a course of activity with respect to Australia who had the temerity to ask for investigation,” Pompeo is quoted as saying in response to China’s aggression against a proposed investigation.

“Who in the world wouldn’t want an investigation of how this happened to the world?” he added.

As the U.S. aims to get back on track economically speaking, Pompeo believes that now is the time to hold communist China, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and whoever else may have been involved accountable for unleashing this pandemic on the world.

“Not only American wealth, but the global economy’s devastation as a result of this virus,” Pompeo further stated. “There will be a time for this. We will get that timing right.”

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New U.S. analysis finds that lab in Wuhan, China was “most likely” origin of coronavirus release

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(Natural News) While American Leftists and most of the Democrat Party continue to serve as apologists for the Chinese Communist regime over its role in creating and then perpetuating the coronavirus pandemic, a new U.S. government analysis concludes that COVID-19 “most likely” escaped from a lab near Wuhan city.

The Washington Times reports that the analysis cataloged evidence linking the outbreak to the Wuhan lab and has found that other explanations for the origins of the virus are not as credible.

The paper reported:

The document, compiled from open sources and not a finished product, says there is no smoking gun to blame the virus on either the Wuhan Institute of Virology or the Wuhan branch of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, both located in the city where the first outbreaks were reported.

However, “there is circumstantial evidence to suggest such may be the case,” the paper says.

“All other possible places of the virus’ origin have been proven to be highly unlikely,” said the report, a copy of which was obtained by the Times.

ChiCom officials have claimed that the virus’ origin is unknown. However, Beijing initially stated that coronavirus came from animals at a “wet market” in Wuhan where exotic meats are butchered and sold in disgusting conditions.

Chinese officials claim that COVID-19 went from bats to animals sold in the market last year, then infected humans.

U.S. intelligence officials have increasingly dismissed that explanation, however, as attention has begun to focus on evidence suggesting that Chinese medical researchers were working with coronavirus in the country’s only Level 4 facility, which is in Wuhan.

U.S. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that intelligence agencies are investigating whether the virus escaped from a lab or was the result of a naturally occurring outbreak, but that analysts have ruled out reports that COVID-19 was manmade.

‘The most logical place to investigate the virus origin has been completely sealed off’

“At this point, it’s inconclusive, although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural,” the general said on April 14, “but we don’t know for certain.”

The analysis said that the wet market explanation does not ring true because the first human diagnosis of coronavirus was made in someone who had no connection to the wet market in question. And according to Chinese reports, no bats were sold at that particular market.

At the same time, several questionable actions and a growing paper trail provide clues that the virus actually escaped from a lab, even as China begins to clamp down on those information streams.

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The biggest media lies about the coronavirus: Origins, treatments and vaccines

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(Natural News) If there is one thing that most everyone can agree on concerning the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is the fact that there is no shortage of conflicting information out there about the nature of it. And the mainstream media is certainly doing its part to steer the narrative as part of a larger agenda, using plenty of misinformation along the way.

The following are among the most commonly parroted lies about the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) that aim to distort the facts and deceive you into believing falsehoods about this pandemic:

Media LIE: The virus is not man-made

From the very beginning of this thing, the official narrative was that the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) came from a Chinese wet market where bats and other “exotic” animals are sold as meat. But the world later learned that it actually more than likely “escaped” from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The mainstream media and social media platforms went nuts trying to censor this information and even called it  “fake news.” But eventually it became undeniable that bat soup was not responsible for spreading the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) around Wuhan and eventually to the rest of the world – hence why we continue to call it the Wuhan coronavirus rather than just COVID-19.

We have even seen attempts by the media machine at making the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) a racial issue because there are supposedly more “people of color” coming down with it than people with fair skin, which further detracts attention away from the source of this virus.

Media LIE: Hydroxychloroquine is extremely dangerous and doesn’t work

The minute that President Donald Trump announced that hydroxychloroquine may be an effective, and very inexpensive, remedy for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), the mainstream media immediately began decrying this claim as fake news, even though Anthony Fauci himself praised hydroxychloroquine back in 2013 under Barack Obama as being some type of “miracle cure” for SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

There have even been studies conducted that were designed to intentionally smear the drug as both ineffective and dangerous, though one in particular purposely left out zinc, which appears to be a critical co-factor in supporting the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine – in other words, politics as usual.

Media LIE: Only a vaccine can save us from coronavirus

Many politicians and public health officials are parroting the lie that the only way America can come out of lockdown and go back to “normal” is to get vaccinated with some future vaccine for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) that does not even yet exist. A vaccine, we are repeatedly told, is the only thing, or perhaps some new “blockbuster” antiviral drug, that can cure the world of this scourge and make everything happy and wonderful once again.

Meanwhile, not a peep is being made about things like intravenous (IV) high-dose vitamin C, which is being successfully used in other countries to stem the tide of infections without the need for new drugs and vaccines.

By omission, nutrition is pointless

Speaking of natural approaches to overcoming the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) that are being systematically ignored by the mainstream media and most in politics, have you heard anyone mention the importance of nutrition in all of this? We did not think so, and this is intentional.

Regular readers of this site over the years should know by now that the single-most important thing you need to do to stay healthy besides exercising regularly is to feed your body the nutrition it needs to naturally ward off illnesses, including those associated with the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).

Research compiled by the Lewin Group reveals that nutritional remedies such as calcium, vitamin D, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zeaxanthin, and more all play a critical role in fortifying the immune system, which, if properly nourished, should have little problem fending off disease.

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