The Alberta Dental Association and College (ADA&C) says it’s “aware of a disruption” at a Calgary orthodontist’s office that has drawn outcries online over services that were allegedly paid for but not completed.
In an email confirmed to Global News from late January, Dr. Richard Halpern writes to his patients that “for several personal reasons I am no longer able to provide you with orthodontic care.”
On a number of online review sites, commenters who claim they were patients say they paid for services that were not finished by the time of that email and beyond.
“We understand patients have been given contradictory information and are understandably confused and frustrated,” read a statement from ADA&C CEO Dr. Randall Croutze.
“The ADA&C, along with the Alberta Society of Orthodontists (ASO), have reached out to the larger orthodontic community in Calgary and area to help provide resources for these patients, including being as accommodating as possible regarding treatment fees.”
When asked to provide his side of the situation, Dr. Halpern said he “cannot provide any comment.”
In an email, ASO President Greg Barnett said: “the most heartbreaking cases are the ones who have paid up front, or at least are done paying their contract, but still have braces on and require months of further treatment, retainers, etc.”
“Orthodontists are aware of this terrible situation and are jumping in to help,” Barnett’s email read.
“We understand the frustration and sense of panic patients are having and want to reassure them that the rest of the profession in Calgary and beyond is stepping up to help.”
The ADA&C is advising any impacted patients to not postpone any treatment they need because of this incident. Halpern’s office will open again next Tuesday after the long weekend for patients to access their records.
Halpern’s late January email also states that patients would be left in the care of two other orthodontists, who told Global news in a statement that their “concern for the patients that would be left stranded required us to step in an interim basis to assess the unfortunate decision.”
The ADA&C is now working with “the orthodontists involved to ensure continuity of care for these patients, and that the integrity of patients’ records are upheld,” according to Croutze’s statement.
The head of Toronto’s embattled public housing provider has been placed on administrative leave and an outside firm has been called in to review a consulting contract that the housing corporation’s board found was awarded through a “flawed” process.
Kathy Milsom had been appointed to the role of chief executive officer for the Toronto Community Housing Corporation last August. The news that the decision had been made to place her on paid leave was made through a press release sent out on Monday afternoon, with a statement from the housing provider’s board.
The board also announced the immediate termination of a close to $1.3 million contract with Orchango, a management consultant agency brought on to help with the reorganization of the housing corporation. An employee who oversaw the request for proposal (RFP) or application process for the contract has also been placed on paid leave, the board said.
Law firm Bennett Jones will conduct the review, a spokesperson for the housing provider confirmed. The firm will examine how a process the board learned “was flawed and did not follow existing TCHC regulations” was used to award the contract, according to the release.
The existence of the contract and its value was first reported by the Toronto Sun.
“We hold ourselves to higher standards and, as a result, the board has directed TCHC to terminate the contract with Orchango effective immediately,” the board said. “We remain committed to transparency regarding this process and will keep our employees, tenants and the public updated on a resolution to this matter.”
Of the decision to put Milsom and the employee on leave the board said, “This is not disciplinary action, but part of a prudent effort to ensure the independence and integrity of the ongoing review.”
Orchango’s president and co-founder declined to comment on the board’s decision and said the company would not immediately be releasing a formal statement. “We are looking into the matter,” said Edmond Mellina, speaking with the Star on Monday.
Mayor John Tory, in a statement released shortly after Milsom’s leave was announced, said he had spoken with board chair Kevin Marshman about ensuring that the change does not impact tenants. About 110,000 Torontonians rely on the housing agency for a place to call home, many of them struggling to make ends meet in Canada’s largest city.
“The good governance of all city agencies is essential and requires that everyone involved with these organizations is held to the highest standards. The Toronto Community Housing board has taken decisive action. I believe the board has made the right decision,” said Tory.
Vice-President Sheila Penny will, effective immediately, serve as acting CEO to maintain “to maintain stability and continuity for our employees and tenants, said the release.
Early this year the Star’s Jennifer Paglario reported that a private law firm had been called in to investigate human resources practices at the corporation after several complaints were filed with the city’s ombudsman. One current manager and five former employees described a “culture of fear” where people felt bullied and harassed.
With files from Jennifer Pagliaro.
Emily Mathieu is a Toronto-based reporter covering affordable and precarious housing. Follow her on Twitter: @emathieustar
Quebecers living by the Canada-United States border where thousands of migrants have crossed irregularly into the country since 2017 will be eligible for payments of up to $25,000, the federal government announced Wednesday.
Life along the previously sleepy Roxham Road — the main entry point for migrants entering the country on foot — has been disturbed, and residents deserve to be compensated, Border Security Minister Bill Blair said.
“I’ve been there. I’ve spoken to the residents. I’ve seen the level of activity of the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and other officials that has impacted what is otherwise a quiet, rural road,” Blair told reporters.
Roughly 96 per cent of all migrants who have crossed illegally into Canada since 2017 have done so at Roxham Road.
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The federal Immigration Department says 16,000 people crossed the Canada-U.S. border illegally into Quebec through the end of October this year, and about 19,000 did last year.
Bureaucrats divided the Roxham Road area into three zones based on proximity to the border. People living in the closest zone are eligible to receive up to $25,000, those in the next closest $10,000, and those in the third zone $2,500.
An Okanagan senior who says she’s never missed a month of rent in her life received an eviction notice this holiday season.
“I got a 10-day eviction notice,” said Edna Pichler, who has been calling the apartment building on Kelowna’s Lawrence Avenue her home for the last seven years.
“I’ve been on my own since I was 17. I’ve never missed rent. I can go without food, I can go without car insurance, but I can’t go without rent,” Pichler said.
Pichler isn’t the only resident of Legacy Tower who might have to move. Multiple seniors in Legacy Towers are being threatened with eviction notices, warning they have to be out of their apartments by December 12th.
WATCH BELOW: A seven-foot gator, three pythons and other animals were removed from a home in Kansas City in November after a sheriff’s deputy came across the bunch while serving an eviction notice.
Associated Property Management manages the building but did not respond to request for comment.
“They’re saying I owe two months’ rent, and I don’t,” Pichler said, adding that she has the paperwork showing her cashed rent cheques from the last 12 months.
Pichler said she received the eviction notice via registered mail.
“And you have five days from the date of that being delivered to you, or you going and retrieving it, to come up with the amount of money they’re saying you owe them.”
Pichler said her immediate reaction was anger.
“When you’ve never had an eviction notice and all of a sudden you get one at 65, it’s not a happy time. And especially [at] Christmas,” she said.
“I don’t know where they’re coming up with this idea that I owe them money, and they won’t answer. They say I owe for [this past] January and November,” she added.
“The first thing was [being] curious,” Gautron said of receiving an eviction notice. “And after that, I got all uptight because where am I going to be? Where am I going to go? And so I had four days of being uptight like hell.”
Gautron said he showed the property manager his rent receipts, and the response was “it’s all being taken care of. That was the whole conversation. I don’t know [if I have to move out in a few days]. I know nothing.”
Tenant Dennis Branson has not received an eviction notice but said he’s been flooded with worries from his neighbours.
Ontario is the only province in Canada to have a minimum wage for young workers that is lower than the minimum wage for adults — and Grade 12 student Taamara Thanaraj isn’t happy that a scheduled increase to that rate may soon be frozen.
She was one of a group of 30 students who gathered under drizzly skies at Yonge and Bloor Sts. Friday to protest Bill 47, provincial legislation that, if passed, will result in significant rollbacks to labour protections recently enacted including increases to the general minimum wage and the subminimum wage for students.
“Right now, minimum wage is not a livable wage for a lot of people, especially for parents. That’s why a lot of young people do work,” said Thanaraj, who attends the Scarborough Academy of Technological, Environmental and Computer Education at William Arnot Porter Collegiate Institute.
Bill 47 will keep the general minimum wage at $14 an hour, but cancel an increase to $15 scheduled for January. It will also cancel a scheduled bump from $13.15 to $14.10 an hour for students’ minimum wage.
Employers in Ontario are not required to pay the general minimum wage to students under 18 who work part-time during school or work during a school break or the summer holidays.
“Ontario is the only province in Canada with a lower minimum wage for students, and those (provinces) that previously had a lower rate eliminated them years ago,” the report said.
“In our view, the impact of the provision is discriminatory, and, although the Human Rights Code effectively permits discrimination of those under 18, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not.”
Thanaraj said she helped organize Friday’s protest to advocate for young people — and to send a message to government that they deserve equal treatment.
“The government is assuming that because you’re a younger person, you don’t have financial responsiblities. But that’s such a generalization, because most young people are saving up for post-secondary opportunities,” she said.
According to the Ministry of Labour’s policy manual, the rationale for the exemption is “to facilitate the employment of younger persons,” who may struggle to compete for jobs with older students with more work experience.
Several business groups opposed removing the wage differential. These included the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association, which said, in its submission, to the review that requiring employers to pay students under 18 the general minimum wage “will have a huge impact on the overall business” and “will greatly affect youth employment.”
Documents obtained by the Star through a Freedom of Information request show Morley Gunderson, the CIBC Chair in Youth Employment at the University of Toronto, advised the review experts that “the evidence suggests that the sky will not fall in if the student subminimum (wage) is raised, although it may reduce their employment, perhaps by two per cent or so.”
The review recommended that government eliminate the lower student minimum wage over a three-year period, which the Liberals’ Bill 148 did not do. It did increase the base rate.
The Progressive Conservative provincial government has called Bill 148 “job-killing” legislation, and says its proposed replacement, Bill 47, will “make the province open for business, grow the economy and help create good jobs”
NDP MPP Jessica Bell, who addressed Friday’s protest, said Bill 47 serves “an economy of the rich.”
“Even if we’re not old enough to vote, that doesn’t mean we don’t understand our civic rights. Because we’re old enough to work,” added Thanaraj.
“It’s about more than just a $1 raise; it’s a fight against poverty and discrimination in the workplace.”
Sara Mojtehedzadeh is a Toronto-based reporter covering work and wealth. Follow her on Twitter: @saramojtehedz
An investigation into millions of dollars in dividend payments to Sears Canada shareholders while the company was in decline could soon lead to court action.
On Nov. 19, the court-appointed monitor for the retailer’s insolvency will seek permission from Ontario Superior Court to initiate proceedings against Eddie Lampert and his U.S. hedge fund, ESL Investments, in connection to $509 million paid to Sears shareholders in 2013.
In its notice of motion, the monitor, FTI Consulting, says it has identified « unresolved concerns » over the dividend payments. Of particular concern, it says, was the apparent limited analysis that informed the decision, which was made at a time when Sears was facing « worsening financial results, » and ESL appeared « to have had an urgent liquidity need. »
Eddie Lampert is chair of Sears Holdings in the U.S. and ESL Investments. (Sears Holdings)
The monitor also claims there is evidence Lampert and two then-Sears Canada directors « significantly influenced » the dividend payout decision.
The two former directors, William Harker and William Crowley, are also named in the potential proceedings. They each had close links to ESL and Lampert, according to the court documents.
Harker and Crowley’s lawyers declined to comment.
None of the allegations in the notice of motion has been proven in court.
ESL, of which Lampert is chair and CEO, said the 2013 dividend payments were authorized by Sears Canada’s board of directors at a time when no ESL executives were members and the retailer was clearly solvent.
« We believe there is no legal basis to reclaim those dividends and any attempt to do so would be without merit, » ESL spokesperson Michael Mittelman said.
Look into it
The investigation into dividend payouts began in January, when the monitor announced it was reviewing $611 million the company paid to Sears Canada shareholders in 2012 and 2013.
Next, Sears Canada retirees and other creditors asked Ontario Superior Court to scrutinize nearly $3 billion paid to Sears shareholders between 2005 and 2013.
That could be a great thing for the pensioners, fantastic thing. – Sears Canada pensioner Ron Husk
The retirees’ aim was to recover some of the money to top up their pension payments, which have been reduced by 20 per cent because of a shortfall in the Sears pension fund.
« That’s why we wanted an investigation, » said Ken Eady, vice-president of the Sears Canada Retiree Group (SCRG), a volunteer organization representing retirees.
« We wanted to find out if there was money there that should have been ours. »
According to court documents, both the monitor and the litigation investigator recommend proceeding with claims related to the 2013 payouts.
When Sears paid $753 million in dividends in 2010, the approval process « appears to have been robust, » the monitor says. The process included management presentations and meetings with outside lawyers to review the plan, according to court documents.
In 2013, on the other hand, « the board and management devoted significantly less time and analysis » to the process with « limited » correspondence.
FTI Consulting also noted that in 2010, Sears Canada had an operating profit of $196.3 million, but in 2013, it was operating at a loss of $187.8 million.
An undervalued transfer
Based on its findings, the monitor says it believes there’s a reasonable basis for the court to consider whether the 2013 dividend payments represent a « transfer at undervalue » under Canada’s Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.
« Generally, transfer at undervalue would mean the company is giving something to somebody for less than what it’s worth, » said Toronto-based commercial litigation lawyer Tamara Ramsey.
« They’ve certainly concluded that there’s some evidentiary basis for an argument that the payment of the dividend … rendered the company insolvent, which in essence, is [an argument] the company couldn’t afford to pay the dividend and the shareholders or certain insiders were taking care of themselves. »
Commercial litigation lawyer Tamara Ramsey says a ‘transfer at undervalue’ generally means a company is giving something to somebody for less than what it’s worth. (CBC)
Sears Canada didn’t file for bankruptcy protection until June 2017. It laid off 17,000 employees with no severance pay before closing its final stores in January.
But in court documents, the monitor argues that in 2013, the retailer was already on « a path to inevitable insolvency. »
The evidence listed includes the company’s « steadily declining financial performance » and its policy of « making significant distributions to shareholders without investing in the growth » of the business.
Sears Canada retiree Ron Husk, 73, had to return to work to make up for the shortfall in his pension payments. (Rhonda Thistle)
Sears Canada pensioner Ron Husk was happy to learn there may be court action involving the $509-million dividend payout.
« That could be a great thing for the pensioners, fantastic thing, » said Husk, who had to return to work as a greeter at Home Depot in Mount Pearl, N.L., to make up for the shortfall in his pension payments.
He says he’s holding out hope some of the dividend money will make its way back to Sears retirees.
« I gave 35 years of my life to Sears. I don’t want to be out working. I’m 73 years old. »