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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Ontario to get tough with tobacco smugglers, tax evaders

   Canada column for Sunday, April 26/15

   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Ontario government is turning over a new leaf and getting tough with contraband tobacco dealers who account for 40 percent of the cigarettes consumed in the province.
   Finance Minister Charles Sousa said the illegal cigarette market amounts to $500 million annually and is a big part of the underground economy costing the provincial government $15 billion a year in lost tax revenues.
   In his budget, Sousa said new measures in the past two years have recouped about $600 million in lost revenue from tax evaders.
   Along with getting tough with those in the illegal cigarette market, the government will go after corporate tax avoiders and cash, tax-free deals by roofers and auto body shops, he said.
   Contraband smokes are sold on native reserves, in bars and out of car trunks for a fraction of the $85 average retail price for a carton of 200 cigarettes.
   The government is also requiring that tobacco farms and everyone who handles the product must be registered.
   Authorities say much of the contraband cigarettes have come from unlicensed manufacturing plants in New York State supplemented by the growth of Ontario farms selling tobacco to underground manufacturers.


   The time is right for Canadian companies to strike it rich in the United States, Export Development Canada (EDC) said.
   Exporting goods south will be a key driver of global economic growth” over the next two years, the agency predicts.
   U.S. companies are “being pushed to capacity” to keep up with demand from a rebounding economy and consumer confidence, EDC chief economist Peter Hall said.
   Also boosting Canadian businesses is the higher U.S. dollar that makes foreign goods less expensive.


   News in brief:
   - Pierre Claude Nolin, speaker of Canada's Senate, has died as the upper house is in crisis over an expenses scandal. Nolin, who was 64, was appointed to the Senate in 1993 by former prime minister Brian Mulroney and is remembered for his “integrity, knowledge, wisdom and determination.”  He had been battling a rare form of cancer the past five years.
   - Marshall Rothstein is retiring from the Supreme Court of Canada effective Aug. 31, just ahead of the mandatory retirement age of 75. The Winnipeg native was the first appointment to the court by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2006. He was earlier with the Federal Court.
   - Sears Canada has scored a partnership with hockey legend Wayne Gretzky for a line of casual menswear. Company head Ron Boire also told Sears’ annual meeting that it has picked up the Cherokee clothing line and Liz Lange Maternity that had been exclusive to Target Canada before it closed its Canadian stores this month.


   Facts and figures:
   The Canadian dollar is higher at 82.14 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.217 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 0.75 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.85 percent.
   Stock markets are mixed, with the Toronto exchange index up at 15,401 points and the TSX Venture index down at 698 points.
   The average price of gasoline is higher at $1.065 a liter or $4.04 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (April 22) 4, 24, 27, 35, 38 and 48; bonus 44. (April 18) 11, 25, 33, 35, 44 and 49; bonus 43. Lotto Max: (April 17) 7, 11, 14, 15, 19, 30 and 41; bonus 22.


   Regional briefs:
   - David Silverberg, a Charlottetown doctor, is being credited with saving the life of a disabled man who fell onto the tracks of the subway in Washington, D.C. The 66-year-old neurologist jumped onto the tracks after the man and his wheelchair toppled over. He summoned another man to help lift the man who was unconscious onto the platform.
   - Prime Minister Stephen Harper has explained his Winnipeg Jets wardrobe malfunction. Fans criticized Harper for wearing a red-and-white Team Canada jersey to the hockey playoff game instead of the team’s colors. He explained that he didn't have a Jets jersey to wear even though an online photo surfaced of him later wearing one a year ago.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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