Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Free Tax Filing Online?

The NDP is the new consumer advocate for Canadians. First it was challenging banks over the charging of ATM fees in Canada. Now the NDP have set their sights on Canadians filing their taxes.

The NDP point out that in order for Canadians to file their taxes over the internet, they must purchase commercial software or have their taxes prepared by a private organization (i.e. H&R Block). The NDP note that there currently is not a no cost way to file personal income taxes.

The Revenue Minister, Carol Skelton, says Canadians already have access to free software via the Canadian Revenue Agency’s website. Try navigating this particular website to find the free software to download or file your tax return via the web browser. If the software is there, it is hard to find even for a person with two university degrees. So how is the average Canadian supposed to navigate the website in order to file their taxes online?

Perhaps the real need is to make the website less about announcing and promoting the new tax incentives for transit and for seniors and more on providing a user friendly free way for the average Canadian to file their taxes. Or perhaps a seperate user friendly website with a seperate easy to remember URL should be created so the average Canadian can file their taxes online. This new website should be advertised on television during tax season.

The website, the NDP contends, would save thousands of Canadian trees as taxpayers would more likely file their taxes online rather than having to read and fill out reams in a paper edition. In fact the Revenue Agency would save money in not having to print so many paper editions.

But of course, being a government agency, the Canada Revenue Agency, like the banks, wouldn’t be able to come up with anything user friendly that would also save people time and money.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Union Station: A Review

Union Station by Joe Fiorito takes a look at the stories of the everyday people of Toronto. The author avoids telling the stories of those you see in the newspapers and magazines. In other words, the stories told by Fiorito are not about politicians or any 'Hollywoodesque' like stars. Instead, Fiorito tells the stories of the common people of Toronto.

The book takes a look at the stories of the people who own the local corner store or restaurant, local homeless person, local seniors and others. These stories tell the trials and tribulations of everyday life that people are in Toronto are facing either on their own or with others. The stories include drug addiction, losing the local grocery store, prostitution, housing, and attaining health care.

The book's concept of telling the stories of the average person is quite unique. No where else has one come accross the telling of the stories of average people in Toronto except in the newspaper. Even at that, the newspaper doesn't cover a lot about the average person except for the death notices. This is where Union Station is unique.

Telling the stories of the average person means the reader can readily identify with the stories being told. This book provides just that connection on a personal level. It was the first book I tried blogging about after reading each chapter. Each chapter got me thinking about different issues Toronto were dealing with. The issues of how to make it easier for immigrants to integrate themselves into Canadian society were most interesting. These issues that Fiorito tells first hand stories about immigrants in Canadian society include attaining health care and learning English. The plight of the immigrant was just one topic that found my mind wandering while blogging. There were lots of others of course.

Fiorito writes the book in a style that allows the reader to believe it is them who is having a conversation with the person's story that is being told. While reading a chapter from Union Station the reader feels as if they and the person telling the story are sitting in a Tim Horton's having a conversation over coffee. While reading the chapter, the reader might feel like nodding their head in understanding what the Fiorito is attempting to convey. It is this style of telling the stories of the common person that makes the book so accessible to the average reader.

Stories of the everyday person can be hard to tell. Do you attempt to make them interesting to the reader by embellishing the story a little bit? Or does the author tell the story like it is? Fiorito tells the story 'like it is' by making you feel like you are there experiencing it yourself. Also the Fiorito wants you to start thinking right after finishing reading the chapter. Fiorito's writing style and the fact this book is about interesting events that occurred to the person you might run into on the corner is what makes this book so worthwhile to read!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Chapter 21: Union Station

In case you are wonderin' what is going on with this here

This chapter explores the "notables" being happy. No, not the everyday hollywood stars or politicians being happy. The local "notables" are the noteworthy people who are notable because they are different. Local Toronto notables, that Fiorito highlights, include Enza "Supermodel" Anderson.

Are the notable people in Aurora where I live? I have to think long and hard for local "off the wall" notables like Enza or Fred mentioned in the chapter.

Perhaps the local notables tend to be senior couples who have been married for over fifty years which leaves others in awe. Others are seniors who live over one hundred years in age.

Are there any truly "off the wall" people in Aurora who are notable? No not really. I guess the "off the wall" people like Enza and Fred (who lived in a tent near the Bloor Street Viaduct) tend to be in big cities like Toronto or New York City and tend to stay away from smaller towns like Aurora.

Chapter 20: Union Station

In case you are wonderin' what is going on with this here.

Joe Fiorito tells the stories of the people who are travelling workers. No, not business professionals or politicians travelling on all expensive paid business trips or for conferences, but people who are on the road almost every day of the year for their job. Examples of these travelling peoples are carnies and truck drivers.

After reading this chapter, the question is "What would it be like not to have a true home to return to every night after work?" This question arose thinking that travelling workers never know where they might rest their head from week to week. Also, how does one live out of their suitcase every day?

Following a vacation, I can't wait to get home and unpack the suitcase, but travelling workers never get to do this on an ongoing basis. The carnies that travel around assembling, operating and taking down county fairs never get a true place, besides a trailer, to call home. How do they do this?

Most people make fun of carnies as being "weird" or "out there". This is just what these carnies personify at the carnival. But lets remember these "weirdos" never get a place to call home on a permanent basis. Let's also remember that carnies may be thrown out of work during the winter months as the carnival season tends to dry up when the snow flies.

Travelling workers who put on fairs and the such should be commended for bringing entertainment to our areas while sacrificing time with their families and struggling during the winter months to make ends meet financially.

Monday, March 19, 2007

How to have fun with a Telemarketer

Telemarketers are annoying as hell!

They call during dinner time, they call too early in the morning for hungover university students, whats next? Calls at two in morning?

I have writen on this issue before on this blog before about the fun and games others have had.

But, from time to time, I come across ideas that are fun to try out on your next victim (read: telemarketer).

This fun includes this link where the guy who answers the phone ends up having the telemarketer totally freaked out by the end of the call.

Perhaps, if more people had fun with telemarketers, they might stop calling at inopportune times.

We can only hope.

In the meantime, HAVE FUN!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Chapter 19: Union Station

In case you are wonderin' what is going on with this here.

Chapter 19 of Joe Fiorito's book takes a look at how the poor receive health care.

One would think that the poor could simply walk into any Canadian hospital and receive free health care. Canada is well known for its public health care system that all one needs to do is walk into the hospital and receive the assistance they need without any 'chaching' required. This is simply not the case, especially in Ontario.

Fiorito finds one mother who is barely making it in Toronto who has a sick child. She is presented with a bill for over five hundred bucks and that does not include any costs for prescription medication for her child. Considering that this illegal immigrant barely makes three hundred dollars a month alone, this bill is a little daunting for a mother with a sick child in their hands. We all know how I feel about illegal immigrants, but if this was a legal immigrant, I would feel sorry for her. There has to be a better way for poor people to receive health care.

The other issue Fiorito finds is that the homeless or new legal immigrants are finding it hard to receive health care due to the bureaucracy of the system. These people find it harder to navigate the bureaucratical system to gain a health card and other necessary identification to gain access to the public health system in Canada.

Fiorito noted that healthcare workers had set up a clinic for new immigrants and the poor to gain free healthcare from actual doctors and nurses. Also at these clinics, experts provide guidance to people how to get the necessary identification together to apply and receive a health card. Once these people receive a health card they may now receive health care at the hospitals. The health clinic is making a difference in the community.

New immigrants, the homeless and the poor need to be able to gaurentee themselves a basic level of health care. That seems like a basic Canadian value. But, sadly, Fiorito proves that doesn't seem to be.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Chapter 18: Union Station

In case you are wonderin' what is going on with this here.

Dora De Pedery-Hunt

recognize the name?

Probably not. However, she is an unsung hero in Canada currently.

Sure Dora has a Order of Canada to her name, but how many people know Dora by name?

Yet she is really important to all Canadians from coast to coast. In fact, if you are in Canada, you are probably not very far from one or more of this artist's works.

Dora is the artist behind Queen Elizabeth's portait on the back of most Canadian currency. Yet, most Canadians don't know who did that work. Dora is who did that work.

I learned this little tidbit of Canadian history by reading chapter 18 of Union Station.

After reading the story of Dora, I got to thinking who the local unsung heros of Aurora are. Sure Aurora has cliamed Lester B. Pearson as one of their own, but who are the unsung heros of Aurora who affect day to day life in Aurora?

Aurora prides itself on the work of the many volunteer organizations in town. The local ball association is run by volunteers, so are the local churchs and other community organizations. Perhaps these are the unsung heros of Aurora?

What about the police officers, paramedics, firefighters and other emergency workers? Are these not unsung heros as well?

Are politicians unsung heros for stepping forward to spend so much time to ensure our community is properly managed?

So who are the unsung heros? I believe I may have answered this question with a few other questions.

So who are the unsung heros in your community?

Sunday, March 04, 2007


A couple of weeks ago I was notified that there were all sorts of discounts for teachers in Ontario.

Not knowing about these discounts I was a little stunned. I was pointed to the Ontario College of Teachers website where there is a link to a list of discounts to a variety of places.

I may not currently in the teaching profession, but I have kept my membership active with the Ontario College of Teachers in case I want to return to the teaching profession as well as having something that looks good on a resume and a tax write off (membership to a professional organization).

Did I ever expect to get free stuff from this membership? No siree. This is just an added bonus!

Why would atractions like the ROM and the Hockey Hall of Fame offer free admission to teachers?

Perhaps it is to encourage teachers to study what these attractions have to offer and then bring back thirty of their little buddies during a school day. Thirty plus admissions during a weekday when business is usually slow only makes economic and marketing sense.

To that I say, thanks! Because there will be lots of free fun to be had by me!

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