Government summer update

The House of Commons is midway through the summer recess, but the business of government continues. Here are some of the initiatives that passed earlier this year that came into effect in July, as well as new regulations that were recently announced.

The House of Commons is midway through the summer recess, but the business of government continues. Here are some of the initiatives that passed earlier this year that came into effect in July, as well as new regulations that were recently announced.

Safe Streets: On July 2, the two remaining components of the Tackling Violent Crime Act came into force. These long-awaited measures will help safeguard Canadians against those who commit serious and violent crimes. They provide for:

* More effective sentencing and monitoring to prevent dangerous, high-risk offenders from offending again;

* New ways to detect and investigate drug-impaired driving as well as stronger penalties for impaired driving.

Seniors: On July 2, changes to the Guaranteed Income Supplement that will put money back into the pockets of thousands of hard-working, low-income seniors came in effect. Budget 2008 invested $60 million per year to ensure that low-income seniors in receipt of the GIS keep more of their hard earned money through an increase in the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) earnings exemption.

* Seniors who choose to stay in the workforce may now earn up to $3,500 without seeing a reduction on their GIS benefits, compared to the previous amount of $500.

* The exemption was increased to $3,500 because this reflects the average amount of earned income by working seniors who collect the GIS.

Mortgages: We’ve all seen the media reports of houses in the United States that have been abandoned because the owners could no longer afford the mortgage payment. Many bought their homes by putting little or no money down and extending the loans for 40 plus years.

While the Canadian economy is strong and we are not facing the economic turmoil seen in the United States, the Minister of Finance took steps to protect and strengthen the Canadian housing market. He announced changes to the rules for obtaining a government backed mortgage that will take effect on Oct. 15. They include:

* Fixing the maximum amortization period for new government-backed mortgages to 35 years;

* Requiring a minimum down payment of five per cent for new government-backed mortgages;

* Establishing a consistent minimum credit score requirement; and

* Introducing new loan documentation standards.

Permanent Resident Cards: The PR card was introduced on June 28, 2002, and, in most cases, is valid for a five-year period. Changes to the procedure announced by Citizenship and Immigration Minister, Diane Finley will simplify the procedure for obtaining and replacing permanent resident cards:

* PR card applicants are no longer required to obtain the signature of a guarantor or make a statutory declaration in lieu of a guarantor.

* Permanent residents can keep their existing, valid PR card for travel purposes while waiting for their new card.

These changes build on other improvements our government made for newcomers, including: reducing the Right of Permanent Residence Fee from $975 to $490 per person; creating the Foreign Credentials Referral Office; and, investing an additional $1.4 billion in settlement funding over five years

Please contact my Constituency office for assistance on these or any federally related matters, postage free, at: #6, 4612 – 50th Street, Ponoka, T4J 1S7 tel: (403) 783-5530; toll free: 1-800-665-0865 or visit my web site: www.blainecalkinsmp.ca.

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