Merry Christmas!

 
Christmas Card 2014


Movember 2014 Is Done

Thank you to everyone who donated to my Movember campaign. Your donations are very much appreciated. In total, my personal campaign contributed $103, and our team managed to raise $630!

Check out my Movember page


Image: Calculating Ideal Font Size


Increased Benefits To Families? Not So Fast

Updated December 22, 2014:

 

Thanks to a commenter named Liz, more detail was brought to my attention. The concerns I express in this post seem to be for naught. Check out this page for a better explanation of the Child Tax Credit.

 


 

On October 30 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced measures to help make life more affordable for Canadian families.

  • The Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) for children under age six will increase. As of January 1, 2015, parents will receive a benefit of $160 per month for each child under the age of six – up from $100 per month. In a year, parents will receive up to $1,920 per child.
  • The UCCB will expand to children aged six through 17. As of January 1, 2015, under the expanded UCCB, parents will receive a benefit of $60 per month for children aged six through 17. In a year, parents will receive up to $720 per child.
  • The Child Care Expense Deduction dollar limits will increase by $1,000, effective for the 2015 tax year. The maximum amounts that can be claimed will increase to $8,000 from $7,000 for children under age seven, to $5,000 from $4,000 for children aged seven through 16, and to $11,000 from $10,000 for children who are eligible for the Disability Tax Credit.

 

I don’t have experience with raising children who are eligible for the Disability Tax Credit. I won’t be evaluating that credit, but I welcome comments from anyone who can offer it.

 

All this seems like good news, right? Not so fast. After doing some number crunching, this does nothing to help struggling families. Why? Because “The enhanced UCCB will replace the existing Child Tax Credit”. This changes everything.

 

Spoiler: This plan causes a net loss for the poor, and benefits the well-off. There is further loss for more than one child. See examples below, or read on.

For Reference

UCCB Announcement
http://pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2014/10/30/pm-announces-tax-cuts-increased-benefits-families

 

Canada Child Tax Benefit Information
http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/financialhelp/ocb/howmuch.aspx

 

Let’s look at some numbers. I’m going to give examples for families of 1–4 kids, from at-risk to below-average income levels.

The Situation

The current UCCB pays $100 per child under the age of 6, and is taxable. The CCTB is not taxable, and uses a progressive payout, per the example:

 

Ontario Child Benefit Monthly Payment Estimates as of July 2014*
Family Net Income
Number of Children $20,000 $25,000 $30,000
1 $109.16 $75.83 $42.50
2 $218.33 $185.00 $151.66
3 $327.50 $294.16 $260.83
4 $436.66 $403.33 $370.00

 

Let’s look at a family earning just above the poverty line at $25,000, with a child under 6.

 

+ UCCB: $100 (- tax payable)
+ CCTB: $75.83
= Total: $175.83 (- tax payable)

 

Replacing the CCTB with the UCCB Proposal, the credit from the government is:

 

+ UCCB: $160 (- tax payable)
= Total: $160 (- tax payable)

 

Net loss: $15.83 + tax payable.

 

What about for a child over 6?

 

+ UCCB: $0
+ CCTB: $75.83
= Total: $75.83

 

Again, replacing the CCTB with the UCCB Proposal, the credit from the government is:

 

+ UCCB: $60 (- tax payable)
= Total: $60 (- tax payable)

 

Still a net loss: $15.83 + tax payable.

 

A family hovering above an at-risk income experiences a net loss from this change to their tax benefits. The problem gets worse with more children. Let’s look at two kids under 6.

 

+ UCCB: $200 (- tax payable)
+ CCTB: $185.00
= Total: $385 (- tax payable)

 

Under the new UCCB Proposal, the credit from the government is:

 

+ UCCB: $320 (- tax payable)
= Total: $320 (- tax payable)

 

Net loss: $65 + tax payable.

 

And for two children 0ver 6.

 

+ UCCB: $0
+ CCTB: $185
= Total: $185

 

Under the new UCCB Proposal, the credit from the government is:

 

+ UCCB: $120 (- tax payable)
= Total: $120 (- tax payable)

 

Still a net loss: $65 + tax payable.

 

The net loss experienced by low-income families goes up with each child!

Examples

Here are tables comparing before and after, based on the examples provided earlier.

 

Current Payouts Under CCTB + UCCB Plans for Children Under 6
Family Net Income
Number of Children $20,000 $25,000 $30,000
1 $109.16 + $100 = $209.16 $75.83 + $100 = $175.83 $42.50 + $100 = $142.50
2 $218.33 + $200 = $418.33 $185.00 + $200 = $385.00 $151.66 + $200 = $351.66
3 $327.50 + $300 = $627.50 $294.16 + $300 = $594.16 $260.83 + $300 = $560.83
4 $436.66 + $400 = $836.66 $403.33 + $400 = $803.33 $370.00 + $400 = $770.00

 

Current Payouts Under CCTB + UCCB Plans for Children Over 6, Under 18
Family Net Income
Number of Children $20,000 $25,000 $30,000
1 $109.16 $75.83 $42.50
2 $218.33 $185.00 $151.66
3 $327.50 $294.16 $260.83
4 $436.66 $403.33 $370.00

 

Number of Children Proposed Payout Under New UCCB Plan for Children Under 6
1 $160
2 $320
3 $480
4 $640

 

Number of Children Proposed Payout Under New UCCB Plan for Children Over 6, Under 18
1 $60
2 $120
3 $180
4 $240

What about the Child Care Expense Deduction?

I’m pessimistic. Child care costs have increased for years in Ontario. Without a cap, like the one proposed by the NDP, there is no reason to believe they won’t continue to increase. This will quickly swallow up any increase to the Child Care Expense Deduction.


Let Me Know: Which Mo?

I’m doing something a little different this year for Movember. I’m giving you, yes you. All of you, the opportunity to tell me which mo to grow.

 

Movember Style Guide

 

But, there’s a catch. If you want to decide the fate of my mo, you have to be the single largest contributor to my donations. Anyone can change the style I grow out by offering a larger donation. Feel free to use the style guide above, or send me a photo of a mo to grow.

 

Will this work? I dunno.
Could this result in some weird deviant hybrid mo that should never have seen the light of day, growing on my face? Could be.

 

You’ll have to donate to find out.

 

Donate now

 


Carshare Coming to Brampton

There’s some very exciting news for Brampton today: Car sharing is coming! Community Carshare is coming to Brampton in the Fall of 2014.

What is Carsharing?

Carsharing “is a model of car rental where people rent cars for short periods of time, often by the hour. They are attractive to customers who make only occasional use of a vehicle, as well as others who would like occasional access to a vehicle of a different type than they use day-to-day. The organization renting the cars may be a commercial business or the users may be organized as a company, public agency, cooperative, or ad hoc grouping.”

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carsharing)

 

Carsharing adds another tool to people who want to free themselves from car ownership: Providing access to cars only when they are needed. This addresses challenges in the suburbs where using transit might be possible to get to work, but a car is still required for other transportation needs such as weekends.

What is Community Carshare?

Community CarShare is a non-profit co-operative which provides its members access to vehicles on a self-serve, pay-per-use basis. The co-operative was founded in 1998 and operated first in Kitchener-Waterloo, adding service to Hamilton in 2009, Elmira, Guelph and St. Catharines in 2013, and London in 2014.

 

Community CarShare’s mission is to deliver a carsharing service and to promote carsharing as an important component of a sustainable transportation system. Through this the co-op seeks to reduce overall transportation costs, traffic congestion and air pollution, thus improving our community.

 

Reservations for CarShare vehicles can be made for as little as 30 minutes, or as long as needed, and gas and maintenance costs are included in driving rates. By filling in transportation gaps with occasional car use, Community CarShare also helps support the use of greener transportation modes such as transit and cycling. Many CarShare members also already own a car, but supplement their driving needs with CarShare reservations a few times a week.

(http://communitycarshare.ca/about-carshare/)

 

Learn more about how Community Carshare works

 

Sign up for Community Carshare Brampton Mailing List

 

Join Community Carshare

 


Letter: A Bi-Directional Bike Lane

The following is a letter I sent to Brampton 311, Councillor Gael Miles, and Councillor Sandra Hames.

 

Hello. I’m Kevin Montgomery, a car-free resident of Brampton.

 

I suggest a pilot project to install bike traffic signals and a bi-directional bike lane to connect the Don Doan Trail to Bramalea GO Station. The specific locations I suggest for bike traffic signals are at the intersections of Bramalea Rd. at Avondale/Dearbourne Blvds. on the north and west sides, and at the intersection of Bramalea Rd. at Steeles Ave. on the west side, with a bi-directional bike lane connecting the two intersections on the west side of Bramalea Rd. Please see the map image with illustration for reference.

 

My commute usually sees me taking my bike to and from Brampton GO Station downtown. If it’s early enough (before traffic picks up), I’ll sometimes take my bike to Bramalea GO Station in the morning by way of Birchbank Rd. and Avondale Blvd. Unlike Brampton GO Station, taking a bicycle for multi-modal connectivity to Bramalea GO Station is not easily done, and especially not for the faint of heart as traffic increases. This is particularly true for northbound trips trying to leave the station during rush hour, which puts someone on a bicycle in the awkward position of trying to get to the north-east side of Steeles/Bramalea and merging with heavy, impatient, and fast-moving automotive traffic. A bi-directional bike lane on Bramalea Rd. would solve this problem for cyclists by removing the need to merge with automotive traffic at all. It would need only one road crossing on the same side as the pedestrian exit on the south-west corner of the intersection, and cut construction costs by only building one lane instead of two.

 

The problem of parking and the traffic it creates in that area could be easily reduced by encouraging people in the Bramalea area to make a healthier lifestyle choice, leave their cars at home, and take their bikes to the Bramalea GO Station by way of the Don Doan trail and nearby north-south Pathways. Installing bike traffic signals and a bi-directional bike lane would allow for easier, meaningful, and most importantly safe, bicycle travel and multi-modal connectivity to existing Pathways into Bramalea and onwards.

 

Thank you for your consideration.

 

 

Inline image 1

 

 


Carfree Webapp Interview


Carfree 1.1

Hi Everyone.

I feel like I owe everyone a thank you, and an apology. A thank you because the Carfree webapp started seeing steady use earlier than I expected. This resulted in one of the APIs I was using, specifically one to do an approximate geolocation based on IP address, to reach a request limit. This in turn, caused the Carfree webapp to fail. So, I thank you, and apologize for that.

I’ve switched to a new IP geolocate provider, and the webapp *should* see more stability for a while. At least, where geolocation is concerned.

So, please do continue planning trips with it, and by all means get in touch with me if you have any questions about or ideas to improve the Carfree webapp.

 


Carfree

 

It’s taken me a few months, but I finally have a Carfree app that I’m ready to share with everyone.

What is Carfree?

Whether you’re trying to go “car light”, or remove your dependency on a car altogether, this app should help you decide the best way to get to where you want to go, without using a car. It has a few features that I hope you’ll find neat.

The Blue Circle

When the map first loads, you’ll see a blue circle located where you are, as best the app can tell. Any place in the circle is within a 7km ride, or about 30 minutes. Most of the time, you can cycle to these locations faster than taking transit. The map itself also colour codes bike-friendly infrastructure, and roads labelled as highway or arterial, to help you choose the route you want to take.

Your Preference of Cycling or Transit

Whether you prefer to take your bike or take your local transit, the app will give you the ideal route to take to where you’re going. When you search for destinations, the ones closest to you are favoured.

Categorized Locations

Looking for places to visit? The app can show you places nearby and give you the best route to get there. Step-by-step instructions are available for both cycling and transit options.

 

Whether you’re trying to go car light, or car free altogether, give this app a try. Your feedback is welcome!

 

Carfree

 

Carfree lives on Github. You can also send comments to me on Twitter.