Vancouver warns homeowners to fill in forms on empty homes tax or

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is warning homeowners if they fail to declare their property status by Feb. 2, they will face the city’s empty homes tax plus a $250 fine.The tax is one per cent of a home’s assessed value.It affects any property that is not a principal residence and is not occupied for six months a year.Robertson says property owners can expect to receive instructions in the mail starting this week on how to make their declarations.He says there is a $10,000 fine for false declarations and the city is in the process of setting up an enforcement system that will include hiring staff in the new year.The tax is the first of its kind in Canada and is aimed at freeing up as many as 20,000 units for rent as the city’s vacancy rate hovers near zero.Robertson says the city must do everything it can to ease the housing crunch, and it’s also proceeding with a plan to open 600 new units of temporary modular housing for the homeless. read more

Ban welcomes validation of final results in Madagascars presidential poll

“He calls on all candidates to abide by the ruling of the Special Electoral Court and to channel any complaints peacefully through the established legal avenues,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement issued on Saturday.Hery Rajaonarimampianina was reportedly announced the winner of the 20 December presidential run-off by Madagascar’s electoral court on Friday after attaining 53.5 per cent of the vote.His rival, Jean Louis Robinson, who garnered 46.5 per cent, has alleged widespread vote rigging and has said he will continue to challenge the outcome, according to media reports.Mr. Ban’s spokesperson noted that the closely contested election was assessed as “peaceful and orderly” by international observers.“The Secretary-General calls on the new administration to reach out to the opposition and to lead the country in the interest of all its citizens. He encourages the political leaders and state institutions to work together toward genuine reconciliation, the deepening of democratic governance and economic recovery.” The UN, the statement added, will continue its support to development and democratic progress in Madagascar. read more