Canada: Paying More Taxes, Getting More Services

I don’t often delve into politics or healthcare economics on this blog, but I’d spent some time writing up a reply on a Facebook thread that I felt was worth re-posting here. The single biggest struggle I’ve had since moving to the USA has been the healthcare system. It’s…insane. The people who have lived in it their whole lives don’t all grasp how insane it is. This response was written to one such person who brought up the Canadian tax system and said the taxes were too high.

Yes, you pay more taxes in Canada. But you know what you don’t need? Basic healthcare insurance. Guess how much I had to pay out of pocket in 2015 for health insurance? Just under $10,000. My employer also paid $5300 above that cost, so figure $15K all-in to insure two non-smoking adults and two kids. Oh, and another $6500 off my paycheque for the HSA because I’m on a high-deductible plan and I have to pay for ALL my healthcare until I hit the deductible for the year (which is about $2000 per person or $6500 for the family I believe). The HSA is a great invention, but since it’s only for healthcare, it’s another healthcare cost – so figure I’m paying $21K per year so my family has healthcare coverage…yikes! The only good thing is the HSA rolls over each year and helps people save for the more expensive years of healthcare. And that I can pay for dental stuff with it – which of course I have ANOTHER plan for the costs me $1300 a year for. Oh, and vision…
Continue reading Canada: Paying More Taxes, Getting More Services

Concrete Equities and Wealthstreet Alberta Securities Commission Documents

I’ve had these documents for several years and had been meaning to put them up for public access – all text below is taken verbatim from the documents in question.

Alberta Securities Commission: Notice of Hearing (Oct 2010) [Download PDF]
To: Wealthstreet Inc, Colin Davis Jones (aka David Colin Jones, aka Dave Jones), Rachael Poffenroth
Allegations & Summary of Breaches:

  1. “Staff (Staff) of the Alberta Securities Commission (Commission) alleges that Wealthstreet Inc. (Wealthstreet), Colin David Jones also known as David Colin Jones (Jones) and Rachael Poffenroth (Poffenroth) (collectively, the Respondents) engaged in illegal trading and distributions of securities in Alberta to Alberta investors.”
  2. “Staff also alleges that Jones acted as an advisor in Alberta without being registered as an advisor, made prohibited and misleading or untrue representations to Alberta investors and engaged in unfair practices in transactions with Alberta investors.”

Alberta Securities Commission: Amended Notice of Hearing (Oct 2010) [Download PDF]
To: VARUN VINNY AURORA, DAVID HUMENIUK, DAVID JONES, VINCENZO DE PALMA
Allegations & Summary of Breaches:

  1. “Staff of the Commission (Staff) allege that Varun Vinny Aurora (Aurora), David Humeniuk (Humeniuk), David Jones (Jones) and Vincenzo De Palma (De Palma) breached the Act by acting as dealers without being registered in accordance with Alberta securities laws, and without an applicable exemption to the registration requirement, or by authorizing, permitting or acquiescing in such conduct by one or more corporate entities of which they were a director or officer.”
  2. “Staff allege that Aurora, Humeniuk and Jones breached the Act by making, or by authorizing, permitting or acquiescing in the making of, statements each knew, or ought reasonably to have known, were misleading or untrue in a material respect, or that did not state a fact that was required to be stated or that was necessary to make the statement not misleading, and that would reasonably have been expected to have a significant effect on the market price or value of the security in question.”
  3. “Staff allege that Aurora, Humeniuk, Jones and De Palma each breached the Act by trading in securities on his own account, or authorized, permitted or acquiesced in the trade of securities on one or more companies’ own account, in circumstances where such
    trades were distributions, without having filed a prospectus or preliminary prospectus for which a receipt had been issued by the Executive Director of the Commission (the Executive Director), and for which no valid exemption applied.”
  4. “Staff allege that Aurora, Humeniuk, Jones and De Palma each acted contrary to the public interest.”

Alberta Securities Commission: Notice of Decision (Dec 2011) [Download PDF]
To: Wealthstreet Inc, Colin Davis Jones (aka David Colin Jones, aka Dave Jones), Rachael Poffenroth
Recognition of Seriousness:

  1. “Jones, in our view, still does not recognize the seriousness of his misconduct. Communications to investors that are in evidence and his statements before us (on the few occasions that we saw or heard from him) demonstrate Jones’s persistence in contending that any issues with the Promissory Notes and the other securities sold through Wealthstreet were caused by global economic conditions and not his actions. He continues to accept no blame or responsibility for his illegal actions. When cross-examining investor witness KC, he implied that she was in a more balanced position with her current investments (through Wealthstreet) than she had been before meeting Jones. In fact, KC had gone from having retirement savings of over $200 000 and real estate equity of several hundred thousand dollars to apparently losing all of her savings and owing $540 000 on home equity lines of credit. In addition to not accepting responsibility for the financial harm he caused his clients, Jones seems unwilling or unable to appreciate the fact that his actions contravened Alberta securities laws and were contrary to the public interest.”
  2. “We believe that Poffenroth recognizes the seriousness of her misconduct and sincerely regrets both her involvement in Wealthstreet and the harm caused to Wealthstreet investors. She candidly admitted that she was not qualified to act as Wealthstreet’s president. She also testified during the Merits Hearing that she experienced “shock and hurt” at learning some of what Jones had done and how the investors had been affected. She appeared to accept the majority of the sanctions suggested by Staff as appropriate and expressed her intention not to be involved with public companies in the future. However, the evidence also indicates that Poffenroth had concerns about being under-qualified and being upset over some of Jones’s activities while still employed at Wealthstreet. Despite her concerns and reservations, Poffenroth continued for a time to act as Wealthstreet’s president and collect her generous remuneration. She later filed a claim with the Trustee for money owing to her from her wrongful dismissal claim. At no time did she report Jones or Wealthstreet to any regulators. We conclude that while some of her remorse and recognition of seriousness is genuine, some of that contrition stems from her desire to minimize the sanctions she might receive.”

Concrete Equities PDF Documents

Clearing out some old Evernote folders, I wanted to publish these Concrete Equities-related documents for search engines to index.

SEARCHABLE-PDF-Dave Humeniuk Statement of Defence Aug 28

PDF-Dave Humeniuk Statement of Defence Aug 28

SEARCHABLE-PDF-Aug 21 Statement of Claim and Affidavit

PDF-Aug 21 Statement of Claim and Affidavit

Letter to El Golfo Investor, dated November 2, 2010

E & Y Feb 16, 2011 Letter to Mexico Investors

Basi Affidavit v5 (Filed May 26, 2010)

I’m Selling The Thoughts Media Network, Moving to the USA, and I Got a Job Working for HTC. Any Questions?

I’ve been writing and re-writing this post in my head over the past couple of months, and that headline was the best I could come up with. It’s not easy to encapsulate one of the most significant changes in my life in a single sentence. Now let’s unpack that bombshell I’ve just dropped…

The HTC Job

I’ve been working with HTC, the mobile phone and tablet maker, since August 1st of this year. Being a long-time fan of Microsoft’s efforts in the mobile space – and largely tying my career to those efforts, for better or worse – I’ve watched HTC grow from being a nameless, brandless, tiny Taiwanese ODM making Palm-sized PCs/Pocket PCs to the mobile powerhouse they are today. I’ve always had tremendous admiration for HTC as a company and loved their products, so when someone I knew from Microsoft got a job with HTC in late 2010, I reached out and we started talking. The rest, as they say, is history. I believe HTC is uniquely positioned to do some amazing things in the mobile space over the next few years and I’m excited to be a part of it!

Thoughts Media is currently a vendor for HTC USA, and come October 1st, I’ll be a full-time employee. I have an H1B work visa, and after closing the sale of my house this weekend (phew!), I’ll be moving in the near future to the Bellevue, Washington area with my wife and two year old son, and starting my new career. To add a little extra stress into my life, we’re also building a new house and will be in temporary lodging until it’s finished. Oh, did I mention this is the first corporate job I’ve held in 13 years? This is the single biggest career transition I’ve ever gone through.

What am I doing for HTC? I’m a part of their social team – the team that focuses on HTC customers via Facebook, Twitter, and other communities. My title is Senior Manager of HTC Communities. I’m creating something special for them that, when the time is right, you’ll hear about in a very big way. The job couldn’t be more well-suited to my skill-set if I had created it myself. I’m massively excited about the opportunities I’ll have at HTC, and my admiration for them as a company has only grown since I’ve been on the inside. A big shout-out to my awesome team at HTC for making a slightly bewildered Canuck feel right at home.

Effective October 1st, I’ll be retiring from the Microsoft MVP program. This ends a 14 consecutive year run that has been profoundly rewarding on both a professional and personal level. I became a Windows CE MVP when I was 22 years old; I’ve been an MVP for more of my adult life than not, so it was a big decision to remove my name from being renewed for the next year. I have some amazing memories and made some great friends being a part of the program, and I’m forever grateful to Microsoft for allowing me to be a part of it.

You may have noticed my recent posts about HTC on Windows Phone Thoughts or Android Thoughts have contained zero commentary – just the facts. It’s been difficult to try and keep the two worlds separate, which leads me to…

Selling the Thoughts Media Network

Months before I started seriously talking to HTC, I was exploring the sale of my Web sites. I’ve said no to several offers over the years, but it’s now time to sell. I’ve loved running these sites since launching my first one (Pocket PC Thoughts) an incredible 11 years ago, but I’ve felt for a couple of years now that I needed a career change. When you stop acquiring new skills at a job, and you feel like you’ve gotten all the experience out of it that you can, it’s time to look for something different.

I say this with no sense of exaggeration: it has been one of the great joys in my life working with the amazing volunteers who keep things humming across all six of my sites, and I’m forever indebted to them – and to you, our awesome community – for giving me the ability to do this for so long. I’ll have a more eloquent farewell message when I finally sign off for good, but this was easily one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. Leaving my creation – our creation – in the hands of someone else is no small thing.

The logical question is “Who’s buying the Web sites?”. Right now I’m looking for a buyer for all six sites in the network – I’m in talks with several people/companies, but nothing has been finalized yet. If you’re interested in taking over a network that has been finely tuned like a racing car, staffed with amazing volunteers that are ready and willing to work with a new owner, please contact me directly.

Serious inquiries only please, but the selling price of the network might be less than you think. Let’s just say I’m a motivated seller because it’s time for me to move on and jump in with both feet at HTC. I’ll be accepting offers over the next seven days, then making my decision, so if you’re interested please let me know. The ideal buyer is someone who has a passion for technology, community, and an entrepreneurial spirit for making things grow. Oh, and being a little brash and opinionated can’t hurt!

Comments? Questions? Thoughts? Let me hear them…

(this post is duplicated over at Windows Phone Thoughts if you’d like to comment there)

Dragon Fund Update, July 25th, 2011

I received this via email today. If you’re an investor with money in the Dragon Fund, here’s what’s going on (which is to say, still not much):

July 25, 2011

Dragon Fund Update

Recently Dragon Fund and the trustees of the fund have been served with an Amended Statement of Claim which has included MacLeod Dixon. This amendment has created a conflict of interest between our legal counsel (MacLeod Dixon), ourselves and the fund.  MacLeod Dixon is no longer able to represent the fund as this is a conflict of interest.

New legal representation for Mike Arnold and Tina Zowtuk has recommend we resign as trustees . Due to the Amended Statement of Claim the new legal counsel can represent us personally but not the fund.

We are currently asking for individuals to put their name forward to take on the trustee role of the Dragon Fund LP.  If we are unable to replace the trustees internally the fund will have to appoint an external trustee.

If you are interested in becoming a trustee please forward your contact information.

Regards

Mike Arnold
Tina Zowtuk

Bell vs. Teksavvy: Bandwidth in Canada

I have to admit that I’ve made an about face on this issue: earlier in the year I was arguing that bandwidth caps weren’t a big deal, because most people never went over them, but since then I’ve done some research on the bandwidth caps in place and am appalled at the trend I’ve seen: bandwidth caps at one of the major ISPs in my part of Canada have either stayed the same, or gone up moderately, while prices have either stayed the same or gone up. This isn’t the typical trend we’re used to with technology, where prices go down over time and the functionality/performance goes up. I’m all for companies making money, but there’s something very wrong with the current state of competition in Internet access in Canada – we have among the slowest and most expensive Internet access in the world, and that needs to change.

If you’re in Canada, stand up and make your voice heard.

Alberta Securities Commission Notice of Hearing for Varun “Vinny” Aurora, David Humeniuk, and Dave Jones

Wondering what happened to Varun “Vinny” Aurora, David Humeniuk, and Dave Jones? The Alberta Securities Commission has something to say. I quote:

“The Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) has issued a Notice of Hearing alleging Calgary residents Varun Vinny Aurora, David Humeniuk and David Jones breached Alberta securities laws by acting as dealers without being properly registered, making serious omissions and misrepresentations to investors and distributing various Concrete Equities Group entities’ securities using offering documents not in compliance with Alberta securities laws.

In the Notice of Hearing, ASC staff allege that Aurora, Humeniuk and Jones, as directors and officers of Concrete Equities and multiple related companies and limited partnerships, made several serious omissions and misrepresentations by failing to fully disclose material, non-arms length contracts connected to the securities being sold and failing to disclose Humeniuk’s lifetime withdrawal from the Real Estate Council of Alberta to investors.”

The appeatence to set a date for the hearing will be held on October 13th, 2010, at 1 p.m. in the ASC Hearing Room on the 6th Floor, 300 – 5th Avenue S.W., Calgary, Alberta. I’m pondering going myself – I wonder if it’s open to the public? The full notice of hearing document can be found on the ASC Web site, but I’ve also mirrored a copy of it here. Continue reading Alberta Securities Commission Notice of Hearing for Varun “Vinny” Aurora, David Humeniuk, and Dave Jones

Fox News “Red Eye” Show Insults Canadian Military Sacrifice

I heard about this commentary on the Fox News “Red Eye” show early this morning on the radio, and I’ve been stewing about it all day. I know, I know, they’re just a bunch of idiots trying to be “funny” – but as someone who married into a family with a military history, I take this personally beyond simply being Canadian. I have a cousin who has served two tours in Afghanistan, and thankfully she’s come back safe and whole both times. Below is what I emailed to Fox News (yourcomments@foxnews.com) – it pretty much sums up what I feel about this subject.

As a Canadian, I’m used to having my country poked fun at – and most of the time, I laugh right along with the joke. Friends can do that with each other, and there are no better friends amongst the nations of the world than Canada and the United States of America. We share a common culture, and many common values.

But…

To poke fun at our active soldiers, fighting alongside your soldiers – arguably in the more dangerous parts of Afghanistan than your own troops are fighting in – crosses the line from humour to insulting attacks. Let’s not forget that the single biggest reason that the Canadian Army is in Afghanistan is because the your country was attacked on 9/11. 116 of my fellow Canadians have died, with many more hundreds wounded, fighting against the groups that attacked your country. To mock their sacrifice is deplorable and reprehensible.

This type of “comedy” is on-par with the worst type of racism, and I expect Fox News to treat this matter with the utmost seriousness.

Jason Dunn
in Canada

I sent a variation of it to Greg Gutfeld (the host), and Monica Crowley. Bill Schulz only has Twitter as a communications method so I couldn’t send that message to him – instead I opted for a Twit that suggested he belittle the American soldiers fighting alongside the Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan and see what happened. I’ve noticed that the people with the biggest mouths tend to be the biggest cowards. The last panelist, Doug Benson, has his MySpace profile locked down to only receive messages from people on his friends list, so I opted to send him a simple Twit that informed him I was Canadian, and that I thought he sucked.

I should point out that, unlike some of the 10,000+ YouTube comments on that video above, I in no way take the opinions of these four people to represent those of Americans in general. Amongst 303 million people, you’re going to have some nutjobs. The question is, how do so many of them end up in the media? 😉