Successful Brits in Toronto: Miranda Anthistle

Miranda Anthistle

Look familiar? Then you watch CTV Toronto.

Brits in Toronto got an anonymous news tip the other day (thanks Brian, see you at Scallywags next Saturday?) and not being ones to burn our sources, decided to follow up on the scoop.

Five minutes of hard Googling later we discovered Miranda Anthistle, a Successful Brit in Toronto, who is a reporter at CTV Toronto.

Sometimes those people reporting the news become the news. So much so, in fact, that we requested an exclusive e-mail interview that Miranda happily agreed to … and here’s the result. (Didn’t have time to fact check it because Dufferin Mall was closing and we still had some Crimbo stuff to get, but it looks pretty honest.)

What made you decide to choose Toronto as a city of choice? Did you plan a permanent move, or wanted to “try it for a while and see how it goes” and it turned out to be longer than planned?

I didn’t have a choice! It was already a done deal before I was born. My mum grew up in Toronto, while my dad grew up in London which is where they ended up meeting one another through a mutual friend.

When my dad proposed, my mum said she would marry him … but only if he promised they would eventually move to Toronto where most of her family still lived.

I was born in London and grew up there until I started primary school.

What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any way?

I had to leave the city in order to land my first on-air gig in Toronto!

I started in Medicine Hat, Alberta (which actually has a huge British population due to the nearby army base that houses BATUS: British Army Training Unit Suffield).

From there I worked in Hamilton before moving back to Toronto to work at Bell Media as a reporter.

What’s the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?

The best part of living in Toronto is that the whole world is right at your doorstep. I grew up with friends from a variety of different cultures which exposed me to so many incredible experiences.

I have the most eclectic taste in music and love all types of food.

And in Toronto it doesn’t matter what mood you’re in — there’s always a dance floor or restaurant nearby to scratch that itch!

The worst part about living in Toronto? Trying to buy property downtown that’s larger than a shoebox without breaking the bank.

And of course, the winter weather. I can’t stand the cold!

Do you make an effort to connect with other Brits in the city, or just meet them when chance allows it?

I’m always excited to run into British people and usually ask off the top who they support. If it’s Arsenal, I’m terribly disappointed, but I try not to judge! [Editor’s note: feel free to judge away, Miranda, we all do :-)]

My great uncle played for Tottenham and my family have always been Spurs supporters through and through. COME ON YOU SPURS!

Thanks Miranda! If anyone wants to connect, here are her Instagram and Twitter accounts.

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Air Transat tests British expats in Canada for homesickness

Air Transat

“Here’s a clue: it’s big and rhymes with hen.”

Air Transat’s latest campaign aims to offer customers a tongue-in-cheek cure for homesickness at the holiday season.

In the video, British expats living in Canada are told they are participating in a scientific study that will help cure their homesickness. While hooked up to a brain scanner, they are shown photos of things like a cup of tea, Big Ben and an English terrier to test just how homesick they are.

The researcher then reveals that she works for Air Transat, giving participants a free ticket to the UK, the only real cure for their homesickness.

Full story here … and you’ll be cutting dusty onions by the end.

Well played, Air Transat!

Brits making the move to Toronto — Part 3: Life so far

Andy McLachlan island

Andy’s dodgy selfie while working on Toronto Islands during the summer

Back in September 2017 we started a series of posts following the real-life adventures of Brits moving to Toronto. The Brit in question is Andy McLachlan and you can read parts 1 and 2 here.

Andy has sent us part three — a quick update on life so far. Read on and hear how this Brit is getting on with a new life in Toronto …

Part 3: Life so far

Since I last contacted you with my A-Z of Toronto, I have continued to exist. The family is doing fine — we finally secured a full-time daycare place for our youngest son in September, so that has ended my ~9 months of child wrangling.

I’ve also enjoyed doing some volunteering, playing with Raspberry Pi projects and drumming with a band called Tay Sera but alas, it’s now high time for me to find a serious job.

So far I’ve been doing some freelance writing and part-time work for Toronto Bicycle Tours as a tour guide on the Islands. People from all over the world go on these tours and it is mostly seasonal work; things have now slowed down a lot for the winter. Only a handful of people have braved the outdoors in November; mostly hardy folk from the Netherlands and elsewhere in Canada.

Overall, it has been a nice change for me to work outside, and to be paid to improve my fitness.

I’ve been applying for professional jobs and I have had a couple of interviews, but nothing right has come along yet.

Please could you do a shout-out to see if anyone out there could employ a nerdy scientist Brit who likes bikes? My LinkedIn profile can be found here.

Former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger in conversation with Toronto Star editor Irene Gentle

Alan Rusbridger

WikiLeaks? Tick. Phone-hacking scandal? Tick. Edward Snowden stuff? Tick.

Brits in Toronto got the heads-up on a forthcoming event that will appeal to those aficionados of the British press who will get the chance to hear former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger in conversation with Toronto Star editor Irene Gentle.

Over a 20-year career as editor of the British daily The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger oversaw the publication of ground-breaking journalism: the WikiLeaks story, the phone-hacking scandal, the mass government surveillance as disclosed by U.S National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

As he managed the transition from national print newspaper to news site with a strong global online readership, he championed free access and strong journalistic standards. But decisions made along the way were not without their challenges and controversies.

Join Rusbridger for this conversation with Irene Gentle, editor of the Toronto Star, and for the Canadian launch of his book Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now.

Thursday, November 29
6:00 p.m. Doors open | 7:00 p.m. Discussion | 8:30 p.m. Reception (Cash bar)
Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St. West, Toronto
Tickets = $20-$30

More details here.

Are the UK pensioners finally coming in from the cold?

Anne Puckridge

Photo of Anne Puckridge by her daughter, Gillian

Nigel Nelson is a regular contributor to Brits in Toronto, and is a member of the non-profit Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (CABP), and Past Chair of the (also) non-profit International Consortium of British Pensioners (ICBP).

Here’s his latest thoughts on the “frozen pensions” policy. All views are the CABP’s and Brits in Toronto does not endorse them and is not held liable in any way. As always, do your due diligence.

As regular readers of this column will know, I have a good friend, James (real person but name changed) who is a doting pensioner in his eighties. If I had to describe James, it would be curmudgeonly, but recently he has an almost sickly smile on his face and he is … humming (not exactly in tune, but humming nevertheless), and here is the reason why.

By way of background and, according to the latest figures from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), there are just over 132,000 UK pensioners living in Canada who are in receipt of a UK State Pension. The average amount received by each of these pensioners is just £42.65 per week, or, based on today’s exchange rates, $71.22 a week — some are receiving as little as £20 per week.

By contrast, there are 11.6 million pensioners in the UK and they receive an average of £145.57 per week; admittedly, there are one of two benefits (such as the disability allowance) that are included in the UK figures that UK pensioners living in Canada are not entitled to. But, as you can see, there is a huge discrepancy between the average weekly amounts received based on where you decide to retire to.

Once a pensioner decides to retire to Canada from the UK their UK State Pension is “frozen” at the level first received here. This is known as the UK “frozen pension” policy which has been in existence for over 70 years. In James’s case, he has received nearly £28,000 (over $51,000 using historic exchange rates) less than he would have received if he had remained in the UK.

James lives in Ontario, and, if he had decided to retire south of Niagara Falls (in the US), he would have continued to receive the annual increases to his UK State Pension, but, by living North of the Falls (in Canada), then he does not receive the annual increases — how can that be fair, on any level?

Anyway, today’s story is not about James, but about another of my friends: Anne Puckridge, whose picture is above.

Anne is 93 years old, and she is a former college lecturer. She lived and worked in the UK for 40 years, paying mandatory National Insurance contributions throughout this time. In 2002, aged 77 she finally retired and decided to move to Canada to be with her daughter, Gillian, and grandchildren who had moved to Calgary in the 1990s.

Sixteen years on, Anne, who served as an intelligence officer in the Women’s Royal Navy in the Second World War, is struggling to live on the frozen £72.50 a week rate she was entitled to when she moved abroad. Anne has received around £22,000 less than if she had stayed in the UK, and, in my article in August, I highlighted the fact that Vic Williams, who passed away earlier this year at the grand old age of 96, had received £67,000 (over $129,000) less than his peers in the UK.

Anne now feels that she will be forced to move back to Britain, because her pension will no longer cover day-to-day expenses and she is increasingly reliant on her daughter to get by.

“It’s the small things, and the injustice, that is really getting to me. I value my independence, but I can’t go on living on the breadline and I don’t want to inflict this on my family. As well as ever-increasingly poverty, I feel a sense of stress and shame, which is affecting my health,” she says.

Anne used to be able to go out to lunch and afternoon tea with her friends, but now she must weigh up the cost of this versus spending the same money on Christmas gifts for her grandchildren.

Last year, in a debate in the UK House of Commons on Pensions Uprating, when referring to Anne, Mhairi Black, MP, Scottish National Party had this to say:

“We are saying, ‘We’re not going to give you that money, but you can go and live abroad, make yourself ill through poverty, worry and the stress of having to come home. When you are forced to return to Britain, don’t worry, we’ll foot the bill for the NHS and everything else.’ The argument about cost does not stand up — costs will increase when pensioners who have been made ill through stress or whatever, have to come back in order to survive.”

The cost to uprate the State Pension worldwide has been estimated by the UK Government to be £600 million, and that the country cannot afford it. However, what they forget to tell you is:

1. According to the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), each pensioner living outside the UK saves the Treasury around £1,500 per pensioner per year. There are 1.2 million UK pensioners living overseas. This means that the UK Government is saving £1.8 billion off the backs of the most vulnerable people in society today – pensioners.

2. All National Insurance Contributions are paid into the National Insurance Fund (NIF), and the State Pension is paid out of the same fund. According to the latest set of NIF accounts (year ended March 31, 2018), there is currently a balance of £24.2 billion (page 13) in the NIF. By law, there must be a “running balance” (or “float”) equal to 1/6th of the Annual Payments from the NIF account (£101.5 billion) which is £16.9 billion, which then leaves an excess of £7.3 billion. Why can the uprating amount of £600 million come from this account? It is also interesting to note that the excess has grown by over £2 billion in the past 12 months. As an aside, this balance of £24.2 billion is used as a UK National Debt offset, rather than distribute it to those who are in most need.

So, when the UK Government says that they cannot afford it, what they are really saying is that the over 520,000 UK pensioners living in “frozen” countries like Canada and Australia aren’t worth it, even though many, like Anne, fought for their country. In addition, because UK pensioners living in this country do not receive the annual increase, the Canadian government is subsidizing the UK government by providing the extremely poor with cash and housing benefits, which is coming out of taxes you and I pay. In addition, it has been estimated that because these pension increases are not being received by UK pensioners living in Canada, it is costing the Canadian economy more than half a billion dollars a year since, typically, pensioners are spenders and not savers.

Just these past few days, Anne and her daughter Gillian have flown to the UK. The International Consortium of British Pensioners (ICBP), which is half owned by the Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (CABP) has recently set up a new petition, where Anne is our campaign “poster girl.”

If you are a “frozen” pensioner, or if you hope to receive a UK State Pension one day, I would ask you to please check out this petition, add your own name to it, and send the link to everyone in your contact list, both here in Canada and in the UK; this is a global issue. So far, the petition has attracted 218,000 signatures and Anne will be on hand in the Palace of Westminster to answer questions that MPs may have. At the same time, the Chairman of the ICBP will be presenting the petition to 10 Downing Street.

Anne has had a lot of attention recently (which she absolutely hates!), as articles have appeared on both sides of the pond. In the UK, the FT Adviser wrote an article, as did The Guardian and Daily Express, and here, in Canada, the BBC (USA and Canada) and the CBC both have articles on their websites, and there is also an article in the International Adviser.

In addition, Brits in Toronto (hello!) and emigrate.co.uk have also picked up the story.

If there are any questions you have relating to the UK State Pension, you can call the CABP toll-free on 1 888 591 3964 or contact info AT britishpensions DOT COM.

UK’s I Am Not A Witch included in European Union Film Festival in Toronto

European Union Film Festival

 This year’s EUFF is being held in … you guessed it … Toronto!

The critically acclaimed European Union Film Festival returns to Toronto with a wide variety of films screening from November 8-22 at the Royal Cinema. Award winning-films will make their debut at the festival, representing a rare opportunity to see these movies on the big screen. With genres spanning drama, comedy, romance and more, there is something for everyone at the EUFF.

Included in the line-up is the United Kingdom’s I Am Not A Witch, a dark, satirical fairy tale about a young girl accused of witchcraft.

After a minor incident in her village, nine-year-old Shula is exiled to a travelling witch camp where she is told that if she tries to escape she will be transformed into a goat. As she navigates through her new life with her fellow witches and a government official who espouses her, exploiting her innocence for his own gain, she must decide whether to accept her fate or risk the consequences of seeking freedom.

The film was both the British entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards 2018, and the 2018 BAFTA winner for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer.

Trailer:

Some Brits to catch at this year’s Hot Docs Podcast Fest in Toronto

The Sound of Europe

Masterclass: The Sound of Europe

I got an e-mail from the organizers of the Hot Docs Podcast Festival starting November 1 in Toronto saying, “This year we’ve invited a couple of British shows and artists over and we wanted to let your followers know about it!

“Two I wanted to flag in particular: The Allusionist, a very funny British show about language, and a Masterclass with Elisha Sessions, Senior Commissioning Producer at BBC Podcasts.”

Here’s links to The Allusionist and Masterclass: The Sound of Europe so you can check them out.