Toronto Star

March 23, 2000

Judge orders errant father to start paying up

Ex-wife, kids owed more than $500,000

By Dale Brazao and Patricia Orwen
Toronto Star Staff Reporters

A former Brampton millionaire who has not paid a penny in child support in the last nine years has been ordered to pay his three children $1,900 a month until a judge makes a final ruling on the case.

Blaine Tanner, 47, also was slapped with a subpoena from the province's Family Responsibility Office yesterday ordering him to appear at a default hearing in a Brampton court next month.

Tanner's child-support arrears total more than $500,000, plus interest. The massive debt earns him the dubious distinction of being among the top six of Ontario's 128,000 deadbeat parents.

``Mr. Tanner does not come to court with clean hands,'' Mr. Justice Jack Belleghem said yesterday in the Superior Court of Justice in Milton.

Tanner was in court yesterday to argue that the 1991 court-ordered child support - $4,000 a month - was invalid, and therefore the $500,000 arrears should be wiped out.

Convicted of tax evasion in 1994 and fraud-related charges in 1975, Tanner has over the years claimed he was too poor to support his children - two of whom are disabled.

Just last month Tanner claimed he was unemployed and had no money, but a Toronto Star reporter found him living in a stately Georgian-style house in the posh Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights with his new wife, prominent civil rights lawyer Ellen Simon.

The Star interviewed Tanner just after he arrived at work in a $50,000 black Volvo.

Yesterday, Belleghem said he was put in a position of imputing Tanner's income, due to the lack of financial disclosure. The judge calculated that Tanner earns $125,000 a year, based on Tanner's own court affidavit stating that he is now ``drawing'' $5,400 U.S. a month from one of his companies, Guardian Capital.

After allowing for conversion to Canadian funds and income tax, Belleghem arrived at a yearly salary of $125,000.

Yesterday the judge deferred the issue of the validity of the 1991 child-support order until April 26, but ordered Tanner to pay - within 10 days - $9,740 in child support and $15,000 as a security deposit to his former wife, Pamela Tanner.

Tanner's ex-wife and three children have been subsisting on government assistance since 1992.

`We went from living in a million-dollar home with an indoor pool to welfare.'
- Ex-wife Pamela Tanner

Two of the children have such severe medical problems they qualify for disability benefits.

``It's been a living hell,'' Pamela Tanner, 45, told reporters. ``We went from living in a million-dollar home with an indoor pool to welfare.

``It is really inconceivable that a father would not have to pay any child support and would evade his responsibilities all these years. He's got money for one of the top lawyers in Toronto and basically he's supporting the lawyers' children and not his own.''

Tanner sat stonefaced in the front row of the court as his lawyer, Harold Niman, said the 1991 child-support order was structured so that Pamela Tanner could avoid paying income tax on it.

Niman said the support order was ``contrary to public policy'' and ``must be declared void and unenforceable.''

The judge said he was ``completely flabbergasted'' by Niman's arguments, adding he was having trouble seeing the judgment as a deliberate attempt to beat the taxman. ``The bottom line is that your client (Blaine Tanner) had to pay that tax,'' said Belleghem.

Before the proceedings were finished, Tanner left the courthouse trailed by reporters, including one from a Cleveland newspaper.

``This is a matrimonial matter,'' Tanner said.

Niman later told reporters he had been instructed to settle the case and hoped Pamela Tanner will retain a lawyer to expedite the matter. But Tanner's ex-wife, who has been representing herself, told court she couldn't afford a lawyer.

Yesterday Tanner complied with a February court order to pay $15,000 to Pamela Tanner for reimbursement of expenses and $10,000 to the Ministry of Community and Social Services. If Tanner pays the $500,000 he owes under the terms of the support order, $150,000 will go to the ministry to cover the cost of supporting the Tanner children on welfare.

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