Archive | July, 2017

Buoyed by interest rate hike, Canadian dollar hits 80 cents U.S. for first time since 2015

Posted on 26 July 2017 by admin

The loonie has been climbing since the Bank of Canada hiked its key interest rate on July 12.

The Canadian dollar broke above 80 cents U.S. in morning trading today amid a weakening U.S. currency.

The loonie, which hasn’t closed above 80 cents U.S. since June 30, 2015, later dipped slightly, trading at 79.97 cents US, up from Friday’s average price of 79.69 cents US.

The dollar has been climbing since the middle of June, when speculation grew that the Bank of Canada was going to raise its key benchmark interest rate.

The central bank hiked its key interest rate on July 12, its first rate increase since 2010.

On Bay Street, Canada’s main stock index pulled back moderately as gold and materials stocks lost ground.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 64.91 points to 15,118.22, after 90 minutes of trading.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average declined 64.94 points to 21,515.13, the S&P 500 index lost 4.61 points to 2,467.93 and the Nasdaq composite index was up 1.56 points to 6,389.31.

The September crude contract added 51 cents to $46.28 (U.S.) per barrel and August natural gas fell six cents to $2.91 per mmBTU.

August gold was unchanged at $1,254.90 an ounce and September copper was up one cent to $2.73 a pound.

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Hydro One’s $6.7B acquisition may gouge ratepayers, critics say

Posted on 26 July 2017 by admin

 “Hydro One is gouging ratepayers while using our money to buy up foreign companies. In the end, Ontario families will be left paying even more for hydro,” says Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown.

Hydro One’s $6.7 billion acquisition of an American utility could end up zapping Ontario ratepayers, predicts Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown.

“The purchase of Avista by Hydro One is the direct result of (Premier) Kathleen Wynne’s fire sale,” Brown said Thursday.

“Hydro One is gouging ratepayers while using our money to buy up foreign companies. In the end, Ontario families will be left paying even more for hydro,” the Tory leader said.

Brown noted Hydro One is applying to the independent Ontario Energy Board to increase electricity rates by about $141 per household annually.

“Why should Ontario families be left with even higher bills when Hydro One has almost $7 billion to throw at foreign companies? This is not fair to Ontario ratepayers. Hydro One’s application for a massive, unaffordable rate increase should be immediately rejected.”

His comments came the morning after Hydro One announced the purchase of Spokane, Washington-based Avista, which operates in Washington state, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska.

NDP MPP Peter Tabuns (Toronto Danforth) said the deal “should raise red flags for every Ontarian who is struggling to pay their unaffordable hydro bills.”

“This move to create a huge multi-national utility means less control over our province’s electricity system and more financial risk for Ontarians,” said Tabuns.

 “It also raises real concerns about job security for Ontarians. It’s clear that the new Hydro One’s first responsibility is to its international shareholders, not to the people of Ontario,” he said.

“By ignoring the wishes of Ontarians and selling off Hydro One, Kathleen Wynne put the interests of investors around the globe ahead of the interests of our province and all of us who live here and pay a hydro bill.”

Both the New Democrats and the Conservatives opposed the Liberals’ sell-off of a majority stake in the provincial transmitter.

Wynne is using the $9 billion in proceeds from the 51 per cent that has been sold to fund transportation infrastructure and pay off Hydro One’s debt.

Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault said the Avista purchase would have no effect on consumers, who are already seeing a 25 per cent rate reduction this summer after years of skyrocketing hydro prices.

“We welcome the fact that this proposed acquisition will not impact the rates that Ontario customers pay. Neither will it have any impact on local jobs,” said Thibeault.

“As the single largest shareholder in Hydro One, the Ontario government would benefit from the company’s receipt of additional regulated returns expected to begin in 2019,” he noted.

DBRS, a credit-rating agency, praised the agreement.

“The acquisition provides HOL (Hydro One Limited) with both diversification and scale while expanding its regulated utility rate base to cover electricity transmission and distribution as well as natural gas local-distribution businesses,” the firm said in a statement.

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Kathleen Wynne defends Hydro One purchase of U.S. utility that owns coal plant

Posted on 26 July 2017 by admin

Coal-burning plants are banned in Ontario and Wynne says now the province can take that influence elsewhere.

Premier Kathleen Wynne is defending Hydro One’s takeover of an American utility that owns a coal plant after years of Liberal boasting that Ontario has banned the plants to cut pollution and greenhouse gases.

She suggested the $6.7-billion purchase of Avista, based in Washington state, heralds the spread of Ontario’s clean-energy push beyond the province’s borders.

“As you all know, Ontario has shut down all of the coal-fired generation in the province. Hydro One has made a business decision to acquire a . . . company that has a small minority share in a coal plant,” Wynne said Friday in Ottawa.

“Let me just say this: you won’t find another jurisdiction — pretty much around the world — that has gone as far in terms of renewable clean energy as Ontario so I see this as a real validation of our opportunity to take that influence elsewhere.”

Avista owns a 15-per-cent-stake in two of the four units at the Colstrip plant in Montana — a major coal-mining state — and plans to use them for electricity production until 2035, said a spokesperson for the company that also operates hydroelectric dams, natural gas and biomass generating plants and wind turbines.

Colstrip is one of the top carbon-producing plants in the U.S. and has become a target of environmentalists and lawmakers in the fight against climate change.

The Associated Press reported in January that two older units at the plant, dating to the 1970s and not owned by Avista, will be closed by 2022 under an agreement with environmental groups.

Hydro One said in a statement Friday it will be “reviewing” Avista’s assets when the purchase, slated to close in mid-2018, is complete.

But critics said Ontario, which sold a majority of shares in Hydro One to raise money for transportation infrastructure and now owns a 49 per cent stake, is taking a step backward with the deal.

New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns blamed the Wynne government’s “fire sale” of Hydro One, which he said now operates on a profit motive to please shareholders.

“No one should be surprised they’re doing stuff contrary to what Ontario has been doing,” said Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth).

“It wouldn’t even be legal in Ontario,” he said of the Avista plant.

Colstrip supplies about 9 per cent of the electricity to Avista customers. The company, headquartered in Spokane, Wash., serves Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

Ontario “is in the coal business again,” said Progressive Conservative MPP Todd Smith (Prince Edward-Hastings).

The Green Party said the deal undermines the government’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is a bad move for Ontario and for our planet . . . keep in mind Montana borders British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, and air doesn’t respect national boundaries,” said Jose Etcheverry, the Green candidate in Markham-Stouffville for next June’s provincial election.

“Hydro One has slapped us in the face by going shopping for a utility that owns one of the largest polluters in the U.S. northwest,” added Angela Bishoff of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance.

Wynne told reporters she talked with Hydro One chief executive Mayo Schmidt about the deal on Thursday, raising her concerns.

“I said: ‘You know, what about this?’ The fact is we have a coal-free electricity grid here in Ontario and . . . I expect that value system could be shared.”

“I know that Hydro One will be reviewing all of the operations once the transaction is completed. But we are leading the way in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” she added.

An article in Scientific American last year titled “Inside a Western Town That Refuses to Quit Coal” said the plant emits nearly 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, earning a spot among the top 20 carbon-producing power plants in the country.

The power plant is one of the largest employers in Colstrip and is located near a coal mine, which supplies it with fuel.

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Brown apologizes to ousted would-be Tory for alleging he raised funds for Liberals

Posted on 26 July 2017 by admin

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown has apologized for claiming Joe Neal had raised money to stop PC candidate Lorne Coe from winning the Whitby-Oshawa byelection last year.

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown has apologized for claiming an ousted Tory candidate was fundraising for the Liberals.

In a written apology to Joe Neal, Brown said he was incorrect when he told the Star that the Durham regional councillor had raised money to stop PC candidate Lorne Coe from winning the Whitby-Oshawa byelection last year.

“I appear to have misspoken,” he wrote in the signed letter to Neal dated Friday. The leader’s office shared the note with the Star to clear the air.

“There is no evidence that you engaged in fundraising against Lorne Coe in respect of the 2016 Whitby-Oshawa byelection. I regret any misunderstanding.”

Brown had made that statement on June 23 after Neal was disqualified as a Durham riding PC nomination candidate because of past ties to the Liberals.

With him out of the race, Lindsey Park last month won the right to carry the Tory banner against Liberal MPP Granville Anderson in the June 7, 2018 election.

In an interview Monday, Neal, who ran for the Grits in 1985, said he demanded the apology from Brown “to set the record straight.”

“I was upset with the untrue statements that were made . . . on top of everything else that had gone on,” he said.

The Clarington lawyer, who had actually helped Coe enlist members during last year’s byelection, said Brown’s mea culpa undermines the rationale for the Tories disqualifying his candidacy in the first place.

“I just question what kind of leader this guy’s going to be.”

Neal said he is still leaving the door open to running as an independent candidate next year.

“I’m taking the summer to talk to people and assess what I will do down the road. Whether (an independent run) is in the cards or not I don’t know,” he said.

Last month, Neal abandoned a legal challenge against the Tories for sidelining his nomination hopes.

He scrapped plans for a judicial review by Justice Bruce Glass in Oshawa after being advised Brown wouldn’t sign his nomination papers regardless of the outcome.

A recent court ruling by Justice Ian Nordheimer concluded that registered political parties, which receive public funding, are not private clubs free to make their own membership arrangements.

That means parties can be forced, through means of the law, to allow people to join and would-be candidates to run.

The Durham debacle was one of a series of nomination controversies that have plagued the Tories, who hired private-sector auditors PwC to oversee their elections due to the bad publicity.

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Unlicensed group home operators face new health and safety violations

Posted on 26 July 2017 by admin

City officials have twice issued a threat to life notice at one Scarborough property caught up in a crackdown on Thursday.

An operator of unlicensed group homes in Scarborough has again been found in violation of fire safety rules, putting vulnerable residents at risk, city officials say.

A threat to life notice was issued at a Rouge River Dr. home over fire safety concerns about the number of people living in the basement where there is only one exit. One person from that address and two others were relocated after city bylaw, fire inspectors and police officers descended on several suspected unlicensed group homes on Thursday.

The operators of Comfort Residential Group Homes and Drew’s Residential Services were charged with several fire code violations, property standards violations and zoning infractions, the city said Friday.

Violations include insufficient smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, cockroach and bed bug infestations and illegally operating as a rooming house.

This is the second time a threat to life notice has been issued at the Rouge River home in less than two months.

On June 2, fire officials found eight people living at the two-storey detached home where Comfort Residential operator Winston Manning also lives. A notice concerning the basement occupants was issued at that time.

When officials returned Thursday, the number of residents had climbed to 13, a city source said.

“Our focus is to make sure that all residents are living in homes that are properly maintained and in which personal safety is never compromised,” Fire Chief Matthew Pegg is quoted as saying in a city statement Friday.

The crackdown comes after the Star reported on an OPP investigation into the “deplorable” conditions in the homes that provincial health ministry officials ignored because there is nowhere else for the occupants to go.

The city’s municipal licensing and standards boss Tracey Cook noted in the city release the “significant amount of effort” needed to take the kind of action seen Thursday.

Manning, who rents homes and collects disability, pension and other income sources from residents who are elderly or have mental health issues, faces a growing number of charges for fire and property violations.

“I’ve been under siege for over 10 hours,” Manning told the Star by phone Friday. He said his computer and other documents were seized and said he thinks officials are looking for “something deeper.”

Manning said only eight people live at the Rouge River address, and several others had just arrived temporarily with “no place to go.”

“I feel bad about everything,” he said. “I don’t know why they’re on me like this every day. I guess because I’m breaking the fire code rules.”

Convictions under the Ontario Fire Code can result in fines of up to $100,000 or up to a year in prison. Planning Act charges can lead to a maximum of $50,000 in fines.

On Thursday, police stood guard outside a Fawcett Trail home, where several violations were found after officials interviewed occupants, seized records and scoured the property.

Fourteen people were living inside the tiny beige brick bungalow, a different city source said.

Michael Wyatt, 61, moved into the home near Morningside and Sheppard Aves. five months ago after he had a stroke. He pays $941 from his monthly disability cheque to the operators. For that he says he gets lousy food and shares a room in the basement with another man.

“There’s a bed, and a dresser and TV. We get cable. There was talk of us getting the internet,” Wyatt said outside the house having a smoke as rain began to fall. There is a full-time support worker who lives on-site, and the medication Wyatt requires is administered daily, he added.

“I don’t want to whine to you,” he said. “Let’s say it’s been a challenging few months.”

The OPP investigation focused on Manning’s operations but concluded there is a systemic problem throughout the province of people turning regular residences into homes for vulnerable occupants. The situation has arisen “as a result of the housing shortage in the GTA.”

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Mitchell Irwin, now 21, pleads guilty in hit-and run death of cyclist Adam Excell, 26

Posted on 26 July 2017 by admin

Excell’s mother issues plea for drivers to reduce speed. “He didn’t stand a chance against a 2,000-pound car travelling 80 km/h,” she said.

“People need to slow down,” Brenda Excell said quietly outside a downtown Toronto courtroom. “Just slow down.”

Excell had just heard Mitchell Irwin, 21, plead guilty to dangerous driving causing death for killing her son Adam Excell as he was biking on the night of June 13, 2015.

In her victim impact statement, six pages long interspersed with photographs, Brenda painted a vivid portrait of the grief she and her family have lived with since losing Excell, 26, a passionate and adventurous outdoorsman, photographer and cyclist.

“He was so slight,” she wrote in the statement, read to court by the Crown. “He didn’t stand a chance against a 2,000-pound car travelling 80 km/h. I picture it clearly in my mind.”

Irwin listened to the many emotional statements of Excell’s family and friends in tears with his head collapsed onto a desk.

He was 19 at when the crash happened two years ago at the intersection of Avenue Rd. and Davenport.

A ghost bike now marks the spot.

According to an agreed statement of facts, at 11:20 p.m. Excell was making a left turn onto Davenport during an amber light after oncoming northbound traffic had stopped. Mitchell, however, was weaving around other vehicles and sped northbound into the intersection, slamming into Excell. At the point of collision he was going 87 km/h in a 50km/h zone, according to a collision reconstruction report.

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Government measures are cooling off the housing market, Morneau says

Posted on 26 July 2017 by admin

The finance minister says the real estate price increases seen in Toronto and Vancouver were “unsustainable.”

OTTAWA—The federal finance minister says steps taken to tame Canada’s hottest housing markets have already helped slow down a sector he believes was moving at an unsustainable clip.

Bill Morneau’s comments Tuesday follow this week’s release of data showing Canada’s home sales for June posted their biggest monthly plunge in seven years. The national figure was led by a drop in the Greater Toronto market.

The new data provided the latest evidence that steps taken at federal, provincial and municipal levels have begun to temper the country’s real estate sector, particularly in the Vancouver and Toronto regions.

 “What we’ve put in place has had some impact — and some impact in having a slight cooling in the market, which of course was our objective,” Morneau told The Canadian Press in an interview at his Ottawa office.

 “We thought that the price increases in Vancouver and Toronto, specifically, were unsustainable.”

Earlier Tuesday, Morneau told a news conference that changes in the housing sector were playing out “largely the way we thought it might.” He also noted, however, that it was “too early” in the emerging situation to draw conclusions.

On a national basis, last month’s housing transactions were down 6.7 per cent compared with May, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Monday. It was the third-straight monthly decrease and the Greater Toronto Area registered a 15.1-per-cent drop.

Compared to May, sales fell last month in 70 per cent of all local markets measured by the association, including the Lower Mainland in B.C., Montreal and Quebec City.

Earlier this year, the Ontario government put in place more than a dozen measures to curb the Toronto market, including a 15-per-cent-tax on foreign buyers. Since then, sales in Canada’s largest city have slowed.

A number of federal measures have also been introduced in recent years to address housing market concerns during the extended period of low interest rates. They’ve included higher minimum down-payment requirements, reduced amortization periods and stress tests on insured mortgages.

Separately, mortgage interest rates have started to rise following last week’s hike in the Bank of Canada’s benchmark interest rate.

The federal banking regulator recently proposed to expand stress tests to include uninsured mortgages as part of the effort to tighten lending rules.

Asked about the recommendation by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, Morneau said the measures under consideration are slightly different because they’re clearly aimed at the higher-end part of the market.

In the months ahead, Morneau said the federal government will remain vigilant.

“We’re going to be careful as we do this every step along the way,” he said.

“We need to continue to focus on this market. We’re not going to assume that the measures that we’ve put in place so far have necessarily given us comfort that the market’s exactly where we want it to be.”

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Sukhwant Thethi Nominated as Ontario Liberal Candidate in Brampton South

Posted on 26 July 2017 by admin

 Hundreds Of Supporters Joined By Premier Wynne And Provincial And Federal Ministers To Rally Around Newest Ontario Liberal Candidate

BRAMPTON — Community leader Sukhwant Thethi was nominated today to stand as the Ontario Liberal candidate for Brampton South in the next provincial election.

Thethi accepted the nomination surrounded by his family, hundreds of local supporters, Premier Kathleen Wynne, Ontario Minister of Finance Charles Sousa, Ontario Minister of Seniors Dipika Damerla and federal Minister Navdeep Bains. In his speech to supporters, Thethi spoke passionately about his experiences as a new Canadian, the Ontario Liberal plan that is building a better, fairer province and the shameful things that Patrick Brown’s PCs are saying about Sikh candidates behind closed doors.

“I moved here in 1995 from India and waited tables. From an immigrant waiting tables to a successful banker standing here to run to be a Member of Provincial Parliament — this is what Canada is all about!” Thethi said. He added, “I look at Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal plan and I see the policies that will help even more people realize their dreams and seize opportunity, just like I did. As the father of two daughters in university, I know that by making college and university tuition free, the Ontario Liberal plan is going to help hundreds of thousands of young people secure their future.” Referring to the recent actions Ontario’s Liberal government has taken to deliver faster, better health care, new transit, a higher minimum wage and better protections for all workers, Thethi said “This Premier and her team are implementing a plan that supports our families and creates more fairness for people in Brampton and across Ontario.”

In enthusiastically welcoming Thethi to the team, Premier Wynne touched on aspects of Thethi’s life story, saying “Sukhwant knows what it is like to work your way to a better life in a new country. And I know how valuable it is to bring his perspective and ideas to Queen’s Park. One third of our team of Liberal MPPs were born outside of Canada. Every day I see how their different experiences help us in our quest to make life better for Ontario families. Sukhwant will be a strong voice for Brampton and a great help as we continue to fight for fairness and build Brampton up with the new transit, hospitals, schools and university campus that this exciting, growing community needs.”

Thethi also took aim at the recent Conservative nomination controversy in Hamilton, telling supporters it is now clear that Patrick Brown and his PCs will say anything to win votes from South Asians. Thethi was referring to an admission by the Conservative Party president that the PC Party blocked a turbaned Sikh candidate from winning the nomination in Hamilton because he was seen as “not reliable” and the “wrong demographic.” Thethi strongly condemned this as yet another incident that shows the PCs are not the inclusive party they claim to be, saying “Patrick Brown and his Conservatives pretend to reach out to the South Asian community when they want our votes, but this reveals their true colours. This is the kind of Conservative prejudice we must oppose. Whether you are a Sikh Canadian or a Muslim Canadian or someone whose family has been here for generations, there is no right or wrong demographic. We are all Canadians.”

Sukhwant Thethi immigrated to Canada from India in 1995. He has worked in food service, manufacturing, and owned a small business. He is now a mortgage specialist with the Royal Bank of Canada. Thethi believes strongly in giving back to the community that has given him so much opportunity. He volunteers and fundraises for causes that include the Peel Multicultural Council, the United Way, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and other organisations working to improve local health care. He also serves on the advisory board to select Ontario Justices of the Peace. Sukhwant Thethi and his wife, Rajinder, are the proud parents of two university-age daughters, Gurleen and Amarjot.

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How Will the Auto Industry Fare After Central Bank Interest Rate Rise?

Posted on 26 July 2017 by admin

Perspective from Canadian Black Book on the July 12 Rate Hike and our Auto Industry’s Record Growth

Markham, Ontario, July 14, 2017 – On Wednesday July 12, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz announced a 0.25 per cent key interest rate increase, the first rise in rates in seven years.

How will this news affect the Canada’s auto business?

What most new vehicle buyers may assume, is that the cost of higher interest rates will get passed onto them today. It is actually unlikely in the short term, that that would be the case.

For the most part, manufacturer new vehicle incentive budgets will likely absorb the rate hike for consumers so that they can continue to advertise 0% or 0.9% or 1.9% for new cars. To keep things in perspective, on a $40,000 car loan a hike of 0.25% is only an extra $100 per year of interest.

All that said, if rates continue to climb, at some point the OEMs will have to pass along those costs to vehicle buyers, initially resulting in less cash incentives. This will then eventually raise monthly payment, all else being equal.

The bigger impact of a rate increase is its immediate effect on the strength of the Canadian dollar and what that will mean to the Canadian auto industry. Our more valuable dollar is of greater concern, for both the new and used vehicle market in Canada. The dollar has increased $0.06 since May, which is a significant climb. This could lead to a cooling of new vehicle sales and is expected to cause Canadian used vehicle prices to fall over time.

As the strength of our dollar had been declining since 2013, U.S. interest in Canadian used vehicles increased. Depending on who you ask, upwards of 200,000 vehicles have been being exported to the U.S. annually. U.S. buyers and/or Canadian exporters have been taking full advantage of a lower Canadian dollar and been moving vehicles across the border to sell at a higher price in the States versus here at home. This export demand has inflated our used car prices domestically.

As a result, Canadian consumers are being pulled out of their vehicle loans/leases early by dealers who are eager to sell the consumer’s current vehicle on the used market and put the consumer into a brand new one, often for the same or lower monthly payment. This “pull forward” activity is helping to drive record levels of new vehicle sales. This activity is also possibly due to higher used vehicle prices putting consumers into a positive equity position (owe less than the vehicle is worth) much sooner.

Given that the domestic supply of U.S. used vehicles is up by about 500,000 more off lease units versus past years, U.S. used prices are falling. The Black Book (USA) Price Index is showing a ten per cent decline since last year, which is significant. The U.S. vehicle market is bracing for a large downward adjustment in used prices. Add in a stronger Canadian dollar, driving up acquisition costs and there will be less demand in the U.S. for Canadian used vehicles

At some point soon, the rising Canadian dollar and falling U.S. used vehicle prices will make it unattractive for U.S. buyers to purchase Canadian inventory in such large volumes. The impact to the Canadian auto industry will be a slowdown of “pull forward” activity, as it won’t make economic sense to pull as many consumers out of their vehicles early because they won’t command such high prices on the used market. Canadian Black Book expects that a $0.85 dollar is around the tipping point for U.S. exports to significantly slow.

On the positive side, Canadian used vehicle shoppers and used vehicle dealers will be rewarded with better deals in the market compared to what they have seen over the last few years.

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“We share an easy chemistry.” – says Tiger Shroff on working with Disha Patani

Posted on 26 July 2017 by admin

 Tiger Shroff’s Munna Michael has hit the theatres today and now the actor will be prepping up for his next, Baaghi 2 opposite rumoured girlfriend Disha Patani. The two stars are known to share a great bond and it would be exciting to see the two of them in the film.

Looks like Tiger is really looking forward to work with Disha. In his conversation with a leading daily, he said, “I am looking forward to working with her as I am really comfortable with her. We share an easy chemistry, so it will be fun working with her.”

Talking about all the rumours doing rounds about his relationship with Disha, Tiger mentioned, “No, it’s not a problem. It is a part and parcel of every actor, who is in the limelight. And everyone goes through it. People can say what they say, it really doesn’t affect us.”

We are really looking forward to see Disha and Tiger together in Baaghi 2, are you excited too?

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