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Google firm poised to partner on Toronto high-tech neighbourhood

Posted on 13 October 2017 by admin

Landing a Google company to build a ‘smart’ neighhbourhood would boost city’s push to become centre of innovation.

Sidewalk Labs, a sister company of tech giant Google, is the preferred partner to build a high-tech “smart” neighbourhood on Toronto’s east downtown waterfront, the Star has learned.

The board of Waterfront Toronto, the federal-provincial-city agency overseeing the so-called Quayside project, is expected to vote at an Oct. 20 meeting whether to confirm the agency’s staff recommendation arising from a rigorous competitive bid process launched in May.

If confirmed by Waterfront Toronto’s board, the choice of a firm owned by Google holding company Alphabet Inc. would be a big high-tech feather in the cap of the city currently chasing the second headquarters of Amazon and other innovation opportunities.

Quayside is envisioned by the agency as a testbed for cutting-edge technology as well as a bustling, functioning neighbourhood, with homes, offices, retail and cultural space, near Queens Quay E. and Parliament St.

“This is very big news for more good jobs on our waterfront,” said Councillor Paula Fletcher. “Expediting plans for waterfront transit will be critical for its success.”

A source familiar with the outcome of Waterfront Toronto’s request-for-proposal told the Star on Wednesday that Sidewalk Labs is Waterfront Toronto’s “preferred proponent” to help build the “precedent-setting waterfront community.”

Waterfront Toronto, Google and Mayor John Tory’s office all refused comment Wednesday, citing confidentiality and the integrity of the bid process.

Sidewalk Labs is Alphabet’s urban innovation unit, with a stated goal of “reimagining cities from the Internet up.”

Dan Doctoroff, the company’s chief executive and co-founder, told a conference in New York City last May that his company was “looking into developing a large-scale district” to act as its smart city test bed.

The community would be universally connected by broadband and could have, Doctoroff said, prefab modular housing, sensors to constantly monitor building performance, and robotic delivery services to cut residential storage space, website The Architects’ Newspaper reported in May.

Improving transportation would be a focus, possibly with self-driving cars and design to encourage biking and walking, he told the conference. World-leading environmental sustainability could include thermal exchange systems to capture wasted building heat, and smart sensors to limit energy use.

Waterfront Toronto says the 4.9-hectare (12-acre) site will be “a testbed for emerging technologies, materials and processes that will address these challenges and advance solutions that can be replicated in cities worldwide.”

The agency said the winning bidder must propose plans to foster sustainability, resiliency and urban innovation; complete communities with a range of housing types for families of all sizes and income levels; economic development and prosperity driving innovation that will be rolled out to the rest of the world; and partnership and investment ensuring a solid financial foundation that secures revenue and manages financial risk.

Development of the three publicly owned blocks at the east end of Queens Quay will eventually include redesign and reconstruction of the intersection of Queens Quay and Parliament Street.

Toronto tech leaders at a Smart Cities event in Toronto last May said the city is on the cusp of a tech boom, noting talk of Google interest in the city and Uber’s decision to make Toronto a hub for driverless car research.

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Majority of Torontonians with celiac disease don’t know they have it, study shows

Posted on 13 October 2017 by admin

About 1 per cent of Torontonians are estimated to have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten. Yet University of Toronto researchers found that 87 per cent of people living with celiac in Toronto aren’t aware they have the condition.

If you’ve got constant fatigue, sore muscles or unexplained gastrointestinal problems, there’s a chance you’re part of the 1 per cent of Torontonians with celiac disease — and new research shows you probably don’t know it.

Researchers at the University of Toronto found that 87 per cent of people living with celiac disease in Toronto aren’t aware they have it.

Ahmed El-Sohemy, a professor of nutritional science at the University of Toronto and senior author of the paper, said researchers compared blood tests of about 3,000 Canadians with their responses to a health questionnaire.

“We found that among those that tested positive for the blood test, 90 per cent of them indicated ‘no’ to having been diagnosed with (celiac disease),” El-Sohemy said.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by eating gluten. There are essentially two types of the disease: a severe, early-onset form that is often identified in childhood by a pediatric gastroenterologist, and a less severe type that often isn’t diagnosed until adulthood.

With the latter, people “just never really felt right,” El-Sohemy said. They might experience fatigue or gastrointestinal problems, or mistake symptoms for inflammatory bowel syndrome or other autoimmune disorders.

“The symptoms are not as clear-cut as other types of disorders, where it’s perhaps more localized just to the digestive system,” El-Sohemy said.

Celiac disease causes damage to the small intestines, leading to malabsorption of nutrients and vitamin deficiencies.

That can manifest in ways seemingly unrelated to celiac disease — bleeding gums, brittle bones or weak muscles.

Celiac disease is the best-understood type of gluten intolerance, El-Sohemy said.

“This concept of non-celiac gluten sensitivity is still not very clear,” he said. “There have been a number of studies but the findings have been inconclusive, as to whether it actually exists.”

El-Sohemy suspects that the vast majority of people eating gluten-free by choice don’t actually have celiac disease.

Andrey Malkov of Hibiscus Cafe, a vegetarian and gluten-free restaurant in Kensington Market, said the majority of his customers are trying out or prefer eating gluten free.

“It’s a preference to try eating without gluten,” Malkov said. “And we do have quite a number of people coming in who do have celiac disease. I would say the majority would be people who prefer the lifestyle.”

El-Sohemy said the reason many people without celiac disease opt to eat gluten-free — including a number of prominent athletes — is that it cuts or reduces carb intake.

“They’re no longer eating heaping plates of pasta, and lots of refined white bread,” El-Sohemy said. “So they’re losing weight, they’re not getting that glucose crash after a big pasta meal, and they feel more energized and great.”

Still, El-Sohemy said it’s important to know whether the benefits of eating gluten free are because of intolerance or simply a better diet.

“There are a lot of gluten-containing whole grains that are very nutritious, have a lot of central minerals and fiber and they’re good sources of a variety of nutrients,” he said, adding they should still be consumed in moderation.

“And also, you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. You don’t just cut out all sources of gluten when it’s only the carbohydrates that may have been the culprit.”

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Ontario realtors face new double-ending rules, stiffer fines

Posted on 13 October 2017 by admin

New conflict of interest rules are supposed to protect consumers from unethical real estate agents.

Real estate agents in Ontario will face new conflict of interest rules when they represent both a buyer and seller in a single transaction and tougher penalties when they violate the industry regulations and ethics.

The Liberal government announced on Thursday an update to the Real Estate Business Brokers Act (REBBA) that will see the fines for unethical realtors double to $50,000. Brokerages found breaking the rules will be fined up to $100,000 per violation.

Government and Consumer Services Minister Tracy MacCharles said the government was compelled to act in light of media reports and industry consultations that revealed some agents were double-ending sales to their own benefit.

In some cases agents were manipulating bidding wars so they wouldn’t have to split the sales commission with another agent.

The practice of representing both parties in a sale is properly known as multiple representation.

“Our default will be that multiple representation doesn’t occur. That is a preferred direction we’re going in,” MacCharles told the Toronto Star in an embargoed interview on Tuesday.

Where it turns out a client wants to buy a property listed by their own agent, one party will be assigned to another agent in the same brokerage.

There will be cases, however, where agents still represent both sides of the transaction. But the conditions around those cases are still unclear pending further consultation, says the government.

They could include sales in rural communities where there are not many agents; family situations where the parties are well known to one another; and some commercial sales where the parties have legal advice and sufficient expertise.

In cases where one agent continues to represent both parties, there will be a new, plain language form that both the buyer and seller must sign saying they understand the arrangement and the different role the realtor will then play. (Under the current rules, both parties also sign a written consent form.)

The agent’s role changes in those cases to that of a facilitator where they administer the sale, but are prohibited from providing advice on offers or prices.

“We’re trying to protect our consumers, give some choice to the consumers and recognize this is a significant industry worth millions of dollars, if not billions, every month,” said MacCharles.

The changes will require a beefed-up role for industry regulator, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). It will transition from a complaints-based agency to a more proactive, investigative regulator. Again, the specifics of how RECO will enforce the new rules have yet to be determined, said the minister.

The new fines will likely be effective by the end of the year. Other changes will take until 2019, she said.

Real estate executives have said that only a small portion of sales involve agents representing both parties.

MacCharles said there were 17,637 transactions in August. But she did not have figures on how many of those were multiple representation transactions.

“Going forward we want these things to be addressed up front through our regulator. We will get the data. RECO will have that in an up-front way. We can monitor the trends, see what we need to do on the regulatory side,” she said.

RECO issued a statement welcoming the changes, saying they reflect its own recommendations.

The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), which represents 70,000 industry members, also praised the measures.

The new rules will be some of the strictest in North America and the most stringent in Canada, said CEO Tim Hudak.

Acting as a facilitator, “bringing a willing buyer and seller to the table to find a win-win solution,” is a big part of a real estate agent’s job, he said.

The consumer still retains the choice, he said, of whether to opt for the advice of their own agent or go with an impartial facilitated transaction.

“You may be a sophisticated buyer, you may be on your third home, you may be somebody who has background,” said Hudak.

But Toronto broker John Pasalis, CEO of Realosophy, says that reducing the role of the agent to a facilitator means neither party has an advisor and champion in their corner.

“It’s buyer beware and seller beware,” he said.

“They basically represent nobody and are just a middleman bringing a sale together. This is actually worse than what we have now, because under the current rules, the buyer and sellers are still clients so agents have to still represent their interests.”

Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman, the Ontario PC party’s housing critic, said the government needed to do something on the real estate file.

“Anything the government can do to protect the consumer — particularly on issues where you need professional advice, so that they can depend on the accuracy of, and the dependability of the advice.”

The new rules on multiple representation are the first phase of a two-part review of the 2002 REBBA.


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Province Cutting Cost to Ride the TTC in Half for People Paying to Ride GO Transit and UP Express

Posted on 13 October 2017 by admin

Ontario is lowering the cost of commuting for people in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) by introducing a 50 per cent discount for PRESTO card users who transfer between GO Transit or the Union Pearson Express (UP Express) and the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), in both directions.

Premier Kathleen Wynne was at Union Station in Toronto today to announce that adult, senior and youth/student TTC riders will pay a TTC fare of just $1.50 when they use a PRESTO card to transfer to or from GO Transit or the UP Express. The discount will launch in January 2018, shortly after the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension will begin service to six new stations. For people whose regular commute includes GO/UP Express-TTC transfers, this step towards regional fare integration and more affordable transit options will save about $720 per year.

The new discount builds on a number of recent actions the government has taken to save people money, including a tax credit for seniors who use public transit, steps to make buying or renting a home more affordable and reducing residential electricity bills by 25 per cent on average.

Making public transit more convenient, available and affordable is part of Ontario’s plan to create fairness and opportunity during this period of rapid economic change. The plan includes a higher minimum wage and better working conditions, free tuition for hundreds of thousands of students, easier access to affordable child care, and free prescription drugs for everyone under 25 through the biggest expansion of medicare in a generation.


” We’re building transit across Ontario to help people get where they need to be. But the cost of commuting can add up quickly. Making it more affordable to hop on the TTC is going to save people money and make the journey that much easier. It’s about delivering a seamless transit system that recognizes just how interconnected our region is, and making it as easy as possible for people to get where they’re going.”

- Kathleen Wynne

Premier of Ontario

” We are making fares more affordable for the many commuters who already use a PRESTO card to connect between GO Transit, UP Express and the TTC. We also hope that this will persuade more commuters to take transit all the way to their destination. Working together with our municipal partners, we are committed to creating a seamless and cost-effective travel experience for transit riders.”

- Steven Del Duca

Minister of Transportation

” Thanks to bold leadership at City Hall and Queen’s Park, we have found a way to give a discount to those who use a mix of our transit systems. Transit will now be more affordable for Toronto residents who ride a mix of the TTC, UP Express and GO Transit to get around the city. This agreement also moves us a step closer to make sure that SmartTrack will cost Toronto residents the same as the TTC. We need to make sure that the transit we are building and maintaining remains affordable.”

- John Tory

Mayor of Toronto

” Metrolinx is committed to working with our partners on a seamless and integrated travel experience for customers across the region. Our region needs fare integration. This discount is an important first step in breaking down barriers to fare integration across the network, making it easier and more convenient to take transit.”

- Phil Verster

President and CEO of Metrolinx


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WOW! Katrina Kaif hires an agent in Hollywood?

Posted on 13 October 2017 by admin

It was considered that Indian actors can’t shine or make a mark in Hollywood. Naseeruddin Shah, Kabir Bedi, Mallika Sherawat, Anil Kapoor, Amrish Puri, Tabu, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Anupam Kher etc tried their luck in Hollywood but couldn’t become popular. On the other hand, Om Puri did get few roles while Irrfan Khan left a mark in some significant Hollywood flicks.

But it was Priyanka Chopra who changed the rules of the game. She began by launching her international singles and soon enough she bagged a TV show ‘Quantico’. The TV series has got three seasons till now and has made Priyanka a household name globally. She also had a key role in the Hollywood film Baywatch and is also working in two more films. On the other hand, Deepika Padukone also debuted in Hollywood with the action flick xXx: Return Of Xander Cage. The film flopped but Deepika was noticed on a worldwide level and her chemistry with Vin Diesel was much talked about.

Inspired by Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone’s success, it seems that now Katrina Kaif has also developed Hollywood ambitions. As per reports, she has recently hired an agent in USA who has been instructed to find the actress some big films in the West. Looking at the way Deepika and Priyanka are making waves, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Katrina wants some of that western cake for herself as well. Moreover, she also has an advantage as her looks are quite international and she can slip into a character of any nationality. Her accented English will also prove beneficial.

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Arbaaz Khan spotted on a date with Romanian girl Alexandra Camelia

Posted on 13 October 2017 by admin

Post split with wife Malaika Arora Khan, Arbaaz Khan moved on in life. He was rumoured to be dating Romanian beauty Alexandra Camelia. Rumour of their link-up spark when Arbaaz was seen posing with Alexandra in his instagram account. Lately, the actor-director was seen in a romatic date with his new found love.

On Thursday evening, Arbaaz Khan was seen with Alexandra Camelia at a popular eatery in Mumbai. The duo looked very much in love and as per report, they can’t take their eyes off each other. They indulge in romantic talks all night.

In an earlier interview, the actor had admitted that he was dating someone. “I am dating, yes. But we are not… As of now, there is still a long way to go,” he had said, adding that he still felt “single”.

Post break-up, Arbaaz and Malaika maintained a cordial relationship. They spotted at parties together, have fun together, spend time with their son jointly. They constant get-together gave rise to the speculation that reconciliation is on the cards. But Arbaaz made it clear that there is no chance of them getting back together again.

In an interview with DNA, Arbaaz opened up that there was no chance of them getting back together. “I guess if that was to happen it would have happened in the first six months, or one year. It didn’t and it’s been almost three years now,” he said.

He added, “I wouldn’t want to speak for her. I kept my option open despite us parting ways, and I gave it a little time, whether it was a year or two years before I moved on in certain ways. Even as far as dating somebody is concerned.”

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“Kareena and I have decided to send him to a boarding school” – Saif Ali Khan on son Taimur

Posted on 13 October 2017 by admin

Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan’s li’l baby Taimur Ali Khan is already quite a star and not just the paparazzi but all of us love this royal prince. He leaves us charmed with his flushed pink cheeks and gorgeous big blue eyes each time we catch a glimpse of him. His fan following is no less than his mama Bebo and daddy Saif Ali Khan. I mean like seriously those gazillion fan pages of him on social media are a proof of the same. It takes seconds for any of his pictures to go viral on the internet and he makes us go aww! Earlier, we’ve heard daddy Saif talking about the attention baby Taimur gets and has even shown his worry about it as he wants him to have a normal upbringing like his other children, Sara and Ibrahim.

Saif in his latest interview revealed that Bebo and he have decided to send Taimur away to a boarding school to keep him away from all the limelight and attention. Saif shared, “He has innocence in his eyes, there is nothing pretentious, but yes I am worried about him. Kareena and I have already discussed the stardom he already has around him and we have decided to send him to a nice boarding school in England. It will hopefully do the trick it has done for everybody in the family. Kareena is going to be a very good mother. She will not be impressed if he is spoilt.”

Looks like #Saifeena are deciding to give baby Taimur a more private and sheltered life. Whatever said and done we love Taimur.

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Unhappy with costumes, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan cancels Fanney Khan’s shoot

Posted on 13 October 2017 by admin

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is considered to be the most beautiful women in the world and she ensures that she constantly lives up to that image. It’s rare to find her in the list of ‘worst dressed celebs’ or she making a faux pas in an event. Her airport looks are also spot on. Even in films, she looks her stunning best. In her last film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil she rocked the show and gave tough competition to lead actress Anushka Sharma despite having a supporting role.

Hence, a lot is expected from Aishwarya Rai Bachchan from her upcoming film Fanney Khan which recently went on floors. The actress has taken her role quite seriously and so much so that, she called off the shoot at the last minute! The reason: she was not happy with the costumes designed by ace designer Manish Malhotra.

Co-producer Prernaa Arora confirmed that the shoot has indeed been pushed ahead due to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s dissatisfaction. She added that costumes play a big role in Fanney Khan as she portrays the role of a diva. She is creatively involved and will not accept anything that is not upto the mark. The shoot therefore was postponed.

Reportedly, the shoot will now begin only post-Diwali. This is because Aishwarya Rai Bachchan wants to celebrate Karwa Chauth on Sunday October 8 and then bring in father-in-law Amitabh Bachchan’s 75th birthday with the whole family in Maldives on October 11. Manish Malhotra will use this time to rework the costumes and make them edgier and highly-stylised as per the requirements of the character.

Anil Kapoor, as per reports, has wrapped up most of his portions for Fanney Khan. The film also stars Rajkummar Rao who was supposed to shoot with Aishwarya. He, too, will have to wait until Diwali to share screen space with Aishwarya.

Fanney Khan marks the directorial debut of Atul Manjrekar and is the official remake of acclaimed Dutch film Everybody’s Famous. It is co-produced by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra.


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City on hook for $1.6 billion to fix crumbling public housing

Posted on 06 October 2017 by admin

A revised repairs plan and latest Toronto Community Housing budget means city council is now solely responsible for $160 million annually for the next 10 years to close the budget gap.

The city is on the hook to close the budget gap for repairs to crumbling public housing, a bill totalling $1.6 billion.

The bulk of the repairs backlog, long known about and unaddressed, is now to be the direct responsibility of the city, as outlined in a 2018 budget tabled by Toronto Community Housing Thursday.

The plan approved means city council is now solely responsible for $160 million annually for the next 10 years.

An additional $810 million is required to fund a total $2.4 billion over the next 10 years. This is expected to be financed through debentures or further refinancing.

It is a plan that acknowledges the lack of investment from other governments to date and ensures no more public housing units close.

“At the end of the day, all levels of government have a responsibility to invest in Toronto Community Housing, but our TCH budget calls on the city to be our line of last defence, always,” said Councillor Joe Cressy, a member of the TCH board, after the vote.

He said it’s significant that the city will now have a dedicated capital budget line item for Toronto Community Housing. On meeting the need to prevent more units being boarded up, Cressy said: “I’m optimistic the political will is there.”

The revised plans follow a council direction moved by Cressy and passed in July that Toronto Community Housing “ensure that no additional housing units are permanently closed in 2018 and 2019.”

The original 10-year capital-repairs plan requested the city, province and federal governments split a $2.6-billion bill three ways.

The city, largely through mortgage and other refinancing, has contributed nearly $1 billion. But the other governments have never committed to that plan.

There remain few additional opportunities to refinance mortgages, the TCH board heard Thursday.

Sheila Penny, vice-president of facilities management, confirmed Thursday that the plan would ensure no more units are shuttered.

Toronto Community Housing was on track to close 400 units next year on top of 600 to be closed this year.

Today, in communities such as Firgrove in North York, there are residents packing their belongings into boxes, as more than 100 families are displaced from their townhomes because they are beyond repair and soon to be uninhabitable.

The repairs required are not superficial. They include roof replacement, new furnaces, elevators and plumbing problems.

TCH data provided to the Star earlier this year showed more than 30 social housing properties are already in serious disrepair, and 222 of 364 developments are ranked in “poor” condition.

The new plan would see $300 million in spending on repairs next year and in 2019, and $350 million through 2026.

City council could fulfil a request to pay the $1.6 billion through other governments, if they agreed to pay.

The federal government has announced $11 billion for affordable housing over 11 years, including social housing, but it is not yet known how much might be available for TCH and when.

The province has not responded to repeated pleas to contribute a one-third share and has not outlined social housing spending beyond $343 million promised over three years for energy retrofits.

Councillor Ana Bailao, a member of the board, said the new plan isn’t letting those governments off the hook.

“This is not the city saying the city is taking care of it,” she said, adding it will continue to work with its counterparts to secure more funding.

Tory’s spokesperson Don Peat said in a statement that “we are committed to moving forward on TCHC, not backwards.”

“The mayor has given TCHC clear instructions: no units are to be closed in 2018.”

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Toronto housing affordability hits worst level ever measured in city, RBC report says

Posted on 06 October 2017 by admin

Across Canada, RBC’s housing affordability measure hit 46.7 per cent in the latest quarter, a level not seen since 1990.

Housing affordability in Canada hit the worst level in 27 years in the second quarter of this year, according to a Royal Bank of Canada report.

RBC Economics said in a report Friday that its housing affordability measure for Canada deteriorated for the eighth consecutive quarter. The Toronto area was the hardest hit, where RBC says affordability declined the most compared to the previous year and hit the worst level ever measured in the city.

The Ontario government’s actions in April to cool down the housing market, including a foreign buyer’s tax, did not have an immediate impact on provincial housing prices in the second quarter, RBC said.

 “Clearly, home ownership remains out of reach for many would-be buyers in the area,” RBC Economics said in the report.

 “The good news is that some relief is on the way. Recent downward pressure on prices is poised to lower ownership costs in the period ahead. The bad news, unfortunately, is that rising interest rates will take some of that relief away.”

Still, the least-affordable place to purchase a home remains the Vancouver area, where affordability worsened after two consecutive quarters of improvement but remains better than a year ago. Outside of British Columbia and Ontario, affordability remains mostly stable, RBC said.

RBC’s housing affordability measure shows the proportion of median pre-tax household income required to service the costs of owning the average home — factoring in both condos and single-family detached homes — including mortgage payments, property taxes and utilities.

The Vancouver area was the least affordable in the latest quarter ended June 30, 2017 at 80.7 per cent, down 2.4 per cent year-on-year. The Toronto area was second-highest at 75.4 per cent, marking an increase of 12.7 per cent.

Victoria came in third at 58.6 per cent, with a year-on-year increase of 7.3 per cent. Across Canada, RBC’s housing affordability measure hit 46.7 per cent in the latest quarter, a level not seen since the end of 1990 and an increase of 3.7 per cent from a year earlier.

Many Prairie markets got some relief, with year-on-year decreases in Regina and Saskatoon to 28.7 per cent and 32.1 per cent, respectively, RBC said. Affordability deteriorated marginally in most of Quebec and the Atlantic region. In Quebec City, RBC’s metric improved slightly to 34 per cent. In the Montreal area, it worsened by 0.8 points to 41.5 per cent. In Saint John, N.B., and Halifax, RBC’s affordability measure worsened to 24.5 per cent and 32.1 per cent, respectively, while it improved slightly to 27.7 in St. John’s, N.L.

Affordability in Edmonton worsened slightly year-on-year to hit 30.3 per cent. In Calgary, however, affordability deteriorated by 1.5 per cent year-on-year to 39.2 per cent.

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