Tag Archives: mortgages

New Canadians’ Mortgage Guide

Starting a new life in Canada? Buying your first home is one of the best ways to put down roots and establish yourself in your new country. According to Genworth Canada’s 2017 First-Time Homeownership Study, a full 19% of first-time homebuyers were born outside of Canada, 10% of whom arrived in the past decade. Wondering how to start your journey to homeownership? Read on for our New Canadians’ Mortgage Guide.

Step 1: Study your options

Responsible homeownership is about buying a home you can afford, so for starters, take a look at our library of articles about affordability. Read up on topics such as how to choose the right home for your budget and learn about financing options for new Canadians.

Genworth Canada’s New to Canada program can help you buy your first home with a down payment of as little as 5%. See how it works in this short video.

Share the knowledge with your family, too. Our New to Canada microsite offers content in Chinese, Punjabi, Korean, Spanish and French.

Step 2: Establish credit history in Canada

Banks and other lenders look at your credit score to determine your level of financial responsibility. Your credit score is determined by your financial behaviour: Do you pay your monthly bills (including cell phone) on time, or have you skipped payments? Do you have credit cards or lines of credit, and if so, how much do you have left to access?

TIPS: Never skip a payment (always pay at least the minimum),  and keep your credit utilization– the amount of your credit limit that you actually use–low. Don’t carry a balance over 30% of your credit limit; the lower the better.

The better your credit score, the more likely you are to be approved for a mortgage – and at a more favourable interest rate.

Because your Canadian credit history starts in Canada (foreign credit history isn’t taken into consideration by lenders), it’s important to establish positive patterns as soon as possible:

  • Open a savings or chequing account at a Canadian bank or credit union, and use it for your payroll deposits, as well as withdrawals and transfers.
  • Apply for a small loan or credit card. Make some purchases each month, and pay off the balance or make regular payments each month, to prove you are responsible with credit.

Step 3: Build your savings

Use a separate high-interest savings account, investment account or set aside funds in a TFSA (tax-free savings account) to build toward your home down payment. You can purchase a home with as little as 5% down, but in high-demand cities like Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, a competitive real estate market means it can take longer to save for an adequate down payment.

TIP: First-time homebuyers can borrow RRSP funds to help towards a down payment under the federal government’s Home Buyers’ Plan.

Check out our Financing hub for an entire section of articles about saving for a down payment, including this video on how to set financial goals.

Step 4: Research neighbourhoods and communities

While you’re saving and working on building your credit history in Canada, take some time to daydream! Checking out neighbourhoods and communities where you might like to live is a great way to stay motivated. It can also help ensure that you have a smooth transition to your new home.

Think about where you’d most like to live. Would you prefer the excitement of a big city, the quiet family vibe of the suburbs, or the natural splendour of the rural countryside?

Research the amenities you’ll need, whether that’s public transportation, walkable communities, schools, places of religious worship, shops and other priorities.

Consider making weekend excursions to potential communities to explore the local amenities. Since Sunday afternoons are a traditional time for open houses, think about scheduling your visits so you can squeeze in a couple of house or condo tours, too.

Step 5: Start assembling your real estate team

Finally, as you get closer to house-hunting time, start building your real estate team. Ask friends, colleagues and neighbours for recommendations on professional REALTORS®, real estate agents, mortgage specialists, real estate lawyers and home inspectors.

It’s important to hire professionals who are familiar with the real estate market in your preferred neighbourhood or community. Interview a few candidates and research customer reviews online, so you can find the right pros to help you embark on your journey to homeownership in Canada. 

Source: Homeownership.ca

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Is it cheaper to buy a house than a condo in the GTA? This expert thinks so

While many first-time buyers look to condos as a relatively affordable option, one Toronto housing market expert says that it is actually less expensive to buy a low-rise home in the GTA.

According to Realosophy Brokerage co-founder John Pasalis, when you control for the size difference between low-rise and condos in the GTA, condos are more expensive per-square-foot.

In the Maple neighbourhood of Vaughan a 1,385 square-foot rowhouse costs $685,000, while a condo of a similar size in the area would likely cost $684 per-square-foot, or $947,000. It’s just one example of a price difference that can be seen across markets in the GTA.

Pasalis believes that this discrepancy in prices can be chalked up, in part, to investor demand.

“The majority of new condominium construction is driven by investor demand — not demand from families,” he writes in a recent blog post. “Investors are willing to pay much more (on a per-square-foot basis) than end users are.”

Pasalis says that investors prefer smaller units, which typically have a better return on investment, which means that developers are creating units that are too small for families, at prices they cannot afford.

“When developers are pricing a unit, they’re thinking to themselves, why would I charge this much when I can get this much?” Pasalis tells BuzzBuzzNews. “And those prices don’t make sense for a two- to three-bedroom unit, which is likely why we’re not seeing as many of those units being built [in the GTA.]”

In order for a condo to be good-value-for-money for a young GTA family, Pasalis says that low-rise prices would have to increase at a much faster rate than they currently are.

“The rate of appreciation for low-rise homes in the 905 region isn’t going to be very high in 2018,” says Pasalis. “So I don’t see this trend changing in the next year or so.”

While Pasalis admits that for families with a budget of $400,000 or less, a condo may be the only option for homeownership, he says that those with one of $700,000 or more should consider their options.

“They can choose to buy a two-bedroom 1,000 square-foot condo in Maple for that price, or a three bedroom 1,385 square-foot row house with a finished basement and backyard. For most, it’s a pretty simple choice,” he says.

Source: BuzzBuzzHome.com –  

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Ten ways to make buying a fixer-upper worth it

Before buying a fixer-upper, consider these tips to ensure this option is right for you, and planned renovations prove profitable.

1. Consult a real estate agent to find out more about the neighbourhood

The real estate history (recent sales, pricing) of a neighbourhood will tell you if investing in a fixer-upper is worth your time and money. An agent can advise you on community news, including property development, environmental projects and other factors that will have positive and negative effects on your home’s resale value.

2. Schedule an extensive home inspection

Houses that need work may contain structural or cosmetic concerns, so it is important to know what elements need to be fixed in order to work those costs into your budget. Invisible upgrades (electrical, plumbing and heating) can be expensive fixes that don’t always increase a house’s value because they are naked to the eye of a potential homebuyer.

3. Request an estimate from a contractor

Based on an assessment by a certified contractor, determine how much money you’ll need to set aside for desired upgrades.

4. Know what you’re getting yourself into – both financially and personally

When buying any house, it is important to stay afloat and avoid swimming in debt. Fixer-uppers aren’t just hard on your wallet. Renovations can be disruptive, stressful and time-consuming, so it is imperative to have a solid financial plan in place and your family’s lifestyle taken into consideration prior to purchase.

5. Work out a schedule

Knowing if and when you plan to buy [?] your house can help you manage your renovation schedule and budget accordingly.

6. Know the law

Contact your local municipality office and request information on your city’s building permit laws before undergoing any renovations. Many large structural changes (additional storeys, extensions, decks) require a building permit. Future buyers might request proof of permits on condition of sale.

7. Don’t over-improve for the market

Once the renovations start rolling, you might not want them to stop. Designing your dream home is tempting, but only if the housing market will reimburse you for your efforts. Finishings (wood, stone, hardware) should be in line with houses in the neighbourhood.

8. Stretch your money

Forgo expensive wooden kitchen cabinets in lieu of higher quality countertops. Prime features of a home (luxury work surfaces, flooring, appliances, lighting) hold their value more than cosmetic fixes (paint, cupboards, carpet). Opt for energy efficient appliances that will save you money during residency and will be an attractive detail on resale.

9. Avoid over-customization

Remember that people’s tastes vary, so pull back on any customization that might discourage potential buyers.

10. Challenge yourself

Renovating is an excellent opportunity to try do-it-yourself projects. Simple changes like paint colour or swapping cabinet hardware are easier ways to be involved in your renovation and can also save you on labour costs.

Source: Homeownership.ca


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Home sellers struggling with closing complications after big chill hits market

Realtor Peggy Hill, of Keller Williams, said house closings have been stalling since the end of June. Barrie home prices may not be as high as some closer to the city, but the drop has been precipitous.

Formerly frenzied buyers are reconsidering purchases made in the heat of the market.

Barrie teacher Cheryl O’Keefe doesn’t know how she would have survived the stress-induced sleepless nights of July had school not been out for the summer.

O’Keefe is among Toronto region homebuyers and sellers who got caught in the spring real estate downturn.

When the sale on her house finally closed a month past the originally agreed-upon date, it was the end of an expensive nightmare for O’Keefe.

Others who sold their homes in this year’s once frenzied real estate market, are still struggling to complete their transactions.

Lawyers, realtors and mortgage brokers report a surge in calls from distressed sellers whose buyers purchased in the heat of the market, only to find that the subsequent drop in the home’s value is more than the cost of walking away from a deposit.

Others, who bought unconditionally, have discovered they can’t get the financing to meet their purchase obligation. In some cases, the bank appraisal has come in at a value below what a purchaser agreed to pay, leaving the buyer scrambling to make up the difference.

O’Keefe’s real estate agent, Peggy Hill of Keller Williams, says closings have been stalling since the end of June. Barrie home prices may not be as high as some closer to the city, but the drop has been precipitous.

“Our average price for a home in Barrie is $471,822 for July. In March it was $570,199. We’re talking about a $100,000 difference,” she said.

That is still $40,000 above the average price of July 2016. But back then, 208 of the 260 homes listed sold. “This July we have 201 sales so the sales are still there but with 683 active (listings),” said Hill. “That’s the real picture.”

The GTA-wide picture is similar. When the regional market peaked in April, the average home price — including every category from condos to detached houses — was $919,449. By July, it had fallen to $746,216, although prices were still up 5 per cent year over year.

There were 9,989 sales among 11,346 active listings in July of 2016, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board. This July, listings soared to 18,751 listings, with only 5,921 sales.

O’Keefe had lived in her bungalow for only about two years when she decided to sell it in February, about the time property prices were peaking. Her basement apartment was standing empty and she wanted to downsize.

The real estate frenzy in Barrie mimicked Toronto’s and most of the 43 showings of O’Keefe’s house were, in fact, people from Toronto.

Like many homes at the time, O’Keefe’s sold in about a week for more than the listed price. The buyer put down a $25,000 deposit and requested a longer-than-usual four-month closing date of June 28.

“That was fine. It just gave me more time to do what I had to do,” said O’Keefe.

What she had to do was find a new home for herself in the same fiercely competitive market. She lost a couple of bidding wars and turned her back on a century home she loved because she knew it would go at a price she could never justify.

When she happened on an open house that fit her needs, O’Keefe bought it with a May 28 closing — a month ahead of when her own home sale was to be finalized. She arranged bridge financing to cover both mortgages for that month.

It all looked good on paper. But as the spring wore on, O’Keefe grew uneasy. The buyers of her house had not requested the usual pre-closing visit. Usually, excited new owners want a look around.

O’Keefe got her realtor to call. No response.

A week from closing, she had still heard nothing. At 4:50 p.m. on closing day, her lawyer talked to the purchaser, who admitted he was having difficulty with the closing.

By then, O’Keefe had been living in her new place a month and was paying two mortgages.

She agreed to extend the closing to July 14. When that didn’t happen, O’Keefe agreed to a second extension to July 31. The date came and went. Finally on Aug. 2, her lawyer called to say the buyer closed.

“Every step of the way everything that could be a headache has been a headache,” she said.

O’Keefe’s realtor says that so far, in her office, even problematic closings have been finalized. But some have been disappointing.

“There have been deals where we’ve had to take less commission. The seller had to take less money to make it close because at that point they’re euchred.

“It’s usually $40,000 to $50,000 because of our price point. In other areas I know it’s in hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Hill, referring to areas such as Richmond Hill, Newmarket and Aurora, also hard hit by the market’s downward slope.

Some buyers have requested extensions on new home purchases because their old places didn’t sell, said Hill.

“That’s understandable,” she said. “In March, you wouldn’t dare go in with an offer conditional on the sale of a home. The problem is, in April, when all hell broke loose, everybody started putting their houses on the market fearing they had missed the top.”

Many have arranged bridge financing and moved on. But others haven’t been as fortunate, said Toronto lawyer Neal Roth.

He has been getting about five calls a week since mid-May from home sellers struggling to close on transactions.

“There is this horrendous domino effect going on where people in the spring were rushing into the market for a variety of reasons, committing to prices that in some instances were well beyond their means,” he said.

Most of his callers represent one of two scenarios.

First, there’s someone paid $1.5 million for a house that has since become worth $1.4 million, so they want to get out of the purchase.

“The other type of person says, ‘The bank promised me 60 per cent financing. Now that I’m at $1.5 million I should still get the same 60 per cent, not realizing that you have to come up with the 40 per cent of your own cash, or that the bank said 60 per cent when you were at $1.2 million, not $1.5 million,” said Roth.

While he thinks some sellers got greedy and some buyers should have been more careful, he hasn’t encountered anyone who got caught playing the property market.

“They’re all average people. None of them have been speculators as far as I know,” he said.

It’s not uncommon for mortgage brokers to hear from home buyers struggling with financing, said Nick L’Ecuyer of the Mortgage Wellness Group in Barrie

“But what we’re getting now is people who are in sheer turmoil. They don’t know what to do at all,” he said.

Some sellers, who planned to use their equity to put down 20 per cent or more on another home, don’t realize they can’t get bridge financing from a bank if they don’t have a firm purchase agreement on their old house.

Then there’s the hard truth that the house they’re selling isn’t likely to go for as much as they expected earlier in the year.

They can put down just 5 per cent and apply for a government-insured mortgage, but that’s more complicated and costly, said L’Ecuyer.

The Appraisal Institute of Canada doesn’t have statistics on the number of lender-commissioned appraisals that come in short of the agreed-upon price of a home.

But based on anecdotal accounts, it’s happening more now in the GTA, said institute CEO Keith Lancastle.

“Any time you go into a situation where you make an abrupt change from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market — where you see a slowdown for whatever reason — you can encounter this situation,” he said.

The role of an appraiser is to provide an unbiased opinion of a property’s value at a given point of time.

“A heated market does not automatically translate into a true market value. When you take away the heat, all of a sudden it settles down into something that is perhaps more reflective of what true market value is,” said Lancastle.

He says he’s still surprised by how emotional what is routinely now a million-dollar home buying experience can be.

“It’s arguable that mortgage lending should not be underwriting that emotion and that notion of a sober second thought is really important, not only for the purchaser, but also for the lender,” he said.

Buyers tempted to walk away from a deposit need to realize that they may still face a lawsuit, says L’Ecuyer. If you bought a house for $500,000 and decided to forfeit the deposit, and the seller gets only $450,000 from another buyer, you can be sued for the difference, he said. There is also the possibility of being sued by a realtor who isn’t getting a commission, and for additional legal and carrying costs.

Roth said there are people who don’t even realize that when they back out of a sale, their deposit is automatically lost.

O’Keefe believes that because she priced her home on the low side, it hasn’t lost any value. “You start talking to people and this is happening to so many,” she said. “I’m lucky that my house closed.”

Source: Toronto Star – 

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Why consumers should be wary of using the wildly popular home equity lines of credit as ATMs

A federal agency is warning consumers addicted to home equity lines of credit — a product increasingly driving debt —  could find themselves at increased risk of default if the housing market corrects.

“Falling housing prices may constrain HELOC borrowers’ access to credit, forcing them to curtail spending, which could in turn negatively affect the economy,” the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada wrote in a 15-page report out Wednesday. “Furthermore, during a severe and prolonged market correction, lenders may revise HELOC limits downward or call in loans.”

The timing of the release from FCAC is coincidental but it comes just two days after the Toronto Real Estate Board reported new data that clearly show the housing market in retreat. May sales dropped 20.3 per cent from a year ago and prices were off 6.2 per cent from April amid a massive surge of active listings.

The report, titled Home Equity Lines of Credit: Market Trends and Consumer Issues, focuses on the massive explosion of the HELOC market which grew from about $35 billion in 2000 to $186 billion by 2010 for an average annual growth rate of 20 per cent.

During that period, HELOC became the fastest growing segment of non-mortgage consumer debt. In 2000, the HELOC market made up just 10 per cent of non-mortgage consumer debt but had climbed to 40 per cent by 2010.

“At a time when consumers are carrying record amounts of debt, the persistence of HELOC debt may add stress to the financial well-being of Canadian households. HELOCs may lead Canadians to use their homes as ATMs, making it easier for them to borrow more than they can afford,” said Lucie Tedesco, commissioner of the FCAC. “Consumers carrying high levels of debt are more vulnerable to the impact of an unforeseen event or economic shock.”

The average annual growth of the HELOC market slowed to five per cent from 2011 to 2013 and has averaged two per cent since, the slowdown at least partially attributable to tougher federal guidelines on how much home equity consumers can access through a HELOC.

HELOC products have become popular because they work like credit cards or unsecured lines of credit, in terms of the ability to draw money from them. They are usually backed by a collateral charge on your home but a HELOC most often gives the consumer the ability to withdraw and pay off their HELOC with flexibility — financed at a rate which is usually close to the prime lending rate at most banks.

Unlike a mortgage, a HELOC is a demand loan, and while most borrowers can pay interest-only on them, the loans are callable by the bank at any moment — a practice rarely seen in the Canadian market at this time.

A positive feature of a HELOC is the ability to consolidate high-interest debt from items like credit cards, and the report says from 1999-2010, 26 per cent of loans were used for just that. Another 34 per cent were used for financial and non-financial investment. The remaining 40 per cent was used for consumption or home renovation — a market Altus Group said was worth $71.4 billion in 2016.

The federal agency noted that most HELOC products sold today are part of what is called readvanceable mortgage. In those cases a HELOC is combined with the mortgage and as the mortgage is paid down, the available credit in  HELOC increases.

“In recent years, lenders have been strongly encouraging consumers to use readvanceable mortgages to finance their new homes,” said Tedesco.

She said complaints have shown people are not understanding the product. “It’s not that they’ve been bamboozled,” said Tedesco. “One of the things that we will be doing with the results of our research is trying to see how we can improve the disclosure around readvanceable mortgages, and will communicate to the financial institutions our expectations on that front.”

Source: Financial Post – Garry Marr | June 7, 2017

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The 5 priciest homes in one of the country’s hottest markets

Take a look at some of the country’s most luxurious homes currently for sale.

These are the most expensive homes currently for sale in and around the country’s hottest housing market.

As someone who covers housing for a living, there’s nothing quite like perusing some good old fashioned real estate porn. I’m sure you faithful readers can agree.

While modern builds with their sky-high windows or hard lofts with their sprawling floorplans are always fun to explore, there’s nothing quite like gandering at some of the country’s priciest homes.

And there seems to be a few more than usual currently on the market.

Pont2Homes, an online agency, rounded up the 10 most expensive homes currently for sale in and around Toronto. Check them out below.

1. A Yorkville Penthouse

Yorkville is one of the most sought-after neighbourhoods in Toronto (there are even rumours that Mike Babcock, current coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, chose to coach in Toronto over Buffalo due to his wife’s desire to live in the posh ‘hood).

It’s home to some extravagant shopping spots and swanky restaurants; and also to the province’s current most expensive home.

Listed at a cool $36,000,00, this beauty is located at the top of the Four Seasons Hotel.

2. A Bridle Path mansion

“Millionaire’s row” is home to this 10 bedroom behemoth befit for Batman himself.

For a cool $35,000,000, this home includes a 5,000 square foot pavilion, a tennis court, a 50 foot indoor pool, and a hand-carved Louis XV fireplace.

3. A multi-million dollar country home

If city living isn’t your thing, this $24,950,000 equestrian estate in King City may be just what you’re looking for.

The rugged and rich outdoorsman (or outdoorswoman) will surely be drawn to the 80 acre property that is home to a pond and waterfall, skating hut, walnut grove, and groomed hiking trails.

4. A lakefront compound

If one home isn’t enough, this estate in Oro-Medonte is situated on a 17 acre lot with a 525 foot private beach on Lake Simcoe.

The lot is also home to two 12,500 square foot homes.

5. 10 bedrooms in Bridle Path

This estate has its own ballroom, a spa, a salon, and in in-home theatre.

All for the reasonable price of $19,380,000.

Source: Canadian Real Estate Magazine – by Justin da Rosa29 May 2017

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Is your condo board above board? Tips for evaluating condo governance

Condominums have proliferated in the downtown cores of Canada's biggest cities.

Condo corporations are effectively a 4th level of government, says one expert

Condominium governance is in the spotlight after an investigation by CBC Toronto reporters unveiled questionable practices at a series of downtown Toronto buildings.

Owners and property managers in those buildings say a group of people have aggressively sought control of the boards and budgets of multiple condos. The allegations include voting irregularities and contentious contracts.

If you’re wondering whether your condo board is operating in a trustworthy manner — or if you simply want to get a better grip on how your condo works — here are a few tips from experts in the field of condo governance.

Learn who runs the place

Not just anyone should sit on the board of directors of a condo corporation, experts say.

“You want people who are financially literate, who have some business experience, preferably,” said Audrey Loeb, a lawyer with Miller Thomson who specializes in condo law.

“You don’t want the board of directors managing the building, you want the board of directors overseeing the manager.”

That property manager should be independent of the board, with a good reputation, Loeb added.

Condo board directors should own a unit in the building, and ideally live in that unit, said Loeb. If not, that’s a potential red flag for owners.

Conflicts of interest on condo boards are another red flag, according to Brian Antman, who audits condo boards as a partner with accounting firm Adams and Miles and serves as a director of the Canadian Condominium Institute’s Toronto chapter.

Board directors shouldn’t have any financial interest in transactions with the property manager or their vendors, Antman said. Directors, he added, should also sign and follow a code of ethics.

Put on your reading glasses

Condo owners ought to take the time to read their building’s declaration, said Antman. (A declaration is essentially a condo’s charter or constitution.) They should also read any bylaws and rules instituted by the board, according to Antman.

Potential owners of new condo buildings need to read the disclosure statement provided by the developer, and should have it reviewed by a lawyer with experience in condo law, Antman said. (For resale condos, a “status certificate” replaces a disclosure statement.)

“It’s probably the most significant purchase they’ll ever make, and they shouldn’t be surprised by anything going into it,” he said. “I see a lot of people who don’t do their due diligence up front, and are surprised.”

Toronto condos

Potential condo owners should be sure to read disclosure documents or status certificates provided by the seller, one expert says. (Cole Burston/Canadian Press)

Communicate with the board, and participate

“The best way to tell how well-run your condo is… is to ask for documents, and see if you get them,” said Loeb, the condo lawyer.

Minutes of board meetings are a common record that a board should share.

“If you get them in a timely fashion, ask for the monthly financial statements,” said Loeb. “Any owner is entitled to see that stuff.”

Most condo board meetings are closed, but Loeb said owners should absolutely take the time to attend annual meetings.

If owners can’t attend an annual meeting but still want to vote on condo issues by proxy, Loeb recommends electronic proxy voting, by which proxy documents are emailed directly to owners.

Vancouver condos

Condominium buildings are administered by a condo corporation, which is controlled by a board of directors. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

If a condo owner is concerned about their condo corporation’s board, they can try to shake things up.

​”If they’re unhappy with the board, or a board member even, they can requisition a meeting to replace the board or the board member,” said Antman.

The owner can even try and join the board themselves, if they feel up to the task.

“This is their biggest investment, and if they want it to be run properly maybe they need to get involved,” Antman said.

Be warned, though: sitting on a condo board can be “a hugely time-consuming job, if it’s done well,” said Loeb.

“People have no clue what hard work it is, especially in the first two years of a condo’s life when you’re just trying to figure out what’s going on,” she said.

Make sure professionals are involved

Good condo administration often requires professional expertise, said Antman, an auditor.

“The [condo] corporation should hire a solicitor, an auditor, an engineer who’s doing the reserve fund study,” he said. “And all of these people that you’re hiring should be people that are experienced in the industry.”

A solicitor is especially important when things go wrong, said condo lawyer Audrey Loeb, who described how condominiums have become “very complex entities” over the years.

“My philosophy has always been that the condo is the fourth level of government,” said Loeb. “After the feds, the province and the city, you’ve got your condo [corporation].”

Source: By Solomon Israel, CBC News Posted: May 23, 2017 5:00 AM ET

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