Rock-bottom interest rates combined with sustained exuberance among buyers and an assist from a steady flow of foreign cash, according to experts, propelled the Vancouver and Toronto housing markets to new heights in August.

The country’s real estate association said Tuesday benchmark prices in those centres jumped 12 per cent and 10 per cent respectively, posting “by far” the biggest price increases among housing markets across the country.

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Aided by low rates, a shortage of detached homes in those regions compared to the number of interested buyers is driving the rapid price inflation, the Canadian Real Estate Association said.

“Prices continue to rise in Ontario and British Columbia, where listings are either in short supply or heading in that direction,” Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist, said.

Subdued elsewhere

Price growth was more subdued in other markets, notably in areas hit by lower commodity prices. In Calgary, which continues to feel the effects of sharply lower oil, benchmark home prices were flat – the first time index prices have notched zero growth in four years.

Other markets outside the Vancouver and Toronto areas are also responding in kind to a mild slowdown in the economy, which has registered back-to-back quarters of contraction, or a technical recession.

MORE: ‘Best. Recession. Ever.’

The health of the country’s housing market has become a talking point in the federal election, the leaders from the three major parties promising reforms if elected.

MORE: Complete 2015 federal election coverage 

But outside of the country’s two biggest and priciest regions, sales data shows a balanced market, experts say.

Excluding the Vancouver and Toronto markets, the jump in national average prices would be cut in half, CREA said. “The national average price continues to be pulled upward by sales activity in Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto.

Click here to view data »

Bubble behaviour?

“Overall, while most markets are responding logically to softening domestic economic conditions, Vancouver and Toronto continue to exhibit bubble behaviour,” David Madani, economist at Capital Economics said in a research note this week.

Several media reports in recent months have suggested a steady and rising tide of foreign cash is propping up price growth in big markets. Madani said that is only part of the story, while much of the demand remains from local buyers.

“While foreign investors are no doubt playing some role, we think this explanation is overblown,” the economist said. “Low interest rates and self-fulfilling expectations of higher prices continue to inflate actual prices independently of fundamentals,” he said.

“Over the longer-term, we still believe that these housing markets will experience major price reversals.”

WATCH: Liberal leader Justin Trudeau suggests ‘potential tools’ the federal government has to step in and help regulate runaway housing prices.

©2015

TORONTO – The information commissioner is taking the Prime Minister’s Office to court, accusing it of refusing to release documents about four senators embroiled in scandal.

filed an access-to-information request to the Privy Council Office, the central bureaucracy serving the prime minister and cabinet, in August of 2013 asking for any records created since March relating to senators Mike Duffy, Mac Harb, Patrick Brazeau or Pamela Wallin.

The PCO identified 28 pages of responsive records, but withheld 27 of those pages, releasing just two emails in which its staff discussed similar access-to-information requests.

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PCO claimed every single word on every single one of those 27 pages might jeopardize solicitor-client privilege, or reveal personal information, or third-party information, or details on secret deliberations.

went to the federal information commissioner, who found the complaint well-founded and recommended the prime minister release “a significant amount” of additional information.

But the Prime Minister’s Office withheld the “vast majority” of the records and the information commissioner is now asking Federal Court to order the prime minister to disclose any records that don’t warrant being withheld under certain sections of the Access to Information Act.

In-Depth: Federal Election 2015

The Prime Minister’s Office “erred in fact and in law” in relying on the aforementioned sections of the act to withhold the records, the information commissioner said in the court application.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper deferred comment to the PCO, but a spokesperson there was not immediately available to respond on Monday evening.

Brazeau, Wallin and Duffy were suspended over their expense claims while Harb resigned.

Duffy, Brazeau and Harb have been charged with fraud and breach of trust. Duffy pleaded not guilty to 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery at his trial, which is set to resume in November.

Brazeau’s trial is scheduled to begin March 29, 2016. He has already pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Brazeau is also facing a separate set of charges – assault and sexual assault – arising from an alleged incident two years ago in the western Quebec city of Gatineau and has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

That trial resumes Tuesday when he is expected to testify in his own defence.

Wallin has been under lengthy RCMP investigation but has not been charged.

©2015

TORONTO – Mayor John Tory officially announced Tuesday Toronto will not bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.

“Toronto can be an Olympic city and Toronto is already a world class city,” Tory said during a press conference at Nathan Phillips Square outside City Hall. “I am not saying no to the Olympics. I am saying not this time.”

The deadline to submit a letter of interest to the International Olympic Committee was Sept. 15.

“It’s not my job to be rash. It’s my job to make the best decision for Toronto and I’ve decided not to submit a letter to the IOC,” said the mayor.

WATCH: ‘Not this time’ says Tory as Toronto passes on Olympic bid

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Tory said without the support from private sponsors or higher levels of government, it would not be a wise decision to submit a letter of interest and proceed with an Olympic bid.

“No one was rushing forward to hand me big cheques,” Tory said.

Tory said the estimated $50 to $60 million needed to submit a formal bid would be better allocated for improving social housing, transit and infrastructure.

“The truth is, I can’t look people in the eye at this point in our city’s development and tell them that an Olympic bid is the best use of our time, our energy, or our investment,” he said.

WATCH: Tory: ‘I can’t look people in eye’ on Olympic bid but will form group to explore other events

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) released a statement Tuesday respecting the mayor’s decision despite the group having voted last week to support the city’s bid.

“We remain optimistic Toronto could and should host the Olympic Games in the future,” said COC President Marcel Aubut.

“The Canadian Olympic Committee is determined to have the Olympics back in the country at the earliest opportunity.”

Tory said he will be assembling an advisory committee to help make informed decisions on the possibility of hosting other international events.

“I am announcing today that I will form an advisory group to look at the merits of competing for future events,” Tory said.

“[Events] such as a Winter or Summer Olympics, the World Cup of soccer, a world expo or other world championships which can vastly improve sports infrastructure.”

The Olympics sparked differing opinions from politicians, locally, provincially and nationally.

Toronto city council has been divided on whether Tory should have proceeded with an Olympic bid, with many believing it was not a fiscally responsible decision.

Councillor Gord Perks firmly opposed the idea of an Olympic bid and says he pleased with the Mayor’s decision.

“If we had gone down the Olympic road, all of those decisions would have gotten a lot more complicated,” Perks said.

“All the air would have been sucked out of the room and we wouldn’t have been able to solve important problems.”

Councillor Gary Crawford was previously on the fence when it came to considering an Olympic bid but he now also believes Tory made the right decision.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” he said.

“[Questions] I had – as the budget chair – who’s going to be paying for this bid and where is the support coming from.” NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said Monday he didn’t want to see the possibility of Toronto hosting the Olympics off the table.

“I don’t think we should shut the door to that bid,” Mulcair said. “I think they would do well to get the first step done and to keep that door open.”

READ MORE: Mulcair wants to keep door open for Toronto Olympic bid while Wynne undecided

Last week, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said council voted unanimously not to support Toronto if it were to pursue the Summer Olympics.

“Without a comprehensive business case which details the budget implications and financial requests Mississauga taxpayers would be asked to commit to as part of this collective effort, Council could not proceed with supporting a Toronto bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics in such a short timeframe,” Crombie said in a statement.

READ MORE: Rob Ford, Mississauga mayor against Toronto bid for 2024 Olympic Games

Los Angeles, Paris, Rome, Budapest, Hungary and Hamburg, Germany have said they will be in the running to host, with the winning city to be selected in 2017.

Frank Spottke, who is visiting Toronto from Cologne, Germany, said he’s happy Toronto is no longer pursuing a bid.

“As a German, I like it because  competitors are Hamburg and I would love it if the Olympic Games would come to Hamburg,” he said.

“But it’s a pity for Toronto that they don’t apply for the Olympic Games because it’s a huge event where international audience is coming and it gives a town a special spirit”

Toronto unsuccessfully bid for the 1996 and 2008 Olympics and Tory has said he doesn’t want to lead a third failed bid.

©2015

Every home tells a story. Some only whisper it through a handful of clues: a wedding photo on a fireplace mantle, perhaps, and maybe a few other framed photos scattered around a living room. Others say much more, with dozens of items illuminating the lives of those who live there.

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Crafter Lisa Hathaway has come up with one way to seed a living space with the story of where you’ve come from and who you are. Her “What a Difference a Day Makes” prints begin with a simple sheet of burlap – a fabric as textured as the lives her clients seek to commemorate. By printing their names and meaningful dates (births, marriages, etc.) in stark black on the pale brown burlap, she creates a frame-able wall hanging that invites conversation.

“With home gallery walls being filled with lots of family photos, the simple display of numbers adds a unique touch,” says Hathaway, who sells her work through her Etsy杭州桑拿 business, Emma & the Bean.

Beyond celebrating names and dates, there are many ways to combine decorating and personal storytelling.

Here are four creative approaches to celebrating your personal story through your home:

REPURPOSE CLOTHING

Somewhere in the back of a closet there may be an old sweatshirt from college or a T-shirt that you loved for years but never wear anymore. Why not bring that memory-infused old clothing into your living space? A tutorial on diynetwork杭州桑拿 offers simple steps for creating a pillow cover out of a treasured old T-shirt. Don’t have one that speaks to your history? Hunt at a vintage shop or online for clothing that captures a moment from your childhood or a decade of your history.

Several Etsy vendors will make quilts from old T-shirts, sports jerseys or baby clothes you’ve saved. You can also ask around in your community to find a quilter who will create the perfect throw blanket for your family room sofa.

PHOTOS WITHOUT FRAMES

Framed photos are great. But to share your history in a really compelling way, consider going really big. Choose a black-and-white image from your childhood or a vintage photo of your ancestors and have it printed on a huge scale.

You can have it mounted on a canvas with no frame for a modern look, or visit one of many custom wallpaper websites to have it printed as a mural that partially or entirely fills a wall. Eazywallz杭州桑拿 will print a large wall mural from your uploaded photo (they suggest using a photo that’s 8 megapixels or larger), which arrives as a peel-and-stick decal. A 5-foot-square mural costs about $150 with shipping costs included.

At designyourwall杭州桑拿, you can order custom wallpaper printed from personal photos. They have an in-house designer who can help you plan the project, and they offer samples of your custom order ($9.99 each) so you can be sure you like it.

Another option: Search for photo collage ideas on Pinterest, then create a collage that combines vacation pictures and luggage stickers from your last trip. You can make a new collage or add to an existing one each time someone in your family travels to a new location.

MARK YOUR WORDS

It’s popular to decorate with inspiring phrases or well-known quotes. But what about the most meaningful words from your own history? Choose a saying that your parent or grandparent often repeated, or a quote from a relative that is meaningful to you. Then use stencils to paint it onto a wall in your home, or use decals. At the Etsy杭州桑拿 shop Dana Decal, you can have a personal quote printed as a wall decal for prices ranging from $24 to $71, depending on the size.

Or create a memory wall: Paint one kitchen wall with chalkboard paint, and then let family members fill it with short notes about their favourite old and new memories. Don’t forget to photograph the wall before erasing a section to make room for new writing.

CELEBRATE PLACES

If you’ve lived in several cities or states, or your ancestors migrated, find artistic ways to bring those places into your home. UncommonGoods杭州桑拿 offers a cork globe ($129) that comes with pushpins and string, so you can literally connect the dots between the places you’ve come from and where you are now. Or mark the locations of loved ones around the world, or the next five destinations on your list of dream vacations.

Many crafters make variations on local or global maps, marking special places with hearts or stars. To do it yourself, sketch an outline of your state, for instance, on a piece of heavy paper, then use a hole-punch (craft stores sell ones with holes shaped like stars or hearts) to mark the spot in the state where you live now or have lived previously.

©2015

MINNEAPOLIS – Target is testing the online grocery delivery waters in the United States.

The Minneapolis-based discounter has teamed with Instacart, the online grocery delivery service that started in 2012, to let shoppers in the Minneapolis area order fruits and other perishables, as well as household, pet and baby products, and have them delivered to their homes in as little as an hour.

The service starts Tuesday. Target says it’s exploring plans to expand to other markets.

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Target’s move comes as the discounter aims to bolster its online business under CEO Brian Cornell, who came on board in August 2014 and is reshaping its business. The launch also comes as the online grocery delivery market is heating up.

MORE: Walmart杭州丝足 begins offering online grocery pickup orders in Ottawa

Online retail king Amazon杭州桑拿 Inc. began testing Amazon Fresh grocery delivery in Seattle in 2007 and has since expanded that service to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia and parts of New York.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest food retailer, is testing online grocery delivery and pickup in five markets. However, a national rollout for both retailers is still elusive.

San Francisco-based Instacart, which works with other retailers including Whole Foods Market, Costco and Petco, said that Minneapolis is its 18th market.

How it works

Customers go online to 杭州桑拿按摩论坛杭州夜生活instacart杭州桑拿 or open the Instacart mobile app on their iPhone or Android device, click on the city and store, add items to their cart and then chose a delivery window. Shoppers can choose a one- or two- hour window, or some scheduled time in the future.

The first delivery is free and future orders cost $3.99 for a two-hour delivery or $5.99 for a one-hour delivery for orders over $35.

Target said it will be watching which grocery items shoppers put in their virtual cart.

“There is certainly growth opportunity for this type of business, and we want to learn more about it,” Target Corp. spokesman Eddie Baeb said.

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis will deliver only four out of his 18 speeches in the U.S. in English, using his native Spanish for the vast majority of his homilies, greetings and other speaking engagements in his three-city U.S. tour, the Vatican said Tuesday.

Francis has polished his English during recent trips to Asia, but the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the 78-year-old Argentine pope simply finds it easier to express himself in Spanish.

He said there was no symbolic significance to the pope’s decision.

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Two of Francis’ major speeches will be in English: his remarks at the White House and speech to Congress, the first ever by a pope.

READ MORE: Pomp, protocol and red carpet await Pope Francis on historic White House visit

Francis will also deliver English greetings to U.N. staff and benefactors in Philadelphia. But his homilies at a canonization in Washington, his big Mass in Madison Square Garden and at the Catholic Church’s world family conference in Philadelphia will be in Spanish, as will his address to the U.N.

Francis leaves Saturday for Cuba and arrives in the United States on Sept. 22 for a five-day visit. Lombardi said a meeting with Fidel Castro in Havana was “likely” but hadn’t yet been scheduled.

WATCH ABOVE: New York  prepares ahead of the Pope Francis’ visit 

Lombardi said security would be tight on the U.S. portion of the trip, especially in New York, since Francis’ arrival coincides with the U.N. General Assembly gathering of world leaders.

He said Francis would only have a few limited occasions to greet the crowds from his open-sided popemobile.

READ MORE: Vatican takes in refugee families as Pope Francis calls for Europe to do the same

“Maybe these aren’t long stretches like we saw in the Philippines or Sri Lanka,” he said. “But the pope intends to move around as he usually does.”

Lombardi also confirmed that Francis has never been to the U.S. or Cuba. Lombardi said Francis had once changed planes in Cuba but had never visited.

©2015

Thanks to Facebook, you can no longer use the line “I didn’t see the invite” as an excuse for missing your friend’s baby shower, engagement party, or the dreaded karaoke night.

The social network is beginning to roll out read receipts for Facebook Events, in its latest mission to complicate your social life.

According to The Daily Dot, event read receipts will allow hosts the ability to see who has opened their invitation and even see which guests have seen updates on the event page. The read receipts can be seen on both mobile and desktop versions of Facebook.

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Facebook already uses read receipts on its Messenger platform, to alert the person you are chatting with as to whether you have seen their last message. It also uses these notifications in group chats, using an indicator to show when each person has opened and seen the message.

READ MORE: 1 billion people used Facebook in a single day on Monday

Read receipts are a useful feature – say, when you’re trying to get a hold of someone – but, if you’re trying to avoid someone, they can be a bit of a pain.

Facebook doesn’t allow users to disable read receipts – unlike services like Apple’s iMessage, where you can choose to turn off the feature.

Of course, there are some unofficial workarounds to prevent your Facebook friends from seeing if you have read their message, including a browser extension called “Facebook Unseen” that prevents users from seeing your read receipts on the desktop version.

Sadly, there is no such workaround for Facebook Events yet.

But, as The Daily Dot points out, “It’s not hard to imagine a similar feature being included for friend requests, Wall posts, and comments as Facebook continues its ceaseless mission of telling everyone about everything their friends do.”

Is nothing sacred anymore, Facebook?

©2015

WATCH ABOVE: Canada’s tech sector is going to get a big influx of cash to allow those interested to improve their skillset if Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is elected as Prime Minister.

WATERLOO, Ont. – The Liberals took to traditional NDP terrain Tuesday, waving the labour flag as they promised $750 million in skilled trades funding.

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Party leader Justin Trudeau addressed a local plumbers’ union in Waterloo, Ont., where he said he would give $500 million to the provinces while spending another $200 million on training for workers who can’t get federal training.

Trudeau also said his party’s resolve to strengthen the middle class is a testament to the Liberal commitment to workers’ rights.

“Labour movements in this country are an essential part of that – part of fighting for good wages for Canadians,” he said.

He accused Conservative Leader Stephen Harper of being out of touch with the concerns of workers and said his announcement Tuesday would undo the damage caused by cuts to the Labour Market Agreements last year.

WATCH: Trudeau appeals to Waterloo’s tech industry, says Harper predates Windows 95

“You’ve seen your personal debt rising as your job prospects sink. You want to seek out better opportunities but you can’t access the training you need,” Trudeau said.

“Stephen Harper doesn’t know what that’s like. When he was first elected, Windows 95 was still two years away … (and) the cutting-edge way to apply for a job was to send in your resume by fax.”

Another $50 million in the Liberal plan would go to help aboriginal people improve their skills and employability.

Trudeau made the announcement in a riding where the Liberals lost to the Conservatives by only a handful of votes in 2008, followed by a close second-place finish in 2011.

He was also asked when the Liberals would provide a fully costed platform. He declined to address the question, pointing instead to his party’s fiscal framework that he says shows Canadians where the Liberals would spend money.

©2015

WestJet has announced it will launch non-stop service between Vancouver and London, Gatwick, beginning May 6, 2016.

And fares are going to start at $299.

“Canadians have been paying far too much to fly to Europe for far too long and today, as we have throughout our history, we’re going to fix that,” said Bob Cummings, WestJet executive vice-president, commercial, in a release. “We are offering non-stop flights at very low prices and we’re proud to once again lower airfares and make travel more affordable.”

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The base fare to fly to London will start at $244, with $55 in taxes, fees and air transportation charges.

These rates are subject to change at any time.

WestJet will also be offering introductory pricing that adds an additional $20 one-way to connect from select airports into the six cities serving London, Gatwick.

“It’s a market that heretofore has had pretty high airfares,” Gregg Saretsky, chief executive of WestJet said in an interview after the announcements. “We’re always attracted to markets that have high airfares because we can come in with our brand of low fares.”

Flights from Vancouver will depart six times a week at 5:50 p.m. and arrive at 11:24 a.m. GMT the following day in London. Flights from London to Vancouver will depart six times a week at 12:55 p.m., arriving in Vancouver at 3:40 p.m. These time slots are in effect from May 6, 2016, to Oct. 21, 2016.

All London flights from Vancouver will be operated by one of WestJet’s four 767-300ERW extended range aircraft, seating 262 guests.

WATCH: WestJet introduces new service to London with #DaveTheDog video

©2015

WATCH ABOVE: Stephen Harper’s home province has traditionally been a Conservative stronghold. But, that changed dramatically in the last provincial election. No one saw May’s NDP sweep coming and now there’s a sense Alberta might be ready for a change on a federal level too. Vassy Kapelos reports.

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is continuing a multibillion-dollar health spending spree ahead of the economic debate on Thursday in Calgary.

He is promising to establish a $100-million mental health innovation fund for children and youth.

Mulcair says the four-year fund would include $15 million a year for health- care providers and community mental health associations.

The NDP said it would also include $10 million a year for research and information-sharing among health care providers across the country.

WATCH: Mulcair says he won’t be using EI surplus to pay for his plan and balance budget

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“Canada’s next prime minister will face significant challenges … among them, more than 6.7 million Canadians, including children, who are living with a mental health illness or mental health condition,” Mulcair said.

The NDP leader said addressing mental health issues early in life is important for families and the health-care system.

“Helping just one child with a mental illness can not only improve quality of life for that child, but also provide a lifetime of health-care savings that can be directed to helping others,” Mulcair said.

WATCH: Tom Mulcair says he’s not going to do what Stephen Harper did and he’s going to sit down with the provinces and territories to roll out their health care plan and get back to being partners with them.

Mulcair has been rolling out big-ticket spending promises this week on health.

WATCH: NDP leader Tom Mulcair aims to improve the mental health care system by establishing $100 million health innovation fund for children and youth with special emphasis for those in high risk communities.

They include a $40-million commitment for a national strategy on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, $500 million to build medical clinics and hire more health care professionals and $1.8 billion to expand home care and palliative services.

The NDP leader has faced pressure to explain how he plans to pay for his costly promises while maintaining his commitment to balance the books.

Mulcair says the NDP will put forward a financial breakdown ahead of Thursday’s debate in Calgary.

He is calling on Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to do the same.

The NDP is hopeful about its electoral chances in Alberta, where voters flocked to support the provincial New Democrats and elect a majority government under Rachel Notley.

“People here in Alberta, and in Lethbridge in particular, are looking for another option,” Mulcair said.

Mulcair said he “loves nothing more” than being told that something is a fortress for the other parties.

“I remember in 2007 people thought I was foolhardy running in the Liberal fortress of Outremount in Quebec and we took it … I’ve been elected there three times now,” Mulcair said.

“Watch us go, people want change.”

©2015