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Court orders review of soldier's housing case

HALIFAX - A Canadian soldier has won his court bid to get Ottawa to review a decision regarding the sale of his home after the military forced him to move from Alberta in 2010.

Maj. Marcus Brauer is seeking to cover the $88,000 he lost on the sale and asked the Federal Court in Halifax to order the federal government to review its decision to grant him only $15,000 in compensation.

In a written decision issued Friday, and forwarded to the Canadian Press by Brauer, Judge Richard Mosley quashed the Treasury Board Secretariat's July 17, 2012 decision and sent the case back to the board for review. He also awarded Brauer his legal costs.

"I find that the TBS decision was unreasonable in the sense that it was not justified and was outside the range of acceptable outcomes defensible in light of the facts and the law," wrote Mosley.

In a court hearing held last month Brauer's lawyer Daniel Wallace argued his client's losses should have been covered because there is a policy offering financial protection for military members forced to move from depressed housing markets.

Wallace argued that housing prices in Bon Accord, Alta., dropped 23 per cent during the three years his client lived there, which is three percentage points above the 20 per cent threshold for a depressed market in the military's policy.

However, the Treasury Board Secretariat decided Brauer wasn't living in a depressed market, arguing the municipality was part of the Edmonton market where housing prices had dropped just 2.9 per cent.

But Mosley found the board failed to consider Brauer's contention that Bon Accord was a separate community of 1,500 with its own mayor and boundaries. He said it also failed to refute Brauer's market evidence as compiled by his realtor.

"This is reflected in the sparse analysis and minimal documentation supporting its decision," said Mosley.

Mosley went on to say that the board's investigative file "contrasted poorly" with the material submitted by Brauer.

"In my view the TBS relied on irrelevant, post-dated and unsubstantiated information," Mosley said.

Brauer called the judge's decision a good first step, but said his fate would still ultimately rest with the board's pending review. He also expressed disappointment that the ruling only applies to his case.

"I was hoping there would be more of a systemic fix in place. Hopefully the ruling will effect some change for other families."

Wallace said Brauer is the first to challenge the policy in court and he expressed hope the ruling would eventually have a wider effect.

"Hopefully this court decision will make the Treasury Board reconsider its policy and how it's interpreting its policy and give it the meaning that it was intended to have," said Wallace.

Brauer, who now lives in Halifax, said the board's decision has left him in financial straits.

He paid $405,000 in 2007 for the home in Bon Accord while working at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton. He sold it three years later for $317,000 following what he says was a crash in the local market because of a failure of several industrial projects.

Federal officials did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the court ruling.

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