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Morning Update: Trump backtracks, accepts Russian meddling in 2016 U.S. election; Trudeau cabinet shuffle will eye 2019 election, trade diversification

Good morning,

These are the top stories:

“I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t.’” Trump reverses his stand and says he now accepts that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election

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U.S. President Donald Trump pulled a U-turn over his embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he accepts U.S. intelligence assessments that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election.

Under a wave of condemnation, Trump’s retreat relied on an explanation that the entire episode was a misunderstanding. Trump said on Tuesday that he had simply misspoken during his press conference with the Russian autocrat the previous day, and had accidentally said the opposite of what he meant. However, the President left unexplained most of his comments siding with Putin.

In the meantime, the Russian military says it is preparing to act on the “agreements” reached between the two presidents. On Tuesday, Russia’s Ministry of Defence announced that it stood ready to begin “practical implementation of the agreements in the sphere of international security reached by Russian and U.S. Presidents.” The statement raises more questions about what was said – and agreed to – during the one-on-one meeting between Trump and Putin, which took up more than half of the four-hour summit. The two leaders met alone for two hours and 10 minutes, with only their translators present, before allowing their delegations to join them. At the summit, the leaders hinted at an informal pact that might see the Russian military – which has fought alongside the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war – provide some kind of buffer between the regime forces and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

In a return to the global stage, former President Barack Obama warned that the world is sliding into a brutal and dangerous new era of “strongman politics” where autocrats are exploiting fear to subvert democracy. Obama’s speech was peppered with thinly disguised jabs at his successor, taking aim at Trump for his policies on immigration and climate change, his fondness for falsehoods and his cozy relationship with authoritarian leaders.

Lawrence Martin writes that suspicion Trump is comprised is growing in Washington: “The failure to confront or at least counter Vladimir Putin on his villainy has revived the suspicion that, as Democratic senator Jeff Merkley said, President Trump is compromised, in hock to the Kremlin on some grave account. Indeed, the possibility is no longer far-fetched.”

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Trudeau will shuffle his cabinet with an eye on the 2019 election and trade diversification

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will shuffle his cabinet on Wednesday in a move to diversify Canadian trade away from the United States, handle changing political landscapes in the provinces and prepare for next year’s election. The shuffle is expected to increase the size of the cabinet from the current 30 members without moving core senior ministers such as Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. A senior Liberal source said the shuffle also includes a plan to reorient Canada’s trade with an emphasis on encouraging Canadian businesses to look for export markets in Asia, Latin America and elsewhere.

Insiders say Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc will become intergovernmental affairs minister, and work with Trudeau on hot provincial files such as a dispute with Ontario, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan over the carbon tax, and the migrant crisis. The government is expected to create a new seniors’ ministry and a cabinet post to handle the implementation of legalized marijuana – a job that could be handed to former Toronto police chief Bill Blair. The shuffle will take place before Trudeau goes on holidays for several weeks (for subscribers).

Doug Ford asked former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell and an auditor to draft road maps for Ontario budget cuts

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is creating two new bodies to provide specific recommendations for significant cost cutting in the province’s budget.

First, he appointed former British Columbia premier Gordon Campbell on Tuesday to head an independent commission that will probe Ontario’s finances and accounting practices during the past 15 years of Liberal rule. Second, he said the province is looking to hire an auditor to conduct a line-by-line audit of Ontario’s $150-billion budget and suggest tweaks to future spending. The province already has an Auditor-General who conducts financial audits of the government’s books. The audit, which is being done separately from the commission’s work, is expected to be finished by Sept. 21.

In another cost saving move, Ford’s government cancelled 758 renewable energy projects, affecting municipalities, farmers, school boards and First Nations who were developing small-scale electricity projects to generate additional revenue for their operations. The move will likely cost provincial taxpayers millions of dollars, as owners who are spread throughout the province invoke compensation clauses in the contracts to recover money they have already spent (for subscribers).

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Need to catch up on what’s happened so far in the new Ontario? Read our guide for the latest coverage on the Progressive Conservative government’s plans for spending cuts, hydro, education and more.

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Usain Bolt is trying out for a pro soccer team in Australia

Usain Bolt is sprinting at the opportunity to play professional soccer in Australia. At 31, he will try out for six weeks with the Central Coast Mariners starting next month. If all goes well, he could play for a season in Australia’s A-League. Australian agent Tony Rallis said the eight-time Olympic gold medalist would have to go through a tryout, and the Football Federation Australia would have to support his salary. Mariners chief executive Shaun Mielekamp said there is still a lot of work to do, and the tryout is essential in determining the skill of the 6-foot-5 Jamaican world champion.

MORNING MARKETS

Stocks gain

The world’s major stock markets were mostly firmer on Wednesday as a bullish outlook from the head of the U.S. central bank buoyed the dollar, lifted bond yields and sent safe-haven gold to a one-year trough. Tokyo’s Nikkei gained 0.4 per cent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.2 per cent, and the Shanghai Composite lost 0.4 per cent. In Europe, London’s FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were up by between 0.5 and 0.9 per cent by about 5:20 a.m. ET. New York futures were also up. The Canadian dollar is down to about 75.5 US cents.

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

No country wants to fight America’s trade war

“In Chinese, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters respectively signifying “danger” and “opportunity,” meaning “out of danger comes opportunity.” Both China and Canada are suffering enormous harm from the trade war imposed by the United States, but there are tremendous opportunities to strengthen co-operation between the two countries.” – Lu Shaye, China’s ambassador to Canada

America has no choice but to impeach Trump now

"Historian Simon Schama, articulating the thoughts of many, called it ‘Trump’s Neville Chamberlain moment,’ referring to the hapless British prime minister who claimed ‘peace in our time’ by appeasing Adolf Hitler. Mr. Schama went on: ‘America sold out by its President. A violation of his oath of office. If this isn’t impeachable what is?’” – Mark Kingwell, a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto.

Trump’s tariffs are tipping us toward a recession

“We have a balance of trade between Canada and the United States, that is a fact and that is fair. Let’s deal with our disputes fairly and constructively, in a way that all of our citizens can benefit from without being arbitrarily penalized. We have a 200-year relationship of being allies, working together, inventing things together and prospering together; let’s build on that instead of tearing it apart.” – Linda Hasenfratz, a chief executive officer of Linamar Corp.

In finally accepting homosexuality, India will return to its roots

“Famous erotic images on Khajuraho temple include women embracing other women and men displaying their genitals to each other. There are examples in ancient Indian epic poetry of same-sex depictions and unions by gods and goddesses. Yet today, India stands alongside Saudi Arabia and Somalia in criminalizing homosexuality.” – Amrit Dhillon, a New Delhi-based journalist.

LIVING BETTER

How to jump the queue at summer attractions

In the summer, plenty of Canadians hit the road for family vacations. Many travelers will set their sights on attractions, such as amusement parks, museums, or good old tourist traps (here’s looking at you, CN Tower). From buying tickets ahead of time to booking a guided tour, here are five ways to reduce the time you spending waiting in line.

MOMENT IN TIME

July 18, 1921: She never had ambitions for public life. But Irene Parlby, who immigrated to Canada from England in 1896, cared about women’s rights before she ever knew she had them. After organizing the first women’s local of the United Farmers of Alberta, with which her husband was involved, she established the independent United Farm Women of Alberta in 1916. In 1921, convinced she wouldn’t win, she agreed to run as a UFA candidate in the provincial election. To her surprise, she was elected – and was appointed to cabinet by premier Herbert Greenfield. The first female cabinet minister in her province, and only the second in the British Empire, Parlby was named the “Minister without Portfolio,” in charge of advising the government on women and children’s issues but without a mandate or budget. Still, she used the position to push for health care, better wages for working women and married women’s property rights, although the latter was considered too radical for the time. Parlby served 14 years in the legislature and was one of “Famous Five” women appellants in the Persons Case, which established the right of women to be appointed to the Senate (the first female senator was appointed in 1930). “Evolution,” Parlby once said, “cannot be brought about by the use of dynamite.” − Laura Stone

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