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Morning Update: United States, Mexico enter ‘rapid track’ in NAFTA talks; Trudeau says Ottawa will study handgun ban

Good morning,

These are the top stories:

The U.S. and Mexico are entering ‘rapid track’ NAFTA talks

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Mexico and the United States will meet this week for the second time in one-on-one talks on North American free trade without Canada as the Trump administration makes a push for a deal.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has told Robert Lighthizer, the United States Trade Representative, that she is ready to head to Washington if necessary. But the Americans have said they need to focus on Mexico right now. The reason for the new push for a deal is that the window of timing to get a deal done with Mexico is closing. Legislation requires the U.S. administration to give Congress 90 days notice of an agreement before it can be signed. With the new Lopez Obrador Mexican administration taking office on Dec. 1, the United States has until the end of August to reach a deal with the outgoing Peña Nieto administration that has represented Mexico in the talks for the past year (for subscribers).

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As Toronto says goodbye to shooting victims, Trudeau says Ottawa will study a handgun ban

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government remains open to enacting a handgun ban and other measures to combat Toronto’s gun violence. He said his government will study approaches to gun violence in other jurisdictions before deciding on a policy direction.

Last week, a senior official told The Globe and Mail that Trudeau will decide in mid-August whether to pursue a ban on handguns as part of a new legislative agenda he would outline in a fall Throne Speech. Earlier in the day, Trudeau attended the funeral for 18-year-old Reese Fallon, who died in a gunman’s rampage on Jul. 22 along Danforth Avenue that also killed 10-year-old Julianna Kozis and injured 13 others.

Toronto council is considering challenging Ford in court

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Before Ontario Premier Doug Ford enacts his plan to cut Toronto’s city council almost in half before its fall election, the city’s municipal government is instructing its lawyers to look into a legal challenge. The city’s lawyers will report back at an emergency council meeting on Aug. 20 on whether the sudden slashing of local politicians violates the constitutional rights of Toronto voters.

Margaret Wente thinks Doug Ford is right about Toronto: “Even those bitterly opposed to Mr. Ford’s attack on democracy mutter quietly that streamlining city council might not be such a bad idea. The problem they have is that he did the right thing in the wrong way. He did not consult. He did not ask permission. He just did it.”

The city is also co-ordinating with other municipalities to find space for asylum seekers. After Toronto put out a call for help earlier this month, at least six Ontario municipalities have stepped up to take in asylum seekers from the resource-strained city.

Vancouver will expropriate two decrepit Sahota hotels

Vancouver is taking the unprecedented step of expropriating two derelict hotels that provide housing to some of the city’s most vulnerable residents after more than a decade of failed attempts to get the owners to repair the buildings and improve the squalid living conditions.

On Friday, the city notified the Sahota family that it was taking the unprecedented first step to seize ownership of their Balmoral and Regent hotels, two buildings in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, after a proposal to purchase them for an undisclosed amount garnered no response from the family, which owns a local real estate empire of rundown rental units estimated at over $200-million.

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The move comes after a Globe and Mail investigation highlighted the miserable living conditions in the Regent and Balmoral, two of five single-room occupancy hotels owned by the family, which used to house more than 300 of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

The Blue Jays traded Roberto Osuna to the Astros for Ken Giles and prospects

Swapping a closer with off-field problems for one with on-field troubles, the Toronto Blue Jays traded Roberto Osuna to the Houston Astros for Ken Giles and a pair of pitching prospects on Monday. Right-handers David Paulino and Hector Perez are going to Toronto as part of the deal, reached a day before the deadline for trades without waivers (for subscribers).

MORNING MARKETS

U.S. stock futures were modestly higher Tuesday with Nasdaq futures indicating a slightly better start after three-days of tech selling with Apple earnings due after the close. On Bay Street, futures were higher with a raft of companies reporting and oil prices slipping on concern over rising OPEC output. Tokyo’s Nikkei was up slightly while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 0.52 per cent. The Shanghai Composite was up 0.26 per cent. In Europe, London’s FTSE 100 was up 0.64 per cent and Germany’s DAX was down slightly at 7:45 a.m. ET. The Paris CAC 40 was up 0.18 per cent. New York futures were up. The Canadian dollar was at 76.73 US cents.

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

In showing Roberto Osuna the door, the Blue Jays close a good ‘bad baseball deal’

“It doesn’t matter how good he is. They made the right choice. It’s the rare instance of a team choosing people over customers. On a very basic level, this trade is about redemption.” – Cathal Kelly

Justin Trudeau’s gamble on immigrant voters

“Immigrants can be an unpredictable bunch. Perhaps that’s to be expected from anyone willing to pack their lives into a suitcase and start anew halfway around the world. It’s an important attribute to survive and thrive, as most are fortunate to do in Canada. But it also leads to some unpleasant surprises for politicians, who, having welcomed them in, naively expect their undying electoral loyalty. Judging by his recent actions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to learn this the hard way.” – Alex Simakov, a consultant at the Daisy Group

Should we make drug use illegal, or make it safer?

“In recent years, there has actually been a rollback of harm reduction measures as more countries embrace criminalization and repression. Yet we know that prohibition is a costly failure. People like to get high for a variety of reasons – to relax, to self-medicate, for ritualistic purposes. They always have and always will.” – André Picard

LIVING BETTER

Five of the most compelling serialized podcasts

Podcasts can be great hands-free, eyes-free entertainment, whether you’re on-the-go or relaxing at home. Like a TV series, some of the best podcasts follow a serialized, multiepisode story arc format, exploding it well beyond true crime and investigations into many other bold and captivating themes. Here’s a list of five podcasts that will leave you hooked after episode one.

MOMENT IN TIME

July 31, 1970: It had been a Royal Navy tradition for more than 300 years, but on this day in 1970, at six bells in the forenoon watch (11 a.m.), British seamen around the world were issued their final ration of rum. The daily “tot” had altered over the centuries, but by the time the last one was poured it consisted of 1/8th of a pint (70 millilitres) of dark rum. The stiff shot of spirits was always popular on the lower deck, less so with the naval brass, and in 1970 the House of Commons voted to eliminate the practice, saying it was incompatible with operating the complex systems of a modern military vessel. When “Black Tot Day” came, many sailors wore dark armbands. The Canadian Navy soon followed the Royal Navy’s lead, apportioning its final rum rations in March, 1972. – Christopher Harris

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