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The Thursday news briefing: An at-a-glance survey of some top stories

Last Updated Apr 20, 2017 at 5:00 pm EDT

President Donald Trump signs an executive memorandum on investigation of steel imports, Thursday, April 20, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Highlights from the news file for Thursday, April 20

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TRUMP TARGETS CANADA AGAIN: U.S. President Donald Trump has delivered a sweeping broadside at Canada, blasting the northern neighbour for trade practices he says must be corrected in three areas: energy, lumber, and dairy. Trump suggested Thursday he would have more details to share within a couple of weeks about his government’s plans for the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump said in the Oval Office that the U.S. “can’t let Canada or anybody else take advantage and do what they did to our workers and to our farmers.”

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TRUDEAU CALLS FOR ‘FACT-BASED TRADE TALKS WITH U.S.: With Donald Trump ramping up his anti-Canada trade rhetoric, Justin Trudeau says the United States — like other countries — subsidizes its dairy and agriculture industries by hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. And the prime minister says he will continue to protect Canada’s agriculture producers. Trudeau said Thursday he’s trying to engage in “fact-based” conversation with the U.S. administration on a variety of trade irritants. He said the U.S. currently enjoys a $400-million dairy surplus with Canada.

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ONTARIO MOVES TO COOL HOUSING MARKET: Ontario plans to help cool a hot housing market by bringing in a 15-per-cent foreign buyer tax, expanding rent control, allowing Toronto to impose a tax on vacant homes and using surplus lands for affordable housing. Premier Kathleen Wynne announced Thursday that a non-resident speculation tax will be imposed on buyers in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area — from the Niagara region to Peterborough, Ont.— who are not citizens, permanent residents or Canadian corporations. Once legislation passes, the tax would be effective retroactively to April 21.

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CANADIANS ARRESTED IN HUMAN SMUGGLING CASE: Authorities in the United States say two Canadian citizens and one person from Nigeria have been apprehended as part of an investigation into human smuggling. The United States Border Patrol says agents picked up the three people last Friday between the North Portal and Northgate crossings, the legal entry points into Saskatchewan from North Dakota. It was not immediately clear Thursday whether the people are still in custody or if charges have been laid.

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REPORT CALLS ON OTTAWA TO RETHINK POVERTY: A new report calls on the federal government to not just think about opening the back door to help people out of homelessness, but to close the front door as well, to make sure they don’t become homeless in the first place. The paper released Thursday by researchers at the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness says that the money poured annually into helping fund emergency services for the country’s homeless is only one part of the equation, as are additional dollars spent on housing those who need it. The authors say what’s needed is a national approach.

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OTTAWA LOOKS TO SET UP POT TRACKING SYSTEM: Ottawa is planning to set up a cannabis tracking system to collect information about marijuana products from licensed producers, distributors and retailers — just one of a host of proposed changes to be ushered in alongside legalization. Health Canada says the proposed system, which would not track individual cannabis users, would allow businesses and regulators to trace all products and address recalls. It says the tracking would also help to ensure cannabis is not being diverted to illegal markets.

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WESTJET LAUNCHING NO-FRILLS AIRLINE: WestJet Airlines Ltd. will launch a new discount carrier later this year in a bid to offer travellers a no-frills, low-cost option. Chief executive Gregg Saretsky said Thursday the airline industry has changed since the company began flying in 1996. Since WestJet started as a discount carrier with three aircraft in Western Canada, airlines have trimmed the extras and started charging for things like checked baggage and meals on flights. WestJet did not reveal any pricing details for its new offering or where it plans to fly, but said the yet-to-be-named carrier will be using “high-density” aircraft.

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RUSSIAN PLANE PHOTOGRAPHING CANADIAN BASES: Russia is using a post-Cold War agreement to conduct an aerial surveillance mission over Canadian military facilities this week, even as relations between the two countries remain frosty. The five-day mission started Tuesday and involves an unarmed Russian aircraft flying to different parts of the country to take photos of Canadian Forces bases and other military installations. It is being conducted through the Treaty on Open Skies, which Canada, Russia and 32 other countries signed in 1992 to encourage trust and openness about each country’s military capabilities and activities.

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VANCOUVER AQUARIUM SAYS TOXIN KILLED BELUGAS: The Vancouver Aquarium says a toxin was the cause of death of two beluga whales last November, but the exact substance couldn’t be identified. The conclusion is the result of a five-month investigation that also determined the toxin was likely introduced by food, water or through human interference. The aquarium’s head veterinarian, Dr. Martin Haulena, said Thursday the investigation has helped them understand what happened and how they can help ensure the safety of the mammals in their care.

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7 BUSTED AT U.S. POT PROTEST: Seven pro-pot activists have been arrested by U.S. Capitol police while handing out free joints to Congressional staffers and people who work on Capitol Hill. The demonstration Thursday afternoon was intended as a protest against federal interference with states that have legal marijuana. Possession of up to two ounces of pot is legal in the District of Columbia, and the demonstration was held on city land rather than federal land in an attempt to comply with that law. But in a statement, police say they invoked federal law in making the arrests.

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