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

Last Updated Aug 16, 2017 at 5:40 pm EST

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, at the start of NAFTA renegotiations in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Highlights from the news file for Wednesday, Aug. 16

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U.S. TALKING TOUGH AT NAFTA TALKS: NAFTA negotiations are underway and the United States says it wants major changes to the agreement, not mere tweaks. U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer welcomed his Canadian and Mexican counterparts to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday for what he called a momentous occasion. Lighthizer says NAFTA has failed many Americans. He said he completely shares Donald Trump’s views on trade. And that view, he said, is that the U.S. wants substantial changes to NAFTA. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland noted Canada bought $8.1 billion more than it sold to the U.S. last year.

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U.S. MAGAZINE TALKS UP FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN TRUMP AND TRUDEAU ADVISERS: Steve Bannon, the controversial chief strategist to U.S. President Donald Trump, told the New Yorker that he has struck up a friendship with Gerald Butts, the principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. According to the magazine, Bannon said Butts also told him that raising taxes on the rich can be a way to boost political fortunes. A spokesman for Trudeau did not address the quote, but said the Liberal government has been working hard to build a strong and constructive relationship with the Trump administration.

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MORE BUILDINGS LOST TO B.C. WILDFIRE: The same fire that destroyed dozens of homes near Ashcroft six weeks ago has now consumed structures in the Green Lake area almost 100 kilometres away. Thompson-Nicola Regional District spokeswoman Debbie Sell says the fire is 1,680 square kilometre in size and still active in the region. She says downed power lines have added to the danger in the area and officials have not been able to access the site to determine what has been lost. Sell says affected property owners will be contacted as soon as specifics of damage are available.

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N.S. LOOKING AT IMPROVING ABORTION ACCESS: Nova Scotia’s health minister says abortion access in the province is “out of step” with current practices, and has asked health officials to find ways to improve it. Randy Delorey says women and advocates have raised important issues about access and it’s the first time that the issue has been brought to the government’s attention. He says in a statement he has asked staff at the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the Health Department to look into the concerns and report back on how to improve access.

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CIBC TO LAUNCH SIMPLII DIRECT BANKING BRAND: CIBC is launching a new online banking brand that will absorb some two million customer accounts currently with Loblaw-owned President’s Choice Financial. CIBC has provided the back-end banking services for PC Financial for nearly 20 years, but the companies said Wednesday they are going their separate ways. CIBC customers will be able to access Simplii Financial online, on smartphones and through call centres, with the roughly two million current PC Financial savings, chequing, and mortgage accounts switched over on Nov. 1.

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WHITE NATIONALIST GROUP NOT WELCOME AT TORONTO UNIVERSITY: The University of Toronto has told a white nationalist group they are not welcome to hold a rally on campus. The group — called the Canadian Nationalist Party — has set up a Facebook page promoting a gathering on campus in September to discuss the nationalist movement in Canada and the future of the country. University’s president Meric Gertler said bigotry, hate and violence have no place campus and condemned the deadly clash between protesters and white supremacists in Virginia over the weekend that left one woman dead and 19 others injured.

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GROUP WANTS ENERGY RATINGS FOR NEW HOMES: A coalition of environmental groups wants to see homes listed for resale in Canada to carry information about how much energy they use. Ten organizations, including the Pembina Institute, the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance and The Atmospheric Fund, want the federal government to implement nearly two dozen policies to cut energy use in commercial and residential buildings. In a letter to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, the group says nearly one-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada come from energy use in homes and buildings.

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ARCTIC EXPLORER’S SHIP TO RETURN TO NORWAY: Nearly 90 years after she sank into Nunavut’s Arctic seabed, the ship that took famed explorer Roald Amundsen on his second polar expedition is finally ready to sail back home to Norway. The Maud, which has been raised from the ocean floor off Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, is expected to start the voyage home over the next few days after a six-year effort. The Maud was built in 1917 for Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole. He also made groundbreaking expeditions in the Canadian Arctic, including the first successful transit of the Northwest Passage.

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TAKE CARE WHEN WATCHING THE SOLAR ECLIPSE: As excitement heats up about the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, experts are urging people to take good care of their eyes when they enjoy the spectacle in Canadian skies. Ralph Chou, a University of Waterloo optometry professor and president of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, says that staring at the sun for more than a few seconds will cause harm. He says the eye feels no pain so it will be too late to look away from potential retina-burning solar rays before a person notices they’ve done potentially-permanent damage.

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BOY WHO DROWNED ON TORONTO SCHOOL TRIP FAILED SWIM TEST: The Toronto District School Board says a teen who drowned while on a school-run camping trip this summer had not passed a mandatory swim test. John Malloy, the board’s director of education, said Jeremiah Perry was among 15 students who failed the mandatory test for the multi-day trip to Algonquin Park in July. Perry, a 15-year-old student, was swimming in a lake when he disappeared under the water and did not resurface. His body was found by search and rescue crews a day later.

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