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    NEW YORK—With corporate chieftains fleeing, U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly abolished two of his White House business councils on Wednesday — the latest fallout from his combative comments on racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    In a face-saving effort, he tweeted from Trump Tower in New York: “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!”

    A growing number of business leaders have been resigning from the advisory panels, openly expressing their displeasure with Trump’s comments, including his insistence that “both sides” were to blame for weekend violence that left one woman dead and led to a helicopter crash that killed two state troopers.

    Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

    On Wednesday, Denise Morrison, chief executive of Campbell Soup, declared she was leaving Trump’s manufacturing council, saying, “The president should have been — and still needs to be — unambiguous” in denouncing the white supremacists who organized the Charlottesville rally.

    The quick sequence began late Wednesday morning when Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chief executive of the Blackstone Group and one of Trump’s closest confidants in the business community, organized a conference call for members of the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum.

    On the call, the chief executives of some of the largest companies in the country debated how to proceed.

    After a discussion among a dozen prominent CEOs, the decision was made to abandon the group altogether, said people with knowledge of details of the call.

    Read more:

    Donald Trump defends far-right extremists in astonishing tirade, again blames both sides for Charlottesville violence

    Shame the Charlottesville white supremacists on social media: Teitel

    Trump’s presidency a long descent into darkness: Rae

    The council included Laurence Fink of BlackRock, Ginni Rometty of IBM, Rich Lesser of the Boston Consulting Group and Toby Cosgrove of the Cleveland Clinic, among others.

    The first to step down, Kenneth Frazier of Merck, drew a Twitter tongue-lashing from the president. Then, barely 24 hours before disbanding the councils, Trump called those who were leaving “grandstanders” and insisted many others were eager to take their places.

    Members of the advisory group had stood with the president in recent months even as he advanced policies they vehemently opposed, including tough immigration policies and withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate accord.

    But the president’s equivocating in the wake of the outburst of white nationalist violence in Charlottesville was too much for the CEOs to bear.

    “He had put them in a very difficult position,” said Anat Admati, a professor of finance and economics at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “This has ruined his relationships with some of them.”

    A few fellow Republican leaders are going after Trump, too.

    South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday the president “took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency” between the marching white supremacists and the people who had been demonstrating against them.

    Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney tweeted a similar slap shortly after the president’s explosive press conference on Tuesday: “No, not the same. One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes.”

    Other leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, made forceful anti-racism statements — but steered clear of mentioning Trump and his comments.

    Under pressure, Trump made his condemnation of the Charlottesville violence more specific on Monday, naming white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. But he returned to his defiant self on Tuesday, effectively erasing the statement he’d read a day earlier.

    In a raucous press conference in the lobby of his skyscraper, he said there were “some very bad people” among those who gathered to protest Saturday. But he added: “You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

    Publicly criticizing the president and resigning from his councils is a significant step for big-name corporate leaders. Though the policy influence of such advisory groups is sometimes questionable, simply meeting with Trump with TV cameras going is valuable face-time for the executives — and for the president.

    After his latest tweets, Trump left New York for his New Jersey golf club where he was scheduled to remain out of public view for the rest of the day.

    As he navigates this latest controversy, the White House on Wednesday said his longtime aide Hope Hicks would temporarily step into the role of communications director. Hicks is White House director of strategic communications, and a near-constant presence at the president’s side.

    She served as spokeswoman for Trump’s presidential campaign and worked for years in public relations for the Trump Organization and his daughter’s fashion and lifestyle brand.

    Trump had no public appearances on Wednesday, yet made his presence felt online.

    In addition to announcing the dissolution of the business councils via tweet, he also congratulated Sen. Luther Strange for advancing to a runoff in the Alabama special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ seat.

    He also retweeted someone complimenting him on the stock market’s gains and consumer confidence highs and wrote that Heather Heyer, the woman mowed down by a car during the Charlottesville violence, was “beautiful and incredible.”

    Trump said Tuesday that he had planned to call her family to offer condolences, but the White House did not answer questions Wednesday about whether he’d yet done so.

    With files from the New York Times

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    A teenager who drowned on a school canoe trip last month was one of 15 students who went on the excursion despite failing a required swim test, the Toronto District School Board said Wednesday.

    Two other students on the trip weren’t tested at all, said TDSB director of education John Malloy.

    “I’m deeply troubled by these findings,” Malloy said. “On behalf of the TDSB, I offer our most sincere apology and regret. I also want to apologize to the families of the other students who went on the trip even though they didn’t pass the required swim test.”

    Jeremiah Perry, a Grade 9 student, slipped under water in a lake in the back country of Algonquin Provincial Park on July 4, prompting a day of rescue efforts and the evacuation of his classmates. The 15-year-old’s body was recovered the next day.

    All participants in the trip were supposed to undergo swim tests, but Jeremiah’s father has said his son didn’t know how to swim. The boy’s brother, Marion, was also on the canoe trip.

    Jeremiah went to C.W. Jeffreys Collegiate Institute in North York. He started at the school in October after immigrating to Canada from Guyana.

    Jeremiah’s father, Joshua Anderson, said he wasn’t surprised by the school board report because Malloy spoke with him earlier in the day. Nonetheless, he said, he appreciated that the TDSB went public with the information.

    “This is information we knew already,” he told the Star in a phone interview. “It is what it is . . . nothing can bring back Jerry.”

    Anderson said the family has no plans to act right away. They’re still awaiting results of the coroner’s office and the police investigations, he added.

    The family is still reeling from Jeremiah’s death, Anderson said.

    “It’s too overwhelming,” he said. “Just watching it on TV, it’s too much.”

    TDSB policy requires that all students going on such trips pass a canoe-specific swim test at a third-party facility on a lake. If they don’t pass that test, they should have had another opportunity to pass, with another test and one-on-one swim coaching at the C.W. Jeffreys pool.

    “It would appear that our procedures weren’t followed,” Malloy said, and no further swim tests or instruction were offered afterward.

    Malloy said the teachers involved are on home assignment and have refused to speak to TDSB. He said they will be disciplined in accordance with board policies, with consideration for the other investigations into the case.

    One of the teachers also brought along their child and a dog, Malloy added, saying the board will investigate that as well.

    He would not comment when asked if the same teachers had organized the canoe trip in previous years.

    The teachers’ union said it wouldn’t comment on this situation.

    All future trips of this type will be approved only after the principal of a school sees documents proving all students have passed swim tests, Malloy said. All participating students and their parents will see the results of the tests before the trips.

    He said outdoor education is still important, but “we will not do this at the expense of student safety.”

    Anderson said the new rules, had they been in place, might have made the difference for his son.

    “I think everything would have changed,” he told reporters outside the family’s home Wednesday.

    Ontario Provincial Police’s Renfrew County Crime Unit also has an ongoing investigation into the drowning, led by Detective Const. Bernie Dikih. The detachment declined to comment Wednesday, saying Dikih could not be reached and other members of the unit couldn’t provide an update.

    When the investigation started, the OPP noted that an updated release would be shared when “confirmed and accurate” information became available. Their own investigation may be waiting for results from the office of the chief coroner, an OPP spokesperson, Chrystal Jones, told the Star.

    “It’s quite frustrating sometimes because we wait for their outcomes,” she said, adding that sometimes the process takes weeks or months to hear back.

    Jones couldn’t provide any information about the scope of the OPP’s investigation or questions being asked.

    After Jeremiah’s death, the TDSB requested information on all upcoming trips for the 2017-18 school year and no issues were found, Malloy said. No trips were cancelled as a result.

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    The disclaimer is always about a few bad apples.

    That handful of wormy cops who are (rarely) charged with criminal offences, almost uniformly acquitted — second-degree murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, sexual assault and assault among the trials I’ve personally covered over these past few decades which have resulted in not guilty verdicts — or brought up on Police Act disciplinary charges.

    More like a bushel and a peck, I’d say.

    In the past fortnight alone, we’ve had at least 10 officers from Toronto — with drifts to Durham Region — before the courts and police tribunals or charged or acquitted for lack objective evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

    The doubt, like the tie, invariably goes to cops.

    I choose to believe that most cops are professional in their job and decent human beings in their contacts with the public. Indeed, I’ve experienced it myself as someone charged with assault. It is not an easy vocation and day-after-day exposure to the worst among us doubtless calcifies the heart. But choosing to believe the best of law enforcement gets ever harder when the evidence before my eyes is so discouraging.

    Cops who drink’n’dine out on the perks of their badge.

    Cops who troll, in their off-hours, the underbelly world of vice and sleaze.

    Cops who lie and plant evidence and perjure themselves on the witness stand.

    Cops who allegedly beat up civilians and then lay charges of obstruct police.

    Cops who allegedly mock a young woman with Down syndrome.

    The violations range from the severe to the picayune, although nothing is picayune when the courts exact consequences from those who run afoul of the law. In one instance, which has received no publicity, a police officer charged a 19-year-old boy I know intimately with smoking — smoking— outside a restaurant in a Downsview strip mall. When the youth was unable to identify himself — which he had the right not to do; there was no allegation of a suspect being sought for a crime — he was arrested, taken to the station and subjected to a search which turned up a flick knife and small quantity of marijuana. Charges included possession of a restricted weapon, resulting from what very likely may have been an illegal search under the circumstances. The young man pleaded guilty earlier this month and is now burdened with a criminal record.

    Since when do Toronto cops charge for smoking, unless they’ve got a burr up their butt? That’s a job for bylaw enforcement officers and, thus far this year, they’ve laid precisely two tickets for non-compliance with the municipal regulation.

    My point is that cops have too much discretional authority and they wield it like the bullies too many of them are.

    Bad apples? When compared proportionately with the civilian population, are they more or less criminal, more or less discreditable, more or less likely to catch a break from colleagues, courts and the justice system?

    Social media has made it more difficult these days for cops to keep their own unruly behaviour off the radar. Every smartphone is a surveillance camera. Yet that evidence, brought into a courtroom or a police tribunal or a coroner’s inquest, can be freeze-frame parsed into incoherency by deft cop lawyers, the kind you and I could probably not afford.

    And what do we, the public, have to shield against police brutality, whether it happens on a deserted street at three o’clock in the morning or in broad daylight on the lawns of the legislature by cops who’ve removed their identifying badge numbers?

    We have the Criminal Code, of course, except police officers are extensions of it because they do the charging and the investigating, even when another police force is brought in. We have the near toothless Special Investigations Unit, generally staffed by ex-cops. We have Internal Affairs and Professional Standards Units that sometimes — as in the case of parking enforcement officer who brought sex assault charges against three Toronto constables — conduct stunningly sloppy investigations.

    We have civilian oversight agencies such as the Office of the Independent Police Review Director which too often tosses complaints back to police chiefs for investigation and determination of charges.

    And we have endless reviews, task forces, internal and external audits, hundreds of recommendations that amount to a hill of beans.

    Cops have learned the lesson well: There are few consequences for brutish behaviour. Chances are you’ll get away with it, even if subjected to the mild unpleasantness of being public identified on a charge sheet. Even then, your salary will continue to be paid and you won’t be fired by your chief because that’s a legal mosh-pit.

    On Wednesday, lawyer Julian Falconer called for both a systematic review by the OIPRD to look at “underlying causes” of the alleged mishandling of a complaint by both Toronto Police Service and Durham Regional Police Service — concealing of an alleged crime to avoid SIU involvement — and a wider probe of how the SIU is being prevented from executing its mandate. Falconer has asked that the matter not be referred back to the TPS, the DRPS or any other police service for investigation. Which leaves I don’t know what, given the current complaint structure.

    Falconer has been down this road before with complainants, a road that has wound its way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which vouchsafed the statutory obligation for police officers to co-operate fully with the SIU in their investigations.

    I’ve lost count of the number of times this was shown not to have happened — and I don’t mean just subject officers, who are constitutionally protected against self-incrimination and therefore aren’t compelled to make a statement or submit to questioning. (A matter which seriously deserves a second-think by the Supremes.)

    “Here I sit in 2017 facing the same issue,” Falconer told a press conference. “Why do police have the power to charge with obstruct justice those who interfere in an investigation but SIU investigators do not. And the answer is that there is every reality that it will be enormously career-limiting for a director of SIU to even contemplate laying an obstruct justice charge. This has to change.”

    Falconer represents a 19-year-old Black male, Dafonte Miller, who was beaten with a metal pipe last December in Whitby — extensive injuries suffered, including permanent loss of vision in one eye, broken orbital bone, broken nose, fractured wrist — allegedly by two brothers, one of whom was an off-duty Toronto cop. And further, Falconer maintains, that their father, himself a Toronto cop with Professional Standards, was complicit in concealing his sons’ alleged crimes by having communication with the Durham investigators. He sets out, in his formally filed complaint, “clear steps that were taken in protecting these two thugs.”

    The investigation, as it unfolded that night, certainly appears shabby, with the brothers’ version of events — that they’d been attacked by Miller, with a pipe — accepted as de facto truth, with no follow-through on how Miller came by all those serious injuries. Nor was the SIU informed of the incident — as is required when a member of the public suffers serious injury or death in an incident involving police — until four months later.

    The interim upshot: All charges against Miller were withdrawn. The SIU has charged Michael and Christian Theriault with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and public mischief for misleading investigators. Nothing against their father, Det. John Theriault.

    Not good enough, argues Falconer.

    “We have to equip our SIU investigators with the same powers of other police officers. We have to create consequences for the police when they undermine an investigation the way in my opinion this investigation was deliberately undermined. There are no incentives for them to comply with the law.

    “Think of the exposure for John Theriault’s two sons had the right thing been done that night and SIU been brought in right away. All of the incentives operate in the opposite direction. There is no law they’re breaking when they undermine an SIU investigation but if they get nailed they face severe consequences. The incentives go in the wrong direction.

    “It’s high time that we make sure that it’s safe for our SIU directors to lay the appropriate charges. Public mischief won’t do it.”

    With the confluence of so many recent events involving on-duty and off-duty cops, the crisis of confidence in policing has become acute.

    But it’s no longer just a handful of activists and journalists decrying police delinquency and monkey-business.

    The public is demanding: What the hell?

    Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

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    Owen Robinson is desperate to find host families in Toronto for three boys with congenital heart defects from Haiti who need life-saving surgery.

    Robinson’s organization, Haiti Cardiac Alliance, is helping the children, aged three to four years old, find treatment outside Haiti. The group has helped 300 Haitian kids get heart surgeries at hospitals all over the U.S. and the Caribbean since it began in July 2013.

    But the operations for these three boys, who all have holes in their hearts, are difficult and no hospital the group normally goes to has been willing to take the cases on.

    That’s when SickKids Hospital agreed to step in and do the surgeries with the help of the Herbie Fund, which offers financial support to children worldwide who require specialized care.

    “If these kids don’t get treatment in Toronto, I can say with a fair degree of confidence they’re not going to be able to access treatment at all,” Robinson said. “It would very literally be life-saving.”

    But SickKids can only do the operations as long as the kids have a place to recover once they are discharged from the hospital. And finding the boys a place to stay has proven to be tricky.

    “In the United States we have some solid connections with organizations and they help us welcome these families into their community, but in Toronto we don’t have that,” Robinson said.

    In July, he asked for help from Mark Brender, an old friend and the national director of Partners in Health Canada.

    Brender recently contacted the Haitian consulate in Toronto in the hopes that someone from the community would be willing to help the boys: Roobens Thelusma, David Smith Millien and Kervens Jeannot.

    But they are still waiting for responses.

    “If there’s care available it shouldn’t be limited to where you are born and if you have the funds,” Brender said.

    He’s hoping a Haitian family will offer to help, to make communicating with the visitors easier, but said that “anybody could step up.”

    Robinson is searching for people to take in one child and one parent at a time. A social worker would accompany the family for the first week to help them get settled and translate for them. The family would need to stay in Toronto for one or two months during the recovery period. The surgery would take place about a week after their arrival, and they would spend the next week or two at the hospital, he said.

    The families only speak French and Haitian Creole. Robinson said that while it would be helpful, the host family and volunteers don’t have to speak the language. Tools like Google translate, phrasebooks, or social workers who are available by phone could help bridge the language gap.

    The hosts and volunteers would be expected to provide the family with transportation to and from the hospital, food, or the means for the parent to cook, and a warm and supportive environment. The child’s parent would take care of the medical aspects of caring for the child.

    “If the child had been born in the U.S. or Canada, (the heart problem) would have been repaired in the first few months of the child’s life but these kids are three- or four-years-old now,” Robinson said. “We have situations all the time where a child’s been selected somewhere and they die before they can go, it just takes too long.”

    Anyone interested in helping can contact Robinson at

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    Legal Aid Ontario is defunding the African Canadian Legal Clinic.

    The decision affecting the legal aid clinic, which has served Toronto’s Black community for over 20 years, was announced Wednesday afternoon by the five-member clinic committee of LAO’s board of directors.

    At the same time, LAO’s president and CEO, David Field, said in a statement that the agency will immediately work with community members “to establish a new community-based organization to deliver legal aid services to Ontario’s Black community.”

    In the meantime, he said LAO will provide legal services through the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, lawyers in private practice, and LAO’s test case program.

    Finding that the ACLC “remains in fundamental breach of its statutory obligations” in the wake of external audits, the clinic committee will suspend funding at the end of September, or at a later date that can be agreed on by the clinic and LAO.

    The decision follows years of tension between the two organizations, with LAO saying it was concerned with the clinic’s ability to manage its finances and the ACLC claiming it was put under greater scrutiny than any other legal aid clinic in Ontario.

    Both sides pulled no punches Wednesday.

    “There has been a 23-year war,” ACLC executive director Margaret Parsons told the Star in an interview Wednesday. “When this clinic was announced, a firestorm erupted, Legal Aid Ontario went to the press to try to not get this clinic from being opened and the attorney general of the day had to literally give them their marching orders.”

    “The fix was in since day one, and there was nothing that we could do that was right.”

    Parsons, who claimed that the clinic first learned of LAO’s decision from a Star reporter calling for comment, said the clinic and its board will now consider their options.

    Read more: De-funding the African Canadian Legal Clinic would be excessive force and an abuse of power: James

    LAO spokesman Graeme Burk said the clinic committee had informed the ACLC’s outside lawyers of the decision, adding that LAO staff had no prior knowledge of the ruling.

    The decision comes in the wake of a 2013 audit that found that the clinic’s corporate credit card was being used for personal purchases and alleged that Parsons gave herself a $120,000 bonus over a four-year period with money that could only be used to pay for LAO-funded staff positions.

    “That is absolutely, categorically untrue, I have never, ever received that as a bonus, ever,” Parsons told the Star.

    Many documents related to the clinic committee’s decision, including the 2013 external audit by PwC, were posted to the Legal Aid Ontario website Wednesday. LAO provided the ACLC with nearly $670,000 in funding for 2016-17.

    “The battles we wage against racism are simply too important and too vital to allow personal excesses to discredit the work,” said lawyer Julian Falconer, who advised LAO staff on issues relating to the ACLC.

    “People need to judge for themselves,” Falconer said, referring to the audit reports. “It becomes clear that this executive director has to answer for very serious findings in the audit reports, and that is not about skin colour, that is about accountability.”

    The audit also found the clinic “appeared to be engaged in excessive spending on taxis, travel, and meal expenses,” and alleged that Parsons claimed over $150,000 in overtime, “well in excess of the maximum hours permitted under the ACLC’s policy.”

    Parsons told the Star she donated that amount back to the clinic.

    Among the expenses flagged by the auditors was a $754 diamond ring Parsons charged to the corporate credit card in 2007. According to the auditors’ report, Parsons said she repaid the amount to the clinic, but the auditors said they could find no evidence of that.

    Parsons told the Star she realized she mistakenly used the corporate card for the ring purchase and immediately repaid the clinic in cash, and that she offered to pay the amount back again when it was flagged during the audit.

    The clinic committee said Wednesday that the ACLC has still not fully complied with some of the eight remedial conditions that were imposed in fall 2014 following the auditors’ report, including allowing an LAO observer to attend all ACLC board meetings, that the clinic submit a financial restructuring plan for LAO’s approval, and that the clinic adopt policies in line with the auditors’ recommendations regarding meals, travel and the corporate credit card.

    “We have complied with every single one of them,” Parsons told the Star. “We have worked exceptionally hard to implement them and to comply,” she said, adding that LAO “were always hell bent on this course of action, and if the ACLC walked on water, they would have said we can’t swim.”

    LAO staff said they first became aware of financial concerns at the clinic in 2009 when they received copies of emails from the two lawyer members on ACLC’s board who said they were resigning in protest over concerns relating to “financial irregularities” and “gross misconduct and illegalities,” according to the clinic committee’s executive summary.

    The clinic committee said the ACLC was not co-operative with LAO staff as they tried to seek answers.

    Members of a committee that advises the LAO board on the provision of legal services to the Black community said they were disappointed, but not overly concerned over the decision to defund the ACLC, pointing out that LAO has promised to immediately fund other organizations to assist Black people with legal services.

    “It’s unfortunate because there is a great need within the community for these services,” said committee member Zanana Akande, the first Black woman elected to the Ontario legislature. “I’m disappointed. I’m saddened that LAO has come to the point where that extraordinary step needed to be taken.”

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    Domino’s employees saved their dough when a man walked into their Scarborough pizza joint Wednesday night and allegedly tried to rob it at gunpoint.

    The man, wearing a mask and helmet, entered the Domino’s Pizza near Kingston Rd. and Ridgemoor Ave. just after 9 p.m., Toronto police Const. David Hopkinson said.

    According to employee Harish Karina, 27, the man demanded that they unlock the cash register and showed them a gun inside his jacket.

    Karina said he opened the register. As the man was reaching for the money, Karina said he grabbed him from behind. Two other employees jumped in to help hold the man until police arrived.

    Karina said the situation was “tense,” as they didn’t know if the gun was real.

    They called the police, who took the man into custody. Karina said he and his coworkers were relieved nobody was hurt, adding there were no customers in the restaurant at the time of the incident.

    Hopkinson couldn’t confirm if the gun was real.

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    A Peel Police cruiser and another vehicle collided in Brampton Wednesday, causing the police car to roll over.

    The collision, which occurred near the intersection of Queen and Main Sts., at around 5 p.m., caused the police car to roll over.

    Two people, one from each vehicle, had minor injuries, according to Peel paramedics.

    The officer has been released from hospital, but Peel Police are waiting for an update on the other person’s injuries before deciding if the Special Investigations Unit will be looking into the crash, said Const. Bancroft Wright.

    The major collisions bureau is on scene investigating.

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    OTTAWA—NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is calling on the prime minister’s senior adviser to “immediately disavow” his reported friendship with Donald Trump’s controversial strategist and alt-right champion, Steve Bannon.

    In an article published online Tuesday, the New Yorker reported that Gerald Butts struck up a friendship with Bannon after they first met in the wake of the U.S. presidential election last year.

    Before joining Trump’s team during the campaign, Bannon was an executive at Breitbart News, a far-right website popular with people who hold white supremacist and Islamophobic views.

    “Bannon, of course, is viewed by white supremacists as a leader,” Mulcair said in an interview Wednesday.

    “On these issues there’s no grey area. When it comes to connections to people who spew hate, and (have) a record of encouraging violence, then you’ve got to stand up full-square and say: ‘No, this is no friend of mine. I’ll have nothing to do with it.’”

    Butts did not respond to questions from the Star on Wednesday.

    Cameron Ahmad, a spokesperson in the Prime Minister’s Office, said in an emailed statement that the Liberal government has worked to increase Canada’s “strong and constructive working relationship” with the U.S.

    “The prime minister has worked directly with the president, and staff and officials have worked closely with members of the administration on an ongoing basis, strengthening our relationship and discussing its importance to jobs on both sides of the border,” he wrote.

    “We are committed to maintaining and growing our strong relationship in order to support growth and jobs in both our countries.”

    The reported relationship between the two men comes at a fractious time; the U.S. media is full of whisperings of Bannon’s possible dismissal from the White House after last weekend’s deadly protests involving racist and neo-Nazi groups and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va.

    Trump’s response to the protests — in which he claimed “both sides” were to blame for the violence that erupted — has been roundly criticized, while white supremacist leaders like former Ku Klux Klan head David Duke have praised the president for his “honesty and courage.”

    Any friendship between Butts and Bannon would, on the surface, seem unlikely. Butts is one of the chief advisers to a feminist Liberal prime minister known for his “sunny ways,” and used to be the director of the World Wildlife Federation’s Canadian chapter.

    Bannon, on the other hand, comes from a far-right populist background, and led a website that has published headlines like “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy” and once called a right-leaning commentator a “renegade Jew.”

    He has described the site as “the platform of the alt-right,” a euphemism for white supremacist, anti-establishment political thought, and has since derided the mainstream media as the “opposition party.”

    Yet at the same time, Bannon and Butts each has their leader’s ear as an adviser and is credited with helping pave their paths to power.

    The New Yorker reported that Bannon sees Butts as a “sort of left-wing version of himself.” The article described Bannon’s push to get Trump to raise taxes on the wealthy, which was one of the Trudeau government’s first moves after it assumed power in 2015.

    “There’s nothing better for a populist than a rich guy raising taxes on rich guys,” Butts told Bannon, according to the report.

    Greg MacEachern, senior vice-president of government relations with Environics Communications, said the Trudeau government matched key staffers with U.S. administration officials after Trump was elected. It has previously been reported that Butts was matched with Bannon during this process.

    And in the lead-up to this week’s first round of the talks to rehash the North American Free Trade Agreement, Justin Trudeau, his cabinet ministers and his top staffers have fanned out across the U.S. to make their case that the trilateral pact is good for jobs on both sides of the border.

    MacEachern said a big reason the “friendship” report is getting attention is because Bannon and racist groups in the U.S. are prominent in the news. He added that getting close to people like Bannon is simply part of the job for someone like Butts.

    “They don’t have the luxury that most Canadians have to be critical of President Trump,” he said, pointing to the stakes of the NAFTA renegotiations. The government has repeatedly credited the trade agreement with creating hundreds of billions of dollars in trade with the U.S.

    “From all accounts, the Trudeau government, including ministers and staff, did a very aggressive push to get in early and get to know key players,” he said.

    Bruce Anderson, chairman of Abacus Data and Summa Communications, said keeping open lines of communication with the U.S. government is a “perennial requirement” of Canadian administrations.

    “To me it doesn’t really matter what the political DNA of these individuals is, it matters that they’re able to have a conversation,” he said.

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    Stephen Bannon, the White House chief strategist, seemed to take issue with U.S. President Donald Trump on North Korea, attacked white supremacists as “clowns” and “losers” and described his efforts against administration rivals in an unusual interview Wednesday with The American Prospect, a progressive magazine.

    The interview with magazine co-editor and columnist Robert Kuttner was initiated by Bannon, Kuttner said, in an Anthony Scaramucci-style phone call out of the blue in response to a column Kuttner had written on China.

    “Bannon was in high spirits when he phoned me Tuesday afternoon to discuss the politics of taking a harder line with China, and minced no words describing his efforts to neutralize rivals at the departments of Defense, State and Treasury,” wrote Kuttner.

    “ ‘They’re wetting themselves,’ he said, proceeding to detail how he would oust some of his opponents at State and Defense.”

    Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

    On North Korea, Bannon said: “ ‘Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.’ ”

    That comment seemed at odds with Trump’s “fire and fury” threats to use military force against North Korea.

    On China, Bannon told Kuttner that the United States was at “economic war” and warned that “one of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path,” according to the article.

    “On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow,” he said.

    Bannon was also asked by Kuttner to comment on the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last weekend and President Trump’s reluctance to condemn the participants.

    “Ethnonationalism — it’s losers. It’s a fringe element,” Bannon told the magazine. “I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, eh, help crush it more.”

    “These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.

    The remarks were startling coming from Bannon, who spent more than four years running the far-right website Breitbart News before he was tapped to join Trump’s campaign.

    Bannon, the site’s former executive chair, has called the Breitbart “a platform of the alt-right,” referring to the small, deeply conservative movement that seeks a whites-only state. It was his strategy to use the site to channel white supremacist support for Trump and provide a mouthpiece for his populist message during the 2016 election, a move that helped secure him a senior role in the administration.

    In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, which left a counterprotester dead and others injured, civil rights leaders have called on Trump to fire Bannon over his ties to the white nationalist community, as The Washington Post has reported.

    Read more:

    Longtime Trump aide Hope Hicks takes a temporary step into Anthony Scaramucci’s shoes

    Bromance begone: Gerald Butts must ‘disavow’ reported friendship with Steve Bannon, NDP leader says

    Rising tensions with North Korea bring back Cold War-era nuclear fears

    Asked by reporters Tuesday if he still had confidence in his chief strategist, Trump deflected.

    “He’s not a racist, I can tell you that,” Trump said. “But we’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon.”

    Kuttner wrote in Wednesday’s article that he was surprised when he got an email from one of Bannon’s assistants saying he wanted to arrange a meeting. The two ended up speaking by phone on Tuesday afternoon, according to the article.

    When the conversation turned to race and the events in Charlottesville, Bannon dodged questions about his role in cultivating the alt-right, according to the article. He also faulted Democrats for focusing on identity politics.

    “The longer they talk about identity politics, I got ‘em,” he said. “I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

    Kuttner said he was puzzled by the fact that Bannon would call an editor at a progressive magazine and “assume that a possible convergence of views on China trade might somehow paper over the political and moral chasm on white nationalism.”

    “The question of whether the phone call was on or off the record never came up,” he said. “This is also puzzling, since Stephen K. Bannon is not exactly Bambi when it comes to dealing with the press. He’s probably the most media-savvy person in America.”

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    The fragile fabric of Confederation has been torn — and not by politicians.

    A massive century-old oil painting called The Fathers of Confederation hanging over the grand staircase at Queen’s Park was ripped when a work crew tearing down scaffolding from a paint job banged a sharp edge into the canvas.

    Unless you’d rather believe that one of the fathers — Edward Whelan of Prince Edward Island — suddenly sprung to life and kicked a hole two or three fingers wide.

    Read more:Do restorations always improve aging or damaged works of art?

    The oblong tear is just off the toe of Whelan’s boot in the lower left corner of the 6-by-3.5-metre piece unveiled by artist Fredrick S. Challener in 1919 after two years of work.

    “It’s just a shame,” said Alicia Coutts of Toronto Art Restoration Inc., who was travelling in Germany on holiday when she got a query from the Archives of Ontario about doing repairs.

    Reached by the Star in Bremen, Coutts could not estimate how much the project could cost until she returns to Canada in two weeks.

    “Art conservation is expensive. It has to be perfect. It has to last forever,” she said Wednesday.

    Forever has proven tough for the painting, which depicts the Quebec Conference of 1864 and features such historic notables as John A. Macdonald, later Canada’s first prime minister, and George Brown, founder of the Globe and Mail.

    The damaged piece is a carefully crafted copy of the original by famous portrait artist Robert Harris, who was commissioned to paint it by the Canadian government in 1883 and 1884.

    But, tragically, it burned in the 1916 fire that destroyed Parliament in Ottawa. Challener worked from Harris’s preparatory drawings to complete the copy viewed by thousands of tourists a year on tours of the Legislature.

    The painting — which hangs two storeys up and is located across the hall from the Legislative chamber where MPPs meet — will have to come down for the repair, said Coutts, whose firm handled “at least” two dozen punctures from clients last year.

    “It’s a pretty involved process. I just don’t know how involved yet.”

    The accident occurred Monday night with a crew from a private company that has done work in the building before without incident, a Legislature official said.

    “It’s unfortunate,” Jelena Bajcetic said, noting that a decision on who pays the bill will be worked out between the company and the Archives of Ontario.

    The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services said the painting will be sent offsite for the repair work at a cost yet to be determined.

    “We will ensure that the necessary restoration is completed so that the painting can be returned as soon as possible,” said a spokeswoman, Anne-Marie Flanagan.

    Looking at the damage, it’s hard to tell if there’s a flap of torn canvas hanging behind the painting that could be salvaged as part of the repair.

    Typically, paintings get damaged in transit when protective boxes are impaled or when they’re left leaning against chairs and other objects, leaving them susceptible to accidents, Coutts said.

    The history behind Challener’s copy dates to 17 days in October 1864, when delegates from what are now Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. gathered in Quebec City.

    It was a follow-up meeting to one the previous month in Charlottetown, P.E.I., on a union of the provinces in British North America — an idea to which the Maritime provinces were receptive.

    The men who later became known as the fathers of Confederation talked about the structure of government, including representation by population or rep by pop, a Senate based on regional equality, preserving ties with Great Britain and the appointment of a governor general by the Crown across the Atlantic.

    A total of 72 resolutions emerged from the Quebec meeting and they became the basis of a constitution, according to the Legislature’s notes describing the painting.

    The “Quebec Resolutions” were presented to the British government at a conference in London in 1865 and became key parts of the British North America Act passed by the British Parliament in March of 1867.

    That set the stage for Canada’s birth less than four months later on July 1.

    The painting is one of about 2,700 in the Archives of Ontario collection, which includes portraits of premiers and other pieces of art adorning the walls of the Legislature and other government buildings.

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    It takes a six-figure income to afford virtually any Toronto area home — even a condo — and that expense is presenting a considerable financial challenge to an important cohort of millennial consumers.

    Separate studies from two real estate companies on Thursday paint pictures of the high income requirements of affording a home, and of the housing aspirations of Canada’s “peak millennials” — adults 25 to 30.

    It takes a household income of more than $200,000 a year to carry the $1.15 million cost of the average detached house in the Toronto region, according to a report from TheRedPin brokerage.

    Even the average condo, costing $576,000, requires an annual income of $92,925 to afford a $1,933 monthly mortgage, plus taxes, utilities and condo fees, according to the report.

    Meantime, 59 per cent of those aged 25 to 30 in Ontario would like to own a detached house in the next five years, but only 30 per cent think they will be able to afford one, according a new Royal LePage report based on findings by Leger research.

    According to TheRedPin, buyers need more than $150,000 a year to cover the cost of a home in half of 22 Toronto area municipalities.

    The average Toronto home price, $864,228, is affordable to buyers with an annual income of $147,750 — though that average may be skewed lower by the large number of condos on the market.

    The most expensive real estate in the region is in King Township. Buyers there need $264,000 a year to afford the monthly mortgage of $5,883 and other expenses for an average home price of $1.6 million.

    In Oshawa, an annual income of $108,773 is enough to afford the average home price of $552,268.

    TheRedPin study averaged home prices over the first seven months of the year, and assumed a 20 per cent down payment and a 2.99 per cent mortgage, amortized over 25 years. The income requirements took into account the areas’ average utility costs and property taxes and estimated condo fees based on a 900-square-foot condo townhouse and a 750-square-foot apartment.

    Matching home prices to income levels gives buyers a more precise picture of what they can afford, said the brokerage’s Enzo Ceniti.

    “It can be hard to grasp exactly how much you need to earn to be able to invest in a home. Information about home prices increasing or decreasing by a certain percentage isn’t as relevant or as personalized,” he said.

    Drew Rankin, 29, is part of an age group that will grow by 17 per cent in Canada by 2021. He is among the 35 per cent in that cohort that already own a home, according to a report from Royal LePage.

    Like 25 per cent of his contemporaries, Rankin and his girlfriend had help from family with the down on the one-bedroom-plus-den he had been renting near King St. and Spadina Ave. for about $465,000.

    The 700-square-foot unit had the layout and location Rankin and his girlfriend wanted.

    “In terms of where our mindset was, the lifestyle was top of mind, accessibility to friends, restaurants, even work. Sports, concerts, everything is right there,” he said.

    But the condo isn’t big enough to raise a family.

    “I grew up in London, Ont., in a middle-class neighbourhood with a yard and I don’t necessarily view that as an attainable lifestyle for me (in Toronto), at least not in the next 10 years,” said Rankin.

    People in their late 20s face significant affordability barriers compared to their parents when it comes to housing in Toronto, said Royal LePage CEO Phil Soper. While cities have the best employment prospects for young adults, they are also the most expensive property markets.

    The company’s report, he said, “is either a sobering insight into the challenges young people will face as they try to build homes and families or it’s a really optimistic view of Canadian economics. Two thirds of people say they’re going to have a difficult time buying a house because of affordability but nearly all of them want one — 87 per cent,” he said.

    “More adults in Ontario than anywhere else in Canada hope to own a home in the short-term even though it’s the most expensive place in Canada to own a home,” said Soper.

    Condo owner Rankin thinks Toronto real estate offers good value “relative to other global centres.”

    “I have a lot of friends in New York,” he said, “and that’s a totally different scenario.”

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    CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA—An Australian senator provoked an angry backlash from lawmakers by wearing a burka in Parliament on Thursday as part of her campaign for a national ban on Islamic face covers.

    Pauline Hanson, leader of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigration One Nation minor party, sat wearing the black head-to-ankle garment for more than 10 minutes before taking it off as she rose to explain that she wanted such outfits banned on national security grounds.

    “There has been a large majority of Australians (who) wish to see the banning of the burka,” said Hanson, an outspoken fan of U.S. President Donald Trump, as senators objected.

    Read more: Anti-Muslim Australian MP Hanson demands halt to immigration

    Attorney-General George Brandis drew applause when he said his government would not ban the burka, and chastised Hanson for what he described as a “stunt” that offended Australia’s Muslim minority.

    “To ridicule that community, to drive it into a corner, to mock its religious garments is an appalling thing to do and I would ask you to reflect on what you have done,” Brandis said.

    Opposition Senate leader Penny Wong told Hanson: “It is one thing to wear religious dress as a sincere act of faith; it is another to wear it as a stunt here in the Senate.”

    Sam Dastyari, an opposition senator and an Iranian-born Muslim, said: “We have seen the stunt of all stunts in this chamber by Sen. Hanson.”

    “The close to 500,000 Muslim Australians do not deserve to be targeted, do not deserve to be marginalized, do not deserve to be ridiculed, do not deserve to have their faith made some political point by the desperate leader of a desperate political party,” Dastyari said.

    Senate President Stephen Parry said Hanson’s identity had been confirmed before she entered the chamber. He also said he would not dictate the standards of dress for the chamber.

    Parliament House briefly segregated women wearing burkas and niqabs in 2014. The department that runs Parliament House said that “persons with facial coverings” would no longer be allowed in the building’s open public galleries. Instead, they were to be directed to galleries usually reserved for noisy schoolchildren, where they could sit behind soundproof glass.

    The policy was branded a “burka ban” and was widely condemned as a segregation of Muslim women, as well as a potential breach of anti-discrimination laws.

    Officials relented, allowing people wearing face coverings in all public areas of Parliament House after the coverings were removed temporarily at the building’s front door so that staff can check the visitor’s identity.

    The reason behind the segregation was never explained, but it seems to have been triggered by a rumour on Sydney talk radio that men dressed in burkas were planning an anti-Muslim demonstration in Parliament House.

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    OTTAWA—Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he’ll do no further interviews with online news outlet The Rebel until it changes its editorial direction.

    Scheer is linking his decision to the Rebel’s coverage of last weekend’s deadly Charlottesville protests.

    The Rebel’s approach was seen by some as sympathetic to the white nationalists who organized the rally, which collapsed into violent clashes that killed one counter-protester and injured nearly 20 others.

    Scheer told reporters in British Columbia that he viewed those events with a great deal of disgust and thinks there’s a fine line between reporting the facts and giving those groups a platform or any kind of legitimacy.

    He says he wants to get his vision out in a way that brings people together and as long as The Rebel’s editorial direction remains as it is, he won’t grant them any interviews.

    Scheer and all conservative politicians have faced pressured in recent days to distance themselves from the conservative news outlet and some MPs had previously broken ties.

    Read more:

    U of T denies group with white nationalist views to hold rally on campus

    The Rebel exodus suggests just one ‘ism’ separates far right from alt-right hate: Paradkar

    Co-founder of The Rebel, Brian Lilley, leaves the conservative media website

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    A woman who is facing numerous terrorism-related charges refused for the third time to appear in a Toronto court Thursday.

    Rehab Dughmosh, 32, was set to appear by video from the Milton detention centre after refusing to leave the centre for two previous court appearances.

    At Thursday’s hearing, Justice Kimberly Crosbie ordered Dughmosh to appear by video at a hearing scheduled for Monday.

    Crosbie ordered Dughmosh brought to the hearing by force if she refuses to attend again.

    Dughmosh is accused of swinging a golf club and knife at Canadian Tire employees and customers on June 3. In her first court appearance she pledged her allegiance to Daesh, also known as ISIS.

    Related story: RCMP lays terror charges against woman accused of wielding a knife at Canadian Tire

    She has refused legal representation and has expressed her intention to plead guilty to the charges.

    With files from Fatima Syed

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    SUN CITY, ARIZ.—U.S.President Donald Trump’s most ardent champions are sticking by him, happy to absolve him of any wrong in the blame game over the deadly weekend violence at a rally of white supremacists.

    Some Republican members of Congress have criticized Trump’s back and forth response since a car slammed into a crowd of counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing a woman and injuring 19 other people. Trump’s insistence that “both sides” bear responsibility for the violence has sparked anger among many Americans.

    But many of the men and women who helped elect Trump seem unfazed by the outcry over his statements concerning the protest and counter protest over removing a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

    Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

    The enthusiasm of many of the president’s core supporters has been noted in the past. Trump himself boasted during the campaign last year he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

    Such unflagging support remains despite polls that show his approval rates dipping overall.

    “I would vote for him again in a heartbeat”

    In Sun City, Arizona, a retirement community and Trump stronghold north of Phoenix, 80-year-old John Libby said nothing the president has done since Election Day has changed his support for the man.

    “I would vote for him again in a heartbeat,” Libby said in the bright sunshine outside a grocery store in a strip mall of low-slung stucco buildings.

    The Des Moines, Iowa, native said he thought the president handled the aftermath of the Charlottesville attack well, but allowed that Trump’s response “wasn’t fast enough for some people.”

    Arriving at the supermarket in his golf cart, Dr. Charles Thomson, a 92-year-old psychiatrist formerly of San Diego, said he voted for Trump and now “I support him more than ever.”

    “He has done nothing to turn me away from him”

    Patricia Aleeyah Robinson, a retired truck driver from Toledo, Ohio, said her support of Trump has cost her friendships and strained family relationships.

    But like many of the president’s most passionate supporters, the 63-year-old black woman said her opinions about Trump have not changed since his response to the violence at the Charlottesville rally.

    “He has done nothing to turn me away from him,” said Robinson. She said he doesn’t defer to racists and feels he is the only president who has ever spoken directly to Black people.

    “He shouldn’t let the press get under his skin”

    Clemente Ruiz, a 49-year-old truck driver in Lubbock, Texas, said he’s been happy with the job Trump has done. “I’d vote for him again tomorrow,” he said.

    The son of a Mexican immigrant who became an American citizen, Ruiz said his only criticism of the president is that he is too “thin-skinned.”

    “He refuses to let anything go,” Ruiz said. “He shouldn’t let the press get under his skin the way they do.”

    But overall, said Ruiz, Trump has accomplished much for the economy. “Everything is looking good as far as that goes and as far as our military goes,” he added.

    Read more:

    Steve Bannon calls white supremacists ‘clowns,’ says rivals ‘wetting themselves’ in interview

    Pence says he supports Trump’s statements on Charlottesville violence: ‘I stand with the president’

    “He speaks his mind”

    Wyoming construction contractor Richard Mathern said he voted for Trump because of his business experience and wasn’t fazed he hadn’t spoken out more forcefully against the weekend violence.

    The 48-year-old is among more than 68 per cent of people in Wyoming who voted for Trump in the widest margin of victory in any state.

    “Trump, he speaks his mind, there’s no doubt about that. It does tend to tick people off,” Mathern said during a break at a home nearing completion in Cheyenne.

    “There’s a lot of hatred down there (in Charlottesville) . . . But tearing down historical statues is not the answer,” he said.

    The president is doing “pretty well”

    Branden Nong, a 35-year-old from a Des Moines, Iowa suburb who works in banking, voted for Trump because he identified with his entrepreneurial background.

    More than six months after watching Trump’s inaugural speech, Nong said he thought the president was doing “pretty well,” even if he would like him to be more careful on Twitter.

    But Nong feels Trump is delivering on the economy with clear markers like job growth. “I’m pretty happy with the results so far,” he said.

    He said the president was “measured” in his response to the violence in Charlottesville, but said it’s unfair to blame him for deepening racial divisions that already existed.

    “Let the president do his job”

    Joyce Ash took a moment to ponder Trump after buying a dress at a Charleston, West Virginia, shopping mall to wear to the funeral for her husband of 33 years, who died of pancreatic cancer.

    The 71-year-old summoned nothing but support for Trump, who led her to ditch her lifelong support of Democrats. She recalled sitting up election night to watch Trump win, and has not regretted her decision.

    “Let the president do his job instead of trying to take him out every time you turn around,” Ash implored.

    She didn’t follow the back-and-forth over Trump’s statements on Charlottesville but saw no reason to question him: “I believe that if they would just give this man a chance, the economy, everything will start going better.”

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    NEW YORK—Even before U.S. President Donald Trump began speaking at Trump Tower on Tuesday afternoon, America’s most prominent CEOs knew they had a problem. 

    In the days following the racially charged violence in Virginia, where white supremacists marched with swastikas and a young woman was run down by an alleged Nazi sympathizer, alarmed executives began reaching out to Stephen Schwarzman, the billionaire leader of the Blackstone Group LP and a key figure in Trump’s business brain trust. 

    What followed was a frantic 48 hours of high-level debate and cold calculation among some of the nation’s most prominent CEOs — from Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase & Co. to Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo Inc. — that ended abruptly Wednesday with a remarkable rebuke to the president.

    Read more:

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    The complete transcript of Donald Trump’s stunning Tuesday remarks on racist violence in Charlottesville

    Schwarzman, one of the administration’s business ambassadors, listened over the phone this week as one CEO after another expressed dismay over Trump’s response to the deadly events in Charlottesville — and then over his full-throated attack on a prominent Black executive, Kenneth Frazier of Merck & Co., who, unlike many CEOs, had refused to remain silent.

    A conference call on Wednesday morning cemented the decision: The CEOs would disband a White House forum that Trump, the first CEO president, assembled to showcase his supposed rapport with big business.

    This account of the struggle to contain the controversy is based on interviews with numerous people with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss the talks.

    As the violence unfolded in Charlottesville over the weekend, uneasiness among the executives began to build, especially after the president made a statement on Saturday saying “many sides” were to blame for the chaos. But by Monday Trump condemned white supremacists, calming the waters for a time.

    The quiet was short-lived. Speaking at a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan on Tuesday, the president told reporters that “both sides” were to blame for the violence in Virginia, going back on the statement he’d made just 24 hours earlier.

    The reversal stunned and angered the strategy forum executives. After a flurry of phone calls late Tuesday and into Wednesday, a loose consensus was reached that the forum should disband. A group call was arranged for Wednesday morning. 

    Several members who spoke to each other earlier went into the call saying that if the group wasn’t dissolved, they were going to drop out. Among those pushing for a bold statement were International Business Machines Corp. CEO Ginni Rometty, Dimon, Nooyi and General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra. Nobody from the administration participated.

    After the 11:30 a.m. call, Schwarzman was in touch with top White House aide Jared Kushner to inform him of the group’s decision: The controversy had become too much of a distraction. The president tweeted at 1:14 p.m. Wednesday afternoon that he was ending the forum and a parallel manufacturing council “rather than put pressure on the businesspeople” serving on them.

    Figuring out how to handle the ever-shifting rhetoric of an unpredictable president is a challenge like few others businesses have faced in recent years. 

    Early on, America’s largest companies were eager to work with a new president promising to ease regulatory constraints and cut and simplify taxes. Trump showed a fondness for loudly calling out companies on Twitter, but most absorbed the punches and promised to hire more people in the U.S. while touting plans to build more factories and other facilities.

    But the events in Charlottesville appear to have raised the political costs of working with the president. 

    “Within companies, there’s a high level of alert on the public outrage,” said Ben Wikler, the Washington director of, a progressive advocacy group. “The cost to corporate brands rises each day that they continue to align themselves with Trump.”

    Trump has shown a willingness to turn on Republicans over the controversy. On Thursday, he tweeted criticism of GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, whom he called “publicity seeking” for criticizing his remarks on the violence. And he attacked Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, offering support for his primary opponent in a coming election.

    Merck chief Frazier’s resignation from Trump’s manufacturing council on Monday marked the first crack in the councils after the bloody weekend in Charlottesville. 

    Trump was fast to fire back at Frazier, chiding him on Twitter over high drug prices. But investors shrugged — Merck’s shares briefly ran in front of a modestly rising market before sliding back to the pack — and for most of Monday, the other executives on the business panels kept quiet. It wasn’t until late that evening that Intel Corp. CEO Brian Krzanich and Under Armour Inc. chief Kevin Plank emerged to say that they too were stepping back.

    Trump had another Twitter outburst over Frazier’s decision Tuesday morning, before the new conference, calling executives who quit “grandstanders,” while claiming others were eager to sign on.

    While the strategy group was weighing its future in private, one executive after another began to pull out of Trump’s manufacturing council, condemning the president’s statement on white supremacists.

    Following Trump’s comments Tuesday, General Electric Co.’s leadership decided the company wouldn’t be associated with the council any longer, despite chairman Jeffrey Immelt saying a day earlier that he would remain. 

    Immelt and John Flannery, who took over as CEO Aug. 1, received “valuable input” from leaders inside and outside the company, including representatives of GE’s affinity groups, according to a note Flannery sent Wednesday to employees. The executives also spoke with other companies “to discuss the possibility of disbanding the committees,” Flannery said.

    3M Co. chief executive Inge Thulin, who announced his decision to quit shortly before the councils were disbanded, was pressed by Skiftet, a Swedish progressive grassroots organization, to exit Trump’s manufacturing council after the president “failed to properly condemn right-wing extremists and Nazis,” according to the group.

    PepsiCo and Nooyi were pushed to leave the council by a German group, Campact, which posted a video calling for her to step down on Facebook. PepsiCo declined to comment on others resigning from the councils, the president’s press conference Tuesday or a Twitter movement created to pressure Nooyi to step down.

    Johnson & Johnson’s Alex Gorsky had been among the last to weigh in publicly, saying before Trump’s Tuesday news conference that he planned to remain on the manufacturing council “as a way to present the values of our credo as crucial public policy is discussed and developed.”

    But by early Wednesday, Gorsky called Trump’s comments equating white supremacists with the people protesting against them “unacceptable,” and resigned from the manufacturing committee. The group had already been disbanded by the time Gorsky’s statement went out, though J&J said that his decision to quit preceded that move.

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    It is “deeply troubling” that a Toronto District School Board policy designed to prevent children who can’t swim from going on canoe trips was ignored, resulting in a drowning, Education Minister Mitzie Hunter says.

    Hunter announced Thursday that the province will immediately review outdoor education and excursion rules at every school board in Ontario in the wake of 15-year-old Jeremiah Perry’s death in Algonquin Park last month.

    Related story:

    Teen who drowned on school trip didn’t pass swim test

    “It should not have happened,” Hunter told reporters on the way into a cabinet meeting at Queen’s Park.

    A key focus of the review will be on making sure policies like the TDSB’s are obeyed by teachers, principals and other education officials.

    “It’s very troubling to me that the procedures were not followed in this instance,” said Hunter, who did not set a timeline for the review with just over two weeks until the new school year begins and field trips resume.

    “I know how important it is that outdoor education and these types of activities are available to students in Ontario and I want to ensure that the safety of students is a top priority and an incident like this never happens again.”

    She could not explain specifically how the government would ensure that school boards comply with policies that are already in place.

    “I want to review the ratio of adults to students when there are outdoor excursions. I want to ensure appropriate resources are in place…and that there are mechanisms for compliance,” Hunter said, hinting at new “checks and balances.”

    “My expectation is that school boards ensure that the priority is the safety of every student.”

    TDSB officials apologized Wednesday for the swim-test lapse that meant about half the students on the canoe trip were not qualified to go.

    The board said future canoe trips will be approved only after the principal of a school sees documents proving all students have passed the required swimming tests.

    Ontario Provincial Police and the coroner are investigating the drowning on July 4, when Perry slipped under the water. His body was found the next day after an extensive search.

    Hunter said the province will also increase funding to learn-to-swim programs “with a particular emphasis on newcomers and ensuring that we have the supports in place for these critical skills.”

    No details on the funding increase were immediately available.

    Hunter, who spoke to Perry’s parents and siblings about his death, said she hopes the tragedy will galvanize the attention of teachers and others in the education system.

    “This type of incident really affects the school community and I believe that it will cause boards to look at their policies, to look at their procedures.”

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    Premier Kathleen Wynne’s balanced budget plan is based on rosy projections, says Ontario’s independent Financial Accountability Office, echoing concerns raised previously.

    “Given the government’s spending plans, maintaining a balanced budget relies critically on an optimistic revenue forecast and, in particular, on very strong growth in tax revenues,” the office said in a report Thursday.

    “There appears to be significant downside risk to the government’s forecast.”

    The report from the FAO warns that maintaining balanced budgets after this fiscal year will require “additional fiscal policy measures” such as new sources of revenue or lower spending.

    Wynne’s Liberal government, which has embarked on a multi-billion dollar plan to build new transit and is bringing in pharmacare for Ontarians under 25, has promised to balance the budget before next June’s election.

    Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s office said the government is confident a strong pace of economic growth, which has seen Ontario outpace growth in other G7 countries for three years, will keep fuelling provincial coffers.

    “Our government has a strong track record of beating our fiscal targets,” spokeswoman Jessica Martin said. “We do so by taking a prudent approach to fiscal planning.”

    The Financial Accountability Office warned that the government is forecasting tax revenue growth in the next four years to average 5.5 per cent annually, higher than the average 4.4 per cent annually in the previous four years.

    “If the government maintains the spending plans laid out in the 2017 budget, a large shortfall in future tax revenues…could lead to renewed deficits,” said the nine-page report.

    About 70 per cent of the government’s tax revenue comes from the personal income tax, corporate taxes and the HST, which are all tied closely to the general health of the economy.

    “The 2017 budget forecasts significantly stronger growth in these three tax revenue drivers than the FAO or the average of other economic forecasters,” the report added.

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    A government official in Barcelona says one person has been confirmed dead and 32 others injured in the van attack in the city’s historic Las Ramblas district.

    Catalonia’s regional interior chief Joaquim Forn said during a news conference on Thursday: “Unfortunately the number of fatalities will likely rise.”

    Media in Barcelona are reporting that up to 13 died in the attack.

    Barcelona police said on Twitter that 10 of the 32 people injured were seriously hurt.

    Police cordoned off the broad street that is so popular with tourists, ordering stores and nearby Metro and train stations to close. They asked people to stay away from the area so as not to get in the way of emergency services. A helicopter hovered over the scene.

    Quoting unnamed police sources, the El Pais newspapers said the two perpetrators of the crash were holed up in a bar in Tallers Street. Armed police ran down the streets and through a market, checking in stores and cafes, presumably in search of them.

    In photographs and videos, at least five people could be seen lying on the ground in the streets of the northern Spanish city Thursday afternoon, being helped by police and others. Other video recorded people screaming as they fled the van.

    Las Ramblas, a street of stalls and shops that cuts through the centre of Barcelona, is one of the city’s top tourist destinations. People walk down a wide, pedestrian path in the centre of the street but cars can travel on either side.

    Keith Fleming, an American who lives in Barcelona, was watching TV in his building just off Las Ramblas when he heard a noise and went out to his balcony.

    “I saw women and children just running and they looked terrified,” he said.

    He said there was a bang — possibly from someone rolling down a store shutter — and more people ran by. Then police arrived and pushed everyone a full block away. Even people leaning out of doors were being told to go back inside, he said.

    Fleming said regular police had their guns drawn and riot police were at the end of his block, which was now deserted.

    “It’s just kind of a tense situation,” Fleming said. “Clearly people were scared.”

    Carol Augustin, a manager at La Palau Moja, an 18th-century place on Las Ramblas that houses government offices and a tourism information centre, said the van passed right in front of the building.

    “We saw everything. People started screaming and running into the office. It was such a chaotic situation. There were families with children. The police made us close the doors and wait inside,” she said.

    Cars, trucks and vans have been the weapon of choice in multiple extremist attacks in Europe in the last year.

    The most deadly was the driver of a tractor-trailer who targeted Bastille Day revelers in the southern French city of Nice in July 2016, killing 86 people. In December 2016, 12 people died after a driver used a hijacked trick to drive into a Christmas market in Berlin.

    There have been multiple attacks this year in London, where a man in a rented SUV plowed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing four people before he ran onto the grounds of Parliament and stabbed an unarmed police officer to death in March.

    Four other men drove onto the sidewalk of London Bridge, unleashing a rampage with knives that killed eight people in June. Another man also drove into pedestrians leaving a London mosque later in June.

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    Kathy Milsom, a professional engineer who has served in a variety of executive roles in the private and public sector, is the new president and chief executive officer of beleaguered Toronto Community Housing.

    “I appreciate the confidence the board of directors is placing in me to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people who call Toronto Community Housing their home,” Milsom said in a statement released Thursday by the social housing agency.

    “I look forward to engaging tenants and key stakeholders, and working with the skilled and committed team at TCHC to transform Toronto Community Housing into a service-oriented and responsive landlord for its tenants, and an organization the entire city can be proud of.”

    Hired after an extensive global search, Milsom will step into her new role on Sept. 5 replacing interim president and CEO Kevin Marshman, TCHC Chair Bud Purves said in the statement. Purves himself is leaving the board after its Sept. 28 meeting.

    Marshman took over from Greg Spearn, who left the agency in April after repeatedly describing the state of social housing as a n ongoing crisis.

    “The board has found the best candidate in Kathy Milsom,” Purves said.

    “The time is right to make way for new leadership who can sustain the momentum for the transformational changes that will make Toronto Community Housing a better landlord that delivers better outcomes for tenants.”

    TCHC is Canada’s largest social housing landlord, managing 58,500 units across 2,200 buildings for nearly 110,000 Toronto residents.

    The corporation has been plagued with difficulties and scandals.

    Last year, a major report called “Tenants First” concluded the corporation was in turmoil, saddled with a “fundamentally broken” business model and organizational structure that failed to meet the various needs of tenants.

    City council is trying to do something about that, approving a plan to implement a housing task force’s recommendations aimed at making TCHC more manageable and focused on tenants.

    TCHC’s biggest challenge is a lack of money. The agency faces a $2.6-billion repair backlog and half of its developments will be in a critical state of disrepair in the next five years. As many as 1,000 units are at risk of closure by the end of next year.

    Mayor John Tory has spent much of 2017 trying to secure repair funding commitments from the province and federal government.

    His demands have so far been ignored.

    In a statement Thursday, Tory said Milsom is a “great fit” to lead TCHC during “this period of organizational change and renewed focus on tenants.”

    Milsom’s previous roles include president and CEO of both the Technical Standards and Safety Authority and Canada Lands Co. Ltd. A 2005 newspaper story said Milsom’s government experience included time as the City of Toronto’s director of facility planning, acting commissioner of city property and project manager for the province’s government services ministry.

    She will continue to sit on the board of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority and Standards Council of Canada, of which she was a former chair.

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