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Toronto Mayor John Tory says he will approach American businesses with large operations in his city as well as mayors across the United States to help make Canada’s case against President Donald Trump’s tariffs and his threat of a wider, escalating trade war.

In a speech to the annual luncheon of the Toronto Region Board of Trade on Tuesday, Mr. Tory said he stood with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario’s premier-designate Doug Ford in opposition to the President’s actions – adding that even if the companies directly affected by the new tariffs aren’t located in his city, their suppliers, bankers, accountants and lawyers may be.

“When our largest trading partner is suddenly threatening to impose tariffs across the board, not only is that a threat to the economic vitality of our nation and our province, it is a threat to the economic vitality of this city,” Mr. Tory told an audience of politicians and business leaders.

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“I want to state very clearly ... that I stand with our Prime Minister and our incoming Premier, Mr. Ford, when it comes to ... all of the rhetoric and sabre rattling from President Trump,” he said, adding that Mr. Trump’s rhetoric was threatening one of the most successful free-trade agreements ever made. He said he would ask U.S. business leaders and mayors to deliver the message to Mr. Trump that “a difference of opinion on trade and tariff policy is not a reason to insult your biggest customer and best friend.”

Mr. Tory’s comments came after he shared a stage on Monday at a Toronto event with U.S. actor Robert De Niro, who apologized for Mr. Trump’s “idiotic" behaviour, which the film star called “a disgrace,” after having expressed his anger on the televised Tony Awards on Sunday night in more colourful language.

Mr. Tory, who is standing for re-election this October but so far faces no high-profile opponent, also used the speech to highlight his new goal for affordable housing construction: 40,000 units over the next 12 years.

Until just this year, the city had failed to reach its previous affordable housing target of just 1,000 new units a year. To achieve his more ambitious goal, he said he would establish a standing committee on affordable housing at city hall. Mr. Tory said the city must make better use of vacant city-owned land and form new partnerships with the building industry and the non-profit sector to get more units built.

Mr. Tory also trumpeted the city’s success in securing funding for new public transit projects from Ottawa and Queen’s Park and warned against getting “bogged down” in “endless debates” on transit projects – an allusion to opposition from some on council to Mr. Tory’s $3.35-billion one-stop Scarborough subway extension.

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