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Good evening, let’s start with today’s top stories:

Britain approves Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, to roll out immunization program

Britain will begin a nationwide vaccination program as early as next week after the country’s medical regulator announced today that it had approved a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer with Germany’s BioNtech.

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The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it had used a “rolling review” system to complete its study of the vaccine in just a few months. The MHRA found no serious side effects, and confirmed that the vaccine was 95-per-cent effective in all age groups.

Britain has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine and the first 800,000 vials will arrive from a manufacturing site in Belgium within days. It’s expected to be given to healthcare workers first, followed by residents of care home.

Following the announcement, Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu took to Twitter to say health authorities here should soon complete their regulatory review of Pfizer vaccine. Health Canada is also reviewing vaccine candidates from AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin ordered authorities to begin mass voluntary vaccinations against COVID-19 next week. The country said last month that its Sputnik V jab was 92-per-cent effective, according to interim results.

Read more: When will a COVID-19 vaccine be available in Canada? How well do they work? Here’s what you need to know.

The restaurant industry is hurting during the pandemic. That’s not stopping these entrepreneurs

After two decades in kitchens, Miheer Shete was suddenly detached from his career. The chef de cuisine at Jump Restaurant in Toronto was temporarily laid off in March, much like thousands of restaurant workers as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

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After batting around the idea for years, he started Curryish, which every week releases a new menu – contemporary Indian cuisine, using seasonal ingredients – that’s delivered on weekends. “My plan for Curryish is to get a storefront,” he said, eyeing a potential spring 2021 opening. “I know it sounds really crazy at this moment.”

Shete is hardly alone. Despite tough odds, and what might be the industry’s darkest time, a growing number of people are opening restaurants and other food-related ventures.

In other headlines:

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Ottawa says it will miss target to provide clean drinking water in First Nations

The Liberal government will not meet its targeted timeline of March, 2021, to end all long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller confirmed today. He said there will be roughly a dozen communities, for varying reasons, that will not be in a position to lift their long-term drinking water advisories by then.

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“This is a recommitment to them and a commitment to all the communities that have lifted the water advisories that we will be with them for the long term,” he said. Miller said the target of March is not a deadline where the government will merely walk away.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

RBC, National Bank report earnings: Royal Bank of Canada and National Bank of Canada both released four-quarter results that today beat analysts’ expectations. But like BMO and Scotiabank, which reported yesterday, a decline in provisions for credit losses – the money banks set aside to cover loans at risk of defaulting – was the driving force.

Van attack trial continues: Psychiatrist Alexander Westphal, testifying for the defence at the trial of the man who killed 10 pedestrians in Toronto’s van attack, says the accused would consider carrying it out again to better his “kill count.”

Enbridge begins building: Enbridge has started construction on its Line 3 crude oil pipeline replacement in Minnesota after state regulators approved the final permit for the US$2.6-billion project amid legal challenges from local activist and Indigenous groups.

Canadian wrestler Pat Patterson dies: Pro wrestling trailblazer and WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson has died at the age of 79. Born in Montreal, he was the inventor of the Royal Rumble, a signature event on the WWE schedule that was first held in Hamilton in 1988.

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MARKET WATCH

The S&P 500 climbed to a record high close today and the Nasdaq Composite Index dipped as investors weighed upbeat vaccine developments and a potential coronavirus fiscal package against a bleak private jobs report. Canada’s main stock index ended higher, buoyed by energy and cannabis stocks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 59.87 points or 0.2 per cent to 29,883.79 points, the S&P 500 gained 6.56 points or 0.18 per cent to end at 3,669.01 and the Nasdaq Composite slid 5.74 points or 0.05 per cent to 12,349.37.

Canada’s S&P/TSX Composite Index added 61.28 points or 0.35 per cent to close at 17,358.21.

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TALKING POINT

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The CPP premium hike for 2021 looks bad, but it will do a lot of good

“Call it bad timing to increase premiums for the CPP in a pandemic, but not bad policy. Those people hurt financially by COVID-19 will need the CPP more than ever when they retire.” - Rob Carrick

LIVING BETTER

It’s been a difficult year for children, but books have remained the constant – an escape, a place where imaginations can run free. Our holiday gift guide has 37 books for the young readers in your life, from graphic novels to sports to non-fiction.

TODAY’S LONG READ

The bravery and vulnerability of Canadian actor Elliot Page’s coming out

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I’ve interviewed Page many times over the years – I’ve interviewed a lot of actors over the years – and I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who is as forceful yet fragile, as open yet wary, as they. Some actors radiate sensitivity, and Page is one of them. It’s not preciousness; it’s a heightened delicacy, like a cricket’s antennae, almost as if they can calibrate the pressure of the air against their skin.

Actors catch flak for their privileged lives, and certainly, they can afford more external protection than most of us. But let’s remember what we’re asking them to do: We want – we expect – them to show us to ourselves. To create pain and joy so well that it feels real. To take us on a tour of their psyches, so that through them we can visit places we may not want to go to in our own. This is what the good ones do, and Page is one of the good ones. Even though I’ve witnessed it up close, I can’t get over the strength – the strength of vulnerability – that requires. Read Johanna Schneller’s full story here.

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