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

World Health Organization declares global emergency over new coronavirus

A week after the agency stopped short of making the same declaration about the virus that has now killed more than 170 people, director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared today that new measures needed to be taken to help poorer countries prepare for its arrival.

“Our greatest concern is for the virus to spread to other countries with weaker health systems that are ill-prepared to deal with it,” Dr. Tedros said.

Ahead of that announcement today, Canadian officials began evacuating “vulnerable” family members of diplomats in mainland China, where the new coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, originated. People aged 65 or older, those under 5 and others with medical conditions are part of the evacuation, sources told The Globe and Mail’s Nathan VanderKlippe.

Meanwhile, a passenger on a massive cruise ship at a port near Rome caused a brief scare when she displayed flu-like symptoms. The ship’s 6,000 passengers and 1,000 crew were locked down on board while the passenger and her husband (who was symptom-free) underwent virus tests. Both tested negative for 2019-nCoV.

Ever-heightening fears about the virus are putting extra pressure on scientists who are part of a coalition that hopes to develop a vaccine to fight the illness. As The Globe’s Kelly Grant reports, shepherding new vaccines and medications through clinical trials usually takes years. The process is especially tricky when the target is a viral outbreak that could dissipate before researchers gather enough evidence to prove a shot or drug works.

Nevertheless, scientists are racing to have a vaccine for the new coronavirus ready for Phase 1 trials in as little as 16 weeks.

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CIBC plans layoffs amid cost-cutting drive, CEO Dodig says in internal memo

We don’t know how many yet, but layoffs are coming to CIBC. The bank has spent the past few years improving its efficiency ratio, a measure of expenses relative to revenues, but missed a target ratio of 55 per cent by the start of 2020.

“As a result, some team members will be leaving our bank in the coming months,” Victor Dodig, the bank’s CEO, wrote in an internal memo. “We are not taking these decisions lightly as they involve colleagues who have made valuable contributions to our bank.”

  • Related: CIBC faces losing millions in alleged fraud by trucking firm

Ontario posts record year for job creation, but Toronto dominates hiring

The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario reported a generally strong labour market today, but said uneven hiring in different regions is a concern that must be addressed.

As The Globe’s Matt Lundy reports, five out of 15 census metropolitan areas in Ontario saw their employment decline, including the Peterborough, Thunder Bay and St. Catharines-Niagara areas. Conversely, Toronto accounts for about 66 per cent of jobs created in the province’s CMAs over the past 10 years.

“The concentration of job creation within the major CMAs highlights the challenge of economic diversification among Ontario’s regions,” the FAO said.


Frontier oil sands mine may not get built – even with federal approval, says Teck CEO

CEO Don Lindsay told an investor conference in Banff, Alta., that Teck may not move ahead on the $20.6-billion Frontier oils sands mine project even if it receives pending government approval, because of weak energy prices, daunting development costs and lack of pipeline capacity needed to get its crude oil to refineries.

GM reviving Hummer brand with 1,000-horsepower electric truck

Once a symbol of extreme fossil-fuel consumption, Hummer will turn over a new leaf when the Hummer EV hits the marketplace in September, 2021, with a huge battery. Details remain scarce, but observers expect the oversized vehicle will pollute less than its gas-powered equivalent, especially as electricity sources switch to renewable energy.

With Brexit done, new phase of negotiations between Britain and EU set to begin

Britain’s departure from the European Union will be official at 12:01 a.m. in Brussels Friday, but negotiations over the next phase of their relationship in trade, security, transportation, data and many other areas could last for the rest of 2020. Failed talks at this stage would impose duties and controls based on World Trade Organization terms – a worst-case scenario for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Toronto-area new home sales double, condo sales rise 27 per cent in 2019

Prices for new homes have cooled since the height of the housing boom in 2017, fuelling a surge last year that still fell below the 10-year average. Meanwhile, condo sales remained strong as a wave of development projects attract buyers in Toronto, York and elsewhere in the Greater Toronto Area.


Concerned investors eyed updates on the coronavirus emergency centred in China today, causing declines in global equity markets and oil prices. Oil prices fell 2 per cent, to the lowest in three months. The S&P/TSX composite index finished the day down 21.19 points to 17,490.56. The Dow Jones Industrial Average actually rose 124.08 points to 28,858.25.

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To win a UN Security Council seat, Canada needs to compete hard

Colin Robertson: “With five months left, it’s an open race, although some think Canada will lose. We started later than Norway and Ireland. Both have good campaigns. ... To win, Mr. Trudeau needs to campaign hard. Where he cannot go, he should send our former prime ministers and governors-general, former ambassadors and internationalists. We should set a date by which we will meet the 0.7-per-cent GDP development targets and make the proposed Canadian Centre for Peace, Order and Good Government a funding vehicle for our effective but impoverished development NGOs.” Colin Robertson is a former Canadian diplomat and current vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

On ignoring misguided career advice and becoming a leader who gets results – while showing humanity

Leagh Turner: “Leading people with their minds is easy. It’s fact-based. At the same time, you need to understand their lives, care about their families and careers, care about making them promotable. Eventually, a dear friend ... said to me, ‘Leagh, it’s very important to start leading people with both their hearts and minds.’ That was a wake-up call.” Leagh Turner is the president of Ceridian, a human resources software and services company.


Wheeler’s Eight Tracks

In a new monthly feature from arts reporter Brad Wheeler, we shine a spotlight on a playlist of new songs by Canadian artists. Listen along while you read up on January releases by the legendary Gordon Lightfoot, punk-klezmer veteran Geoff Berner, singer-turned-star-of-the-stage Jully Black and many more.

Ask a design expert

Turning an underused dining room into a social hub of the home can be an achievable goal, writes Beth Hitchcock. She has five pieces of advice, but we’ll give you one for nothing: Choose a showstopping chandelier as a focal point and conversation piece.


‘They sold us out’: Palestinians feel betrayed by Arab world following U.S.-Israel Middle East peace plan

Whether or not Donald Trump’s solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict gains traction, politics in the region are shifting – and not in favour of the Palestinians. Where once Arab nations in the Middle East could be counted on for their support for a Palestinian state, this week provided a frustrating reminder that things have changed. As long as the likes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates remain overwhelmingly concerned about the regional influence of Iran, it’s apparent that they will participate, even if only tacitly, in U.S.-Israeli efforts to shape an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan in an image first proposed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party. Senior International Correspondent Mark MacKinnon reports from the Shatila Refugee Camp in Lebanon.

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