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

New blockades spring up, halting train service near Toronto

An anti-pipeline protest has halted train service at a crucial section of tracks near Toronto, one of several demonstrations that sprang up across the country after police arrested protesters and dismantled a blockade in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, near Belleville, Ont.

A group known as “Wet’suwet’en Strong: Hamilton Solidarity,”​ set up an encampment last night at the Bayview Junction, a vital link in the Chicago-to-Toronto rail corridor that shares service with freight trains, Amtrak, Via Rail, and GO Transit.

This afternoon, GO service on the busy Lakeshore East line out of downtown Toronto was suspended for a while due to a “safety incident." A short time later, a similar delay was reported on a western commuter rail route out of the city. There is no confirmation at this time that the incidents were related to rail blockades.

That Tyendinaga protest was in support of some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the passage of the $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline through their traditional territory in northern B.C.

Opinion: “Justin Trudeau came to power promising reconciliation, resource development and carbon pricing. On present form, he may leave having achieved none of the three.” - Andrew Coyne

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Countries not ready for global coronavirus outbreak, Canadian WHO expert says

Bruce Aylward, a renowned Canadian epidemiologist who led a team of experts to China to study the novel coronavirus on behalf of the World Health Organization, says other countries are not ready for a global outbreak.

He says they should be looking to China for expertise in how to manage and treat the disease now known as COVID-19, noting it has taken an aggressive approach to testing, containing and treating people who contract the coronavirus.

Other developments:

  • In Italy, the number of people infected jumped by 100 overnight to 322, and deaths grew to 11, officials said. The country is on the verge of its fourth recession in a dozen years, European bureau chief Eric Reguly writes, and could drag down the rest of the European Union with it.
  • The International Olympic Committee’s Dick Pound says that if it proves too dangerous to hold the Olympics in Tokyo this summer because of the coronavirus outbreak, organizers are more likely to cancel it altogether than to postpone or move it.
  • Canada is stepping up efforts to catch coronavirus cases from places other than China as the fast-moving outbreaks in Italy, South Korea and the Middle East heighten fears the new virus is already past the point of being contained.

GFL pushes ahead with plans to launch one of Canada’s largest IPOs

Waste management company GFL Environmental Inc. says it is proceeding with one of Canada’s largest initial public offerings, nearly four months after it halted its previous attempt to go public.

GFL aims to raise as much as US$2.55-billion, though the offering is expected to be priced next month, with the proceeds to be used primarily to pay down debt.

GFL launched an IPO last autumn, but pulled the deal in November after investors questioned its heavy debt load.

Read more: How Patrick Dovigi built Green For Life into a waste empire

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Scotiabank, BMO beat estimates: Bank of Nova Scotia and Bank of Montreal reported first-quarter results, both beating analysts’ expectations on profit. BMO also announced some executive moves.

Assange reached out to White House, court hears: Julian Assange tried to contact Hillary Clinton and the White House when he realized that unredacted U.S. diplomatic cables given to WikiLeaks were about to be dumped on the internet, his lawyer told his London extradition hearing.

Police raid Nygard company headquarters: Federal agents and detectives raided the Manhattan headquarters of the fashion company run by Peter Nygard this morning, seeking evidence in a sex-trafficking investigation, sources told The New York Times. He has been under investigation by a joint child-exploitation task force, which has met with at least four women who have accused Nygard in a recent lawsuit of sexual assault when they were 14 and 15.

Hot Pockets heiress sentenced in college admissions scandal: Michelle Janavs, an heiress to the Hot Pockets microwaveable snack fortune, was sentenced to five months in prison for trying to cheat and bribe her daughters’ way into school as part of a college admissions scam.

Scotland approves free female sanitary products: The Scottish parliament has approved plans to make sanitary products freely available to all women, the first country in the world to do so.

MARKET WATCH

Stocks tumbled today on growing concern about the effects of the spread of the novel coronavirus on the global economy. The market sell-off accelerated after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Americans should begin to prepare for community spread of the virus.

On wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 879.44 points, or 3.15 per cent, to 27,081.36, the S&P 500 lost 97.68 points, or 3.03 per cent, to end at 3,128.21 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 255.67 points, or 2.77 per cent, to 8,965.61. In Toronto, S&P/TSX composite index closed down 385.37 points, or 2.19 per cent, at 17,177.37.

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TALKING POINTS

Bernie’s Sandernistas take hold of the Democrats’ soul

“What appears to be separating Bernie Sanders from the other candidates in the Democratic primary among voters is that he’s the one, like Donald Trump in 2016, with the biggest and boldest ideas. No grey zones. No Hillary Clinton-style middle-of-the-road pablum.” Lawrence Martin

Tim Hortons’s changes to Roll Up The Rim appear to be the coffee chain’s latest misstep

“Tim Hortons has had a series of disastrous marketing decisions. Its latest Roll Up The Rim move can be added to the list. The campaign is confusing and will likely end up becoming a new source of frustration for customers.” Sylvain Charlebois, professor, Dalhousie University

LIVING BETTER

Air Canada says it will allow travellers to rebook flights to parts of Italy at no charge following the jump in coronavirus cases. Its “goodwill policy” covers travel planned to Milan, Turin, Florence, Venice and Verona for Feb. 24 to March 2, which can be rebooked up to March 31.

The airline has also announced it is extending its cancellation of all flights between Canada and China to April 10 because of the outbreak, following the lead of its U.S. counterparts.

LONG READ FOR A LONG COMMUTE

Marsquakes, magnetism and the Canadians involved in the setting the stage for the next Mars mission

This artist's rendition depicts NASA's Mars 2020 rover studying rocks with its robotic arm. (Image from NASA/JPL-Caltech)NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars is bubbling with seismic activity in the form of tiny “marsquakes” that rattle the planet daily, scientists report, reinforcing the picture of a dynamic world with a complex geological history.

Together with related developments, the news highlights the involvement of Canadian scientists in two Mars missions – one currently revealing the planet’s enigmatic interior and another that will try to retrieve samples of Martian rocks in hopes of determining whether it once harboured life.

The seismic data comes from NASA’s InSight spacecraft, which landed on Mars in November, 2018. It also carries a magnetometer, which has led to a surprising result comes from a study led by University of British Columbia planetary scientist Catherine Johnson: "It points to something that’s been suggested, but has been hard to confirm … that probably much of the Martian crust is actually magnetized.”

And NASA recently announced that it has selected 10 more researchers to participate in its Mars 2020 Rover mission, slated for launch in July. Canadian Christopher Herd, a meteorite expert and professor at the University of Alberta, is among those who will help to identify which rocks the rover will sample when it lands next year in Jezero crater. Read Ivan Semeniuk’s full story here.

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