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

Doug Ford said Friday his office didn’t tell him that former Ontario finance minister Rod Phillips would be leaving the country, even as newly released e-mails show the Premier’s top staffers were aware that Phillips would be away for five weeks during the pandemic.

After a Globe and Mail report, Ford said he only found out that Mr. Phillips had travelled to St. Barts once the former cabinet minister had already left Canada. But e-mails, released by the Ontario Liberals, show that Mr. Ford’s senior staff members, including his chief of staff James Wallace, were informed that Mr. Phillips would be away

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The Premier suggested on Friday his office didn’t keep track of the whereabouts of the 71 members of the Progressive Conservative caucus, even as his government was pleading with Ontarians to stay home and not gather for the holidays.

Mr. Phillips returned to Canada and resigned from cabinet on Jan. 1. He remains a Progressive Conservative MPP for the Toronto-area riding of Ajax.

Arbour’s review of military’s handling of sexual misconduct a response to system-wide failures: PM

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Louise Arbour’s independent review of the military’s handling of sexual misconduct is an attempt to fix a “failure of the entire system.”

The Liberal government said Thursday that the former Supreme Court justice will provide recommendations on an external reporting system for victims. She was appointed nearly three months after the government and Armed Forces were rocked by allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour by the military’s very top commanders.

Opposition leaders say the government largely failed to act on a 2015 report by former justice Marie Deschamps that also called for an independent reporting process and a reformed military culture. The Prime Minister admitted that measures brought in by his government have been “inadequate.”

One dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine still leaves patients vulnerable to variants: U.K. study

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British researchers say one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine does not provide sufficient protection against new variants of the COVID-19 virus.

The findings are particularly relevant to countries such as Britain, where most people have had only one dose of a vaccine so far.

In a study released Friday, 731 British health care workers were tracked for several months last year. About half of those in the study group had contracted COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic in March, 2020, while the remainder had not been infected.

The study found that those who’d previously had a mild or even asymptomatic infection, had a far higher immune response after one dose of the Pfizer vaccine than those who hadn’t been ill. The immune response was so strong, the study said, that it also offered good protection against variants first detected in Britain and South Africa.

This is the daily Evening Update newsletter. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was sent to you as a forward, you can sign up for Evening Update and more than 20 more Globe newsletters here. If you like what you see, please share it with your friends.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

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Canada’s economy remains resilient: Statistics Canada said real gross domestic product rose 0.4 per cent in February, and a preliminary estimate points to a 0.9-per-cent gain in March, which would be the 11th consecutive month of GDP gains after calamitous falls in March and April of 2020. If that estimate holds, the economy grew at an annualized pace of about 6.5 per cent in the first quarter, bringing GDP to within 1.3 per cent of its prepandemic level.

Tilray shareholders vote in favour of Aphria merger, creating the world’s largest cannabis company: The transaction will pave the way for the creation of the world’s largest cannabis company by revenue operating under Tilray’s name. The combined entity will trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange, and be led by Aphria’s chief executive Irwin Simon. Tilray’s CEO Brendan Kennedy will remain on the board of the new company.

Two Montrealers among those killed after stampede during religious festival in Israel: A stampede at a religious festival attended by tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in northern Israel killed at least 45 people and injured about 150 early Friday, medical officials said. It was one of the country’s deadliest civilian disasters. Among the dead were two Montreal residents.

Pope removes obstacles that spared bishops and cardinals from Vatican prosecution: Francis has sent another message to Vatican-based cardinals and bishops about his intent to hold them accountable for criminal misconduct. A new law published Friday makes clear that Vatican city-state prosecutors have jurisdiction over Holy See cardinals and bishops and need only the Pope’s consent to proceed with investigations against them.

MARKET WATCH

Blockbuster corporate earnings and economic data couldn’t prevent global stock markets from tumbling to end the trading week on renewed COVID-19 concerns and a possible signal that U.S. interest rates could be rising sooner than expected.

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The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 147.59 points to 19,108.33.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 185.51 points at 33,874.85. The S&P 500 index was down 30.30 points at 4,181.17, while the Nasdaq composite was down 119.87 points at 13,962.68.

The Canadian dollar traded for 81.40 cents US compared with 81.35 cents US on Thursday.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop.

TALKING POINTS

Is Quebec’s daycare program really the model to be followed by the rest of Canada?

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“The tendency to disproportionately benefit the well-to-do is not accidental. The institutional care providers the subsidy supports tend to operate on weekdays, from 9 to 5. Parents whose schedules don’t align with those of the providers – those working the night shift, or weekends, or piecemeal – are out of luck. As it happens, these jobs tend to pay the lowest wages.” - Andrew Coyne

Regime change in China is not only possible, it is imperative

But even if regime change is possible, what right have we to dictate to China how it should be governed? Such a reaction is based on a misunderstanding. Our goal should not be to dictate to China how it is governed, but to embolden and enable those Chinese who want change to achieve it. - Roger Garside

Power-loving Legault exposes his true colours on electoral reform

“After swearing he would ‘not do like Justin Trudeau did’ by finding an excuse to ditch electoral reform, Mr. Legault appears to have done just that. The once-maverick CAQ is starting to act to like an establishment party that cares more about holding on to power than anything else.” - Konrad Yakabuski

LIVING BETTER

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Anna Jones’s new cookbook One: Pot, Pan, Planet offers a greener way to shop, eat and cook

In 2018, Anna Jones set out to write her fourth cookbook, and the plan was to fill the pages with delicious vegan and vegetarian meals that could be sourced locally and made with little fuss.

But, as she tells Gayle MacDonald, “The past 12 months has changed us all as cooks.”

In her new book, she stresses the importance of shopping, eating and cooking in a more planet-friendly way.

Featured dishes include Persian noodle soup, Korean carrot and sesame pancake and a baked dahl with tamarind-glazed sweet potato. It details the small changes we can all make in planning menus and shopping, as well as ideas for using vegetables that most often get thrown away.

TODAY’S LONG READ

In Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a COVID-19 hot spot achieves herd immunity

Gerry Humphrey, second left, greets registered nurse Alicia Schuurmans with an elbow bump before receiving his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up vaccination site at the Portland Hotel Society needle depot in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Thursday, April 29, 2021.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

A mass vaccination strategy has transformed the rough and tumble Downtown Eastside neighbourhood from one of the worst COVID-19 hot spots in the province to one that has achieved herd immunity. Weekly cases have plummeted from close to 60 to fewer than 10. An old casino that was transformed into a shelter for COVID-positive residents has been shuttered, for lack of need.

To date, more than 11,600 people in the neighbourhood have received at least one vaccine dose as part of the strategy – about 80 per cent residents and 20 per cent staff.

Since the early days of the pandemic, public-health officials had feared what would happen when the coronavirus reached the Downtown Eastside. With cramped congregate settings, large social networks and a transient population with few options for self-isolating, the neighbourhood bore the perfect conditions for COVID-19 to sweep through like wildfire.

The Globe and Mail’s Andrea Woo looks at how success was achieved.

Evening Update is presented by Rob Gilroy. If you’d like to receive this newsletter by e-mail every weekday evening, go here to sign up. If you have any feedback, send us a note.

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