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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Freeland talks about detained Canadians with Chinese counterpart

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland met with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for the first time since Beijing detained two Canadians last December in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a Huawei executive.

The conversation between Freeland and Wang took place today on the sidelines of a summit for Southeast Asian countries in Bangkok.

Relations between Canada and China deteriorated following Canada’s arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on an extradition request from the United States. The Americans claim she helped the Chinese company violate U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Days after Meng was detained, Beijing seized former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor in a move that critics have called “hostage diplomacy.”

Freeland called today’s meeting “a positive step” but declined to elaborate on her discussion with Wang, citing the key to successful talks as keeping them secret.

U.S. push for cheaper drugs from Canada laden with hurdles

U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan to import cheaper drugs from Canada has pharmacists and legal experts warning that Canadian patients could be left behind.

Several hurdles stand in the way of making that proposal a reality, Kelly Grant writes. The first is timing. One of two proposed pathways to importing drugs from Canada would allow states, pharmacists or wholesalers to apply to Health and Human Services, the U.S. agency overseeing health programs, to run a pilot project to safely import drugs into the U.S. This pathway would involve the issuing of a notice requiring public consultation and normally take more than a year to be finalized.

Another obstacle is the pharmaceutical industry, which can challenge Trump’s importation plan in court.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed Thursday to protect Canada’s drug supply, although he was unclear on what legal levers he may use to mitigate the U.S. proposal.

The urgency of Americans desperate for cheaper medication is easy to understand, with caravans of Americans crossing the border to buy insulin that would cost 10 times the price in the U.S. However, giving them greater access to Canadian prescription drugs would not change the U.S. health-care system, writes gerontologist Tom Koch: “Such access might actually reduce grassroots pressure for fundamental reforms to U.S. health care generally, not just for pharmaceuticals, and that’s certainly not the same as a solution.”

Average Canadian household spent more on taxes than living costs in 2018, report finds

The average Canadian household paid nearly $40,000 in taxes last year, more than the combined cost of clothing, food and shelter, a new report says.

The Fraser Institute’s annual Canadian Consumer Tax Index shows how the tax bill has changed over time. Last year’s average tax burden of $39,299 is almost three times what Canadians paid in 1961, after adjusting for inflation – and has risen much faster than the cost of necessities, including housing, the institute says.

The authors calculated that the typical household spent just more than $32,000 on clothing, food and shelter in 2018.

These statistics correlate with the expansion of government between the 1960s and the 1980s, leading to the establishment of programs like national medicare.

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WHAT ELSE IS ON OUR RADAR

The U.S. has placed new sanctions on Russia over a former spy’s poisoning. Washington announced an initial set of sanctions on Russia last year after finding that Moscow had used a nerve agent against ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, in Britain, which Moscow denies.

A majority of Democrats now support launching a Trump impeachment probe. The calls for an inquiry have grown after former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony to Congress last month, which exposed the U.S. President’s attempts to stop the Russia investigation, and his racist tweets urging four female House Democrats of colour to “go back” to where they came from.

Trump’s choice for national intelligence director withdraws from the running. The U.S. President tweeted today that Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas opted to stay in Congress after he was dogged with questions about his lack of experience.

Andrew Scheer has vowed to increase health and social transfer payments if elected. The Conservative Party leader wrote in a letter to provincial and territorial premiers that he would raise these payments by at least 3 per cent every year if he becomes prime minister.

Scientists have linked Europe’s heat wave to man-made climate change. In Western Europe, temperatures would have been 1.5 to 3 degrees Celsius lower in a world without human-caused climate change, the study concluded.

New Saudi Arabians law allow women to travel independently. Amid growing international criticism over its human-rights record, Riyadh has moved to let adult women travel and make key family decisions, such as registering for divorce, without the permission of a male guardian.

MARKET WATCH

Canada’s main stock index fell for the fifth session today following a sharp escalation in U.S.-China trade row that renewed worries over slowing global growth and sparked a flight to safer assets.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 105.38 points at 16,271.66.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 98.41 points to 26,485.01, the S&P 500 lost 21.52 points to 2,932.04 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 107.05 points to 8,004.07.

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TALKING POINTS

The unbearable whiteness of weed: Canada’s booming cannabis industry has a race problem

“As non-medical cannabis shifts from a criminal offence to a legal commercial product, revenue from legal weed should be used to fund meaningful reparations for communities targeted for decades by racist drug laws and enforcement. However, even a surface-level analysis of the rapidly growing cannabis industry in Canada reveals a troubling trend: The profits and wealth being generated are overwhelmingly landing in the pockets of white Canadians.” - Chuka Ejeckam, Masters student in political science and public policy at the University of British Columbia

Earth to Democrats: Your ideas won’t fly

“If Mr. Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and the other Democrats on the Medicare-for-all bandwagon think they can win the White House by telling voters their private health insurance will soon become illegal, they’re lying to themselves.” - Konrad Yakabuski

Do not turn away from the horrors that the Rohingya face

“Canada has avoided the tendency to see the Rohingya as victims, whose fate will continue to be decided by others. This has made us an effective interlocutor. Now is the time to build on this credibility and trust.” - Bob Rae, special envoy to Myanmar

LIVING BETTER

How to create a functional – and inspired – playroom for kids

Go bold. Stay practical. Think long-term.

These are among the tips that interior decorators offer for creating fresh and fun playrooms for kids.

From using removable floor tiles to designating spaces for art, here’s what you can do to give kids the right room to grow.

LONG READ FOR A LONG COMMUTE

Running nearly killed me, but it also saved my life

“Driven by a paternal family history steeped in heart disease, I exercised regularly, watched what I ate (chocolate cake aside). My blood pressure and blood sugars were normal and I took lipid-lowering medications to keep the bad cholesterol super low. As a final precaution, I underwent an annual stress test designed to detect early signs of coronary artery disease. Despite all that, I collapsed.”

Howard Gaskin writes about his love for running, a family history of heart disease and his fight against ventricular fibrillation.

Evening Update is written by Katrya Bolger. 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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