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Canada Evening Update: Liberal MP Scott Brison leaving politics, Trudeau to shuffle cabinet; consular officials visit detained Canadian Michael Kovrig in China for second time

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Liberal MP Scott Brison leaving politics, Trudeau to shuffle cabinet

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Veteran cabinet minister Scott Brison is resigning from cabinet and will not be running in this year’s federal election, Bill Curry writes.

In a video message alongside his husband, Maxime St. Pierre, and twin daughters, Claire and Rose, Mr. Brison said he is ready for new challenges and wants to spend more time with his young family.

Mr. Brison is stepping down as president of the Treasury Board. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will shuffle the cabinet Monday to deal with the resignation, he said at a news conference.

Mr. Trudeau earlier tweeted: “For 22 years he’s been a tireless champion for the people of Nova Scotia and for Canada. And one of the friendliest people you will ever meet in this business.”

Consular officials visit detained Canadian Michael Kovrig in China for second time

Michael Kovrig

International Crisis Group

Consular officials met with detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig today, the second visit since Chinese authorities arrested him Dec. 10 for allegedly endangering national security, Robert Fife and Stephen Chase write.

On Tuesday, Canadian officials visited entrepreneur Michael Spavor, who was arrested the same day as Mr. Kovrig in what appeared to be reprisal for Canada’s arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, at the request of the United States.

In a column published yesterday, Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye accused Canada of applying a double standard and decried what he sees as “Western egotism and white supremacy” in the treatment of Ms. Meng.

Opinion: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is wise to wait before giving a China a call, Campbell Clark writes (for subscribers): “The real issue is spreading the word in a way that makes China decide the detentions of Canadians aren’t in its own interests.”

Trump threatens to declare national emergency over wall funding, visits border town

U.S. President Donald Trump today threatened to use emergency powers to bypass Congress and get billions of dollars to pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, as a partial U.S. government shutdown over the issue stretched into its 20th day.

A day after he stormed out of a meeting with Representative Nancy Pelosi, Senator Chuck Schumer and other Democratic leaders aimed at finding a deal to end the funding standoff, Mr. Trump spent most of the day in Texas near the U.S.-Mexico border to highlight what he has argued is a crisis.

Opinion: “By extending his presidential powers and courting a constitutional crisis, he would take political warfare to a new, dangerous level.” - David Shribman

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Separately, Mr. Trump has canceled a planned visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland later this month, signaling he was prepared for the showdown to stretch into late January.

And Mr. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen said today he has agreed to testify publicly before a U.S. House of Representatives committee on Feb. 7.

Paul Godfrey steps down as Postmedia CEO, will remain executive chair

After more than eight years at the helm of Canada’s largest newspaper chain, Paul Godfrey is stepping back from his role as chief executive officer of Postmedia Network Canada, Susan Krashinsky Robertson writes (for subscribers).

President and chief operating officer Andrew MacLeod has been appointed CEO; Mr. Godfrey will remain with Postmedia as executive chair.

AGO to sell 20 A.Y. Jackson paintings to make space for underrepresented artists

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The Art Gallery of Ontario is taking the unusual step of selling off 20 paintings by famed Group of Seven painter A.Y. Jackson to make room for more works by underrepresented artists, Chris Hannay writes (for subscribers).

The AGO has given other Canadian galleries the first right to buy the paintings at a “preferential rate," before possibly taking the works to public auction. The gallery would not identify which of its Jackson paintings it is selling, and specific purchases have not been confirmed.

Canadian artist A.Y. Jackson, left, attends the 27th annual exhibition of the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour at the Art Gallery of Toronto [now the Art Gallery of Ontario] in 1953.

The Globe and Mail

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MARKET WATCH

Stock markets edged higher today as worries over the lack of clear signs of a resolution to the U.S.-China trade spat were offset by an assurance by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that the U.S. central bank has the ability to be patient on monetary policy.

Canada’s main stock index extended its rally to a fifth day amid broad-based gains. The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index closed up 98.76 points at 14,903.49.

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On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 122.80 points to 24,001.92 points, the S&P 500 gained 11.68 points to close at 2,596.64 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 28.99 points to 6,986.07.

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POPULAR WITH READERS

Britain’s May losing control over Brexit plans after two defeats in Parliament

British Prime Minister Theresa May is rapidly losing control over her Brexit strategy after the government suffered a pair of humiliating defeats in the House of Commons this week – empowering parliamentarians and opening the door to another referendum on Brexit, Paul Waldie writes.

Britain is set to leave the European Union on March 29, and Ms. May has been trying for weeks to win support among members of Parliament for a Brexit agreement she struck with the EU in November.

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Now, a group of MPs from all parties has won backing for a pair of motions that severely limit Ms. May’s Brexit plans and allow Parliament to consider a range of alternatives if her deal is rejected in a vote in the House of Commons on Tuesday. The move essentially means that control over Brexit has begun to shift from the Prime Minister to MPs.

TALKING POINTS

Bank of Canada’s gloomy outlook suggests the days of the consumer-driven economy are gone

“The Bank of Canada has long predicted that the Canadian economy would rotate away from the consumer sector as its growth leader. It looks like in 2019, it won’t have much choice – the consumer is about to step aside, whether the new leadership is ready or not.” - David Parkinson (for subscribers)

For Europe’s automakers, the wheels are coming off

“The easy times are over for the European automakers. They had groped their way out of the hole created by the 2008 financial crisis and now they’re slipping back into it again as the global auto industry faces its greatest upheaval in decades. The Brexit mess hasn’t helped.” - Eric Reguly (for subscribers)

R. Kelly never hid who he was. Why did so few people believe him?

“An expert manipulator, Mr. Kelly made people laugh at him (and at his alleged victims), then released gospel-tinged ballads, and was forgiven. He also made a lot of people a lot of money, which might be precisely why some of those who worked with him actively chose not to watch the video [at the centre of his trial].” - Denise Balkissoon

LIVING BETTER

It’s still possible to safeguard assets when you didn’t sign a pre-nuptial agreement with a little known agreement growing in popularity: a post-nup. Often called a marriage contract under the Family Law Act, a post-nup can be signed before or after a wedding and can include clauses to determine what will happen to money, real estate, inheritances and pets if a marriage is dissolved. Some reasons people sign post-nups: one person wants to embark on a financial venture and the spouse isn’t keen on sharing the risk; someone suddenly snags a large inheritance or gift and wants to keep it from their partner; they simply ran out of time to draw up a pre-nup before the big day.

LONG READS FOR A LONG COMMUTE

Twenty years later, why 1999 at the movies remains an untouchable milestone

Do you remember where you were in 1999? More specifically – and more importantly – do you remember which movies you were watching in 1999? Ask any even half-hearted cinephile, and you’ll get an earful: The Matrix. Eyes Wide Shut. Magnolia. Fight Club. Election. Bringing Out the Dead. The Limey. Boys Don’t Cry. Toy Story 2. The Iron Giant. The Blair Witch Project. The Virgin Suicides. The Sixth Sense. And so, so many more.

Twenty years later, 1999 has held its grip on the cultural imagination. Fresh filmmakers were changing the rules of the game (Being John Malkovich’s Spike Jonze), while veterans were working at the peak of their powers (The Insider’s Michael Mann). Even the seemingly mainstream fluff of the era (Deep Blue Sea, Dick, Galaxy Quest) feels miles above what Hollywood offers today.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the year everything changed, TIFF is launching 1999: Movies at the Millennium, a series that will screen 23 films from the era (many in 35 mm) at the Lightbox cinemas in Toronto. Ahead of the series' launch tomorrow with Claire Denis’s masterful Beau Travail, read Barry Hertz’s interview with TIFF’s artistic director Cameron Bailey and TIFF Cinematheque’s senior manager Brad Deane (for subscribers).

Haley Joel Osment, left, and Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense.

Courtesy Touchstone Pictures via Reuters

New Canadian telescope detecting more brief, powerful radio blasts from far beyond our galaxy

The first results from a unique Canadian radio telescope are shedding light on the mysterious cosmic phenomenon called fast radio bursts – fleeting but powerful blasts of radio energy that are produced by unknown sources far beyond our own galaxy.

Working with the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, located in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, researchers say that in a first test of the new instrument last summer, it recorded a total of 13 of the elusive bursts during just July and August. In comparison, less than 50 were found in all the previous years since scientists first became aware of the phenomenon in 2007.

CHIME’s discoveries, published in the journal Nature and presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, provide a striking validation of the instrument’s technical capabilities. Among other things, they reveal that the bursts were received across the entire range of radio frequencies to which the telescope is sensitive. Until it switched on, there was no guarantee that CHIME would detect any at all. Read Ivan Semeniuk’s full story here.

An interferometric radio telescope at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in Okanagan Falls, B.C. (Andre Recnik/The Canadian Press)

Andre Recnik/The Canadian Press

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