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

Ontario to loosen COVID-19 restrictions in some regions on Wednesday

Ontario has announced plans for a gradual easing of its COVID-19 restrictions, pledging to allow non-essential retailers in parts of the province to reopen – but with 25-per-cent capacity limits – while maintaining shutdowns in Toronto and other hotspots for another two weeks.

As of Wednesday at 12:01 a.m., three regions east of Toronto will move into the “green” category with the fewest COVID-19 restrictions: Hastings Prince Edward, Kingston Frontenac and Lennox & Addington and Renfrew County.

Other parts of the province will have the stay-at-home order lifted on Feb. 16, except for Toronto, York Region and Peel Region, which will remain under a stay-at-home order until Feb. 22.

Meanwhile, Canada’s languid vaccination efforts have no chance of improvement this week with just 70,200 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine scheduled to start arriving. Provinces and territories have already administered almost 90 per cent of the vaccines they have been sent. Next week, Canada is supposed to get about 335,000 doses, which would be the single biggest vaccine delivery here so far.

And the Public Health Agency of Canada has listed its criteria for hotels seeking to participate in the mandatory three-day quarantine for returning travellers. That puts Ottawa one step closer to fulfilling its late-January pledge, but it’s still not saying when the measure will take effect.

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Alberta reinstates 1976 coal policy in wake of public backlash and legal challenge

The Alberta government is reinstating a stringent coal mining policy it axed last year – with no consultation – in the wake of widespread public backlash and a legal challenge. But coal exploration that has already been granted approval will be allowed to continue.

The province faced intense public pressure after killing the 1976 Coal Policy, which in part provided extra protections for sensitive lands and crucial headwaters on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

It banned open-pit mines over a large area by using land classifications, with completely or highly protected areas deemed Category 1 or 2 lands. Those land classifications have now been reinstated, and new applications for coal exploration, water use or mining on Category 2 lands have been put on hold pending consultations with Albertans on a new coal policy.

Bitcoin’s value gets a charge from Tesla’s US$1.5-billion investment

Billionaire Elon Musk’s electric vehicle company Tesla has revealed it purchased US$1.5-billion of bitcoin and would soon accept it as a form of payment for cars – sending the cryptocurrency shooting higher.

The announcements, buried in Tesla’s 2020 annual report, drove a 17-per-cent surge in the world’s most widely held cryptocurrency to more than US$44,000. At current prices, roughly 0.88 bitcoins would be enough to buy an entry-level Tesla Model 3.

Investors anticipated other companies will soon join a list of firms that invest in or hold bitcoin including BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager, and payments companies Square and PayPal.

Read more: Elon Musk loves it. So what’s all the buzz about bitcoin?

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Trump impeachment trial starts tomorrow: Lawyers for Donald Trump today blasted the impeachment case against him as an act of “political theatre” and accused House Democrats on the eve of the former president’s trial of exploiting the chaos and trauma of last month’s Capitol riot for their party’s gain.

Second Cup sold: Quebec-based food franchising business Foodtastic has announced a deal to buy troubled coffee chain Second Cup and has plans for the brand that include opening more than 100 new locations.

Vote for Edmonton team’s new name: The CFL’s Edmonton Football Team is asking fans to vote on a shortlist of seven candidates for its new name – Elk, Evergreens, Evergolds, Eclipse, Elkhounds, Eagles and Elements – on an online survey released today.

Andreescu wins in return to court: The Australian Open saw an impressive 5-0 Day 1 performance by Canadian players today, with Bianca Andreescu, Milos Raonic, Rebecca Marino, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov all moving on to Round 2.

MARKET WATCH

U.S. and Canadian stocks set record closing highs today as stimulus prospects and ongoing vaccine deployment boosted investor optimism over the pace of economic recovery from the pandemic recession.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 237.52 points or 0.76 per cent to 31,385.76, the S&P 500 gained 28.76 points or 0.74 per cent to 3,915.59 and the Nasdaq Composite added 131.34 points or 0.95 per cent to end at 13,987.64.

The S&P/TSX Composite Index closed up 194.36 points or 1.07 per cent at 18,330.26 in a broad-based advance.

Looking for investing ideas? Check out The Globe’s weekly digest of the latest insights and analysis from the pros, stock tips, portfolio strategies and what investors need to know for the week ahead. This week’s edition includes stock picks for economic recovery, ETFs for uncertainty now and Canadian companies at risk of short squeeze.

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 POINT

Forget Patrick Mahomes. Tom Brady was only competing against himself

“Sunday’s Brady was Tom Brady 2.0, a Brady that is entirely of his own creation. He came out and beat the snot out of that old idea of himself.” - Cathal Kelly

Related: Brady easily nabs seventh Super Bowl win with Buccaneers

LIVING BETTER

Lonely brains look different. In the largest-ever study of its kind, a team led by Nathan Spreng, director of the Laboratory of Brain and Cognition at the Montreal Neurological Institute, found that people who report being lonely have more prominent “default networks,” regions of the brain that are associated with imagination and reminiscence. The researchers believe that could provide clues to better understanding the cognitive harms of loneliness – for example, why older lonely adults are more prone to dementia – and hope the information will nudge politicians to treat social life as a more important component of public health.

TODAY’S LONG READ

Stanley Tucci at a film premiere on March 12, 2019, in London.Joel C Ryan/The Associated Press

Stanley Tucci, the internet’s boyfriend ... and Colin Firth’s, too, at least on-screen

If the internet could have a pandemic-era boyfriend, it would be Stanley Tucci. For the past tremendously terrible year, the character actor previously best-known for movies both indie (Big Night) and blockbuster (the man is responsible for turning Chris Evans into Captain America, people!) has become something of a one-man meme factory-slash-charm offensive.

There he is on your Instagram feed, teaching you how to make the perfect Negroni (“use good sweet vermouth”). There he is on Facebook, promoting his upcoming CNN travel series Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. And later this fall, he’ll be all over your Amazon queue when he releases his memoir Taste: My Life Through Food, which also seems like an instruction book on how to achieve his unique level of effortlessly cool bon vivant-ness.

Stanley Tucci is still a pretty fine actor, too. Take his new film Supernova, in which he plays a novelist suffering from early-onset dementia. The film, from British writer-director Harry Macqueen, is a heart-bursting celebration of one couple’s last big, loving adventure across England’s Lake District. And the other half of that couple? He’s played by Colin Firth, Tucci’s real-life best friend of more than two decades. Read Barry Hertz’s full story here.

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