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

Opposition parties are urging the ethics commissioner to expand his probe of the Finance Minister after Bill Morneau disclosed to a parliamentary committee that he reimbursed WE Charity more than $41,000 for expenses related to two trips in 2017 with the organization.

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said Thursday that Morneau has breached multiple sections of the Conflict of Interest Act, which lays out rules for public office holders.

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“The average Canadian would notice if there was a $41 bill missing from their room service at a hotel but Bill Morneau would have you believe that for an entire week he was showered with luxury, with benefits, with hospitality and that he had no idea who was paying for it all,” Poilievre said.

Some context: Morneau is already the subject of a separate probe by the ethics commissioner after he failed to recuse himself from a cabinet decision to contract WE Charity to oversee the $912-million Canada Student Service Grant, despite his family’s personal involvement in the charity.

In opinion:

  • Robyn Urback: “In a normal government – one susceptible to shame, subject to real consequences, humbled by its occasional fallibility – Finance Minister Bill Morneau would be made to walk the plank.”

Antibody survey reveals widespread vulnerability to COVID-19 across Canada

Fewer than 1 per cent of Canadians have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19, according to initial findings from the largest survey conducted to date across the country.

The results, based on 10,000 anonymous blood donor samples, offer the best evidence so far that many more Canadians have had the disease than the official case count, which currently stands at just over 112,000. For months, officials have known that the true number of cases must be higher because of the significant number of mild and asymptomatic cases that are believed to have gone unreported.

But the survey also indicates that an overwhelming majority of Canadians remain just as susceptible to the virus as ever, even as provinces continue to lift restrictions and more individuals resume activities that may bring them into closer contact with COVID-19.

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U.S. coronavirus cases surpass four million as infections rapidly accelerate across the country

More than four million coronavirus cases were recorded in the United States on Thursday, reflecting a rapid acceleration of infections detected in the country since the first COVID-19 case was recorded on Jan. 21, a Reuters tally found.

It took 98 days to reach one million cases, but only 16 days to surge from three million to four million, according to the tally. The average number of new U.S. cases is now rising by more than 2,600 every hour, the highest rate in the world.

More COVID coverage:

  • PEI man jailed: A Prince Edward Island man who tested positive for COVID-19 and allegedly refused to self-isolate has been jailed near Charlottetown.
  • Almost 1,000 isolate after Kelowna events: After packed events and parties recently in Kelowna, B.C., more than 70 people have contracted COVID-19 and close to 1,000 people across British Columbia are in self-isolation.
  • Excess death rate in South Africa: Between early May and mid-July, South Africa witnessed 59 per cent more deaths than normal, scientists said, suggesting many more people are dying of COVID-19 than shown in official figures.

Freshly dug graves are seen amid a nationwide coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown, at the Honingnestkrans cemetery, north of Pretoria, South Africa July 14, 2020.

Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

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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Chief of defence staff announces retirement: After 39 years of service, General Jonathan Vance, Canada’s top soldier, is retiring from the military. In a statement on Thursday, he said he informed the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and the Governor-General that he intends to relinquish command of the Canadian Armed Forces in the months to come. The recruitment process is underway to replace him.

Review of mass shooting: Ottawa and Nova Scotia announced that a three-person panel will review the mass shooting that killed 22 victims in April, though it will not be a fully public process. The panel’s interim and final reports will be presented next year to the federal Public Safety Minister and the provincial Justice Minister before being made public. However, it appears little – if any – of the review will be conducted in open hearings.

Vancouver street check ban: Councillors in Vancouver voted unanimously to ban officers from conducting street checks – the process of arbitrarily recording identification, outside of any police investigation, which disproportionately affects Black and Indigenous people. However, the Vancouver Police Board is the only body that has the power to completely abolish the checks and is preparing to review its own motion.

B.C. mayor won’t apologize for cutting confederate flag: The mayor of Summerland, B.C., is declining to apologize for going into a dollar store and cutting up bandanas that had the image of the Confederate flag. Toni Boot said that, as a person of colour, the symbol represents white supremacy and that, as a civic leader, it was vital she took action.

Potential new rules for teachers in China: China’s draft policy for international teachers mandates ideological training sessions, prescribes a new tracking system to monitor conduct and threatens to punish those accused of damaging the country’s dignity. In essence, demanding greater ideological control of foreigners and the education system, ensuring Western Liberal ideas do not seep in.

Portland mayor tear-gassed: The mayor of Portland, Ore., was tear-gassed Wednesday night by federal agents sent by President Donald Trump to quell the nearly two months of nightly protests since George Floyd was killed. The Justice Department inspector-general said Thursday that a review of federal agents’ use-of-force in Portland will be conducted.

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In opinion:

  • Lawrence Martin: “How astonishing can it get with the 45th president? Are we to imagine federal stormtroopers acting as political props, unleashed throughout the great republic to do his authoritarian bidding against the Democrats, denying protesters due process?”

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler reacts after being exposed to tear gas fired by federal officers while attending a protest against police brutality and racial injustice in front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 22, 2020 in Portland, Ore.

Nathan Howard/Getty Images

MARKET WATCH

Wall Street dropped sharply on Thursday as investors fled market-leading tech shares due to mixed earnings reports and growing signs of a worsening coronavirus pandemic, which could exacerbate a deep economic recession.

The TSX closed lower, in a broad selloff that included both energy and materials shares, even as the price of gold rose. Nevertheless, there were many stocks with strong gains for the day amid earnings season, including a 17 per cent jump for AutoCanada, 7.82 per cent for Mullen Group, 6.90 per cent for Teck Resources, and 5.88 per cent for Empire Company.

The bellwether S&P 500 slid more than 1 per cent, snapping a four-day winning streak with its biggest daily percentage drop since June 26. All three major U.S. stock averages lost ground, with falling momentum stocks Apple, Microsoft Corp and Amazon.com weighing heaviest.

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.

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TALKING POINTS

The NHL is about to drop the puck. Is it safe?

Editorial Board: “The risk to Canadians from restarting the NHL season appear to be minimal, thanks to safety protocols that will keep fans out of arenas, and players in a bubble. Constant caution is going to be essential, and that has to include a willingness to back down from established plans if there’s a major outbreak. But for now, it looks like it’s safe to drop the puck.”

Alberta appears to be crusading against its own cities – and Canadians should take note

Tim Querengesser: “Municipal governments have recently called on Ottawa to directly allocate $7.6-billion to them as they face existential budgetary shortfalls. And like Mr. Ford in 2018, some provincial governments are about to seize the opportunity to put their populist, urbanite-bashing rhetoric into action.” Querengesser is an Edmonton-based writer.

Hong Kong’s Chinese-Canadians are a community in limbo

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Justin Bong-Kwan:Some returned to Hong Kong with their Canadian-born children to take advantage of the city’s attractive economic conditions and career opportunities. However, the nationality of these naturalized Canadians in the territory is a thorny issue – and could have implications for any Canadians now considering moving away from Hong Kong.” Bong-Kwan is a writer and practising barrister based in Hong Kong.

In intelligence terms, COVID-19 is a revolutionary situation

Yossi Alpher: “What if science is beaten by COVID-19 and our only recourse is a radical and permanent revision of our way of life? Is our absolute confidence in the emergence of an effective inoculation any more justified than some of our earlier mistaken assumptions regarding this virus? In intelligence terms, we simply don’t know.” Alpher is an Israeli former intelligence official and strategic think tank director.

LIVING BETTER

Ask a design expert: Is thread count still the best way to select new sheets?

In order to decipher those tricky labels, look for 100-per-cent cotton and know the difference in how the cotton is woven. I won’t bore you by babbling on about warps and wefts, but here’s the long-story-short of it: percale is tightly woven and softens with washing; sateen is lustrous and silky, with a sheen that looks and feels glamorous; and oxford, like the shirt, is super-crisp and heavy, making it the most durable of the three. There was a jersey-knit craze some years ago, but I never really got it; I like sleeping in T-shirts, not on them.

TODAY’S LONG READ

For Niagara Falls, time is running out to resurface an economy sunk by COVID-19

Masks are mandatory for attractions such as Journey Behind the Falls beside the Canadian Horseshoe Falls since its reopening late June in Niagara Falls. Glenn Lowson photo/The Globe and Mail

Glenn Lowson/The Globe and Mail

In normal times, the garish heart of tourist Niagara Falls, on streets just north of the falls themselves, underpins the city’s economy, attracting hordes of visitors with waxwork dummies, fast-food outlets and carnivalesque kitsch. But so far this season, the ominous recorded screams from a fright house have been more likely to echo along a sparsely populated street.

Although every community is feeling the pain of the coronavirus, it has struck particularly hard in tourist centres. Niagara Falls is the most popular leisure destination in the country, normally welcoming 12 million visitors a year. The falls and the city are the top draw in Niagara region, which also boasts wineries, amusement parks, historic sites and more, and took in about $2.4-billion annually from tourism.

For the agency’s first quarter, from April through June, it had a prepandemic projection of $34.3-million in revenue. Instead, it brought in just $4.8-million. In the second quarter, the agency originally expected to bring in $66-million. Last month, the commission cut that projection roughly in half. In July, it halved it again.

Read the story here.

Evening Update is written by Hannah Alberga. 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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