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

Government dollars: Ottawa announces new transit funding, Ontario says all COVID-19 contingency funds spent

The federal government is promising to spend $5.9-billion on transit-related stimulus projects and is creating a permanent transit transfer worth $3-billion a year for municipalities, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today.

The $5.9-billion will be given out in the short term based on project submissions, rather than by population. The formula for allocating the $3-billion transfer, which will begin in 2026, will need to be negotiated with municipalities and the provinces. In total, the government said its announcement adds up to $14.9-billion in new transit funding over eight years.

Meanwhile, Ontario says it has completely exhausted the $13.3-billion in contingency funds it set up to fight the pandemic but acknowledges it still has $4.5-billion left in rainy-day funds for the remainder of its fiscal year, which ends March 31.

The numbers, which the Progressive Conservative government says counter opposition claims it has held back billions pledged to combat the virus, come from the province’s third-quarter fiscal update, released today.

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Impeachment trial: Democrats argue Trump planted seeds of U.S. Capitol attack with false election claims

Prosecutors in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial said today they would prove that he was no “innocent bystander” but the “inciter in chief” of the deadly attack at the Capitol aimed at overturning his election loss to Joe Biden.

Opening the first full day of arguments in the Senate, the lead House prosecutor promised to lay out evidence that shows the president encouraged a rally crowd to head to the Capitol, then did nothing to stem the violence and watched with “glee” as a mob stormed the iconic building. Five people died.

The day’s proceedings were unfolding after an emotional start to the trial that left the former president fuming yesterday when his attorneys delivered a meandering defence and failed to halt the trial on constitutional grounds.

Opinion: With a rushed impeachment, the Democrats risk blowing it - Lawrence Martin

Prominent Saudi women’s rights activist and UBC graduate released from prison

Loujain al-Hathloul, one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent political activists, has been released from prison, her family said, after serving nearly three years on charges that sparked an international uproar over the kingdom’s human-rights record.

The University of British Columbia graduate, who pushed to end a ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, was arrested in 2018 and sentenced to almost six years in prison last December under a broad counterterrorism law.

Held for 1,001 days, with time in pretrial detention and solitary confinement, she was accused of crimes such as agitating for change, using the internet to cause disorder and pursuing a foreign agenda – charges that rights groups describe as politically motivated.

This picture taken Feb. 10, 2021 in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh shows a woman viewing a tweet posted by the sister of Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul, Lina, showing a screenshot of them having a video call following Hathloul's release after nearly three years in detention.AHMED NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

Pandemic accelerates Bank of Canada’s work on ‘digital loonie’

A decline in the use of cash and the boom of e-commerce during the pandemic has prompted the Bank of Canada to speed up its development of a “digital loonie,” even as the decision to issue such a currency remains up in the air.

Last February, deputy governor Tim Lane laid out plans to develop a digital currency for “contingency” purposes, explaining that a “compelling case” for one had not yet emerged. Since then, the pandemic has “accelerated the evolution of the digital economy,” he said in a speech today.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

O’Toole rejigs critic portfolios: Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole scripted more of his party’s electoral strategy today, creating new critic portfolios to signal where his focus will be when Canadians go to the polls: a plan for economic recovery.

Lawsuit dropped against Raptors’ Ujiri: A California law enforcement officer has dropped his lawsuit against Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri that stemmed from an altercation at the 2019 NBA Finals.

Springsteen faces drunk driving charge: Rock music legend Bruce Springsteen was arrested nearly three months ago at a national park in New Jersey on charges that included reckless driving and driving while intoxicated, a park spokeswoman said.

Rock and Roll HOF nominations: Jay-Z, Foo Fighters, Tina Turner and Iron Maiden lead this year’s nominees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a female-heavy list of 16 acts that includes for the first time The Go-Go’s, Mary J. Blige and Dionne Warwick. The class of 2021 will be announced in May.

Tragically Hip sue Mill Street: The Tragically Hip are suing Toronto’s Mill Street Brewery for alleged trademark infringement in the promotion of its 100th Meridian lager. At The Hundredth Meridian was a hit for the band in the early nineties.

Canadians at the Australian Open: Young tennis stars Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime are set for an all-Canadian showdown when they meet in the third round on Friday. Meanwhile, 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu lost her second round match today to Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei, leaving no Canadian women in singles action.

MARKET WATCH

Canada’s benchmark stock index closed at yet another record high today, climbing for eight days in a row. In a near repeat of Tuesday’s action, pot stocks soared and Shopify rose to new highs. The S&P/TSX Composite Index gained 49.16 points or 0.27 per cent to 18,457.78.

Wall Street markets were mixed as financials slid and the selloff in some big tech stocks continued while energy shares rose. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 61.97 points or 0.2 per cent to 31,437.80, the S&P 500 slipped 1.35 points or 0.03 per cent to 3,909.88 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 35.17 points or 0.25 per cent to 13,972.53.

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TALKING POINTS

There’s still time to get the election debates right, at last

“Suppose instead we had half a dozen or more – a debate a week – making the debates not just an important stop on the campaign trail, but the very spine along which it was conducted.” - Andrew Coyne

Don’t cancel March Break – instead let’s make it a ‘catch-up week’

“The COVID slide is real, and it’s time to consider catch-up programs designed to shore up students’ educational foundations in mathematics, reading and writing.” - Paul W. Bennett, director, Schoolhouse Institute

LIVING BETTER

Women are still – in 2021 – under-represented in Canada’s corporate and economic spheres. Join investigative reporter Robyn Doolittle and data journalist Chen Wang for a live Q&A on LinkedIn tomorrow at 11 a.m. ET about the Power Gap series, moderated by financial services editor Janet McFarland. Catch up on the series here.

TODAY’S LONG READ

I want a duvet divorce! My wife keeps stealing the covers

I conjured up my courage and presented my cold case.

She laughed. For a long time. She laughed so hard she snorted – twice. I thought she might fall to her knees, not in deference to my plight but because she was overcome with hilarity. But, when she regained control, she saw I was serious. She quickly vowed to keep me covered. I was relieved but not entirely convinced. But I took her at her word. I was looking forward to a good and warm night’s sleep.

Alas, late into that same night, she exposed me again.

That’s it, I thought. She can’t keep me hanging by a 500-weave thread count. I have to put an Endy to this on-again off-again bad bed behaviour. Read Joe Doiron’s full essay here.

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