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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Ottawa introduces carbon-tax plan, says most families will get rebates

Canadians in four provinces will receive carbon-tax rebates when they file their taxes returns next year, Shawn McCarthy and Laura Stone write. For example, under the plan outlined by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna today, the average household in Ontario will pay $244 in in direct and indirect carbon-tax costs next year, and will receive $300 under the “climate action incentive.”

With an election a year away, the Liberals are forging ahead with the contentious plan effective April 1 to impose a carbon tax in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick – provinces where government refused to adopt their own carbon-pricing plan. Canadians elsewhere will be covered by provincial plans, either a direct tax or a cap-and-trade system, and those governments must determine what to do with the revenue.

“The Liberals have scientists and economists in their corner.” John Ibbitson writes. “The Conservatives and opposing premiers are appealing to a tax-weary and skeptical public. Who will prevail?”

Ontario government rolls back labour-friendly workplace rules

Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives announced today its plans to repeal parts of the previous Liberal government’s Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, known as Bill 148, amid pushback from business owners who argued many of the changes were too costly, forcing them to raise prices and cut staff.

Premier Doug Ford was elected last spring on a platform that included freezing the minimum wage at $14 an hour. Today the government confirmed that freeze until 2020, when it will start increases tied to inflation. It will also cut the section that forces employers to pay part-time and casual staff at the same rate as full-time workers doing the same work.

Personal emergency leave rules will also change: The government said workers will be able to take “up to three days for personal illness, two for bereavement and three for family responsibilities.” The days will be unpaid. The current act allows employees to take up to 10 personal emergency leave days a year, two of them paid.

Ontario municipal election recap: John Tory returns as Toronto mayor; Brampton votes in former Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown

Toronto voters re-elected Mayor John Tory yesterday, handing him a landslide win over his closest rival, former city planner Jennifer Keesmaat. At the council level, incumbents who were defeated include Giorgio Mammoliti, a polarizing candidate and Ford family ally, in Ward 7 and long-time politician Norm Kelly in Ward 22.

Denise Balkissoon’s take: “Sure, a lot of chaff is finally being thrown out, but so is a fair bit of institutional memory, and the city isn’t getting fresh new blood in exchange.”

In another Greater Toronto Area election, Patrick Brown made a political comeback, winning his bid to become mayor of Brampton just 10 months after being forced to resign as leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party. He was forced to resign as PC Party leader in late January after CTV reported allegations of sexual misconduct. He denied the allegations and launched a defamation lawsuit.

Canada’s public broadcaster decided not to air live coverage last night, prompting newsroom staff at CBC Ottawa to pen a letter to management saying the move will do “long-term damage to the CBC and will inevitably erode our standing with our audience and Canadians at large,” Simon Houpt writes.

Saudi officials must identify masterminds behind killing of Jamal Khashoggi, Turkey’s Erdogan says

Saudi Arabia must identify those who ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and turn over the suspects for trial, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said today. He delivered a sharp rebuttal of Saudi Arabia’s widely criticized account that the writer for The Washington Post died accidentally in a brawl, saying Saudi officials had planned the killing for days.

The comments coincide with the opening day of the Future Investment Initiative, a Riyadh conference organized by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and dubbed “Davos in the desert.” Many Western executives and officials skipped the conference because of the killing.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said yesterday that he’s willing to freeze exports of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, as the opposition presses the federal government to follow Germany’s lead in suspending military shipments to the kingdom over Mr. Khashoggi’s death. In a CBC interview today, he said it would be “very difficult” to outright scrap the $13-billion deal signed by the previous Conservative government and a Canadian unit of U.S. weapons maker General Dynamics Corp.

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MARKET WATCH

Wall Street indexes were down today though they pulled back from the day’s lows after investors fled to safety on worries about a global slowdown in growth while oil tumbled and pressure mounted on Saudi Arabia over the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 125.98 points to 25,191.43, the S&P 500 lost 15.19 points to end at 2,740.69 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 31.09 points to 7,437.54.

In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite index closed down 127.53 points at 15,285.17. Energy stocks lost 2.4 per cent as oil slipped. Marijuana producers pushed health care stocks lower. Aurora Cannabis fell 11.7 per cent, while Canopy Growth was down 1.5 per cent. Aphria Inc. reversed early losses and finished 0.7 per cent higher.

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WHAT’S TRENDING ON SOCIAL

An Air Canada plane that had just landed at New York’s LaGuardia Airport late Monday afternoon was damaged as it sat on the taxiway by another passing plane, airport officials say. The Air Canada A320 jet arriving from Toronto was clipped by an American Eagle plane operated by Republic Airlines. Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah said the 142 passengers on board disembarked normally, but the aircraft is now out of service.

TALKING POINTS

Trump can’t stop the migrant caravan by cutting foreign aid and closing the border

“Harsh policies along the border do not stop migration. Instead, they drive desperate migrants to increasingly use human smugglers. Smuggling in turn provides funds for transnational criminal organizations that also traffic cocaine. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has blamed violence in the region on these organizations, which cater to the U.S. demand for illegal drugs. Tougher migration policies increase their revenue, which in turn decreases U.S. security.” - Sarah Bermeo, author and associate professor at Duke University

The EU can’t force Italy to change its heavy spending budget, but investors could

“Italy’s populist government and the European Union are at war. The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, rejected Italy’s proposed 2019 budget on Tuesday, arguing that it posed unacceptable risks to both Italy and the EU countries that use the euro. It was the first time that the EU has sent a national budget back for a rewrite and has set the stage for a bruising battle that neither side will win.” - Eric Reguly (for subscribers)

Canadians love living in the suburbs, so why aren’t we building more of them?

“Suburban backyards, for example, provide a greater diversity of species and habitat than some natural ecosystems. These ample landscapes also permit better wetland protection than dense, paved-over urban areas. And despite claims that the suburbs are endless, soul destroying rows of homogeneity, the Canadian experience proves them to be lively and welcoming destinations that are especially attractive to minority and immigrant families seeking upward mobility and their share of our collective national dream.” - Peter Shawn Taylor

LIVING BETTER

Most travellers have a list of must-pack items – headphones, hand sanitizer and power banks, for example. But ask frequent fliers about items they don’t really need but would never leave home without and things get interesting, travel editor Domini Clark writes. Good things come in small packages: individual servings of coconut oil for makeup removal or hair moisturizing; tea bags for a comforting cuppa; green powder packets to boost veggie intake; and emergency chocolate for ... just about anything. One traveller buys single-pack wipes of insect repellent and sunscreen - they get past security and won’t weigh you down like bottles.

LONG READS FOR A LONG COMMUTE

Canada may supply AI robotic arm for Lunar Gateway, proposed moon-orbiting space station

The stars are aligning for Canada to supply a robotic arm with AI capabilities on a space station destined to orbit the moon − but only if Ottawa moves quickly to join the U.S.-led venture before competitors elbow their way into an opportunity tailor-made for Canadian space technology, Ivan Semeniuk writes.

“If Canada decides not to participate, other nations would probably be approached,” said Mike Greeley, group president of MDA, the current version of the company that developed the Canadarm for the U.S. space-shuttle program and continues to support the Canadarm II aboard the International Space Station.

MDA, which last year reinvented itself as a U.S.-headquartered company called Maxar Technologies, would be the likely contractor should Canada agree to send a Canadarm III to the proposed station, known as the Lunar Gateway. The company has been actively lobbying for the project and has launched a #Don’tLetGoCanada social-media campaign to raise public awareness.

Why it’s getting harder to trust the auditors

In the wake of scandals like as Sino-Forest in Canada and Carillion in Britain, shareholders are starting to ask whether it’s time to shake up how the Big Four auditing firms operate. Some experts in the field are starting to wonder about the role of auditors in capital markets and, more specifically, how audits are performed, Bruce Livesey writes in Report on Business Magazine. (for subscribers)

Questions that would have seemed heretical just a few years ago are now being asked: Do auditors really need to work directly for the firms they’re auditing? Are modern accounting standards being misused to produce misleading financial statements? The winds of change are weak in Canada right now, but they’re growing stronger in other countries, as shareholders grapple with a nagging question that just won’t go away: What function do they serve?

Evening Update is written by S.R. Slobodian. 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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