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

The federal government is temporarily expanding the eligibility rules for its pandemic support programs for both employers and workers to address the current wave of capacity restrictions that fall short of full lockdowns.

The changes will be in place until Feb. 12 and are retroactive to Dec. 19.

“We will be there with supports for the areas that need it,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a virtual news conference. Mr. Trudeau appeared with Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough and Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a year end interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, on Dec. 16, 2021.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

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Quebec considers asking hospital workers with COVID-19 to stay on the job

The Quebec government is floating the idea of asking asymptomatic health care workers to stay on the job if they test positive for COVID-19, while other provinces are considering test-to-stay strategies as a means of keeping the fast-spreading Omicron variant from putting a critical mass of nurses and doctors into quarantine.

Already, Quebec hospitals have started or are planning the postponements of non-urgent surgeries, Francine Dupuis, associate chief executive officer of the West-Central Montreal health authority, said in an interview.

But Dupuis and two unions said that the Quebec government is also looking into assigning COVID-positive staffers who are not feeling sick to hot zones where they would care only for patients who have already been exposed to the virus.

Read more on COVID-19: As booster eligibility widens, Peel’s top doctor asks younger residents to hold off on booking COVID-19 boosters

A health-care worker pushes a patient across a footbridge into a hospital, amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, in Montreal, Dec. 18, 2021.Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Former Bombardier VP acquitted in Swedish bribery probe

A former vice-president of Bombardier Transportation’s rail control solutions division is not guilty of aggravated bribery in connection with a business deal in Azerbaijan, a Swedish court ruled on Wednesday.

The indictment said that Bombardier and its local partner in Azerbaijan, Trans-Signal-Rabita LLC, and the government-owned Azerbaijan Railways (ADY), colluded to rig the specifications so the Bombardier-led consortium secured a contract worth US$340-million in 2013. An ADY official represented the local partner.

The contract was for installing a railway signalling system in the notoriously corrupt former Soviet country.

Logo of Bombardier is seen at an office building in Zurich, Switzerland Feb. 28, 2019.ARND WIEGMANN/Reuters


ALSO ON OUR RADAR

From ‘unadoptable’ to ‘darling dog,’ this B.C. woman shows there’s an art to healing rescue dogs: During the pandemic, the desire for canine companionship spiked over the long, lonely months. But more rescue dogs also means more dogs with abusive or neglectful back stories, with special needs, or challenging behavioural issues. This is where humans such as Jo Farrar and Leila Kullar step in.

Bondfield corruption probe widens to include Sunnybrook hospital construction contracts: The corruption investigation into Bondfield Construction Co. Ltd., once one of the largest builders of public-sector projects in Ontario, has widened to include its contracts with a second Toronto hospital, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Rare preserved dinosaur embryo reveals evolutionary ties to birds: The skeleton of a dinosaur embryo, preserved with extraordinary detail inside a fossilized egg, is giving scientists one of their best views of the connection between the ancient reptiles and modern birds.

Shares of controversial Canadian legal software provider Dye & Durham rally on $3.2-billion bid for Australia’s Link Administration: Dye and Durham Ltd. announced its biggest acquisition late Tuesday, saying it had agreed to buy publicly traded Australian technology vendor Link Administration Holdings Ltd. for $3.2-billion in cash.


MARKET WATCH

North American stock indexes and oil prices made gains on Wednesday after investors cheered positive economic data and the White House said it was resuming talks on a major social spending bill with a senator crucial to passing the legislation.

In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite index surged in after noon trading, finishing up 145.18 points, or 0.69 per cent, at 21,070.05 a day after reporting its biggest gain since February.

The energy sector reversed early losses and finished up 1.2 per cent as U.S. crude prices were up 0.4 per cent a barrel, while the materials sector, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, rose 1 per cent.

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TALKING POINTS

Santa’s Christmas secret? Maybe it’s artificial intelligence

“The intersection of Santa and AI occurred to us as AI and related technologies are increasingly deployed for a seemingly endless – and sometimes controversial – array of new applications.” - Arthur Cockfield, Benjamin Alarie

When you try to run everything out of the PMO, sooner or later something’s bound to break

“Overworked, understaffed, trying to micromanage every detail of every file, people get tired. They make mistakes. They forget things. The next thing you know, they’re meddling in a criminal prosecution or calling an election for reasons even they can’t explain or taking two months to recall Parliament.” - Andrew Coyne

After two years of loss, the last thing I want to do is lose my mother tongue, too

“I want my son to have the language that connects him to our culture, even if, like me, he might not always appreciate this effort.” - Leonarda Carranza


LIVING BETTER

Nine sparkling wine selections for holiday and everyday celebrations

The pop of a bottle of sparkling wine is no longer exclusive to festive events including holidays, writes Christopher Waters. You don’t need to wait for another special occasion to relive that experience of enjoying a bottle of bubbly.


TODAY’S LONG READ

Halifax’s blind piano mover takes a delicate job one step at a time

Gary Trenholm, right, co-owner of Doctor Piano in Halifax, helps move a piano into a client's home in Timberlea, N.S. on Monday, December 13, 2021. Trenholm has been blind since childhood but that hasn't gotten in the way of his company becoming Atlantic Canada's most in-demand piano mover, tuner and seller. Darren Calabrese/The Globe and MailDARREN CALABRESE/The Globe and Mail

Gary Trenholm, knees slightly bent, braces himself under the weight of more than 225 kilograms of wood and cast iron before taking a confident step back off a paved walkway and onto a garden bed on a steeply sloped hill. Blind since childhood, Mr. Trenholm couldn’t physically see the hill, but he could visualize it, as well as the upright piano he was gripping, and the truck it would be loaded onto. Importantly, he trusted his colleagues who were assisting – they told him how many more steps he had to take before he was at the stairs, or they’d place a hand on his back to signal their position.

Mr. Trenholm, the co-owner of Doctor Piano, a Halifax company that sells, tunes, repairs and moves pianos, is never worried about his own safety – it’s all about the piano and the home it’s being moved out of or into.

And it’s what’s made his company the most in-demand piano mover in Atlantic Canada. If you own a piano in Nova Scotia, the odds are high that Mr. Trenholm has laid hands on it at some point.

Two-thirds of their jobs are the ones no one else wants to take on because of their difficulty: an organ that needs to be moved down from an attic, a baby grand moving from a condo onto the second floor of a house, an upright whose only option for exiting a building is through a window.

If they ding up someone’s wall during a move, they owe them money. But if they scrape up their knuckles on exposed brick while carrying that piano out of the house? “The skin on our hands will grow back,” Mr. Trenholm says.

Read the whole story by Dakshana Bascaramurty here.

Evening Update is written by Emerald Bensadoun and Caora McKenna. 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.