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

Vaccine developments: Alberta sees appointments surge, Ontario booking system to open March 15 and more

Pharmacies, doctors and other key health care providers say they aren’t fully looped in on some provincial plans for COVID-19 vaccination efforts, adding to concerns that when vaccine shipments do ramp up in the coming weeks health systems could soon become overwhelmed.

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In Alberta, all adults born in 1946 or earlier could start booking vaccination appointments today, but several people on social media complained about the appointment website crashing and calls not going through to the province’s 811 Health Link line.

Quebec will open bookings through an online portal and 1-800 line tomorrow for vaccination appointments starting next Monday.

Meanwhile, Ontario is not launching its COVID-19 vaccine booking system until March 15. Retired general Rick Hillier, chair of the province’s vaccine task force, laid out in broad strokes when people can start to get their shots, with vaccinations for seniors over 80 set to begin in the third week of March.

Internationally, the scientist who led the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine says Britain was right to extend the interval between doses because the vaccine has been working so well.

Read more:

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RBC, National Bank report higher first-quarter profits on surging trading fees, lower loan-loss provisions

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Royal Bank of Canada and National Bank of Canada today reported higher first-quarter profits bolstered by surging trading fees and lower provisions for loan losses. But RBC cautioned that it is too soon to tell whether anticipated loan losses will be avoided or simply delayed.

RBC’s quarterly profit rose 10 per cent year over year to $3.85-billion, with a 21-per-cent increase in earnings from trading and investment banking. Profit jumped 25 per cent higher at National Bank of Canada, whose income from financial markets was up 37 per cent.

The results come on the heels of strong results yesterday from Bank of Montreal and Bank of Nova Scotia, and ahead of reporting tomorrow by Toronto-Dominion Bank and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

Law firms scramble to help clients capitalize on shift in Canada’s immigration policy

Law firms are urging their clients to get in Canada’s express pool of immigration candidates as soon as possible after Ottawa invited a record number of people in that system to apply for permanent residency to help hit ambitious targets.

On Feb. 13, Immigration Canada issued the invitations to more than 27,000 people in the Express Entry system, which is aimed at expediting the intake of skilled workers. To hit that mark, the federal government had to drastically reduce the immigration scores needed for an invitation to apply.

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That decision sent a jolt through the legal community, with initial confusion giving way to a flurry of phone calls. Many lawyers had steered clients away from Express Entry because it was unlikely they could get a high enough score.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Two Springsteen charges dropped: Prosecutors have dismissed the two most serious criminal charges that rock icon Bruce Springsteen was facing – drunken driving and reckless driving – noting that his blood-alcohol level was .02 per cent, well below New Jersey’s .08-per-cent legal limit. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was fined US$540.

Habs fire Julien: The struggling Montreal Canadiens have fired head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller. Assistant coach Dominique Ducharme has been appointed interim head coach.

No all-star Raptors: For the first time since 2014, no players from the Toronto Raptors have made the lineup for NBA’s all-star game, scheduled this year for March 7.

MARKET WATCH

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Shares on Wall Street ended higher today, as a selloff in technology-related stocks eased and a rotation into cyclical shares continued after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s comments calmed inflation worries. Canada’s main index also rose, closing within 10 points of its all-time high.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 424.51 points or 1.35 per cent to 31,961.86, the S&P 500 gained 44.06 points or 1.14 per cent to 3,925.43 and the Nasdaq Composite added 132.77 points or 0.99 per cent, to 13,597.97.

The S&P/TSX Composite Index closed up 154.44 points or 0.84 per cent at 18,484.53 on gains in energy and financial stocks.

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 POINTS

Biden-Trudeau meeting marked by joy, friendship, relief

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“It’s a geopolitical reality that, as the Biden administration sets out to repair the damage the Trump administration inflicted on the Western alliance and on America’s reputation, Canada is well positioned to contribute to those repairs, while protecting its own interests.” - John Ibbitson

Does Canada really need a new partnership with crisis-ridden America?

“The new realities of the bilateral relationship need to be kept in mind. They do not favour us moving further into the American orbit.” - Lawrence Martin

It’s never been cheaper for governments to borrow. What could possibly go wrong?

“The lesson of history is: Once you’ve got inflation down, never let it get up again. A little inflation tends to become a lot.” - Andrew Coyne

TODAY’S LONG READ

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How the Scotties Tournament of Hearts got its enduring name

The story of why the Canadian women’s curling championship is named the Tournament of Hearts starts over 40 years ago with sisters drinking wine.

Robin Wilson and sister Dawn Knowles had just won a second Canadian championship with B.C. skip Lindsay Sparkes in 1979. That tournament was without a title sponsor after seven years as the tobacco-backed MacDonald Lassies.

Wilson, the only female manager at Scott Paper, where she handled the diaper and feminine product line, successfully pitched sponsoring the women’s championship to company president Bob Stewart. But Wilson needed to come up with a name and a brand to wow Stewart. Read the full story here.

Evening Update is presented 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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