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

Trans Mountain pipeline expansion costs rise 70 per cent to $12.6-billion

The Crown corporation that owns the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project revealed a budget today that is 70 per cent higher than original estimates, and said it now expects the expanded pipeline to be in service by December, 2022.

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The plan to twin the existing pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., will cost $12.6-billion, up from the original $7.4-billion figure.

Ian Anderson, chief executive of Trans Mountain Corp., said a 2018 Federal Court of Appeal ruling contributed to the delays, and the costs, of the project when it ruled the federal government had not adequately consulted with First Nations or considered environmental risks before granting approval.

This week, the court upheld the federal Cabinet’s latest approval of the project. Finance Minister Bill Morneau says he still expects the government will be able to sell the project to private interests.

  • Elsewhere: Liberals ready aid package for Alberta as deadline for decision on Teck Frontier mine nears
  • Explainer: Trans Mountain, Trudeau and First Nations: A guide to the story so far

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Canadians arrive in Ontario and Vancouver after being evacuated from Wuhan

More than 200 passengers on two flights were able to touch Canadian soil early this morning when their flights arrived from the centre of the novel coronavirus outbreak in China. But the passengers will be quarantined for 14 days in case they show symptoms of the illness.

CFB Trenton saw 176 people arrive on the first flight, while another 39 Canadians arrived in Vancouver after they were able to board a flight chartered by the U.S. government. They will now proceed to CFB Trenton.

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Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said today that the government is now turning its attention to a second flight it has chartered for any more Canadians in Wuhan who have asked for help to leave. It is scheduled to depart Feb. 10 and arrive at CFB Trenton the next day.

Meanwhile, officials from the World Health Organization are cautioning that there’s a chronic shortage of masks, gloves and other protective equipment to combat the spread of the virus.

  • Related: New virus outbreaks will become more common, medical geography professor Tom Koch writes. We must evolve our thinking

Aurora Cannabis CEO Terry Booth steps down as grower to cut 500 positions

Another major player in the Canadian cannabis industry has lost its CEO, with hundreds of Aurora Cannabis employees set to follow Terry Booth out the door due to layoffs affecting 500 full-time equivalent positions.

In a statement following market close yesterday, Aurora also announced that it expects to take a $740-million to $775-million writedown on goodwill, and an impairment charge of between $190-million and $225-million.

Aurora’s executive chairman Michael Singer is replacing Mr. Booth as interim CEO, effective immediately, the company said. It is also appointing two new independent directors to its board. Mr. Booth will remain a member of Aurora’s board of directors, and will become a strategic adviser to the board, the company said.

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ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Jobs surge: Several worrying trends for the Canadian economy were not enough to rattle the labour market in January. The economy added 34,500 jobs last month, causing the unemployment rate to edge down to 5.5 per cent, near a record low. The jobs numbers easily beat forecasts, but economists warned that stagnant exports, weak business investment and the ultimate fallout of the coronavirus outbreak loom as causes for concern.

Emergency landing: Troubling echoes of last month’s Ukraine International Airlines disaster could be found over Syria yesterday. Russian authorities said today that a passenger jet carrying 172 people from Tehran to Damascus made an emergency landing at a Russian-controlled base to avoid coming under fire from Syrian air defences.

U.S. storm claims five lives: More than 400,000 homes and businesses were without power today after the National Weather Service warned of gusts up to 97 kilometres per hour from Virginia into New England. North Carolina and Virginia, where hundreds of people had to be pulled from flooded homes, had the most customers without electricity. In the South, flooding was the major concern after at least five people died when the storm swept through the region. “The weather is better, but the water is not. The water is several feet higher than normal. It’s extremely high and fast.” Alabama Trooper Chuck Daniel told The Associated Press.

Warm Antarctica: The Esperanza base on the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula has recorded a temperature of 18.3 degrees Celsius, the highest on record. “(This) is not a figure you would normally associate with Antarctica even in the summertime,” a World Meteorological Organization spokeswoman told reporters in Geneva.

Bryant crash investigation: Investigators probing the crash that killed basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others said today they found no evidence of engine failure. The final National Transportation Safety Board report is not expected for at least a year. A public memorial for the retired athlete will be held at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 24.

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Tracking the Democratic Party’s nomination race: The Globe and Mail launched a new tracker today featuring concise updates on who delegates will be supporting at the Democratic National Convention, scheduled for July 13-16 in Milwaukee, Wis. Primary and caucus season lasts from February to June as each state and U.S. territory picks a candidate to support for the 2020 presidential election campaign.

MARKET WATCH

North American stock markets fell across the board today as coronavirus fears overwhelmed any positive signs of economic growth. Led by declines in energy stocks, the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 102 points, or 0.57 per cent, at 17,655.49. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 277.81 points, or 0.94 per cent, to 29,102.56. The S&P 500 lost 15.71 points, or 0.47 per cent, to 3,330.02 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 51.64 points, or 0.54 per cent, to 9,520.51.

  • Newly published: Rob Carrick’s 2020 ETF Buyer’s Guide: Best Canadian bond funds

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TALKING POINTS

Trump has to be stopped from removing landmine protections

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Lloyd Axworthy and John English: “Neither the President nor his acolytes take into account the effectiveness and impact of the so-called Ottawa Treaty, to which 164 countries are signatory, the largest membership of any disarmament agreement. [A report of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines] estimates the tally of people severely injured or killed from 1997 to the present to be in the range of 150,000. But after 1999 the levels dropped to less than 10,000 annually. ” Lloyd Axworthy is a former foreign affairs minister in the Jean Chrétien government. John English is a former parliamentarian and special ambassador on landmines.

There are lessons for the living after Marylene Levesque’s violent death

Elizabeth Renzetti: “Nothing good comes from a violent death, and the only possible solace is that something is learned from it, some wisdom passed on, which helps prevent more violence in the future. What are the particular threats faced by marginalized women and sex workers? How do we identify patterns of abusive behaviour and stop them before they escalate? How do we teach men that they are not entitled to women’s bodies – and certainly not their lives?”

The California dream has gone sour

Konrad Yakabuski: “The number of homeless people in California surged 16 per cent in 2019 to 151,278. An acute shortage of affordable housing has forced thousands of people with jobs to sleep in cars or tents. ... A state long accustomed to gaining brains is rapidly losing some of its brightest citizens. In the year to last July 1, California’s population grew at its lowest rate in more than a century, increasing only 0.35 per cent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. ... With statistics like these, you’d think California policy-makers would be busting their butts to facilitate new housing construction. Instead, it’s become harder than ever to build new homes as local officials surrender to the selfish whims of their NIMBY voters.”

LIVING BETTER

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Pioneering Alberta sculptor Katie Ohe gets her due at Calgary’s Esker Foundation

The kinetic art of Katie Ohe has been inviting touch for decades, but until now there’s been no opportunity for audiences to reach out and connect with her whole body of work. That changes this winter in Calgary, where visitors to the Esker Foundation can push or touch sculptures like Zipper or Sky Block and watch the way they respond. The retrospective of the influential artist’s work is long overdue, writes Western Arts Correspondent Marsha Lederman.

This is what it’s like to travel with see-through luggage

They’re playful and fun, sure, but transparent suitcases are also bound to attract attention of all kinds at airports and depots. If tourists can tolerate the inconveniences of generating extra scrutiny with these bags, they may also enjoy the charms of having a unique conversation piece.

LONG READ FOR A LONG COMMUTE

Author Carol Shields in 2001.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

New fiction prize named for Carol Shields will award $150,000 to female author

Sometimes, it takes cross-border co-operation to address a long-standing issue of discrimination. Take for example the new Carol Shields Prize for Fiction, an effort to boost the careers of female authors in both Canada and the United States, who lag behind their male peers by most measures.

Named for the dual citizen who became a literary legend in both countries, the prize will award a top prize of $150,000, as well as smaller cash prizes to the shortlisted authors. Other perks are also being proposed, all in the name of closing the gap between men and women in fiction. As The Globe’s Marsha Lederman writes, female writers earn 55 per cent of the income their male counterparts earn.

“We know categorically that books that win awards are more widely read,” notes bestselling American author Jodi Picoult, who became involved in promoting the award thanks to the intervention of Margaret Atwood. Co-founders Susan Swan and Janice Zawernby enlisted the help of a who’s-who of literary women, but unlike many literary awards they didn’t have a wealthy patron to front the prize money. “We had to start from scratch with nothing,” says Zawernby.

The goal, the founders say, is to create a publishing network where women empower other women – in particular older women helping younger writers.

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