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

There is growing evidence that the COVID-19 variant Omicron has already begun to spread in the community in some European countries, intensifying demands to end global travel bans.

Laboratory tests from Britain and the Netherlands have revealed that Omicron was present in those countries before the first bans were imposed on travellers from southern Africa last week, while a test in Germany discovered the variant in a person with no travel history.

As The Globe and Mail’s Geoffrey York reports from Johannesburg, the news out of Europe is sparking anger in southern Africa, where the travel bans are having a disastrous effect on the region’s economies. The bans are a “grand exhibition of futility and discrimination,” said Marc Mendelson, head of the infectious-diseases division at a Cape Town hospital, in a tweet on Tuesday.

Health officials in the Netherlands announced on Tuesday that the new variant had been confirmed in samples dating as early as Nov. 19 – a week before the flight bans.

The federal government, meanwhile, announced new measures Tuesday afternoon over concerns about the Omicron variant, including adding an expanded travel ban for travellers from Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt. Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the three countries have more difficulty measuring what is happening within their borders.

Mr. Duclos also announced that vaccinated air travellers coming from outside Canada, apart from the U.S., will now need to be tested at the airport where they land in Canada. He said those travellers will have to self-isolate until a negative test result is received. Unvaccinated travellers will have to quarantine for 14 days, as was previously the case.

Later Tuesday afternoon, Alberta and British Columbia confirmed their first cases of the Omicron variant, which was discovered earlier in Ontario and Quebec.

Read more:

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Canadian economy rebounds strongly in third quarter

Canadian consumers unleashed pent-up savings in hard-hit service industries in the third quarter, with real GDP rising 1.3 per cent, or 5.4 per cent annually, Statistics Canada said Tuesday, beating economists’ expectations.

The buoyant report, however, was tempered by a downward revision in the previous quarter and a future clouded with uncertainty, driven by flooding in British Columbia and the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The three months from July through September saw a surge in consumer spending, with household expenditures rising 4.2 per cent, or almost 18 per cent in annualized terms. Blowout gains were widespread in service industries, including recreation and culture (26.1 per cent), food and accommodation (29 per cent), personal grooming (35.8 per cent) and air travel (156 per cent).

Compensation rose 2.9 per cent in the quarter, the largest increase since 2000, excluding a large uptick a year ago. Statscan noted that almost half of the overall increase in wages was seen in the hospitality industry, which includes restaurants and hotels.

B.C. braces for third ‘atmospheric river’ after recent floods

Environment Canada is forecasting a period of heavy rain for many parts of southern and coastal British Columbia on Tuesday, adding that as much as 150 millimetres of rain could drench parts of Vancouver Island through Wednesday.

Up to 60 millimetres is forecast for Vancouver and Abbotsford, with as much as 80 mm expected over sections of the Sunshine Coast and Metro Vancouver, including Surrey and Langley, and up to 120 mm near the North Shore mountains and Squamish.

Many parts of B.C. are still trying to recover from devastating floods and landslides that battered the province earlier this month.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Michigan student kills 3, wounds in shooting at school: A 15-year-old opened fire at his high school on Tuesday, killing three students and wounding six other people, including a teacher, authorities said, adding they did not know what the assailant’s motives were for the attack at Oxford High School, located about 48 kilometres north of Detroit. Authorities arrested the suspect at the school and recovered a semi-automatic handgun and several clips.

Putin hits back as NATO warns Moscow against new military aggression against Ukraine: The U.S. and NATO warned Russia on Tuesday that it would pay a high price for any new military aggression against Ukraine, as the Western military alliance met to discuss Moscow’s massing of troops near the Ukrainian border. President Vladimir Putin countered that Russia would be forced to act if U.S.-led NATO placed missiles in Ukraine that could strike Moscow within minutes.

Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan investing US$1-billion in U.S. alternative energy assets: The pension giant is buying a 50-per-cent share of 13 generation plants and storage facilities in nine U.S. states currently owned by NextEra Energy Resources LLC. The assets generate or store a total of 2,520 megawatts of energy, with about one-third of the capacity coming from two wind farms in Texas.

EU says it wants ‘verifiable proof’ that Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai is safe: The three-time Olympian and former top-ranked doubles player dropped out of public view after accusing a former Communist Party official of sexual assault. Peng only has had a few direct contacts with officials outside China since she disappeared from public view this month.

More than $1-billion needed to clear surgical backlogs: Canadian Medical Association: The CMA says the money is needed to clear the backlogs for eight key procedures that were put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. A report for the CMA by Deloitte found a backlog of 327,800 procedures across Canada. The report included eight procedures: hip replacement, cataract surgery, knee replacement, MRI scans, CT scans, coronary artery bypass and breast cancer surgery.

MARKET WATCH

Canada’s main stock index tumbled close to 500 points on Tuesday over continued worries around the COVID-19 Omicron variant. The S&P/TSX composite index was down 489.01 points at 20,659.99. In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 652.22 points at 34,483.72. The S&P 500 index was down 88.27 points at 4,567.00, while the Nasdaq composite was down 245.14 points at 15,537.69.

The Canadian dollar traded for 78.17 cents US compared with 78.34 cents US on Monday.

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TALKING POINTS

Putin is poised to strike in Ukraine, and that war could spill out onto the world stage

“His obsession with Russia’s “sphere of influence” follows in the footsteps of Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev, who used every hardball tactic in the book, including invasion and occupation, across Central and Eastern Europe after 1917 and again after 1945. Mr. Putin’s mischief has been focused on Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, while meddling in the U.S. and the EU to keep us off balance.” – Chris Alexander

The reason of prohibition must triumph over the might of nuclear weapons

“To set aside the gun will, however, require an act of will, opposing the continual call for armaments. The rationale for arming is that others do it. This defies logic, since it is a race to no destination except war. A turning away from war is evidenced by the decline in interstate violence over the past three-quarters of a century. Objectively, the peace movement is winning.” – John Polanyi

Dismantling the Royal B.C. Museum’s Old Town is the wrong choice

“Dismantling the exhibition does not further the path to reconciliation. Yes, it is time to bring the museum’s portrayal of Indigenous people into the 21st century. But it’s also time to ensure that the Old Town survives to reflect an important chapter – for good or ill – in B.C. history.” – Lucas Aykroyd

LIVING BETTER

Down on Main Street, has the pandemic created revitalization opportunities?

Even before the pandemic, Main Street shopping areas faced challenges owing to competition from malls and rising real estate costs. Today, thanks to lockdowns, working from home and online shopping, nearly every retail block is likely to have at least one vacant storefront.

But with the economy opening up, some experts are saying the tough lessons learned in the past two years may be just what was needed to start up a Main Street revival.

“COVID could be a positive for small-scale businesses. It is forcing a rethink of the way that people shop and use public space,” says Mary W. Rowe, chief executive officer of the Canadian Urban Institute, which has launched a national campaign called Bring Back Main Street.

Read the full story here.

TODAY’S LONG READ

Ski resorts face critical shortage of young workers as season begins

A help wanted sign in Big White village, near Kelowna, B.C.Lucas Oleniuk/The Globe and Mail

As skiers begin to race down the slopes of their favourite mountains, Canada’s resorts are facing an uphill battle to recruit workers, resulting in a critical shortage of staff at some locations.

Managers at ski destinations say the shortage is a result of immigration delays. Thousands of jobs are open, but Canadians aren’t biting; locals say the wages are just not adequate in expensive ski towns. The COVID-19 variant concerns and, for those in British Columbia, the devastation of recent flooding are compounding the challenges. The industry is asking the federal government to speed up visa approvals for workers from abroad.

Ski resorts typically rely on seasonal employees on working holiday visas, often through the International Experience Canada program, an agreement with 35 countries – including Australia, New Zealand and Britain – that facilitates the hiring of young seasonal workers. But the pandemic has made travelling uncertain and even impossible. For Australians, who make up a large number of foreign workers at Canadian ski resorts, national travel restrictions were only lifted at the end of October.

Read Irene Galea’s full story here.

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