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

Here’s a run-down of Trudeau’s new cabinet

The big move, as expected, was the appointment of Chrystia Freeland as deputy prime minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. Freeland will be in charge of Canada-U.S. relations, including legislation to ratify the new trade deal. She’ll also be responsible for working with the provinces.

Replacing Freeland as Foreign Affairs Minister is Quebec’s François-Philippe Champagne, who is an international lawyer. Konrad Yakabuski says this “offers an opportunity for a reset, or at least a recalibration, of Canada’s relations with countries with which it is currently on the outs.”

Other changes include Seamus O’Regan (Natural Resources), Jonathan Wilkinson (Environment and Climate Change) and Catherine McKenna (Infrastructure).

Provincial breakdown: Quebec Liberals will play a greater role, with 12 seats at the cabinet table, including new House Leader Pablo Rodriguez. He’ll have to work with the opposition parties in the minority Parliament.

Cabinet size: There will be 36 ministers in this cabinet iteration, up from 34. That’s still smaller than the 40-member team Stephen Harper had in his second term.

Go here for a detailed breakdown of the changes.

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The key takeaways from Gordon Sondland’s impeachment testimony

‘Quid pro quo’: The U.S. ambassador to the European Union said there was a “quid pro quo” to withhold US$400-million in military aid and a White House invitation to Ukraine’s President in exchange for investigations into the Bidens and the Democratic Party.

‘We followed the President’s orders’: Sondland said Trump ordered him and other officials to take part in the pressure campaign by working with Rudy Giuliani, the President’s personal lawyer. He also said Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and chief of staff Mick Mulvaney knew about the efforts.

The implications: The testimony undermines a key Trump defence that officials in Ukraine pursued the pressure campaign on their own. But Sondland said any suggestion he took part in “rogue diplomacy” was “absolutely false.”

Prince Andrew is stepping away from royal duties after his Epstein interview

The Duke of York bowed to pressure to step back, acknowledging his relationship with pedophile Jeffrey Epstein has “become a major disruption to my family’s work and the valuable work going on in the many organisations and charities that I am proud to support.”

Several companies and charities have already cut ties with Prince Andrew, including those in Canada. The Rideau Hall Foundation is dropping its association with Pitch@Palace Canada, which was part of a global charity the Duke created to help budding entrepreneurs.

The statement came after a BBC interview where Prince Andrew appeared evasive and arrogant while addressing questions about his friendship with Epstein as well as allegations he slept with a teenaged girl procured by the financier.

Epstein died in prison in New York last summer while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking dozens of girls.

Lowe’s is closing 34 stores in Canada

This is the second time in 12 months that Lowe’s is cutting its Canadian footprint, with Quebec bearing the brunt of the impact three years after provincial hardware institution Rona was sold to its U.S. rival.

This round of closures will see 11 Rona outlets in Quebec fold, triggering questions about the employment guarantees Ottawa signed with Lowe’s as a condition for the 2016 takeover.


Maple Leafs fire Mike Babcock: The Toronto head coach has been sacked amid a six-game losing streak. Sheldon Keefe, the coach of the club’s American Hockey League affiliate Toronto Marlies, has been named the new coach.

Israel condemns Canada for UN vote: Israel’s envoy in Ottawa says his country plans to lodge a formal protest after Canada joined 165 countries in voting yes to a resolution on the Palestinian right to self-determination. Both Liberal and Conservative governments had annually voted against the resolution over the past decade.

PEI proposes strict vaping measures: A bill has been tabled that would see the legal age for purchasing tobacco and e-cigarettes raised to 21 from 19. It would also impose bans on certain flavours and restrict where e-cigarette products can be sold.

Canada’s rental costs rise: Nationwide rental costs went up 0.8 per cent in October from a month ago, and by 2.5 per cent since January. In B.C., rents in Kelowna and Victoria soared by 9.4 per cent and 7.6 per cent, respectively, in 2018 from a year earlier.

Metro Vancouver transit workers plan service shutdown: The union representing nearly 5,000 employees says bus service will be halted for three days next week as part of job action if it can’t reach a deal with the region’s transit authority.


Canada’s main stock index dropped slightly on Wednesday as gains in cannabis stocks were offset by investor nervousness over a political dispute between the U.S. and China. The S&P/TSX Composite index was down 0.03 per cent to 17,005.82. On Wall Street, stocks ended the session lower on fears that a “phase one” trade deal between the U.S. and China would not be completed this year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.4 per cent to 27,821.09. The S&P 500 lost 0.37 per cent to 3,108.07 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.51 per cent to 8,526.73.

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The Conservatives can’t be stuck in the past on LGBTQ rights

Melissa Lanstman and Jamie Ellerton: “The fundamental problem is the Conservative Party’s lack of clarity on LGBTQ rights. Canadians expect their political leaders to share their values. Full stop. Yet the Conservative Party appears incapable of even offering table-stakes pleasantries to LGBTQ Canadians, while other cultural groups – be they religious, national or ethnic – command that respect without question.” Lanstman is vice-president, public affairs, at Hill Knowlton Strategies. Ellerton is principal at public-relations firm Conaptus Ltd. Both are life-long Conservative Party members.

The many misconceptions about the Kurds

Zheger Hassan: “It is important to note, in no uncertain terms, that the Kurds are not fighting for independence even within their respective countries. Instead, they are demanding a degree of autonomy that would grant them political, economic and social freedoms similar to what Quebec possesses within Canada.” Zheger Hassan is co-director of the Middle East and North Africa Research Group at the University of Western Ontario.


Frozen 2 – and why its marquee song likely won’t be the earworm Let It Go was

The Frozen sequel (starring Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel) mostly ends up as a cash-grab, Barry Hertz writes in his two-star review. One key reason? Despite the next-generation animation and big budget, “the new film simply doesn’t sing.”

A key factor that drove the success of the original was the blockbuster success of Let It Go, a track that has been viewed more than 2.9 billion times on YouTube. But the standout song of Frozen 2, Into the Unknown, lacks at least one crucial element in the hit-making formula: Its complex melody makes it too hard to sing along.

Evening Update is written by Arik Ligeti. 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.

Editor’s note: (Nov. 20, 2019) A previous version of this story said Canada’s rental inflation was the highest in nearly three decades. In fact, Statistics Canada updated its methodology for tracking rental inflation in January. This version has been updated.

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