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

The latest on the pipeline blockades

Just as Justin Trudeau was decrying the “unacceptable” layoffs and shortages resulting from the rail blockades in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to a natural-gas pipeline in northern B.C, Via Rail announced the temporary layoff of 1,000 employees.

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“It’s bad," said Christopher Monette, a spokesman for the Teamsters union, which represents train engineers, conductors and other employees at CN and Via. “We have a lot of members in our rail sector who are hurting right now.”

Protesters opposed to the Coastal GasLink development have shut down parts of the rail network for two weeks. Canadian business leaders have warned repeatedly in the past week about the economic costs due to stalled rail traffic and clogged ports.

The Prime Minister said his government is working “extremely hard” to resolve rail blockades and has faced increased political pressure to provide specifics on his government’s response to the disruptions, including a new blockade set up on the Canadian National Railway line in Edmonton.

A group that refers to themselves as Cuzzins for Wet’suwet’en said it is protesting in support of the hereditary chiefs. It also said the demonstrators plan to continue their efforts until the Prime Minister intervenes and the RCMP leaves Wet’suwet’en territory.

Quebec Premier François Legault called for Trudeau to issue an ultimatum to protesters to take down the blockades within days, and said that if a federal deadline is not respected, co-ordinated police action could be necessary to restore transportation links.

  • Editorial: In dealing with protests, Justin Trudeau must be clear about what’s negotiable, and what isn’t
  • Robyn Urback: If this is all Trudeau can offer on the blockades, perhaps he should have gone to Barbados

This is the daily Evening Update newsletter. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you, you can sign up for Evening Update and more than 20 more Globe newsletters here. If you like what you see, please forward the Evening Update newsletter to your friends.

Ottawa ties Teck oil sands mine approval to Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions

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As it weighs approving a new mine in the oil patch, the federal government is warning Alberta that its high greenhouse gas emissions and lack of enforcement of the oil sands emissions cap could factor in the decision of whether to approve the Frontier oil sands mine.

In a letter to his provincial counterpart on Tuesday, federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson doubled down on a dispute between the two levels of government over Alberta’s oil sands emissions and its climate change policies. The letter was written in response to one sent by Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon last week accusing the federal government of “changing the goal posts” for Teck’s approval.

The federal cabinet must decide whether to approve, reject or delay a decision on the proposed Frontier oil sands mine from Teck Resources Ltd. by the end of next week.

  • Grant Bishop: It would be unprincipled for Justin Trudeau to nix Teck Frontier

Fast, deadly spread of virus on cruise ship and in Hubei prompts questions about response

In much of the world, COVID-19 has spread relatively slowly. But the speed and severity of the outbreak in some areas has prompted specialists in China and Japan to raise new questions about the role authorities responding to the epidemic may have played in facilitating its spread.

Among the most damning accusations came from Japan, where a specialist in infectious diseases described a day he spent aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship. He found “completely inadequate” infection-control measures, including a failure to properly separate a green zone free of the virus from a red infectious zone.

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Further questions arose with the publication Tuesday of an extensive study by Chinese researchers, who examined 72,314 patient records to glean insights into the behaviour of the virus. They found that in Hubei, 2.9 per cent of people diagnosed with the virus have died, fully seven times the rate in other Chinese provinces.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government is expelling three Wall Street Journal reporters from the country in anger over a headline that Beijing had demanded the newspaper change. None of the three had any connection to an opinion article or its headline which enraged authorities as the country battles the spread of a deadly virus. Government spokespeople and scholars had lambasted the headline since its publication on Feb. 3.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Rivals take pre-debate jabs as Bloomberg prepares to face major test

Sparring between Mike Bloomberg and the leading Democratic candidates erupted hours before the Nevada debate, previewing what’s expected to be a tense night as the billionaire businessman meets his rivals onstage for the first time. Both Bernie Sanders’ and Joe Biden’s campaigns took aim at Bloomberg, the former raising questions about the 78-year-old’s health and the latter pointing out reversals in Bloomberg’s stances on key issues.

Nine things mortgage shoppers should know about the stress-test changes

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Starting on April 6, a new and improved benchmark rate will be used. It’ll be based on the country’s median five-year fixed insured-mortgage rate, plus two percentage points.

Harry and Meghan to end Royal duties, lose HRH titles on March 31

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will end their Royal duties on March 31 and vacate their office at Buckingham Palace. They will also lose their share of government funding and will no longer use their HRH titles. And in a potentially crippling financial blow to the couple, the Queen is reviewing whether they will be allowed to use “Royal” in the name of any new venture.

Trump offered to pardon Assange if he denied Russian link to e-mail leak, court hears

At Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Julian Assange’s barrister referred to a witness statement by former U.S. Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher who had visited Assange in 2017, saying that he had been sent by U.S. President Donald Trump to offer a pardon on the condition that Assange complied with the United States by saying that the Russians were not involved in the e-mail leak that damaged Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. A White House spokeswoman denied the assertion.

MARKET WATCH

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Some North American and European equity indexes scaled fresh peaks after China reported another decline in new coronavirus cases and on expectations of Chinese stimulus to counter a slowdown in growth.

Big manufacturing hubs on the Chinese coast are easing curbs on the movement of people and traffic while local governments prod factories to restart production, a return to economic normalcy sought by investors.

China is widely expected to cut its benchmark lending rate on Thursday, according to a survey of traders and analysts, after the country’s central bank lowered the interest rate on medium-term loans earlier this week.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX Composite Index closed up 67.02 points, or 0.38 per cent, at 17,925.36, rising for a third straight session.

The energy sector climbed 2.2 per cent with oil prices. The United States’ move to cut more Venezuelan crude from the market also aided the rise.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 115.5 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 29,347.69, the S&P 500 gained 15.81 points, or 0.47 per cent, to 3,386.1 and the Nasdaq Composite added 84.44 points, or 0.87 per cent, to 9,817.18.

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TALKING POINTS

Influencing judicial appointments isn’t illegal - but not a good look for Trudeau

Lori Turnbull: “Like the SNC-Lavalin story, this one reveals friction between the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the office of the minister of justice, both of which have key roles in judicial appointments. The minister of justice at the time was Jody Wilson-Raybould.” Lori Turnbull is the director of the School of Public Administration at Dalhousie University and the deputy editor of Canadian Government Executive magazine.

LIVING BETTER

Meet the new generation of LGBTQ characters for young adults

The cultural landscape has changed since the “It Gets Better” campaign of a few years ago, when few books and movies pointed the way for LGBTQ children. Now, a slew of young-adult releases present role models for LGBTQ teens (and others), with one fictional youngster engaging with the Anglo-Irish writer Oscar Wilde, another worshipping at the altar of British pop star David Bowie’s androgynous persona Ziggy Stardust and a third attending writing workshops named for award-winning African-American, lesbian sci-fi writer Octavia Butler.

Inuit designer Parniga Akeeagok on why it matters that traditional designs have a global audience

By day a territorial manager with Nunavut’s government, the Iqaluit resident is a passionate designer in her free time, creating one-of-a-kind parkas, outerwear and accessories. Akeeagok spoke to The Globe and Mail about how important sewing is to her and her community, and about the art of parka design.

Violinist plays while undergoing brain surgery at hospital in London

To prevent any damage to Dagmar Turner’s violin skills, Professor Keyoumars Ashkan, consultant neurosurgeon at King’s College Hospital, came up with a plan: they would map her brain, open the skull and then get her to play as they removed the tumour.

LONG READ FOR A LONG COMMUTE

Rooming houses run rampant on Airbnb as rent rules go unenforced

The house at 1 Toba Dr. in North York, a cross between a hostel and a rooming house, represents the extreme edge of the Airbnb model. It is an example of the multiple ways an operator can exist on the sprawling hospitality platform while flouting municipal rules and safety regulations.

This edition of Evening Update was written and compiled by Andrew Saikali. 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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