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The Canadian military found and retrieved Chinese monitoring buoys in the Arctic this past fall, a development whose public exposure adds another item to a list of pressing concerns about Beijing’s interventions in Canadian affairs, including interference in recent federal elections.

The buoys were spotted by the Canadian Armed Forces as part of Operation Limpid, a continuing effort to provide early detection of threats to Canada’s security. Earlier this month, the North American Aerospace Defence Command shot down a different Chinese surveillance device: a high-altitude balloon that traversed North America before it was destroyed.

Retired lieutenant-general Michael Day said the Chinese buoys would likely have been used to monitor U.S. nuclear submarine traffic in the Arctic, and for mapping seabeds and ice thickness. Beijing is eying shipping through northern waters, which are becoming more navigable as a result of climate change.

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A Canadian flag sits on a members of Canadian forces that are leaving from CFB Trenton, in Trenton, Ont., on October 16, 2014.Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press

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Inflation rate slows more than expected, but food costs still climbing

Canada’s annual inflation rate dipped below 6 per cent for the first time since early 2022, helped by lower prices for cellphone service and vehicles, even as food costs continued to soar.

The Consumer Price Index rose 5.9 per cent in January from a year earlier, down from a 6.3-per-cent pace in December, Statistics Canada said yesterday in a report. Financial analysts were expecting an inflation rate of 6.1 per cent. It was the lowest reading since February, 2022. On a month-over-month basis, consumer prices rose 0.5 per cent. But prices jumped 0.9 per cent in January, 2022.

In response to the report, several analysts said the Bank of Canada is likely to hold its policy interest rate at 4.5 per cent on March 8, when its next rate decision will be announced.

Ontario promises ‘guardrails’ for private health clinics

The Ontario government says its new draft legislation to allow more publicly funded surgeries and other procedures in for-profit clinics comes with “guardrails” to protect patients and the public health care system.

The bill, unveiled yesterday, says applicants seeking to set up new private clinics would have to show how they plan to staff up while still protecting the needs of public hospitals. And it says they would be banned from refusing to serve patients who declined to pay out-of-pocket for extra services, an “upselling” practice critics have warned is common at existing for-profit clinics. They would also be banned from charging extra to jump a queue.

The plan, which Premier Doug Ford announced last month, is his government’s proposed solution to the surgical backlogs that have ballooned during the pandemic and now affect more than 200,000 patients in the province.

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Also on our radar

Putin blames West for war: Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the West of trying to destroy his country, and stated that Russia will halt its participation in a key nuclear arms treaty that has been in place since the end of the Cold War.

Trudeau should close Roxham Road, Pierre Poilievre says: The Official Opposition Leader says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should close the unofficial border crossing at Roxham Road in Quebec within 30 days, ending the use of a path that has allowed tens of thousands of refugees to enter Canada.

Provinces decline mental health support for switched-at-birth cases: As more switched-at-birth cases come to light, the importance of offering mental-health support to victims has been emphasized. But the provincial governments of Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador have declined to do so. Governments in both provinces have not offered an apology, compensation, or a commitment to review the mistakes.

Unmarked graves found at B.C. residential school: Geological scans point to at least 17 unmarked graves on the property around the former Alberni Indian Residential School on Vancouver Island, the Tseshaht First Nation says. According to the results of a preliminary search released yesterday, researchers retained by the nation have also documented 67 students who died.

Board recommends raise for public servants: Ottawa should increase wages for public servants by 9 per cent over three years and allow employees to have more of a say in remote work arrangements, a new report from the federal labour relations board recommends.

Morning markets

World markets struggle: Global shares traded around their lowest levels in more than a month on Wednesday as fresh fears about inflation and interest rates weighed on market sentiment. Just after 5:30 a.m. ET, Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 1.2 per cent. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 lost 0.89 per cent and 1.01 per cent, respectively. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei closed down 1.34 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slid 0.51 per cent. New York futures were little changed. The Canadian dollar was lower at 73.78 US cents.

What everyone’s talking about

Gary Mason: “The only real penalty for breaking conflict laws at the federal level is the public shame you feel by being found out. But when you’re a government without shame, that is hardly a punishment that is going to change your behaviour. Not only do Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have no fiscal anchors, it turns out they also have no moral ones, either.”

Rob Csernyik: “Since having a fulsome conversation on the benefits of renting is still challenging, let alone getting the housing supply up to speed, we need another tack to move forward. A renewed focus on the economic benefits, from the household level on up, may be the best way to redirect the conversation and normalize renting instead of treating it as a second choice.”

Today’s editorial cartoon

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Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable published Feb. 21, 2023.Illustration by Brian Gable

Living better

How young Canadians are taking care of their mental well-being on a budget

It’s no secret that financial stress can take a toll on your mental health – especially at a time when Canada’s inflation rate remains high, layoffs are making headlines and there is talk of a looming recession. Despite their budgets growing more and more tight, some Canadians have found free and cheap ways to take care of their mental well-being – and they say it’s helped them to better cope with their financial stress.

Moment in time: Feb. 22, 1999

Open this photo in gallery:Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downey performs during their sold-out concert at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto Monday, February 22, 1999. The band is currently on a cross Canada tour. (CP PHOTO) 1999 (stf-Kevin Frayer)

Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downey performs during their sold-out concert at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto Monday, Feb. 22, 1999.Kevin Frayer/The Canadian Press

Air Canada Centre opens with Tragically Hip

Two days after the Toronto Maple Leafs christened the Air Canada Centre with a 3-2 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens on a sheet of fresh ice and one night after basketball’s Toronto Raptors handily defeated the Vancouver Grizzlies on the hardcourt, the Tragically Hip headlined the first concert at the venue on this day in 1999. After sets from warm-up acts the Rheostatics and By Divine Right (with the future Grammy winner Leslie Feist on guitar), singer Gord Downie walked on stage with his bandmates. “Well, of course it’s time for Something On,” he said, referring to a rocker from the group’s latest album. And, indeed, something was on. Built at the cost of $288-million, the ACC quickly became one of the busiest buildings of its kind in the world. The second song performed by the Tragically Hip was Fifty Mission Cap, about Maple Leaf defenceman Bill Barilko, who died under mysterious circumstances in 1951 and whose banner hung from the rafters of what has since been rebranded as Scotiabank Arena. Legends had transferred from an old home to the new; ghosts did too. Brad Wheeler

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