Before we get into the news, a personal note: This will be the last Morning Update that I pen as I leave The Globe for a new opportunity. It has been a pleasure helping thousands of you start your day a little more informed. The feedback I’ve received, beginning with this newsletter’s revamp in 2017, has been invaluable. And fear not: Talented editors will continue to bring you a comprehensive snapshot of what’s happening every weekday morning. I know I’ll be reading. – Arik
Now, the top stories:
Coronavirus: Chrystia Freeland is calling for a ‘whole of country’ response
The Deputy Prime Minister said a team of ministers is preparing a range of options to support the economy if required as the Bank of Canada cut its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point.
Freeland emphasized the role that all Canadians must play, from proper hand washing to employer flexibility on working from home.
There are currently 34 coronavirus cases in Canada, including one person in B.C. in critical condition, but officials expect the numbers to rise.
Planning for worse: If local person-to-person transmission is detected, schools could be closed and mass gatherings cancelled (Italy has become the latest country to close all schools). For their part, provincial governments are developing plans to delay non-essential surgeries to free up hospital beds.
How deadly is the virus? The current global fatality rate is 3.4 per cent, significantly higher than previous estimates of between 1 per cent and two per cent. The silver lining? Experts say the 3.4 rate is just a snapshot in time and that the actual figure is likely lower. The majority of those who get infected recover well, with about 20 per cent experiencing a severe illness (those 65 and over with preexisting conditions are most susceptible) and a subset of those dying.
The rate cut and your finances: The rate cut will put already hot housing markets “on steroids,” according to the Bank of Montreal’s chief economist. Coupled with changes to the mortgage stress test, we could be in for gains of 15 per cent or more in some regions. Still, Rob Carrick says it’s the worst time to borrow money since the financial crisis, given the risk of the virus sending the economy into a recession.
Business disruptions: Companies are imposing restrictions on international business travel, with conferences cancelled and some businesses telling employees to stay home if they recently visited areas hit by the virus. Even small-scale Amazon sellers are in a pinch as they look for manufacturers outside of China.
Have a question about coronavirus? Globe columnist Andre Picard will take reader questions later this week. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Erdogan and Putin are meeting amid escalating fighting in northeastern Syria
The leaders of Turkey and Russia are sitting down today in a bid to avoid a direct clash between their two militaries, which are both operating in Syria. Turkey’s military is backing Syrian rebels in Idlib province, while Russia’s army is working with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
“The personal warmth between Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdogan has always been at odds with the cold realities on the ground in Syria,” correspondent Mark MacKinnon writes. In order to avoid a conflict between Turkish and Russian troops, “at least one of them is going to have to back down.”
Elsewhere on the Kremlin front, Canada’s top general says Russia poses the most immediate military threat to this country and the international community. General Jonathan Vance cited Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its disinformation campaigns, while also arguing that China poses a significant risk for cyberattacks.
In Ontario: A look at what’s happening with the Ford government
Teachers: The union representing Ontario’s high-school teachers has ended informal contract talks with the province a day after the government backed down on proposals for class sizes and online courses. Union president Harvey Bischof said the proposal leaves no room for negotiating changes.
Sex-assault centres: Amid rising demand for the free services, Ontario won’t be giving the centres an additional $1-million in funding next year. The centres say waiting times – which can run for months or even years – will only grow longer without the funds.
The Ring of Fire project: Premier Doug Ford said this week that mining in the remote region northeast of Thunder Bay would create 5,500 jobs a year. But those numbers appear to come from a 2014 study based on projections that have not yet been proven to be viable.
ALSO ON OUR RADAR
Overlapping land claims in Wet’suwet’en territory: While a tentative agreement promises to implement Indigenous rights and title, any path forward will need to address various claims. Several other Indigenous groups also lay claim to some portions of the 22,000 square kilometres claimed by the Wet’suwet’en.
Bloomberg endorses Biden: The decision by the New York billionaire could give a major boost to the former vice-president in coming March primaries, especially if he pours money into the campaign. We could be in for a months-long battle between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, including the possibility of a contested convention.
Reaction from Canada on Uyghur camps: China’s ambassador to Canada dismissed extensive Western coverage of China’s detention camps for Uyghurs as “fake news.” The comments come amid reports that thousands of Uyghurs are being subjected to forced labour at factories that claim to supply products to Bombardier and other companies. (Bombardier is investigating.)
Coronavirus douses global stocks rally: European shares fell again on Thursday, taking their cue from U.S. equity futures, which implied a lower open for Wall Street as cases of the coronavirus surged in the U.S. Just before 6 a.m. ET, Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 1.66 per cent. Germany’s DAX fell 1.28 per cent. France’s CAC 40 lost 1.46 per cent. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei rose 1.09 per cent. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 1.99 per cent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 2.08 per cent. The Canadian dollar was trading at 74.59 US cents.
WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT
If Alberta taxed like other provinces, it would have a huge budget surplus
Globe editorial: “Jason Kenney’s government may be right. Oil may save Alberta yet again. But if oil falls short, deeper spending cuts are on the horizon. ... These are all legitimate choices, made by an elected government. But spending cuts, and prayers for crude, are not the only options.”
TODAY’S EDITORIAL CARTOON
Eight new Canadian tracks for late-winter survival
Alanis Morissette sings of suffering and trying to keep it together, Hawksley Workman revisits a classic Canadian song that looks forward to silent summer evenings and Yellowknife rockers Digawolf ask for a stove and music to keep warm. Brad Wheeler offers up a playlist to help get you through the end of winter.
MOMENT IN TIME
Photographer takes iconic Che Guevara shot
March 5, 1960: It is the face that launched a thousand shirts. Soulful eyes, unkempt hair, scraggly beard, rakish beret, a jacket zipped to the chin. The original black and white photograph of Argentine-born revolutionary Ernesto Rafael Guevara de la Serna (Che Guevara), was taken on this day in 1960. Che, 31, a minister in Fidel Castro’s government, had been at a memorial service in Havana when former fashion photographer Alberto Korda, who was Castro’s official photographer, saw Che emerge from the crowd about 25 feet away. The quick-thinking Korda, using a Leica M2 with a 90-mm lens, got off two quick shots – one vertical, one horizontal. The photos were rejected by Cuban newspapers at the time, but Korda liked them. He cropped the horizontal shot into a vertical to isolate Che, had it enlarged and hung it in his studio. He named it Guerrillero Heroico (Heroic Guerrilla Fighter). It wasn’t until 1967, when Korda was asked for a pic of the avowed Marxist, that it became public. Within a few years, it was a worldwide symbol of defiance and ironically, through its monetization, capitalism. Korda never received royalties from the iconic photo, possibly the most reproduced image in history, especially on T-shirts. – Philip King