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Israel’s cabinet approved a temporary ceasefire yesterday with Hamas that is expected to bring a halt in fighting beginning at 10 a.m. local time Thursday.

The deal calls for a four-day ceasefire, during which Israel will halt its military offensive in Gaza while Hamas frees “at least” 50 of the roughly 240 hostages it and other militants are holding, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said. The first hostages to be released are women and children.

Media reports ahead of the vote said Israel would free about 150 Palestinian prisoners as part of the deal, but Israel made no mention of a prisoner release. Netanyahu said the war against Hamas would resume after the truce expires.

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Protesters hold signs demanding the liberation of hostages who are being held in the Gaza Strip after they were seized by Hamas gunmen on October 7, in Tel Aviv, Israel, November 21, 2023.AMIR COHEN/Reuters

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Canadian met with Global Affairs official before 2014 arrest in China

The arrest and interrogation of Michael Spavor in 2018 was not the first time a Canadian was jailed by Beijing after talking to a diplomat with the Global Security Reporting Program. In 2014, Chinese authorities detained Canadians Kevin and Julia Garratt, accusing them of participation in espionage.

Kevin Garratt had dined at a restaurant with Martin Laflamme, who was sent to China by the GSRP, a small group of diplomats dispatched around the world to collect information on security in countries important to Canada. Chinese interrogators subjected the Garratts to intensive questioning about their involvement with foreign agents, demanding precise details about the meeting between the two men.

Laflamme’s successor with GSRP was Michael Kovrig, who met repeatedly with Spavor. The two Michaels were arrested in 2018 and not released for more than two years. Spavor is now seeking millions of dollars from the federal government, saying he did not know that information he shared with Kovrig was passed on to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and its Five Eyes intelligence partners.

Ottawa unveils future deficit cap, billions for housing in fall economic update

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced billions in spending yesterday, in a fall economic statement that focused on housing affordability.

Among the new housing measures were $15-billion in loans for rental apartment construction, and $1-billion in investment, over three years, to support non-profit, co-op and public housing providers.

The economic update also set a new cap on the size of future deficits, pledging to keep them at no larger than 1 per cent of gross domestic product. The government’s new deficit cap serves as a message to investors, the Bank of Canada and even the federal cabinet that Ottawa is trying to keep a lid on spending. Many economists, including top officials at the central bank, have warned that growth in government spending is adding to inflation.

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Also on our radar

Inflation rate falls in October: Canada’s inflation rate dropped 3.1 per cent in October, boosting confidence on Bay Street that the Bank of Canada is done raising interest rates and will start to cut them next year. Despite the progress in controlling inflation, housing costs continue to rise, a sign of how the country’s housing shortage is affecting the numbers.

Ontario teachers, province reach tentative deal: The Ontario government and the elementary public teachers’ union reached a tentative agreement yesterday, averting any job action for the next three years. Members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario will receive details on the agreement later this week as a ratification vote is being scheduled.

Most of Turkish medication never made it to Alberta pharmacies: Fewer than 5,000 bottles of the 1.5 million units of children’s pain relief medication procured by Alberta Premier Danielle Smith from Turkey last winter were ever distributed to community pharmacies – another indication that the government’s $75-million deal to address pediatric drug shortages last winter was costly and ineffective.

Tories vote against Canada-Ukraine trade deal: Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives voted against legislation to enact the updated Canada-Ukraine free-trade agreement yesterday, saying it would “impose a carbon tax on the people of Ukraine.” The text of the new trade deal does not commit either Canada or Ukraine to a carbon tax. It says both sides are expected “to promote carbon pricing and measures to mitigate carbon leakage risks.”

Ontario demands details on foreign workers: After reports that 1,600 people from South Korea would be arriving in Windsor next year to work at an electric-vehicle battery plant, Ontario has asked the federal government to clarify just how many foreign workers it will allow to work at the facility that is being built with $15-billion in taxpayer subsidies.

Morning markets

Global stocks steady: Global shares hovered around three-month highs on Wednesday and the U.S. dollar found support as investors tempered some of their earlier enthusiasm about the prospect of the start of a series of U.S. interest rate cuts. Around 5:30 a.m. ET, Britain’s FTSE 100 slid 0.03 per cent. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 were up 0.44 per cent and 0.43 per cent, respectively. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei gained 0.29 per cent. Wall Street futures were little changed. The Canadian dollar was lower at 72.93 US cents.

What everyone’s talking about

Konrad Yakabuski: “The deterioration of Montreal’s Métro system is illustrative of the crisis in public transit occurring across Canada. Governments claim urban transit is a priority and a critical component in their plans to cut carbon emissions. Politicians keep promising new subway and light-rail transit projects to entice voters. They talk a lot less about the costs of maintaining existing transit services. Yet, those costs have become unsustainable.”

Cathal Kelly: “The latest brainwave from a league that cannot organize one lousy off-season tournament is a different, worse off-season tournament..... Through their media partners, they are proposing a four-country tournament in 2025 featuring Canada, the United States and two European countries. Maybe Sweden and Finland. A World Cup this is not. Four countries doesn’t even make a decent trade conference.”

Today’s editorial cartoon

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Editorial cartoon by David Parkins, Nov. 22, 2023.Illustration by David Parkins

Living better

Do natural cold and flu remedies work?

The idea that you can “boost” your immune system is a popular one. But can popular immune supplements and foods actually prevent or treat a respiratory infection? Here’s what the science says.

Moment in time: Nov. 22, 1995

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The main characters from the Walt Disney Pictures film "Toy Story."Reuters

Toy Story, the first fully computer-animated feature film, is released

When Woody and Buzz were introduced to audiences 28 years ago, everyone involved in the making of Toy Story knew it was something special. No one, however – not Michael Eisner at Disney, Steve Jobs at Apple (then-owner of Pixar) nor director John Lasseter – had a clue it would spawn a franchise that would gross more than US$3.3-billion worldwide and change the landscape of animation forever. Toy Story was the first feature-length computer-animated film, allowing animators to store digital characters, sets and scenes in computers so they didn’t have to redraw each cel by hand. It was also one of the first animated films to be widely embraced by kids and adults alike, sparking a trend to make wise-cracking, feel-good movies (Shrek, Minions, The Incredibles) that entertained the whole family. Toy Story set the bar high. The animation was top-notch, the coming-of-age script was relatable to everyone, and the casting was inspired. Heralded by Mr. Jobs in 1995 as “the biggest advance in animation since Walt Disney started it all with the release of Snow White,” Toy Story was added in 2005 to the U.S. National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” Gayle MacDonald

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