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Good morning,

These are the top stories:

Breaking down Vladimir Putin’s planned changes to Russia’s constitution

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A slew of reforms could be coming to Russian politics – and critics say they’re designed to entrench Putin’s power long past the end of his presidential term in 2024.

The first moves: Political unknown Mikhail Mishustin has been named Russia’s new Prime Minister. That followed long-time Putin ally Dmitry Medvedev announcing his resignation from the prime minister post; the rest of his cabinet is also out. Medvedev has been appointed as deputy head of the State Council.

Concentrating power: Putin’s moves, which will be put to a public referendum, would give parliament – not the president – the authority to choose the prime minister and cabinet; Russia’s parliament is dominated by the party Putin founded. Perhaps more critically, the State Council could become the real centre of authority, especially if Putin opts to head it come 2024.

The view from critics: Opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza put it this way: “Putin is going for a Kazakhstan-style codification of his lifelong rule as chairman of the State Council, with a puppet president and a government appointed by the Duma [parliament], which he also fully controls.”

Here’s a look at today’s editorial cartoon:

(Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

This is the daily Morning Update newsletter. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for Morning Update and more than 20 more Globe newsletters on our newsletter signup page.

Canada may offer short-term compensation for families of Flight 752 victims

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The assistance it is considering would be a stop-gap measure to help families cope with expenses stemming from the tragedy. Ottawa would then need to ensure Iran fully repaid any funds.

Ottawa is also waiving or reimbursing all visa and immigration-related fees for victims’ families and loved ones.

Those plans come as Canada and four other countries affected by the disaster gather in London to form a united front on dealing with Iran. Actions could include creating a joint investigative team, legal measures and even a resolution condemning Iran at the United Nations Security Council.

How Western Canada is coping with a cold snap – and a snow-dump in Vancouver

Pedestrians help a man who uses a wheelchair cross the street after a snow storm in downtown Vancouver. (Jesse Winter/Reuters)

JESSE WINTER/Reuters

It was warmer in Antarctica than Calgary yesterday, with even the penguins at the city’s zoo kept indoors. Temperatures are expected to hit -27 today, prompting calls for winter clothing donations as shelters run over capacity.

Extreme cold weather warnings are in effect in both Alberta and Saskatchewan; Alberta is drawing on its power reserves amid soaring electricity use and Saskatchewan is importing power from Manitoba and the U.S. to meet demands.

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In the Vancouver and Victoria areas, residents were advised to stay home yesterday as snow prompted schools to cancel classes. Many bus routes were scrapped, while SkyTrain riders faced significant delays.

Canada’s apartment vacancy rate has fallen to its lowest since 2002

The national vacancy rate for apartments dropped from 2.4 per cent in 2018 to 2.2 per cent in 2019 as a supply shortage leaves many young families and newcomers with high rental bills.

The condo market is even tighter, with a vacancy rate of 1 per cent in 2019, down from 1.4 per cent the previous year.

The situation has led to rising rents across Canada: An average two-bed apartment in Vancouver was $1,748 a month, while Toronto was $1,562. Two-bedroom units in the Guelph area and Ottawa-Gatineau both rose by more than 10 per cent.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Donald Trump’s impeachment trial gets under way: The Senate will transform into an impeachment court today, with Chief Justice John Roberts presiding over the U.S. President’s trial on two articles of impeachment. Opening arguments aren’t slated to begin until Tuesday.

Peter MacKay enters Tory leadership race: The former cabinet minister ended months of speculation and announced his bid for Conservative leader. MacKay led the Progressive Conservative Party until it merged with Stephen Harper’s Canadian Alliance in 2003.

Andrew Weaver steps back from BC Greens: The former BC Green Leader will sit as an independent in the legislature for the rest of his term, a move that could shorten the lifespan of the province’s NDP minority government. Weaver said the change will give him more time to attend to family health matters.

MORNING MARKETS

World stocks bask in U.S.-China trade-deal afterglow: World stocks remained near record highs on Thursday, after the United States and China signed the first phase of an agreement to end their 18-month trade war. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE slid 0.42 per cent around 6:15 a.m. ET. Germany’s DAX was down 0.11 per cent. France’s CAC 40 gained 0.06 per cent. In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei rose 0.07 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 0.38 per cent. New York futures were higher. The Canadian dollar was trading at 76.70 US cents.

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WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

On the world stage, Canada has been left to stand alone

Greg Donaghy and Thomas Axworthy:With the U.S. on the sidelines and China so antagonistic, Canada has rarely been so in need of friends. The 21st century is unsettling enough; facing the future alone threatens to make it all the more uncomfortable.” Donaghy is the director of the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History. Axworthy is the public policy chair at Massey College.

Arrest at BMO branch shows Vancouver police have a long way to go on reconciliation

Adrienne Tanner: “For anyone who believes racism against Canada’s Indigenous people is dead, consider the case of a Heiltsuk man and his granddaughter who recently ended up in handcuffs while attempting to open a bank account in downtown Vancouver.” Tanner is a Vancouver journalist who writes about civic affairs.

LIVING BETTER

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Messiah on Netflix is not what you’ve been led to believe – it’s better than that

Reviews for the 10-part series, which tracks a leader of a cult-like following, have varied from underwhelming to scathing.

But Globe TV critic John Doyle says “Messiah is first-rate middlebrow entertainment. It’s a thinking person’s thriller, with a touch of Homeland and a dash of astringent scrutiny of faith.”

MOMENT IN TIME

The federal government announces plan to convert Canada to metric

(Rudy Platiel/The Globe and Mail)

Rudy Platiel/The Globe and Mail

Jan. 16, 1970: It looked entirely sensible on paper when he presented it on this day in 1970, but a proposal from Jean-Luc Pépin, then the federal minister of industry, trade and commerce, to shift Canada from British-based Imperial units of measurement to the more mathematically intuitive metric system would prove a hard sell. At the time, Mr. Pépin guessed the conversion might take 20 years. Now half a century on, metric units are the norm in Canada, most obviously at the grocery store and the gas pump. One notable exception is in the domain of personal measurement, such as pounds. Inevitably, the government-imposed change provided ample fodder for satire. One memorable skit by the comedy troupe the Frantics (Paul Chato, Rick Green, Dan Redican and Peter Wildman) managed to do so. The piece, which aired on CBC Radio, perfectly captured the public mood by depicting the struggles of a customer from antiquity who is faced with shop prices switching from Roman numerals to modern decimal notation. The customer, played by Mr. Redican, is unable to contain his exasperation and declares: “I will never understand this decimal nonsense if I live to be C!” – Ivan Semeniuk

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