These are the top stories:
Justin Trudeau says he discussed the SNC case with Jody Wilson-Raybould
“She confirmed for me a conversation we had this fall where I told her directly that any decisions on matters involving the director of public prosecutions were hers alone,” Trudeau said (for subscribers). But he provided few details, citing cabinet confidentiality. And he still hasn’t directly addressed the allegations that his office attempted to put pressure on the then-justice minister and attorney-general to order an end to the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
His comments came on the same day Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion launched an investigation into the issue, saying he has “reason to believe that a possible contravention” of a section of the Conflict of Interest Act may have occurred.
John Ibbitson says Trudeau will pay a heavy price if he doesn’t properly address the issue: “The Prime Minister and his advisers will either clear Wilson-Raybould to offer her version of events, while also offering their own understanding of what happened, or the Liberals will pay the price at the next election. The choice is that simple.” (for subscribers)
SNC, meanwhile, is facing business troubles with its mining work in South America. The firm has halted all bidding on future mining projects as it tries to resolve a dispute with Chile’s Codelco, the world’s biggest mining producer. (for subscribers)
The independence of the public prosecutions service is also being questioned in the Norman case
Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s defence lawyer alleged in an Ottawa court that Crown prosecutors have been discussing trial strategy with the Privy Council Office. The Crown’s actions are more concerning than political interference in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, his lawyer said. That prompted the judge to say, “So much for the independence of the PPSC,” referring to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.
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Toronto researchers may have uncovered a molecule’s role in fighting infection
And the finding could open up possibilities for more effective cancer immune therapies to improved flu vaccines. Researchers at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre think they’ve figured out the mystery of why blood cells crucial to defending against infection also produce a molecule that conducts signals within the brain. Acetylcholine, they believe, is used by immune cells to trigger a chemical chain reaction that loosens blood vessels, opening a doorway into infected tissues.
The team engineered mice that lacked the ability to produce acetylcholine; their blood vessels remained unchanged when exposed to a virus, in turn hurting their ability to fight the infection. That suggests controlling blood flow near infected areas plays a key role in responding to infections.
B.C. is de-escalating a war of experts in order to tackle its auto insurer’s billion-dollar deficit
The public Insurance Corporation of British Columbia and private lawyers are responsible for driving up the cost of settlements through the use of duelling experts, Attorney-General David Eby said. In setting new limits on the use of experts, he pointed to a Globe investigation that revealed ICBC spends millions on recruiting Canadian doctors to unfairly discredit injury claims.
Each side will now be limited to one expert each for claims under $100,000, while major claims will be capped at three per side. There are already limits in all other provinces except for Ontario (which is currently reviewing its policies to tackle high insurance rates).
B.C.’s trial lawyers slammed the changes, saying Eby “is forcing such severe restrictions on a victim’s right to prosecute her or his claim to the sole benefit of one party, ICBC.”
ALSO ON OUR RADAR
Democrats and Republicans say they’ve reached an agreement to prevent a second government shutdown. The details, to be released today, are set to include funds for the construction of new barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. (for subscribers)
The Ontario Court of Appeal has decided to issue a decision in a case that challenges the legal definition of death. The parents of Taquisha McKitty had argued that despite her diagnosis of brain death, their daughter was still alive so long as her heart was beating. McKitty had been on life support but died after cardiac arrest in late December.
B.C. continues to grapple with unusual winter weather which experts say is similar to the polar vortex that hit Eastern Canada last month. Some ferry sailings were cancelled, with Vancouver’s North Shore and Vancouver Island expected to be hit the hardest in the latest wave of snowfall.
World shares and bond yields rode a renewed surge in risk appetite on Tuesday, as investors were optimistic about U.S.-China trade talks and cheered Washington’s deal to avoid another government shutdown. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 was up 2.6 per cent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 0.1 per cent and the Shanghai Composite Index 0.6 per cent. In Europe, London’s FTSE 100 was up 0.3 per cent at 6:15 a.m. ET. The Paris CAC 40 was up 1.1 per cent and Germany’s DAX 1.23 per cent. New York futures were also up. The Canadian dollar was at 75.36 US cents.
WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT
Let us now give thanks for Michael Wilson’s GST
“Too few will give him credit for his greatest achievement, which was also his least loved: the dreaded goods and services tax. Wilson introduced it in 1991 as Brian Mulroney’s finance minister, and it was unpopular from Day One. Unpopular, but the right policy. The GST was designed to be revenue-neutral; its goal was not increasing government revenue but instead raising it in a smarter, more progressive and more economically efficient way, in light of the best economic research at the time.” – Globe editorial
The Democrats will self-destruct by embracing socialism
“Last week I began to understand how the Democrats will lose the 2020 presidential election. The reality is that they are not one party, but two: a liberal and a socialist. The former can beat Donald Trump – but not if it is associated with the latter.” – Niall Ferguson, senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution (for subscribers)
SNC-Lavalin affair shows some companies are more equal than others
“If Canada really wanted to support quality jobs, it would both reduce corporate welfare and corporate taxes – among the highest in the OECD – thereby helping small and medium-sized businesses, which are by far the largest employers in the country. Instead, our governments are likely to maintain the status quo that all companies are to be treated equally. But when it comes to friends of the government, some companies are more equal than others.” – Sandy White, Montreal-based entrepreneur and former adviser to the Conservative government
Get outside, again: How the ‘re-wilding’ movement urges children to connect with nature
Amid concerns about too much screen time, some parents are pulling out all the stops to get their kids more active in the outdoors. One way this is taking hold is via forest schools, where much of what they would be taught in a classroom is done outdoors. The key idea is for adults to go outside with children to explore, in order to foster a lifelong love of nature. (for subscribers)
MOMENT IN TIME
North America’s first artificial-ice rink
Feb. 12, 1879: You wouldn’t think that the science of turning water into ice would be anything to acknowledge, but on this day 140 years ago, 10,000 New Yorkers joined in the celebrations. It was the debut of Thomas L. Rankin’s artificial-ice-making process at the original Madison Square Garden, producing North America’s first ice rink using mechanical refrigeration. The technology (which made its world debut in Britain a year previous) pumped a liquid-ammonia brine through a mile of cast-iron piping embedded in a floor. Add four inches of water, wait and voila, a frozen glassy surface. And it kept it frozen, even with arena temperatures above freezing. To commemorate the opening, there was an on-ice extravaganza, a carnival with hundreds of masked costumed skaters, dazzling the crowd amid thousands of gas-jet-powered coloured lights and the accompaniment of a live band. The hoopla, which included several speeches praising Rankin, lasted until midnight. But take a moment to consider the overworked Garden maintenance crew: The laborious process of resurfacing the ice was heavy manual labour that involved scraping the surface and spraying water on top, which took many hours. The Zamboni ice-resurfacing machine wasn’t patented until 70 years later. – Philip King