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Morning Update: Political turmoil in Zimbabwe; Vancouver cracks down on Airbnb rentals

Zimbabwe's Army Commander, Constantino Chiwenga, addresses a press conference in Harare, on Nov. 13, 2017.

Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Good morning,

These are the top stories:

Political turmoil in Zimbabwe

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Tensions have sharply escalated in Zimbabwe, with the military taking power. But in an effort to dispel rumours of a coup, it says 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe and his family are safe. Instead, it says the takeover is a temporary effort intended to go after "criminals" around Mugabe. The Finance Minister was among those reported detained. Both the U.S. and Britain advised their citizens in the country to stay at home until further notice.

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Vancouver is cracking down on short-term housing rentals including Airbnb

It will become the first major Canadian city to restrict short-term rentals of suites that aren't primary residences. The move is intended to free up housing for long-term renters in a city that has a vacancy rate close to zero. Vancouver estimates that at least 1,000 of the 6,000 listings on home-sharing sites are for suites that the owner doesn't live in. The measures passed by city council also mandate that basement apartments and laneway houses that could house long-term tenants can't be listed on Airbnb-type sites. Toronto is exploring implementing similar restrictions on short-term rentals.

The Vancouver vote came on the same day the federal government revealed it was dropping a promise to waive the GST on new rental-housing construction, saying there are better ways to encourage the building of affordable rental units. What exactly those mechanisms are will likely become known when Ottawa releases its new national housing strategy.

Justin Trudeau is committing troops to global peacekeeping missions

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Instead of focusing on one mission, Ottawa is expected to deploy soldiers and staff to a number of places to serve specialized roles. That may mean engineers and doctors in addition to troops. And it may also involve providing high-end equipment. Many missions are often lacking those specialized assets, said Atul Khare, the United Nations' undersecretary-general for field support. Khare added that distributing personnel across a number of missions is a "better way of improving the situation globally." The Liberal government pledged 600 soldiers and $400-million toward peacekeeping in August of 2016 and has been facing increasing pressure from opposition parties to act on that commitment.


Canada is challenging Washington's softwood lumber tariffs

Ottawa is turning to a contentious section of the North American free-trade agreement in an effort to scrap duties of 20.83 per cent on Canadian softwood. Chapter 19 is a NAFTA mechanism that sets up trade panels to settle disputes. The U.S. has called for the removal of Chapter 19 as part of NAFTA negotiations, but Canada has stood firm. Dispute panels have ruled in Canada's favour in previous lumber battles. The challenge comes just as Ottawa prepares to take a tougher stand in NAFTA talks – even if that results in no new trade agreement. Besides Chapter 19, Canada could also try to taking the softwood case to the U.S. Court of International Trade, or via an appeal through the World Trade Organization.


Global stocks were set for their longest losing streak in more than six months on Wednesday as weaker commodities weighed, while the euro hit its highest levels in three weeks. Tokyo's Nikkei lost 1.6 per cent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng 1 per cent, and the Shanghai composite 0.8 per cent. In Europe, London's FTSE 100, Germany's DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were down by between 0.5 and 1 per cent by about 5:30 a.m. ET. New York futures were also down. The U.S. dollar was weaker, with the loonie above 78.5 cents (U.S.). Oil prices slipped for the fourth day in a row.

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Albertans are hungry for a fresh political star. Who will it be?

"Mainstream political parties in Canada have their knots of diehard supporters, but there is a great swath of voters whose allegiance shifts like a weather vane. This is the great hope of the Alberta Party. Its leader Greg Clark shook the province's political firmament recently, announcing that he was resigning to make way for a leadership race – one that he may enter. Yes, we know. Odd. But it's all part of a master plan to generate fresh excitement around a party that has a great name but little else going for it. With the ascension of Jason Kenney as the head of United Conservative Party, and support for the governing New Democrats in free-fall, there is a sense among some political eggheads in the province that the time is ripe for a centrist alternative. The idea isn't as farfetched as it sounds." – Gary Mason

Pot should be legal, but not at the wheel

"Limiting how much cannabis one may consume before driving does not stigmatize medicinal users any more than a 0.08 per cent blood-alcohol content stigmatizes legal drinkers. Many medications carry warnings against operating machinery or driving; if taking them results in impairment, you can be arrested – and you should be. When it comes to marijuana, the law may be moving faster than the mechanism of enforcement, but focusing the debate on technicalities obscures the broader goal. There is nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution. A restrictive standard is preferable to an overly lenient one. While we're at it, Canada should consider dropping the bar for booze. Drunk driving is a large-scale and well understood threat, and this country has higher legal limits than many others." – Globe editorial


Accurate blood pressure measurement is real core message of new guidelines

"New U.S. guidelines mean that millions of people who had normal blood pressure yesterday have high blood pressure today. A slight definitional change means that 46 per cent of Americans are now classified as hypertensive, compared with 32 per cent previously. … What is interesting and potentially positive is that the new guidelines do not say the newly classified should be treated with drugs, unless they have other risk factors such as diabetes. Rather, they are a loud call for preventing and managing blood pressure with lifestyle modifications. Practically, that means reducing salt intake, being more physically active, moderating alcohol consumption, not smoking, watch the scales, getting more sleep, eating more fruits and vegetables and all that other healthy stuff that most people don't do." – André Picard


Mackenzie King passes power on to Louis St. Laurent

Nov. 15, 1948: Mackenzie King had been Liberal leader for almost 30 years. As prime minister, he had led the country through the aftermath of the Great War, the last years of the Great Depression and the Second World War. He forged a modern, industrial, mostly united Canada, along with the precursor to the welfare state, making him our greatest prime minister in the eyes of many historians. But he was unloved: petty, ungracious, obsessed with a succession of Irish terriers, all named Pat, given to seances with the dead – including the previous Pats. By 1948, he was old, lonely and unwell. Although the apparitions of Franklin Roosevelt and Wilfrid Laurier urged him to stay on, he reluctantly resigned in favour of Louis St. Laurent. Within two years he was gone. His closest aide confessed: "I felt no real sorrow at Mackenzie King's death." Yet, we live in the Canada he shaped. – John Ibbitson

Morning Update is written by Arik Ligeti.

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