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Morning update newsletter: Ontario housing measures; BC Liberals return more money; panel endorses abortion pill

A real estate sold sign is shown outside a house in Vancouver, Tuesday, Jan.3, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Ontario aims to tackle Toronto's hot housing market

The Ontario government has unveiled a series of measures today that will address Toronto's hot housing market. And the rental market will be a big piece of the package: rent controls are to be applied to all rental properties. Right now, only buildings built before 1991 are beholden to rent-control rules, and there have been recent reports of tenants being told to significantly up their monthly payments or get out.

Another measure that's being considered is a 15-per-cent tax on foreign speculators. Ontario is also set to work with municipalities on a vacancy tax in a bid to boost rental options. Some of the expected changes bear similarities with what's been done in British Columbia: Vancouver is in the process of implementing a vacant-home tax, and the B.C. government introduced a foreign-buyer tax last year.

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The state of U.S. temporary work visas

Donald Trump wants to overhaul the U.S. temporary working visa program, and Silicon Valley is cheering him on – for the most part (for subscribers). It's also exposed a rift within the tech industry: H1-B visas are a limited commodity distributed through a lottery and those in Silicon Valley say outsourcing firms with U.S. offices send in an overwhelming number of applications for lower-skilled workers.

A Silicon lobby group said it was "hopeful" Trump's push for reforms will make it easier for them to bring in higher skilled workers. is also pushing for a minimum wage requirement to qualify for a visa. But setting a wage requirement would hurt businesses in lower-cost regions, according to an industry group representing India's IT outsourcing industry. Trump said the H1-B program "should never ever be used to replace Americans." If the U.S. imposes harsh visa restrictions, tech workers may head to Canada instead, analysts say.

BC Liberals return more donations

The BC Liberal Party has returned more than $174,000 in donations. The RCMP launched an investigation into political contributions in B.C. last month after The Globe and Mail reported that lobbyists were making donations in their own names before being reimbursed by clients. That broke one of the province's few donation rules. The new amount is nearly double the $92,874 the Liberals said they were returning last month. A party spokesperson said their review of contributions is still ongoing. The BC NDP has returned $10,500 in contributions. The NDP is promising to ban corporate and union donations if it wins the provincial election slated for May 9. The Liberals have pledged to launch a review of donation rules.

Expert panel endorses public coverage of abortion pill

A key expert committee says provinces and territories should cover the $300 cost of an abortion pill. Governments are under no obligation to follow the recommendation but many had said they were waiting on a report from the Common Drug Review before making a decision. Mifegymiso is a two-drug combination kit that pro-choice advocates have been pushing to have placed within provincial health coverage. For one, they say it will make abortions easier to obtain for those in rural areas. Mifegymiso, considered the top abortion medication, was approved in Canada last year, and became available in January. It was approved in France and China decades ago, and about 15 years ago in the U.S.


The Ottawa Senators are one win away from advancing to the next round. Bobby Ryan stepped up again to score the game-winner, lifting the Sens past the Boston Bruins. The series now heads to Ottawa for Game 5 tomorrow.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, meanwhile, came close but fell 5-4 to the Washington Capitals. The Capitals hammered the Leafs early, and led 4-1 after the first period. The series now heads back to Washington for Game 5 with things all tied up at two games apiece.

The Calgary Flames are the first team to be eliminated from the 2017 NHL playoffs, going down 3-1 in Game 4 to the Anaheim Ducks. The Flames pulled starting goaltender Brian Elliot after he gave up the game's first goal, a softie, but reliever Chad Johnson gave up the Ducks' second goal almost immediately after coming into the game. The Ducks will play the winner of the Edmonton Oilers-San Jose Sharks series.

The Minnesota Wild staved off elimination by defeating the St. Louis Blues 2-0 for their first win in the series. The Blues still lead three games to one, with Game 5 going on Saturday in Minnesota.


France's presidential election nears

The first round of France's presidential election is set for this Sunday, with 11 candidates vying for the chance to advance to a run-off vote on May 7. And one of those contenders is 48-year-old Marine Le Pen, the populist leader of the right-wing National Front party. Le Pen took over the reins of the controversial party from her father in 2011 and has since attempted to shed its racist and anti-Semitic past in order to reach more voters. But her targets aren't all that different: the European Union, foreigners and radical Islam to name a few. If the polls can be believed, Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron will be the two winners in Sunday's vote. Macron is favoured to beat her in a run-off, but anything is possible. If she wins, the EU may see another country push to leave its ranks.


Global markets remained cautious and eked out small gains on Thursday as investors resisted risky bets ahead of the first round of the French presidential election over the weekend. Oil prices, which fell sharply on Wednesday on supply news, regained some of their losses. Tokyo's Nikkei was little changed, but Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 1 per cent while the Shanghai composite rose marginally. In Europe, London's FTSE 100 was down 0.1 per cent by about 5:55 a.m. (ET), while Germany's DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were up by between 0.2 and 1 per cent. New York futures were up, and the Canadian dollar was hovering above the 74-cent (U.S.) mark.


Canada's assisted-dying laws must be open to those with mental illness

"[Adam] Maier-Clayton's suicide behooves the rest of us – at least those of us who believe in patient autonomy and think that medicine should be practiced in the best interest of patients – to respect the suffering of the mentally ill. We can't leave it to vote-wary politicians and risk-averse medical associations to campaign for an equitable MAID law. After all, it took more than 20 years after Sue Rodriguez lost her Supreme Court challenge to decriminalize assisted suicide. We can't wait for another constitutional challenge to recognize that not all suffering is physical. That struggle is Maier-Clayton's legacy – and fighting for it might make a difference to you or somebody you love." – Sandra Martin

Bill O'Reilly, out at Fox News, was toppled by his own ego

"...the biggest right-wing blowhard in the U.S. media, the most influential of barking, bullying cable-news hosts, the man who was a money-making machine for Fox News, is out. Done and disgraced. A giant is toppled by his own ego and outrageous behaviour. … In its coverage of Bill O'Reilly's ouster on Wednesday, Breitbart News, that vociferous pro-Trump voice, used the headline, 'Activist Left Gets Monster Scalp.' That's partly true – for many Americans who are sickened by the election of Trump, a war against Fox News is a war against Trump by proxy. But the point Breitbart misses is this: Sexual harassment in the workplace is not about left or right; it is simply unacceptable." – John Doyle


The secret to successful weight lifting

Going to the gym regularly but not seeing much change in your body? It's time to start following a program, and then tracking your workouts. Podcasts, personal trainers and websites can all help you set a program that builds on previous workouts. Next, start jotting down your lifting experiences (weight lifted, sets, reps) and any changes to your program. Making note of what worked, and what didn't, will help as you increase your lifting capacity.


The world pays tribute to Freddie Mercury

April 20, 1992: It was a music tribute like no other when Guns N' Roses, Elton John, David Bowie, Annie Lennox and others came together to pay homage to the late Freddie Mercury on this date. The beloved lead vocalist for Queen had died Nov. 24, 1991, from AIDS-related pneumonia, unleashing a massive public outpouring of grief and anger over the disease. The concert was held at London's Wembley Stadium in front of more than 72,000 people and broadcast live in 76 countries. All proceeds went to AIDS research. Performances included George Michael covering Somebody to Love and Annie Lennox and David Bowie belting out Under Pressure. And Elton John and Axl Rose collaborated for a rousing version of Bohemian Rhapsody. With an estimated global audience of one billion, it felt like the world was simultaneously singing, "Mama, ooooh, I don't want to die." – Angela Pacienza

Morning Update is written by Arik Ligeti.

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Video: Fox News fires Bill O'Reilly over sex harassment claims (Reuters)
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