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C-69 eases regulatory burdens for pipelines: report

“Proponents of mining projects and nuclear projects are now less likely to face federal assessment; proponents of offshore wind or tidal energy projects, more likely,” Goodday said.

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Bill C-69 has had its share of controversial commentary. Most notably, it’s been dubbed the “no more pipelines bill” by Alberta’s provincial government and the Opposition federally, and it’s catchy enough to be repeated consistently.

A recent report from the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, however, suggests that it might be time to move on from catchphrases.

Victoria Goodday, an energy and environment policy researcher, published her findings in December and they’re not quite as dire as some keep saying; in fact, the new legislation seems to be less cumbersome than the previous legislation – for oil, gas, and pipelines, that is.

Bill C-69 introduced the Impact Assessment Act which replaced the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act from 2012. The changes are varied with some project types seeing a decrease in stringency and others seeing an increase.

“Proponents of mining projects and nuclear projects are now less likely to face federal assessment; proponents of offshore wind or tidal energy projects, more likely,” Goodday said.

“Specific to petroleum-based energy projects (oil, gas, and coal), 50 per cent (14) of projects under this activity type remain unchanged from (previous legislation).”

In situ oil sands extraction facilities were added but only trigger a federal review if they are located in a province without legislation around GHG emission limits; since Alberta has retained TIER (technology, innovation and emissions reduction regulation), projects in the province would be exempt from additional assessments.

Goodday says the new “list is arguably more lenient” than the previous legislation with regard to oil and gas pipeline proponents.

“Most notably, the entry for a new onshore pipelines became less stringent,” she said.

“Only pipelines requiring 75 km or more of a new right-of-way will be designated (for assessment), compared to 40 km or more of new pipeline (under prior legislation); this means that pipelines built within an already established right-of-way will no longer be automatically designated.”

Twinning existing projects, like the Trans Mountain Expansion, will not require additional federal assessment under C-69.

The new legislation was also updated to include abandonment and decommissioning so that projects at their ‘end-of-life’ will not trigger new federal assessments.

Protected marine areas were added and will require a federal assessment if pipelines are mapped out through protected water areas.

“We see that this new list (of designated projects) works in favour of pipeline proponents, it very much works in favour of nuclear energy proponents,” she clarified in an interview with Ryan Jespersen Tuesday.

Goodday also added that the new legislation appears to be streamlining the process to omit federal assessments in regional areas where the provincial and municipal assessment processes are deemed to meet the federal assessment standards; which is good news for provinces that have a major resource industry.

Story ideas? dmaclean@westernstandardonline.com Twitter @Mitchell_AB

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Vancouver’s Archbishop slams B.C. COVID regulations on churches

In a series of Twitter posts, Archbishop J. Michael Miller said an unfair burden has been placed on his flock of 475,000 Catholics by the B.C. government.

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The archbishop of Vancouver says B.C. health regulations forcing the closing of church worship is unfair and arbitary.

In a series of Twitter posts, Archbishop J. Michael Miller said an unfair burden has been placed on his flock of 475,000 Catholics by the B.C. government.

“We all want to protect the health of British Columbians, but that burden should not – must not – fall unjustifiably or unequally on communities of faith. Our Catholic churches, of course, will remain open for prayer, adoration and individual Confession,” Miller said.

“The restrictions placed on banning congregations, even limited ones, from attending Holy Mass are, of course, a matter of grave concern to us both as Catholics and as citizens of British Columbia.”

The province banned all religious gatherings Nov. 19 in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus cases. On Tuesday, the province announced a new daily record of 941 cases.

“Certainly we must pray that the situation will soon change, so that we can return to Mass with a congregation, even if reduced in number,” Miller said.

“No evidence has been forthcoming to help us understand why worship in Catholic churches must be curtailed from its current status so as not to put a strain on our health-care system, a system that certainly needs to be protected for the common good.”

Miller said it was puzzling the church had to close for worshippers but were still, fortunately, allowed to offer AA meetings in the basement.

“As I mentioned in the letter written last Thursday: “From today’s order it seems that religious institutions are not being treated with the same consideration regarding the number present at religious gatherings compared to that at secular indoor gatherings,” he said.

Archbishop Miller’s tweets

“The reason why gathering for worship in limited numbers where all safety precautions are met is not allowed, while bars and restaurants and gyms can remain open with measures that are no more safe, is simply baffling.

“That is why the new provincial health order is hard to understand, and why I hope that a further explanation from the provincial government – now that there has been time for further reflection – will be forthcoming.

“To limit the religious freedom of believers to worship is a very serious matter, since such freedom is specifically protected in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

B.C. has seen 28,348 COVID-19 cases resulting in 358 deaths.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Kenney brings in ‘minimum’ COVID restrictions; avoids full lockdown

The province announced 1,115 new COVID cases in Alberta on Tuesday with 16 new deaths, bringing that toll to 492.

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has declared a state of health emergency in the province and launched a more set of more severe restrictions while avoiding a full lockdown.

A grim-faced premier laid out the series of measure in a Tuesday press conference.

House parties – the biggest single cause of the virus to spread – are now banned. Outdoor activities are limited to 10 people.

Calgary and Edmonton and their surrounding areas are now under a mandatory mask law in indoor work places.

Funerals and weddings are now limited to 10 people and restrictions after the events are now banned. Kenney said those gatherings are some of the biggest spreaders.

School for students in Grades 7 through Grade 12 will transition to online learning Nov. 30 to stop the spread of the virus through teenagers. Kenney said younger students are not responsible of spreading cases and their schools will remain open.

School winter breaks will be extended a week and all students will return to class Jan. 11, 2021.

Restaurants and bars can remain open but must continue with strict COVID-19 measures including no more than six people from the same family at a table and no movement between tables.

Couples will have to sit by themselves. Single people can sit with two named cohorts.

Amateur sports are now banned in the province.

Kenney noted nine recent outbreaks have been linked to rec hockey games.

Casinos are allowed to stay open but no table games will be allowed.

Churches will be allowed to hold services but only at one-third capacity. Kenney said some churches are “flagrantly violating” the rules.

Other businesses will be closed and others allowed to operate on a per appointment basis.

Banquet halls and conference rooms are now closed as are personal services.

Retail stores can remain open but only at 25 per cent capacity.

Kenney said the UCP “made a grave mistake” during the first full lockdown by allowing places like Walmart to stay open because they sell groceries while shutting down thousands of other businesses.

Kenney apologized for that move.

Hair stylists can remain open but only on an appointment basis.

Kenney said Alberta workers are also being asked to work from home as outbreaks continue to happen in the workplace.

He said people who break the laws will be given up to $1,000 fines. The province is now looking at enabling peace officers to hand out tickets.

Kenney said the province has no plans to set up a snitch line for Alberta to tell officials about private parties.

“These are bold targeted measures,” said Kenney at a press conference that was watch by more than 52,000 people, adding they were the “minimum” restrictions required.

Kenney said the measures came out of a emotional 8-hour long cabinet meeting where he read out letters and emails from people around the province who have suffered from the pandemic.

The premier said he also talked to front-line doctors and nurses about what to do.

“The virus is picking up speed,” said Kenney.

Kenney said the new restrictions will be in place for three weeks before being reviewed before Christmas.

He said if people don’t follow the new restrictions the province will be “forced to take more drastic measures in December.”

Kenney noted long term health care centres in the province have been devasted by the virus and outbreaks have more than quadrupled recently.

“We need to do everything we can to protect (the vulnerable),” Kenney said.

He said the increase in cases is threatening the health care system’s ability to deliver services, noting surgeries have already been cancelled in Edmonton.

He said the province’s move to increase the 8,400 acute beds stretches the system and “will cost lives.”

The province announced 1,115 new COVID cases in Alberta on Tuesday with 16 new deaths, bringing that toll to 492.

Kenney said Albertans will receive information of the restrictions later this week through the emergency alert system.

He urged Albertans to “shop locally” to help struggling businesses.

And he said further restrictions, like a full lockdown, may violate Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Earlier this month, the province announced new restrictions that critics said didn’t go far enough.

Pubs and bars were ordered to stop serving booze at 10 p.m. and doors closed one hour later.

Group gym classes and dance classes were also cancelled.

The last week has seen daily numbers approaching 1,600 new cases. Those figures are similar to Ontario and Quebec who have much larger populations.

The City of Calgary is also considering declaring a state of local emergency.

Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) Chief Tom Sampson is scheduled to give city council a presentation behind closed doors at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Alberta is closing in on 50,000 COVID-19 cases causing nearly 500 deaths.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Alberta reduces deficit by nearly $3 billion; debt now $97.4 billion

Toews said Alberta’s economy is gradually emerging from the depths of the downturn.

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Alberta’s UCP says government spending restraint and improving revenues has cut this year’s deficit $2.8 billion and now sits at $21.3 billion.

“Alberta was the first province to introduce an economic recovery plan in response to COVID-19, and we will also be the first to introduce a comprehensive plan to bring Alberta back to prosperity,” said Finance Minsyer Travis Toews in an economic update Tuesday.

“The foundation of the next provincial budget will be to bring spending in line with other jurisdictions, keep the net debt-to-GDP ratio well below 30 per cent, and have a plan for balancing the budget as we get through the pandemic and there is more economic certainty.”

Toews said expenses not including COVID-19 measures have decreased $156 million from Budget 2020.

Total expense is forecast at $62.7 billion, up $135 million from last quarter and $5.4 billion from Budget 2020.

“The additional spending is for health care, personal protective equipment, municipal grants, financial supports to Albertans and businesses to help with the effects of the pandemic, and stimulus initiatives detailed in Alberta’s Recovery Plan. Taxpayer-supported debt is forecast to be $97.4 billion by the end of the fiscal year, a reduction of more than $2 billion since first quarter,” the government said.

“The revenue forecast is nearly $3 billion higher than last quarter, at $41.4 billion. The increase from first quarter is due to improved forecasts for non-renewable resource revenue, gaming revenue, investment income, and transfers from the Government of Canada.”

Toews said Alberta’s economy is gradually emerging from the depths of the downturn.

Alberta’s real GDP is expected to contract 8.1 per cent rather than the 8.8 per cent reported in August.

Real GDP is expected to fully recover to 2014 levels in 2023.

Alberta has also seen a significant rebound in employment already this year, recovering more than 258,000 of the 360,900 jobs lost between February and April, said the UCP.

The UCP is also again renewing calls to the federal fiscal stabilization program which was capped 30 years ago at $60 per person.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is calling on Toews to reprioritize belt-tightening.

“The dismal fiscal update needs to be a wake up call for Toews to tighten the belt on government spending,” said Franco Terrazzano, Alberta Director for the CTF.

“It’s been months since the first bad-news budget update, but we haven’t seen Toews get serious about fixing the government’s spending and debt problem.”

The interest costs on the debt are expected to be $2.4 billion this year, which is more than $500 per Albertan, said the CTF.

The Alberta government has the highest per-person spending in Canada, according to the Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s finances. The panel also found that Alberta would spend $10.4 billion less every year if its per-person spending was in line with B.C., Ontario and Quebec.

Departments such as Advanced Education, Agriculture and Forestry, Environment and Parks, Service Alberta and Transportation are all projecting higher operating spending than what was included in the 2020 budget.

“We shouldn’t see multiple non-health-care departments increasing their spending. Many families and businesses have been cutting back on nice-to-haves, and the government needs to do the same,” said Terrazzano.

“Toews has to do a better job saving money and reducing spending because struggling Albertans can’t afford higher taxes.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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