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Climate group erects CN Rail blockade outside Edmonton

“Albertans will not be economic hostages to law-breaking extremists,” Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer said.

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Climate Justice Edmonton (CJE) sent out a call for support on Wednesday morning to add bodies to yet another blockade of CN Rail lines.

As of approximately 1:44 pm on Wednesday Feb. 19, CN police delivered a signed court order to those in attendance at the blockade. Area residents reportedly showed up on site as well and began to dismantle the camps.

The injunction allows CN Rail to deal with any blockades in Alberta for the next 30 days.

Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer responded to the blockade earlier Wednesday morning set up by a group calling themselves “Cuzzins for Wet’suwet’en”.

“Albertans will not be economic hostages to law-breaking extremists,” he said on social media.

“The blocking of economically critical infrastructure such as rail lines is an offence and will not be tolerated. It is my understanding that CN Rail is seeking an emergency injunction this morning – which the Alberta government fully supports.”

The group blocked an area of track just west of Edmonton, near Acheson, before dawn Wednesday morning.

A Twitter account, @C4Wetsuweten set up recently that claims to be “the official Twitter account for the CN rail shutdown outside Edmonton.”

While the “Cuzzins” have little to no internet footprint prior to Feb. 19, CJE does. On their ‘about’ page at climatejusticeedmonton.com, they claim to be “a movement for social, environmental and climate justice, (seeking) to empower individuals and communities to take action on climate change, support Indigenous resistance, challenge harmful corporate and political practices, and work towards justice-based solutions.”

They want:

  • Alberta to immediately freeze oil sands expansion and begin driving the necessary transition towards a just, renewable energy economy
  • A bold progressive vision for this province, divorced from oil
  • Community owned, democratized, renewable energy projects
  • Support and stability for workers before, through and after the transition
  • Indigenous communities to be consulted, respected, supported, and provided with proper restitution, and;
  • The interest of people and the planet unequivocally placed over those of shareholders and corporate executives

United We Roll (UWR) has planned a peaceful protest and are heading to the blockade in Edmonton. They should arrive at the blockade around 5:30 pm Wednesday.

According to sources, police had asked UWR to “stand down” but they have refused and will continue to the location. The group is scheduled to be in Leduc at 4:00 pm today.

CTV reported that others have shown up as well for a counter-protest on site around 12:00 pm.

Deirdre is a Senior Reporter for Western Standard

dmaclean@westernstandardonline.com @Mitchell_AB

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Rural municipalities told to ‘stop crying wolf’ over proposed property tax changes

Rural Municipalities of Alberta President Al Kemmere said 69 counties and municipal districts represented by the RMA stand to lose up to 40 per cent of their tax base.

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Fears are growing amongst rural Alberta municipalities about a proposed UCP plan to give oil and gas companies property tax breaks at the expense of residents.

But the head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says the municipalities should “stop crying wolf” and get to work cutting their own taxes.

“If municipal councillors and mayors were half as worried about finding savings as they are about trying to grab more tax dollars then many more of our challenges would be solved by now,” Franco Terrazzano, Alberta Director of the CTF, told the Western Standard.

The proposed changes are a way to bring relief to Alberta’s struggling oil and gas companies and a report outlining four possible linear taxation models was given to the UCP caucus last month.

Rural Municipalities of Alberta President Al Kemmere said 69 counties and municipal districts represented by the RMA stand to lose up to 40 per cent of their tax base.

A survey released by the RMA in January said the oil and gas sector also owes $173 million in unpaid taxes to rural municipalities.

“Nobody lives in a Cadillac world here – rural Albertans often get by with the marginal, but when you reduce like this, it’s going to hurt,” Kemmere told the CBC, adding some municipalities might not survive the possible changes.

“To collect what we’re losing, it’s almost a non-realistic approach. We’ve got some members that are going to have to double their present tax rates within the residential sector. And that’s just not doable.”

Lacombe County officials are preparing for a worst case scenario of a 39 per cent increase.

One of the plans would see a $4-million drop in revenue for the County of Vermilion River, according to Reeve Dale Swyripa. That would mean increasing the residential mill rate by 109 per cent, increasing the non-residential mill rate by 25 per cent, cutting services by 45 per cent or a combination of all.

The M.D. of Wainwright said they could lose $6.9 to $9.4 million or 22 to 30 per cent of their total tax revenue. The M.D. may have to increase the residential tax rate by 290 to 393 per cent and the non-residential tax rate by 37.4 to 58.4 per cent. 

Camrose County is looking at increasing the residential mill rate by up to 56 per cent, the non-residential mill rate by 32 per cent.

“This isn’t a Camrose County issue. This is a rural issue,” she said. “There is no county in Alberta that will not be affected,” Reeve Cindy Trautman told CBC.

In Northern Sunrise County, the residential mill rate would have to be hiked by 200 to 500 per cent, or the county’s workforce — and corresponding services — cut by up to 80 per cent.

But Terrazzano said: “Northern Sunrise County is one of the biggest spending municipalities in Alberta, spending $17,000 per person annually!”

“A huge place all municipalities (including Northern Sunrise County) needs to cut is labour costs. Through the downturn (2014-2018), municipal government labour costs across Alberta increased by 17 per cent while all employee compensation in the province declined by 6 per cent.

Cypress-Medicine Hat UCP MLA said his phone has been ringing off the hook with worried residents.

“I’ve probably had about 30 calls in the last 24 hours,” Barnes told the Western Standard before stepping into a meeting Wednesday afternoon with municipal affairs officials.

“I’m glad the government has not finalized anything and is open to discussion. We have to do everything we can to leave money in the hands of citizens and every municipality has room to improve.”

But he said the government also needs to work with companies and suggested cheaper access to the Alberta Energy Regulator for them as one possible idea.

“If we don’t do something to arrest the trend of industry bankruptcies and financial insolvencies, there’s not going to be a long term or an industry in some of these communities, so the assessments are going to go to zero,” Ben Brunnen, vice-president of oilsands with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, told CBC.

“It’s one of those scenarios where everyone needs to sacrifice a little bit.”

The province says no policy decisions have been made.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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UCP creates $10 million corporate welfare program to fight global warming

The Alberta government has created a new program funded through the province’s carbon tax.

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Albeta’s UCP government has launched another multi-million corporate welfare program – this time spending $10 million on three projects funded through the provincial carbon tax.

The government said Wednesday that $3 million will be given to the Sundre Petroleum Operators Group (SPOG) to test the viability of methane emissions reduction technology, saying that improvements could enhance the accuracy of finding methane emission leaks at a lower cost. 

The government also gave the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) $5-million to develop artificial intelligence capabilities that could help companies identify emission reductions opportunities.

Finally, it will give $2 million to the Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada (PTAC) to conduct applied research that could improve oil and gas sector methane emission management and control, while also reducing costs to industry. 

“Last year, when we introduced TIER, we said we would help job creators reduce their emissions by making investments in technology and research,” said Environment Minister Jason Nixon in a statement.

TIER (Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction Regulation) is the new name given to Alberta’s carbon tax to replace the NDP’s “Climate Action Plan”.

“Today’s announcement is an example of that, and helps further our position as a global leader in technology-driven environmentally responsible development. These programs will help industry identify, track, measure and ultimately reduce emissions. They will also ensure we maintain our competitive edge while creating jobs and economic growth for Alberta.”

The UCP platform broadly committed to ending corporate welfare subsidies.

“Premier Jason Kenney needs to get back to doing good work on reducing taxes for everyone and stop picking winners and losers,” said Franco Terrazzano, Alberta Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. 

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

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Calgary cops identify suspects in hate crime attack

“It is shocking to see anyone targeted for a crime because of a personal characteristic, but it is extremely disturbing to see the same community targeted three times in one weekend,” said Sgt. Arlene Padnivelan,

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Calgary copssay they have identified two men who attacked a same sex couple as they strolled down a northwest street.

It was one of three attacks over the weekend against members of Calgary’s LGBTQ2S+ community.

The incident occurred around 5:30 p.m., on Monday, as a same-sex couple was walking near the intersection of 9 St. and Memorial Dr. N.W., when two men and two women on electronic scooters approached them, police said.

“An altercation occurred and it is believed the two men on scooters assaulted the couple because of their sexual orientation. A belt, rocks and a recycling bin were used as weapons and then the group fled,” said police in a press released.

Suspects wanted in connection with a same sex attack
Courtesy Calgary Police Service

“Our officers arrived shortly after and searched the area but could not locate the group. The victims received medical care for non-life-threatening injuries.”

The two suspects are both described as being about 30 years old, average height and build, with trim black beards and short black hair. The one was wearing black framed glasses, white polo shirt, dark pants, brown loafers, and white socks. The other was wearing a grey polo shirt with white collar and sleeves, grey pants, and white runners.

Police said Wednesday morning the suspects had been identified and the investigation continues.

The first incident happened when man was assaulted near the intersection of 17 Ave. and 12 St. in the middle of the day on Friday. It is alleged that a group of men attacked the victim while calling him homophobic slurs and then fled.

The second incident occurred around 1 p.m. on Saturday on the Rainbow Crosswalk at the intersection of Centre St. and Stephen Avenue Mall. A Drag King recording a video was spat on by an unknown man walking past. The incident is now being investigated and video and CCTV footage is being collected by us to help identify the man responsible, said police.

“It is shocking to see anyone targeted for a crime because of a personal characteristic, but it is extremely disturbing to see the same community targeted three times in one weekend,” said Sgt. Arlene Padnivelan, with the Calgary Police Service Diversity Resource Team.

“It is unacceptable that this is happening and we will absolutely investigate anytime a crime is motivated by hate or bias.”

Police encourage anyone who has been targeted for ill treatment or a crime because of their sexual orientation, gender, race, religion or some other similar trait to report it.

“We fully recognize that sometimes people do not want to involve the police or don’t feel comfortable coming to us for help,” said Padnivelan.

“We respect the wishes of those who are most affected by the incident and never force a victim to participate in a police investigation. However, if there is a way we can help make a person feel safe enough to come forward, we want to try do that.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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