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Judge grants Co-op injunction; barricades must come down

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Unifor protesters must be at least five metres from entrances to Co-op Cardlock in Carseland.

Lawyers for Co-op were in a Calgary court Wednesday seeking an injunction against striking Unifor workers in Carseland, west of Calgary. The judge granted the order Thursday morning.

“We are asking Co-ops and other businesses to take a strong stand against Unifor’s illegal actions,” company CEO Scott Banda told a crowd gathered Wednesday afternoon at the Carseland community hall.

“They are establishing a dangerous precedent for other negotiations – not just for our labour disruption but all other negotiations. Just think about that for a minute; if an organized group doesn’t like what you’re doing, or disagrees with you, they can simply barricade your business until they get what they want.”

Unifor members set up outside the Carseland Co-op Cardlock in southern Alberta on Jan. 24. The dispute is spilling over from Saskatchewan where Local 594 members have been locked out of the Co-op Refinery in Regina since Dec. 5, 2019.

Co-op has now begun to limit the amount of gasoline available to customers to 300 litres a day to try to stop outages in smaller centres.

According to social media, members from across the country, as far east as Quebec, have been holding the line at the Carseland industrial site west of the hamlet of less than 600.

Carseland is a major hub for gasoline transport. Trucks fill up and haul fuel as far north as Rocky Mountain House and it’s also the start of the return trip back to Regina where trucks deliver fuel along the Trans-Canada Hwy. between Carseland and Regina.

RCMP are on site and are currently treating it as a labour dispute, Staff Sgt. Dale Morgan said.

“It’s been peaceful to date. It’s important to note that proper exercise of police discretion should not be confused with lack of enforcement,” Morgan said.

Enforcement could be coming soon as the Consumers Co-operative Refinery Limited (on behalf of Federated Co-op Limited) received the news that their request for an injunction had been granted.

The decision is similar to the one granted in Regina on Dec. 27 against Unifor protesters at the Co-op Refinery in Regina.

Local 594 also set up a blockade at a fuelling depot in East Saint Paul, just outside of Winnipeg on Jan. 28. The depot belongs to Imperial Oil and the union is blocking Co-op trucks from access.

“We just want to send a message to Co-op that we’re prepared as a unit to go wherever we need to go to make our statement,” John Harte, a Local 594 member from Regina told Global News.

Local 594 in Regina has continued with blockades despite the current judicial orders. Uniform national president Jerry Dias and 13 others were arrested less than two weeks ago and charged with mischief.

Banda said the company wants to continue bargaining with the union but they want the business’s rights respected as well.

“Unifor, I’m calling on you to end these illegal blockades and get back to the bargaining table for as long as it takes to get our people back to work,” Banda said in a press release Monday.

Banda said bargaining does not look like blockades and defying court orders.

“You can’t have meaningful bargaining when your business is being held hostage.”

Local 594 president Kevin Bittman said they are the only union out of 63 locals who was unable to renew their contract last year.

“We’ve been negotiating since February (2019) – we met 22 times,” Bittman said.

“We were happy with the status quo – we just wanted to sign again and keep working.”

FCL has a “refinery facts” page on their website with the company’s take on the offer presently before the union.

Deirdre is Western Standard’s Senior Reporter

dmaclean@westernstandardonline.com @Mitchell_AB

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Edmonton woman recalls COVID travel nightmare getting home

Fredette Kopola was unable to re-enter Canada.

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An Edmonton woman had to pay hundreds of dollars for COVID-19 tests after suffering a travel nightmare trying to get back into the country from a trip to the US.

Fredette Kopola decided she didn’t want to spend Christmas alone at home so she booked a flight to visit a friend in Pennsylvania, on December 16, 2020 returning on January 7, 2021.

During the last week of her stay, Kopola said she became aware of looming regulations about having a required COVID-19 test before reentering the country but said nothing seemed set in stone to her.

“On the Monday before my flight I started to look to get a COVID test before I flew out so I would be on the safe side. I couldn’t find one near to where I was and I didn’t have my own transportation but I found a testing centre at the airport,” she recalled.

“I went online and was able to easily book a test for that evening and the airport was nearby to where I was. I quickly went to the airport, but found out I couldn’t take the test, because it was on the other side of security.”

With her flight home leaving Thursday, Kopola booked another test then, when she would be able to get through the security gate for a connecting flight to Detroit.

“I got to the airport early and went to the COVID test location, but their satellite location was having computer issues and they didn’t know when it would be fixed. The worker apologized to me and said they didn’t have ready access to IT help,” she said.

“My flight was scheduled to leave in another 45 minutes, so I didn’t know what to do other than continue on and hope that I could either get a Rapid test & PCR test in Detroit or Toronto airport, or they would understand that my attempt to get one in Pennsylvania didn’t work, through no fault of my own and I had paperwork showing it.”

After arriving for a quick layover in Detroit, Kopola made her way to the Delta gate to get a connection to Toronto, then on to Edmonton. She was told there were no testing facilities at the airport and to ask Google for a facility nearby and go in a taxi.

“I was in complete disbelief and dejected that this is how Canada would handle this situation. They could do more to allow their own citizens back home, but instead left them out stranded wherever they happened to be. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t allowed back into my own country. I started to cry and ended up crying the entire time I was in the taxi going to the clinic and cried again later on when I returned to the airport.

Kopola said she had to wait 30 minutes at the facility she was taken before she was even let in the building, time she had to sit in the cab with the meter running.

Once inside she had to cough up $130US for the first test and $110US for a Rapid Test, to be topped off with a $146US bill for the cab ride and wait.

“Thank God for credit cards,” she said.

“When I went back to the Delta counter and tried to re-book a flight, the customer service person wouldn’t let me re-book until the results were returned. I tried to explain that the worker at the gate said I could re-book with a Rapid Test. They were actually rude and abrupt. I broke down crying again and then she said I should talk to her supervisor. That ended up being the only light on the trip, because the supervisor got me a paid hotel room for the night until the results came in and I could take a shuttle bus to the hotel.”

At the airport the next afternoon, Lopola encountered another traveller heading for Toronto, who didn’t speak much English, and had trouble understanding all the regulations.

“He became confused, so I tried to help him and explain that he would need the test results before Canada would let him into the country. I told him the same thing happened to me the day before and I tried to explain what clinic I went to for the test and how much it cost. He said he didn’t have enough money. He kept waiting to see if he would get onto the plane in the end, but he never did.  As I was on the plane I could see him sitting in the waiting area, alone, just like I was the day before.”

Lopola was eventually allowed into the country at Toronto and was able to catch a flight home.

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

 

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Ousted Tory’s expense claims raise questions of residency, appropriateness

Rehn made extensive per diem expense claims for time in Edmonton while the legislature was not in session.

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A deep-dive into the expense claims of Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn are raising questions about where the MLA spent most of his time when the legislature was not in session, and their appropriateness.

The MLA billed for three meals a day in Edmonton for two full months – even when the legislature was not in session – despite representing a constituency in northern Alberta.

On January 15, Premier Jason Kenney unilaterally expelled Rehn from the UCP Caucus saying he “has made no meaningful effort to be more present in his constituency or to properly represent his hard-working constituents” and “ignored” calls to be more present in Slave Lake.

The curious reason given made no mention of the expense issue, which had come into the hands of the Western Standard and other Alberta media outlets.

Rehn has said he maintains a home in the Lesser Slave Lake constituency.

Despite this, he claimed $1,245.50 in Edmonton per diems for every day – including weekends – for every day in April, despite the the legislature sitting for just 10 days that month.

Most rural MLAs return their homes on weekends, and per diems are only to be claimed when on business.

The Western Standard has repeatedly attempted to contact Rehn for comment or explanation. As of press time, no response has been received.

Rehn also claimed $1,930 every month for his housing allowance in Edmonton, something MLAs from outside the capital region are allowed in order to maintain a residence. Alternatively, MLAs may expense stays at a hotel.

While claiming a monthly housing allowance is usual for most MLAs, it is intended for the maintenance of a secondary Edmonton residence, and not a primary residence.

The frequency of per diem meal claims on days when the legislature is not sitting raises questions about where Rehn’s actual primary residence was.

The Slave Lake Town Council alleged in a public letter that Rehn did not reside in or near the constituency, and that he spent more of his time outside of the legislature in Texas.

The legislature does not release the location of MLA primary residencies for privacy reasons.

In his May, Rehn claimed every day for meals in Edmonton except on May 1, when he just claimed only breakfast, and May 3, claiming dinner.

Every other day that month, the MLA claimed breakfast, lunch and dinner in Edmonton, billing a total of $1,193.35. He also claimed the $1,930 non-resident housing benefit. The legislature only sat for 10 days in May.

In June, Rehn appeared to make three weekend trips outside Edmonton. The legislature sat for 16 days that month, with Rehn claiming full per diems for 23 full days in Edmonton.

The house rose for the summer break on July 23, after sitting for 12 days. But Rehn claimed full Edmonton meal allowed from July 24-31, even though business had wrapped up in the capital.

The only day in July Rehn didn’t claim full per diems Edmonton was on July 18, where he billed $29.95 for lunch in Wabasca.

In the wake of the Snowbird Scandal, the mayor and entire council of Slave Lake called on their MLA to resign in an open letter. The council alleges a litany of problems they have had with him.

The town, with a population of 6,500, 255 km northeast of Edmonton, made public a laundry list of complaints against Rehn, including missed meetings and failure to represent the area for economic development.

They claim Rehn, MLA for Lesser Slave Lake, doesn’t even live in Alberta (or Canada), saying he resides in Texas.

“When Covid-19 began and the Canadian government said Canadians need to get home, you were in the United States. Since that time, you have made multiple trips abroad. In fact, right now, as our businesses suffer and many of our people aren’t working, you still aren’t here.,” said the letter signed by Mayor Tyler Warman and six other councilors

In fact, the council claims the UCP government was aware of Rehn’s performance and have asked other MLAs to pick up his work.

“We have been told that your government has internally expressed its displeasure at your performance and have arranged for neighbouring MLA’s to check in to help make sure our Region is represented,” the letter reads.

“We seem to be making little to no progress in our Region in advocating for items that are a provincial responsibility. One of the factors that we believe is contributing heavily to this is the lack of engagement from you as our MLA.”

Pat Rehn’s public expense disclosure can be found on the Alberta Legislature’s website.

This story will up updated if response from Pat Rehn is received.

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

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BREAKING: Alberta relaxing some COVID restrictions

Shandro announced Thursday afternoon personal services – like hair salons and barbers – will be allowed to reopen, but by appointment only.

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Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the province is loosening some of its COVID-19 regulations as of Monday.

Shandro announced Thursday afternoon personal services – like hair salons and barbers – will be allowed to reopen, but by appointment only.

Restrictions meaning only ten people are allowed at funerals will be relaxed to allow 20. But receptions afterward are still banned.

Outdoor gatherings will now be allowed, but with a maximum of 10 people, and if they follow COVID social distancing requirements. Indoor gatherings are still banned.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw said the province has logged 967 new cases of COVID-19 in the province and 21 more deaths, with a positivity rate of 5.8 per cent.

The numbers are “coming down in a reassuring way,” said Hinshaw, when questioned about the relaxation of the rules.

“Although we’ve seen a decline in transmission, our health-care system is still at risk. We must remain diligent in our efforts to bring our numbers down even further. By easing some measures like outdoor gathering limits, we hope to support Albertans’ mental health, while still following other restrictions that are helping us reduce case numbers,” said Hinshaw.

Premier Jason Kenney said: “This limited easing of restrictions is possible thanks to the efforts of Albertans over the past few weeks. But, we need to be careful that we don’t reduce too early and risk the steady improvements we’ve made since November.”

Hinshaw added there were still openings for health care workers to receive a vaccine this weekend and encouraged them to book an appointment. Shandro said there are 16,000 available vaccination appointments.

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

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