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Former PM Harper to join Alberta economic advisory team; more Alberta virus news




Premier Jason Kenney has announced members of his Economic Recovery Council, including former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“This is the most significant and disruptive economic downturn in generations. It will get worse before it gets better,” Kenney said in a statement.

“The Government of Alberta will do everything in its power to protect jobs and job creators. The council announced today, chaired by Dr. Jack Mintz, will provide advice and policy recommendations on how best to confront this unprecedented economic crisis, and recover from it in the long term. This will include strategies to accelerate economic diversification.”

Mintz said he was looking forward to getting to work.

“This is a challenging time for Alberta,” Mintz said.

“I am pleased to chair this council of policy and industry experts who will provide advice to the Government of Alberta on the best ways to protect Albertans during this severe economic downturn.”

Members of the economic team are:

• Jack Mintz, chair

• Clive Beddoe – former chair, president and CEO, WestJet

• Robert Blakely – Canadian operating officer, Canada’s Building Trades Union

• Brent Belzberg – founder and senior managing partner, TorQuest Partners

• Bob Dhillon – founder, president and CEO, Mainstreet Equity Corporation

• Chris Fowler – president and CEO, Canadian Western Bank

• Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper – Canada’s 22nd prime minister

• Peter Kiss – owner and president, Morgan Construction and Environmental

• Zainul Mawji – president, Telus Home Solutions

• Nancy Southern – chair and CEO, ATCO Ltd.

• Kevin Uebelein – CEO, AIMCo

• Mac Van Wielingen – founder, ARC Financial 

In other Alberta developments:

• Childcare centres in Alberta will reopen Monday or Tuesday for children of essential service providers.

• The government announced a series of energy sector initiatives aimed at enhancing immediate liquidity – and longer-term certainty – of energy companies.

It will fund the industry levy for the Alberta Energy Regulator for a period of six months, achieving $113 million in industry relief.

Also, it will extend the term of mineral agreements expiring in 2020 by one year to “provide increased certainty for industry by allowing additional time to raise capital and plan future activities.

“The Government of Alberta has extended a loan to the Orphan Well Association in the amount of $100 million. This loan will bolster the association’s immediate reclamation efforts, decommission about 1,000 wells, and start more than 1,000 environmental assessments, creating up to 500 direct and indirect jobs,” the government said in a release.

• The province has cancelled all Grade 6 and 9 provincial achievement tests and Grade 12 diploma exams for this school year. 

• Credit rating agency DBRS Morningstar has downgraded Alberta due to plunging oil prices. Alberta’s Issuer Rating and Long-Term Debt rating is now AA (low) from AA.

• Effective immediately, driver road tests are suspended.

• Alberta Parks is closing winter camping effective immediately.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard


Twitter: Nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com


NDP calls on Kenney to release details of Keystone deal

Kenney announced on Tuesday his government was providing $1.5 billion in equity investment and a $6-billion loan guarantee to TC Energy to get the Keystone XL project completed but so far no details have been publicly released.




NDP leader Rachel Notley has called on Premier Jason Kenney to release of the details of the province’s $7.5 billion deal to help get the Keystone pipeline built.

Kenney announced on Tuesday his government was providing $1.5 billion in equity investment and a $6-billion loan guarantee to TC Energy to get the Keystone XL project completed but so far no details have been publicly released. 

“We support the oil and gas industry and that’s why we also support the Keystone XL pipeline because we understand its strategic value to Alberta’s oil and gas industry,” said Notley in a release Thursday.

“That is why, when we were in government, we supported it by committing to ship 50,000 barrels per day. However, the Government of Alberta’s commitment of up to $7.5 billion of Albertans’ money is unprecedented and people deserve to know the details of the deal and the genuine risks associated with this project.”

Kenney said after the project is completed the government would sell its shares back to TC Energy but he did not say at what price.

“Given that Albertans are now financing a major portion of Keystone XL, the Opposition requests that TC Energy and the UCP government provide further oversight of how public dollars are spent. This includes ensuring workers have a seat on the company’s board of directors, guarantees that payroll is maintained, collective agreements remain in place, and all construction labour is procured through unionized building trades,” the NDP release said.

“The NDP Opposition will be proposing an amendment to the motion, asking the government to provide full disclosure of the deal to the public and that all members of the Legislature be briefed on the associated costs, benefits, and risks. A second amendment will propose to refer the deal to the Public Accounts Committee for further analysis and consultation with the Auditor General to ensure Albertans are getting good value for money.”

Notley’s call for transparancy was welcomed by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

“This is a ton of tax dollars, full transparency is a MUST. The Premier must also continue to report back to Albertans on the progress of construction, provide updates to show what’s happening with our money and get taxpayers’ money back ASAP,” tweeted Franco Terrazzano, Alberta director of the CTF.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard


Twitter: @Nobby7694

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Indigenous youth group panned for planned trip to Coastal Gaslink pipeline

In an online posting last week, the Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en, said they were travelling to B.C. and asked for public support in terms of dollars and supplies.




A group of Indigenous youth are being pilloried online for planning to travel to Wet’suwet’en land in B.C. to monitor construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

In an online posting last week, the Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en, said they were travelling to B.C. and asked for public support in terms of dollars and supplies.

This despite orders from as high as the prime minister for people to stay home during the coronavirus crisis to avoid possibly spreading the virus.

There are also restrictions on crowd sizes across the country – B.C. currently has a maximum of 50 people.

The tweet also calls for donations of video cameras, drones, sleeping bags, first-aid kits, batteries and generators.

Close to $11,500 had also been donated by Thursday afternoon.

The plan didn’t sit very well with most people in the twitter thread.

Reaction tweet
Reaction tweet

A request for comment from the Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en so far hasn’t been returned.

But a statement on their website reads: “As Indigenous youth we stand with the Wet’suwet’en nation’s assertion of sovereignty because we understand that Indigenous Peoples will cease to exist without our land; our languages, cultures, and future generations cannot survive without it.

“Indigenous youth are not only inheriting a climate crisis driven by fossil fuel projects like CGL, but Canada’s legacy of colonization, genocide, and gendered violence against Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people. In protecting the lands from industrial development, we are protecting our bodies from violence.”

In a posting on their website, Coastal GasLink said they have completed their winter construction season.

“Coastal GasLink has been reducing our workforce numbers across northern British Columbia, to approximately 400 by the end of last week from 1,200 in February. During the week of March 30, the workforce ramp-down will conclude in advance of the spring thaw, as we have now completed our winter construction program,” the company said.

“To ensure our construction footprint is safe and secure during the spring thaw, we will continue to employ residents and local contractors to perform critical activities, including environmental monitoring, pipe delivery and stockpile. Local contractors will undertake some off right-of-way site preparation and maintenance as the spring thaw does not impact it.”

The pipeline has the support of all First Nations along the route, but hereditary chiefs of Wet’suwet’en Nation, through which 28% of the 670-km route passes, oppose it.

A group of unelected hereditary chiefs had set up a camp near Smithers and had kicked out Coastal GasLink workers.

The RCMP said they have found traps like felled trees and three stacks of tires along with flammables along the access road.

On Jan. 7, 2019, RCMP arrested 14 protesters along the B.C. logging road. 

International attention was drawn to the issue when a British newspaper reported RCMP were ready to shoot protesters when they broke up the camp. The RCMP denied the story.

On Dec. 31, the B.C. Supreme Court granted CGL an injunction against members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation from blocking the pipeline route near Smithers, B.C.

But the situation has been further complicated after a Jan. 3 edict by the Unist’ot’en, a smaller group within the First Nation, that they intend to terminate an agreement that had granted the company access to the land.

The RCMP checkpoint had been set up at the 27-km mark of the forest service road “to mitigate safety concerns related to the hazardous items of fallen trees and tire piles with incendiary fluids along the roadway.”

The $6.6 billion pipeline, to be operated by TC Energy Corp, would transport gas from near Dawson Creek in northeast B.C. to Kitimat on the coast and supply Canada’s largest liquefied natural gas export terminal, called LNG Canada, which is under construction.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard


Twitter: @Nobby7694

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Municipal board to keep working as UCP review goes on




A bid to stop the work of a regional planning board because of the coronavirus crisis has been shot down, as a government review into their work continues.

Members of a Calgary Metropolitan Region Board committee voted 6-3 Thursday morning to keep their operations ongoing.

The move comes after a $3-billion development west of Calgary was shelved last month, with operators partly blaming the NDP-formed committee as just another layer of bureaucracy they have to go through.

Greg Boehlke, of Rocky View County, brought forward the motion for the CMRB to cease operations until the pandemic has ended saying “there are more important issues.”

He said the continued operation of the board during the pandemic was “a vulgar display of using taxpayer dollars.”

But Calgary Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra was against the motion saying it was important “to keep staff working.

“Some work must go forward. Some work must be changed. Some work must be delayed,” he said.

Bill Robertson, the mayor of Okotoks, argued in favour of the motion, saying the board must be “as prudent as possible with taxpayer dollars.”

In a letter, Western Securities (WS) – the backers of the $3-billion Gardner project off Hwy. 8 – told the Jason Kenney government the CMRB was one of the reasons they were shuttering the project. They had been working on the proposal for 16 years.

“At every turn, Calgary has blocked or bullied Rocky View County from approving the project.  This after us spending millions of dollars on planning and engineering studies.  And now, the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board, with Calgary directing regional planning decisions, is the last straw for Western.,” WS President Ryan O’Connor wrote in the letter obtained by the Western Standard.

The project would have seen mixed use residential / commercial development with over 2,000 homes and approximately 300,000 sq.ft. of retail / commercial development, seniors housing and a sports centre. 

Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu is looking into the CMRB’s actions.

When asked by the Western Standard if the government had any plans to scrap the CMRB, Municipal Affairs spokesman Tim Gerwing replied: “The Minister is currently reviewing the efficacy of Growth Management Boards in Alberta and all options are on the table.”

Sources have told the Western Standard other projects around Calgary are also now in jeopardy because of the excessive red tape.

“We are very concerned about reports of Growth Management Boards hindering responsible economic development in our province. The Minister is considering this in his review,” said Gerwing, adding the 16 years it took WS to get to this stage as “an overly-long timeline for development.

“The government is working extremely hard to eliminate red tape and pass policies that inspire investment and job-creation in our province. Municipal Affairs, in particular, has been a leader in red tape reduction within government. The Minister is reviewing Growth Management Boards to see whether they align with the government’s goals and will have more to say on this soon” said Gerwing.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard


Twitter: @Nobby7694

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