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Kenney announces more breaks for families and business

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Premier Jason Kenney announced new measures on Monday to help Albertans get through the coronavirus crisis.

The global pandemic combined with the meltdown in oil prices, Kenney said “people are very anxious about their bank accounts.”

The government will immediately cancel the decision made in Budget 2020 and will freeze education property taxes at last year’s level.

Reversing the 3.4 per cent population and inflation adjustment will save Alberta households and businesses about $87 million in 2020-21, which means $55 million for households and $32 million for employers.

It will also give business six months to pay those taxes, meaning $458 million will be staying in the hands of business. Kenney encouraged real estate companies to pass these deferrals onto renters.

Meanwhile, private sector employers will have immediate financial relief by deferring WCB premiums until early 2021, effectively for one year. Employers who have already paid their WCB premium payment for 2020 are eligible for a rebate or credit.

For small and medium businesses, the government will cover 50 per cent of the premium when it is due. Large employers will also receive a break by having their 2020 WCB premium payments deferred until 2021, at which time their premiums will be due.

Paying 50 per cent of small and medium private sector WCB premiums for 2020 will cost government approximately $350 million.

Kenney again told returning Snowbirds that they must isolate for 14 days.

And he blasted people taking advantage of the crisis through scams.

“There is a special place in hell” reserved for those people, Kenney said.

“The book will be thrown at them,” Kenney said urging people who are aware of scams to report them to the government.

Franco Terrazzano, Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation was pleased with the news.

“It’s good to see Premier Kenney delivering relief when it’s needed the most. Keeping more money in Albertans’ pockets is the simplest and fastest way for governments to help families and businesses keep the lights on.  All municipal governments need to follow suit and reduce property tax burdens because struggling families and businesses can’t afford big tax bills,” he said.

In other developments Monday:

• “You all think you’re invincible. You’re not. Enough is enough,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. “Go home and stay home.”

• B.C. announced a $5B package to deal with coronavirus outbreak, $2.8B on people and services, $2.2B for businesses and recovery.

• WATCH: B.C. residents in high rises applaud for health care workers.

• Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a shutdown of all non-essential services in Ontario starting Wednesday as province reports 78 new cases. City of Toronto declared a state of emergency.

• New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs called for the feds to introduce its emergency act. Kenney said he doesn’t see a need for that at the moment.

• WHO says more than 300,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported worldwide.

• Queen to give national address for only 4th time in reign amid Covid-19 crisis .

• Air Transat lays off 3,600 employees, or 70% of its workforce.

• WATCH: Police officers in Spain played music and sang to residents confined to their homes under a nationwide lockdown amid the coronavirus outbreak.

• WATCH: Couple get married in strange wedding:

• Calgary Expo postponed due to COVID-19 spread.

• British government to stop all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with.

• Memorial Cup has been cancelled.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard.

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter: @Nobby

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

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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.

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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

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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.

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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

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter: @Nobby7694

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Municipal board to keep working as UCP review goes on

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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

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter: @Nobby7694

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