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March 23: Western Canada and COVID-19

In the event that a balance between personal freedom and public health and safety measures cannot be struck, leaders are opting to implement further restrictions.

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As of Monday March 23, there are 2,036 cases in Canada with less than half, 859 cases, in the western provinces.

Officials are becoming upset with the lack of compliance from Canadians with regard to public health recommendations. In the event that a balance between personal freedom and public health and safety measures cannot be struck, leaders are opting to implement further restrictions.

As of Monday, PEI has completed a shutdown of non-essential businesses to keep people at home. Ontario and Quebec have each announced an impending shutdown of non-essential businesses to begin at midnight March 24. Quebec’s shutdown is in place until April 13 after their numbers spiked from 221 to 628 Monday.

Alberta

There have been 42 new cases announced in Alberta bringing the province’s total to 301. 24 cases are believed to be from community spread.

Calgary Emergency Management Agency announced Monday morning that Calgary playgrounds will closed in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The announcement comes just one day after Rocky View Schools announced they will restrict access to all playgrounds on school property.

“Even mild symptoms can result in infection,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health said Monday.

Dr. Hinshaw also said that contact with surfaces which were previously touched by someone who was positive for the virus, can transmit the virus.

Alberta will not be testing those who have minor symptoms asking instead that those who present minor symptoms self-isolate for 14 days.

Hinshaw said new measures will be taken to protect health workers. Those who work within the system, including contractors and non-medical staff, will be tested prior to coming to work.

While people are still being encouraged to go outside and to go for walk, Hinshaw said that social distancing is still very important.

Mountain day trips are not recommended at this time as many public washrooms and other public access buildings are now closed, Hinshaw said.

Those who need additional assistance for mental health are encouraged to reach out to someone they trust.

Alberta Health Services has developed a text messaging system to help offer encouragement to deal with Alberta’s “new normal”.

Dr. Hinshaw reiterated that the province must monitor the measures currently in place to determine whether those measures are sufficient or need to be strengthened. If the current measures are found to be insufficient in flattening the curve of infections, additional measures may be implemented.

Based on new information, individuals may be able to return to work after 10 days rather than 14.

Additional information for Alberta residents can be found here.

British Columbia

The province announced 48 new cases bringing its total to 472 with 100 recovered and 13 deaths.

Six long-term care facilities have seen infections including Lynn Valley where 36 residents and 19 staff have tested positive, Hollyburn, Haro Park (10 residents and 12 staff), Delta View long term care (one staff) and German Canada House (one staff).

Grocers, banks and pharmacies have deemed essential businesses, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s health official stated.

The province is also looking to increase precautions for long-term care facilities which will mean a further reduction in visitation accessibility.

The City of Vancouver has announced that it will fine businesses up to $50,000 if social distancing recommendations are not followed. Individuals could be fined up to $1,000 within the city.

Additional information for B.C. residents can be found here.

Manitoba

One new case was identified in Manitoba but the province’s numbers remain at 20 as one presumptive case has been found negative.

The single case that was unrelated to travel was under investigation but was eventually determined to be a false positive according to chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin.

All residents who are returning from travel outside of the province, even within Canada, are asked to self-isolate upon their return.

“I want to make it clear that this is not just a suggestion,” Roussin said during a briefing Monday.

“We have this in place because the risk to Manitobans is real, since all of our cases have been imported from travel. We are appealing to people’s civic duties.”

At this time there are no plans to limit travel within the province.

The province has completed more than 4,000 tests and there is no longer anyone in hospital for COVID-19-related illness.

There have been no deaths from COVID-19 in Manitoba.

Additional information for Manitoba residents can be found here.

Saskatchewan

The province has identified 14 new, confirmed cases, bringing the province’s total to 65 confirmed and one presumptive case.

Two of the cases are individuals between the ages of five and 19, all others are adults according to the government press release on Monday.

61 per cent of the cases are in males and 39 per cent are in females.

All residents who are returning from destinations outside of Canada are subject to “mandatory self-isolation order”, said the release.

“Anyone identified by a Ministry of Health Official as a close contact of someone with COVID-19 shall go into mandatory self-isolation for 14 days from the date of having been exposed.”

Additional information for Saskatchewan residents can be found here.

Provincial tallies:

  • Quebec: 628 confirmed and presumptive cases, including 1 recovered and 5 deaths
  • Ontario: 489 cases, including 5 recovered and 3 deaths
  • British Columbia: 472 confirmed cases, including 5 recovered and 13 deaths
  • Alberta: 301 confirmed cases including one death
  • Saskatchewan: 66 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • Nova Scotia: 28 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • Manitoba: 20 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • New Brunswick: 17 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • Prince Edward Island: 3 confirmed cases
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 9 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • Northwest Territories: 1 confirmed case
  • Yukon: 2 confirmed cases

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean is a Senior Reporter with Western Standard
dmaclean@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter @Mitchell_AB

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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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