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CN suing Wet’suwet’en supporters for blockading $270M of freight

CN says the two days of blockades near New Hazelton affected nearly 5,000 freight cars carrying $270-million worth of goods.

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Saying that traffic was backed up as far as Winnipeg, CN Rail is suing Wet’suwet’en supporters who blocked rail lines into the Port of Prince Rupert in February.

CN says the two days of blockades near New Hazelton affected nearly 5,000 freight cars carrying $270-million worth of goods.

The blockades were set up in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in their fight against construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The rail company is suing an undisclosed number of protesters for the Feb. 8 and 9 blockades.

The railway wants an undisclosed amount in damages, a permanent injunction against blockaders’ “unlawful and unauthorized.

“CN is and will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted,” according to the civil claim obtained by the CBC.

“This is a serious issue to be tried regarding the unlawful and unauthorized trespassing to its lands, [and] the interference with its business,” the claim stated. 

The issue set off a crisis across the country as supporters of the hereditary chiefs blocks rail lines and held protests in numerous cities.

The protests grew after the RCMP raided and tore down an Indigenous camp near Smithers.

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 have kicked out Coastal GasLink workers.

The RCMP said they 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@westewrnstandardonline.com

TWITTER: Twitter.com/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

Opinion

MORGAN: “Hyper-loop” pipe dream a financial disaster waiting to happen

Cory Morgan writes about the wild costs involved in Alberta’s latest “monorail” craze.

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It is a story that repeats itself every five years or so; proposals for a high-speed rail between Calgary and Edmonton. The pattern is always the same. An idea for a high-speed train is pitched with great fanfare, a feasibility study is conducted which concludes that a massive taxpayer investment is involved and the project gets put on the shelf. The latest proposal from Toronto-based Transpod to build a pie-in-the-sky hyperloop is no exception.

The concept sounds exciting indeed. A low-pressure tube would be constructed which will move pods containing passengers and freight at speeds of up to 1000 kilometers per hour. The models and drawings look cool and futuristic and many people are getting excited at the prospect of commuting to work in a vacuum tube as George Jetson in the futuristic 1960s. I hate to rain on folk’s parade, but this concept is simply not viable.

Let’s look at the cost to begin with. Transpod is giving an estimate of $6 billion to $8 billion simply to construct the line. Companies making pitches always low-ball estimates and the costs required to expropriate 300 kilometers of land for a line will be huge, not to mention the delays which will surely come as some intransigent landowners refuse to cooperate. With this not having been formally studied yet and with the long timelines, $10 billion will likely end up as a more realistic estimate and that is still modest.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s set a ticket price at $100 per passenger. At that price, the line would have to transport one hundred million passengers simply to recover the cost of construction for the line. The new line would have to carry 27,000 passengers per day for 10 years in order to reach that number. Again, this is simply to regain the capital costs on the project. Ongoing expenses such as electricity, staffing, maintenance have not been taken into consideration, let alone profit.

Now how will we capture the interest of 27,000 people per day in order to get them to ride this thing. How viable and practical does this sound?

Well let’s compare it to a typical family trip on the weekend from Calgary to see Aunt Ethel. The family will have to be packed up and taken to the station either in a personal vehicle or through some form of public transportation. They will have to check in and eventually be boarded onto the pod. Upon arrival in Edmonton, they will then have to take a cab or public transit to get to Aunt Ethel’s, where they will spend the weekend without the convenience of a personal vehicle. They will then have to repeat the process in order to get home.

With a $10 billion price tags, we can expect security times to be similar to airports. With half an hour on the pod – coupled with the other time delays due to check in and local transport – the trip will take about one and a half hours each way at the low cost of $800 in total. All this to save about the difference of 1 and a half hours in the family car at a fuel cost of perhaps $80. Would you do it?

This company will also be moving freight, but let’s face it, the freight will face all the same challenges that passenger services have. It would be a niche market at best for products which are small, in a rush and have somebody at each end to deal with drop off and pick up. It won’t compete well with conventional freight transport.

If anything does dramatically change, how we move people and freight between Edmonton and Calgary in the future, it will be driverless vehicles which are proving to be quite effective in many environments already. In anticipation of that trend, we should be perhaps examining a new, dedicated lane for these kinds of vehicles on the highway to complement the existing lanes. It would cost a fraction of the Transpod proposal and is much more likely to ever actually come into being.

Transpod and Jason Kenney are very clearly pointing out that this project is not costing a single tax dollar at this point. Let’s not pretend that it will stay that way. Once true viability studies are done, proponents for the hyperloop will surely come cap in hand and begging for tax dollars in order to get this thing running. There is no way they can or will get this going with purely private investment. It simply isn’t realistic.

By all means, let them test this thing out. Let them set up between Olds and Didsbury in order to build a test portion of the tube if indeed they can manage to get enough investors to get that far. There is no better time than the present to make it absolutely clear though that taxpayers will not pay for an inch of this project. We have enough boondoggles to pay for as it is and don’t need to sink ourselves billions further into debt for something which is somebody’s romantic pipe dream.

Cory Morgan is a columnist and the Podcast Editor of the Western Standard

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Kenney’s panel of education advisers contains no women

One panel member published an article that questioned the past “victimhood” of Aboriginal residential school survivors.

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The UCP government’s panel appointed to help draft a new school curriculum is made entirely of men – including one who published an article that questioned the past “victimhood” of Aboriginal residential school survivors.

The eight new male advisers are in addition to 358 teachers and other experts already serving on eight curriculum working groups assembled by the former NDP government to revamp K-12 lessons. It is hoped to be tested in classrooms starting in fall 2021.

In addition to the fact there are no women on the panel – despite the fact the majority of teachers are women – there is controversy to the appointment of Chris Champion as a social studies adviser. He used to be an adviser to Premier Jason Kenney during his time in Ottawa as a MP.

Champion founded and still publishes a history publication called The Dorchester Review.

A piece without a byline in the review’s first edition and republished this year, critiques history curriculum introduced by “left” governments.

The piece blasts an Australian history curriculum for being “light on facts and heavy with guilt about aboriginals and immigrants.”

“Here in Canada the preoccupation with victimhood has mostly centred on Japanese Canadians and residential school ‘survivors.’ “

The government claims Champion did not write the article.

It’s the second time a Kenney appointee has come under fire for writing about residential schools, the first being speech writer Paul Bunner.

“Women make up the majority of the teaching profession, but Jason Kenney and (Education Minister) Adriana LaGrange chose to not put a single woman on their panel and they managed to find room for a racist who used to work for the Premier,” said the NDP’s Janis Irwin Thursday.

“Instead of firing his racist, homophobic speechwriter Paul Bunner, Jason Kenney has doubled down on these racist beliefs by including them in the curriculum and he’s undone all of the work done under previous governments.

“By appointing a panel full of like-minded insiders, the UCP are dismissing the diverse input from Albertans that was vital in developing a modern curriculum in which kids see themselves represented – the UCP can’t even send our kids back to school safely this fall. They shouldn’t be trusted to rewrite the curriculum.”

In a 2003 article Canada’s Cracked Mosaic, Bunner recalled his time at Boston University when another Canadian student warned him “to be careful about blacks…one of the other hockey players, a native Bostonian, invited me into his room to show me the biggest handgun I had ever seen. ‘It’s for the n——,’ he said.'”

Bunner has also blamed minorities for a large percent of crime.

“Ethnic minorities are disproportionately involved in violent crime on both sides of the border, but at least Americans admit it,” Bunner wrote.

“In this country the Toronto Star attacks the police as racist when they point out the over-representation of blacks in the city’s violent crime statistics. When Indian thugs trap white kids and cut them to pieces, the Edmonton police quickly rule out a racial motive and nobody balks.

“Everyone knows that race is the defining element of violent crime in Canada today.

“The weekly casualty figures from the gang wars in Toronto’s Jamaican ghetto read like dispatches from a war zone. The shooting of five East Indians during the first weekend of December in Vancouver was but the latest skirmish in a decade-long war that has killed 50 people. On the prairies, if it’s not Asian gangbangers whacking each other and occasionally innocent bystanders, it’s aboriginal murder and mayhem.

“The Christmas season in Edmonton opened with five white teenagers being lured into a house, where at least a half-dozen reputed members of the Alberta Warriors Native gang allegedly tortured and terrorized them for two hours.”

The NDP said Bunner is the author of numerous racist, sexist, Islamophobic, and homophobic articles dating from the late 1990s up to 2016.

Bunner’s 2013 article The ‘Genocide’ That Failed claimed that residential school survivors were fabricating their experiences to create a “bogus genocide story” for financial gain. 

Several indigenous leaders have called for Kenney to fire Bunner, including the Confederacy of Treaty Six Chiefs, and Marlene Poitras, Alberta regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations.

Matt Wolf, Kenney’s issue manager tweeted at the time: “NDP claims that Paul Bunner used a racial slur. The column talks about his revulsion to the racism he saw in the US, and befriending 2 black students “I came away with the conviction that no matter how poisoned a society is by racism, it can be overcome.”

He also tweeted earlier NDP icon Tommy Douglas opposed homosexuality.

The advisers are:

  • George Georgiou, University of Alberta professor of educational psychology — literacy
  • David Chorney, associate professor of education, University of Alberta — wellness
  • Vladimir Troitsky, University of Alberta math professor — math
  • Chris Champion, visiting research fellow at Queen’s University and author — social studies
  • William French, lawyer, translator and board member of The Shakespeare Company in Calgary — arts and literature
  • Cameron Macdonell, associate professor of computer science, MacEwan University — science
  • Marvin Washington, professor, Alberta School of Business, University of Alberta — diversity and pluralism
  • Onookome Okome, English professor, University of Alberta — diversity and pluralism

The members include 19 government employees, 41 seconded teachers, 10 Northwest Territories representatives, three Nunavut representatives, 11 Indigenous teachers, 16 francophone teachers, 25 academics, 145 public school teachers, 61 Catholic school teachers, seven charter school teachers and two private school teachers.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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FILDEBRANDT: The new Wildrose looks a lot like the old early Wildrose

Fildebrandt writes that the parallels between Hinman’s leadership of the original Wildrose Party and the new one are uncanny.

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Last week the nascent Wildrose Independence Party named Wildrose veteran Paul Hinman as its interim leader. The move gives the new party an instantly credible leader, and someone who has the pertinent experience in building a party from the ground up. In fact, the parallels with the past are uncanny.

Hinman was first elected as the lone Alberta Alliance MLA in 2004, but lost that seat in the big Tory sweep of 2008 under Ed Stelmach. Like yours truly, I lost my own seat as the lone Freedom Conservative party MLA in the Tory sweep of 2019.

Hinman stayed as Alberta Alliance leader though, and led it through a merger with the new, unregistered Wildrose Association that same year, creating the Wildrose Alliance. Not the type to hog the stage if he felt that someone could do better than he could, Hinman stepped aside as leader for the energetic and young Danielle Smith; but not before re-entering the legislature as the first Wildrose MLA in a 2009. Soon after, the party attracted three PC MLAs to join the upstart caucus, and went on to nearly win the 2012 election against Allison Redford.

Like the original Wildrose, the new Wildrose was created out of a merger of one official party (the Freedom Conservatives) and an unregistered party (Wexit Alberta). Like the original Wildrose, Hinman’s job is to build the party into fighting shape while the members elect someone for the permanent position. Many of the same crew involved in the early Wildrose are also involved in restarting its progeny.

The parallels – thus far – stop there. There has yet to be a by-election to test the new party, and it has not yet managed to attract any disenchanted Tory MLAs to join its ranks. It may get the chance in the 2021 Senate election. Any of these events repeating themselves would continue to build their profile and gain mainstream recognition.

While Hinman isn’t known as the loud, charismatic type, he has done it before. He has fused together two small parties, built its membership and fundraising, and placed it in a position to grow into real contention for power. He was a sort of conservative Moses, leading the party through the wilderness, but not entering the Promised Land himself.

WIP hasn’t released any official numbers yet, but a source in the party tells the Western Standard that their official paid membership is between five-to-six thousand, with another five thousand unpaid members from the Wexit side still pending verification. It’s a far cry from the big UCP and NDP memberships, but it likely puts them at third place in the province.

One of Hinman’s biggest challenges will be to coral the disparate independence movement behind Wildrose 2.0. While the FCP and Wexit Alberta were the two biggest players in sovereignties circles, the Independence Party of Alberta (IPA), the Alberta Advantage Party (AAP), and the unregistered People’s Party of Alberta (PPA) remain outside of the recent merger. Most small parties on the Alberta right prefer to remain in the own small, insular sandboxes, so it’s difficult to say if talks would go anywhere. Hinman would be wise to reach out and bring them into the fold; but if rebuffed, he will have to simply outdo them.

Bringing them under the WIP banner one way or another, will require a difficult mix of principle and compromise. Unlike the old Wildrose, the new Wildrose isn’t a traditional conservative prairie populist party. It needs to combine these elements with an appeal for sovereignty that will peal voters away from the traditional big parties. Sovereignty means different things to different people. To moderates, autonomy and self-government within confederation. To more hardliners, total independence. In the UK, the Scottish National Party carefully walks this line, as did the Parti Quebecois until recently.

Getting the disparate flavours of Alberta sovereigntists to walk together in common cause will be like herding cats. In his favour is his own credibility, which – like the re-entry of Jay Hill as the federal Wexit leader – could be a game changer.

The party has a strong potential base to tap into in doing so, if it has the political finesse to do so.

A poll conducted in late May for the Western Standard saw between 45 and 48 per cent of Albertans backing independence. The same poll put the then-unofficial WIP at 10 per cent in third place.

While it’s a strong base to build from, it’s no guarantee of success, and Hinman’s leadership of the WIP will matter as much as Kenney’s leadership of the UCP. Kenney is walking a fine line in trying to keep the federalists and sovereigntists in his party happy. With 52 per cent of his own voter base expressing support for independence (and 48 per cent opposed), this will be a difficult task. The Fair Deal Panel was an exercise in trying to do something about this sentiment, without alienating his federalist support.

If he succeeds, he will govern for as long as he pleases. But if he fails, he now has a credible challenger on his flank licking its lips at the opportunity.

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard and President of Wildrose Media Corp. dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

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