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ACAC happens upon a workable provincial remedy to a world-wide conundrum

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Hints, rumours and pure nonsense are being shuffled like an endless deck of cards as sports officials keep looking for a wild card that would help to clarify the road back to what once was considered a normal – or at least near-normal – state of affairs.

The same is true in the real world, of course, but this space sees more reason every day to puzzle over the wisdom of trying to save all these schedules. At this moment, painful or not, it seems that the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference has happened upon a workable provincial remedy to a world-wide conundrum.

Earlier this week, the University of Alberta decision to wipe out at least six major sports resulted in emotional responses that reached wall to wall for sports. Now, the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference takes another logical step by announcing a plan to conduct events almost solely in April, May and June.

Unaffected, for example, are soccer and the other events normally scheduled in the opening semester: “Their schedules (in a normal year) would be totally finished by then,” said executive director Mark Kosak.

It is considered possible that “between 12 and 16 games” of volleyball, basketball, perhaps even men’s and women’s hockey, could be played during that period. “Other tournament-style sports like curling and golf could be accommodated at the same time.” One essential commitment is to avoid conflicts between athletics and the important job of focusing on exams and other year-end functions.

Kosak confirmed that high-level school and conference officials have spoken in favour of a decision like this one.

“They respected that it would be our (athletic) decision, but it was clear that nobody wants an outbreak of any type on campus. This did not make the decision any easier. “The last thing we want to do is make it harder for our student-athletes,” he repeated. “Their disappointment and frustration has been heard.”

Certainly, some ACAC athletes will be unable to compete during the latest stage of their school year. Many must be committed to jobs away from school at that time. “We understand. Our athletes don’t want disruptions like this; neither do we.”

One other major provision, recognizing cost factors and other elements, has been introduced so institutions are free to opt out of the existing plans for a year. “The option was provided to all of our members and one school – the Camrose campus of the University of Alberta – has already accepted that option,” Kosak said.

This sort of delay might be a separate long-term benefit for the Augustana Vikings. Alumni members confirmed last month that several had been working extremely hard for enough financial and community support to delay a probable decision to wipe out men’s hockey despite the storied history of the Vikings and the once-renowned Viking Cup international tournament.

Kosak, ever the optimist, spent a few moments on an overview of these difficult times in post-secondary sports administration. He found a tiny benefit: “It is not easy to seek and find decisions like this, but it’s certainly a challenge . . .  all these variables and unknowns to deal with.”

And what is sport, after all, but a challenge?

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Alberta

Deadline day for inquiry's final report on eco groups and Alberta energy industry

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EDMONTON — Friday was the deadline for a public inquiry into what the Alberta government says is foreign funding of environmental groups who want to curtail energy development — an investigation lauded by Premier Jason Kenney as principled but derided by critics as a buffoonishly sinister political witch hunt.

“We have not yet received the (final) report but expect to have it delivered to the minister’s office sometime today,” Jerry Bellikka, chief of staff to Energy Minister Sonya Savage, said in an email.

The inquiry was given five deadline extension stretching back a year to July 30, 2020. Its budget was set at $2.5 million, but later increased to $3.5 million.

Savage has up to three months to release the report once she receives it from forensic accountant Steve Allan.

Kenney launched the inquiry in 2019, fulfilling a United Conservative election campaign promise. He accused Canadian environmental charities of accepting foreign funding in a co-ordinated attempt to hinder energy infrastructure and landlock Alberta’s oil to benefit U.S. competitors.

Kenney recently said he was not surprised eco-groups are criticizing the inquiry as unfair and tilted toward a prejudged outcome

“They don’t want the public to realize they have been receiving massive amounts of money from foreign sources to shut down the largest job-creating industry in Canada,” Kenney said on July 22.

“They don’t want the disinfectant of transparency to come down on them. That’s why they went to court … Thankfully, the Court of Queen’s Bench threw their case out.”

In May, a judge dismissed a challenge by the environmental law firm Ecojustice to quash the inquiry. The judge ruled Ecojustice failed to prove the inquiry was called to intimidate charities concerned about the environmental impact of the energy industry.

In recent days, leaked sections of Allan’s draft report show he has concluded that eco-groups have not in any way broken the law. But critics say Allan exceeded his mandate by linking any opposition to resource development as being “anti-Albertan.”

Allan, in a letter this week to Greenpeace Canada, made it clear that “anti-Alberta” is meant simply as a “a non-pejorative geographic modifier.”

University of Calgary law professor Martin Olszynski said “anti-Alberta” is not an innocent term but a broad-based slur, easily weaponized by political opponents. He said it turns those concerned with the pace of resource development and its effect on the environment into scapegoats and depicts them as traitors to the community.

“The precedent (is) anything can become anti-Alberta, essentially anything that the premier disagrees with,” said Olszynski.

“To some extent a government has a democratic mandate, but it only goes so far. It can’t go to the point where opposition to that mandate –dissent — is branded as treason and sedition.

“That’s very authoritarian.”

The inquiry has been criticized for operating in secret: no witnesses called publicly, little to no evidence on its website and those investigated being given little time late in the game to respond. Its terms of reference have also been altered twice.

“This has been something out of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’” said Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada. “We got funding from international foundations. It was about two per cent of our revenue over a decade.

“We got a lot more money from Albertans.”

He said Greenpeace Canada has been one of the inquiry’s targets and that letters to Allan asking for information and details have been ignored.

“We don’t even get to publicly defend ourselves or even see the evidence against us. (Allan) says, ‘I interviewed 100 people.’ He won’t tell us who they were. How are we supposed to respond to evidence that we’re not allowed to see?”

Allan, on his website, noted that his inquiry sent out 40 invitations in mid-June for participants to respond by mid-July. 

“Some participants did not accept the commissioner’s invitation until some weeks after June 18, and they were then granted access to the (inquiry) dataroom to review content,” Allan said in a statement July 21.

“The material provided to each party for review included material necessary to understand the context surrounding potential findings and contained potential findings related to them.”

Olszynski said there’s a “good chance” Allan’s final report will be challenged in court on the grounds it was procedurally flawed and reached unqualified conclusions.

“Inquiries are not courts of law … but it’s not the Wild West,” he said.

Kathleen Ganley, energy critic for the Opposition NDP, said Savage should release the report immediately upon receiving it.

“Leaked drafts of the report show the inquiry relied on misinformation found in Google searches and ‘research’ conducted by the UCP’s own ridiculous war room,” said Ganley.

“But despite putting their thumb on the scale with this shoddy research, the inquiry was still forced to conclude there was no wrongdoing or illegal activity.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 30, 2021.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Imperial Oil earns $366 million; Kearl oilsands site sets 25-year production record

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CALGARY — Imperial Oil Ltd. says it earned $366 million in the second quarter and boosted production to its highest level in 25 years for the same period.

The Calgary-based company says it earned 50 cents per share in the three months ended June 30, compared with a net loss of $526 million or 72 cents per share in the same period of 2020. 

However, its second quarter earnings declined from the first quarter of 2021, when it earned $758 million. Its cash flow from operating activities in the second quarter was $852 million, down from $1.05 billion in the first quarter of 2021.

Imperial attributed the decrease to significant planned turnaround activity, weaker downstream margins and foreign exchange rates. 

The company says its production for the second quarter averaged 401,000  boe per day, the highest second quarter production in more than 25 years. It says its Kearl oilsands mine in northern Alberta completed a major planned turnaround in the quarter and also established a new single-month production record of 311,000 boe per day in June.

Imperial says lingering effects of the weak 2020 business environment and the COVID-19 pandemic continued to have a negative impact on the company’s financial results in the first half of 2021, but strengthening crude oil prices mean the outlook is improving.

“The decisive actions Imperial took throughout the pandemic to accelerate structural business improvements have enabled the company to recover strongly,” CEO Brad Corson said in a release. 

“Imperial has significant momentum entering the second half of the year and is well-positioned to continue delivering on its commitments.”

West Texas Intermediate averaged US$62.22 per barrel in the first six months of 2021, up from US$36.66 per barrel in 2020.

Corson says with major turnarounds at Kearl and the company’s Strathcona Refinery complete, Imperial can turn its attention to increasing production, increasing refinery utilization, and returning cash to shareholders.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 30, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:IMO)

The Canadian Press

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