Connect with us
[bsa_pro_ad_space id=12]

National

B.C. not trying to stop Trans Mountain, but aims to protect environment: lawyer

Published

VANCOUVER — British Columbia is not trying to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, but it is attempting to prevent environmental damage and hold the corporation responsible for the cleanup of a spill, a lawyer argued Monday.

The province’s Court of Appeal is considering a reference case filed by B.C. that asks if it has jurisdiction to regulate the transport of oil through its territory and restrict bitumen shipments from Alberta.

Joseph Arvay, who represents B.C., said the province has no “axe to grind” against pipelines and proposed amendments to its Environmental Management Act are not aimed at blocking the project.

“The purpose was never to prevent the construction or operation of the pipeline. The purpose and effect was always to protect the environment,” he told a panel of five judges.

The case asks the court to rule on the constitutional validity of the proposed amendments, which would require companies transporting hazardous substances through B.C. to obtain provincial permits.

The proposed permitting regime would order companies to provide disaster response plans and agree to compensate the province, municipalities and First Nations for any damages. If companies fail to comply with requirements, the province could suspend or cancel the permit.

A five-day hearing began Monday and the Canadian government has not yet had an opportunity to present its arguments. It says in court documents that the proposed regime must be struck down because it gives B.C. a “veto” over inter-provincial projects.

Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley have said Ottawa — not the provinces — has the authority to regulate trans-boundary pipelines.

Alberta, Saskatchewan, Trans Mountain Corp. and the Canadian Railway Association are among 13 parties that have filed documents in support of the federal government in the case.

Arvay acknowledged that B.C. Premier John Horgan said on the campaign trail in 2017, when his party was in opposition, that he would use “every tool in the toolbox” to stop the Trans Mountain expansion.

However, after Horgan’s government took power, it received legal advice that it was constitutionally unable to stop the project but it could bring in environmental legislation, Arvay said.

Under questioning from the Appeal Court judges, Arvay acknowledged that the proposed permitting system could lead to a situation where the Trans Mountain pipeline would not be allowed to operate.

“But that’s really in the hands of the pipeline,” he said, adding the corporation would be responsible for ensuring it meets the permit conditions.

“That’s as it should be. The Constitution shouldn’t provide the inter-provincial undertaking … an immunity from such lawful regulation.”

Justice Harvey Groberman challenged Arvay’s assertion that B.C. must be able to enact laws to protect its environment from trans-boundary projects in case the federal government fails to do so.

If the federal government didn’t regulate airplanes, for example, that could result in a disaster in the province’s airspace, Groberman noted.

“But that doesn’t mean B.C. has power,” he said. “We assume the federal government is acting in the public interest. … That’s just the nature of divided jurisdiction.”

Arvay outlined a number of cases that he said have established legal precedent for B.C. to impose environmental laws on trans-boundary projects.

One such case was in 1899, when a court held that provinces and municipalities could require the Canadian Pacific Railway to keep ditches alongside its tracks clear of dirt and rubbish to prevent damage to adjacent properties, he said.

However, Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon said the ruling didn’t necessarily prevent the railway from operating if it failed to keep the ditches clear — unlike B.C.’s proposed legislation.

The federal government has purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion. The expansion would triple the capacity of the line from the Edmonton area to Burnaby, B.C., and increase tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet seven-fold.

Arvay said a spill of diluted bitumen in B.C. would be disastrous. The National Energy Board heard differing opinions about the likelihood of a spill, but B.C. has the right to take precautions, he said.

“We know that things don’t go according to plan. Accidents happen,” Arvay said.

The energy board recently ruled the project is in the Canadian public interest despite adverse effects to endangered southern resident killer whales and related Indigenous culture.

Arvay said the board has concluded that the benefits of the project are national and regional in scope, but that some local communities would shoulder the burdens of the expansion.

B.C.’s opponents in the case are essentially saying provinces are powerless to hold companies accountable and reduce the risks of catastrophic harm from inter-provincial projects, he argued.

“We say that the province is not required to accept such a fate, and that the province can be proactive in doing what it can to protect the environment.”

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Advertisement [bsa_pro_ad_space id=12]

National

Crime up, homicide down: Five things to know about the 2018 crime statistics

Published

on

police tape

OTTAWA — New national crime data for 2018 was released Monday, courtesy of Statistics Canada, with big changes to some key indicators. Here are five things that stood out:

Crime up, but still near decades-long low

The national statistics agency says both the crime rate and its measurement of the severity of crime were up two per cent this year, the fourth straight year of increases since 2014.

StatCan cautioned the prevalence of crime and its severity remain 17 per cent lower than in 2008, reflecting a long decline in crime rates nationally. From its peak in 1991, the national crime rate declined more than 50 per cent until 2014.

The agency says the increase in the severity of crimes in 2018 was attributable to marked increases in fraud (up 13 per cent), one particular class of sexual assault (15 per cent), shoplifting (14 per cent) and theft of items worth over $5,000 (15 per cent).

Less homicide, but provinces may vary

The rate of homicides in Canada ticked down nationally by four per cent, with 15 fewer homicides in 2018 than in 2017.

But the statistics tell a different story when broken down by province. Much of the decrease in came from declines in Alberta (38 fewer) and British Columbia (30 fewer), but Ontario experienced an enormous increase in homicides — 69 more than last year.

Statistics Canada analyst Greg Moreau notes that several incidents in Toronto, including the Danforth shooting one year ago (in which two people were killed), the discovery of eight victims of serial murders, and the North York van attack (in which 10 people died) all elevated the number of homicides recorded in 2018.

The data also shows decreases in firearm-related (by eight per cent) and gang-related (by five per cent) homicides across the country, the first time they have decreased since 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Statistics Canada further notes Indigenous people continue to disproportionately be the victims of homicide. Though they make up five per cent of Canada’s population, Indigenous people were 22 per cent of homicide victims.

Sexual assault is up, and more left unreported

The rate of “Level 1” sexual assault — defined statistically as sexual assault without a weapon and without other physical harm — was up 15 per cent in 2018 over 2017. And in his article, Moreau says that rate remains “likely an underestimation of the true extent of sexual assault in Canada.”

This is the fourth consecutive year this class of sexual assault increased, and it usually makes up around 98 per cent of all police-reported sexual-assault incidents. But since these types of crimes often go unreported, the actual incidence is likely not reflected in the statistics.

In 2014, another Statistics Canada survey estimated only five per cent of sexual assaults were reported to police.

Prince Edward Island reported an increase in sexual-assault reports by over half (55 per cent, though with the number of incidents provincewide in the dozens) while Nova Scotia (42 per cent), Yukon (20 per cent) and Ontario (18 per cent) all reported increases above the national average for 2018.

Hate crimes down from 2017 peak

After the rate of hate crimes spiked in 2017 by almost 50 per cent, there was a reduction of 13 per cent in 2018. Still, hate crimes occurred at a higher rate last year than in any other year since 2009, Statistics Canada says.

Statistics Canada notes the decline is almost completely attributable to reductions in Ontario, and the number of hate crimes against Muslims halved year-over-year.

Both violent and non-violent hate crimes decreased, and hate crimes that targeted black people and hate crimes targeting people over sexual orientation both fell by double digits. The share of hate crimes aimed at Jews also fell, by four per cent.

More fraud, more extortion

Statistics Canada notes the world of scams and extortion is increasingly moving online, with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre flagging schemes in which scammers pretend to be from the Canada Revenue Agency as well as gift-card scams.

Overall, the rate of fraud increased by 12 per cent, and sits almost 50 per cent higher than in 2008, after growing for seven years in a row. There were over 129,400 incidents of fraud reported to police in 2018, StatsCan says.

StatCan does say the increasing ease of reporting fraud online could have contributed to the higher numbers.

There was an even more dramatic increase in extortion from 2017 to 2018 — a 44-per-cent leap, Statistics Canada says. The dynamic is the same across the country, and the rate has been increasing since 2012.

Christian Paas-Lang, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

National

Court dismisses challenge of deal that helps U.S. nab tax cheats in Canada

Published

on

Supreme Court

OTTAWA — A Canada-U.S. deal allowing Canadian financial institutions to send customer information to U.S. authorities to help find tax cheats does not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a judge has ruled.

Federal Court of Canada Justice Anne Mactavish dismissed an appeal from two American citizens, Gwendolyn Louise Deegan and Kazia Highton, who now live in Canada and have no real ongoing connection with the United States.

The U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, requires banks and other institutions in countries outside the United States to report information about accounts held by U.S. individuals, including Canadians with dual citizenship.

Deegan and Highton challenged the constitutionality of Canadian provisions implementing a 2014 agreement between the countries that makes the information-sharing possible.

They argued the provisions breach charter guarantees that prevent unreasonable seizure and ensure the equality of people under law.

Mactavish concluded in her decision released Monday that although the provisions do result in the seizure of the banking information of Americans in Canada, the affected people have only “a limited expectation of privacy” in their data.

She also ruled that the provisions do not violate the charter guarantee that every person is equal under the law without discrimination based on national origin.

Under the tax arrangements, Canadian financial institutions are legally required to provide the Canada Revenue Agency with data concerning accounts belonging to customers whose information suggests they might have American citizenship. The revenue agency then hands the information to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

Nearly all countries levy income taxes based on residency, while the U.S. system is based on citizenship.

The U.S. considers all American citizens to be permanent tax residents in the United States for federal income-tax purposes, taxing the worldwide income of “specified U.S. persons” regardless of whether they live, work, or earn income in the United States.

“The result of this is that every Canadian resident who is an American citizen is subject to U.S. federal taxation on all of their income from all sources, wherever that income may be derived, even if he or she is also a Canadian citizen,” Mactavish says in her decision.

“Canada clearly found itself in an extremely difficult position as a result of the enactment of FATCA by the American government.”

U.S. law requires extensive financial and asset reporting, with the threat of significant penalties for failure to meet the obligations.

However, Mactavish notes, the U.S. government estimates that fewer than 10 per cent of all people who file American tax returns from outside the United States ultimately owe any taxes to Washington.

In addition, a tax treaty between Canada and the United States allows residents of Canada to receive credit for some taxes paid to the federal and provincial governments that would otherwise have been owed to the U.S. revenue service.

Deegan and Highton unsuccessfully argued the provisions require Canadian banks to transfer the information of potentially hundreds of thousands of people annually to the federal revenue agency in Ottawa without judicial authorization or any state oversight.

They said this amounts to “a massive fishing expedition and a seizure that offends every core precept of the citizenry’s … right to a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Mactavish pointed out that the Supreme Court of Canada has found that taxpayers’ privacy interest in records that may be relevant to the filing of income-tax returns is “relatively low.”

The method used to collect this information is “minimally intrusive” and the data shared with the U.S. revenue service is afforded protection under the tax treaty between the two countries, she added.

— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

july, 2019

thu18jul(jul 18)12:00 pmmon29(jul 29)8:00 pmTaste of Edmonton12:00 pm - 8:00 pm (29)

fri26jul6:00 pm9:00 pmTaste of Red DeerSummer Just Got More Delicious!6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Trending

X