WASHINGTON — In an apparent bid to kick-start the long-stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline, President Donald Trump on Friday issued a new presidential permit for the project, two years after he first approved it and more than a decade after it was first proposed.
Trump said the permit issued Friday replaces one granted in March 2017. The order is intended speed up development of the controversial pipeline, which would ship crude oil from tar sands in western Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Alberta set to release report on whether to ditch CPP for provincial pension plan
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith speaks to the media in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Sept. 18, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
By Dean Bennett in Edmonton
The Alberta government is set to release its long-promised report on whether the province should quit the Canada Pension Plan and pursue its own provincial program.
United Conservative Premier Danielle Smith, along with Finance Minister Nate Horner and panel chair Jim Dinning, are to release the report at a news conference in Calgary on Thursday.
The Opposition NDP says it has received leaked details of what is coming and says Albertans should prepare for some financial flim-flam on the potential benefits.
NDP finance critic Shannon Phillips says the report relies on an outdated financial withdrawal formula dating back to the CPP’s creation in the mid 1960s.
“The report is expected to claim Alberta is owed hundreds of billions of dollars from the fund,” Phillips said in a statement Tuesday.
“However, if every province used this formula, it would total nine times what is currently invested in the CPP.”
The Opposition NDP has accused Smith of playing politics with nest-egg savings, by using an Alberta pension plan to create a wedge issue with the federal government.
The NDP said the idea is offside with public sentiment, given opinion polls suggest ditching CPP is deeply unpopular with Albertans.
Horner’s office did not immediately return a request for an interview.
Economist Trevor Tombe said he’s interested in how the province plans to balance the potential short-term benefit of a young, prosperous Alberta leaving the CPP versus the long-term volatility that comes with fluctuations in demographics and the economy combined with a smaller pool of capital.
Tombe, with the University of Calgary, said the report could launch a multi-year political and legal battle over how a province can leave the CPP, what it gets and what the effect would be on other provinces.
“The CPP’s assets this year are pegged at $530 billion, a pretty significant amount of funds at stake,” said Tombe.
The report is being done by Lifeworks, formerly known as Morneau Shepell, which helps companies with employee and family assistance plans, absence management, pension benefits administration and retirement planning.
Smith has said regardless of the report’s conclusions, Albertans would have the final say in a referendum.
Both Smith and her predecessor, Jason Kenney, have extolled the potential of a go-it-alone program, given Alberta’s wealth and comparatively young population.
The issue has waxed and waned for the last two decades amid concerns Alberta puts in far more than it gets out and may benefit from a stand-alone benefit program such as in Quebec.
The UCP government began studying the Alberta option in earnest in June 2020 under Kenney. Later that year, the outside consultant was hired to study the benefits and drawbacks.
In March 2021, Kenney said work on the report was almost done and his government was just weeks away from announcing next steps. The report never materialized.
In February, Smith’s office said the report was being updated to reflect new figures on the CPP.
Should it take steps to exit the CPP, Alberta would be charting new territory given that Quebec did not exit the plan, but rather didn’t join it when the CPP was created.
The pension plan is part of a suite of measures championed by the UCP to carve out some space between Alberta and the federal government.
Other potential measures include a provincial police force and a separate revenue collection agency.
The provincial police force idea was spelled out in mandate letters to ministers when Smith first took office late last year, but disappeared from the revised mandate letters when she reshuffled her cabinet after winning the May 29 provincial election.
Last month, Justice Minister Mickey Amery said the provincial police force idea is not dead and said his department would continue to consult with Albertans on where they want to go with policing.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2023.
Cause still sought, may never be known, in Calgary daycare E. coli breakout
Dr. Mark Joffe speaks to the media about an E. coli outbreak linked to multiple Calgary daycares in Calgary, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023. Alberta’s chief medical officer says the exact cause of a massive E. coli outbreak at Calgary daycares may never be known. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
By Dean Bennett in Edmonton
The exact cause of a massive E. coli outbreak at Calgary daycares may never be known, Alberta’s chief medical officer said Tuesday.
Dr. Mark Joffe says investigators are checking thousands of pieces of information as they continue to try to narrow the source of the outbreak that has led to hundreds of illnesses and the closure of multiple daycares over the past two weeks.
The 11 daycares at the root of the breakout shared a commercial kitchen, which is considered the likely source of the outbreak and has been shut indefinitely.
Joffe says the investigation is massive and complex as a team of researchers are listing and comparing food histories over a two-week period for 1,150 children and 250 daycare staffers.
“We are doing everything we can to identify exactly how this outbreak occurred, what happened, when it happened, why it happened and then ultimately, that will help us to prevent the next outbreak,” Joffe told a news conference at the legislature.
“It is possible that we are never going to know the exact source of the outbreak, but we are doing our very best to narrow it down.”
Officials say the initial outbreak appears to have levelled off at 348 cases, unchanged from a day earlier.
There are eight children in hospital, one less than the day prior. All of the children have hemolytic uremic syndrome, a severe illness that affects the kidneys. Two patients are on dialysis, one less than a day earlier.
The 11 daycares have since been allowed to reopen and 707 children connected to the outbreak have been cleared to go back to a daycare.
However, another six daycares are under full or partial closure since late last week. They have seen cases of secondary transmission from those in contact with children at the original daycares or children from those daycares coming to the new facilities.
“The temporary closure of a daycare is not taken lightly,” said Joffe.
“If your daycare is closed, please respect why this is done and keep your children at home.
“Only send your child to another facility if they’ve tested negative for E. coli, if they have no symptoms, and if they’ve been given clearance from (health officials).”
There are 27 cases of secondary transmission, a total that has remained the same for two days.
Searle Turton, the minister for children and family services, said the province has begun to review other shared commercial kitchens for daycares, starting with gathering data on the number of kitchens and who uses them.
“We’ll be continuing that work until we get all the information that we require,” said Turton.
The Opposition NDP has called for a full public inquiry, saying Premier Danielle Smith’s government can’t be trusted to investigate itself.
Smith has committed to study what happened, but has not committed to a formal public inquiry, saying those are questions to be tackled once the outbreak is completely in hand.
Smith has committed the government to giving families $2,000 per child at the original 11 daycares to help parents struggling with financial hardship as a result of the closures.
The central kitchen, located in downtown Calgary, is run by Fueling Minds Inc., which shares directors with six of the 11 daycares, operating under the corporate title Fueling Brains Academy.
Joffe declined to say what is to be done with the kitchen or what would have to occur for it to reopen.
“I think there are a number of steps in the works, but for now that facility is closed indefinitely,” said Joffe.
Smith’s government has faced questions over why the kitchen was allowed to remain open after earlier health violations were identified.
A report detailing health violations at the kitchen said improper sanitation, live cockroaches and issues around food handling were found following an inspection that was done a day after the outbreak was declared.
Previous inspection reports also found violations, including cleanliness and sanitation issues, an expired food handling certificate and inadequate handwashing facilities dating back to July 2021.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2023.
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