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Businesses along U.S. border hoping for imminent easing of travel restrictions

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CALGARY — U.S. businesses are waiting anxiously for an expected announcement on when the American border will reopen to Canadian tourists.

“I’ll be ecstatic . . . I’m going to hire some people back and take some days off,” said Bill Kilby, manager of Hardwick’s Country Store in Calais, Maine, located just a few metres from the Canada – U.S. border. “It will be a good day.”

Like thousands of businesses on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border, Hardwick’s Country Store has been severely impacted by COVID-19 travel restrictions. The land border between Canada and the U.S. has been closed to non-essential travel since March 21, 2020, and the closure order has been extended every 30 days since then.

Kilby said at Hardwick’s — where the vast majority of customers pre-pandemic were Canadians grabbing gas, milk or beer — business is down 90 per cent from 2019. He has had to lay off 10 employees

“For my business I rely on the local Canadian people,” Kilby said. “The town of Calais is anxiously awaiting their return.”

Canada announced Monday that as of Aug. 9, U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to enter the country, with the rest of the world to follow Sept. 7. However, Canadians are still not allowed to enter the U.S. by land, though they can currently fly.

U.S. lawmakers and business groups anxious to see the travel restrictions eased further have been pressuring the White House to follow Canada’s lead. The U.S. is expected to announce a decision Wednesday, when the existing cross-border ban on non-essential travel will expire if it is not renewed.

“I hope the announcement from the U.S. (Wednesday) is they will not extend the land border closure for another 30 days. I would love for that, we’re advocating for that, but I don’t have a prediction,” said Scotty Greenwood, chief executive of the Canadian American Business Council.

Greenwood said her lobby group has been pushing for a reciprocal deal that would see the U.S. open its land border simultaneously with Canada. She said the continued border closure jeopardizes what is a C$700-billion annual trading relationship between the two countries.

“We’re in pretty regular dialogue with both governments and all sorts of policy-makers,” Greenwood said. “This (border issue) is really important, right across the country, but the border communities do feel it most acutely.”

One of those border communities is Point Roberts, Wash., which is located just south of Vancouver, B.C. and can only be accessed by crossing by vehicle through Canada, or by plane or private boat. It is not physically connected to the continental United States.

Nick Kiniski, owner of Kiniski’s Reef, a bar and restaurant in Point Roberts, said his business is down 80 per cent from 2019. He added he’s not the only local business suffering without Canadian customers.

“The grocery store is just hanging on . . . the gas station, the restaurants, the postal service, all these parcel delivery places – we’ve all been devastated. We don’t even have a fighting chance,” Kiniski said.

He added the past 16 months have been so difficult that he has put his restaurant up for sale after 33 years in the business.

“But I can’t even sell it, because people can’t even come and look at it,” Kiniski said. “So I’m in a catch-22.”

Border experts and political observers have suggested the U.S.-Mexico border likely has a lot to do with why President Joe Biden is dragging his heels on reopening the frontier with Canada.

The southern border represents a much larger political challenge in the U.S. than the northern one, and some in the Biden administration reportedly fear blowback if one opens before the other.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2021.

With files from Kevin Bissett

Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Provincial funds help build biofuel plant at Lethbridge reducing emissions equivalent to 41,000 homes

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Diversifying the economy with cutting-edge tech

The Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) fund is supporting a new facility in southern Alberta that will create jobs and cut emissions by transforming agricultural waste.

Alberta’s government is using $4.7 million from the TIER fund through Emissions Reduction Alberta to create a $28.6-million facility in Lethbridge that will produce an estimated 70 million litres of high-value renewable fuel. This facility will be the first of its kind in Canada, turning local agricultural waste, inedible animal fats and used cooking oil into biodiesel fuel and glycerin.

The facility will buy more than $375 million of local feedstock from farmers over the next five years, generating about $500 million in revenue and supporting up to 130 local jobs in fields like engineering, construction and transportation. It will also cut about 224,000 tonnes of emissions each year – the same as reducing emissions from the electricity used by 41,000 homes.

“Alberta is home to world-renowned expertise on cutting agricultural emissions, and the Canary Biofuels facility is another world-class project Alberta’s government is supporting to diversify the economy and create jobs. I’m pleased to see the expansion of another groundbreaking Alberta-based technology that is cutting emissions and getting Albertans back to work.”

Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks

The facility’s biodiesel will have up to one-third the carbon intensity of petroleum diesel. The renewable fuel produced at the facility has also been pre-sold to a leading Canadian supplier of biodiesel whose customers include fuel retailers, wholesalers, distributors and fleet managers across Canada and the United States. This builds on Alberta’s strong record of environmental, social and governance actions.

“As world leaders in agricultural emission reductions, Alberta farmers will be key beneficiaries of the renewable diesel produced at this facility. Projects like this showcase the steps Alberta is taking to diversify the economy with cutting-edge technology and to create local jobs and opportunities.”

Grant Hunter, MLA for Taber-Warner

“Emissions Reduction Alberta continues to identify and invest in opportunities that accelerate the innovation required to strengthen Alberta’s economy and reduce greenhouse gases. Canary’s project will create new revenues for western Canadian agricultural producers and help meet the growing North American demand for biodiesel. This project is another example of what can happen when government, industry and entrepreneurs come together to deliver better economic and environmental outcomes.”

Steve MacDonald, CEO, Emissions Reduction Alberta

This funding is part of the province’s commitment of up to $750 million for emissions reduction and economic diversification programs and projects through the TIER fund and other funding that will directly support about 9,000 jobs and inject $1.9 billion into Alberta’s economy.

“Canary Biofuels is Alberta’s first Generation 2 biodiesel producer with its flagship facility in Lethbridge. Canary is excited to lead the path in Alberta in abating emissions through sustainable waste-based biodiesel production that supports the energy and agriculture industries in Alberta and the Prairies. Canary would like to thank all its investors and partners, including the Government of Alberta, for their tremendous support. Canary is proud to support Alberta in creating new jobs and helping Alberta industry on its journey to net zero.”

George Wadsworth, CEO, Canary Biofuels

“Canadian canola is used in biofuel production around the world because it’s a low-carbon, sustainable and renewable resource. We are excited to see more investment in Lethbridge that will directly benefit canola farmers and Alberta’s agriculture value chain.”

Brad Orr, director, Canola Council of Canada

“Canary Biofuels will provide long-term diversified business opportunity for R.K. Heggie Grain and Transmark. Local canola producers will have direct market access to the growing biofuel industry, and the livestock industry will get a much-needed supply of canola meal. Canary Biofuels is natural fit with R.K. Heggie Grain and Transmark to provide the company with feedstock for the plant and rail infrastructure to the get finished product to international markets.”

Brent Peterson, vice-president, Transloading, Transmark/RK Heggie Grains

TIER funding

The TIER system is funded by large industry that pay into the fund when they do not meet emissions targets. Alberta is using the TIER fund for a range of programs that are reducing emissions, boosting the economy and getting Albertans back to work.

Quick facts

  • The new Canary Biofuels facility is expected to be operational by fall 2021.
  • TIER helps industrial facilities, which account for more than 60 per cent of Alberta’s total emissions, find innovative ways to reduce emissions and invest in clean technology to save money and stay competitive.
  • Emissions Reduction Alberta invests revenues from TIER to accelerate the development and deployment of innovative clean technology solutions.
  • Since 2009, Emissions Reduction Alberta has committed $649 million toward 204 projects worth $4.5 billion that are reducing emissions, creating competitive industries and leading to new business opportunities in Alberta. These projects are estimated to deliver cumulative reductions of almost 35 million tonnes of emissions by 2030.
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Alberta

Sentencing delay for men found guilty of flouting Alberta COVID-19 rules

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CALGARY — Sentencing arguments for an Alberta pastor and his brother found guilty of contempt after deliberately violating COVID-19 health orders have been put over until September.

Artur Pawlowski and his brother Dawid Pawlowski were arrested in May and accused of organizing an illegal gathering as well as promoting and attending an illegal gathering.

The arrests came after court orders were granted allowing Alberta Health Services and police to arrest and charge anyone who advertised gatherings that would breach health restrictions.

Last month, Justice Adam Germain ruled that Alberta Health Services had proven “nearly to absolute certainty” that the two Calgary men were “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of contempt.”

Discussions on possible sanctions were set for Tuesday, but the lawyer for the Pawlowskis asked for a delay since Alberta Health Services was preparing further affidavits against her clients.

The health provider has indicated it will be seeking 21 days of jail time for the two men.

Germain granted the delay to make sure that defence lawyer Sarah Miller had time to prepare her arguments.

“Frankly, on a matter of this nature, where you have what some legal authorities might describe as an almost public contempt, bordering on criminal contempt … I’m going to give her every opportunity to vigorously defend her clients,” said Germain.

Alberta Health Services has indicated it is seeking 21 days of jail time for the two men.

The judge said the delay might give the court a better understanding of COVID-19 in remand centres and provincial correction institutions.

“There are people who doubt the COVID-19. I can look at the death or morbidity statistics as much as any other judge and it’s a real issue,” Germain said.

“If COVID is running wild in the institutions, we don’t want the 21-day jail sentences that you’ve asked for.”

Germain said he might consider the “unique risks” of someone going to jail. He said the Pawlowskis’ lawyer could have a number of arguments for why they’re not vaccinated, including illnesses that prevent vaccinations.

“Maybe there’s an outbreak in the prison system. All of those things may influence the decision.”

The case is to return to court Sept. 13.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2021.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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