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Alberta

Back to Basics for K to 12 education in Alberta – Province ditching “discovery” learning

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From the Province of Alberta

Improving student learning in Alberta

A new vision to guide education will transform student learning, update curriculum and strengthen the K-12 system.

Alberta’s government is honouring its commitment to end the focus on so-called “discovery” or “inquiry” learning by repealing the 2013 ministerial order on student learning and replacing it with one that will give students a foundation of literacy and numeracy and a knowledge of the rich and diverse history of Alberta and Canada. The new ministerial order emphasizes civic virtues, core knowledge, and outcomes students need to succeed in school and throughout life.

“This new ministerial order on student learning is a return to proven teaching methods that will set up Alberta’s students for rich personal and work lives. Moving forward, education will promote skills development and knowledge pursuit, equipping students to explore opportunities that will help them develop their talents and unleash their potential.”

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education

The new ministerial order was developed after the government broadened consultations to hear a wider range of perspectives from parents, teachers, and subject matter experts. It places an emphasis on essential core knowledge, evidence and fact-based materials, and focuses on literacy and numeracy as foundational elements woven throughout the entire curriculum.

“As a lifelong teacher, I fundamentally believe that students should gain the knowledge and skills they need to form foundations for successful and fulfilling lives. Literacy and numeracy are the bedrock for successful learning, and I am pleased that the final ministerial order recognizes that importance.”

Angus McBeath, chair, Curriculum Advisory Panel

Now that the new ministerial order is in place, the 2018 draft K-4 curriculum will be reviewed and future curricula will be drafted for the next grades. All draft curricula will be aligned with the new vision.

Due to delays resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, timelines for piloting the new draft curriculum are being adjusted. Validation will be expanded from K-4 to include Grades 5 and 6. Participating schools will start piloting this curriculum in classrooms in September 2021. At a minimum, a draft curriculum for Grades 7-10 will be ready for classroom validation in September 2022.

It is anticipated that all students attending school in Alberta will be learning from the new K-6 curriculum by the 2022-23 school year.

Quick facts

  • In August 2019, the independent 12-member Curriculum Advisory Panel was established.
  • In December 2019, the panel submitted a draft ministerial order on student learning and recommendations on curriculum direction to government.
  • In February 2020, more than 8,500 Albertans, including education partners, gave feedback on the draft ministerial order during a public engagement.

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Alberta

CWB reports Q4 profit down from year ago, still beats expectations

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EDMONTON — CWB Financial Group reported its fourth-quarter profit edged down from a year ago, but the bank still beat expectations.

The bank says it earned net income available to common shareholders of $63.4 million or 73 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended Oct. 31, down from $67.5 million or 77 cents per diluted share a year ago.

Revenue totalled $236.6 million, up from $220.9 million in the same quarter last year.

Total provisions for credit losses were $19.6 million, up from $13.3 million in the same quarter last year, but down from $24.4 million in the third quarter.

On an adjusted basis, CWB says it earned 75 cents per share for the quarter, down from an adjusted profit of 78 cents per share a year ago.

Analysts on average had expected an adjusted profit of 74 cents per share, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:CWB)

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Hydrogen’s future remains murky despite home heating projects in Alberta and Ontario

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CALGARY — It seems like a no-brainer to use clean-burning hydrogen to offset the environmental negatives of natural gas for warming homes, but pilot projects to do just that starting next year illustrate nothing is simple about this trendy new energy source.

As companies consider ways to commercialize hydrogen as a cleaner alternative fuel and projects advance in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., and Markham, Ont., most observers concede it will take time and government support to overcome its cost competitiveness issues and lack of infrastructure.

“All hydrogen is not created equal,” says Tahra Jutt, director of the clean economy program for B.C. with environmental think tank The Pembina Institute and co-author of a hydrogen primer published in July.

“If you blend the lowest carbon hydrogen, you’re going to get a much better outcome in terms of climate benefit.”

Hydrogen has many advantages as an energy source. When it burns it leaves only water behind — no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. It can be used for high-energy-intensity applications such as trucking, shipping and steelmaking. It can be compressed for energy storage and transportation. It’s non-toxic and dissipates quickly when released.

But there are disadvantages, too. Its low ignition temperature and nearly invisible flame when burning pose potential safety issues. Concentrated hydrogen can damage metal, requiring enhanced protection for pipelines. 

The act of creating hydrogen requires energy, whether to tear apart water molecules with the electrolysis method or breaking down natural gas molecules through thermal processes which themselves create greenhouse gases.

“The economics in our view for blue and green (hydrogen) are challenged right now but support will increase, costs are bound to come down, so (it’s) another good opportunity for us to capitalize on our infrastructure,” said Al Monaco, CEO of pipeline company Enbridge Inc., on a recent conference call, echoing the cautious stance taken by many industry leaders.

Almost all of the hydrogen created in Canada today is considered “grey,” created by burning fossil fuel and then used in industrial processes such as refining petroleum or producing fertilizer. Pembina estimates it costs between 91 cents and $1.42 per kilogram to make.

If the carbon dioxide and other pollutants from making grey hydrogen are captured and stored, it becomes “blue” hydrogen, but the cost jumps to between $1.34 and $1.85 per kilogram.

“Green” hydrogen is separated from water using only renewable electricity and, while it is the most environmentally benign, it is also the most expensive at between $3 and $5 per kilogram, according to Pembina.

Utility subsidiaries of Enbridge and Atco Ltd. are embarking on plans to inject hydrogen into the natural gas stream leading to home furnaces and water heaters in Markham and Fort Saskatchewan. 

Electricity can’t be stored as is, but at Enbridge’s power-to-gas facility in Markham it is used to create hydrogen from water that can be stored until eventually being turned back into electricity with Enbridge’s 2.5-megawatt hydrogen fuel cell when needed.

Markham’s hydrogen is considered green because it is made with intermittent renewable electricity. The facility opened in 2018 after investments of $4.5 million by an Enbridge partnership and $4 million by the federal government. Its operation is supported by a three-year contract from Ontario’s electric system operator to supply surplus renewable power.

The system works to level out energy availability but when more hydrogen is created than can be stored, it has to be vented, says Cynthia Hansen, president of gas distribution and storage for Enbridge.

A partial solution is to blend the surplus at about two per cent into the local natural gas stream to reduce its overall GHG emissions, a $5.2-million project (with $221,000 from the federal government) expected to begin for about 3,600 customers starting next summer.

Atco, meanwhile, is building a $6-million hydrogen blending project backed by $2.8 million in Alberta provincial grants and expected to be operational in early 2022. 

It is to deliver about five per cent hydrogen in the gas stream to about 5,000 homes in Fort Saskatchewan, a small city just northeast of Edmonton, with the hydrogen coming from an unnamed local supplier.

“When it starts up it will be grey and then it will transition to blue as the supply in the area builds out,” said Jason Sharpe, Atco’s general manager of natural gas, estimating it will take two to three years for blue hydrogen to become available.

The Fort Saskatchewan area, with its refineries and petrochemical facilities, is ground zero for carbon capture and storage in Alberta.

Shell Canada’s Quest project, opened in 2015, has injected more than five million tonnes of carbon dioxide into underground storage from its oilsands upgrader.

The recently completed Alberta Carbon Trunk Line is a pipeline system designed to collect CO2 from industrial sites in the region and take it to mature oilfields where its permanent storage also results in enhanced oil recovery.

The global market for hydrogen could easily triple from current levels of about $200 billion per year by 2050 as countries adopt its use as a decarbonization strategy, according to GLJ, a prominent Calgary energy resource consulting firm.

Canada is well-positioned to become an exporter into this growing market because of its current and potential production, GLJ said.

Pembina’s Jutt, however, says hydrogen usage should be targeted. While it may make sense to use it for home heating in some regions, that application doesn’t necessarily make sense in B.C., where energy from renewable hydroelectric sources is potentially more environmentally friendly.

Much is riding on promised federal and provincial government regulatory, strategic and financial commitments to hydrogen, as well as other alternative fuels that can help Canada meet its goal of net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, she added.

“Businesses will do what’s right for them from an economic perspective but I think everyone’s looking to government for signals that it’s good to invest in these things — hydrogen being one of many fuels that we’ll need to reach our 2050 goals.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:ENB, TSX:ACO)

Dan Healing, The Canadian Press

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