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Alberta

Province of Alberta replies to Joe Biden’s promise to cancel Keystone XL

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From the Province of Alberta

Joe Biden KXL: Minister Sonya Savage

Minister of Energy Sonya Savage issued the following statement about reports U.S. presumptive democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden would cancel the presidential permit for Keystone XL:

“While we are disappointed to hear these reports from the Biden campaign, we remain confident Keystone XL remains a critical part of North America’s post-pandemic economic recovery.

“The project — already under construction — has long held widespread bipartisan support from U.S. lawmakers including all governors in the states the pipeline travels through. The majority of American people have consistently backed Keystone XL in large part due to the tens of thousands of U.S. jobs the pipeline will support, and the millions of dollars in tax revenue that will be used to build better communities for American families. Today, unionized workers are already working on this shovel ready project that puts citizens in both Canada and the U.S. back to work.

“The pipeline is the most studied in American history and has been deemed safe and in the public interest through multiple state and federal reviews, including two under the Obama administration.

“Our government invested in this project because it is tied to our province’s vital long term economic interests. It will lead to higher prices as well as increased volumes of oil sands crude production, generating at least $30 billion in increased royalties over 20 years for Alberta taxpayers.

“The project will put 12,000 Canadians to work and will generate billions of dollars of employment income for Canadian and U.S. workers at a time when they need it most.

“Rather than speculating about the outcome of the U.S. election, we will spend our time continuing to meet with our U.S. allies and speak to Alberta’s role in supporting North American energy independence and security.

“Without more Canadian crude, the U.S. will be subject to increased reliance on heavy crude oil from places like Venezuela and will continue to be a victim of the same price wars and instability we recently witnessed from Russia and Saudi Arabia.

“As our closest friend and ally, we would expect the U.S. government, regardless of electoral politics, to respect the Canada-U.S. relationship.

“Our government will work with TC Energy and the Government of Canada to defend the value of our investment in this project that is a vital part of Canada-U.S. relations.”

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Alberta

Alberta adds 700 enforcers to stop COVID-19 rule-breakers as hospitalizations climb

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CALGARY — Alberta is giving 700 more peace officers the power to enforce COVID-19 restrictions as hospitalizations for the virus continue to climb in the province. 

“We are not asking these officers to stop cold their day-to-day priorities or to harass responsible Albertans going about their everyday lives,” Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said Friday, as Alberta reported 1,227 new COVID-19 cases and nine more deaths. 

Police officers and health inspectors also have the ability to enforce the rules. 

Federal data shows Alberta has the second-highest infection rate in Canada with 208 cases per 100,000 people. Nunavut, with 209 cases per 100,000, ranks highest. 

Alberta has 405 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 86 in intensive care. A week ago, there were 55 patients in intensive care with COVID-19. 

Postponing surgeries is one of the ways the province is freeing up space to accommodate more people severely ill with the virus. 

New measures came into effect Friday to help blunt the spike in cases. Private indoor social gatherings are banned, capacity limits have been imposed on stores and students between grades 7 and 12 switch to remote learning on Monday. 

Fines for breaking the rules range from $1,000 to $100,000 in extreme cases that make it to court. 

When asked whether there would be crackdowns on anti-mask rallies, Madu said police will make independent decisions. 

“But as minister of justice, my expectation is that those who are in violation of the measures that we have put in place would have to be held accountable.”

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said she is disappointed to hear about Alberta Health Services inspectors being verbally abused. 

“Nobody deserves that, least of all the people who are working to keep all of us safe,” she said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020. 

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

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EDMONTON — A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths on railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed was one of the biggest factors.

The research, published earlier this week in Nature’s Scientific Reports, studied animals killed by trains between 1995 and 2018: 59 bears; 27 wolves, coyotes, cougars and lynx; and 560 deer, elk, moose and sheep.

“The top predictor was train speed,” said lead author Colleen Cassady St. Clair, a biological sciences professor at the University of Alberta. “More animals died where trains were travelling faster.

“Next was distance to water, then the (amount of) water near the site and then curvature in the tracks.”

Train speed and track curvature, she said, make it difficult for wildlife to detect trains, while being close to water — particularly a lot of water — hinders their ability to get off the tracks before being hit.

The study builds on a five-year research project funded by Parks Canada and Canadian Pacific Railway from 2010 to 2015 that focused on grizzly bears being struck by trains in the same two parks. It concluded that giving grizzlies better travel paths and sightlines along the railway was the best way to keep them safe.

Cassady St. Clair said she hopes the latest study “will make it possible to identify types and locations for mitigations that will reduce the problems for all wildlife, not just grizzly bears.”

The research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and the ability of wildlife to see trains, especially at curves in tracks near water.

Canadian Pacific noted in a statement Friday that the company has worked with Parks Canada for the last decade to learn more about how wildlife interacts with the railway.

“CP has engaged with Parks Canada and the University of Alberta throughout this program to ensure the mitigation measures CP implemented were based on science,” it said.

The statement didn’t address whether the company would consider reducing train speeds.

Co-author Jesse Whittington, a wildlife ecologist for Banff National Park, said trains are one of the leading causes of death for animals in the two parks.

“The trains (that) travel through Banff and Yoho national parks kill almost 30 animals a year,” said Whittington, who added that animals use rail lines for travel and access to food.

The latest study, he said, helps Parks Canada understand where wildlife are getting killed, why they are getting hit in that location and the time of year when they are most likely to get hit.

“Mortality risk was highest in areas where animals had difficulty detecting trains and where they had difficulty escaping trains,” he said. “Animals had challenges detecting trains where trains were travelling fast and in areas with high curvature.

“Trains can be surprisingly quiet when they are travelling downhill or coming around a corner.”

Whittington gave as an example an adult female grizzly bear killed by a train in September. She was in an area with a steep slope next to the Bow River.

“There were few places for her to get off the tracks.”

The latest study also found that grizzly bears were more likely to be killed in late spring when, Whittington noted, water in the Bow River is often higher. Other carnivores and ungulates were more likely to get hit by trains in the winter.

“When we have deep snows, we’ll often find elk and deer along the tracks.”

Whittington said some of his Parks Canada colleagues have been working to enhance travel routes for animals away from the rail line by creating more trails through the forest. The agency’s fire crews have also been working to create better wildlife habitat throughout the park with prescribed fires.

“We have a lot of thick shrubs and deadfall that has accumulated over the years that makes it difficult for animals to travel across the landscape,” he said. “To date, we’ve cleared over 50 kilometres of wildlife trails throughout Banff — both in areas around these hot spots and in other areas that are pinch points. 

“We’re hopeful that will help.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2020.

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

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