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Clear Answers Required


5 minute read

Clear Answers Required

Of all the discouraging messages inundating the worldwide sports arena these days, it’s entirely likely that the most lamentable — about Canadian football, at least —  was issued this week by Alberta Golden Bears head coach Chris Morris. “The CFL’s probably not going to have a season,” he said.

Other qualified observers have said similar things, quite often, but Morris’s words carried a little extra weight because they were also tied directly to the long- and short-term future of young athletes who normally would be chomping at the bit for this season, or the next one, to get under way.
His comments came quickly when he was asked about the surprising decision by USports decision-makers to solidify their stand against allowing 25-year-old players to compete if and when there is a 2021 season in national university football. No explanation has been made by this same group when asked why the regulation caused by COVID-19 will apply only to gridders and not to those who play volleyball, basketball or any other sport at that level, but the favoured.status of these younger competitors is better to be discussed at another time and in another space.
The bar that has been placed against the planning, commitment and potential professional development of Golden Bears, Calgary Dinos and similar athletes on campuses across the nation must be discussed promptly.
Essential in the Morris words was his reference to about 300 athletes who will have their careers ended immediately, along with more than 1,000 others who almost surely will have their planned university careers shortened by at least one year.
Severe budget realities are almost a clear declaration certain that some universities will be forced to erase programs due to the coronavirus pandemic. When and if such a decision is required, some players would of course have no team to join (or rejoin) for the anticipated 2021 season.
Morris has pointed out that the anti-25-year-old was devised to prevent abuse of rules that vary between Canada’s university leagues, including the powerful Canada West that links rivals and allies from Manitoba to British Columbia.
His last formal act as president of the Canadian University Football Coaches Association was to sign an open letter under the CUFCA banner which “strongly denounces the ruling.”
Another unfortunate message was delivered to members of the Edmonton Huskies Alumni Society by veteran administrator Mike Eurchuk, who attended a scheduled meeting of Prairie Football Conference officials. One of the major issues, yet again, was the difficulty of practicing at this highly-combative junior level when only 50 individuals are allowed on the field at one time.
“Not 50 players,” Eurchuk pointed out. “Fifty individuals, coaches, trainers, equipment people.”
As part of an “action plan” required by concerned government officials, “showers would be a definite no-no.” Assuming equipment could be kept in satisfactory anti-COVID condition, “we still can’t get on the field and actually knock heads with another team” because the 50-person limit would be seriously exceeded.
Two other major issues exist, said Eurchuk: transportation and different provincial rules: “only 22 riders can be permitted on a team bus — “To take our normal contingent, we would need four buses to transport us anyplace; (in addition), “Saskatchewan and Manitoba health departments probably wouldn’t allow (Edmonton Huskies, Edmonton Wildcats, Calgary Colts) to play in their provinces.”
At one point, the WFC now admits, consideration was given to seven- or nine-man football. This plan has been nixed.
At this point, key league meetings are scheduled for the first week in August. The possibility of a Canadian Bowl for the national junior crown will be debated in September. A modified season (perhaps six games) could be started, hypothetically, in mid-October.
In his lengthy note, Eurchuk found an apt summary of the entire situation: “At this point, there is no certainty on anything.” It seems certain that Golden Bears coach Martin and others throughout Canadian football, could be comfortable saying exactly the same thing.


‘A crisis’: Calgary charity seeks one-month homes for Ukrainian refugees after influx

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Ukrainian evacuees Dmytro Syrman, left, his wife, Anastasiia, centre, and their four-year-old daughter Varvara attend a news conference highlighting the need for temporary housing in Calgary on Wednesday, March 29, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

By Bill Graveland in Calgary

After six months under Russian occupation, Dmytro Syrman and his family decided to flee Ukraine for a safer life abroad and are now in Calgary.

The family lived in Dniprorudne, a mining city of 17,000 in southern Ukraine. Syrman worked as a human resources manager at an iron factory.

In August, Syrman, his wife, Anastasiia, and four-year-old daughter Varvara embarked on a six-day, 3,000-kilometre drive to Poland.

“On the 24 of February, when the Russian army attacked Ukraine and occupied our city in March 2022, we lost everything,” Syrman said Wednesday.

He said they began planning their escape when they realized Russian soldiers weren’t leaving their city.

“We started all of this because we were scared for Varvara,” he said. “When Russian bombs were falling near our city it was really scary.”

Their home is still under Russian occupation.

For the past year the family stayed in Poland, sent in their paperwork to come to Canada, and two weeks ago arrived in Calgary.

They’re now staying with a host family for a month while they look for long-term accommodation and to find jobs.

“We are here and starting a new life. We can’t believe about people who don’t know us and many helped us. We’re really shocked,” Syrman said.

The Syrmans were helped by Calgary’s Centre for Newcomers, which started a campaign to find 100 hosts for Ukrainian families or individuals for a month while they find housing of their own.

Kelly Ernst, chief program officer with the centre, said there has been a flood of Ukrainians trying to take advantage of a federal program that allows them to temporarily resettle in Canada.

The Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel program has been extended until July and Ernst said he expects people will continue to flee the war-torn country.

“We’re in a desperate, dire need at the moment for host homes to try to accommodate the evacuees coming from Ukraine. It’s reaching the proportions of being a crisis moment,” said Ernst.

He said people arriving elsewhere in Canada are migrating to Calgary because the rents are lower than in larger cities such as Toronto and Vancouver.

Ernst said approximately 450 people have been arriving in Calgary every week from Ukraine and his organization has helped people staying nights in the airport, off the street and at homeless shelters.

Natalia Shem, who is the manager of housing for the Ukrainian evacuees, said it’s difficult for the newcomers to find somewhere to live before arriving.

“It’s almost impossible to find long-term rent being outside of Canada and people who come here need one month of stay,” Shem said. “It’s an average time a family can find long-term rent, job and settle down here in Canada.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 29, 2023.

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Budget measures unlikely enough to spur major carbon capture investments: Experts

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Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland delivers the federal budget in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, March 28, 2023. Industry watchers say Tuesday’s federal budget likely won’t be enough to convince Canadian oil and gas companies to pull the trigger on expensive, emissions-reducing carbon capture and storage projects. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

By Amanda Stephenson in Calgary

A question mark continues to hang over the future of carbon capture and storage projects in Canada, in spite of a pledge in Tuesday’s federal budget to deliver more investment certainty for major emissions-reducing projects.

“Look, we have set some very aggressive climate targets in Canada. You can’t kick the can down the road,” said carbon capture advocate James Millar, arguing that’s exactly what the federal government did Tuesday when it provided no additional details around its previously stated intention to reduce the risk of investing in pricey emissions-reduction projects by essentially guaranteeing the future price of carbon.

“The difference comes down to investment certainty in the U.S., versus the promise of investment certainty in Canada.”

As president and CEO of the International CCS (carbon capture and storage) Knowledge Centre, a non-profit organization based in Regina, Millar had been closely watching Tuesday’s budget in hopes of obtaining more federal support for the expensive technology that can be used to trap harmful greenhouse gas emissions from industrial processes and store them safely underground.

Heavy emitters — in particular, the oil and gas sector — have identified carbon capture and storage technology as key to helping the sector meet its emissions reduction targets and have been looking for government incentives akin to what is being offered south of the border, where the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act promises to pay companies a guaranteed US$85 price for each tonne of injected carbon.

While Canada has already announced an investment tax credit that will help to offset some of the up-front capital costs of carbon capture projects, companies have so far been hesitant to pull the trigger and go ahead with proposed large-scale projects.

The Pathways Alliance, for example, a consortium of oilsands companies, has proposed building a $16.5-billion carbon capture and storage transportation line to combat emissions from existing oilsands infrastructure in northern Alberta.

But the group has not yet made a final investment decision, saying it needs to know its project will be competitive with those in the U.S. before proceeding.

One thing the oil and gas sector has said will help with that is some kind of mechanism that would reduce the risk to companies that the federal price on carbon could be lowered or eliminated. If a new government were to be elected and remove or change Canada’s carbon pricing system, investing in expensive carbon-reducing technology could suddenly become uneconomical.

On Tuesday, the federal government reiterated that it intends to create such a mechanism through a so-called carbon contracts for difference system — but disappointed many who were hoping for details. Instead, the government announced it plans to begin consultations around the development of such a program.

Millar said while he doesn’t doubt the government’s good intentions, companies that have proposed large-scale projects need to get moving now if they have any hope of meeting Canada’s goal to reduce this country’s overall emissions by 40 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 looms.

“We’re already in 2023, we’re seven years out. The consultations that were announced yesterday will take months,” he said. “I think it will take at least a year because it’s going to take time to set up the process.”

The Pathways Alliance itself took a diplomatic tone Tuesday, issuing a statement after the tabling of the budget saying it was “encouraged” by the signal that more policy certainty is coming, and adding it looks forward to a “better understanding” of the government’s intentions.

But Greg Pardy of RBC Capital said in a research note that in spite of some enhancements to the previously announced investment tax credit, budgetary support for carbon capture and storage was “somewhat limited  — perhaps even disappointing.”

“In our view, Canada’s federal government needs to shift into much higher gear when it comes to incentivizing decarbonization investment if it is to achieve its bold climate change ambitions,” Pardy said.

A report from BMO Capital Markets published just before the release of Tuesday’s budget said Canada’s policy framework for large-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage disadvantages producers here compared to the U.S., “despite claims to the contrary from some proponents of the environmental lobby.”

Environmentalists have been critical of any additional federal support for carbon capture, calling it akin to a subsidy for oil and gas companies that enables them to increase production when the world should be scaling down fossil fuel usage.

But the BMO report said carbon capture is an essential part of the energy transition, and without offering improved incentives to keep up with the U.S., Canada risks not meeting its 2030 emissions reduction targets.

“Canada’s market-based carbon price systems are much too uncertain to act as ‘incentive’ for industry to invest in major decarbonization projects,” the BMO report stated.

“Emitters need financial supports that are tangible and recognized by financial institutions to underwrite bank financing.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 29, 2023.

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