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Danielle Smith, focus of rivals’ debate criticism, deemed UCP leadership front-runner


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By Dean Bennett in Edmonton

Political observers say the United Conservative leadership debate demonstrated that former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith is the pacesetter of a party defining itself not by what it stands for but by what it rails against.

“I don’t know who the front-runner is, but clearly everyone on that stage thought Danielle Smith was the front-runner. That was my big takeaway,” Calgary-based pollster Janet Brown said Thursday in an interview.

“Regardless of what the polls say, she is the one that everyone is focused on.”

On Wednesday, Smith and six other candidates debated issues ranging from health care to unity at an airport hangar in Medicine Hat, Alta.

Smith was the focus of criticism from opponents for recent cancer comments and for past musings on an Alberta sales tax, but mainly for her proposed Alberta sovereignty act.

The act, which Smith promises to bring in this fall if she wins the Oct. 6 vote, would grant the province the power to ignore federal laws and court rulings deemed not in its interests.

Candidates Travis Toews, Rebecca Schulz, Rajan Sawhney and Brian Jean dismissed the proposal as illegal, unenforceable and a lightning rod for division and economic uncertainty.

Legal experts have also said the plan would be illegal and a direct challenge to the rule of law.

Smith said she believes her bill would pass legal muster and that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is the one creating economic chaos with laws and policies hamstringing Alberta energy development.

Political scientist Duane Bratt also said it’s clear Smith is the front-runner.

He said fighting Ottawa has become the leitmotif of the leadership vote, with all candidates adopting various combative postures while seeking the policy sweet spot to get results on everything from equalization to energy policy.

“They all have to somehow criticize Trudeau and the federal government and criticize (Smith’s) sovereignty act -– and that’s a delicate dance,” said Bratt, with Mount Royal University in Calgary.

Jean, also a former Wildrose leader, said he would push to reopen the Constitution to get Alberta a better deal. Toews has floated the idea of levies on regions and products to push Alberta’s interests.

Former cabinet ministers Schulz, Sawhney and Leela Aheer said Alberta can do more by building consensus while pursuing hardball negotiations.

Former UCP caucus member Todd Loewen advocated go-it-alone programs, like a provincial pension plan.

Smith also came under attack for recent podcast comments positing that early-stage cancer is within a patient’s control – a stance criticized as profoundly misinformed and cruel.

She said her comments were misinterpreted.

Bratt noted the other candidates hammered Smith on her cancer remark but didn’t highlight her past promotion of questionable medical policies and remedies, particularly during COVID-19.

“I think they let (Smith) off the hook,” said Bratt. “They didn’t make those links because I don’t think they really want to talk about COVID again because they know that angers up the (party’s) base.”

Smith got the largest round of applause and cheers from audience members when she criticized Premier Jason Kenney’s cabinet for not apologizing for imposing what she termed onerous and unfair health restrictions during the pandemic.

The candidates stressed rebuilding trust in the party, strained to the breaking point during COVID-19, and said unity is critical to defeating Opposition Leader Rachel Notley’s NDP in the May 2023 general election.

“It sounded almost to a person like their biggest argument is: ‘We can win against Rachel Notley,’” said political scientist Lori Williams with Mount Royal University.

“What kind of vision is that? I’m better than Notley? I can beat Notley?

“I had no real sense of what they stood for and a lot more about what they stood against — and that doesn’t generate a lot of momentum.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2022

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Line 5 shutdown ‘draconian,’ both sides must consider ‘imperfect’ alternatives: judge

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Washington –  A judge in Wisconsin is ordering Enbridge Inc. and an Indigenous band to confer about “imperfect” alternatives to shutting down the cross-border Line 5 pipeline.

District Court Judge William Conley calls the prospect of shutting off the line “draconian” and wants Enbridge and the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa to explore other options.

Conley also rejects outright Enbridge’s request that the band be ordered to allow the company access to its tribal lands in order to perform inspections and maintenance on the line.

He says the trial evidence has not shown that the band is violating a 1977 bilateral treaty on pipelines by rejecting the company’s proposals to fortify the line, which crosses their territory in Wisconsin.

In September, Conley denied Bad River’s motion for a summary judgment that would have shut down the pipeline, citing potential economic and foreign policy implications.

Today’s ruling calls on both sides to meet before Dec. 17 to find a solution that would mitigate the risk of a near-term spill without closing the pipeline down.

The band has yet to propose a potential solution that would not require a total shutdown, Conley writes, a prospect he describes as “draconian injunctive remedies.”

“The court must consider what alternative steps, however imperfect (particularly in the longer run), would reduce the risk of an oil spill in the near term,” the decision reads.

If possible, those steps should also preserve the operation of Line 5 “for those areas of the United States and Canada that currently depend on it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2022.

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E3 Lithium gets $37M from feds to support oilfield lithium extraction

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CALGARY — An Alberta-based company aiming to extract lithium from the province’s old oilfields has received $37 million from the federal government.

E3 Lithium has developed a technology to extract lithium, a light metal used to make EV batteries, from oilfield brines.

E3 Lithium has already drilled test wells within Alberta’s historic Leduc oilfield region. It aims to have a field pilot project up and running next year.

Imperial Oil Ltd. has also invested in E3 Lithium and is providing technical and development support for the company.

The federal government has identified lithium as a focus of its $3.8-billion, eight-year critical minerals strategy.

The goal is to create a domestic supply chain for electric vehicles, boosting the economy while tackling greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2022.

Companies in this story: (TSX:TKTK)

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