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Alberta

Dowd’s winner lifts Capitals past Oilers 3-2

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By Shane Jones in Edmonton

Throwing 50 shots on net proved to be a successful recipe for the Washington Capitals on Monday.

Nic Dowd scored the game winner as the Capitals snapped a two-game losing skid with a 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. Washington outshot Edmonton by 20 in the win.

“It was one of our best wins of the season,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “I thought it was every guy in there that played really hard and came out the right way in the first period and were doing the right things.

“We had gotten away from that for a couple of games. I thought we did a good job tonight of trying to push it and control the game.”

Lars Eller and T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals (11-12-4), who have gone 2-5-3 in their last 10 road games. Charlie Lindgren made 28 saves.

“It was good, especially considering we have so many guys out,” Eller said of his team’s high-octane performance. “We haven’t had that many wins in this building, It is a tough place to come in to and we gave it everything we had and it was enough today.

“We were playing to our identity with good forechecking and forcing some turnovers and having some long times in the zone cycling and long attacks. That is the stuff we are doing when we are playing our best and we saw some of that today. There were a lot of positives.”

Brett Kulak and Connor McDavid replied for the Oilers (14-12-0), who have lost two of their last three. Stuart Skinner stopped 47 shots.

With yet another bad start, Edmonton was fortunate to emerge from the first period without surrendering a goal, despite being blitzed by Washington, getting outshot 22-12.

“We come in here and we talk about it every day,” Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse said of his team’s rough starts. “We sit here after the game, talk about it over and over and over. … We want to have good starts each and every night but, you know, we’re sitting here and it’s a part of our game. We’re almost a quarter of the way through the season.

“The more we just talk away and pester at it, we need to just show up and play. Relax, pin our ears back and come out on the on the attack.”

Skinner was rock solid in the opening frame, particularly during a Washington power play where he made seven saves in one sequence, including a pair of one-timers from Alex Ovechkin and an opportunity in tight for Oshie.

Despite the slow start, the Oilers opened the scoring 1:44 into the second period as Kulak unleashed a blast from the point with traffic in front for his first of the season.

Washington levelled the score just under six minutes later. Leon Draisaitl coughed the puck up in his own zone, giving Eller a clear path to the net and he beat Skinner following a deke for his fourth of the campaign.

Edmonton regained the advantage with 4:35 to play in the middle frame when McDavid picked off a John Carlson pass and blazed up ice on a breakaway before beating Lindgren through his legs for a short-handed marker.

McDavid’s 22nd of the year pushed his goal streak to five games. It is the best start through 26 games of his career, with his previous best being 16 goals in that span.

The Capitals answered back on the same power play, however, on a perfect three-way passing effort that was finished off when Oshie blasted a feed from Dylan Strome into the net. The shot totals were 41-19 for the visitors after 40 minutes.

Washington grabbed its first lead 7:13 into the third period as a buzzing Aliaksei Protas came in on a partial break, but instead dropped it back to Dowd, who wired home his fourth to give his team the eventual win.

NOTES:

Both teams have been badly hit with injuries. Missing from the Washington lineup were Nicklas Backstrom (hip surgery), Connor Brown (torn ACL), Carl Hagelin (hip surgery), Tom Wilson (torn ACL), Beck Malenstyn (upper body), Dmitry Orlov (lower body), Darcy Kuemper (upper body) and Martin Fehervary (upper body). … Hunter Shepard was called up from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League to serve as the backup goalie with Kuemper getting injured in their last game against Calgary. … The Oilers were missing Evander Kane (wrist surgery), Warren Foegele (undisclosed), Ryan McLeod (undisclosed) and Zach Hyman, who took a stick to the head in Saturday’s contest against Montreal. The Oilers did get some good news, with Kailer Yamamoto able to return after missing 11 games with an undisclosed injury.

UP NEXT:

Both teams return to action on Wednesday. The Capitals close out a six-game road trip in Philadelphia against the Flyers. The Oilers play the third of a four-game homestand when they host the Arizona Coyotes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.

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Alberta

Alberta promising changes to campuses amid university ‘woke’ free speech standoff

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By Dean Bennett in Edmonton

The Alberta government says changes are coming to further protect free speech on campuses as a former professor speaking out on so-called “woke” policies prepares for a showdown with the University of Lethbridge.

Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides says he plans to announce the changes in the coming days but did not give details.

He was responding to the case of Frances Widdowson, a former tenured professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, who was invited then disinvited to speak on campus this week about her concerns that a mob mentality and “woke policies” increasingly threaten academic freedom.

Widdowson has previously come under fire for her comments on residential schools.

“I understand past comments made by this speaker are controversial,” Nicolaides said in a statement Tuesday.

“But I believe it is important for our universities and colleges to foster a strong culture of free speech and diverse viewpoints, even when those viewpoints are deemed controversial, or even offensive, barring speech intended to incite hatred or violence of course.”

Widdowson, asked about Nicolaides’ comment, said in an interview: “I think that’s great.

“I think we need a public inquiry about what’s happening at universities.

“The universities are being run by woke activists who are completely opposed to the open and honest discussion of ideas on campus.”

Widdowson was fired from Mount Royal in late 2021 amid controversy over comments she made lauding the educational benefits of Canada’s residential school system while questioning whether abuses at the schools against Indigenous children equated to “cultural genocide,” as described in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Widdowson was invited by a professor to speak Wednesday and the University of Lethbridge granted space for the event.

About 2,500 students signed a petition pushing back on the university for hosting the speech.

University president Mike Mahon, as late as last Thursday, defended the decision to host Widdowson, citing free speech even if the university did not agree with her views.

However, on Monday, Mahon said after further consultation the offer of space was revoked because Widdowson’s views would not advance the residential schools discussion and would cause harm by minimizing the pain and suffering inflicted on First Nations children and families.

“It is clear that the harm associated with this talk is an impediment to meaningful reconciliation,” said Mahon in a statement.

Widdowson said she plans to deliver her speech in a public atrium on the campus Wednesday afternoon and has challenged school security to toss her out.

“I’ve never denied the harm of the residential schools,” she told The Canadian Press.

“People are distorting what I’m saying about it. My issue is residential schools were not genocidal. (They) were a misguided effort which often had serious problems.”

“I’ve been branded as some kind of hate monger,” she added. “I’m just arguing if we want to create a better world for everyone, a more co-operative world, we have to be able to speak truthfully about issues that matter.”

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Nicolaides is being distressingly tone-deaf and needs to reconsider his statements.

“The idea of having someone come and speak at the university … to a student body that consists of many Indigenous students about how they somehow benefited from residential schools is deeply troubling to me,” Notley told reporters.

“That the (United Conservative Party government) doesn’t understand how incredibly hurtful those ideas are to huge swaths of the Alberta population reveals their lack of understanding about the real experiences and traumas that treaty people in Alberta have been subjected to.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2023.

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Alberta

Alberta landowners fear repeat of orphan well crisis as renewable energy booms

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By Amanda Stephenson in Calgary

Once bitten, twice shy.

It’s an old adage that explains why Jason Schneider, the elected reeve of Vulcan County, Alta., is jittery about the renewable energy boom under way in his province.

Like many in rural Alberta, Schneider is still smarting over the way municipalities were left holding the bag when an oil price crash nearly a decade ago resulted in billions of dollars of unfunded liabilities left behind by bankrupt fossil fuel companies.

In Vulcan County alone, the landscape is littered with hundreds of wells with no owners that need to be cleaned up, and the municipality itself is owed more than $9 million in back taxes left unpaid by insolvent oil and gas firms.

So Schneider has a hard time looking at acre upon acre of massive wind turbines or solar panels without fearing a repeat of Alberta’s orphan well crisis, or wondering who’s going to fix everything if something goes wrong.

“These are large industrial developments, and the reclamation costs are going to be substantial,” he said.

“We can see the warning signs, and we are being ignored.”

Across rural Alberta, concerns are growing about the long-term implications of the province’s renewable energy boom — the speed and scale of which has been nothing short of stunning.

A province that not that long ago was largely reliant on coal for electricity, Alberta is now home to more than 3,800 MW of wind and solar capacity, 1,350 of which came online in just the last 12 months. An additional 1,800 MW of capacity is currently under construction, putting the province on track to meet or exceed the target it set in 2016 to generate 30 per cent of its total electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

In Schneider’s Vulcan County, which is home to both the country’s largest solar farm and one of Western Canada’s largest wind farms, renewable energy developments now account for more than 40 per cent of the local tax base, displacing oil and gas as the number one source of revenue for the local municipal government.

But while many in rural Alberta welcome the economic activity, and farmers and ranchers enjoy the extra income that playing host to solar panels or wind turbines can bring, others are sounding the alarm.

For example, the Rural Municipalities of Alberta recently passed a resolution calling on the provincial government to protect taxpayers from incurring costs associated with the potential decommissioning of renewable energy infrastructure.

Specifically, the association wants to see the government mandate the collection of securities for reclamation from developers before a project goes ahead. That way, municipalities won’t be footing the bill if a developer becomes insolvent and walks away.

“What we’ve learned, and what Albertans have learned, is that the cheapest way to get out of reclamation is going bankrupt,” said Paul McLauchlin, president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta.

“Some of these solar installations are being installed by one company, sold to another company … I talked to a gentleman who’s on his fifth owner, and his solar installation has been there maybe two years. So we’re seeing small companies owning these, and whether they have the wherewithal for reclamation, that’s really what’s driving this conversation.”

In Alberta, the Orphan Well Association is an industry-funded organization tasked with decommissioning old oil and gas infrastructure and returning the land to its prior state. (It’s currently backlogged, in spite of a $200 million loan from the federal government. In 2020, the feds also provided $1 billion for well clean-up to active companies under Alberta’s Site Rehabilitation Program.)

But there’s no equivalent for the renewable energy industry, though renewable energy companies are required to provide an overview of how they plan to cover decommissioning and reclamation costs before they can receive the go-ahead for their project.

However, for a landowner, entering into a wind or solar lease is entirely voluntary. That’s very different from oil and gas, where under Alberta law, property owners are not allowed to refuse companies seeking to develop the fossil fuels that lie under the surface of their land.

Evan Wilson, director of policy and government affairs for the Canadian Renewable Energy Association, said that because solar and wind leases remain private civil contracts between the developer and the landowner, the onus is on the landowner to ensure the inclusion of some kind of provision to mitigate risks associated with the project’s end-of-life.

But he added many companies do offer landowners some form of reclamation commitment, either in the form of a letter of credit or bond.

“Landowners do have the ability to veto these projects being built on their land,” Wilson said.

“So that puts a lot of pressure on our members to ensure that landowners do feel comfortable with the terms.”

Sara Hastings-Simon, an expert in energy, innovation and climate policy at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, said it’s understandable that municipalities have concerns.

However, she said it’s odd that there’s a push to enforce new regulations for the renewable sector, when the scope of the orphan well problem shows the oil and gas regulatory system could also use an overhaul.

According to the Alberta Energy Regulator, there are more than 83,000 inactive oil and gas wells in the province currently, and close to 90,000 more that have been sealed and taken out of service, but not yet fully remediated.

A report released last year by the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that the cost of orphan well clean-up in Canada will reach $1.1 billion by 2025.

“Obviously we need to make sure that all of our industrial development is done in a way that doesn’t offload costs to the public,” Hastings-Simon said.

“But it would make a lot of sense for the province to look at energy development holistically, rather than just picking the one that right now perhaps has more growth.”

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

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