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Incoming Alberta premier Danielle Smith pledges unity after first UCP caucus meeting


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By Colette Derworiz in Calgary

Danielle Smith, who is to become Alberta’s next premier, came out of her first United Conservative Party caucus meeting with a message of unity heading into a 2023 provincial election.

Smith defeated six rivals in party voting Thursday, capturing nearly 54 per cent of the vote on the sixth and final ballot to claim victory.

She met with her UCP caucus, except for Premier Jason Kenney and two others, on Friday morning and started to put her stamp on the party and government.

“We had just a terrific caucus meeting,” she told reporters following the meeting at McDougall Centre, the provincial government office building in Calgary.

“I feel like everybody is really keen to pull together as a group and make sure that we’re prepared for the next election coming up in 2023.”

Smith is to be sworn in as the province’s next premier on Tuesday, but she still needs to secure a seat in the legislature.

Michaela Frey, who had earlier signalled she did not intend to run in the 2023 provincial election, has resigned and says it’s her hope that Smith will choose to run in the constituency of Brooks-Medicine Hat.

Smith says she will visit the southeastern riding this weekend to meet with Frey’s board and the local campaign team before making a formal announcement next week.

In Edmonton, NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley chided Smith for being scared to run in the already-open Calgary-Elbow constituency and called on her to declare a byelection in that riding as soon as possible.

“Today is Day 1 of Danielle Smith’s seven-month government. These next seven months will bring more chaos, more costs and more controversy and more conflict.”

Notley said Smith has no mandate to bring in her controversial ideas, such as a sovereignty act to allow the province to ignore federal laws and court orders deemed not in its interests.

“She’s got one per cent of the vote of Albertans so far and a byelection will not change that,” she said.

“The reality is that if she wants to move ahead with those things, she must wait until after a general election.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 7, 2022.

— With files from Bob Weber in Edmonton

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Canada under pressure to produce more food, protect agricultural land: report

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Canada’s agricultural land is under increasing pressure to produce more food as demand grows domestically and internationally, while the industry grapples with limited resources and environmental constraints, a new report found. 

“We need to grow more food on less land and in a volatile climate,” said Tyler McCann, managing director of the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute.

The report by the institute released Thursday looks at the pressures on Canada’s agricultural land to produce more food while also mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change, said McCann. 

Despite Canada being a big country, it doesn’t have as much agricultural land as people might think, said McCann, with the report noting that agricultural land makes up only around seven per cent of the country. 

Because of that, we can’t take what we do have for granted, he said. “We need to be really thoughtful about how we are using our agricultural land.” 

In 2020, Canada was the eighth largest country in terms of cropland area, the report said, with that cropland decreasing by seven per cent over the previous two decades. 

Canada is a major producer and net exporter of agriculture and agri-food products, the report said, exporting $91 billion in products in 2022, and one of the top 10 exporters of wheat, canola, pulses, pork and beef. 

In the coming years, Canada will face increased demand from countries whose populations are growing, the report said. 

“With population growth on one side and climate change on the other, Canada will be amongst an increasingly smaller number of countries that is a net exporter,” said McCann, noting that Canada’s own population is growing, and farmland also needs to be protected against urban sprawl. 

The wildfires clouding Canadian skies this week are a “vivid reminder” of the pressure that extreme weather and the changing climate are putting on the agricultural sector, said McCann. 

“We need to clearly mitigate … agriculture’s impact on climate change. But we also need to make sure agriculture is adapting to climate change’s impacts,” he said. 

One of the ways the world has responded to demand for increased agricultural production over time is to create more agricultural land, in some cases by cutting down forests, said McCann. But that’s not a viable option for Canada, which doesn’t have a lot of land that can be sustainably converted into farmland — and even if it could, doing so could have a variety of adverse environmental effects, he said. 

Some of the practices used to reduce emissions and sequester carbon in agriculture can also improve production output on existing farmland, the report found, such as precision agriculture and no-till practices.

However, intensifying the production of current agricultural land also comes with potential environmental downsides, the report said.

For example, McCann said fertilizer is an important part of sustainable agriculture, but there’s a balance to be struck because excessive use of fertilizer can quickly turn food production unsustainable. 

“We need to be a lot more thoughtful about the inputs that we’re using,” he said, adding the same can be said about the use of technology in agriculture and the policies and programs put in place to encourage sustainable intensification of Canadian agriculture. 

The report recommends that Canada adopt policies that provide financial incentives and technical assistance to farmers and develop regulatory frameworks promoting sustainable land use, as well as promoting education and awareness campaigns, so that the country can “ensure the long-term sustainability of its agricultural sector while protecting the environment.”  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023.

Rosa Saba, The Canadian Press

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Lawyer tells Alberta’s highest court review board biased in de Grood’s case

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