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Alberta

Stakes are high for farmers as 2022 crop shapes up to be most expensive in history

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CALGARY — The stakes are high as Canadian farmers take to the fields to plant 2022’s crop, which some are saying could find a place in the record books as “the most expensive ever.”

On her family’s farm northeast of Calgary near Acme, Alta., where she farms with her husband Matt, Sawyer already knows she’s going to need a better-than-average crop this year just to break even.

All of her input costs have surged since last year due to inflationary pressures, spiking energy costs, and the war in Ukraine. The price of fertilizer is more than double what it was last year, and the diesel used to power her farm equipment also costs nearly twice what it did last year at this time. 

But getting that above average crop could be a challenge. Last year, Sawyer’s farm was hit hard by the widespread drought that reduced crop yields across Western Canada and there are fears already that this could be another dry year.

“Most farmers, including us, saw a 30 per cent reduction in our yields, so we need to be able to have really good yields come out this year in order to pay for that,” she said. “But in our region, we’re already horribly dry, so we’re concerned.”

But it’s not all bad news. While the cost of everything from seed to herbicides to tractor tires has increased in 2022, so too have crop prices. Sawyer, for example, grows wheat, barley and canola — all of which are hot commodities right now due to supply pressures created by the Russia-Ukraine war and the aftermath of last year’s drought.

 “There’s a number of crops that are sitting at all-time highs, or near all-time highs,” said Jon Driedger, of Manitoba-based LeftField Commodity Research. “If you go back two years, the price of canola has doubled, almost tripled. Wheat’s higher than it’s been in 20 years, corn’s pushing up against a record high. It’s really across the board.”

In fact, Driedger said crop prices are high enough that any farmer able to produce a “normal-sized” yield should still be able to earn a sizable profit. But in addition to the dry conditions in Alberta, many farmers in Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan have the opposite problem and haven’t even been able to get onto the land yet due to flooding and excess moisture.

The acres seeded by Canadian farmers this spring will not only be the most expensive in history, but in some ways, the riskiest as well, Driedger said.

“For those farms that are fortunate enough to harvest a normal crop or even better, it could be a great year. But there’ll be a lot of farms for whom that’s looking awfully precarious right now.”

Cornie Thiessen — general manager of ADAMA Canada, a Winnipeg-based company that sells crop protection products like fungicides, herbicides and insecticides — said some of these inputs have become significantly more expensive and harder to find due to supply-side factors like COVID-driven disruptions at manufacturing plants and shipping delays. But he added the war in Ukraine is also increasing demand for these products, as farmers get the message that this year, their work is more vital than ever.

“Very high crop prices change the economics for farmers of how much they invest to protect the crop,” Thiessen said. “With really high prices like we’re seeing right now, it sends a message to farmers that the world really needs your crop so you need to make it as big as possible. You need to spend more on fertilizer and herbicides to maximize those yields.”

Thiessen said 2022 will likely be the most expensive crop ever planted in Canada, and there’s a lot riding on it.

“For the individual farmer, certainly there is an opportunity to take advantage of these high prices, but it’s a bigger investment than before,” he said. “If the weather works against them and they have a poor crop, that’s where the downside risk comes in.”

“And for the world, to help alleviate concerns about food security, we really do need Canada to produce a great crop this year,” Thiessen added. “If Canada’s crop isn’t as strong as possible this year, it will further exacerbate concerns about food security.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2022.

Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Canada stays undefeated at world juniors with 6-3 win over Finland

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By Gemma Karstens-Smith in Edmonton

Ridly Greig was a little banged up after helping Canada to a big win at the world junior hockey championship on Monday.

Not only did the Ottawa Senators’ prospect score and contribute an assist in the 6-3 victory over Finland, he blocked some big shots when the Canadians ran into third-period penalty trouble.

“Whatever it takes to win, whatever it takes to do anything for the boys or kind of get some momentum, I’m going to do it,” Greig said. “Whether it’s stand in front of a slap shot, I’m going to do it.”

Special teams were the difference maker on Monday, with the Canadians going 2-for-2 on the power play while Finland was 1-for-5.

The Finns got their second stretch of five-on-three hockey with less than five minutes left on the clock when William Dufour joined Ethan del Mastro in the penalty box.

Finland pulled goalie Leevi Merilainen just as del Mastro’s penalty expired and, with the extra man, Roby Jarventie put a puck in off the glove of Canadian goalie Dylan Garand to make it 5-3.

Dufour sealed the score at 6-3 with an empty-net strike 18:13 into the third.

The Finns had a prime opportunity to eat into Canada’s lead with a minute-long two-man advantage midway through the final period.

Donovan Sebrango was sent to the box for high-sticking and less than a minute later, teammate Will Cuylee was tossed from the game for a knee-on-knee hit.

Canada weathered being down two men, then chewed through the four remaining minutes of the major penalty without conceding a goal.

“I thought our penalty kill was elite today, so many guys blocking shots. And that’s a great sign for a team that’s trying to win something,” said Canada’s captain Mason McTavish, who had a goal and two assists in the win.

“Finland, they’re a great team. I think they were 3-0 coming into this, their power play is ridiculous. So the fact that our PK stood up there with one of the best power plays in the tournament is huge for us.”

Connor Bedard scored and contributed an assist for Canada (4-0-0), while Dufour, Brennan Othmann and Tyson Foerester also found the back of the net. Olen Zellweger tallied three assists.

Joakim Kemell scored and contributed an assist for Finland (3-1-0) and Samuel Helenius rounded out the scoring.

Canada’s Garand made 22 saves and Merilainen stopped 31 of 36 shots for the Finns.

The result was an important one for Canada, who finished the preliminary round atop Group A. They’ll face Group B’s Switzerland (1-3-0) in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Switzerland clinched its spot in the quarterfinals earlier on Monday with a 3-2 win over Austria (0-0-4).

Finland was disappointed with Monday’s result, said head coach Antti Pennanen.

“It was OK but it wasn’t enough. And we were angry after the game, that’s for sure,” he said.

A big goal early in the third whittled the Finns’ deficit to 5-2.

Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect Topi Niemela fired a shot from the point and Kemell tipped it in from the slot for his third goal of the tournament.

Canada called for a coach’s challenge, arguing that the puck had gone off the netting before falling back to the ice ahead of the goal.

“The guys on the ice are generally the ones who can tell you what’s going on,” said head coach Dave Cameron. “My players were 100 per cent sure it went in (to the net). So you trust your players.”

After an extended video review, officials determined the goal was good. The Canadians did not receive a delay-of-game penalty because officials said the review was “inconclusive.”

The Canadians dominated the middle frame, outshooting the Finns 20-5 and taking a 5-1 lead.

McTavish gave his country its second power-play goal of the game 16:17 into the period after Finland’s Rubin Rafkin was called for interference.

Zellweger sent the Anaheim Ducks’ prospect a pass from inside the blue line and McTavish uncorked a one-timer that flew over Merilainen’s shoulder stick side.

Thirty-one seconds into the second, Canada went up 4-1 after the Finnish goalie bobbled a shot by Joshua Roy.

Greig slid in on one knee to put the rebound in the back of the net with his third goal of the tournament.

Canada went into the first intermission up 3-1 after a late Finland goal.

A knot of players battled for the puck behind the Canadian net and Finland’s Kalle Vasisanen came up with it. He sent a pass to Helenius at the high hash marks and the L.A. Kings’ prospect got a shot up and over Garland’s shoulder with 57 seconds left in the period.

Bedard put away his third goal of the tournament in memorable fashion 17:19 into the first.

Canada was penned in its own zone for an extended period, but the 17-year-old phenom showed no signs of exhaustion when he collected a cross-ice pass from McTavish at the blue line and sped into the faceoff circle.

He then ripped a blistering shot past Merilainen, pinging the puck off the inside of the crossbar to make it 3-0.

A power-play strike boosted Canada’s lead to 2-0 midway through the opening frame after Helenius was called for slashing.

Greig’s shot ricocheted off Merilainen’s pad but Foerester was in position to poke the rebound in from the top of the crease as he slid past the net.

Finland got off to a strong start, outshooting the host nation 4-0 across the first five minutes of the game.

It was Canada that opened the scoring, though, 6:21 into the first.

Defenceman Zellweger fired a long bomb from inside the blue line and Othmann batted it in past Merilainen.

The play was reviewed for a potential high stick but the goal — Othmann’s second of the tournament — was determined to be good after officials reviewed the video.

The preliminary round wrapped Monday night with Group B’s Sweden (3-1-0) registering a 4-2 victory over Germany (2-2-0).

Sweden will battle Latvia (1-2-1) in the quarterfinals on Wednesday while Germany will face Finland.

The reigning champion Americans (4-0-0) also went undefeated in round-robin action and will play Czechia (1-2-1), the country commonly known as the Czech Republic, in the quarterfinals.

The semifinals are scheduled for Friday and the medal games will go Saturday.

NOTES: McTavish leads the tournament in scoring with 13 points (seven goals, six assists). … Canada outscored its opponents 27-7 in the preliminary round. … The 2022 tournament is being played in August after the original event was called off on Dec. 29 after just four days as rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials forced games to be forfeited.

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Alberta

Premier Jason Kenney kicks off campaign to attract skilled workers to Alberta

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CALGARY — Premier Jason Kenney kicked off a campaign to lure skilled workers from Toronto and Vancouver as he doubled down on his criticism of a so-called Alberta sovereignty act pitched by one of the candidates running to replace him.

Kenney held a news conference Monday to announce the United Conservative government’s plans to start recruiting workers to Alberta as the provincial economy grows.

“Alberta is back in a big way, but one of the biggest challenges to sustaining that amazing growth is having enough people who are filling the jobs that are being created,” he said.

“As far as problems go, that’s a pretty good one to have.”

The campaign comes after Kenney called a key platform promise of one of the candidates to succeed him as leader and premier “nuts.”

Candidate Danielle Smith has said if she wins the leadership, she would bring a bill this fall to give Alberta the power to ignore federal laws and court rulings deemed not in the province’s interest.

Legal scholars say such a bill would be illegal, unenforceable and a dangerous dismissal of respect for the rule of law.

Kenney said he’s certain that even if the legislature passed the law, the lieutenant-governor would refuse to give it royal assent and Alberta would become a “laughingstock.”

Smith chastised Kenney in a statement Sunday for “interference” in the leadership contest, saying his comments were “ill-informed and disrespectful to a large and growing majority of UCP members that support this important initiative.”

“If elected to replace him as leader and premier, I will work closely and collaboratively with our entire UCP Caucus to ensure the Sovereignty Act is drafted, passed and implemented in accordance with sound constitutional language and principles,” Smith said in her statement.

Kenney said Monday that he’s not interfering in the leadership campaign, but restating his position on an important public policy issue.

“This government was elected on a commitment to create jobs, grow the economy and get pipelines built,” he said. “This so-called sovereignty act would be a body blow to all three of those things.

“It would massively drive away investment, it would cause people to leave the province, businesses not to come here just when our economy is experiencing fantastic economic investment.”

Kenney said it could also hurt the campaign to attract people to the province.

“Here we are launching a campaign for Canadians to move to another part of Canada,” he said. “If Alberta were to decide effectively to launch a separatist project, I think that would automatically exclude a lot of Canadians.

“To the contrary, instead of being able to attract people, we would start hemorrhaging people.”

He said that’s not theoretical because of what happened in Quebec in 1976 when René Lévesque and the Parti Québécois were elected on a separatist platform.

“Quebec overnight began to hemorrhage people, money and investment,” Kenney said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 15, 2022.

Colette Derworiz and Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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