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Environment

First Nations boil-water issues ‘enormously complicated’: Morneau

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  • OTTAWA — Finance Minister Bill Morneau says the “enormously complicated” effort to end all drinking-water advisories in First Nations communities isn’t being held back by a shortage of money.

    In response to a university student’s question Thursday in Guelph, Ont., Morneau acknowledged that fulfilling the Liberals’ 2015 campaign pledge has been a big challenge and won’t be finished quickly.

    “The idea that we have places in this country that don’t have access to clean drinking water is just unacceptable in 21st-century Canada,” Morneau said at the University of Guelph after being asked if he had considered diverting more money into the program.

    “This is not something that we’ve looked at from a constrained-funding approach. Every dollar that we need to spend in this to get it done we are spending. This has been a long-term challenge — and the challenge is not only putting the money in to actually get the (water) systems up and running, but it’s the ongoing maintenance.”

    The Liberals have vowed to see all long-term water advisories on reserves lifted by March 2021 — and they have committed about $2 billion over several years towards investments like water and wastewater infrastructure to get there.

    The federal government says 78 advisories about potentially tainted water have been lifted since the Liberals took office in November 2015, but 62 remain in place.

    Morneau said that beyond building new treatment systems and replacing old ones, the effort faces obstacles such as technician training, geography and climate-related issues like flooding.

    “It’s an enormously complicated challenge because it’s not only about the investments, it’s about the human talent, the people there to maintain it,” he said. “So, we’re not only funding that investment. And we’ve been very successful in getting many of these boil-water advisories taken off, but there’s been some that have come back on because of that challenge.”

    In a December 2017 report, the parliamentary budget officer estimated it would cost the Liberal government at least $3.2 billion to make good on its promise to eliminate on-reserve water advisories.

    The budget watchdog’s estimate includes $1.2 billion to upgrade existing water and wastewater systems so that they meet safety standards. The other $2 billion, it said, will be needed to replace systems as they age and to meet the needs of growing populations on reserves.

    Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press


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    Environment

    There wasn’t an app for that? Environment Canada launches its own weather app

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  • OTTAWA — Environment Canada is going mobile.

    The federal agency launched its first ever weather app for iPhone and Android this week, including a new high-resolution radar option so amateur meteorologists can guess exactly when the next rain storm or blizzard is going to hit their backyard.

    WeatherCAN is free, can be operated in English or French, and includes Indigenous symbols for northern locations.

    Push notifications warning of extreme weather are also an option.

    There are any number of other weather apps on the market, but Environment Canada had never bothered to make one for itself until now, despite getting 40 million hits to its website every month and being the source of weather data used by many other weather apps.

    “We are the experts,” said Environment Minister Catherine McKenna in an interview.

    McKenna said she was surprised when she took office that Environment Canada didn’t have its own presence on smart phones.

    “With how much Canadians care about weather, I realized there was an opportunity to have a tool,” she said.

    The app tracks 10,000 Canadian locations, from the biggest cities to the smallest town in the country — Tilt Cove, N.L.

    According to the app, the four people who live there were expecting about 10 cm of snow overnight.

    The radar map available on the app is four times better than others currently available, but — as is often the case with anyone trying to predict the weather — the new app comes with an immediate caveat not to trust everything it says.

    “Weather conditions in your location may differ from information available to (Environment and Climate Change Canada),” it says in the terms and conditions you must accept before gaining entry.

    The Canadian Press


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    Environment

    Federal lawyer tells carbon tax hearing greenhouse gases don’t have borders

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  • REGINA — A lawyer for the Attorney General of Canada says the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is a matter of national concern.

    Sharlene Telles-Langdon says greenhouse gases cannot be distinguished from province to province once they are emitted into the air.

    She says each province’s emissions contribute to Canada’s overall greenhouse gas levels.

    Ottawa is laying out its arguments in a Regina court about why imposing a federal carbon price on Saskatchewan is constitutional.

    The federal government says it can levy a carbon tax because climate change and greenhouse gas emissions affect everyone in Canada.

    Lawyers for Saskatchewan and other carbon tax opponents say Ottawa is overreaching into provincial jurisdiction.

    The Canadian Press


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