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Jason Kenney, Rachel Notley begin formal transfer of power in Alberta

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  • EDMONTON — Premier Rachel Notley and incoming premier Jason Kenney began the formal transfer of power in Alberta on Thursday, with Notley saying Kenney is already getting real-life lessons on the difference between political grandstanding and governing.

    The NDP’s Notley said that since the United Conservative leader won Tuesday’s Alberta election, Quebec has rebuffed his public pitch to accept new pipelines and the B.C. government officially endorsed this week a federal bill to formalize a tanker ban off its northern coast.

    “What it does demonstrate is it’s not as simple as having press conferences and expressing people’s outrage over and over,” Notley told reporters after meeting with Kenney at Government House.

    “This is a complicated country. It involves considered diplomacy and strategic pressure in a thoughtful way.

    “We will be keeping a close eye to making sure that he engages in that considered diplomacy/strategic pressure for the benefit of the pipeline — not grandstanding for the benefit of political outcomes.”

    Kenney, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister, won a strong majority in the election on a get-tough policy toward any and all oil and gas opponents. He has long criticized Notley’s government as an enabler of federal policies detrimental to Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

    He said the NDP’s passivity was deliberate to gain federal approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline project, which got the green light in 2016 to ship more Alberta oil to the B.C. coast but, due to legal challenges and reversals in court, has yet to see shovels in the ground.

    Kenney has promised to fight Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in court on multiple fronts, including the federal carbon tax, and has promised to do what he can to get Trudeau defeated in the fall national election.

    Notley said she discussed a number of issues with Kenney on Thursday, including Bill 12, which Notley’s government introduced and passed but never proclaimed into law. The bill gives Alberta power to restrict oil shipments to B.C. if that province continues to resist Trans Mountain.

    Kenney has said the first act of his government will be to proclaim Bill 12 into law to send a strong message that Alberta will protect its oil and gas. Legal experts say it’s also a move that could give B.C. the opening it needs to successfully challenge the bill’s constitutionality in court.

    Notley said Kenney’s promise to lift her government’s cap on Alberta oilsands emissions could also threaten Trans Mountain approval, given the cap was a key reason why Ottawa approved the multibillion-dollar project in the first place.

    Kenney has said his approach will be one of cooperation and diplomacy with all political leaders, but that he will leave no doubt about Alberta’s determination to stand up for its bread and butter industry, particularly against those who benefit from it while opposing its growth.

    As part of that fight-back plan, Kenney has pledged to create a government communications “war room” to challenge oil and gas opponents and those who spread misinformation about the industry.

    It will have an initial budget of $30-million, Kenney said Thursday, and it will be staffed with communications professionals who are creative and, more importantly, nimble and quick to fight rhetorical fire with fire.

    “Both the industry and governments of different partisan stripes have not been fast enough to respond to the incoming attacks,” said Kenney.

    “I want a unit in the government that will be on that (factual errors and lies) the moment it is published, demanding a correction.”

    Kenney and his new government are to be sworn in April 30, with a spring legislature sitting starting a few weeks after that.

    Notley is staying on as Opposition Leader, but wouldn’t say Thursday whether this will be short-term while a successor is groomed or if she plans to stay the full four years and lead the NDP into the next election.

    “That’s a little bit premature,” she said.

    “My intention to lead Alberta’s Official Opposition and to stand up for the things that we fought for in the election.”

    Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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    Environment

    Keep guard up against hurricanes in 2019, as risk remains potent: forecaster

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  • HALIFAX — It has been years since a major tropical storm wreaked havoc in Canada, but the Canadian Hurricane Centre is warning against complacency.

    The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its hurricane outlook Thursday, predicting nine to 15 named storms this season, with four to eight becoming hurricanes and two to four being major hurricanes.

    Bob Robichaud of the Canadian centre noted that’s similar to last year’s hurricane season, when only two storms hit Canada, including post-tropical storm Chris, which made landfall in Newfoundland in July 2018.

    However, Robichaud warns that some Atlantic Canadians may be forgetting storms like post-tropical storm Arthur, which snapped trees and caused massive power outages in 2014, and hurricane Juan’s widespread wrath in 2003.

    And he reminded journalists attending a briefing in Halifax about hurricane Michael, which flattened parts of the Florida panhandle last October.

    The Halifax-based centre has created a fresh smart phone app, and recommends people begin tracking storms as soon as they start and then monitor for shifts in direction and intensity.

    “What we advocate is for people to really stay in tune with weather information because the forecast can change as the storms are approaching,” Robichaud said.

    Robichaud says studies show that complacency levels rise about seven years after a storm like hurricane Juan, and that as a result people do less to prepare.

    “People tend not to take any preparedness action if they haven’t had any kind of hurricane in recent years,” said Robichaud, a warning preparedness meteorologist.

    “For us it’s been five years since any major impactful storm … so it’s even more important to take the necessary precautions to get ready.”

    The Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo has published a simple guide for Canadians on basic measures to take to prepare in particular for flood risk from extreme weather.

    The centre has repeatedly pointed out that without basic measures, basement flooding can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage during hurricanes.

    Its publications include a Home Flood Protection Program that begin with such simple steps as testing sump pumps, cleaning out eaves troughs and maintaining backwater valves.

    More advanced measures include removing obstructions from basement drains and creating grading to move water away from homes.

    The hurricane season runs from June 1 to early November.

    Robichaud said hurricanes tend to “feed on” warmer waters, and as result the centre is closely monitoring those trends.

    The meteorologist said as summer progresses it’s projected the water will warm in the eastern Atlantic and become warmer than average.

    In addition, Robichaud said the Atlantic Ocean continues to be in an overall period of high hurricane activity that hasn’t yet come to the end of a cycle.

    — Follow (at)mtuttoncporg on Twitter.

    Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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    Environment

    Philippines dismisses Canada’s plan to bring garbage back by end of June

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  • OTTAWA — The Philippines has rejected Canada’s late-June timeline for repatriating its garbage and is moving forward with plans to ship it back to Canada itself.

    Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told a media briefing in Manila Thursday that Canada’s timeline isn’t good enough and that the Philippines government will have 69 containers of mislabelled Canadian trash headed back across the Pacific no later than next week.

    Earlier this week Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered the containers dumped in Canadian waters after Canada missed Duterte’s May 15 deadline to deal with the nearly six-year-old dispute.

    “The trash will be sent back the soonest,” Panelo said in Tagalog. “This week or a week after. Definitely not the end of June.”

    “We will not allow ourselves to be a dumping ground of trash.”

    Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Wednesday Ottawa has contracted the Canadian office of the French shipping giant Bollore Logistics to treat the waste and then bring it back to Canada before the end of June. Environment officials say the containers must be fumigated in the Philippines before being loaded onto a ship.

    McKenna’s press secretary, Sabrina Kim, said Canada is “fully engaged” with the Philippines to “promptly remove the waste to Vancouver for disposal.”

    The contract with Bollore is worth $1.14 million but the Philippines says it will pay to ship the trash back just to get it out of the country.

    The containers are the remainder of 103 shipping containers sent to the Philippines by a Canadian company in 2013 and 2014, falsely labelled as plastics for recycling. Philippine authorities were alarmed that the amount of material was more than the Philippine importer could process, and ordered an inspection, finding the containers to be filled mostly with regular garbage rather than any material that could be recycled.

    Canada and the Philippines have battled since 2014 about what to do with the contents. The Philippines has recently recalled its ambassador and consuls general until Canada deals with the waste.

    Several environment groups in both Canada and the Philippines argue Canada violated the Basel Convention, an international treaty designed to prevent wealthier nations from using developing countries as trash heaps.

    The Canadian company that shipped the waste, Chronic Inc., has since gone out of business; while officials say they would like to try to go after it to get some of the costs back, that is proving difficult. Chronic Inc. is not believed to have violated any Canadians laws when it shipped the waste.

    Before 2016, Canada’s regulations under the Basel Convention only stipulated that the convention applied to shipments Canada considered hazardous. Canada did not then, and still does not, consider the waste to be hazardous. The Philippines does.

    As a result of this case, Canada changed its regulations to prevent this kind of situation from recurring. Now exporters must obtain permits from Environment and Climate Change Canada to ship waste if either Canada or the importing nation deems it to be hazardous.

    Garbage-filled containers are not all that rare, with the Philippines dealing with another such shipment this week from Australia. Reports from Manila say seven containers of garbage are now being rejected by the Philippines. That garbage was to be burned for energy in the Philippines but the country says that violates its clean-air laws.

    Last year South Korea took back containers of trash that had ended up in the Philippines in just a matter of months, drawing negative comparisons for Canada, which sat on its hands for almost six years.

    Duterte has also hinted at following China’s move to bar plastic recycling imports entirely. China used to be the biggest importer of recyclable plastics but in 2018 barred most shipments because too many of them were contaminated with materials that could not be recycled.

    Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


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