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Alberta

Premier Kenney’s reaction to Federal approval of Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion

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Premier Jason Kenney reacts to approval of Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion

This was a live video broadcast of the news conference held by Premier Jason Kenney in the moments after the Trans Mountain Pipeline was approved.

Media release from The Province of Alberta

“We appreciate the federal government’s second approval of this existing project. This approval is an important milestone for Alberta, and for Canada. The decision was made on the merits of the project that is supported by the majority of Canadians. Approving the TMX pipeline is a step forward for economic growth and prosperity.

“But approval is not construction and, regrettably, for far too long this project has been mired in uncertainty. TMX has been through countless months of consultation and a lengthy and rigorous review process. The immediate test is the start of construction, with shovels in the ground and real progress. Success will be measured by one thing alone: completion of this pipeline.

“At the same time, this is just the beginning. Without TMX and other coastal pipelines, we are underselling our resources to the United States and allowing OPEC countries to dominate global energy markets. That doesn’t reduce energy consumption, but sells Canadians short, making us poorer.

“We should never have been put in the position of depending on one coastal pipeline project, which is exactly what happened through the cancellation of Northern Gateway and the death of Energy East. These policies are now being enshrined in bills C-48 and C-69. Both bills pose a threat to Alberta’s energy industry and provincial autonomy.

“Albertans continue to urge the federal government to listen to the provinces, job creators and the Senate on these bills to restore investor confidence and diversify our markets.

“We remain committed to fighting for additional pipelines, growing the economy and creating good jobs.”

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Alberta

“India? Are you nuts?” Join Gerry for Part 1 of his series on India.

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Feature Image India part 1

This is the first in a four-part series on India

“India. Are you nuts?” an incredulous friend remarked. “Why would you want to go there? It’s dirty, crowded, smelly and full of stray cows.”
So, I was anxious as I stared out the window of the Dreamliner 787 on descent into New Delhi after a 14-hour flight from Vancouver. But Delhi was nowhere to be seen. The worst smog in the country’s history had enveloped India’s capital. Visibility was near zero.

Man carrying basket on head

Smog in India

The late-night ride to the hotel was a dystopian dream. With the twelve-hour time change we were in a trance-like state. The streets were eerily quiet. An acrid smell hung in the air. As we drove through dense smog, the moon made a futile effort to silhouette India Gate, Parliament House and the Prime Minister’s residence.

“What’s happening?” we asked the clerk at check-in.

“Diwali,“ he smiled.

Diwali is an ancient Hindu festival that pays tribute to the victory of light over dark, good over evil – and a highlight of the annual celebration is the setting off of fireworks. When Delhi’s 22,000,000 inhabitants simultaneously ignite firecrackers and other pyrotechnics, the sub-tropical air becomes thick with the stagnant refuse of gunpowder. Add to this the exhaust of 9 million vehicles, smoke from burnt stubble fields in nearby Punjab, plus a temperature inversion – and you have unimaginable, eye-searing air pollution.

“…At the top of the heap are India’s cows. Bovines stand nonchalant, impervious – and sacred – amongst the vehicular pandemonium…”
Schools were closed. Construction was halted. Roads were sprayed to keep dust down. Farmers were threatened with fines for illegally burning rice stubble; all to no avail. The particulate index climbed, from just over 600 when we arrived, to 964 three days later. This level is 15 times the “safe” limit in India – and 60 times what would be considered hazardous in Canada.

Women selling wares

Street Vendors during Diwali

Then the currency crisis hit. In an effort to weed out “black money” – cash hoarded through corruption and counterfeiting – Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonetization of all 500 and 1000 rupee bills. That’s like cancelling all our $10 and $20 bills.

India’s 1.3 billion people were given a fortnight to exchange old rupees, after which the old bills would become worthless. The bank lineups were horrifying.

India’s is a cash economy and many people don’t even use banks. The country was in chaos. But surprisingly, most people we met – guides, drivers, shopkeepers, restaurant employees – were sick of the endemic corruption and in favour of this Draconian strategy.

Our tour group consisted of my wife Florence and me, together with our fun-loving travel-mates Kim and Simone from Victoria and Joe and Carla from Saskatoon. We struggled through these pollution and currency crises from the comfort of an air-filtered, credit card-accepting hotel. Meanwhile out on the streets the locals coughed, lined up and resolutely carried on life in 21st century India.

school kids some wearing masks

Air quality is an issue

But for me more astonishing and unfathomable than the choking smog and worthless bills was India’s overwhelming, perpetual traffic congestion.

The “sub-continent” has 54 cities with more than a million people. Four of these urban agglomerations have over 20 million souls. And even the smallest Indian village is a clogged spoke of trucks, buses, cars, motorcycles, rickshaws, bicycles and foot traffic. Pecking order is determined by size. Bicycles give way to motorcycles, which give way to rickshaws… ascending up to the big Tata transport trucks.

 

full bus carrying men

Traffic is insane

Buses overflow with humanity – arms, legs and heads spilling from every door and window. A moped transports an entire family – and their belongings. The lowly pedestrian occupies the bottom of the traffic heap, flirting death with each wary footstep.

At the top of the heap are India’s cows. Bovines stand nonchalant, impervious – and sacred – amongst the vehicular pandemonium.

people watching cow in street

Cows rule.

This may come as a somewhat of a surprise but Indians are fantastic drivers. In what can only be termed functional chaos, traffic actually moves. Roads designed for two lanes harbour four – in each direction. The tiniest opening in traffic is immediately filled by the largest object that fits that space. India abhors a vacuum.

Horns blast non-stop in a cacophonous chorus, used not in anger but to convey a message. A little beep means, “Hey, I’m here.” A resolute honk indicates, “I’m filling that gap.” And an extended blast from a bus states unequivocally, “Coming through, out of my way.”

The first two weeks of our month-long stay in India were spent in the company – and under the watchful eye – of guide Anoop Singhal and driver Devinder Singh. Each morning Singh Ji, a soft-spoken Sikh, greeted us with a colourful turban and a contagious smile. (“Ji” is an honorific, used to show respect – and we happily started referring to one another as Kim Ji, Anoop Ji, etc.)

kids with balloons

Despite the culinary curry shock to my digestive system – and the occasional experiment with street food – I managed to avoid “Delhi belly.” I credit my intestinal well-being to a daily dose of local yoghurt. But even with the use of air masks, we all eventually succumbed to the dreaded Delhi cough.

White palace on water

The Lake Palace of Udaipur

After “seeing” the capital, we travelled a few hundred kilometers southwest to Udaipur to begin an exploration of the fabulous architecture of Rajasthan. Vast palaces built by fabulously wealthy Maharajas in the 17th century still dominate the landscape. The Lake Palace of Udaipur, the White City, is a stunning snow-white jewel set in a liquid surface.

In Jodhpur, the Blue City, we looked down on a jumble of turquoise buildings from the heights of Mehrangarh Fort. The last in the colourful triumvirate of Rajasthan’s famous towns is Jaipur, the Pink City, where in 1857 Maharaja Ram Singh ordered his palace painted pink to impress the British overlords.

India is a photographer’s paradise. No need to search out photo ops; simply plunk down on any curb and start snapping: a vendor hawking fruit, women in crimson saris haggling over spices, a cow imperially chewing its cud, children laughing, beggars begging. All day, every day the flavour, colour, texture, sound, energy and urgency of India unfolds spontaneously, unrehearsed.

On the last day of our stay in Rajasthan, we stopped in at the famed camel festival of Pushkar where local dromedaries are auctioned annually. I nearly closed on a fine one-humped specimen but was outbid by a clever camel herder from the Punjab. Just as well; probably would have been tough to squeeze a grumpy dromedary into my suitcase.

Next time: Taj Mahal and the Sacred Ganges.

Thank you to these great local sponsors who make these stories possible!

If you go: Explore India from Vancouver B.C., www.exploreindia.ca, capably and professionally handled all aspects of our private month-long tour – air and land travel, hotels, meals, guides, drivers, entrance fees and activities – for one all-inclusive price.

Click below to read about some of Gerry’s other great travel adventures.

 

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Alberta

The electricity price cap in Alberta is gone. What now?

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How the electricity price cap removal will affect Alberta utility bills (Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash)

Many Albertans have been reading the news about higher regulated electricity rates in December, after the price cap on energy rates was scrapped by the province. Even though this was announced by the Government of Alberta in late October, as part of the new budget, people only started to hear more about it on November 30. That was when the regulated energy providers announced their new power rates; this time, without a cap on prices. 

The program was created by the NDP government in 2017 to cap energy rates for residential and small business consumers. Regulated rate (RRO) consumers wouldn’t pay more than 6.8 cents per kWh, meaning that any costs above that threshold were paid by the province. The main goal behind the cap was to protect consumers from rate spikes and, consequently, financial uncertainty. 

In order to predict how your energy bills (and your wallet) could be impacted by this change, we need to take a look at historical prices, future market trends and what prices would’ve been this past year without the cap. 

How the 6.8 cents/kWh price cap worked

Regulated electricity rates in Alberta change every month. Although the prices need to be approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), they can be affected by multiple factors, including politics, natural disasters, economic reasons and more. 

In the past 10 years, electricity rates in Alberta went as high as 15.06 cents/kWh and as low as 2.88 cents/kWh. The cap provided protection for Albertans as the government subsidized any prices above 6.8 cents/kWh. 

The effects of the electricity price cap in Calgary in 2019

According to the Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA), regulated electricity rates in the Calgary area (ENMAX) went above the 6.8 cents/kWh during most months of 2019, except for March, April, May and June. 

  • January: 7.727 cents/kWh
  • February: 7.009 cents/kWh
  • March: 5.914 cents/kWh
  • April: 6.067 cents/kWh
  • May: 6.390 cents/kWh
  • June: 6.391 cents/kWh 
  • July: 8.434 cents/kWh
  • August: 8.805 cents/kWh
  • September: 7.590 cents/kWh
  • October: 6.736 cents/kWh* 
  • November: 7.399 cents/kWh
  • December: 7.320 cents/kWh 
*According to the UCA, prices still reached the price cap in October, although they were officially 6.736 cents/kWh. 

This means the average price would’ve been approximately 7.15 cents/kWh, which makes quite a difference in energy bill terms, considering that the average household in Canada consumes around 1,000 kWh per month. After an entire year of high electricity rates, this difference looks even larger. 

The effects of the electricity price cap in Edmonton in 2019

In the Edmonton region (EPCOR), the difference between what consumers paid and what they would’ve paid without the cap is even more noticeable. According to the UCA, regulated prices went above the 6.8 cents threshold in all months except for March. 

Without the cap, the average price per kWh in the Edmonton area in 2019 would’ve been 7.84 cents/kWh. 

  • January: 7.733 cents/kWh
  • February: 7.189 cents/kWh
  • March: 5.991 cents/kWh
  • April: 6.981 cents/kWh
  • May: 6.990 cents/kWh
  • June: 7.231 cents/kWh
  • July: 9.578 cents/kWh
  • August: 10.191 cents/kWh
  • September: 8.2 cents/kWh
  • October: 7.342 cents/kWh
  • November: 8.63 cents/kWh
  • December: 8.069 cents/kWh 

Are my electricity bills going to increase in the months ahead?

Now that the price cap is gone, many households and small businesses are concerned about facing higher utility costs in the months ahead. 

Power prices reached historically low averages in 2017, but the average rate in Alberta was 7.3 cents/kWh for the 2002-2018 period, which is considerably above the price cap, especially in cents/kWh terms.

The future of electricity prices is still unclear. Consumers will have to wait and see whether rates will go up or down. We can expect to see RRO prices fluctuate slightly more now that they are free to go above the 6.8 cents/kWh threshold, as it happened in December and for most of the time in 2019.

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