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Alberta

Private member's bill would protect mountains from coal mines: Alberta NDP Opposition

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EDMONTON — The Alberta Opposition is proposing legislation that it says would protect the province’s Rocky Mountains from new open-pit coal mines. 

“What it’s about is giving voice to the hundreds of thousands of Albertans who have begged this government to stop their plans to coal mine in the Rocky Mountains,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley before introducing a private member’s bill Wednesday. 

Notley said the bill proposes that coal exploration across the eastern slopes of the Rockies be blocked and road-building and drilling halted.

If passed, the bill would cancel leases issued after the United Conservative government scrapped a policy last May that once protected the land and would stop the province’s energy regulator from issuing development permits.

Open-pit mines would permanently be prohibited in the most environmentally sensitive areas and mines elsewhere would be prevented until a land-use plan for the region was developed. 

“It is, in essence, a continuation of the … coal policy along with the natural extension of applying more science, more consultation in an evidence-based way,” Notley said.

Notley said mines already operating would not be affected under the NDP proposal. Those now before the regulator could proceed but would not get final approval unless they fit within the land-use plan.  

Companies would be offered compensation in line with what they paid for the leases. 

Controversy over coal mines began last May when the United Conservative government quietly revoked the 1976 policy. Public outrage grew, both over the threat to a beloved landscape and the potential for water contamination.

The government restored the policy in February. However, it didn’t cancel exploration leases sold in the interim and miners have been drilling and road-building in an area where much of Alberta’s drinking water originates.

The government has recently created an online public survey and struck a committee to consult the public — efforts Notley called a “delay tactic” that people have seen through. 

“The consultations didn’t provide the depth and breadth of engagement that meaningful conversations with Albertans ought to provide. They were clearly designed to lead people to certain conclusions.”

Rules introduced by Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservatives dictate that private member’s bills go to a government-dominated committee that decides which ones will move forward to be debated. Notley said committee members should listen to their constituents. 

“If the UCP caucus listens to their constituents, there’s really a possibility that this bill could be passed.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2021. 

— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Gustavsson leads AHL Senators in 4-2 win over Heat

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CALGARY — Filip Gustavsson stopped 30 shots as the Belleville Senators doubled up the Stockton Heat 4-2 on Wednesday in American Hockey League play.

Lassi Thomson, Egor Sokolov, Mark Kastelic and Parker Kelly scored to help the Senators (8-12-1) halt a three-game slide.

Matthew Phillips and Zac Leslie replied for the Heat (10-12-1).

Garret Sparks stopped 28-of-31 shots for Stockton.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2021.

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Alberta

Calgary schools to shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12 due to COVID-19

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CALGARY — The Alberta government says schools in Calgary will move to at-home learning starting Monday for students in grades 7 to 12.

The change, due to COVID-19, is to last for two weeks.

Alberta Education said Wednesday that it approved requests from public and Catholic schools in the city to make the move to online learning.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said in a release that some school boards are dealing with operational pressures due to rising COVID-19 cases.

“The safety of students and staff is my top priority, which is why I am responding to the boards’ requests and respecting their autonomy,” she said.

“By having a clear process in place, we are giving them flexibility to move to at-home learning when necessary.”

The province said it has not closed any schools for health reasons, and any decision to move a portion of a school to at-home learning is at the discretion of each school board.

About 19 per cent of schools have COVID-19 alerts or outbreaks. Nine schools are currently doing online learning.

Marilyn Dennis, board chair with the Calgary Board of Education, said in the release that the greatest impacts of COVID-19 have been in schools with higher grades.

Alberta’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, also said there has been a sharp rise in cases among school-aged Albertans.

The province, with 15,569 active infections, currently has the highest rate of active cases in Canada.

On Wednesday, the province reported 1,412 new cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths due to the virus. There were 420 people in hospital due to COVID-19, with 92 in intensive care.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2021.

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