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Trudeau calls out Tory premiers for ‘playing games’ with national unity over C-69

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it is “absolutely irresponsible” for conservative premiers to threaten to tear Canada apart if the government doesn’t accept all the Senate’s amendments to new environmental-assessment legislation.

The Liberals are expected to say as early as Wednesday what they want to do with the 187 amendments made to Bill C-69 in the Senate last week. The bill would revamp the way the federal government evaluates major infrastructure projects, from pipelines to interprovincial highways.

The conservative premiers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick, and the non-partisan premier of the Northwest Territories, wrote an “urgent” letter to Trudeau Monday telling him that he must accept every last one of the amendments or he will be threatening national unity.

They say Bill C-69 will make it virtually impossible to ever build another major pipeline in Canada and will drive away jobs and investment in the energy sector.

The premiers also want him to scrap Bill C-48, which would put a permanent ban on oil tankers’ loading at ports in British Columbia north of Vancouver Island.

Trudeau lashed out at the premiers when the letter was raised by deputy Conservative leader Lisa Raitt during question period.

“Will the prime minister do the right thing, consider the amendments from the Senate and agree to every single one of them?” she asked.

Trudeau said the government is happy to accept amendments that make the bill better and are in the best interests of the country.

“What we will not do is accept the premiers’ saying ‘There is a threat to national unity if we don’t get our way,’ ” Trudeau said. “That is not the way to hold this country together.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was not impressed, saying the premiers signed the letter “in the best tradition of co-operative federalism.”

“We only asked to be heard, and this dismissive response from the federal government is the real threat to the national economy and to national unity,” he said in a tweet.

Raitt said the premiers were warning about national unity but that they did so as premiers representing a majority of Canadians.

Trudeau said for the first time that at least one of the Senate’s amendments, which he says makes Indigenous consultation “optional,” is a no-go.

“I don’t think Canadians want to go back to Stephen Harper’s years of ignoring Indigenous Peoples in how we build resource projects. That’s a good way to get nothing done, the way Stephen Harper did over 10 years.”

The federal cabinet considered the issue at its weekly meeting Tuesday and a motion listing which amendments the government will accept and which ones it won’t could be tabled for debate in the House of Commons as early as Wednesday.

Bill C-69 fulfils a Liberal election promise to redo the way major national projects are assessed; Trudeau has said previous changes made by the Conservative government in 2012 led only to court challenges. Among the new changes are:

— creating a new Impact Assessment Agency to conduct the reviews,

— limiting the influence of regulators like the National Energy Board in project approvals, and

— requiring the reasons for an approval or denial to be made public, including any science used to reach the conclusion.

Trudeau is under intense pressure from environment groups to reject almost all the Senate amendments, which the groups say are directly taken from the demands of the oil and gas sector and cut into the bill’s attempts to balance protecting the environment and economic growth.

Environmental Defence, Greenpeace Canada and the West Coast Environmental Law Association say the amendments weaken the requirement to consider a project’s impact on climate change, reduce the ability of the public to participate in assessment hearings, and limit the right to ask a court to review a project approval.

That last change is also of concern to law professors, at least 50 of whom penned a letter to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna Tuesday saying it would undermine access to justice, and therefore public trust.

“Canadians must be assured that, when there has been a legal error in the exercise of public duties, they can bring their case to a court without undue expense, impediments and burden,” the law professors said.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Environment

Canada’s climate plan not enough, entire G7 must do more report says

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Justin Trudeau

OTTAWA — The wealthiest countries in the world — including Canada — are lagging instead of leading in the fight against global warming, a new report says.

The Climate Action Network, a global association of more than 1,300 climate groups, issued a report card on the climate plans of the G7 nations ahead of the leaders’ summit in France this weekend. The groups hope to pressure the world’s wealthiest nations to step up their climate game, noting none of them is doing enough.

There is also a hope expressed in the report that the upcoming federal election in Canada might stimulate more ambitious action. Canada, the report says, is among the worst of the already bad G7 bunch.

“It’s depressing,” said Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada. “The richest countries in the world are delivering the poorest performance and some of the smallest and poorest are leading the way.”

The report card says Canada’s current policies are consistent with global warming exceeding 4 C compared to pre-industrial levels, more than twice the stated goal of the Paris agreement of staying as close to 1.5 C as possible. The United States and Japan are also both in the 4 C category, while the other four G7 members, France, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom, have policies consistent with more than 3 C in warming.

A spokeswoman for Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Canada is leading internationally with its initiative to wean the world off coal power, and financing projects in developing nations to mitigate or adapt to climate change.

“Over the past three and a half years, our government has delivered on an ambitious, affordable plan that is doing more to cut carbon pollution than any other federal government in Canada’s history,” Sabrina Kim said in a written statement.

But the Climate Action Network ranks Canada’s climate plan as having the same impact on global warming as the policies of the United States, where President Donald Trump has rejected the Paris agreement.

The report applauds Canada’s plan to eliminate coal as a source of electricity by 2030, the national price on pollution and the goal to stop selling combustion-engine cars by 2040. But it says all of the government plans “remain insufficient to meet Canada’s targets and the Paris Agreement.”

Canada’s current targets were developed by the Conservatives in the spring of 2015, and maintained by the Liberals six months later when they signed on to the Paris agreement a few weeks after winning the election. The goal by 2030 is to cut emissions 30 per cent below what they were in 2005.

Last December, the Liberals said computer modelling suggested Canada will get just over halfway there — 16 per cent below 2005 levels — under current plans.

Many scientists also say Canada must cut more than twice as many emissions than planned if it is to pull its weight in the war on climate change.

Climate plans are proving to be a major part of most party platforms, with the NDP, Green and Conservatives already releasing at least the broad strokes of their environment promises. The Liberals are expected to release their climate platform next month. McKenna has said several times that Canada will increase its emissions targets in 2020, when the Paris agreement requires it, but she hasn’t indicated how much more she will aim to cut.

The Conservative plan doesn’t specifically put a number on the goal, but does describe itself as “Canada’s best chance to meet the Paris targets.” The NDP aim to increase emissions cuts in line with what scientists demand. The Green Party promises to cut emissions by 2030 to 60 per cent below 2005 levels.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


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Environment

‘Grateful that we had stopped:’ Couple avoids fiery Alberta crash that killed 3

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oyen highway crash

CEREAL, Alta. — A Saskatchewan man says a well-timed pit stop may have helped him avoid getting caught in a fiery 10-vehicle crash in southeastern Alberta that killed three people.

Dore Germo and his wife left Kelowna, B.C., on Monday after a holiday visiting friends. After a night in Calgary, they were on their way home Tuesday to Warman, Sask.

They stopped for gas and a break in Hanna, Alta., about 80 kilometres from where seven passenger vehicles and three semi trucks collided on Highway 9.

“We were quite grateful that we had stopped,” Germo said in an interview Wednesday.

“It just makes you think, ‘Could that have been us further up the road?’ We just don’t know.”

The couple spotted smoke as they continued east but thought it was a grass fire.

Then they saw flashing lights and heard sirens. A police officer was running down the middle of the road waving his arms at stopped vehicles.

“I rolled down my window and he was just yelling, ‘Get out! Get out!'”

Germo said they were directed to a gravel road to get around the crash, and from there they could make out a tanker truck and burned vehicles amid the smoke.

“It kind of looked like a bomb had gone off because there were these burnt-out vehicles and it was very eerie,” he said.

“It was quite a sickening kind of empty feeling once you realized that — yes — those are people just going about their day and travelling somewhere.”

He said he’s praying for those involved.

“The first thing you think of is those poor families.”

RCMP confirmed Wednesday that three people were found dead at the crash scene between the small communities of Chinook and Cereal, about 300 kilometres east of Calgary. Ten people were injured, two critically.

One of the trucks that was carrying fuel ignited, causing several vehicles to catch fire, and another truck was carrying butane.

A stretch of Highway 9 was still closed on Wednesday afternoon, while crews cleared the area and recovered dangerous goods in one of the trucks.

RCMP Cpl. Laurel Scott said the crash happened in a construction zone.

“Any time that traffic is moving through or travelling near a construction zone, there’s always a concern just generally about travelling safely.”

She said a collision analyst was at the site for several hours taking measurements, noting marks on the road and recording where debris had landed.

The investigation could take several weeks, she said, and will also take into account mechanical exams and witness statements. It’s too early to say whether any charges are possible, she added.

“We need the public to understand this does take some time.” 

The RCMP’s victim services unit was providing support to people involved in the crash. The unit set up at the legion in nearby Oyen on Tuesday night.

“They’re there to offer whatever help they can, even if it’s just to listen to somebody and give them a blanket,” Scott said.

— By Lauren Krugel in Calgary

The Canadian Press

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