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Western Canada seeks LNG, energy pledges in Liberals’ Indo-Pacific strategy


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Rajan Sawhney makes a comment during the United Conservative Party of Alberta leadership candidate’s debate in Medicine Hat, Alta., Wednesday, July 27, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

By Dylan Robertson in Ottawa

As the Trudeau government fleshes out its Indo-Pacific strategy, Western Canada is seeking more certainty from the Liberals on expanding energy exports to Asia.

“There are people in Ottawa who understand what our energy mix is, and what it has to be in the future,” Alberta Trade Minister Rajan Sawhney in an interview this week.

“And there are others who are pushing back.”

Last November, Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly unveiled the government’s approach to the Indo-Pacific, which calls for deeper economic and cultural links with countries that can counterbalance China’s growing influence.

Sawhney said the strategy was seen as a positive first step in Western Canada, but that it needs to respond to more of her region’s trade issues. The Alberta minister is planning a summit so provinces can touch base and make a concerted pitch to Ottawa to refine parts of the strategy.

In a recent virtual event held by the Canada West Foundation, experts from the Prairie provinces noted that their region has a disproportionate amount of trade with commodity-hungry China.

Stephen Nagy, a Canadian who works as a politics professor at the International Christian University in Tokyo, said Western Canada’s ties with China mean the region is at the whims of Ottawa’s relations with Beijing.

Nonetheless, he told the panel the trade relationship is “a net good” for Canada.

“During the pandemic — during the highest point of tension between China and Canada — trade between Western Canada and China increased,” he said.

Nagy said the federal strategy does a good job of listing ways Canada can continue to build on its economic ties with China, by limiting business involving technology and sensitive industries but broadening agriculture and resource exports.

He argued that Liberal ministers have been less clear, with some calling for closer trade ties and others advocating an overall pull away from China. He said he worries the mixed messaging will only get worse amid allegations of election interference.

“It will impact western Canadian exporters and how they need to think about the region,” Nagy said.

He also argued the strategy’s value statement on the environment and Indigenous rights “has mismatches for the region’s needs,” since many countries are focused on development over sustainability, and have varied understandings of reconciliation.

Mac Ross, Pulse Canada’s director of trade policy, told the panel his sector faces serious challenges in Asia, despite Canada being the world’s top exporter of pulse crops.

“There really is, we feel, a major opportunity for western Canadian agriculture to position ourselves as the leading supplier of agri-food products in the region,” Ross said for Winnipeg.

“At the same time, this is a region of the world where protectionist and anarchic tendencies are on the rise,” he said.

India and Pakistan have slapped sudden tariffs and crop fumigation policies that have created headaches for exporters. Nepal and Sri Lanka have implemented abrupt import bans on certain products to try stabilizing domestic cash flow.

“The common feature among all these issues is that Canada has really had no advance warning. These issues only became apparent once shipments were denied entry at port, or in transit at the time,” said Ross.

“It’s become a game a bit of a game of Whack-a-Mole, with increasingly less of a cohesive strategy on how to proactively address these systemic issues in a region like the Indo-Pacific.”

Ross argued Canada is falling behind its peers in building the strong relationships in Asian markets that can help anticipate and challenge such trade barriers.

Meredith Lilly, a Carleton University economics professor who participated in the panel, said the federal strategy lacks specifics, such as how exactly the trade-commissioner service will scale up and when businesses will be offered more supports to expand into the region.

“It was very clear that officials did not actually have a developed work plan for implementation,” said Lilly, a former senior advisor to former prime minister Stephen Harper.

Still, she said the lack of concrete plans gives provinces a chance to get on the same page and push Ottawa to emphasize certain topics — though she warned that contradictory demands from provinces would delay Ottawa scaling up its involvement in the region. She argued that a domestic clash over softwood lumber policies hampered Ottawa’s response to disputes with the U.S.

Lilly added that the Liberals might want to reconsider some of their environmental policies, such as proposed regulations to cap emissions from fertilizer and the scope of federal carbon pricing, given the likelihood that such provisions will make Canadian products more expensive in the global marketplace.

Corporate groups like the Business Council of Canada were critical of the strategy for not outlining a pledge to get more energy to market, such as a commitment to ramp up exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to East Asia.

Lilly said that is particularly crucial given how many pipeline projects that had foreign support have been thwarted in recent years.

“Canada has a damaged reputation in the area of being able to bring promised energy infrastructure to market, and foreign investors are not suddenly going to believe that we can build new infrastructure just because it is carrying fuel sources that the government now supports,” she said.

Sawhney said the Liberals must address that challenge in their financial plan this spring.

“In this budget, I am looking for a more comprehensive statement and support for the energy sector in general,” she said.

Sawhney has held roundtables in Calgary and Edmonton about the Indo-Pacific strategy, and spoken with her peers in the other three western provinces.

She said the three most common topics are energy, agri-food expansion and a desire for more foreign-credential recognition and immigration supports to bridge labour gaps. She said the first two had “very little in terms of substance” in the strategy.

Sawhney said she met with Global Affairs Canada staff in Ottawa while Joly was abroad on diplomatic business, and pushed for LNG to be reflected in the strategy

“The response was a little bit defensive,” Sawhney said.

“It was more like, ‘Well, we’re really focused on renewables, this is where we’re going and we’re really focused on transition.’ And I said, ‘Look, so is Alberta. We are all aligned; we’re all going in the same direction. But we cannot ignore the reality, which is that there is still a place for oil and gas.'”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2023.

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‘Always remember’: Funeral held for 2 Edmonton police officers killed on duty

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A sheriff salutes during a procession for Edmonton Police Service Const. Travis Jordan and Const. Brett Ryan in Edmonton on Monday, March 27, 2023. The officers were killed in the line of duty on March 16, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

By Ritika Dubey and Angela Amato in Edmonton

Two police officers killed in the line of duty were honoured Monday at a regimental funeral with tears and tales of off-key crooning, birdies and beers, laughs and contagious joy.

Thousands of officers gathered with family members to say a formal goodbye to Edmonton police Const. Travis Jordan, 35, and Const. Brett Ryan, 30, at Rogers Place arena, the home area of the Edmonton Oilers.

“I’ll remember his smile, his wheezy laugh — we’ve been told we laugh the exact same way. I will always remember how excited he was when Brett found out he was going to be a dad, and I know that is one memory I will never lose,” Ryan’s pregnant widow, Ashley, said in her eulogy.

“You will live on in baby Ryan and they will know every last detail about how special you were to so many people and, most importantly, to me. I love you forever. I’ll miss you always.”

Jordan’s widow, Annie, stood silently beside police chaplain Roy Langer as he read her parting words.

“We didn’t have one hard day in 11 years,” she said through Langer.

“The world was really ours. We had already started leaving our mark in some many different places.”

The officers were shot at multiple times while responding to a family dispute on March 16. Police said the shooter, 16, then shot and wounded his mother during a struggle for the gun, before shooting and killing himself.

Jordan was remembered by colleagues as a valued officer of almost nine years, working to join the tactical squad. He came to Edmonton from Nova Scotia so he could realize his childhood dream of becoming an officer.

Sgt. Perry Getzinger and Sgt. Chris Gallahger remembered Jordan, or T.J., as a “great dog dad” to canines Teddy and B.J.

They recalled an excellent, ultracompetitive golfer who will live on in happy memories of lost balls and fairway trash talk from their “Birdies and Beers” golf trip.

Brodie Sampson, a childhood friend, said people who knew Jordan “were able to experience (his) kindness, contagious joy and unparalleled positivity even in the face of hardships.”

“(It) gets us through these hard times now,” he added.

Ryan, born in Edmonton, had more than five years’ service with the force after working as a paramedic.

Ashley Ryan recalled life with the man with “a crooked little grin,” who got up in the morning to have coffee and read the news in his fuzzy slippers, “because he was such an old man at heart.”

Her husband, she said, loved skydiving, baseball and their dogs, even the one who chewed up their couch.

Garett Ryan said his older brother loved trips to Las Vegas and Mexico, eating donairs and Baconator burgers. He remembered driving around with his brother, windows down belting out Kenny Chesney country music songs.

“I often called him my big little brother because that’s how much I looked up to him.”

The caskets were brought to Rogers Place in two hearses that inched their way through the downtown from the legislature under bright sun amid chill winds. They were followed by officers from across the country.

They marched eight abreast, arms swinging amid the pipes and drums of interspersed marching bands while onlookers lined the streets. Some held up placards with painted blue hearts, others placed their right hands over their hearts.

“We’re here to support all of the first responders but in particular our son, who is a police officer with Calgary Police Services,” said Jim Funk, who attended the procession with wife, Chris.

“We feel so sad, especially for the families of the two officers, but that extends out to the whole first responder family nationwide.”

Said Chris Funk: “It’s probably the worst nightmare families can experience.”

Two caskets, each draped in a Canadian flag, were carried into the arena on the shoulders of Edmonton police pallbearers.

The service was not open to the public but was livestreamed and broadcast outdoors at the Ice Plaza next to Rogers Place.

Dozens shivered in the cold to watch, including 15-year-old Charlie Dennis, whose father is an Edmonton officer.

“It’s nice to know that there are people around that would care and would show up,” she said.

Police continue to investigate the circumstances of the shooting and have said the same gun was used days earlier at a nearby Pizza Hut, leaving a man injured.

Police had also been called to the teen shooter’s home in November, apprehending him under the Mental Health Act before taking him to hospital for an assessment.

The day of the shooting, the boy’s mother called saying she was having trouble with her son. Police said there was no indication he had a gun or that the officers were walking into a high-risk or dangerous situation.

There have been 10 officers killed in the line of duty in Edmonton.

The most recent previous death was of Const. Daniel Woodall, who was shot in 2015 trying to enter the house of a suspect wanted for criminal harassment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2023.

— With files from Dean Bennett

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Japan to resume imports of Canadian processed beef, 20 years after mad cow disease

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OTTAWA — Japan is lifting the last of its restrictions against Canadian beef, 20 years after BSE, often called mad cow disease, devastated this country’s cattle industry. 

The federal government says Japan is reopening its doors to processed beef and beef patties from Canada.

The move puts an end to the market access barriers Japan put in place in 2003, after a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, was discovered in Alberta.

While Japan initially shut its border to all Canadian beef, it has been lifting restrictions in stages over the years, most recently with its 2019 decision to begin accepting Canadian beef from cattle older than 30 months of age.

The federal government says Japan is now Canada’s second-largest market for beef, with exports worth $518 million in 2022.

Around 40 countries closed their borders to Canadian beef during the height of the 2003 BSE crisis, resulting in billions of dollars in losses for the industry.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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