'Rhetoric and hyperbole': Horgan fires back at finance minister over feds' Trans Mountain backing - Canadanewsmedia
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'Rhetoric and hyperbole': Horgan fires back at finance minister over feds' Trans Mountain backing

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The federal finance minister singled out B.C. Premier John Horgan's efforts to thwart the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion Wednesday, as he outlined measures Ottawa is taking to remove "politically motivated" investment risks.

Speaking in Ottawa, Bill Morneau said his government is willing to compensate Kinder Morgan — or any other company interested in building the pipeline — against any financial loss due to the actions of the B.C. government.

"We're prepared to indemnify the project against any financial loss that derives from Premier Horgan's attempts to delay or obstruct the project," Morneau said.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced Wednesday that the Canadian government is willing to compensate Kinder Morgan against any financial loss due to B.C.'s attempts to obstruct the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Speaking to reporters following an event in Vancouver, Horgan fired back at Morneau's characterization of the dispute.

"I think that is rhetoric and hyperbole on his part. There are fundamental challenges to that project that he well knows," Horgan said.

"For a Toronto-based finance minister to single out British Columbia as a problem here, he should look at the failure of Energy East, he should look at the failure of Keystone and a whole host of other projects."

Morneau accused the B.C. government of attempting to delay or obstruct the Kinder Morgan project. 0:42

Morneau declined to say how much Ottawa would be willing to spend to back the pipeline expansion.

Notley 'ready and prepared to turn off the taps'

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley responded to the comments from Ottawa by immediately passing her government's Bill 12 Wednesday afternoon.

The Preserving Canada's Economic Prosperity Act gives Alberta's energy minister the power to restrict shipments of oil and gas leaving that province.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley speaks to reporters at a news conference in Edmonton on Wednesday. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

"If the path forward for the pipeline through B.C. is not settled soon, I am ready and prepared to turn off the taps," Notley said

Any restriction in supply could send already high gas prices in B.C. even higher. Notley did not say when Alberta would plan to use the legislation.

The B.C. government was quick to respond saying it considers Alberta's legislation unconstitutional.

Attorney General David Eby said B.C. would immediately go to court if the legislation is used.

"If they attempted to use it, we would be in court seeking an injunction to prevent them from using it and any damages that flowed from that type of action, we would be seeking to recover those," he said.

Eby has also written to Alberta calling for the legislation to be tested in court for constitutionality before Bill 12 is proclaimed.  

But Liberal opposition leader Andrew Wilkinson doubts going to court would do much to ease the potential spike in gas prices, should Alberta use its new legislation.

He instead called on the B.C. government to drop its opposition to the pipeline expansion.

"Are we going to watch the pump prices go through the roof for three years, while it goes through the courts? Going to court is not an answer to solving a problem through gentle Canadian negotiation," he said.

Wilkinson also said the B.C. government should consider providing some relief from gas prices that are already high through a break on the provincial gas tax.

Legal challenges

Kinder Morgan has set a deadline of May 31 to decide whether it will continue with the Trans Mountain project, which has federal approval. 

The pipeline expansion is facing uncertainty due to court action by the B.C. government over environmental concerns.

B.C. has filed a reference case with the province's top court to determine if it has jurisdiction to limit expanded shipments of heavy oil through the province.

Horgan has said clarity is needed to ensure the B.C. government protects its coastline, but critics say the move is a tactic to delay or block the project by creating uncertainty.

Protesters block a transport truck attempting to deliver heavy equipment to a Kinder Morgan site in Burnaby, B.C., in March. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Meanwhile, an environmental law group in B.C. is expressing concerns about the federal government's plan to provide financial support for the pipeline expansion.

In focusing on the actions of the B.C. government, Ottawa is ignoring other legal risks the project faces, said Eugene Kung, a staff lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law.

"No matter how much money the government pours into this project, it still faces significant risks," Kung said. "Particularly the legal risks associated with the ongoing court challenges that could derail the project completely."

Seven First Nations are among more than a dozen groups challenging the approval of the pipeline expansion in Federal Appeal Court.

The challenge is based on principles of Aboriginal title and the Crown's constitutional duty to meaningful consultation with First Nations.

Until those issues are resolved in the courts, Ottawa should not be giving assurances the project can proceed, said Chief Judy Wilson, the secretary-treasurer of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.

"I think a lot of it was grandstanding and a lot of trying to reassure the shareholders and the investors, which was really hollow," she said of Morneau's comments Wednesday.

Shareholders meet in Calgary

Morneau's comments on financial backing for Trans Mountain ​come as Kinder Morgan Canada's stakeholders met in Calgary on Wednesday.

Ottawa says the twinned pipeline would create 15,000 jobs, 9,000 of which would be in B.C.

Discussions with the company on how large a cheque Ottawa may be willing to write to move the project forward continue in Calgary, Morneau said.

In a statement, Kinder Morgan Canada chairman and CEO Steve Kean said Morneau's comments were appreciated and he confirmed that talks are continuing.

"While discussions are ongoing, we are not yet in alignment and will not negotiate in public," he said.

With files from Yvette Brend

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New Zealand economist says foreign buyer ban unlikely to curb housing prices

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While New Zealand's just-passed foreign buyer ban is getting a positive reception from some in B.C., an economist in the southern hemisphere is calling it misguided.

On Wednesday, New Zealand banned most foreigners from buying most types of housing in that country, where affordability has become a struggle.

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver wants the province to look at a similar ban, but Auckland, New Zealand-based economist Shamubeel Eaqub calls it "a rushed bit of policy, and not very good."

"Be very careful what you wish for because public policy quite often is complicated and has unintended consequences," Eaqub told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko.

"Getting rid of the foreigners is not going to make housing more affordable. The way that the legislation has been written… it's probably going to make it harder for overseas investors to supply new housing in New Zealand."

Eaqub says the policy is weak in several regards.

First, foreigners are still allowed to buy apartments in new developments.

Second, it still allows Australians and Singaporeans to buy property in New Zealand because of existing free trade deals. Australians alone, he said, account for about 30 per cent of foreign buyers in the New Zealand market.

But, he also said the ban is a solution in search of a problem.

In Auckland at least, which is the largest urban area of the country, foreigners make up less than 10 per cent of all buyers. "We are trying to deal with something that is very much at the margin."

Home prices are increasing all over New Zealand, he said, not just where foreign buyers are active. There are also widespread supply issues and construction comes at a slow place.

He believes there are better solutions to housing problems in his country: renting could be made more affordable and have more secure rules; social housing supply could be increased; and policies and planning could be improved to encourage affordable housing.

Listen to the full interview:

While New Zealand's just-passed foreign buyer ban is getting a positive reception from some in B.C., an economist in the southern hemisphere is calling it misguided. 9:30

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

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Donors have stepped up, but urgent need for blood hasn't gone away

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Canadian Blood Services issued a call for donors and though Londoners have largely stepped up to help, there remains a pressing need as the Labour Day weekend draws near. 

Kendall O'Neill of Canadian Blood Services says the clinic on Wharncliffe Road South has been busy since a call for donations was issued last week, highlighting a need for 22,000 donors nationally ahead of the weekend.

"The response has been incredible," said O'Neill. 

When CBC News visited the clinic Friday, every donation chair, the waiting area and the post-donation reception area was full of clients there to donate whole blood, platelets and plasma. 

And while it's a welcome response, O'Neill says more donors are still needed to re-stock supply heading into the long weekend. For example, the London clinic needs 50 donors to fill up booking spots for Monday, Sept. 3.

She said getting donors to show up for the Labour Day weekend is a annual challenge. 

"People are on vacation," she said. "They're doing stuff with their families, but it is still important to come out and donate." 

Canadian Blood Services is trying new ways to get younger people to donate, through pop-up donation clinics at schools, including Western and Fanshawe, and an app that will issue a text alert when your donated blood is used.

 There wasn't an app available when 66-year-old Alex, who spoke to CBC Friday at the London donation clinic, began donating as an 18-year-old.

Since then he's donated more than 120 times. 

"I think it's the best gift one human being can give to another," he said. 

Other than free drinks and snacks afterward, donors in Canada aren't compensated. Alex says he's fine with that. 

"It's a natural high," he said. "I feel good after I walk out of here."

For information about how to become a donor visit blood.ca or call 1-888-236-6283.

Blood donation facts

  • The need for Type O-negative blood is always pressing because it's the only type compatible with all other blood types. In an emergency when there's no time to check for blood type, patients receive O-negative.
     
  • Only four per cent of people eligible to donate blood actually donate. O'Neill said  some people falsely believe they aren't eligible to donate when they actually are. "The criteria is alway changing," she said. "It's always good to go on Blood.ca to check availability to make sure you can actually donate."  
     
  • A common misconception is that blood donations are only used in emergency situations. "That's not usually the case," said O'Neill. She said blood is needed for everything from treating cancer patients to surgeries like hip replacements.
     
  • Blood donated in London is taken to a screening facility in Brampton. Then it comes back to be used in the community where it was donated. Most blood units are used within five days of donation.

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Trump administration reverses decades of policy, says conserving oil no longer an economic imperative

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Conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative for the U.S., the Trump administration declares in a major new policy statement that threatens to undermine decades of government campaigns for gas-thrifty cars and other conservation programs.

The position was outlined in a memo released last month in support of the administration’s proposal to relax fuel mileage standards. The government released the memo online this month without fanfare.

Growth of natural gas and other alternatives to petroleum has reduced the need for imported oil, which “in turn affects the need of the nation to conserve energy,” the Energy Department said. It also cites the now decade-old fracking revolution that has unlocked U.S. shale oil reserves, giving “the United States more flexibility than in the past to use our oil resources with less concern.”

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With the memo, the administration is formally challenging old justifications for conservation — even congressionally prescribed ones, as with the mileage standards. The memo made no mention of climate change. Transportation is the single largest source of climate-changing emissions.

President Donald Trump has questioned the existence of climate change, embraced the notion of “energy dominance” as a national goal, and called for easing what he calls burdensome regulation of oil, gas and coal, including repealing the Obama Clean Power Plan.

Despite the increased oil supplies, the administration continues to believe in the need to “use energy wisely,” the Energy Department said, without elaboration. Department spokesmen did not respond Friday to questions about that statement.

Reaction was quick.

“It’s like saying, ‘I’m a big old fat guy, and food prices have dropped — it’s time to start eating again,“’ said Tom Kloza, longtime oil analyst with the Maryland-based Oil Price Information Service.

“If you look at it from the other end, if you do believe that fossil fuels do some sort of damage to the atmosphere … you come up with a different viewpoint,” Kloza said. “There’s a downside to living large.”

Climate change is a “clear and present and increasing danger,” said Sean Donahue, a lawyer for the Environmental Defence Fund.

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In a big way, the Energy Department statement just acknowledges the world’s vastly changed reality when it comes to oil.

Just 10 years ago, in summer 2008, oil prices were peaking at $147 a barrel and pummeling the global economy. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries was enjoying a massive transfer of wealth, from countries dependent on imported oil. Prices now are about $65.

Today, the U.S. is vying with Russia for the title of top world oil producer. U.S. oil production hit an all-time high this summer, aided by the technological leaps of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

How much the U.S. economy is hooked up to the gas pump, and vice versa, plays into any number of policy considerations, not just economic or environmental ones, but military and geopolitical ones, said John Graham, a former official in the George W. Bush administration, now dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.

“Our ability to play that role as a leader in the world is stronger when we are the strongest producer of oil and gas,” Graham said. “But there are still reasons to want to reduce the amount we consume.”

Current administration proposals include one that would freeze mileage standards for cars and light trucks after 2020, instead of continuing to make them tougher.

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The proposal eventually would increase U.S. oil consumption by 500,000 barrels a day, the administration says. While Trump officials say the freeze would improve highway safety, documents released this month showed senior Environmental Protection Agency staffers calculate the administration’s move would actually increase highway deaths.

“American businesses, consumers and our environment are all the losers under his plan,” said Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat. “The only clear winner is the oil industry. It’s not hard to see whose side President Trump is on.”

Administration support has been tepid to null on some other long-running government programs for alternatives to gas-powered cars.

Bill Wehrum, assistant administration of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, spoke dismissively of electric cars — a young industry supported financially by the federal government and many states — this month in a call with reporters announcing the mileage freeze proposal.

“People just don’t want to buy them,” the EPA official said.

Oil and gas interests are campaigning for changes in government conservation efforts on mileage standards, biofuels and electric cars.

In June, for instance, the American Petroleum Institute and other industries wrote eight governors, promoting the dominance of the internal-combustion engine and questioning their states’ incentives to consumers for electric cars.

Surging U.S. and gas production has brought on “energy security and abundance,” Frank Macchiarola, a group director of the American Petroleum Institute trade association, told reporters this week, in a telephone call dedicated to urging scrapping or overhauling of one U.S. program for biofuels.

Fears of oil scarcity used to be a driver of U.S. energy policy, Macchiarola said.

Thanks partly to increased production, “that pillar has really been rendered essentially moot,” he said.

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