Provincial leaders slam federal energy reform legislation, Bill C-69: 'The only people making money will be lawyers' - National Post - Canadanewsmedia
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Provincial leaders slam federal energy reform legislation, Bill C-69: 'The only people making money will be lawyers' – National Post

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OTTAWA — Leaders from oil-rich provinces heaped criticism on Ottawa’s proposed energy reforms Thursday, warning that an absence of major amendments to Bill C-69 could choke off new pipeline projects proposed by the oil and gas sector.

In Senate committee hearings, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said that if the legislation is passed in its current form, major pipelines will continue to meet years-long legal delays and shrink investment in the province’s resource sector.

“The only people making money will be lawyers,” she said.

Bill C-69 would introduce sweeping reforms to the review process for major energy projects, including anything from diamond mines to hydro dams.

The bill has become a rallying cry for alienated Western voters ever since Ottawa purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion last August, effectively nationalizing the project after its private-sector owner threatened to scrap it. Trans Mountain and other pipelines, such as Keystone XL and Northern Gateway, have been hindered or outright rejected in recent years due to prolonged regulatory and legal delays, prompting deep frustrations in the oil and gas sector.

Notley said that Trudeau’s willingness to buy the pipeline seems to contradict the overall effects of Bill C-69, which she said could discourage companies from proposing new pipelines.

“It kind of leaves us shaking our heads,” she said.

The senate also heard from the premier of Newfoundland premier and Saskatchewan’s energy minister, both of whom put forward significant amendments to the bill.

Testimony from the three witnesses largely focused on a lack of detail they say is provided in the bill. Opposition has repeatedly said that the bill sets out broad aspirations about how to review major projects, but leaves deep uncertainty around what projects will be subject to federal review, whether the review process can be paused, and how much discretion will be left to the federal environment minister.

Notley has repeatedly called on Ottawa to release its project list, which outlines which developments will fall under the new regulatory regime. Without writing such regulations into the legislation itself, she warned the bill could remain shrouded in uncertainty.

“You can’t build trust by saying ‘trust us,’” she said. “You build trust by putting it on paper.”

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball also called on Ottawa to release the list. The province has expressed concerns over whether offshore exploration wells will be included under the new regulatory regime, saying that it could lengthen timelines for early-stage work.

“Until we get the clarity and confidence that’s required, people will stand back and not make the investments that we think are critical at this point in time,” he said. He also called on the government to leave certain regulatory power to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, which currently overseas such projects.

Newfoundland Energy Minister Siobhan Coady also pressed for more details on the bill.

“I keep hearing about policy intent, but I’m not seeing it,” she said. “And it really needs to be enshrined in legislation.”


Alberta Premier Rachel Notley prepares to testify at Senate committee hearings into Bill C-69, on Feb. 28, 2019.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

She said that if offshore exploration wells are subject to federal review, timelines for those projects could extend well beyond other countries like the United Kingdom and Norway.

A spokesperson for Environment Minister Catherine McKenna did not address specific amendments proposed by provincial leaders in a written statement Thursday.

“While they do suggest amendments, Premiers Notley and Ball have supported the timely passage of Bill C-69,” it said. “They indicated very clearly that the bill could address the issues they raise with the current flawed system.”

Many of those who oppose Bill C-69 have nonetheless pointed to weaknesses in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), the current regulatory system introduced by Stephen Harper as part of an omnibus budget bill in 2012.

Saskatchewan Energy Minister Bronwyn Eyre acknowledged the flaws in the current system, but said that Bill C-69 would still be more damaging to resource-rich provinces.

“The question is whether there needs to be a bill this sweeping and this tendentious ideologically to overturn everything we have,” she said.

Notley called the CEAA 2012 regime “broken” and “misguided,” and said it would be better to simply amend Bill C-69 rather than to scrap the current act.

“I’m not one of these people that will say scrap the bill, because frankly the alternative is not certainty either,” Notley said. “What we need to do is get it right.”

Pierre Gratton, head of the Mining Association of Canada, has long supported the current bill, saying it is an improvement from the 2012 regime. However, the association has also put forward a handful of amendments.

Mining firms have more readily supported the legislation. Gratton can only recall three mines in recent memory that were actually rejected by federal regulatory bodies. The Prosperity copper-gold mine proposed by Taseko Mines Ltd. was rejected for the second time in 2014 under the Conservatives, while another copper mine named Kemess North was rejected in 2008. The Liberals rejected the proposed Ajax copper mine near Kamloops, B.C., in 2018.

Gratton said he supports the early engagement aspect of C-69, what he calls the central innovation of the bill.

“It could go a long way to avoiding those rejections, because you’ve got that opportunity early on to engage with the communities to find out what the showstoppers are,” he said.

Bill C-69 was first introduced to the Senate in December 2018. The Senate energy committee also debated on Thursday whether it would travel across Canada to meet with witnesses as part of its study of the bill.

• Email: jsnyder@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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Canadian ministers meet with CN Rail

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Canada’s Liberal government sent two ministers on Monday to meet with representatives of Canadian National Railway and its largest union, as already hard-hit shippers pleaded for government intervention to avert a strike planned for early on Tuesday.

The threatened strike by 3,000 workers with Teamsters Canada comes after CN, the country’s largest railroad operator, said on Friday it would cut management and union jobs, as it grapples with softer economic conditions.

Labour Minister Patty Hajdu and Transportation Minister Marc Garneau were to meet with representatives from CN and the union in Montreal, Hajdu’s press secretary Veronique Simard said, following a stalemate in contract talks.

CN said it believes a strike can be averted “with the assistance of federal mediators,” after Teamsters declined to submit to binding interest arbitration.

“We expect talks to continue up to Nov. 19,” CN said.

Teamsters and CN reached a last-minute deal in 2017 that averted a planned strike. Canada, one of the world’s biggest exporters of farm products, relies on its two main railways to move canola and wheat over the vast distances from western farms to ports. Crude oil shippers in Alberta have also used trains in the past two years to reach U.S. refineries as an alternative to congested pipelines.

Urging Ottawa to intervene

Alberta wheat and barley commissions, representing farmers, urged Ottawa to intervene, as they are already facing difficult harvest conditions because of weather. “There are a lot of farmers who already have a significant amount of their income trapped under snow,” said Gary Stanford, Alberta Wheat Commission chair. “Now adding insult to injury, we’re looking at possible CN rail strike action too.”

CN was expecting slightly lower fourth-quarter crude shipments from the third quarter, officials said on an Oct. 22 conference call.

“The minute they start shutting down trains you start backing up the grain elevators and you start backing up stuff on the farm,” Ward Toma, General Manager for Alberta Canola, said. “You start backing all that stuff up that not only affects farmers — but canola crushers send oil via rail, and canola meal via rail to the United States — you lose that ability, you start backing things up.”

Toma says according to Alberta’s last agriculture report, 20 per cent of the canola crop is still out in the fields. And he says this is the time of the year farmers look to sell and pay their bills by the end of the year.

“They’re busy, they still haven’t got the crop off and they are trying to move product.”

Slumping commodity prices, congested oil pipelines and a dispute with China that has hampered Canadian agriculture exports have pressured the economies of resource-rich western provinces.

Teamsters Canada spokesman Christopher Monette said the planned strike by its conductors, train personnel and yard workers comes because workers are “hitting a wall on issues related to health and safety.”

“While we continue to negotiate in good faith and in hopes of avoiding a labour dispute, we have every intention of striking at 12:01 a.m. ET tonight unless an agreement can be reached before then,” Monette said by email.

CN shares were trading down 0.5 per cent in early afternoon Toronto trading.

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Western Forest Products workers ended strike talk without resolution

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Western Forest Products Inc. says negotiations with the United Steelworkers union representing workers in a long-running coastal B.C. strike ended without resolution on the weekend.

The company says no active negotiations are occurring and no future mediation dates have been scheduled after 14 hours of bargaining occurred on Saturday and Sunday supervised by two independent mediators.

CEO Don Demens says the mediators informed the company talks were over after it presented a contract offer.

The strike which began July 1 affects about 3,000 coastal forest workers employed in Western Forest Products’ sawmills and timberlands operations.

Demens says the company offered a five-year agreement with a $2,000 signing bonus and wage increases of two per cent per year for the first four years and 2.5 per cent in the fifth year.

He says the company also agreed to drop proposals to modernize agreements, as well as pension plan alternatives opposed by the union, but didn’t go along with Steelworker demands for a shorter-term agreement, bigger wage hikes and less shift flexibility.

United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 president Brian Butler says the union would release its position on the matter later Monday.

The company’s shares lost five cents or 3.9 per cent at $1.22 in afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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Over 100 bus cancellations in Metro Vancouver

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Photo: Downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada – December 31, 2018: Bus driving on Granville Street. / Shutterstock

As the transit strike continues in Metro Vancouver, many bus passengers were left waiting a bit longer than usual during their Monday morning commute.

TransLink, the area’s transit operator, lists hundreds of service alerts on dozens of routes across the Lower Mainland as Unifor bus drivers, SeaBus operators and mechanics enter Day 18 of a labour dispute with Coast Mountain Bus Company.

Currently, the transit operator has listed a whopping 427 advisory alerts under its ‘bus’ section. Of course, some of these are scheduled detours, and a few are due to traffic, but the vast majority are cancelled as a result of the transit strike.

For example, the #3 bus, which saw a few cancellations this morning, has a number of advisories listed for this afternoon and evening:

  • 3 Main-Marine Drive Station trip leaving Eastbound W Cordova St @ Seymour St at 4:55 pm
  • 3 Main-Marine Drive Station trip leaving Eastbound W Cordova St @ Seymour St at 4:55 pm
  • 3 Main-Marine Drive Station trip leaving Eastbound W Cordova St @ Seymour St at 3:03 pm
  • 3 Downtown trip leaving Marine Drive Station @ Bay 1 at 2:13 pm
  • 3 Main-Marine Drive Station trip leaving Eastbound W Cordova St @ Seymour St at 5:24 pm
  • 3 Downtown trip leaving Marine Drive Station @ Bay 1 at 4:31 pm
  • 3 Main-Marine Drive Station trip leaving Eastbound W Cordova St @ Seymour St at 3:30 pm
  • 3 Main-Marine Drive Station trip leaving Eastbound W Cordova St @ Seymour St at 3:30 pm
  • 3 Main-Marine Drive Station trip leaving Eastbound W Cordova St @ Seymour St at 1:35 pm
  • 3 Downtown trip leaving Marine Drive Station @ Bay 1 at 12:45 pm

As of 11 a.m. on Nov. 18, approximately 114 bus routes in Metro Vancouver have advisory alerts. Some hard-hit routes include the busy line along Broadway and buses to Simon Fraser University, the University of B.C., the B.C. Institute of Technology and Capilano University.

“We’re expecting 5 to 10 per cent of service to be impacted today due to union job action,” Ben Murphy, TransLink spokesperson, told Vancouver Is Awesome in an email.

“This morning 4 SeaBus sailings also had to be cancelled.  Customers should sign-up for transit alerts and check the TransLink website or Twitter account for the most up-to-date information and impacts being caused by union job action.”

Murphy underscores that the view from Coast Mountain Bus Company is still that the union needs to be more realistic about their wage demands, and that its offer is in excess of other public sector settlements in British Columbia.

“Coast Mountain Bus Company has offered wage increases of more than $6,000 for transit operators and around $10,000 for skilled tradespeople.  This would bring transit operator salaries to just under $70,000, and skilled tradespeople salaries to around $88,000.”

Unifor lead negotiator Gavin McGarrigle and other Unifor representatives held a news conference in New Westminster earlier last week.

McGarrigle mentioned how, “TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond could see his pay soar by 25% to nearly $500,000 a year, while the head of the Toronto Transit Commission earns $150,000 less each year.”

“CMBC President Michael McDaniel has been on the job for about a year and a half and could see his salary soar by 18% to about $372,000,” he said.

McGarrigle added that, “both of these transit executives make more than the Prime Minister.”

“Translink simply doesn’t treat its workers fairly. They divide their workers into separate companies and tell skilled trades not to compare their wages with each other. In the employer’s mind, a comparison to Toronto’s transit system is fine for executive wages, but it’s somehow offside for transit operators,” said Gavin McGarrigle.

With files from the Canadian Press. 

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