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'A grave disappointment': Premier, First Nations Chief shocked over Teck's withdrawal of Frontier project – Calgary Herald

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks to media in Calgary on Tuesday, February 11, 2020. Jim Wells/Postmedia


Less than a week before the federal government’s deadline to determine the future of a $20.6-billion oilsands project in northern Alberta, Teck Resources Ltd., the company behind the project, has withdrawn its application.

Earlier in the day, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) reached an agreement with the province on several environmental areas of concern. That agreement meant that all 14 affected First Nations and Métis organizations in the area had granted their support for the project that would have been about 110 kilometres north of Fort McMurray and would have covered roughly 10,000 hectares of the boreal forest.

But just hours after sharing the news of the agreement, ACFN Chief Allan Adam was shocked to hear of Teck’s decision.

“It’s a shame, because we worked so hard with the province and did everything we can to make sure the project was going to get the green light,” he said Sunday night. “To me, it’s shocking news . . . What went wrong?”

Sunday evening, Teck CEO Don Lindsay released a statement sent to federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Johnathan Wilkinson, stating the Vancouver-based company’s desire to “withdraw our regulatory application for the Frontier oilsands project from the federal environmental assessment process.”

“It is now evident that there is no constructive path forward for the project,” he wrote.


Teck Resources CEO Don Lindsay

Carla Gottgens /

Bloomberg

“The promise of Canada’s potential will not be realized until governments can reach agreement around how climate policy considerations will be addressed in the context of future responsible energy sector development.

“Without clarity on this critical question, the situation that has faced Frontier will be faced by future projects and it will be very difficult to attract future investment, either domestic or foreign.”

ACFN had previously reached deals with Teck Resources Ltd. for the Frontier mine in 2018, but at the time were still negotiating with the province over environmental and cultural concerns.

The project would have created an estimated 7,000 construction jobs, 2,500 operating jobs and about $12 billion in federal income and capital taxes. But it was also expected to produce about four megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year over 40 years.

As a result of the decision, Teck will write down the $1.13-billion carrying value of the Frontier Project.

Despite his disappointment, Adam said he’s pleased with how the process went overall.

“You have to give Teck a hand because they did everything right in regards to mitigating their project with ACFN,” he said. “We never had any oil company do what Teck has done and it’s too bad if they do pull their application but we can’t do anything about it.”

In a statement, Premier Jason Kenney called the decision “a grave disappointment to Albertans,” in particular to the two First Nations who in the past 48 hours had reached agreements with the province in regards to the project.

“The Mikisew Cree First Nation and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation both signed historic agreements with the Government of Alberta, which would have made them partners in the prosperity of the Frontier project, bringing hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of dollars to their remote communities,” Kenney said.

“The factors that led to today’s decision further weaken national unity. The Government of Alberta agreed to every request and condition raised by the federal government for approving the Frontier project, including protecting bison and caribou habitat, regulation of oilsands emissions and securing full Indigenous support,” he continued. “The Government of Alberta repeatedly asked what more we could do to smooth the approval process. We did our part, but the federal government’s inability to convey a clear or unified position let us, and Teck, down.”

Municipal and industry leaders in Alberta were stunned by the news.

“It’s going to be real blow to the region,” said Fort McMurray Mayor Don Scott. “It was going to be a catalyst for the future.”

Scott hopes the prime minister and premier reach out to Teck to see if there’s any way the venture can be revived. But if the project doesn’t proceed, it’s not sending a positive message to investors, he noted.

“If not this project, then what project could possibly be approved? This one, they had worked so hard to get approvals and Indigenous agreements, consultations across the board. This is the one that made perfect sense. And it still does,” he said.

“Teck had worked hard. We were just days, literally, away from a decision. I think we collectively feel a punch in the gut.”

Ron Quintal, president of the Fort McKay Métis, one of the 14 Indigenous communities who signed on to the Frontier project, said Teck’s decision “is understandable, if devastating.”

“This decision is damaging to the Alberta and Canadian economies and to the economies of Aboriginal Peoples around the project area who would have seen enormous long-term, sustainable benefit,” he said Sunday night. “I fully understand Teck’s reasoning, but it is deeply regrettable. This is a black eye for Canada.”

In a statement, NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said the “heated rhetoric and constant conflict generated by Jason Kenney is the primary reason for withdrawal of Teck’s application.” 

“We worked to unify our economic and environmental efforts, not pit them against each other,” she said. “(Kenney) intentionally reduced the Teck project to a political football.” 

Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in a tweet the news was “devastating” for the province. 

“Teck’s withdrawal falls squarely at the feet of the Trudeau government. They’ve undermined national unity, investor confidence and our economic interests all at the same time. This is not only regulatory dysfunction, it is national disgrace.” 

Kevin Birn, oilsands analyst with energy consultancy IHS Markit in Calgary, said the project was unique given its size and scale, coming as spending in the islands has fallen in recent years.

“It is unfortunate, but not particularly surprising, given recent tensions in Canada, to see Teck cite uncertainty of Canadian energy and climate policy as a key source of uncertainty effecting their decision to withdraw this project,” he said. “The unfortunate bit from the Teck statement is they also seemed intent on only advancing a project that could meet the appropriate environmental and economic bars.”

Tristan Goodman, president the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, believes the ongoing blockades tied to the Coastal GasLink project and protests against energy projects likely had a role in the Frontier project application being withdrawn, and he’s concerned about the broader signal it sends to investors and all Canadians.

“It’s dramatically disappointing and really unfortunate for the entire country,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we have this small, militant vocal minority that is really shutting down the future economic prosperity for everybody in this country, including the Indigenous community. This is really getting quite out of hand and at some point, we are going to lose a generation of economic prosperity from east to west to the north here if we can’t get our house in order.”

‘Precedent’ for negotiations

A few hours earlier, Adam said he was looking forward to the future working relationship with the province, federal government and Teck on the project.

“We’re quite pleased with everything that happened because it’s a win-win for both parties,” Adam said. “ACFN is satisfied because we got our engagement tables and we’re moving forward.”


Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam is pictured outside Government House in Edmonton on Feb. 12, 2020. Jeff Labine/Postmedia

Edmonton

Adam said that they were able to negotiate on some key areas of concerns and developed a list of environmental priorities including the Ronald Lake bison herd, the Richardson Backcountry caribou herds, migratory birds, waterfowl and navigational rights to the waterways.

Jason Nixon, provincial minister of environment and parks, said before the news broke that even if the project was rejected by the federal government, the province will honour any and all environmental partnerships made in negotiations with the ACFN.

Adam said the negotiations between his Nation and the provincial government have been beneficial for all involved and can serve as an example for others.

“This is a model that should set precedent right across the country in regards to how First Nations and government should sit down with engagement tables and mitigation in regards to major developments,” he said.

Earlier this month, Alberta’s Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson expressed concern that a public spat over the negotiations with Adam, who also called for a share of tax revenue from resource projects, could give the federal government a reason to reject the project.

A federal-provincial review last summer determined that the mine would be in the public interest, even though it would be likely to harm the environment and the land, resources and culture of Indigenous people.

Last week, author Alice Munro and dozens of other Nobel Prize winners urged Trudeau to reject the project, calling fossil-fuel expansion an affront to the climate emergency and incompatible with Canada’s pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The federal government had until the end of the month to make a decision on the project and Nixon said that if it’s rejected, it would send negative messages to Alberta.

“It would add to concerns that we’ve been raising for weeks, which is that clearly the federal government has no intention of letting us develop our resources and does not see a future for the oil and gas industry in this country and that’s not acceptable to Alberta,” said Nixon. “If you can’t approve a project that has been through this much environmental regulation and has this much support, then you can’t approve any project, which is not acceptable to us.

The second message, according to Nixon, would be dismissing the First Nations communities that are depending on this project for “wealth, jobs and prosperity.”

“So if the federal Liberals are truly serious about wanting to work with First Nation communities on reconciliation and moving forward in positive ways, they should not reject this project because it would be a direct rejection of both those for all 14 of those First Nation communities.”

— With files from Chris Varcoe

ocondon@postmedia.com
Twitter: @oliviacondon

sbabych@postmedia.com
Twitter: @BabychStephanie

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Bank of Canada decides against launching digital currency, but leaves door open – The Globe and Mail

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The Bank of Canada has made a bank-issued digital currency a key research priority over the past year, as the development of private-sector alternatives, especially Facebook’s proposed Libra cryptocurrency, have accelerated the urgency among the world’s central banks to respond.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The Bank of Canada doesn’t yet see a need to create its own digital currency, even as some central banks advance toward e-money.

“We have concluded that there is not a compelling case to issue a CBDC [central bank digital currency] at this time,” Bank of Canada deputy governor Timothy Lane said in a speech in Montreal Tuesday. Nevertheless, the bank is developing a contingency plan so that it is prepared for the possibility of such a digital option down the road.

“The Bank will build the capacity to issue a general-purpose, cash-like CBDC should the need to implement one arise,” the bank said in a background note published on its website in conjunction with Mr. Lane’s speech.

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“While we don’t know what the future may bring, we need to move forward to work out what a potential CBDC might look like and how it could be managed, if the decision were ever taken to issue one,” Mr. Lane said in his speech. And he noted that the decision wouldn’t be up to the Bank of Canada.

“That’s a choice that Canadians and their elected representatives would need to make at the time,” he said, adding that “the bank would need proper legislative authority to issue a CBDC.”

The background paper indicated that it would take “several years” before the central bank would be in a position to launch its own digital currency.

The Bank of Canada has made a bank-issued digital currency a key research priority over the past year, as the development of private-sector alternatives, especially Facebook’s proposed Libra cryptocurrency, have accelerated the urgency among the world’s central banks to respond. The bank published a series of papers on the issue Tuesday. It has also formed a working group along with the central banks of England, Japan, the European Union, Sweden and Switzerland to combine their efforts on understanding the implications of CBDCs.

But many central banks look to be further down the road toward pursuing their own digital currencies than Canada is. In a recent survey by the Bank for International Settlements, about one in 10 central banks said they are likely to issue a digital currency within the next three years. China’s powerful central bank is believed to be considering a launch of a digital currency within the year. Last week, Sweden’s Riksbank announced the launch of a pilot program over the next year to test a new “e-krona” using blockchain technology, though it stressed that no decision has been made regarding introducing the currency.

Sweden is considered one of the world’s most cash-less societies, with cash used for only about 15 per cent of retail payments. By comparison, Mr. Lane noted that, while Canadians’ use of electronic payment methods has risen substantially in recent years, cash is still used in about one-third of transactions.

He said the case for a Bank of Canada digital currency would become more compelling “if we ever reach the tipping point where cash could no longer be used for a sufficiently wide range of transactions.”

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He added that another key factor would be if private digital currencies became widely adopted, something that could pose a risk to the stability of central bank currencies and the conducting of monetary policy.

“If either scenario came to pass, society may be well-served with a digital currency,” he said.

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Hong Kong Budget 2020: HK$10000 cash handouts for all adult permanent residents among raft of relief measures – Hong Kong Free Press

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Hong Kong’s financial secretary has announced a HK$10,000 cash handout to all permanent residents over the age of 18 in a bid to boost local consumption and ease economic woes in light of a fiscal deficit.


The relief measure involving an estimated expenditure of around HK$71 billion came amid negative economic growth since the second half of last year and the city’s first deficit in 15 years as the economy took a hit from the US-China trade war, large-scale protests and the coronavirus outbreak.

But Paul Chan remained confident that fiscal reserves, previously estimated at HK$1.1 trillion, could weather the cost of the handout.

“I consider that, with ample fiscal reserves, the government has to increase public expenditure amid an economic downturn to stimulate the economy and ride of the difficult times with members of the public,” he said as he delivered his fourth budget blueprint at the legislature on Wednesday.

paul chan

Paul Chan. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Chan also announced a salary tax cut of 100 per cent for the 2019-20 year up to a ceiling of HK$20,000 – set to benefit 1.95 million taxpayers and cost HK$18.8 billion.

Other relief measures for the public:

  • Rates for residential properties for 2020-21 will be waived up to a ceiling of HK$1,500 per quarter – estimated to involve 2.93 million properties and cost HK$13.3 billion.
  • Eligible social security recipients will benefit from an extra month of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance payments, Old Age Allowance, Old Age Living Allowance or Disability Allowance. A similar arrangement will be rolled out for the Work Incentive Transport Subsidy. It will cost around HK$4.23 billion.
  • Lower-income tenants in government public housing will have a month of rent waived, with a total cost of HK$1.83 billion.
  • Exam fees for students sitting the 2021 Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination will be waived, at a cost of about HK$150 million.
sophia chan

Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Relief measures for business:

  • Profits tax will be reduced by 100 per cent for the 2019-20 year to benefit 141,000 taxpayers at a cost of HK$2 billion.
  • Business registration fees will be waived for 2020-21, benefitting 1.5 million business owners at a cost of HK$3 billion. Company registry fees for annual tax returns will be waived for two years to benefit 1.4 million firms at a cost of HK$212 million.
  • A concessionary low-interest loan of up to HK$2 million will be provided to enterprises under the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme.
  • Rates for non-domestic properties for 2020-21 will be waived up to a ceiling of HK$5,000 per quarter in the first two quarters and a ceiling of $1,500 per quarter in the remaining two quarters for each non-domestic property. 420,000 properties will benefit, at a cost of HK$3.2 billion.
  • Non-domestic electricity accounts will enjoy a 75 per cent discount up to a ceiling of HK$5,000 for four months, at a cost of HK$2.9 billion. Likewise, water and sewage costs will be discounted by 75 per cent up to a cap of HK$20,000 and HK$12,500 respectively, costing HK$340 billion.
  • Local recycling firms will see a rental subsidy for six months, costing HK$100 million.
  • Tenants of government properties, government land and EcoPark will see rent discounts of 50 per cent, costing HK$573 million. Rent and fees for eligible operators of properties will be slashed by 50 per cent, costing HK$265 million.
  • Hirers of civic centres under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department will enjoy discounts of 50 per cent for six months, costing HK$23 million.

“In preparing this budget, I put the focus on ‘supporting enterprises, safeguarding jobs, stimulating the economy and relieving people’s burden,’ Chan said.

Paul Chan

Paul Chan. Photo: Inmediahk.net.

“Hong Kong may have all sorts of shortcomings, but it is our home which allows diversity and freedom of development. Even if we have been disappointed, we can choose to feel hopeful for our future. Even if we are striving for different goals, we can work together to put aside our differences, make room for resolving conflicts, and drive Hong Kong forward,” he said in his concluding remarks.


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GO Transit service disrupted after blockade near Kipling GO Station, several people arrested – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Thousands of GTA commuters faced a difficult time getting home Tuesday as rail protests hampered GO Train service.

New protests cropped up Tuesday on several rail lines, affecting service on the Milton, Lakeshore East and Lakeshore West lines.

At around 6:15 p.m., Metrolinx said that all service was resuming across all lines, but advised customers to expect longer travel times, residual delays and some cancellations throughout the evening.

The protests have been set up in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in British Columbia, who are opposing a pipeline project and infringements on their territorial rights.

A number of people set up a blockade west of Aldershot GO Station on Monday night and had remained on the tracks throughout Tuesday, forcing Metrolinx to suspend GO train service between Hamilton and Aldershot stations and replace it with buses.

Police served the protesters with an injunction ordering them to leave on Tuesday morning but did not forcibly remove them from the premises.

At around 5:15 p.m., CP24’s cameras captured the protesters peacefully leaving the area in two large groups.

However their departure came about an hour after another blockade formed on the tracks near Lambton Arena, in the area of Dundas Street West and Scarlett Road. 

Service was completely suspended along GO Transit’s Milton line due to that blockade.

Police said that severl people have been arrested at the demonstration.

Metrolinx said that it was unable to provide buses to supplement service along the route because it does not have enough of them to carry the 20,000 commuters that utilize the line each night.

The agency later said that the resumption of service would not rely on buses, but would involve trains taking a longer route to make use of a detour.

As of 10 p.m., a large crowd was still at the site of the blockade, along with a large number of police officers.

“We are on scene to keep the peace and ensure public safety for all involved and limit disruption to critical infrastructure,” Toronto police said in a tweet.

Service was also suspended between Union and Pickering GO stations on the Lakeshore East Line for close to an hour due to a disruption near Guildwood. Service resumed on that line at around 5 p.m.  

She said that while trains are moving, some are moving very slowly, resulting in backlogs. Other trains also had to turn around and return to Union because of the protests, resulting in a surge of customers waiting to get home.

“There’s just congestion all throughout our corridor,” Aikins said. “It’s an extremely difficult situation for all involved. We’re doing the best we can.”

She advised customers to stay tuned to the latest updates.

Aikins said Metrolinx is planning for the possibility of further disruptions in the coming days.

“We’re planning farther in advance right across our system,” she said. “These are security incidents that we just don’t know when they’re going to happen, when they’re going to end.

“They are out of our control and we’re doing what we can to make sure everybody stays safe. That’s our first priority. We want you to stay safe around our tracks.” 

The transit agency said late Tuesday that it is anticipating a normal morning commute for Wednesday morning, but warned that could change if there are circumstances beyond its control.

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