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Alberta community's concerns about wind farm echo familiar challenges of Canada's energy transition – CBC.ca

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Chris Blumhagen was working on his organic farm in central Alberta when Capital Power called to sell him on the idea of putting a wind turbine on his land.

Blumhagen says the representative from the company pushed hard, telling him his neighbours were already on board with a plan to build 74 turbines in the 100 square kilometre area and that if he didn’t sign on, he would miss out.

So Blumhagen signed in exchange for $10 and a promise of more to come once the turbines started spinning, only to later learn that many of his neighbours hadn’t done the same.

“They essentially tricked me,” he said.

That was 2015. Since then, Blumhagen and his neighbours have banded together to oppose the project, alleging dishonest tactics by the company in promoting the project to residents and risks to their health, land and livelihoods if it goes forward.

Edmonton-based Capital Power, which operates coal, natural gas and wind power facilities in Alberta, and Alberta’s utilities commission say all the residents’ concerns have been addressed.

This is the view from the rural front lines of Canada’s energy transition — a move away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy that a majority of Albertans say they support but that few in the country’s cities will have to deal with head-on.

Not opposed to wind power

That will be left to people like Blumhagen and his neighbours, who live on a sliver of Alberta prairie about 200 kilometres outside of Edmonton, wedged between the Battle River Valley to the north and the Paintearth Coulee to the south.

Locals call it “the island,” and a handful of families have lived here for more than a century, farming and ranching together.

Chris Blumhagen was approached by Capital Power about placing a wind turbine on his land and says the company misled him about local support for the project. (Erin Collins/CBC)

Along with agriculture, power generation has long been a part of daily life in Paintearth County. The area saw first the dawn of the coal industry and then the rise of the oil and gas industries in Alberta. Oil wells still draw black gold from the earth here, and a coal mine and power plant still operates in the area.

Blumhagen says that experience is why most residents aren’t against the idea of wind power or other forms of renewable energy.

“Wind has its place,” he said.

But Blumhagen says Capital Power, which already operates one wind farm in the area, near the village of Halkirk, has not taken the time to listen to the concerns of residents.

Residents like Gerard Fetaz, whose family has lived here since 1904. Fetaz’s concerns about the project are easy to see. He has a small runway on his property that he uses to fly his vintage 1957 Cessna. He used to make some money crop dusting in the area, though these days he flies just for the love of it.

But that passion may be grounded for good if Capital Power’s wind farm is built. The plans would see a turbine just 650 metres from his landing strip, despite recommendations from Transport Canada that turbines should be at least four kilometres from a runway.

Gerard Fetaz worries that a wind farm close to his home in Paintearth County will mean he can no longer fly his plane. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“It’s not safe,” said Fetaz. “Somebody runs into a turbine, or gets caught in the turbulence or something — you could hit somebody’s house.”

He says he has tried to reach out to Capital Power about finding a different location for the turbine but says “they aren’t interested in talking about it at all.”

24 conditions placed on project

Capital Power didn’t agree to an interview with CBC News, but in a statement, the company denied that it ignored the concerns of residents and said it would act with “integrity, work to address stakeholder concerns and abide by all laws and regulations governing the project development process.”

But Fetaz and others in the area say the rush to embrace sustainable energy has meant that their concerns have been passed over. Since the project was given the green light in 2018, local residents have challenged its approval at several levels, including at the Alberta Court of Appeal and, most recently, at the county, but to no avail. 

The province is moving ahead with wind power, with Alberta Electric System Operator, which oversees Alberta’s electricity grid, predicting that the amount of wind power generated in Alberta will double over the next decade.

The Alberta Utilities Commission, the regulator that approved the Capital Power project, says it is in the public interest. 

The AUC’s Jim Law says every effort was made to accommodate the residents, including putting 24 conditions on the project’s approval, which the company must meet to complete it. 

Among them, a commitment to move the turbine near Fetaz’s runway by up to 50 metres and to make sure that any environmental impacts are mitigated.

Katrina Smith and her family play in their backyard in Paintearth County. Three wind turbines will be visible from their property if the planned wind farm is built. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“Those are in place to directly answer some of the concerns that the intervenors had about the project, and they range from airport considerations to wildlife and noise,” Law said.

Law said that, unlike with oil and gas developments, no one can be forced to have a wind turbine on their land in Alberta,

“There’s no forced entry. It’s a voluntary agreement,” he said.

Law says the system is set up to make sure the public interest is served and that the concerns of the land owners are respected and that it generally works.

‘Backlash’ in Ontario

That’s not how Katrina Smith sees it. Three turbines will be visible from Smith’s home, which sits just down the road from those of her parents and brothers. Smith likes the idea of renewable energy; her home is completely off-grid, powered by a solar array in her backyard.

But she has concerns about how a large wind farm will impact the sensitive wetlands near her home and the community she grew up in. She sees a push to meet the green energy needs of urban Canada on the backs of rural communities like hers.

“There has to be mutual respect. There has to be an appreciation for what is already there,” she said. “There has to be a goal for what we can maintain and sustain for the future.”

Dayna Scott says similar concerns about the location of turbines and their impact on residents and the environment were raised in rural Ontario more than a decade ago, when that province moved to embrace wind power. 

Scott, who holds a research chair in environmental law and justice at York University in Toronto, says that residents were not consulted adequately in Ontario and that ignoring local concerns caused “a huge amount of backlash in rural communities.”

Scott worries that repeating those mistakes in other parts of Canada could slow a shift toward green energy.

That situation may already be playing out back on “the island.” Local opposition and a sluggish economy mean the future of the wind farm is in limbo. Capital Power has yet to start construction on the project, which it has until December 2022 to finish.

That’s welcome news for many of the residents in the area if not for Canada’s shift to a lower-carbon future.

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Leaked document reveals Ontario's plan to avoid another COVID-19 lockdown – CBC.ca

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Ontario wants to avoid imposing lockdown-style measures to combat a second wave of COVID-19, but is prepared to take “targeted action” such as closing certain higher-risk businesses, CBC News has learned. 

CBC News obtained a copy of Ontario’s fall pandemic preparedness plan, still in draft form even as Premier Doug Ford’s government is in the midst of announcing some of its elements.

The 21-page draft, provided by a government source this week, acknowledges the recent upsurge in new COVID-19 cases, and lays out three possible scenarios of what the second wave could look like: small, moderate or large.

Whichever scenario plays out, the plan favours responding with targeted restrictions, rather than widespread closures or a lockdown.

“If there is a resurgence of COVID-19, either locally or province-wide, targeted action may be taken to adjust or tighten public health measures,” says the document.  

“The return to an earlier stage of provincial reopening, or even regional approaches to tightening would be avoided in favour of organization-specific or localized changes.”

CBC News asked Ford’s office on Wednesday evening for comment about the plan. A spokesperson said the document is an early draft, “which has since evolved considerably.

“It should not be considered complete,” said Ford’s director of communications, Travis Kann, in an email. “We look forward to continuing to release the full details of the final plan.” 

Ontario is currently seeing a marked upswing in infections, with the daily numbers of new cases hitting levels not seen in four months. There have been on average 386 new confirmed cases reported daily over the past week, while that figure was 337 in the final week of May. 

At that time, all regions were still in Stage 1 of the province’s reopening plan, with restaurants and bars shut. Case numbers were on a downward trend. 

The draft plan says if cases start rising “a specific workplace or organization could be closed for a period of time or have additional public health measures or restrictions applied, or a certain type of higher-risk business in a local area might be closed until trends in public health indicators improve.”

The plan commits at least $2.2 billion to the pandemic response. The biggest single item is nearly $1.4 billion on a range of public health measures, including increased capacity in testing, labs, contact tracing, and efforts to prevent transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Other dollar figures in the plan include:

  • $475 million to prepare the health system for a surge in COVID-19 cases.
  • $284 million to reduce backlogs in surgeries and other hospital procedures. 
  • $30 million to identify, manage and prevent outbreaks in schools, long-term care and other settings.
  • $28.5 million for the flu immunization campaign announced on Tuesday.

An additional $90 million is labelled “TBC” (to be confirmed) for a wage enhancement for personal support workers in home and community care. 

Premier Doug Ford has released only part of the province’s fall preparedness plan for COVID-19. He described the plan as massive, with too many elements to release all at once. The draft copy of the plan obtained by CBC News is 21 pages long. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

So far, the government has released two elements of the plan: the upcoming flu vaccination campaign and the expansion of COVID-19 testing to some pharmacies. Ford is expected to reveal more on Thursday, but the full plan was not to be rolled out for several more days. 

Parts of the plan that have not been revealed include expanding testing capacity to 50,000 tests per day, with the ability to ramp up to 100,000 tests per day as needed. The plan also says the province will adopt new testing technologies, including saliva tests and tests that can be processed at the point of care.

The document sets out some benchmarks for success in the public health response to COVID-19. The province wants the positive test rate running no higher than three per cent. It’s aiming for at least 80 per cent of all test results to be completed within 48 hours.

And it wants 90 per cent of all people who test positive for the virus to be contacted within 24 hours.    

There is mixed success with some of these measures right now. The positive test rate province-wide has averaged 1.1 per cent over the past week. The turnaround target for lab tests is currently being met only 68 per cent of the time in Toronto.      

The plan does not state any specific benchmarks to trigger tighter pandemic restrictions. The decision would be based on more than just the daily case count, says the document. The number and type of outbreaks, hospitalization data, and the input of local medical officers of health would also be factored in. 

Private clinics to help clear surgery backlog

Private medical clinics would be paid to help clear the backlog of thousands of procedures that were postponed during the spring wave of the pandemic as hospitals tried to clear space.

The Ministry of Health will address the backlog in part “through innovative channels such as the use of independent health facilities that can deliver additional publicly funded surgical and diagnostic imaging services,” says the document.

It also promises unspecified funding for additional surgeries to take place during extended hours in hospital operating rooms. 

The Ford government is committing at least $2.2 billion to responding to the second wave of COVID-19, according to a draft of its fall preparedness plan. Of that, $284 million is for reducing backlogs in surgeries and other hospital procedures. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The document says the health system is facing challenges that weren’t present during the initial spring wave of COVID-19.

Overcrowding at hospitals is one of them, as patient volumes are beginning to returning to pre-pandemic levels. Hospitals and long-term care homes now have less space for patients and residents as they have had to reduce the number of multi-bed rooms to ensure physical distancing. 

There’s also a shortage of health-care workers, particularly in home and community care, according to the plan.  

The draft document says the province will take action on what it calls “health behaviour surveillance” as part of its efforts to slow transmission of COVID-19. 

There are no dollar figures attached to this, but the document says the aim is “to track adherence to public health measures across Ontario.”

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Canada ‘on the brink’ of coronavirus surge, second wave underway in some regions: Trudeau – Global News

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Canada is “on the brink” of a coronavirus surge as many parts of the country enter a second wave.

And it’s likely Thanksgiving gatherings will be out of the question as cases spike across the country following the recent lifting of many social restrictions.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is urging Canadians to stick to their social bubbles, wear a mask, wash their hands frequently and keep their distance from other people as the country faces down a looming second wave of the virus that has already claimed 9,238 lives.

Read more:
Trudeau dangles national childcare system in throne speech with few hints of fiscal restraint

In a speech to the nation on all major broadcasters Wednesday evening, Trudeau warned the daily case counts are already much higher than they were when the country first locked down in March.

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In Canada’s four biggest provinces, the second wave isn’t just starting, it’s already underway.

“The numbers are clear — back on March 13th when we went into lockdown there were 47 new cases of COVID-19. Yesterday alone, we had well over 1,000,” Trudeau said.

“We’re on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring.”






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Coronavirus: Trudeau says 2nd wave of COVID-19 infections ‘already underway’ in 4 biggest provinces


Coronavirus: Trudeau says 2nd wave of COVID-19 infections ‘already underway’ in 4 biggest provinces

“I know this isn’t the news that any of us wanted to hear. And we can’t change today’s numbers or even tomorrow’s — those were already decided by what we did, or didn’t do, two weeks ago,” he continued.

“But what we can change is where we are in October, and into the winter. It’s all too likely we won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving, but we still have a shot at Christmas.

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“Together, we have the power to get this second wave under control.”






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Coronavirus: Trudeau says Canada can ‘bend the curve’ together again


Coronavirus: Trudeau says Canada can ‘bend the curve’ together again

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

The televised address pre-empted regularly scheduled programming on all major networks in a rare move that was billed by the Prime Minister’s Office as an opportunity to “address Canadians directly on the urgency of fighting COVID-19 as we face down the prospect of a second wave of the virus.”

But the address — both from Trudeau and from the opposition leaders who also spoke — took on an openly political tone and touting political agenda items in the government’s throne speech.

READ MORE: More than half of Canadians think coronavirus deficit too big but split on election need

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Trudeau doubled down on a pledge to keep spending even as more than half of Canadians report concern about the size of the federal deficit, currently at $343 billion from emergency spending.

He also pointed to government commitments to build towards a national pharmacare program and highlighting the government’s pledge to go further with climate change action.






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Coronavirus: Trudeau says government will keep investing to ‘shoulder debt’ over Canadians


Coronavirus: Trudeau says government will keep investing to ‘shoulder debt’ over Canadians

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole also took a highly partisan approach in his speech, which was recorded from the driveway of his home where O’Toole and his wife are in isolation after contracting the virus.

“The situation facing my family shows that we must remain extremely vigilant in our battle against the spread of COVID-19. Please be mindful of that in the weeks ahead,” O’Toole said before criticizing the government.

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“We must also be very vigilant for the future of our country. After four years of Mr. Trudeau, our country is more divided, less prosperous and less respected on the world stage,” he continued.

“Across this country, millions of Canadians have lost their jobs. Many fear losing their homes, and too many have lost hope. Mr. Trudeau says we’re all in this together but Canada has never been more divided.”






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Coronavirus: Conservative leader Erin O’Toole calls for vigilance against COVID-19, criticizes Trudeau for response


Coronavirus: Conservative leader Erin O’Toole calls for vigilance against COVID-19, criticizes Trudeau for response

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, who has also tested positive for coronavirus and is in isolation, also recorded an address.

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Blanchet spoke in French and stressed his party will not support the government’s throne speech because it does not do enough to support Quebec.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also spoke and said he understands that many Canadians are feeling worried about the impact the pandemic is having on their lives and their futures.

“I know that you’re worried,” he said. “And, I know you’re seeing the numbers rising and you’re worried about a second wave. I want you to know, like we’ve done throughout this pandemic, we see you, we hear you and we’re going to keep fighting for you.”






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Coronavirus: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says COVID-19 exposed problems, says action needed


Coronavirus: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says COVID-19 exposed problems, says action needed

He said the party plans to push the government to make concrete policy changes including creating a national sick leave and making sure those transitioning off the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to a new model of Employment Insurance can maintain the same level of benefit payment.

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Singh has not yet said whether he will support the throne speech.

The Trudeau Liberals need the support of at least one other party to remain in power when they put the throne speech to a vote and both the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois have ruled out voting in favour.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he was “disappointed” by the speech.

“Alberta is disappointed that instead of listening to Canada’s provinces, the federal government doubled down on policies that will kill jobs, make Canada poorer and weaken national unity,” he said in a statement Wednesday evening.

-With a file from Global News’ Hannah Jackson

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canada adds 1,085 new coronavirus cases as Trudeau warns of second wave – Global News

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Canada added 1,085 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, marking the fifth day in a row the country has seen a daily increase of more than 1,000.

The new infections bring the country’s total case count to 147,612.

Health authorities also said 10 more people have died after contracting the virus.

Read more:
Canada ‘on the brink’ of coronavirus surge, second wave underway in some regions: Trudeau

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Since the pandemic began, the virus has claimed 9,244 lives in Canada.

The new cases come as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said some regions in Canada are already experiencing a second wave of the virus.

“In our four biggest provinces, the second wave isn’t just starting, it’s already underway,” he said.

Trudeau made the comments during a rare evening address.

He urged Canadians to continue abiding by the public health measures including sticking to social bubbles, wearing a mask, washing hands frequently and continuing practicing social distancing.

“Together, we have the power to get this second wave under control,” he said.






2:57
Woman waits for 7 hours to get coronavirus test at Toronto hospital


Woman waits for 7 hours to get coronavirus test at Toronto hospital

The prime minister said it is “likely” Canadians will not be able to gather for Thanksgiving, but said “we still have a shot at Christmas.”

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Ontario reported 335 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, and health officials there said three more people had died.

The new infections bring the province’s total caseload to 48,087.

Since the pandemic began Ontario has tested 3,649,980 people for COVID-19, and 41,600 have recovered after falling ill. 

In Quebec, 471 new infections were detected, and health officials said one more person had died.

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Health authorities said three more deaths which occurred between Sept. 16 and Sept. 21, bring the provincial death toll to 5,809.

Read more:
New study finds 247 people brought COVID-19 to Quebec from abroad during March break 2020

However, 59,686 people have recovered from the virus in Quebec, and health officials have conducted 2,136,088 tests to date. 

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New Brunswick added one new case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, but officials said no one else had died.

The province has seen two deaths related to the virus so far.

A total of 191 people have recovered after contracting the respiratory illness, and 71,585 tests have been administered in New Brunswick.

Nova Scotia health officials said no new cases or deaths associated with COVID-19 had occurred.

So far 1,021 people have recovered after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, and 90,124 people have been tested.

Prince Edward Island saw one new case of COVID-19, marking the province’s first new infection since Sept. 16.

The new case brings Prince Edward Island’s total caseload to 58, however, 57 of those people have recovered. 

Provincial health authorities have administered 33,196 tests for the virus. 

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Coronavirus: Researchers identify the origins of COVID-19 infections in Quebec


Coronavirus: Researchers identify the origins of COVID-19 infections in Quebec

No new cases of COVID-19 were detected in Newfoundland on Wednesday, and provincial health authorities said the death toll remained at three.

Newfoundland has not recorded a new case of the virus since Sept. 18.

So far, 268 people have recovered from COVID-19 in the province, and 38,960 tests have been conducted. 

Forty-two new infections were reported in Manitoba, and health authorities said one more person had died after testing positive for the virus.

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To date, 1,238 people have recovered from COVID-19 in the province, and 170,045 people have been tested. 

Saskatchewan reported six new cases, but health officials said the death toll in the province remained at 24.

Thus far, 176,912 people have been tested for COVID-19 and 1,673 have recovered after becoming ill.

Read more:
40 people had a BBQ at an Ottawa park. Days later 105 people are quarantined for coronavirus

Alberta recorded 143 new infections, bringing the province’s total case count to 17,032.

Health officials there said two more people had died, pushing Alberta’s death toll to 260.

However, since the pandemic began, 15,252 people have recovered from the virus. 

A total of 1,242,263 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Alberta.

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Further west in British Columbia, 86 new infections were reported, but no new deaths have occurred.

Health authorities also reported five epidemiologically-linked, meaning they have not been confirmed by a laboratory.

So far, 6,769 people who contracted COVID-19 have recovered in B.C., and 483,979 tests have been administered. 

No new cases in the territories

None of Canada’s territories reported a new case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, and health officials confirmed no one else had died.

In the Northwest Territories, all five confirmed cases of the virus are considered resolved.

The territory has administered 1,673 tests for COVID-19.






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Throne speech: Payette touts coronavirus job creation, wage subsidy extension


Throne speech: Payette touts coronavirus job creation, wage subsidy extension

Meanwhile, Nunavut has seen three cases of the virus to date, however, each have been tied to workers from other parts of the country.

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The territory says the infections will be counted in the totals for the workers’ home jurisdictions, meaning Nunavut still considers itself free of COVID-19 cases.

The territory has tested 2,812 for the virus to date. 

All 15 confirmed cases of the virus in the Yukon are considered to be recovered.

Since the pandemic began, health officials have administered 59,686 tests. 

Global cases approach 32 million

COVID-19 was first detected in Wuhan, China late last year. Since then, it has infected a total of 31,759,233 people around the world, according to a tally from John’s Hopkins University.

As of 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday, the virus had claimed 973,904 lives worldwide.

Read more:
Coronavirus took their lives. Here’s how their families will remember them

The United States remained the epicentre of the virus on Wednesday, with over 6.9 million confirmed cases.

So far 201,861 Americans have died after contracting COVID-19.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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