Bill with tax credits for ‘North American’ electric vehicles passes in U.S. Senate
WASHINGTON — The new plan to encourage Americans to buy more electric vehicles built in North America, instead of just the United States, has cleared its tallest hurdle.
After a marathon voting session that lasted nearly 24 hours, the U.S. Senate finally approved the new Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.
Vice-President Kamala Harris had to break a 50-50 tie to pass the legislation, a dramatically smaller version of President Joe Biden’s signature $2-trillion climate and social spending package.
The original proposal reserved the richest tax credits for vehicles assembled in the U.S. with union labour — a plan experts say would have kneecapped Canada’s auto industry.
But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reached a deal with holdout West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin on a version of the bill that extended the credits to vehicles built in Canada and Mexico.
The bill is expected to win approval in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives next week before heading to the president’s desk.
“It’s been a long, tough and winding road, but at last, at last we have arrived,” Schumer said Sunday when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
“I am confident the Inflation Reduction Act will endure as one of the defining legislative measures of the 21st century.”
The bill devotes $369 billion to measures to combat climate change, while also capping drug costs for seniors, extending health insurance benefits and lowering the deficit.
The climate measures also include incentives for building clean-energy equipment like solar panels and wind turbines, lowering pollution levels in minority communities and expanding greener factory-farm operations.
Republicans, whose barrage of proposed amendments were swatted down throughout Saturday night and into Sunday, framed their defeat as a win for higher taxes, more inflation and continued dependence on foreign energy.
“Democrats have already robbed American families once through inflation,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Now their solution is to rob American families a second time.”
The tax credits — which also require eligible vehicles to have a percentage of North American critical minerals in their batteries — have barely been part of the U.S. debate. Critics say it will be years before consumers can benefit.
But for the Canadian auto industry, the stakes were enormous.
Flavio Volpe, president of the Auto Parts Manufacturers’ Association, was just one part of an all-hands, year-long effort by the industry, the Ontario government and Ottawa to convince U.S. lawmakers and Biden administration officials to stand down.
“It’s a cigar. It’s always a cigar,” Volpe said when asked how he would mark the occasion.
“In trade wars, by the time it’s officially over, everyone else has moved on to the next issue of the day. I’ve had so many quiet cigars it’s become my ritual.”
Manchin, a Senate swing vote from a state where Toyota is a major manufacturer, had long been opposed to the idea of leaving foreign automakers out of the EV incentives — but it wasn’t clear until just last week whether that would pay dividends for Canada.
The surprise agreement he forged with Schumer marked the culmination of an aggressive lobbying effort that began with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to the White House back in November.
Federal government officials say it was rivalled in scope only by the 2017-18 NAFTA talks, the high-stakes Trump-era negotiations that forged the diplomatic flood-the-zone strategy now known as the “Team Canada” approach.
It targeted a wide array of U.S. officials and lawmakers, and involved at least one face-to-face meeting in recent months between Manchin and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 7, 2022.
— With files from The Associated Press
The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version pegged the amount devoted to fighting climate change at US$389 billion. It is, in fact, $369 billion.
Ottawa requests joint ‘working group’ on oilsands contamination with Alberta
Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault has further spelled out what he wants to see in a new body that would oversee monitoring and communications around pollution problems in the oilsands.
In a letter dated March 16 to his Alberta counterpart Sonya Savage, Guilbeault said the new federal-provincial-Indigenous group would look at a wide variety of issues stemming from releases of tailings pond water from Imperial Oil’s Kearl mine. Although Savage has agreed to a new joint body, Guilbeault’s proposal seems to go farther than what she suggests.
“I am proposing the establishment of a joint federal-provincial-Indigenous working group, with participation from the oil companies, to give transparency to all parties involved by meeting on a regular basis to discuss remediation and containment plans, as well as notifications for ongoing incidents of spill or seepage,” Guilbeault wrote in the letter.
“A communication protocol should be established,” he said. “It would be the basis of improvements for future environmental emergencies notifications, reform of water monitoring and strong involvement of Indigenous communities.”
Guilbeault said the exact mandate has yet to be determined. Still, it seems to be more than Savage wants.
A statement from her office earlier this week said Alberta wants to improve communications and start a group for “accelerating collaboration on a long-term solution for the treatment and remediation of tailings ponds.”
That statement didn’t mention including First Nations in the group or any reforms to monitoring.
Guilbeault’s letter refers to Ottawa’s responsibilities in protecting fish habitat and treaty rights, both of which may have been affected by the Kearl releases.
That’s a message to the province that Ottawa intends to have a greater role in monitoring the oilsands, said Martin Olszynski, a professor of resource law at the University of Calgary.
“What (Guilbeault’s) saying is, ‘Let’s be clear, I have to be involved.’ The jurisdiction is clearly there for the federal government.”
Ottawa has been criticized both at home and internationally for inconsistent enforcement of the Fisheries Act.
In 2020, the environmental watchdog set up under North American trade agreements found there was valid evidence of oilsands tailings in groundwater around the ponds but no sign that it had affected any federal enforcement decisions. That same body found little co-ordination between Ottawa and Edmonton on the issue.
Guilbeault’s letter may be a sign the feds are taking action on those concerns, Olszynski said.
“They recognize this is a bigger issue. It’s not just about notification, it’s a question of what is going on with these tailings and their management.”
The first release from Kearl was spotted and reported in May as discoloured water near a tailings pond. It was found to be tailings seepage but no further updates were provided to area First Nations until February, when it was disclosed to the public and both environment ministers along with a second release of 5.3 million litres of tailings.
Imperial said earlier this week that the cleanup of the second spill is nearly complete. It said the seepage is being “mitigated,” although it continues.
Both Imperial and the provincial government say there has been no impact on waterways or wildlife, although neither have granted requests to see the data on which that assurance is based.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 17, 2023.
Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
Canada sending four more battle tanks, ammunition to Ukraine
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that Canada is providing Ukraine with more weapons, which he says will help the country win on the battlefield against Russia.
Trudeau says Canada will donate four additional Leopard 2 main battle tanks to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine, growing Canada’s contribution to eight tanks in total.
Canada will also donate an armoured recovery vehicle and over 5,000 rounds of ammunition.
Trudeau committed to imposing more sanctions on people and businesses that are complicit in Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine.
On the one year anniversary of the invasion, Trudeau called Russian President Vladimir Putin a coward and weak, and reinforced that Canada is a friend of Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told reporters in a press conference on Friday that more weapons will allow his people to regain their territory.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2023.
Funeral underway for four-year-old boy killed in Quebec bus crash last week
A funeral is underway for one of the two young children killed when a bus crashed into a daycare last week in Laval, Que., just north of Montreal.
The bells of the Ste-Rose-de-Lima church tolled at 11 a.m. as five men carried the small white casket of Jacob Gauthier into the sanctuary.
A funeral notice published last week said Jacob was four and a half and is survived by his mother, father, sister, as well as grandparents and other extended family.
Media were asked to keep their distance as family and friends made their way into the church, past tributes of stuffed animals and flowers that were placed outside the door.
Four silver cars from the funeral home pulled up shortly before the service started, and men could be seen unloading large displays of white flowers.
Samir Alahmad, the president of the province’s private daycare association, said it is hard to describe the magnitude of the parent’s pain.
“Every parent in Quebec, every citizen in Quebec, should feel the pain those people are suffering now,” he said outside the church. “There’s no words to describe what the family is suffering today.”
More than a week after the tragedy, “we still don’t have an answer for how this happened,” he said.
The alleged bus attack at the Garderie Éducative Ste-Rose on Feb. 8 left two children dead and sent six to hospital with injuries.
Pierre Ny St-Amand, a 51-year-old driver with the Laval transit corporation, was arrested at the scene and later charged with two counts of first-degree murder and seven other offences, including attempted murder and aggravated assault.
Funeral details for the second child, who was identified by her parents as Maëva David, have not been announced.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2023.
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