Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal is scheduled to rule on Tuesday whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s government adequately consulted Indigenous people when it approved last year an expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline.
Approval would clear some uncertainty over the twinning of a 67-year-old pipeline that runs from Alberta to the British Columbia coast. If the panel of judges decides that Indigenous consultation — required by law for major Canadian resource projects — was insufficient, the decision could further delay what the energy industry says is a vital project.
Ottawa bought the pipeline in 2018 to ensure expansion proceeded, offering a lifeline to Alberta’s struggling oil patch. Congested pipelines have forced the Alberta provincial government to curtail production to reduce a glut in storage that has weighed on prices and led to layoffs in the industry.
The Federal Court intends to post the decision online at 1 p.m. ET (1800 GMT).
“Every investor is really watching this situation,” said Stephanie Kainz, senior associate at consultancy RS Energy Group in Calgary, adding she expects further challenges. “Until there’s a definite go-ahead, I think it’s concerning for everybody.”
Four Indigenous groups alleged in court in December that Ottawa delayed sharing key information and listened half-heartedly to concerns.
“We’ve been really trying to stand up for our interests and articulate that the minimum standard that the government has applied in this case has not been lived up to,” said Squamish Nation council member Khelsilem, who uses a single name.
Squamish, located in British Columbia, is concerned about potential spills on land and sea, he said.
A Canadian court ruled in August 2018 that Ottawa had failed to properly consult Indigenous people, prompting the government to redo consultation before reapproving the expansion in June 2019. In September, the Court of Appeal agreed to hear fresh concerns that the government fell short again.
“The Trans Mountain pipeline is vital for not only Alberta, but Canada as a whole,” said Kavi Bal, senior press secretary for Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage. “With construction already underway, we remain optimistic that Trans Mountain will be completed.”
The Canada Energy Regulator is separately conducting hearings for contested portions of the Trans Mountain route.
Trans Mountain expansion is one of three projects, along with TC Energy Corp’s Keystone XL and Enbridge Inc’s Line 3, that have been stalled for years.
On Monday, Line 3 cleared key hurdles before a Minnesota regulator.
Canadian Transportation Agency overwhelmed by 2-year backlog of air passenger complaints – CBC.ca
The Canadian Transportation Agency is wrestling with a backlog of nearly 14,000 air passenger complaints accumulated over the past two years, at the same time as thousands of Canadians are demanding the agency help get their money back from flights cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than half of the 26,000 complaints submitted to the CTA from July 2018 to April 2020 are unresolved, according to a response to an order paper question by the NDP tabled in Parliament last week on the number, nature and resolution of passenger complaints.
The bulk of the complaints — which are meant to be addressed within 30 to 120 days — are for disruptions to flights including cancellations, tarmac delays and people being denied boarding.
The backlog doesn’t come as a surprise to Mahesh Krishnamurthy, a Canadian living in the U.S. who flies often and has launched four complaints with the agency over the past 15 years.
“Four complaints, zero resolutions,” Krishnamurthy said. “You know it’s frustrating, but you realize at the end, sometimes that’s what government is.”
Krishnamurthy recently submitted a complaint about an Air Canada flight from New York to Australia, which was meant to depart in April but was cancelled because of travel restrictions. His other complaints have included delays or problems with ticket prices.
Complaints surged after new passenger protections implemented
The CTA told CBC News the vast majority of untouched cases are not tied to the global public health crisis, which largely grounded air travel around the world.
The number of complaints more than doubled after the second wave of air passenger protection regulations came into effect in December 2019, the agency said.
The regulations, first enacted in July 2019, are intended to ensure that both airlines and passengers know what their rights are when it comes to travel setbacks like delays and cancellations. The CTA is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal and regulator tasked with settling disputes between the customers and airlines.
It simply reflects the challenges of handling a 23-fold leap in demand– Canadian Transportation Agency
“The massive increase in complaint volumes has made it increasingly challenging to meet these standards, despite the mobilization of effort across the organization,” the agency wrote in a statement to CBC News.
“This isn’t for lack of effort or commitment; it simply reflects the challenges of handling a 23-fold leap in demand.”
The agency said it has attempted to tackle the influx of cases by resolving complaints through more informal methods including mediation, launching inquiries to simultaneously clear up common complaints about the same issue and reallocating resources internally.
NDP transport critic Niki Ashton said the backlog shows the agency isn’t doing its job to protect passengers.
“The Canadian government should be stepping up … to make sure that Canadians’ complaints are being heard, are being resolved,” Ashton said.
Thousands of complaints since onset of pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the mounting pile of complaints.
The CTA says it logged about 5,500 complaints from March 11 to May 28, though it did not disclose what they were about.
The number was revealed as Canadians across the country are calling on the federal government to compel airlines to refund costs for flights they were never able to board. Most Canadian airlines have offered passengers travel vouchers redeemable within two years — something the CTA has said could be reasonable during these extraordinary circumstances.
Ashton, however, believes Ottawa should look harder at compensating those who cancelled their trips.
“That’s something that we know is a huge issue right now,” she said.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Friday that forcing airlines to refund passengers would have a “devastating effect” on an already battered industry.
Meanwhile, the CTA says that while none of its services were suspended because of the pandemic, it did suspend its interactions with airlines about outstanding disputes.
That decision was made to allow carriers “to focus on immediate demands, such as repatriating Canadians stranded abroad, and to adjust their operations in light of plummeting passenger and flight volumes,” the agency said.
The CTA added conversations will resume with airlines starting in July.
CAA: ‘The system is simply clogged up’
The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) — a travel agency and consumer group that originally pushed for the passenger protections and took part in the consultation process — said the CTA can’t support passengers if it doesn’t have the staffing or resources to do so.
“We’ve been saying since the start of this process that no matter how good the rules are, if we don’t have good enforcement, it’s simply not going to work,” said CAA spokesperson Ian Jack.
“The system is simply clogged up and not working. If we don’t have a system that people can trust because it’s going to deal with a complaint in a timely fashion, then the system just falls apart and we’re no better off than we were before we pushed to get this airline passenger bill of rights.”
The CTA received temporary funding from the federal government over the past two fiscal years to address the rise in complaints, but the agency was not able to immediately confirm the amount to CBC News. The agency did say it nearly doubled the number of complaints it processed during that time period.
Jack said the next step is to go beyond opposition parties asking questions in Parliament: he wants to see data about complaints and the CTA’s response times made publicly available so consumers can see for themselves if it’s working.
“If people lose trust in the system, they’re never going to come back to it and we’re not going to have an effective air passenger rights regime in this country,” he said.
“By the third or fourth time, you don’t really have any expectations of them actually resolving the complaint,” he said. “You know you’ve got to do it on your own.”
Canada to spend $30M to promote holidays at home amid COVID-19 border closure – Globalnews.ca
Canada will invest $30 million to enable its provinces and territories to promote holidays in their “own back yard” because of the closure of the country’s borders due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Destination Canada, the country’s national marketing body which usually focuses on luring international visitors, is due to announce the new funding later on Sunday, according to a statement seen by Reuters before its official release.
Live updates: Coronavirus in Canada
Canada, which has had more than 7,000 deaths due to COVID-19, has closed its borders to non-essential travel since March, and it is unclear when they will be opened again. Many provinces have also shut down domestic non-essential travel.
Quebec, which shares borders with the U.S. states of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, accounts for more than 60 per cent of the Canadian death toll from the virus, and Ontario, the most populous province, has also been hit hard.
Coronavirus outbreak: Why do we seek distractions during crises?
The closures have hammered the tourism industry. Some 42 per cent of businesses in the accommodation and food sectors have reported revenue drops of more than 50 per cent, according to an April survey of 12,600 businesses.
At the end of 2018, one out of every 11 jobs in Canada was directly tied to travel, according to the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, but in April the unemployment rate in the tourism sector skyrocketed to more than 28 per cent.
Tourism is “a significant economic driver and source of local jobs. It’s also among one of the hardest hit sectors as a result of this pandemic,” Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly, who is responsible for tourism, said in the statement.
The aim is to provide a valuable lifeline to the struggling sector during its peak summer season, Ben Cowan-Dewar, chairman of Destination Canada, said in the statement.
It is the first time Destination Canada has provided funding for domestic marketing, according to a spokesman in Joly’s office. The marketing arm in each of the 10 provinces and three territories will decide exactly how they want to use the money, the spokesman said.
© 2020 Reuters
Ottawa pledges millions to promote holiday travel in Canada during pandemic – CTV News
Ottawa is earmarking millions of dollars to promote holiday travel inside Canada as it seeks to help the tourism industry weather the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funds announced by Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly on Sunday includes $30 million originally earmarked for attracting foreign visitors through the federal tourism marketing agency, Destination Canada.
The money will instead be used to help provinces and territories encourage Canadians to discover their “own backyard” as the country’s international borders remain largely closed due to COVID-19.
The government is also setting aside around $40 million so tourism agencies in southern and northern Ontario as well as western Canada can adapt their operations to the pandemic, particularly as what would normally be the busy summer season approaches.
“A lot of people who have lost their jobs are in the tourism sector right now and the entire idea right now is to save the summer, but to save the summer differently,” Joly told The Canadian Press in an interview.
“There’s an entire movement across the country to shop locally. We see that people want to discover or support even more their local businesses. … Well I would add to that a new movement: visit local. And rediscover your beautiful city and your region.”
Talks around supporting the tourism industries in Quebec and Atlantic Canada are underway, she added.
The tourism industry, which employs about one in 11 Canadians, has been hit hard by the pandemic as international travel bans and border restrictions have choked off the flow of visitors to Canada.
A report by Destination Canada in April suggested the sector could see total tourism spending decline by about a third from 2019 levels and result in the loss of about 263,000 jobs, many of them associated with small- and medium-sized companies.
Joly pointed to the federal government’s wage subsidy, rent assistance and other emergency COVID-19 measures as having helped the tourism sector, but said additional efforts are needed as the summer approaches and provinces start to re-open.
Yet the new funds come as Canadians are still being told to stay at home as much as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some provinces are starting to ease back on restrictions around movement, but fears of a second wave are ever present.
“Obviously people are trying to find the right balance between having a tourism sector that can survive and at the same time making sure that we don’t continue the spread of the virus,” Joly said when asked about promoting travel during a pandemic.
“And to do that we need to abide by the public-health authorities’ advice and at the same time support the tourism sector and find new ways for them to be able to have revenue. So that’s what we’re doing.”
Leaders from across Canada’s tourism industry announced the creation of a new roundtable last week while calling for talks with the government around the easing of travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines to prevent long-term damage to the sector.
In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the roundtable members noted the European Union and Australia had already started taking steps to prepare for the critical summer tourism season.
“We propose to work closely with the federal government to responsibly take the necessary steps, including additional bio-security measures if appropriate, to ensure that the upcoming summer travel season is not entirely lost,” the letter reads.
“The highly restrictive measures in place today are not sustainable. Like the government, we want to avoid a second wave of the virus and are certain reasonable measures can be taken to help mitigate risk.”
Joly was more circumspect when asked about easing travel restrictions, saying the timing would depend on when adequate mass testing and contact tracing can be established as well as the provision of personal protective equipment.
“I had a conversation with the ministers of tourism of the G20 a month ago,” she said.
“We all agreed that for a while we will be supporting local tourism and eventually regional tourism, and then eventually national tourism and then eventually international tourism. So that’s not only happening here in Canada, it’s happening in all of the world.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2020.
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