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Cancelled Teck Frontier means even First Nations’ support can’t get projects built

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For the Kenney government and almost anybody interested in oil and gas investment, it was the Sunday night slaughter — sudden news that Teck Resources has cancelled its $20-billion Frontier oilsands mine.

Federal cabinet was expected to rule on the mine this week. Teck’s sudden decision to withdraw its application has many consequences, but one is to get Ottawa off the hook for a ruling that deeply divided the Trudeau cabinet.

Premier Jason Kenney had made Teck the big test of whether the Trudeau government will allow further oilsands projects. Now the Liberals won’t even face the test.

When the word came out Sunday evening, the province still hadn’t been officially informed by the company or by Ottawa.

But soon enough, Premier Jason Kenney blasted Ottawa for creating such chaotic security risks, including the refusal to clear rail blockades, that the company felt it couldn’t go ahead at this time.

“Teck’s decision is disappointing,” he said in a news release, “but in light of the events of the past few weeks it is not surprising.

“It is what happens when governments lack the courage to defend the interests of Canadians in the face of a militant minority.

“The timing of the decision is not a coincidence. This was an economically viable project, as the company confirmed this week, for which the company was advocating earlier this week, so something clearly changed very recently.”

Earlier Sunday, Environment Minister Jason Nixon was proudly announcing crucial new agreements with Mikisew Cree First Nation and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

Technically, they related to dealings between the province and the First Nations, but they had a bearing on Teck and thus made the agreement of 14 Indigenous groups complete.

“My only reaction is that I’m disappointed . . . why would I put a press release out today (announcing support for the project) to hear this kind of news?” Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam told Postmedia on Sunday evening.


Protesters on both sides of the Frontier mine issue gather in Calgary on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020.

Jim Wells/Postmedia

Teck did not specifically cite the rail blockades but said “there is no constructive path forward for the project,” given that the company is now “squarely at the nexus of much broader issues that need to be resolved.”

Teck makes no mention of resubmitting the application in the future.

This seems to be the end of a project that’s been a decade in the making, passed both federal and provincial regulatory hurdles, and would have created thousands of jobs with potential investment of $20 billion.

“The factors that led to today’s decision further weaken national unity,” Kenney said.

“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.

“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.”

The company pointed out that it had done all the required work and secured unprecedented Indigenous agreement, but still had to cancel because “global capital markets are changing rapidly, and investors and customers are increasingly looking for jurisdictions to have a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change, in order to produce the cleanest possible products. This does not yet exist here today.”


Members of Beaver Hills Warriors and Extinction Rebellion Edmonton protest further expansion of the oil sands, specifically the Teck Frontier Mine, inside Canada Place, in Edmonton Wednesday Jan. 22, 2020.

David Bloom

Teck expressed hope that withdrawing from the fray will allow Canada to finally settle the issues. True optimists, these people.

There’s an immediate suspicion that Ottawa somehow strong-armed Teck into this decision. But for the directors of this company, just following the daily news was probably enough.

Rail blockades continue to spring up, paralyzing vital economic links. In B.C., the Horgan government has moved the goalposts on the Coastal GasLink pipeline, sending it back to Wet’suwet’en for further consultation.

Premier John Horgan is now fully immersed in the very mess he created for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, whose own future is still very much in doubt.

We’ve now had Energy East cancelled because of endless hurdles thrown up by governments. Kinder Morgan abandoned Trans Mountain because it saw no way to get the project done.

Teck is just the latest abandoned project — and maybe the last, because it’s unlikely that anything of this size will even be proposed again.

There will be a mighty uproar for days and weeks to come. But one early message is this — First Nations approval, once touted as the route to approval and Indigenous prosperity, no longer means a thing.

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​Rogers, Shaw formalize planned Freedom sale to Quebecor – BNN Bloomberg

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Rogers Communications Inc., Shaw Communications Inc. and Quebecor Inc. announced Friday they reached a definitive agreement for the previously-announced proposed sale of Shaw’s Freedom Mobile wireless business.
 
The three companies said that the terms of the definitive pact are “substantially consistent” with their original announcement on June 17, when they said Montreal-based Quebecor agreed to pay $2.85 billion to purchase Freedom. Originally, July 15 was the target to reach the definitive agreement.  

“We are very pleased with this agreement, and we are determined to continue building on Freedom’s assets,” said Quebecor president and chief executive officer Pierre Karl Péladeau in a release Friday. “Quebecor has shown that it is the best player to create real competition and disrupt the market.”
 
The transaction is conditional on Rogers receiving final regulatory approvals for its planned $20-billion takeover of Shaw, which was announced in March 2021.
 
The road to regulatory approval has become more treacherous for Rogers after Competition Commissioner Matthew Boswell stated his objections to the plan, warning it would diminish competition in the telecom market, notwithstanding Rogers’ long-stated intent to divest Freedom Mobile.
 
Rogers’ legal counsel has argued vociferously against Boswell’s claims, saying in a June 3 filing with the Competition Tribunal that Boswell’s stance “is unreasonable, contrary to both the economic and fact evidence presented to the Bureau, and not supportable at law.”
 
The Competition Tribunal is currently scheduled to begin a hearing on the matter Nov. 7.
 
Rogers also has to clear another regulatory hurdle: its planned acquisition of Shaw requires approval from Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, who has previously said he won’t allow the wholesale transfer of Shaw’s wireless assets to Rogers.
 
The process became more complicated for Rogers after a national network outage knocked out service to its customers in early July.

Champagne subsequently said the outage would “certainly be in [his] mind” when weighing the merit of the Shaw sale.
 
For its part, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Communications announced its conditional approval of the transaction in March.
 
Shaw investors have consistently demonstrated skepticism that the deal will go ahead as planned, as evidenced by its shares never once attaining the $40.50-per-share takeover offer from Rogers since the takeover was announced last year.

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Power has been restored after downtown Toronto outage, Hydro One says – The Globe and Mail

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The site of a collision between a barge carrying a crane and power lines in Toronto on Aug. 11.Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press

Hydro One said power has been restored in Toronto after an outage in the city’s downtown core on Thursday that lasted nearly eight hours and affected about 10,000 customers.

Toronto Hydro said the outage, which began at approximately 12:30 p.m., affected an area stretching from just south of Bloor Street to the edge of the waterfront, and as far west as University Avenue to the Don Valley Parkway in the east.

“Safety is always our top priority. We know this power outage has made today exceptionally difficult for many of you, and we appreciate your patience,” said David Lebeter, chief operating officer of Hydro One in a Thursday evening statement.

“We had all available resources helping to restore power as quickly and safely as possible. I want to thank all of those affected by this outage for their patience and Toronto Fire and Toronto Hydro for their collaboration.”

The cause of the outage was confirmed to be a barge carrying a crane that had struck a critical high-voltage power line in city’s Port Lands district, Hydro One confirmed in a statement Thursday evening.

Hydro One spokesperson Tiziana Baccega Rosa initially said the company was investigating a crane accident as a possible cause, after videos of the barge hitting the power lines was posted to social media.

Toronto Fire District Chief Stephan Powell also confirmed the incident and said that fire services were attending to the scene and had cordoned off a significant portion of the area, noting that the power lines fell into the water and the area remained dangerous.

No injuries have been reported, but Mr. Powell said that fire services responded to a high number of people trapped in elevators related to the power outage. Federal Minister of Immigration Sean Fraser tweeted a picture of himself trapped in an elevator with three others, calling it “terrible timing.”

Jennifer Stranges, spokesperson for Unity Health Toronto, said St. Michael’s Hospital is operating as normal but was affected by the outage and was relying on backup power systems to maintain patient care.

“Patients with scheduled appointments or who need to visit our emergency department should continue to come to the hospital for care. Our teams have worked quickly to respond to this issue and we thank them for their continued efforts,” Ms. Stranges said in an e-mail.

Gillian Howard, vice-president of communications for University Health Network, said the outage also affected Toronto General Hospital, which is on the corner of University Avenue and Elizabeth Street. Ms. Howard said the hospital was operating on normal power, but required emergency backup power for around a half hour. She also noted that none of UHN’s facilities on the west side of University Avenue were affected, such as Mount Sinai Hospital or the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

The outage caused general frustration for residents around the downtown core as entire blocks remained without power, halting business and creating traffic jams as intersections became four-way stops. In a reminder of the nationwide Rogers outage in July, stores put up signs turning customers away due to a lack of functioning payment systems and an inability to use any appliances. Some people also complained of being unable to access high-speed cellular services like data and 5G networks.

The billboard-laden Yonge-Dundas Square and the Eaton Centre were also affected, the latter of which had its power restored and reopened to shoppers in the midafternoon. Other high-traffic locations, such as St. Lawrence Market, remained closed for the duration of the outage.

The city confirmed city hall and other government buildings in the affected area were also without power or operating on emergency systems.

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Telus asks CRTC permission to add 1.5% credit card surcharge to customer bills – CBC News

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Canadians who pay their cellphone bill with a credit card could soon see an extra fee every month, if Canada’s telecom regulator approves a proposal currently before them.

Telecom company Telus is asking the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for permission to add a 1.5 per cent surcharge to the bills of customers who pay their bill using a credit card. If approved, it would be in place starting as soon as October.

For a theoretical customer in Alberta whose cellphone bill is $100, the charge would bring their bill to $106.66 — $100 for their basic bill, plus $5 for GST, a $1.58 surcharge for the new fee on top of that, plus another 8 cents in GST on the surcharge.

“The company plans to provide advance notices of the fee to its existing customers starting in mid-August,” Telus said in its letter to the regulator.

Fee could be in place by October

The company is asking the regulator to decide on the proposal by Sept. 7 and would like to start levying the new charge as of Oct. 17, and while the CRTC must rule on the matter, in a statement to CBC News the telecom company made the plan sound like a done deal.

“Starting in October, Telus mobility and home services customers choosing to make a bill payment with a credit card will be charged a 1.5 per cent credit card processing fee,” Telus told CBC News in a statement. 

“This fee helps us recover a portion of the processing costs we incur to accept credit card payments, and the average cost will be around $2 for most customers,” the company said, adding that it can easily be avoided by paying through a bank, via a debit transaction, or other means.

WATCH | Why Canadians pay more for telecom services than many other countries do: 

Do Canadians pay too much for internet and cellphone service?

28 days ago

Duration 7:34

Consumer advocate and wireless bill expert Mohammed Halabi helps explain why Canadian internet and cellphone bills are so high — and what consumers can do to negotiate lower prices.

Telus’ rationale for the move stems from a development this summer, when credit card firms including Visa and MasterCard agreed to a settlement that will see them refund millions of dollars worth of credit card processing fees that merchants have paid them over the years. Crucially, that settlement also gives businesses permission to start charging customers those fees directly starting in October, which is what Telus is trying to do.

Previously, many merchants weren’t allowed to charge customers directly for the fees that credit companies charge them for processing sales. Such fees can range from less than one per cent of the sale, to more than three per cent for some premium cards.

Because just about every part of its business is regulated by the CRTC, Telus needs the regulator to start charging fees that consumers can expect to start seeing from a variety of merchants soon.

CBC News reached out to Rogers and Bell to see if they have any similar plans in the works, but representatives of both companies did not reply to that request within one business day.

Some customers aren’t happy

Some wireless customers aren’t enthused by the idea. Kenneth Hart of Windsor, Ont., a Telus customer for 15 years, calls the plan “a money grab.”

Kenneth Hart has been a Telus customer for 15 years and he says the company is making a mistake with this new policy. (Kenneth Hart)

“It’s a bad business move,” he told CBC News in an interview. “They have some accountants telling them this is good. But then you talk about the PR costs, the reputational cost, and it could create … dissatisfaction for those customers who are already … not satisfied.”

“This could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Telus only filed the application on Monday, and the CRTC has already heard from more than 200 Canadians via its website, many of which are opposed to the plan.

Steve Struthers is one of them. The resident of London, Ont., is not a Telus customer but he took the time to give his two cents to the regulator because of how opposed he is to the plan.

“Consumers are already extremely stressed with unaffordable housing, increased food prices, expensive gasoline prices and wages that are not keeping up with any of this,” he told CBC News in an interview.

“I’m quite certain they could afford to absorb a 1.5 per cent credit card fee … It bothers me knowing the cellphone companies aren’t happy with the money they’re making and they still want more in an environment where people are reaching their limit as to what they can pay.”

‘The last thing anyone needs is an additional fee’

Rosa Addario, a spokesperson for telecom watchdog OpenMedia, says the plan is just the latest way for the industry to extract more revenue from cash-strapped Canadian consumers.

“All three of our telecom providers … have reported increased profits, increased revenue and increased customers for 2021,” she told CBC News in an interview. “They are doing better than ever. This is just another way to raise our bills through shady practices and extra fees and adding things on top so that we are paying even more than we already are.”

Suze Morrison, a former Ontario MPP, is urging the CRTC to reject the proposal, noting that it will disproportionately impact people who are already financially vulnerable.

“Working class people, low income people are really struggling to make ends meet right now,” she told CBC News in an interview. “The last thing anyone needs is an additional fee just because of how they pay their telephone bill to keep their phone lines connected.”

WATCH | Canada has 3 major telecom providers. Could that change?

Could Canada grow beyond the Big 3 telecoms?

1 month ago

Duration 4:18

After a nationwide Rogers outage, John Lawford of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre talks to The National’s Andrew Chang about how Canada ended up with only three major telecoms and if that can ever change.

While credit card surcharges are creeping into many businesses, she says it’s different for a telecom utility to charge them because it is a necessity. “A consumer has a choice to go to a mom and pop restaurant or to cook dinner at home or to go to a restaurant that’s not charging fees for credit card swipes,” she said.

“But we’ve allowed so much consolidation in our telecom industry and there’s such a monopoly in the sector that it’s not like folks can say, ‘OK, well, if you’re going to charge a fee, I’m going to take my business somewhere else.’ I have nowhere else to go.”

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