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Environment commissioner warns Canada failing to protect commercially valuable fish

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OTTAWA — The federal government is biased against listing commercially valuable fish as species at risk and needing protection, environment commissioner Jerry DeMarco said in a new audit published Tuesday.

The audit of Canada’s efforts to protect aquatic species at risk was one of six new environmental reports tabled in the House of Commons.

It found Fisheries and Oceans Canada was very slow to act when the national committee that is responsible for assessing whether species need protection says a particular aquatic creature or plant is in danger.

And when that assessment relates to a fish with significant commercial value, the department’s default appears to be against listing the fish as needing special protection.

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That includes the Newfoundland and Labrador population of Atlantic cod.

Overfishing led to a moratorium on commercial fishing of Newfoundland cod in 1992, and twice since then the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada assessed it as being “endangered,” meaning it faces imminent danger of going extinct.

Once that assessment is made, Fisheries and Oceans Canada must review the assessment and decide whether to list the species for special protection under the Species at Risk Act. Listing the species in the act as endangered would prevent it from being killed, harmed, harassed or captured.

The first assessment on Newfoundland cod came in 2003, and it took three years for Fisheries and Oceans to review the finding. In 2006, the federal department decided against adding it to the Species at Risk Act list, and allowed some inshore fishing and Indigenous harvesting to continue.

In 2010, the committee assessed the Newfoundland cod as endangered a second time. Twelve years later, Fisheries and Oceans still has not finished a review to determine what to do with that assessment.

DeMarco’s audit looked at nine fish, two mussels and a sea turtle that the endangered wildlife committee assessed as needing protection. Five of the fish were marine species with significant commercial value, and in all five of those cases, the department opted against listing the fish as a species at risk.

That includes Newfoundland cod, steelhead trout, the Okanagan population of chinook salmon, yellowmouth rockfish, and Atlantic bluefin tuna.

The other four fish, both mussels and the loggerhead sea turtle were deemed to have no significant commercial value, and all seven were recommended to be listed as species at risk by Fisheries and Oceans.

DeMarco also found it took the department far too long to conduct its own reviews.

He said Fisheries and Oceans hasn’t finished its review for half the 230 aquatic species that the wildlife committee recommended for an at-risk designation since the Species at Risk Act took effect in 2004.

Furthermore, the department was found to have big gaps in what it knows about species that need protection, and not enough staff to enforce protections when they are put in place.

“A bias against protecting species of commercial value under the Species at Risk Act, significant delays in listing species for protection, gaps in knowledge about species, and limited enforcement capacity all have adverse effects on ecosystems and communities,” DeMarco said in a written statement.

The commissioner’s fall audits also looked at policies to manage low- and intermediate-risk radioactive waste, which accounts for 99.5 per cent of all radioactive waste in Canada.

DeMarco said Natural Resources Canada, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and Atomic Energy of Canada were doing a good job managing the waste.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 4, 2022.

 

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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Keystone pipeline temporarily closed following Kansas oil spill – Al Jazeera English

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The energy company in charge of the pipeline has not said what caused the spill or how much oil was released.

The Keystone pipeline has halted operations following an oil spill into a creek in the United States state of Kansas. The pipeline carries more than 600,000 barrels of oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast each day.

Canada-based TC Energy said in a press release that it shut down the pipeline on Wednesday night in response to a drop in pipeline pressure. The company has yet to offer information on the scale and cause of the spill.

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“The system remains shut down as our crews actively respond and work to contain and recover the oil,” the release said.

The spill resulted in oil leaking into a creek in northeastern Kansas and the company has said they were using machinery to prevent the oil from moving further downstream. Pipelines have long spurred concerns about the destructive potential of oil spills.

Another pipeline previously proposed by TC, the Keystone XL pipeline, would have been 1,930 kilometres (1,200 miles) long and cut across US states such as Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

That proposal spurred strong opposition from advocates who said it would increase the chance of spills, undermine the rights of Indigenous communities and worsen climate change.

Former President Donald Trump approved a permit for the contentious project in 2017 but a court halted construction in 2018 before the permit was cancelled by President Joe Biden’s administration last year.

TC finally abandoned the effort in June 2021 but has since filed a claim seeking remuneration for losses it says it faced because of the cancellation.

The spill on Wednesday occurred several years after the Keystone pipeline leaked about 1.4m litres (383,000 gallons) of oil in eastern North Dakota in 2019.

As word of the shutdown spread on Wednesday, oil prices ticked upwards by about five percent.

“It’s something to keep an eye on, but not necessarily an immediate impact for now,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, which tracks gasoline prices, according to the Associated Press. “It could eventually impact oil supplies to refiners, which could be severe if it lasts more than a few days.”

In their statement, Keystone said their primary focus was the “health and safety of onsite staff and personnel, the surrounding community, and mitigating risk to the environment through the deployment of booms downstream as we work to contain and prevent further migration of the release”.

Previous Keystone spills have resulted in stoppages that lasted up to two weeks. However, analysts have noted that the current stoppage could possibly last longer because it involves a body of water.

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Bank of Canada policy will ‘hit home’ in 2023: David Rosenberg

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The Bank of Canada may be signalling a possible end to its months-long aggressive interest-rate hike cycle, but economist David Rosenberg said next year will see the lagging impact of 2022’s monetary policy “hit home” for Canadians.

“Next year is the payback,” Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist at Rosenberg Research and Associates Inc., said in an interview with BNN Bloomberg.

“2022 was the year of the sharp run-up in rates, 2023 will be the year where the policy lags from those rising rates hit home.”

He made the comments Thursday, a day after the Bank of Canada raised its overnight lending rate by 50 basis points to 4.25 per cent, as the central bank continued with its approach to bringing down inflation.

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Rosenberg predicted a “severe recession” for Canada next year based on the rate hike cycle, calling for a “triple whammy” with economic impacts compounded by high levels of household debt, a housing bubble and ripples in the global economy.

Possible spillover effects from the interest rate cycle could be felt, Rosenberg said, as banks may constrain the availability of credit and spending drops across various sectors.

Based on the latest rate increase, Rosenberg said he predicts at potentially one more rate hike from the bank before a pause. Once inflation starts to come down, Rosenberg said he thinks the central bank may start to cut rates, possibly in the second half of 2023.

“The next stage is going to be waiting for the inflation to come down, which I think it will, and the recession is going to catch a lot of people by surprise,” he said.

A similar pattern may play out in the U.S., but Rosenberg said Canadians are more exposed to higher interest rates through variable-rate mortgages and because more consumer credit is tied to short-term interest rates.

“As bad as it’s going to be in the U.S., and believe me, it’s not going to be a pretty picture there, I think the Canadian situation in the next year is going to be clouded at best,” he said.

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CRTC rejects Telus’ request to charge credit card processing fee for some services

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The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ruled Thursday that Telus is not able to charge a credit card processing fee for regulated home telephone services.

This ruling applies to Alberta and B.C. services that are regulated by the CRTC, which are generally home telephone services in certain smaller communities.

Since Oct. 6, most Canadian businesses, except in Quebec, can charge their customers a fee for credit card transactions, following a class-action lawsuit filed by retailers against Visa, MasterCard and card-issuing banks.

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Quebec is not included in this decision due to the province’s Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits the application of such surcharges.

On Aug. 8, Telus filed an application with the CRTC to introduce a credit card processing fee of 1.5 per cent, plus taxes, for payments made with a credit card.

On. Oct. 17, Telus began to charge the fee to clients paying by credit card in areas where services are not regulated by the CRTC, which includes its wireless and internet customers outside of Quebec.

Telus does not need to ask for the CRTC’s approval to add the surcharge to its unregulated services but the organization said it is “very concerned” about this practice as it goes against affordability and consumer interest.

“We heard Canadians loud and clear: close to 4,000 of you told us that you should not be subjected to an additional fee based on the method you choose to pay your bill,” Ian Scott, chairperson and CEO of the CRTC, said in a statement. “We expect the telecommunications industry to treat Canadians with respect and do better.”

The CRTC said, with this ruling, it is sending a “clear message” to Telus and other telecommunications service providers that are thinking of imposing a fee like this one on their customers.

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