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Despite the detailed analysis conducted in accordance with the federal government’s Impact Assessment Act, the decision appears to be a purely political one. It is a decision in which the minister ignores the Impact Assessment Agency’s expert advice that concluded the project did not trigger a federal review. It is a decision that mocks the ability and legal rights of Alberta, or any other province in the same situation, to effectively manage and regulate their own natural resource development. It is a decision that sends investors running because the regulatory process is politicized at the discretion of the minister.
In reality, coal mines, and any resource development project in Canada for that matter, are subject to some of the strictest regulations anywhere in the world. The notion that Alberta’s Eastern Slopes are now wide open for coal mining by anyone with money or a shovel is absurd. There are environmental approval processes, land-use policies, integrated resource plans, Aboriginal consultation requirements, full reclamation bonding with end-use plans and dozens of other processes and considerations in place before a company can even think about starting construction of a mine.
It is also critical to understand the socioeconomic contributions of coal mining. A coal mine provides hundreds of direct jobs in rural communities, often where they are needed most. Vista Mine has over 300 full-time employees, many of whom are First Nations and women. The underground mine project, which is located within the currently permitted Phase 1 area, and Phase II Expansion would add an additional 370 full-time jobs and bring the total infrastructure investment to over $1.1 billion, of which nearly 70 per cent is spent with Canadian companies. This investment, in addition to the $200 million in annual expenditures to Vista’s partners and the hundreds of indirect jobs down the supply chain with equipment manufacturers, rail and export terminals cannot be overlooked, especially as we band together to boost our economy in the face of the damage done by COVID-19.
As someone who has split their career between coal mining and public office, I know that we have the ability to responsibly develop our coal resources while protecting the environment and providing thousands of direct and indirect jobs across our great country. I certainly hope that Canadians add their voice to the government of Canada’s upcoming Strategic Assessment of Thermal Coal Mining this fall and ensure the continuation of this critical industry.
Robin Campbell is president of the Coal Association of Canada.
Coronavirus: Ministers balance science and politics in latest rules – BBC News
It’s not a day for optimists, even though the prime minister himself is one of that tribe.
Tomorrow, it will be six months exactly since he told the nation to stay at home.
This time, Boris Johnson stopped well short of slamming the country’s doors shut.
But what really stood out in his long statement in a miserable-looking Commons was his message that the limits put in place today will last another six months.
Even if you are very fond of your own company, lucky enough to have a secure job you enjoy and a comfy spare room where you can do it, it is quite something to contemplate.
The government now expects that all our lives will be subject to restrictions of one kind or another for a whole year – March 2020 to March 2021.
As each month ticks by, it becomes harder to imagine a return to anything like normal political life, or, more importantly, the way we all live.
We may not be waiting for a return to life as we knew it, but grinding through a moment of change.
‘Shelter the economy’
But if you were listening carefully, something else was different too.
The country became familiar with the slogan “Stay At Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives” – it was emblazoned on government lecterns, repeated again and again by government ministers in interview after interview, on bus shelters, pop-up ads on the internet, wherever you looked.
That phrase was retired after the most intense period of the lockdown, but echoed today with one important additional condition.
Boris Johnson’s driver today was to “save lives, protect the NHS” and “shelter the economy”.
As we discussed here yesterday, concerns about the economy played more strongly in Downing Street after fierce resistance from backbenchers, and arguments from the next-door neighbour in No 11 of the economic risks of a short, sharp closure programme.
Fears about how the country makes a living have always been part of the decision-making process for the government, grappling with these acute dilemmas.
But the political appetite inside the Tory party for sweeping restrictions has certainly dimmed.
The changes announced today do make economic recovery harder, the “bounce back” the government dreamt of looks harder to achieve, but they are not as draconian as they may otherwise have been.
Ministers used to make great play of following the science, now they are certainly following the politics too.
Only the unknowable progress of the disease will, in time, suggest which call was right.
Covid: How the coronavirus pandemic is redefining Scottish politics – BBC News
The pandemic has probably done more than anything to define Scottish devolution in 21 years of Holyrood decision making.
Before coronavirus, the Scottish Parliament’s policy choices – from free personal care for the elderly to minimum pricing of alcohol – made it distinctive.
Now, Scottish ministers are making life and death decisions affecting everybody almost every day.
The exercise of emergency powers to combat Covid-19 commands public attention like nothing before.
We’ve had six months of lockdown restrictions and after a recent period of relaxation, they are tightening again as coronavirus cases rise.
Paying attention is essential to knowing whether or not you can go to work, visit your granny or have friends round for dinner.
It is First Minister Nicola Sturgeon rather than the prime minister, Boris Johnson, who is deciding for Scotland because public health is devolved.
Many of her decisions so far have matched those by the UK government for England and the devolved administrations for Wales and Northern Ireland.
That was especially true in the early stages of the crisis when there was much talk of a four nations approach – but differences have emerged over time.
The Scottish government has generally been more cautious about lifting restrictions than the UK government.
Bars and restaurants stayed closed in Scotland for longer and it was slower to lift quarantine for people arriving from Spain, before this was reimposed across the UK.
By contrast, the Scottish government was the first in the UK to restore full-time classroom education in schools after the summer.
Scottish ministers did coordinate with the other administrations to introduce the “rule of six” for people attending social gatherings.
However, on closer inspection, the Scottish rule differs from that for England in two key respects.
It is more restrictive in limiting the six people to two different households and more flexible in exempting children under the age of 12.
This is devolved decision making in action as never before.
Some argue divergence across the UK is confusing and undesirable, but opinion polls consistently suggest the Scottish public trust Holyrood to set the pace.
After a period in which Conservatives argued that Scotland should leave lockdown in lockstep with the rest of the UK, a multi-speed approach became accepted.
The pandemic, however unwanted, has given Ms Sturgeon an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and the public seems to appreciate that too.
An Ipsos Mori survey for BBC Scotland in May suggested 82% of people thought Ms Sturgeon was handling the pandemic either very or fairly well.
By contrast, only 30% from the same sample of around 1,000 Scottish adults gave Boris Johnson similar credit.
More recent polling has produced similar indications even although coronavirus outcomes are not profoundly different between the UK nations.
The Office for National Statistics reported that England had the highest increase in excess deaths in Europe to the end of May. At that point, Scotland had the third highest behind Spain.
While politicians of all stripes have been working to suppress coronavirus, coronavirus has suppressed much of our everyday politics.
Previous Holyrood priorities like completing an expansion of free childcare, introducing new devolved benefits and reviewing the school curriculum have been deferred.
Major controversies such as the Scottish government’s mishandling of complaints about the behaviour of the former first minister, Alex Salmond, seem less potent.
The Scottish government parked preparations for an independence referendum in 2020 to prioritise its response to the pandemic.
That has not meant opinion on the major constitutional question in Scottish politics has remained static.
As coronavirus has swept the country, a trend has emerged in opinion polls suggesting there is now majority support in Scotland for independence.
Some analysts suggest this could be directly linked to the focus on devolved leadership in the crisis.
The trend has worried Conservatives enough to change their Scottish party leader and some in Scottish Labour have unsuccessfully tried to change theirs.
Those who favour the union point out that Scotland has been supported by what they call the “broad shoulders” of the UK economy throughout the pandemic.
Lockdown is largely underwritten by the Treasury with huge funding for furlough and other schemes to support business.
Nationalists say this help would be replicated by Holyrood if it had the economic powers of independence.
Unionists question the scope for doing so in a country which, as a devolved part of the UK, had a notional deficit of £15bn before the pandemic took full effect.
Economics will always be important in the debate over independence as will the public’s sense of identity.
In the 2014 referendum, Scotland voted 55%-45% for continued union. If indyref2 was held tomorrow, the polls suggest the result would go the other way.
There is much that could sway opinion further – both for and against independence – in the coming months.
The economic crisis the pandemic brings, the impact of Brexit and the efforts of politicians to overcome the continuing health emergency could all have a bearing.
The public could weary of politicians telling them what they can and can’t do especially if their livelihoods are on the line.
Arguments over all this and more will find expression in the campaign for next May’s Holyrood elections.
Together with elections to the Welsh Assembly and local government in England, these will be the first major votes of the pandemic.
A pandemic that has already given new definition to devolved power and could be playing a role in shaping opinion on the future of the Union
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