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Ottawa could reap $4.4 billion from extending windfall tax to other sectors: PBO

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OTTAWA — New analysis from the parliamentary budget officer suggests the federal government would pocket $4.4 billion in additional revenue if it extended the Canada Revenue Dividend to the oil and gas sector as well as big-box stores.

The dividend is a one-time 15 per cent windfall tax the Liberals plan to levy on excess profits made by banks and life insurers during the pandemic.

The PBO previously estimated that the dividend would bring in $3 billion in revenue from banks and life insurers over the next five years.

Two NDP members of Parliament asked the PBO to assess the financial impact of extending the temporary tax to the oil and gas sector and big-box stores.

In its analysis, the PBO found the federal government could raise an additional $4.4 billion in revenues by extending the tax to those sectors.

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault recently lashed out at oil companies for making very limited investments in climate action even as massive inflation-driven profits allowed them to pad the wallets of shareholders.

Not long after those comments, the Liberals proposed a two per cent tax on share buybacks in the fall economic statement.

The tax aims to incentivize companies to spend their profits on growing their operations, but New Democrats say the tax doesn’t help Canadians who need relief.

“Canadians are living in a really tough time right now … the cost of everything is going up,” said NDP finance critic Daniel Blaikie.

Blaikie said corporations can find ways to get around the buyback tax, whereas a windfall tax would allow for less “wiggle room.”

Corporations have been facing intense public scrutiny for raking in exceptional profits during record inflation. That has prompted discussions globally about the appropriateness of windfall taxes.

In September, the European Union adopted a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies and said it planned to use the revenue to send relief to people.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 9, 2022.

 

Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press

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Pilot dead after ultralight plane crash northwest of Fredericton

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FREDERICTON – The pilot of an ultralight plane died after the aircraft crashed in a cornfield about 25 kilometres northwest of Fredericton.

Ken Hodgson, fire chief of Keswick Valley Fire Department, says his team received a call at 11:33 a.m. about a crash in Burtts Corner, N.B., along Route 104, which links the province to Nova Scotia.

Hodgson says there were no other casualties.

Ambulance New Brunswick, the coroner’s office and RCMP also responded to the crash.

In a news release, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says it deployed a team of investigators to an “aircraft accident near Fredericton.”

But the agency did not immediately respond to questions asking for details about the crash.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 19, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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B.C. Interior residents get ready to go as erupting wildfire threatens

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It’s the first time The Inn at Spences Bridge has been empty since April.

Dorothy Boragno, who owns the inn with her husband Michael Findlay, said Friday they watched thick smoke across the Thompson River from the out-of-control Shetland Creek wildfire that has already forced others to evacuate.

“We’ve been through fires before, so we know what happens, and if they get close, usually we get firemen to stay at our hotel, so we’re not too worried yet. But it does bring back bad memories,” said Boragno.

The Shetland Creek fire in the southern Interior more than doubled in size from Thursday to Friday, due to what the B.C. Wildfire Service said was “significant overnight growth” and more accurate mapping.

Its rapid spread was part of an eruption of wildfire activity across B.C., with more than 270 burning as of Friday afternoon, most caused by recent lightning storms, then fuelled by hot, dry weather and winds.

The Shetland Creek fire is now listed at 132 square kilometres in size, up from 57 square kilometres, and has prompted evacuation orders and alerts in the communities of Spences Bridge, Ashcroft and part of Cache Creek, east of Kamloops.

The BC Wildfire Service says the fire advanced about six kilometres in a northwest direction parallel to Highway 1 Thursday night.

It is considered the only “wildfire of note” in B.C., meaning it is highly visible or poses a potential threat to public safety or infrastructure.

The wildfire service says 71 firefighters and six helicopters are battling the blaze in addition to structure protection personnel, heavy equipment operators, and an incident management team.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District expanded an evacuation order in front of the fire on Thursday evening to cover about 85 properties in the Venables Valley area, while the Cook’s Ferry Indian Band has issued orders for several reserves along the Thompson River.

Hundreds of other properties are subject to an evacuation alert, with the district telling them to be ready to leave on short notice.

The Village of Cache Creek on Friday issued an evacuation alert because of the fire out of an “abundance of caution.” The alert includes the Cache Creek Regional Airport and nine other properties, but the main sections of the village are not yet on alert.

The Village of Ashcroft is also under an evacuation alert and Mayor Barbara Roden said Friday that the fire’s aggressive behaviour is “very concerning.”

“So, residents are very on edge. They have been ever since this fire started and it was clear that it was going to be heading in this direction,” she said. “It’s been thick smoke here for the last few days even though the fire is still several kilometres away, there’s ash falling on everything here in Ashcroft.”

The nearby Ashcroft Indian Band, which is also on evacuation alert, posted a notice on Facebook Friday, saying band leaders understand that “everyone is on edge with the Shetland Creek Fire burning nearby.”

The statement said they are in constant contact with the BC Wildfire Service, getting updates when available and they appreciate everyone’s co-operation in conserving water they have in the reservoirs to “use in a worst-case scenario.”

“In the meantime, we have our maintenance and fire mitigation crews out in the community adding more fireguards around the south and east side. As an additional piece to our regular fire mitigation practices, they are clearing debris and flammable fuels from around power poles and hydrants and we have a water tank on a trailer with hoses ready to go.”

Boragno said they are also ready to get out, with a cat cage and a bag of “special stuff” ready next to the door.

She said it was touching to see the whole town pull together with people helping each other out, because no one likes going through this.

“It brings back huge trauma for people who lost their homes and stuff,” said Boragno.

Cliff Chapman with the BC Wildfire Service said Thursday the province appeared to be “on the precipice of a very challenging 72 hours” with hot weather, dry lightning and strong winds in the forecast.

Environment Canada on Friday issued a series of severe thunderstorm watches across much of the B.C. Interior, and a severe thunderstorm warning for the Stuart-Nechako region in the north.

The storms mostly overlap the almost 30 areas that are also under heat warnings, and while they may bring hail and rain, they also bring lightning and winds that trigger and fuel fires. The heat warnings span most of the southern Interior and stretch up through central B.C. into the northeast, along with inland sections of the north and central coasts.

The weather office says much of the Interior is expected to see temperatures in the 30s over the coming days, along with overnight lows in the mid-teens.

For Roden the forecast offers little hope for relief with temperatures topping 40 degrees, but she’s hopeful that people will remain calm and ready to leave if it comes to that.

“So, you’ve got the smoke, you’ve got the ash, you’ve got the heat,” she said. “All these factors coming together are making people very edgy, very nervous. They’re remembering fires past and, and it’s the uncertainty.”

Roden said the village had fires in 2017 and 2021 “on our doorstep.”

“Part of my job as mayor is to try to ensure that people don’t panic,” she added. “I cannot think of any situation that has ever been improved by people panicking.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 19, 2024.

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Newfoundland town on edge as crews search for missing vessel with seven people aboard

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NEW-WES-VALLEY, N.L. – Anxiety gripped a Newfoundland fishing community Friday as a massive search was underway for a missing vessel carrying seven harvesters that hadn’t been heard from in two days.

Mike Tiller, mayor of New-Wes-Valley, N.L., said local fishers were heading out in their private boats to join the search, while people on land gathered together to wait for word about the missing vessel.

The town cancelled its nine-day Crab Festival, set to begin Saturday, out of respect for the families of the missing fishers, he said.

“Our community doesn’t have much to celebrate until we know the outcome of this,” Tiller said in an interview. “If it’s a positive outcome, and seven of those fishermen show up at the wharf, I think it’ll be the biggest celebration we’ve ever had. But right now, celebrating is not on the agenda for anybody.”

The Elite Navigator fishing boat was reported overdue to the Canadian Coast Guard on Thursday afternoon, said Lt.-Cmdr. Len Hickey, with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax. The vessel’s responder last transmitted a signal at around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night.

The 15-metre-long boat was carrying seven crew members, five of whom are from New-Wes-Valley, Tiller said. The other two are from coastal towns nearby. New-Wes-Valley is an amalgamation of several small fishing communities along Newfoundland’s northeast coast and home to about 2,000 people.

Four coast guard vessels, a Cormorant helicopter, a Hercules aircraft and a plane from PAL Airlines were searching for the missing boat Friday, along with a fleet of local fishers. A thick bank of fog hampered their efforts on Thursday night, but conditions were clearer on Friday, Hickey said.

“I know they’re considering draft charts as well, just in case the vessel just lost propulsion,” he added.

Coastal communities across Newfoundland and Labrador are knit together by the fishing industry, and by the grief of losing community members to one of the deadliest professions in the country.

“Every community that has been hit by something like this relives it again when they know it’s going on in another part of the province,” Tiller said. “They know the anxiety that’s being felt, they know the worst can happen. And everybody is hoping that this is just a lost fishing vessel.”

Premier Andrew Furey expressed his concern for the missing harvesters and their friends and family in a post to social media Friday morning.

“We will be there to support the community during this challenging time as we hope for a positive outcome,” Furey wrote on X. “Thank you to all those involved in the search effort.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 19, 2024.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax erroneously reported that the boat was last heard from on Thursday night. In fact, it was last heard from on Wednesday night.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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