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Rail blockades spark debate over policing and politics



Protests that have shut down most of Canada’s rail system have opened a debate about the intersection of politics and policing — with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisting government must remain hands-off and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer insisting it’s time for the PM to direct the RCMP to end the blockades.

On Friday, Scheer held a news conference in Ottawa and called on Trudeau to direct the national police force to “enforce the law” and end the “illegal” tactics.

“Democracy and the rule of law are fundamental pillars of our country, and it’s time they are enforced,” he said.

“If they are not, the Trudeau Liberal government will set a dangerous precedent that a small few can have a devastating impact on countless Canadians.”

Trudeau rejected Scheer’s demand. “We are not a kind of country where politicians get to tell the police what to do in operational matters,” he said today following a security conference in Germany.

A statement from the office of Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, who oversees the RCMP, said “police independence is crucial to public trust in our institutions.”

“The minister of public safety does not direct police operations. The minister may not attempt to influence in any way an investigation, or direct the conduct of specific police operations,” says the statement provided to CBC News.

“Our government is committed to protecting the constitutional right to lawful peaceful protest, keeping Canadians safe, and upholding the rule of law.”

‘Weasel words’

But some policing experts say an elected government does have the authority to direct police to act in the public interest.

Rick Parent is a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University who spent nearly 30 years as a municipal police officer. He said there’s a difference between interfering in a criminal investigation and responding to a politically-motivated demonstration. Governments represent the public but sometimes try to “pass the buck” to police in controversial situations like this, he said.

“I think it’s an easy way out to say that the police are independent. I think those are like weasel words in the sense that we’re trying to pass the buck on to the police and hold them accountable for this, when in fact … it is a political thing,” Parent said.

“It’s not a crime against an individual that’s occurring.”

Parent said court orders must clearly state what powers the police are permitted to exercise in a specific situation, and any government direction must be in line with that court order.

According to the RCMP Act, officers are to “enforce all Acts of Parliament and regulations and render assistance to departments of the government of Canada as the Minister directs.”

A ‘political issue’

Christian Leuprecht, a Royal Military College professor who has written about the RCMP’s structure, said that while police must be independent when it comes to criminal investigations, government intervention in this case would not amount to political interference in an investigation.

“The federal government does have options, contrary to what it is claiming,” he said. “But it has chosen not to exercise those, likely for political reasons. Because this is, of course, the government that has staked much of its political fate on reconciliation …

“I think the uniforms, whether it’s federal or provincial, feel it shouldn’t be their responsibility to resolve what is ultimately a political issue.”

Watch: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is ‘not the kind of country where politicians get to tell the police what to do in operational matters’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters in Munich before returning home to Ottawa on Friday 3:15

Memories of Ipperwash

Governments may be reluctant to get involved in such protests, given that memories of 1995’s deadly confrontation in Ontario’s Ipperwash Provincial Park are still fresh. After members of the Stoney Point Ojibway band occupied the park to assert their claim to nearby land, then-premier Mike Harris told the Ontario Provincial Police he wanted the protesters evicted. During the subsequent confrontation, protester Dudley George was killed by a police officer.

Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said Friday it’s up to the federal government to show leadership and reach out to the protesters to bring about a swift resolution. But she agreed with Trudeau that the government should not interfere with police operations.

“It would be inappropriate for a government to direct a police force,” she said, pointing out that the court has issued an injunction against the Mohawk protesters behind an illegal blockade near Belleville, Ont. that is snarling rail traffic.

Ontario Transport Minister Caroline Mulroney spoke to reporters in Toronto after a Federal-Provincial meeting 1:09

Police discretion

OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson said police use their discretion as “a valid, appropriate approach to de-escalating situations such as this” — and that should not be confused with a lack of enforcement.

“The OPP calls on those involved to abide by the court injunction and to not put public peace or anyone’s safety in jeopardy. The OPP respects the right of everyone to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, but we also recognize the rights of the general public, local residents and businesses to a safe environment,” he said.

Dickson said the OPP will continue to follow its Framework for Police Preparedness for Indigenous Critical Incidents, which he said provides guidance on a “measured and sensitive response.”


People stand near a rail blockade in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Ont. on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)


That document outlines the approach to be taken by various levels of government to resolve critical incidents that may erupt over land claims, self-determination or treaty rights.

“A range of possibilities exists as to how the critical incident may evolve — from a passive demonstration to one where the public is significantly affected, (such as) blockage of transportation route,” the document reads.

“It is imperative for police to ensure all parties to the critical incident have the opportunity to contribute to strategies for resolution. Employees will rely on established relationships for effective communication between themselves and persons involved in the critical incident as well as the other members of the community.”

Mohawk activists who have set up camps on key rail lines in eastern Ontario have said they won’t end their demonstration until the RCMP leaves the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en in northern B.C.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders had been blocking road access to a construction site for the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a key part of a $40-billion LNG Canada liquefied natural gas export project.

While much of the police action near that road ended Tuesday with multiple arrests, the RCMP still has officers stationed near the pipeline construction site.

Scheer said the blockades are being staged by anti-energy activists who are “ideologically motivated” and that they must not be allowed to “run roughshod over the rule of law.”

“Radical activists, many of whom have no connection to the Wet’suwet’en people, are holding our country’s economy hostage. Meanwhile, the prime minister has been out of the country on a vanity project to win a vote at the UN, neglecting his duties here at home,” he said.

Scheer said it’s time that Trudeau “pick up the phone” and tell Blair to “put an end to the situation.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should call on the RCMP to clear protests that are crippling Canada’s rail network. 0:45

While every person has the right to freedom of speech and protest, Scheer said, they don’t have the right to block people from getting to work or to prevent businesses and farmers from getting their goods to market.

“These blockades are illegal. So far, the prime minister has refused to come out and call them that himself,” he said.

Asked if police intervention could escalate an already tense situation, Scheer insisted the risk of escalation is greater if nothing is done.

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Alberta exempts energy companies drilling wells or building pipelines from property taxes for three years – Edmonton Journal



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But the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) warned that the models under considerationwould cause “potentially devastating impacts on rural Alberta” and could cost rural municipalities more than $290 million in 2021 alone.

Allard said Monday the government would not be choosing any of those previous models.

Instead the government estimates its three-year plan will save the industry between $81 and $84 million.

“These measures are intended to provide much needed certainty to industry investors, municipalities, and other taxpayers for the next three years,” Allard said.

Meanwhile, Allard said the government will be startinga longer-term review of the system, including the ongoing issue of energy companies’ unpaid property taxes.

Tim McMillan, president and CEO of Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the property assessment values being used under the current system are not accurate so he doesn’t view the changes for the next three years as a tax break.

“This is an interim measure, as we’re working to correct a broader system issue that has built up over a very long period of time,” he said.

RMA president Al Kemmere said he hasn’t crunched the numbers yet to see exactly how much municipalities will lose under this plan but said it will be “nowhere near what we were looking at under the proposals.” He said he believes members of the association are willing to do their part.

Kemmere saidunpaid taxes continues to be his organization’s top priority and that some members are on the cusp of not being able to pay their bills. Municipalities estimate they are owed approximately $173-million.

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OPEC Is On The Brink Of A Crisis –



OPEC+ Is On The Brink Of A Crisis |

Cyril Widdershoven

Dr. Cyril Widdershoven is a long-time observer of the global energy market. Presently, he holds several advisory positions with international think tanks in the Middle…

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    The OPEC+ member countries are on the brink of a financial crisis if the latest assessments of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are accurate. The IMF has presented a very bleak outlook for an economic recovery in the Middle East and Central Asia, predicting a 4.1% contraction for the region. The main driving factor behind this bearish outlook is the IMF’s forecast that oil prices will remain in the $40 to $50 range in 2021. An extension of the current low oil price environment for another year would badly hurt oil and gas exporting countries, which includes all of the OPEC+ members. In its statement, the IMF predicted an economic contraction of 2.8% in April for the Middle East and Central Asia. IMF director Jihad Azour highlighted a large disparity in the projected economic loss of oil-importing and exporting countries, forecasting a negative 6.6% growth for oil-exporting countries, compared to a contraction of 1.3% for oil-importing countries. With many of the OPEC+ members being rentier-states, the need for higher oil prices cannot be overstated. A vast part of the government budgets of OPEC member states depends on oil and gas-related revenues. As such, all OPEC countries are looking at significant budget deficits this year, especially Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, and Kuwait. Former OPEC member Qatar is in a similar situation, even as it tries to mitigate the damage by increasing its LNG exports. As both oil and gas demand has seen significant demand destruction this year, prices for both have plunged. At present, Brent oil prices are still 40% below their pre-COVID levels.  There is little hope of a significant rise in prices any time soon as global oil and gas storage volumes are still at historically high levels, and demand looks set to dip again due to new COVID-related lockdowns and a further economic recession. The frequently cited breakeven price for the Saudi government budget is $80 per barrel, although Saudi government budget discussions seem to revolve around an oil price of $50. Iraq has also stated that it expects price levels of $50 per barrel for 2021. These optimistic predictions seem to be based solely on Chinese post-Covid economic figures, which have proven to be highly untrustworthy and don’t take into account the fact that global demand for Chinese products will also need to pick up. The impact of the second wave of COVID cases in Europe and America will undoubtedly hurt this demand for Chinese goods. Related: Biden’s $2 Trillion Energy Plan Could Crush Natural Gas

    But of all the parties that will suffer from low oil prices and the continued impact of a global pandemic, OPEC+ members will suffer the most. Some oil and gas producers were already in a dire financial situation before COVID, including Libya and Venezuela. The major oil market contango and storage glut has been largely overlooked recently, but it still very much exists. Reports of demand recovery in some markets appear to be more wishful thinking spurred by multi-trillion-dollar cash injections rather than a viable economic recovery. OPEC and the IEA both agree that demand is still fledgling, having both cut world oil demand forecasts. The IEA cut its outlook for worldwide oil demand to 91.7 million barrels per day this year while OPEC brought its forecast down to 90.2 million in 2020. OPEC reiterated that future cuts could still be made.

    With the financial environment outlined above, OPEC+ members can no longer afford to base their economic stability and future on hydrocarbons alone. Economic diversification has to be put in place, even if the effects won’t be felt for years. Government budget cuts are imminent and could destabilize the region if not done prudently. OPEC+ discussions on stabilizing the market should not be focused at present on price levels or market share only. The real question is how to create a market that is resilient enough to cope with Black Swan events without toppling the current ruling elite. Instability is not only increasing in the Arab producer regions, but also in Russia where sanctions and low oil prices are taking their toll.

    OPEC+ members cannot simply bet on the death of U.S. shale as it is an industry that has proven incredibly hard to kill over the years. U.S. shale will almost certainly reemerge, possibly in a different form, but it is reasonable to assume the sector itself is far from dead. Leaders in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Moscow, and Kuwait City now have to find a way to survive. With oil at $50 per barrel in 2021, some OPEC members will be in a real crisis. With that in mind, a conventional OPEC+ JMMC statement today or tomorrow will be seen by some as a white flag.

    By Cyril Widdershoven for

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      Stay Safe and Follow Public Health Advice This Halloween | Ontario Newsroom – Government of Ontario News



      Ontario Newsroom | Salle de presse de l’Ontario

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