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Road closure near Co-op Refinery part of police plan to 'make the site safe' – Regina Leader-Post

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The RPS said the “temporary” road closure is needed to “make the site safe and remove materials (that) could potentially be used to create an illegal barrier.”

Unifor national president Jerry Dias believes the only chance Local 594 has of getting a fair deal at the bargaining table is through binding arbitration.

“The simple reality is: Co-op is very comfortable, that they have a government that really has suggested a special mediator but gave him no powers,” said Dias, at a news conference in Victoria Park on Friday afternoon. Shortly after barricades were built around the refinery on Jan. 20 Dias said the playing field was closer to level, as the pickets were affecting the Co-op Refinery Complex’ (CRC) ability to make money.


National Unifor president Jerry Dias speaks to members of the media at a news conference held in Victoria Park in Regina, Saskatchewan on Feb. 7, 2020.

BRANDON HARDER /

Regina Leader-Post

But late Thursday night police closed 9th Avenue N. from Winnipeg Street to McDonald Street and maintained the closure into Friday, allowing Co-op fuel trucks to pass through a police checkpoint as officers checked the drivers’ names.

Two police cruisers were parked at the intersection of Winnipeg Street and 9th Avenue North on Friday morning. Officers restricted both foot and vehicle traffic through the area. However, reporters on scene observed Co-op fuel trucks pass through the blockade after the drivers’ names were checked by police.

“Vehicles not related to the operation of the businesses in the area will not be permitted,” the Regina Police Service (RPS) said in its release.

By late Friday evening, Unifor pickets could be seen delaying fuel trucks attempting turn onto 9th Avenue North from Winnipeg Street.

Pickets walked around in a circle in the middle of 9th Avenue North as each truck approached them. A representative would then approach the driver and explain the union’s position. 

Trucks were delayed for varying periods, generally a few minutes. In an exchange witnessed by the Leader-Post, they soon allowed the driver to proceed when he asked.

Lana Payne, Unifor’s secretary-treasurer, said the pickets were fully complying with the December court order limiting delays.

“We decided that the court injunction says we can stop trucks and talk to them up to 10 minutes. That’s our constitutional right to be able to pick it and that’s what we’re doing right here,” said Payne.

But the picket still prompted a small traffic jam as fuel trucks lined up on the off-ramp from Ring Road to Winnipeg Street

Payne faulted police for doing the work of “the boss.”

“Obviously they’re the ones that blocked the gate and this is the only space that we had here to set up our picket line,” she said.


Pickets walking in front of a Co-op fuel truck on 9th Avenue North on Feb. 7, 2020 in Regina.

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The RPS said the “temporary” road closure is needed to “make the site safe and remove materials (that) could potentially be used to create an illegal barrier.”

Police said Friday that pickets would be allowed to walk freely in the area with signage and other informational materials when the area is cleared of structures and debris. Structures such as warming huts, heaters and portable toilets have been a part of the picket line since workers were locked out on Dec. 5.

Criticizing the RPS action, Dias used the words “police state,” contending if the police were following the court’s orders, there was no wording specifying heaters, warming structures and toilets had to be removed from public property.

“It is crystal clear that the police are an arm of the corporation,” Dias charged — an allegation the RPS has consistently denied. “It is a complete coordinated effort to shut down the picket line to ensure that the Co-op refinery can continue the lockout.”

According to police, the action is “part of a plan to restore a safe physical environment” that will “support peaceful, lawful and safe picketing by members of Unifor Canada, Local 594 and their supporters, in accordance with the Dec. 24, 2019 Queen’s Bench Court Order by Justice J. McMurtry.”

It’s a move celebrated by Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) that said the “removal of the illegal barricades” means emergency services and fuel trucks have access to the refinery site.

Fences erected by police, coupled with cruisers, effectively prevented any foot or car traffic from entering the area.

Scott Doherty, lead negotiator and assistant to Unifor’s national president, said no union members were allowed to return to their picket lines after police blocked off part of the road around 11 p.m. Thursday.

Doherty said Co-op security guards took down barricades erected by the union. As a response, all pickets have relocated to Unifor’s central barricade at Gate 7.

“Co-op has full access to the refinery. We’re not entirely sure from RPS if our members try and walk through their barricade to get to the various gates, that we’re legally allowed to be picketing at, that they’re not going to be arrested,” Doherty said Friday morning.

In an emailed statement, Dias said, “Blocking access to picket locations at the bidding of Co-op Refinery is a clear violation of Charter rights.”

Doherty said all of this could have been avoided if the government returned the union’s calls on Thursday, the same day the two sides met in Regina’s Court of Queen’s Bench for a marathon contempt of court hearing. The judge has reserved decision.

In a news release sent Friday, Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Don Morgan reiterated the government’s position to appoint a special mediator, “contingent on the removal of the illegal blockades,” is still on the table.

“This dispute now has the potential to not only affect the Saskatchewan economy, but the safety and security of Saskatchewan families,” Morgan said in the release.

“While Unifor members have the right to take legal job action, they do not have the right to erect illegal blockades. We continue to encourage all parties to respect the law and we continue to expect the Regina Police Services to enforce the law.”

But Unifor has a counter proposal. While its plan included the prospect of an immediate end to the pickets, it also called for the immediate departure of replacement workers and a mediator with the power to issue a binding settlement.

Both points are terms the company has rejected in the past.

CRC spokesman Brad DeLorey said the company will not negotiate while barricades remain in place, even with police opening up access to the refinery.

NDP leader Ryan Meili called on Premier Scott Moe to recall the legislature to bring in legislation that would allow for binding arbitration to take place.

“If the Premier is willing to introduce fair and balanced legislation, New Democrats would work to pass this legislation in one day, said Meili in an emailed statment. “This dispute needs to end.”

— with files from Mark Melnychuk and Arthur White-Crummey

alsalloum@postmedia.com

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Regina Police Service officers approach a Co-op fuel truck stopped in front of their controlled checkpoint at the intersection of Winnipeg Street and 9th Avenue North on Feb. 7, 2020.

BRANDON HARDER /

Regina Leader-Post


Regina Police Service officer returns identification to a Co-op fuel truck driver stopped in front of their controlled checkpoint at the intersection.

BRANDON HARDER /

Regina Leader-Post


Members of the Regina Police Service completely shut down 9th Avenue N. from Winnipeg Street to McDonald Street in Regina on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.

TROY FLEECE /

Regina Leader-Post


The road closure started late Thursday night.

TROY FLEECE /

Regina Leader-Post

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U.S. inflation shows signs of having peaked as rate eases to 8.5% in July – CBC News

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The torrid increase in the cost of living showed signs of finally easing last month, with the U.S. inflation rate cooling to 8.5 per cent.

The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics reported Wednesday that the annual inflation rate eased from a 40-year high of 9.1 per cent in June to 8.5 in July. 

Economists had been expected the rate to ease off, but the 8.5 per cent figure was softer than the 8.7 per cent they were expecting.

“The July CPI report might be the first clear indication that consumers are pushing back against high inflation in response to tighter monetary policy,” Sal Guatieri, an economist with BMO Markets, wrote in a note to investors. “It’s a sign that inflation is close to peaking, though the climb down the mountain will be slow due to rising wages and rents.”

Gasoline prices have eased significantly, which was a major contributor to the slowdown.

Guatieri also pointed to price reductions in airfare, hotels and car rentals. 

“With many travellers now exhausting earlier pent-up demand, fewer people are willing to face hassles at the airport or pay the well-above pre-pandemic cost of flying, rooming at a hotel or renting a car.”

Food prices, meanwhile, continued to rise at a faster pace than the overall rate, with costs increasing by 10.9 per cent in the past year.

Statistics Canada is expected to report its inflation numbers on Aug. 16. 

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Commercial fishers and wild salmon advocates cheer large returns to B.C. waters

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VICTORIA — The summer of 2022 is shaping up to be a bumper season for both pink and sockeye salmon in British Columbia rivers, with one veteran Indigenous fisherman reporting the biggest catches of sockeye in decades.

Mitch Dudoward has worked in the salmon industry for more than 40 years, and says fishing on the Skeena River in northwest B.C. has never been better.

“This is the best season I can recall in my lifetime with the numbers we are catching,” said Dudoward, who recently completely a big sockeye haul aboard his gillnetter Irenda.

Bob Chamberlin, chairman of the Indigenous-led First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance, meanwhile said that thousands of pink salmon are in Central Coast rivers after years of minimal returns.

The strong run comes two years after the closure of two open-net Atlantic salmon farms in the area.

“We had targeted those farms,” said Chamberlin, whose group wants open-net farms removed from B.C.’s waters. “We got them removed and two years later we went from 200 fish in the river to where we have several thousand to date. In our mind and knowledge that is a really clear indicator.”

Fisheries and Oceans Canada spokeswoman Lara Sloan said departmental observations indicated big returns of sockeye to the Skeena River.

“Test fisheries currently indicate that Skeena sockeye returns are tracking at the upper end of the forecast, with an in-season estimate of approximately four million sockeye,” said Sloan in a statement. “Sockeye populations returning to a number of areas in British Columbia, Washington and Alaska are returning better than forecast in 2022.”

The five-year average return of sockeye to the Skeena is 1.4 million and the 10-year average is 1.7 million, Sloan said.

Dudoward said the Skeena sockeye season ended this week, but it could have gone on longer.

“We should be fishing until the end of August when the sockeye stop running,” he said. “There’s plenty of them to take.”

But Sloan said the Fisheries Department was being careful about salmon stocks.

“For 2022, the department is taking a more precautionary approach toward managing impacts of commercial fisheries on stocks of conservation concern including smaller wild sockeye populations, chum and steelhead returning to the Skeena River,” she said.

The Fisheries Department also expects a large sockeye run to the Fraser River this summer, but returns of chinook, coho and chum to northern and Central Coast rivers and streams are expected to be low.

“The forecast range for Fraser River sockeye in 2022 is 2.3 million to 41.7 million, with a median forecast of 9.7 million,” said Sloan. “The median forecast means there is a 50 per cent chance returns will come in below that level.”

That is well above the estimated 2.5 million sockeye returns in 2021, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada data.

The strong returns come amid debate over the future of open-net salmon farming in B.C. waters.

In 2018, the B.C. government, First Nations and the salmon farming industry reached an agreement to phase out 17 open-net farms in the Broughton Archipelago between 2019 and 2023.

The agreement was negotiated to establish a farm-free migration corridor to help reduce harm to wild salmon.

In June, federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray said the government will consult with First Nations communities and salmon farm operators in the Discovery Islands, near Campbell River on Vancouver Island, about the future of open-net farming in the area.

A final decision on the future of the farms is expected in January 2023, the minister said.

“That is such a key migratory route of all Fraser River salmon, in particular coho and chinook,” Chamberlin said. “If we are going to see Fraser runs return, we need to see removal of impediments.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2022.

 

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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Montreal-based WSP Global to buy U.K. environmental consulting company in third takeover in just three months – The Globe and Mail

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Canadian engineering giant WSP Global Inc. WSP-T is buying British environmental consulting firm RPS Group Plc in a deal worth almost a billion dollars, its third major takeover in just three months.

Montreal-based WSP said it struck a deal Monday to acquire RPS for £2.06 per share in cash for a total enterprise value of £625-million, or $975-million. It is paying 15 times RPS’s adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for the 12 months ended June 30.

“RPS is of utmost value to WSP for its sustainability focus, global presence, expertise and talent,” WSP chief executive Alexandre L’Heureux told analysts on a conference call after markets closed. The takeover of RPS’s 5,000 employees brings additional scale to WSP and advances its efforts to expand its front-end consulting work, he said.

Demand for environmental engineering and consulting services is growing as private-sector companies and governments seek advice on things ranging from climate-change risks to waste management. WSP is beefing up its capabilities in the space as part of a wider growth effort.

This is the company’s third major takeover in as many months. In June, it said it had struck a definitive agreement to acquire a business known as Environment & Infrastructure (E&I) from Aberdeen, Scotland-based Wood for US$1.8-billion, adding another 6,000 employees to its payroll. Earlier this month, WSP said it would buy Capita Plc’s Capita REI and GL Hearn businesses in the U.K. for £60-million in a smaller deal that adds skill in real estate planning.

Once a boutique engineering company, WSP has ballooned in recent years to become a major player in global design consultancy and project management, with a current market capitalization topping $18-billion. Mr. L’Heureux wants to expand the company further. He outlined a three-year strategic plan this March that aims to boost net revenues 30 per cent to well over $10-billion a year and increase adjusted net earnings per share by 50 per cent by 2024.

WSP said it secured a new bank credit facility worth £600-million (about $935-million), including commitments for the full amount of the RPS purchase price, in order to meet British takeover regulations. But it intends to use the proceeds from share sales to fund the takeover.

The company said it will sell $400-million worth of equity in a bought deal with a syndicate of underwriters led by CIBC Capital Markets, National Bank Financial and RBC Capital Markets. It will raise another $400-million in a private placement with three existing WSP shareholders: Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, Canadian pension fund manager Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board.

London Stock Exchange-listed RPS generates about two-thirds of its revenue from environmental work and water services and has longstanding relationships with major water utilities in the U.K. and Ireland, Mr. L’Heureux said. It has also developed a deep expertise in oceanic science, which it uses to support offshore wind energy players, he added.

RPS’s board intends to recommend the deal, WSP said. The Canadian company said it has the backing of directors and other shareholders holding about 18 per cent of RPS stock.

WSP is one of the most active companies in Canadian infrastructure megaprojects – involved in the development of 18 of the 20 biggest projects currently under way, according to trade publication ReNew Canada. This latest takeover would bring its total employee count to 70,000 and boost revenue to $10-billion a year on a pro-forma basis.

The engineering firm’s recent contracts illustrate the kind of work it is now bidding on as it tries to reshape itself as one of the world’s top companies with environmental expertise. In Canada, it won a mandate from pension fund PSP Investments to conduct a detailed climate analysis of more than three million hectares of farmland and timberland in its Global Natural Resources Portfolio.

In the United States, WSP was awarded a contract for engineering, procurement and construction management for the underground storage of the Aces Delta project, the largest green hydrogen production and storage facility ever built. WSP says the facility will help decarbonize the Western U.S. power grid by providing seasonal clean energy storage capabilities.

WSP shares rose 0.8 per cent in Monday trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, closing at $157.58. The stock is down 16 per cent since hitting an all-time high of $187.94 last November.

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