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Royal Bank defends funding B.C.'s Coastal GasLink pipeline despite environmental concerns – CBC.ca

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Royal Bank of Canada’s chief executive defended the bank’s funding of the Coastal GasLink pipeline Thursday and called for incentives to help the shift to a net-zero economy, as investors and Indigenous groups denounced its support of fossil fuels.

Chief executive Dave McKay was speaking at the bank’s annual shareholder meeting, which had been changed to a virtual-only format late on Wednesday after confirmation of a positive case of COVID-19 among its staff.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs had travelled from British Columbia to Toronto to express their opposition in person to RBC’s financing of the pipeline’s construction on traditional Indigenous land. The pipeline is 65 per cent owned by private equity firm KKR & Co. Inc. and the Alberta Investment Management Corp.

Calling into the meeting, they accused the bank of funding a project that they said has damaged rivers and wetland forests and limited their ability to hunt wildlife. 

McKay said the project has been extensively reviewed and approved by regulators and has the support of all 20 elected First Nations along the route. He added that 16 of them have taken the option to have an economic interest in it.

Despite support from elected leaders, the pipeline still faces fierce opposition from several groups, most notably Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who say band councils — as political entities created by the federal government — do not have authority over land beyond reserve boundaries. 

That job, they say, belongs to hereditary chiefs under the Wet’suwet’en governance system which predates the formation of Canada and has not been extinguished.

Continued funding of fossil fuel companies

Canada’s major banks, including RBC, the largest, have released plans to lower their financed emissions but continued funding of fossil fuel companies and pipelines has riled some investors and communities. 

Last week, Canada released a $9.1-billion plan to meet its 2030 emissions-reduction targets.

Spending on green technologies is set to be a focal point of the 2020 budget, to be released later on Thursday.

The Canadian government’s plan to reduce carbon emissions will lead to “a massive shift in this decade,” which will require “public and private capital to support both growth and the green transition,” McKay said.

“That’s why investment and tax policies, as well as incentives must be considered.”

McKay also reiterated his concern about a proposed tax on banks’ profits. 

Two shareholder proposals urging RBC to exclude fossil fuel activity and projects opposed by Indigenous groups from eligibility for sustainable financing, and refrain from funding and advising on the privatization of pollution-intensive assets were defeated, in line with the board’s recommendation.

Pipeline a challenge to emission targets

Once completed, the Coastal GasLink pipeline will carry natural gas from near Dawson Creek, in northeast B.C. to the LNG Canada processing plant on the coast in Kitimat.

That project has been described by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives as a “carbon bomb” that is incompatible with the province’s carbon reduction goals.

Speaking to CBC this week, B.C.’s minister for environment, George Heyman, said the emissions associated with Phase 1 of the LNG Canada plant are accounted for in the models laid out by the Clean B.C. plan. The province has said details on the program for reducing emissions from industries will be released in 2023. 

But the Sierra Club B.C., which is suing the province for failing to provide a detailed plan to achieve emissions targets, says the full emissions enabled by the LNG Canada terminal in Kitimat alone would make it nearly impossible to meet the province’s targets.

Hollywood criticism

Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo has spoken out against the Coastal GasLink pipeline in British Columbia. (Craig Ruttle/The Associated Press)

RBC’s support of the pipeline has also drawn criticism from high-profile Hollywood stars including The Avengers stars Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey, Jr. and Scarlett Johannson.

In an interview with CBC, Ruffalo said he banks with RBC subsidary City National Bank and so feels responsible to push the bank to stop funding the pipeline.

“As much as they speak about being champions for climate change and being champions of Indigenous rights and Indigenous people, everything that I’ve seen is absolutely contrary to those two claims,” Ruffalo said.

But Crystal Smith, elected chief councillor of the Haisla Nation in northwest B.C. and one of the supporters of Coastal GasLink, said the actor failed to understand the benefits of the pipeline project in providing jobs and money and supporting cultural revitalization and education initiatives for Indigenous people in the region.

“It’s done more for economic reconciliation than any other project,” she told CBC.

As for the divide between hereditary and elected Wet’suwet’en leaders over whether to support the project, Smith said disagreements are to be expected among any group of people and that it is up to members of the nation to decide how to move forward.

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As interest in electric vehicles soars, experts say they haven't quite hit the mainstream – CBC.ca

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When a friend told Seymore Applebaum about the efficiency of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, he was intrigued.

Applebaum, who lives north of Toronto, was in the market for a new car. While safety features were top of mind, the high cost of gasoline couldn’t be ignored.

So in January, he traded in his sedan for a brand-new plug-in hybrid (PHEV), a vehicle that can run on both electricity and gasoline. Applebaum says he can travel almost 50 kilometres on battery power alone — more than enough to get around the city.

On a recent trip downtown, he recalled, “I drove about 45 kilometres … and the only thing I used was the electric motor and the electric battery that runs the car.”

“Normally, on a day like that, [it] would be comparable to $10, $15 of driving cost.”

Automotive industry analysts say rising gas prices have more consumers looking into electrified and electric vehicles (EVs). 

Gas prices have soared across the country in recent weeks. According to fuel price tracker GasBuddy, the national average price for regular gasoline was just below $1.98 per litre as of Sunday afternoon. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Prices at the pump have soared across Canada in recent weeks. Estimates suggest Vancouver could see the country’s highest prices this weekend, potentially hitting $2.34 per litre for regular fuel. According to fuel price tracker GasBuddy, the national average as of Sunday afternoon was just below $1.98 per litre.

“Canadians are motivated by high fuel prices, but they truly believe this is the new normal,” said Peter Hatges, national automotive sector leader for KPMG in Canada, pointing a recent survey by the consulting group. 

“When consumers believe it or perceive it to be true, they’re going to modify their behaviour around what kind of vehicles they buy.”

Kevin Roberts, director of industry insights and analytics for U.S.-based online vehicle marketplace CarGurus, told Cross Country Checkup he has seen a similar trend. 

“As gas prices went up, interest in electric vehicles went up almost in lockstep with just a couple of days delay for both new and used vehicles,” he said.

But even as interest in electrified cars spikes, experts say too few options — and too high prices — mean they haven’t quite hit the mainstream.

Where consumers in North America favour larger vehicles like SUVs and pickup trucks known for their utility, EVs tend to come in compact or sedan-style models. EV range — and the availability of chargers — are also considerations for many Canadians, said Hatges.

Availability of charging stations, and the range of EV models, are top of mind for Canadian drivers. (Doug Ives/The Canadian Press)

Ramp up production

Big investments into electrification by major automotive makers, however, are beginning to bear fruit. 

A greater variety of models and sizes are coming onto the market in the coming years, the analysts say. Battery life is improving too, with several models able to travel more than 400 kilometres on a charge, according to manufacturer estimates.

“It’s absolutely a tipping point,” said Hatges. “I think there’s a confluence of factors that are pointing toward an alternative to the internal combustion engine.”

The big test for consumers will be whether manufacturers can cut prices enough to get customers in the showroom — and EVs on the road — said Grieg Mordue, associate professor and ArcelorMittal chair in advanced manufacturing policy at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

WATCH | Questions about EVs answered: 

Your questions about electric vehicles answered

24 days ago

Duration 2:13

If you are thinking about getting off gas and buying an electric vehicle, or EV, you probably have a few questions. We went for a drive with an expert, and got some answers.

While a handful of models start below $50,000, many run far north of that figure with some selling for over $100,000.

The sweet spot for Canadian buyers? Between $35,000 and $45,000, says Mordue. Key to hitting that price point is mass production, he added. 

“We need production in North America of vehicles at that level, and we need high-volume vehicles — not little, niche vehicles where they sell 10,000 or 15,000 of them a year — because that’s a lot of the vehicles that we have now, Tesla notwithstanding,” Mordue told Checkup.

In April, GM announced a $2-billion investment, with support from the Ontario and federal governments, which will see electric vehicles rolling off assembly lines in Oshawa and Ingersoll, Ont., as early as this year.

Stellantis, which owns brands including Dodge and Jeep, is similarly investing billions into electrification at its Windsor and Brampton, Ont., plants.

Mordue cautions, however, that as plants begin producing electric models, it will take time for them to reach the existing output of gas-powered vehicles.

Seymore Applebaum says his recently purchased plug-in hybrid gives him the flexibility to take longer trips, but can run errands around the city without using any gasoline. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Focus on fuel efficiency

While interest in EVs may be gearing up, Hatges predicts a shift for gas-powered vehicles too.

“I think you’ll see a strive to make cars lighter, more fuel efficient, even when it comes to electricity,” he said. “Heavy vehicles use more power to power themselves down the road, whether it’s electricity or fuel.”

And as long as gas prices stay high, the market could see a shift from SUVs and trucks — which consumers and manufacturers have favoured in recent years — to gas-sipping models.

“We have a fascination with pickup trucks and SUVs, North Americans do, and there’s a lot of them on the road now…. I don’t see that changing any time soon,” he said.

“But in the medium term or in the immediate term, will you see a shift or reconsideration of cars that are more fuel efficient? I think so. The price in the pump is very, very significant.”

Applebaum touted the flexibility of a plug-in hybrid, saying he doesn’t worry about range at all. And though his PHEV cost more than a comparable non-electrified model, trading in his previous vehicle combined with the fuel savings over three to four years made it affordable, he said.

With gas prices now higher than they were in January, “that’s even more true,” he told Checkup.

Now, he says friends are taking notice.

“They’re saying the next car they purchase will be an electric car.”


Written by Jason Vermes with files from Abby Plener.

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Gas prices reach another record in the GTA after six cents per litre increase overnight – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Gas prices have reached yet another new record after rising six cents per litre overnight.

As of midnight the average price of a litre of fuel across the Greater Toronto Area is now 208.9 cents per litre, according to Canadians for Affordable Energy President Dan McTeague.

The latest jump means that gas prices have now risen 11 cents per litre since Friday, with no real relief in sight due to supply shortages brought about by Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine and the international sanctions that have been imposed a result.

“When you look at the fundamentals, supply and demand for diesel and for gasoline going into the summer driving season, not only is it low or critically low and that is one of the main reasons why prices are going up but the second factor is the Canadian dollar,” McTeague told CP24 last week. “It continues to show weakness despite the fact that in the old good old days when oil was $100 a barrel we would be on par with the U.S. dollar. The fact that we’re not is costing you 33 cents a litre.”

Gas prices have risen by about 60 per cent since last May, when drivers were paying around $1.30 per litre to fill up.

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Baby formula shortage: Canada's current situation – CTV News

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A major infant formula recall by the U.S. manufacturer of Similac has exacerbated ongoing pandemic-related supply issues for some Canadian retailers, according to the Retail Council of Canada, while other stores have generally been able to keep shelves stocked, with shortages mostly temporary.

A number of powdered Similac products were recalled in February when four babies in the U.S. became very sick with a bacterial infection after consuming formula made at an Abbott Nutrition facility in Michigan. Two of the four hospitalized infants died. The plant was closed while the U.S. Food and Safety Administration (FDA) investigated.

The company, the largest manufacturer of infant formula in the U.S., said in a statement that “there is no evidence to link our formulas to these infant illnesses”. The plant remains shut for the investigation, however, and U.S. retail tracking company Datasembly said the out-of-stock percentage for baby formula in the U.S. reached 43 per cent for the first week of May.

While Canadian retailers have generally not experienced the bare shelves seen in many U.S. stores so far, some Canadian parents are nonetheless concerned about any potential impact, particularly as a number of products are specialty formulas made for infants with special dietary requirements.

“Some retailers that I have spoken to have seen an impact since last year because of those global supply chain challenges. But it’s definitely become considerably worse since the production facility closure and product recall,” said Michelle Wasylyshen, the national spokesperson for the Retail Council of Canada, in a phone interview on Friday.

Other retailers saw less of an impact, she said.

“The majority of that section within their stores, the baby formula is stocked. If there are any outages or shortages on the shelves, they should be temporary in nature for the most part.”

Wasylyshen said there was no clear answer on whether supply issues were regional because grocery retailers use different supply chains within the country and even within a province and there are different types of agreements and suppliers as well.

Walmart Canada told CTVNews.ca that there have been numerous ongoing global, industry-wide supply challenges with baby formula that have persisted for years and that it continued to work closely with its suppliers.

“Despite these challenges, including the most recent brand recall … [we] have secured a strong supply of baby formula across multiple brands and formats (concentrates, powder and ready-to-feed), to make available for sale both in-store and online,” said spokesperson Felicia Fefer in an email on Friday.

Costco and two of Canada’s three major grocery chains, Loblaws and Sobeys, had yet to respond at the time of publication. Metro declined to comment, saying the issue was not Metro specific.

STORE BRANDS, HEALTH CANADA ORDER HELPING

Despite concerns, there are differences between Canada and the U.S. that have helped diffuse some of the impact so far, Wasylyshen said.

All major grocery chains in Canada have strong “private label” or house brands, including for the infant formula category, she noted. While some of these store-brand versions of formula may also be manufactured by the same company as the major labels, most are sourced from competitors, giving shoppers more alternative options and preventing a two-fold impact.

In addition, Health Canada also approved an interim policy that temporarily allows other infant formula brands from the U.S., U.K., Ireland, and Germany to be imported into Canada. The policy is meant to “help prevent and mitigate shortages of these products in Canada in relation to the temporary closure of a large manufacturing plant in the United States, while ensuring a safe supply of these products to the vulnerable Canadians that rely on them” the document states.

The policy, which is in effect until June 30, also notes that safety assessments have been conducted by Health Canada for each product included in the list.

“Health Canada reviews infant formula submissions from manufacturers, including labelling and compositional requirements, before infant formula is sold in Canada,” Health Canada spokesperson Marie-Pier Burelle said in an email to CTVNews.ca on Friday.

“The products listed in Appendix A of the interim policy are imported from countries that have similar regulatory standards to Canada and are safe to use. These products would not normally be on the Canadian market because Health Canada has not received a request from manufacturers to conduct a pre-market regulatory review.”

The products might not meet some requirements like French and English labelling, for example, Wasylyshen said.

“They’re all still products that are safe and that are regulated, it’s just now they’re being temporarily allowed into Canada until we get a little bit more stability with the system,” she said, adding that this has been done in the past in situations where delivery of essential supplies was hampered.

CASCADING SUPPLY ISSUES

Ongoing global supply chain issues during the pandemic was already an issue prior to the recall, including global shortages of raw ingredients that go into making baby formula, Wasylyshen said. But complicating the current situation is that other suppliers are now beginning to experience issues due to the increased demand in other products that are available.

“It’s not a big problem yet, but the longer that we continue to see the Abbott shortage or Abbott products missing from the shelves, other suppliers could experience additional problems within a month or two – perhaps by summer, so that’s certainly something that we’ll want to keep our eye on.” 

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