Landowners losing on leases

Farmers should refuse to accept lower lease payments from oil companies, says advocacy group

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The Western ProducerAlberta’s Surface Rights Board is a recourse for landowners in cases where an energy company becomes insolvent or refuses to pay lease fees. | File photoAlberta’s Surface Rights Board is a recourse for landowners in cases where an energy company becomes insolvent or refuses to pay lease fees. | File photo

There was $1,200 missing from the lease fee cheque Verna Phippen received this year from the energy company that has leases on her land.

The Pigeon Lake, Alta., landowner filed a claim with the Alberta Surface Rights Board to obtain the balance of the fee owed according to her lease agreement, but she isn’t holding her breath for a quick payment.

“I know of people that have been waiting a couple years and have yet to get their cheque even though the Surface Rights Board has recommended to the minister (of finance) that they be paid out of general revenues,” said Phippen.

Her situation may become commonplace, as the beleaguered Alberta oil and gas industry seeks to cut costs amid a pricing slump that is affecting almost all sectors of the economy.

More than one energy company has asked farmers to accept reduced lease payments, which are designed to compensate them for adverse effect on their land and inconvenience resulting from the presence of wells and pipelines on their property.

They should refuse those requests, said Ronald Huvenaars, a farmer from Hays, Alta., who is chair of Action Surface Rights (ASR), an advocacy group formed to help landowners deal with energy companies.

“Don’t sign,” said Huvenaars.

“If you sign that for a reduced rate and this company happens to go bankrupt, in the next year or so, if you want to apply to the Surface Rights Board to get your lease payment, the lease payment will only be for the new re-negotiated price.

“Basically you’re committing yourself to a lower amount from that day on, until you can renegotiate a higher price again.”

Huvenaars said he has not been asked to accept a lower rate on his leases but knows of other landowners who have been approached to do so.

“They’re sending out letters saying ‘due to the problems in the industry, we feel we want you to cut your lease rates.’ A lot of them are saying in half.

“It’s to share the pain, I guess, is how their letters go. Everybody’s just trying to find a place to save some funds. Some of the companies are finding all kinds of interesting federal legislation to try to get out of leases.”

However, Huvenaars points out energy companies didn’t offer to increase lease payments when oil prices were high. Rates are written in contracts.

Daryl Bennett, an ASR director and vice-president with My Landman Group, said he has been helping farmers deal with requests for reduced lease payments, some of them seeking a 50 or 60 percent reduction.

“In those cases we just send them a letter saying we are applying to the Surface Rights Board and they have 30 days to pay the remainder of the amount or we’ll apply to the board and then they can have the privilege of paying for representation costs for the landowner,” said Bennett.

“Usually the company will back off because they’ll have to pay far more than that in legal costs to go before the board.”

In some cases, energy companies have offered to pay farmers a lump sum for wells they say are close to reclamation. However, if that reclamation doesn’t take place, the landowner will have forfeited the lease payments.

“That’s a common tactic, for companies to promise reclamation, but they don’t have the money to reclaim a lot of these wells. They’re just trying to get rid of their obligation to pay the rental,” said Bennett.

“We’re simply telling landowners that if you have a producing well on your land, and the company is just telling you they’re reducing the rents, don’t stand for it.”

Energy company bankruptcy is already a fact of life in the sector. In 2015, 20 Canadian oil and gas exploration companies went into receivership, according to Sayer Energy Advisors, a company involved in energy industry acquisitions and mergers. It said in its winter 2016 newsletter that it expected more to fold in 2016.

Bennett said the ASR group is waiting for a response to its submission to the finance department, asking if it will cover landowners’ legal costs to recoup full lease payments and whether the government is in turn calling energy companies to account.

“We do not think the minister of finance is trying to recoup money from existing operators who refuse to pay and to us, that’s a dereliction of duty. They should be doing that,” Bennett said.

Huvenaars wonders if the situation will worsen as energy companies pull out the stops to save money and survive until oil prices improve.

“One of my fears is that it becomes a bit of a vicious circle when a few companies start trying to do some of these things. We have companies that respect their commitments. But everybody is competitive … and when your competitors are starting to try to walk away from things … it almost forces other companies to start working at doing the same thing.”

Alberta’s Farmers Advocate Office (FAO) issued an advisory about energy companies’ efforts to reduce their payments.

“The amount provided for annual rental is based on a landowner’s Adverse Effect and Loss of Use, not the state of the industry,” the FAO said.

“A company cannot unilaterally decide to reduce the amount of compensation provided to a landowner. Section 27 (6) of the Surface Rights Act entitles landowners to the opportunity to negotiate with industry in good faith.

“A landowner is under no obligation to accommodate the changing financial circumstances of a company.”

The FAO further stated that landowners can seek compensation for unpaid or reduced rents through the SRB, and cashing a cheque from an energy company does not necessarily imply acceptance of the amount.

Can landowners sell their leases with energy companies?

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The Western Producer

An investment company interested in buying energy company leases from landowners got the attention of Verna Phippen of Pigeon Lake, Alta.

She has several leases on her land and would like to be relieved of the dealings she said have become a headache. Trouble is, she isn’t sure about the long-term implications or even the legality of making such a deal.

“There’s a lot of hydrocarbons under my land so I get bombarded by the oil and gas industry on a constant basis,” said Phippen.

“I’m one of those landowners that, every time they file to get a license, I file an objection with the regulator. I would love nothing more than to get rid of these guys and have someone else deal with them.”

Surface Capital is offering to buy energy leases from farmers to amass a portfolio for shareholder investment. As reported in the April 4 issue of The Western Producer, it estimates there are 700,000 oil leases in Saskatchewan and Alberta that could be worth $10 billion.

With the drastic reduction in oil prices in the past two years, some energy companies are in default of lease payments or have gone bankrupt and abandoned wells. Some of those wells can still be productive, while others will require reclamation.

Karen Johnson, Alberta’s Property Rights Advocate, said April 28 that her office is aware of Surface Capital’s general plan but has not seen a copy of any proposed agreement.

She said it is not the advocate’s role to comment on whether this or any agreement is legal, but rather to assess property rights situations “and then determine if there’s any recommended changes to property rights laws or processes that I can make to government.”

Phippen wonders how a third party such as Surface Capital could claim loss of use and adverse effect on her land. Such loss is the basis for lease payments by energy companies to land owners.

“They do not own land, nor do they occupy it. All they have is my former revenue stream, which the grantee may cut them off of because I had loss of use and adverse effect as the landowner, but the enterprise does not,” Phippen wrote in an email.

The Alberta Farmer’s Advocate Office (FAO) recently issued a warning to landowners about selling leases. It said the Surface Rights Board is a recourse for landowners in cases where an energy company becomes insolvent or refuses to pay lease fees.

“To imply that no recourse for unpaid rentals is available is a misleading approach that capitalizes on landowner fears,” the FAO said.

Value provided is also an issue.

“At this point, the FAO has not confirmed what payout is being offered to landowners in ex­change for their surface rights. Since a landowner has a right to be paid in full until the reclamation is complete, assigning the annual compensation to a third party in perpetuity may prevent a landowner from receiving full value in return for the impacts they experience during the lifetime of the development.”

There may also be tax implications and effects on the marketability of the property.

Swans found dead near transmission towers

By , Postmedia

First posted:

 Swans found dead near transmission towers
Swans found dead near transmission towers. Photo by Mike Sturk

Greg Wagner said he’s been the caretaker of Frank Lake, which is important bird habitat, for almost five years.

He first noticed three dead swans in March 2015 and has found eight others on six other occasions — including one earlier this week.

“AltaLink, two years ago, went in and put in new lines so that the power lines now surround the western half of the lake,” said Wagner, a professional biologist.

“The new lines are higher and they also have a top wire … and it’s my understanding that’s for lightning protection.

“That is a single wire and it’s hell on birds.”

Since that line went in, he said he’s found the 11 dead trumpeter swans and a snowy owl carcass in the area — a number he believes could be up to 10 times higher because he’s only been in the area that’s accessible to the public.

Officials with AltaLink, which runs the line, said they’re taking the report from Wagner very seriously.

“We’re in the early stages of an investigation,” said Nikki Heck, who’s been an environmental advisor for AltaLink for 12 years.

“We have an on-staff avian biologist, in addition to myself, and he was out (Tuesday) night.

“He did not find any carcasses, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t there. They could have been scavenged.”

Wagner said he’s not 100% certain how the birds were killed, but the birds have always been found right under the lines.

“We do know that transmission lines have a major impact on trumpeter swans in the province,” he said, noting they aren’t as nimble as some birds.

“I would compare it to a passenger jet and a fighter jet: one can move on a dime; the other takes a little time to maneuver.

Heck said they know bird collisions can be an impact associated with transmission lines.

“AltaLink takes them very seriously,” she said, noting they will try to mitigate the situation based on the results of their investigation.

“We do have what’s called an avian protection plan.

Trumpeter swans, which stop at southern Alberta lakes in April as they migrate north, were recently removed from the province’s threatened species list.

They are still considered a species of special concern, with about 1,700 of the swans across Alberta.

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Oil companies bucking their commitments

April 11, 2016

By Jennifer Blair

AF Staff

Farmers are struggling to get oil companies to pay their leases and complete reclamation work on abandoned wells

There’s a wet spot originating from an oil well in Anthony Bruder’s pasture that his cows won’t drink from.

“I’ve seen cows walk up to it, sniff it, and then walk a half-mile to the other end of the field to drink from the lake,” said Bruder, who farms near Twin Butte.

“If the cows won’t drink out of a puddle, there’s something wrong with it.”

Bruder suspects the well — drilled in the 1950s “back when technology wasn’t that great and the environment wasn’t on anybody’s mind” — is contaminated. But for many oil and gas companies struggling through Alberta’s most recent economic downturn, reclamation work isn’t in the budget.“

The government has ordered the company to do the Phase 2 environmental assessment, where they’re supposed to come out and take soil samples,” said Bruder.“

That was supposed to have been done by Nov. 30, 2015. And nothing has been done. We’re sitting here and waiting for the Alberta Energy Regulator to basically force the order they gave the company.”

This is the latest chapter in a long saga for producers like Bruder, who has seen his oil leases change hands several times over the last two decades.

“Each company that gets in here is a little smaller and has less money,” he said. “We’re sitting here now with a company that never did have enough money to do reclamation.”

Getting paid for his leases, both about 10 acres, has been another ongoing challenge for Bruder.

“In four of the last five years, we’ve had to go to the Surface Rights Board and have it force the company to pay us,” said Bruder. “It’s a fight every year.”

Board ‘Swamped’

But Bruder isn’t alone in that fight. In the last year, the Surface Rights Board has received more than 750 new applications from producers who haven’t been paid for their oil leases.

“The Surface Rights Board is being swamped,” said Daryl Bennett, a partner in My Landman Group. “There have been some companies that have just chosen not to pay any rentals, and now we anticipate them receiving thousands of applications for these rentals.”

Applications to recover unpaid lease rents can take up to six months to process. Board staff take care of simple cases, but more complex ones go to a hearing, resulting in another six-month delay. Following the hearing, it can take a year to get a decision, with another two-month delay in getting paid.

“Some landowners could easily see more than a two-year time period before they recover any of these monies,” said Bennett.

“They have streamlined the process in some ways, but we are still seeing six-month delays or more even getting a response that the Surface Rights Board has received our application.”

For bankrupt oil companies, producers have to go through that process every year.

“We’re in discussions with the board to make that process a little more efficient and effective from the landowners’ standpoint,” said Bennett. “The board has adjusted the recurring application to make it less onerous.”

Many larger oil and gas companies have asked landowners to drop their rents as much as 50 per cent due to the poor economic conditions, he added.

“Almost all of the bigger companies are asking for rent reductions, and it’s going to get worse, especially the longer oil stays down,” he said. “But when oil prices were really high, these same companies weren’t sending these same landowners suggestions they increase their rentals by 50 per cent.

“It seems like the oil companies think that the landowners should have to subsidize them during these tougher economic times.”

Well Reclamation

But the real problem, said Bennett, lies in reclaiming these well sites once operators go bankrupt.

“These wells can take up to $1 million to reclaim,” he said. “The Orphan Well Association doesn’t have the funds needed, and where the funds are going to come from is unknown.”

The association saw “quite a jump” from 2014 to 2015 in the number of orphan wells in the province, said Brad Herald, the association’s chair. The association is funded by oil and gas companies and acts as a “safety net” to take care of well abandonment and reclamation for defunct operators.

“We went from 160 up to 700,” said Herald, who is also vice-president of Western Canada operations for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

“In response to the increase in inventory we’ve got, industry took the budget from $12 million to $30 million. We’ve seen more than a doubling in the budget in the last couple of years.”

But that’s just a “drop in the bucket” compared to what’s needed, said Bennett.

“The orphan well levy is basically a tax on solvent operators, so you’re having all the big guys having to pay for the reclamation of the bankrupt operators, and often, those guys didn’t put any money into the pot to take care of reclamation,” said Bennett.

“It’s basically a system where the last man standing has to take care of everybody else. That’s not fair.”

The “system is broken,” he said, and won’t be fixed until the price of oil goes back up.

“The orphan well funding process is broken because they’re not requiring them to provide the proper amount of money,” he said.

“This is not the time to ask those companies to increase their deposits. They simply don’t have the money. But when times improve, the government should be looking at this system and requiring industry to deposit the money necessary to reclaim these lands.”

Bruder agrees.

“If the government would have had the balls to enforce its own regulations on the industry, we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in right now,” said Bruder.

“Companies would have made sure they had a pile of money sitting aside to do these reclamation projects they knew they had to do, and we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in right now.”

The situation has got worse because of the downturn, said Bruder, but he was “fighting through this when oil was $100 a barrel.”

“These companies never thought they had to do what they were supposed to do and were never forced to do what they were supposed to do,” he said.

“They got away with it the whole damn time, so what difference does it make to them?

“If you sit back and hope the company is going to do the right thing, you’re going to be sitting there for a long time.”

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What the neighbours are paying doesn’t matter

Here are three ways to calculate fair rental rates — and none involves going to the coffee shop

APRIL 11, 2016


Determining a fair rental rate isn’t easy, says provincial farm business management specialist Dean Dyck “Often, people use what others are charging or paying in the local area,” said Dyck. “Following this approach has pitfalls because the rate may not be reflective of the soil productivity on the farm or there may be a difference between what was rumoured and what was actually paid.”

In Alberta, cash rent and crop share are the two most common rental arrangements. Cash rent is common because the lease is simple, the rent is fixed, and the landowner does not have to make any operating or marketing decisions. The tenant has more control over cropping decisions, and can benefit from higher profits.

A useful method to estimate a cash rent is called a “crop-share equivalent,” or the rental rate that would be received from a typical 75:25 crop-share lease. Computing the rate using this method requires estimates of long-term average yields in the area, and realistic prices for the coming year.

One way is to start with crop insurance yields and insurable prices, said Dyck.“Then apply a discount of 25 per cent for variability in weather, yields, and prices since the tenant is assuming all of these risks.”

The formula is: (yield x 25 per cent) x price x 75 per cent. Complete this calculation for at least four major crops grown in the area and take the average.

Another simple method is a percentage of gross returns. Compare cash rents in your area over the past five to 10 years against gross returns of crops that were grown. In many areas, cash rent is approximately 20 to 24 per cent of gross returns.

Crop-share rentals are becoming less common because many landowners do not want to take on yield or price risk. These leases are typically 75 per cent tenant: 25 per cent landlord. If fertilizer and chemicals are shared, then the lease shifts to 66 per cent tenant: 33 per cent landlord.

A general rule of thumb is “calculate, then negotiate.”

Tenants should know their cost of production and calculate the potential profit before establishing a fair price. While money plays a role, other factors will come into the negotiations such as land quality, location, compatibility, communications, and honesty.

“Once a price and terms have been agreed, the most important thing you can do is put the agreement in writing,” said Dyck. “This single act would eliminate the majority of disagreements that occur.”

Alberta Agriculture has a book — Leasing Cropland in Alberta — that can be purchased for $12. To order, go to (search for ‘leasing cropland’) or call 310-FARM.


AUC denies LLG request for review of Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock transmission line

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Pincher Creek Voice

Christian Davis

A request from the Livingstone Landowners Guild (LLG) for a review of the proposed Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock electricity transmission line was denied last month by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), which is the regulatory body for the utilities, natural gas, and electricity markets in Alberta.  LLG represents concerned landowners in the Oldman River watershed north of Highway 3 and east of the Livingstone Range into the Porcupine Hills.  In their application for review LLG questioned whether there was still a need for the transmission line, which is part of the Southern Alberta Transmission Reinforcement Project.

According to the AUC’s decision “The review panel concludes that the new facts or changed circumstances alleged in the review application were not new or different circumstances but rather future contingencies expressly contemplated in deciding prior need approvals applicable to the proposed Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock transmission line. The review panel also finds that there is no reasonable possibility that these alleged new facts or changed circumstances could lead the Commission to materially vary or rescind any of these three decisions approving need. No basis has been shown leaving the review panel with a substantial doubt as to the reasonableness of the various findings identified above made in these regards by the original panels in decisions 2009-126, 2010-343 and 2014-004. In particular, the review panel has no substantial doubt that the milestone identification and monitoring process implemented in Decision 2010-343 was a reasonable way for the original hearing panel to address the certainty required in the future that the proposed Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock transmission line will still then be needed and to have the AESO (Alberta Electric System Operator) make this assessment when the time came for construction of the transmission facilities.”

Alberta AG condemns Tory fail

13 Apr 2016

Lethbridge Herald



Alberta’s auditor general says the former Progressive Conservative government’s grand plan for 100 new schools was built on empty promises, administrative chaos, and almost no money. Merwan Saher, in a report issued Tuesday, said Albertans during the era of former premiers Alison Redford and Jim Prentice were promised something that had little hope of succeeding.

“I believe the lessons for ministers are don’t create false public expectations,” Saher told reporters after filing his report to the legislature.

Saher was asked last fall by Rachel Notley’s NDP government to investigate school construction under the previous two premiers after it announced there would be lengthy delays in 101 Tory-announced school projects.

In the decade prior to 2011 the province was building on average 18 schools a year, Saher said.

All changed under Redford’s government when it promised 50 new schools in 2012, but also introduced organizational changes that sowed confusion between the Education and Infrastructure departments with no clear hierarchy of authority, the auditor general said.

“No one was responsible for overall results,” Saher wrote.

Bureaucrats couldn’t give ministers the correct information because no one had the full picture, he said.

As a result, he wrote, “ministers made public commitments and announced completion dates without evidence those dates were reasonably attainable.”

Redford resigned as premier in March 2014 in a scandal over lavish spending on herself and inner circle.

She was replaced by Prentice whose government announced another 55 new schools.

But Saher said the funding in the budget for the schools was unclear under Redford and all but non-existent under Prentice.


Livestock tax a ‘very dangerous precedent’

13 Apr 2016

Lethbridge Herald

Dave Mabell Follow @DMabellHerald on Twitter

[email protected]

Plan angers independent business group

A tax on livestock production is the wrong way to pay for maintenance on rural roads. That’s the view of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, after hearing from hundreds of members in Lethbridge County.

Herald photo by Tijana Martin Follow @TMartinHerald on Twitter. Amber Ruddy, the Alberta director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, spoke to The Herald on Tuesday prior to attending a council meeting in Coalhurst.

They’re angry to hear Lethbridge County council plans to levy a $5 tax on every head of livestock, says CFIB spokesperson Amber Ruddy. Other counties and MDs have found other ways to keep their roads open, she says.

“This would be taxing one industry,” she said during an interview with The Herald Tuesday. “That would set a very dangerous precedent.”

The county says it’s planning the tax because it’s exhausted all other options, she noted. But it should look at contracting out more of its road work.

The livestock industry is already facing increased costs due to insurance and safety requirements in the province’s Bill 6, she said. Now Lethbridge-area producers are faced with additional costs.

“One sector can’t be hammered so hard,” she warned. “Everybody uses the roads, not just the farmers.”

If the tax is imposed despite their protests, Ruddy said, producers may decide to relocate to a lower-cost part of the province. Lethbridge County’s spending has grown far more rapidly than its population, she added.

The county may be getting some assistance from the provincial government, she predicted. If it follows through on its plans to increase spending on “core infrastructure,” the county should use those funds for road and bridge repair. “There’s nothing more core than that.” Looking to Thursday’s budget speech, Ruddy said CFIB members are hoping for a reduction in the province’s business tax — in light of this week’s announcement that it’s scrapping its proposed $178-million plan for tax credits to businesses which create new jobs.

Despite predictions of a provincial deficit of more than $10 billion this year, Ruddy said Alberta business owners are not in favour of a sales tax. That’s what other provinces use to help balance their books.

“That’s not popular among our members,” she said.

They don’t want to lose that “Alberta advantage” even though, she said, “That advantage is now razor thin.”



Study shows fracking behind Alta. quakes

30 Mar 2016

Lethbridge Herald


New research suggests that hydraulic fracking of oil and gas wells is behind earthquakes caused by humans in Western Canada.

A study, published Tuesday by a group of top Canadian researchers, says problems in Alberta and British Columbia aren’t being caused by injecting waste water underground. It’s a major step in understanding seismic events that have already led to changed regulations in Alberta and caused public concern in both provinces.

“It’s critical that we get to a complete scientific understanding of the issue,” said David Eaton, a University of Calgary geophysicist and a co-author of the study.

Fracking involves pumping high pressure fluids underground to create tiny cracks in rock to release natural gas or oil. Scientists had previously concluded that oil patch activity can cause earthquakes by making it easier for faults in underground rock to slip, but they didn’t know whether the Canadian quakes were caused by fracking or by the disposal of waste water by injecting it back underground.

Public interest has been high, especially after a tremblor in January shook pictures on the walls of homes in Fox Creek, Alta., a community in the centre of the Duvernay oil and gas field. Measuring between 4.2 and 4.8 on the Richter scale, the quake was the largest of hundreds of similar shakers around the community since 2013.

Eaton and his colleagues began with a database of more than 12,000 fracked and disposal wells drilled between 1985 and 2015. They cross-referenced that with another database of seismic events over that time.

A complex statistical analysis pinned the blame convincingly on fracking and not disposal, Eaton said.
“There are more earthquakes in Western Canada that are more related to hydraulic fracturing than waste-water injection by a factor of about two.”

Eaton said the situation is reversed in the United States, where waste-water disposal is considered to be behind most human-caused seismic activity.

That doesn’t mean that a lot of wells cause earthquakes. Eaton calculates that about 0.3 per cent of fracked wells create problems.

But there are enough wells drilled for even that tiny fraction to be a concern.

“Even at 0.3 per cent, because of the very large number of hydraulically fractured wells, it still represents an issue that is of high priority to address scientifically,” said Eaton.

Alberta’s energy regulator has already changed regulations for the industry as a result of the Fox Creek earthquakes. Eaton said regulators in British Columbia are also considering changes.

“The regulators have been quite responsive.”


Alberta Energy Minister keen on industry group’s well clean-up proposal

A pair of pumpjacks pump oil from an old well on a farmer's frozen field in a Pembina oil field near Pigeon Lake, Alta., in 2012. (Norm Betts/Bloomberg)
A proposal to use federal infrastructure funds to accelerate the cleanup of inactive oil and gas wells in Alberta – with the aim of spurring employment in the ailing industry – has the thumbs-up of the province’s Energy Minister.

The Petroleum Services Association of Canada announced Monday that it made the $500-million pitch to Ottawa earlier this month. The sum would cover a small fraction of the work needed to decommission the 75,000 wells across the province that are no longer producing.

“Good on them,” Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd said of PSAC’s move.

“That is one way to get Albertans back to work in the interim and it isn’t unprecedented,” she told reporters after speaking at an energy conference in Calgary on Tuesday.

McCuaig-Boyd referred to the Alberta government’s $30-million contribution to the province’s orphan well fund during the last downturn in 2009.

While Alberta does have a polluter-pay policy that makes companies responsible for well decommissioning, McCuaig-Boyd says the province also has big economic problems.

“I think we could put a lot of folks to work in a fairly quick time (with the federal money) because the skills are out there right now and it is an issue that needs to be dealt with,” she said.

“It will provide some jobs. No solution is going to provide jobs for everybody, but we need to look at how we can get as many Albertans back to work as we can.”

The Saskatchewan government made a similar federal pitch last month.

That province’s proposal would cost Ottawa $156-million and would generate an estimated 1,200 jobs over the next two years.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said he’s not heard back from Ottawa yet on his proposal, but that he’ll be watching next week’s federal budget “very, very closely.”

“We’re hopeful (the PSAC ask) helps . . . provide some momentum to our request and that the federal government would indeed go with our request,” Wall said in a phone interview during an election campaign stop in Saskatoon.

Meanwhile, in her speech, McCuaig-Boyd touched on pipelines, saying the NDP government is taking a “calm and strategic” approach to the heated issue.

“We will get nowhere by beating our chests and shaming people into getting what we want,” she said. “That strategy has been tried in the past here in Alberta and federally and, to be honest, it’s failed miserably. Instead, we are taking a different approach.”

She said without a pipeline to the West Coast, the industry will slow down and have a lower demand for the hydroelectric power British Columbia wants to sell to Alberta.

“There’s a little give and take needed,” said McCuaig-Boyd, who added that she has not yet had the chance to broach the topic with her B.C. counterpart.

“If we don’t get the pipelines we’re not going to need as much power, so it’s plain and simple.”


‘Orphan’ wells left behind in oil slump

A pump jack on land south of Calgary, whose owner fears the well will soon be considered orphaned.A pump jack on land south of Calgary, whose owner fears the well will soon be considered orphaned. Chris Bolin/Chris Bolin

As companies in Alberta’s oil patch fight for survival, some are not decommissioning and cleaning up old sites, reports Kelly Cryderman

Hundreds of thousands of oil and natural gas wells dot Alberta’s landscape, and all are supposed to be sealed and cleaned up by their owners once their productive life is over.

But the dramatic crude price drop that began in mid-2014 means many energy companies, especially smaller producers, are fighting for their survival. If a wave of weaker oil and natural gas companies go bust before doing legally required end-of-life work, they will leave multiple “orphan” wells behind.

“In my mind, there’s no winner here. It’s going to cost somebody, and possibly the taxpayer in the end,” says Patricia Walker, a High River, Alta.-based consultant hired by landowners to help with disputes with energy firms.

To help protect the province from the financial risk of a massive environmental cleanup of old wells, the government has required companies to have enough assets or keep enough funds on hand to properly decommission their own sites. And even if this system doesn’t work, the oil industry as a whole funds an Orphan Well Association that works to seal up and “reclaim” the land around old, unwanted wells.

But there are warning signs the oil-price rout – and another year of casualties for Canadian junior and intermediate oil and gas companies – could dampen enthusiasm for the continuing care of the province’s well sites. According to Sayer Energy Advisors, 20 oil and gas companies went into receivership in 2015, compared with a typical annual average of around eight. Companies with larger inventories of wells could be “the next big blow up,” according to a report from the firm earlier this year.

Gale Tharle, a 4th-generation Alberta rancher, is photographed on his land an hour south of Calgary.Gale Tharle, a 4th-generation Alberta rancher, is photographed on his land an hour south of Calgary.

Chris Bolin

Already, the last 18 months have seen a major increase in the workload for Alberta’s Orphan Well Association. The number of orphan wells awaiting cleanup jumped significantly, going to around 700 from a previous total of 162. And a government-funded board forecasts that this year will see a dramatic increase in the government’s tab for lease payments to farmers and other landowners – meaning many small oil and gas companies no longer have the available cash to service their most basic of business costs.

Ms. Walker said her company, My Landman Group Inc., is helping Gale Tharle, a landowner near Mossleigh, Alta., who hasn’t been paid rent by the small oil producer who has one well on his land for three years. The rancher is now involved in a complex quest to receive the rent he is due, and is also grappling with invasive weeds, an old working shack with broken windows, and a pump-jack in disrepair on his land. Ms. Walker believes the insolvent company’s assets will eventually end up being added to the Orphan Well Association’s rolls.

“It looks like everybody will be out of luck.”

Wells and wellheads

Suspended well: A well that still has wellhead equipment present and may have produced in the past. These wells are currently not in production, usually due to economic reasons. But they may become active again with improved technology, infrastructure or commodity pricing. To suspend a well, an operator must notify the energy regulator and perform a series of procedures to ensure that the well poses no risk to the public and environment while it’s inactive.

Abandoned well: A decomissioned well where the wellbore has been properly cleaned and plugged, and cut and capped – which involves cutting the well casing a minimum of one metre below the surface and placing a vented cap on top of the well casing.

Reclaimed wellsite: A wellsite which has been properly abandoned, and has received a reclamation certificate for the land surface. Upon completion of oil and gas activity, a company must return the land as close as possible to its original state.

Orphan well: A well that has been investigated and confirmed as not having any legally responsible or financially able party to deal with its abandonment and reclamation.

Sources: The Alberta government, the Alberta Energy Regulator and the Orphan Well Association

According to the Alberta Energy Regulator, more than 440,000 wells have been drilled in the province since 1963. Of those, 67,000 have been sealed up in a process called abandonment by the oil and gas industry and 105,000 have been both abandoned and have had the land cleaned up (reclaimed).

Of those that remain, many are still in use and have a productive life ahead of them. But there are tens of thousands, at least, that need to be abandoned and reclaimed.

“Albertans expect that the polluter clean up their mess. There is room to improve the current policies. That is why this government is looking at ways to make improvements,” said Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd.

The NDP government is in talks with the Alberta Energy Regulator about how to best address the issue of aging energy-sector infrastructure, but the province doesn’t have rules governing specific timelines for when wells need to be cleaned up. Industry watchers say the cleanup of old well sites won’t be a priority for companies being forced to lay off workers and struggling to stay afloat.

“How many non-producing wells are just being left sitting out there with nothing being done to clean up the oil industry’s legacy?” said Edmonton-based landowner advocate and lawyer Keith Wilson, who has long expressed concerns about the costs of cleaning up a growing inventory of wells in the province.

Mr. Wilson and others say with no specific timeline attached to the cleanup, some oil companies will simply keep wells in an inactive or suspended state – and will therefore avoid the biggest cleanup costs that can sometimes run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, per well, or more. He worries some level of government, and citizens, will eventually end up footing the bill for the cleanup, including those sites with land and water contamination issues.

WellsWells in the Orphan Well Association’s inventory
THE GLOBE AND MAIL SOURCE: Orphan well association

The industry acknowledges the dramatic oil-price decline – spurred by worldwide crude surpluses – is putting pressure on Alberta’s safety net for dealing with wells with no current economic value.

“The speed of the drop has really been challenging for the entire sector, globally,” said Brad Herald, a director of the Orphan Well Association and a vice-president at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).

But Mr. Herald also emphasized that many currently inactive wells are still assets, not liabilities, and may be returned to productive use when the time is right. He also said that wells from bankrupted companies are often sold to more solvent players, and it’s not a given that wells from insolvent companies will end up as orphans.

“Whenever there are companies in receivership, there’s more risk that we ultimately might see more orphans – and there are some sizable companies in receivership. But there’s also a fair bit of interest in the packages right now,” he said.

“It is great opportunity for companies if there is some cash flow elasticity to build their portfolio.”

And in Alberta, safeguards are in place to make sure that the “polluter pays” principle is upheld. One safeguard is the Alberta Energy Regulator’s licensee liability rating (LLR) program, which uses a comparison of assets to cleanup liability costs. When the liabilities outweigh the assets, the company must put up a cash deposit for the difference.

Even when the government’s system doesn’t work, and individual companies go bankrupt without cleaning up their old sites – there is a fail-safe. The Orphan Well Association, funded by industry levies, is designed to provide a safety net when companies fail and there is no market for their assets. Over the past 25 years, the industry has put more than $200-million into properly sealing and cleaning up old sites.


In light of the

economic conditions and the increased workload for the association, Mr. Herald notes the industry has doubled the association’s annual budget to $30-million from the previous $15-million.

There are also requests from some quarters to the federal government for cash. Last month, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall called on Ottawa to come up with $156-million to clean up 1,000 non-producing wells in his province as a job stimulus program. And this week the Petrole

um Services Association of Canada made a similar request for Alberta’s much more numerous wells – asking for $500-million in federal infrastructure dollars to put a dent in the association’s estim

ate of about 75,000 inactive wells requiring abandonment and surface reclamation, with the similar argument the plan will create jobs, retain expertise, and provide economic and environmental benefits.

There is a precedent for a government infusion of cash for a cleanup: In the global downturn of 2008, the Alberta government gave an extra $30-million to the Orphan Well Association for cleanup work.

Both Mr. Wall and the association say the extraordinary economic fragility in Western Canada’s economy demands this type of response – and are looking to next week’s federal budget for news. Even critics such as Mr. Wilson concede it might be cheaper to clean up many of these sites sooner rather than later.

However, the downturn in the energy industry has also created a new source of discontent among the farmers of Alberta, who for decades have been sharing their land with oil and gas companies. If there are no environmental problems, many landowners are happy to receive the “rents” energy firms pay for access to the land and to compensate farmers for their loss of use of it.

But a growing cohort of mostly smaller firms, many financially strapped, have stopped making these rent payments on their wells, especially in the last two years. In cases where energy companies don’t pay, the Alberta government is supposed to pay the landowner and chase after the company to be reimbursed.

The Surface Rights Board – a quasi-judicial body that helps resolve disputes between landowners and mineral rights holders – has been overwhelmed by an increase in work and costs related to unpaid rents.

The board paid out more than $1.7-million in 2015, compared with about $722,000 in 2014. Chairman Gerald Hawranik forecasts government-funded payouts to landowners for rents they are owed by energy companies will hit $3.5-million in the coming fiscal year.

“It has been escalating,” Mr. Hawranik said. “Almost every month there are more applications.”


Well cleanup proposal has merit

8 Mar 2016  Lethbridge Herald

The idea of putting federal money toward cleaning up old oil and gas wells continues to gain support. Last month, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall pitched a request for $156 million in federal funding to clean up non-producing wells in his province. Then this week, an energy industry group, the Petroleum Services Association of Canada, announced it has asked Ottawa for $500 million in infrastructure dollars to clean up inactive oil and gas wells.

Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd threw her support behind the PSAC’s request, saying, “Good on them. That is one way to get Albertans back to work in the interim and it isn’t unprecedented.”

McCuaig-Boyd was referring to the $30 million the Alberta government contributed to cleaning up orphan wells during the last economic downturn in 2009.

We’ll have to wait and see if the Trudeau government’s first federal budget, to be announced next Tuesday, contains any money for such a proposal, but after Wall made his pitch in early February, Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said there was a possibility Ottawa could help pay for such work. Carr noted while restoring habitat around inactive wells is the responsibility of the energy companies, he acknowledged the government is well aware of the need to restore jobs to regions hard hit by slumping oil prices.

The call for federal help to deal with these wells has merit. For one thing, when an oil company goes bankrupt, abandoned wells have no one to look after the rehabilitation process. Alberta reportedly has 700 such wells, and a Saskatchewan government spokesperson told Reuters it anticipates that 1,000 wells will be abandoned in addition to the 100 already-abandoned wells.

Wall said the federal program to assist with well cleanup could result in 1,200 jobs, direct and indirect, in the oil and gas support sector — jobs that are needed in view of the layoffs that have hit the oilpatch during the fall in oil prices.

McCuaig-Boyd also pointed to the jobs aspect of the idea.

“I think we could put a lot of folks to work in a fairly quick time because the skills are out there right now and it is an issue that needs to be dealt with,” she said.

In all, Alberta has some 75,000 wells that are no longer producing and $500 million would cover only a fraction of the work necessary to decommission that many wells, according to a Canadian Press story in Wednesday’s Herald.

But it would be a start, and as the proponents note, it would create jobs — jobs that are badly needed in the oilpatch right now, and for Alberta’s economy as a whole.

If the federal government has room in its 2016 budget for this proposal, it could be money well spent.

Comment on this editorial online at


Hope is blowing in the wind

18 Mar 2016   Lethbridge Herald

Bill Graveland


Alberta’s wind energy industry getting bigger role

There are three things one can be assured of in the Pincher Creek area of southwestern Alberta — death, taxes and the wind will blow.

Windswept is the word often used to describe the region with its rolling hills, cattle ranches, farms and the Rocky Mountains to the west.

And it is the wind that’s eliciting some optimism at a time when Canada is seeking to reduce its carbon footprint and turn to alternative energy sources.

With their giant 80-metre-high turbines stretching as far as the eye can see and 45metre-long blades turning gracefully in the breeze, wind farms are potentially a big beneficiary of changes promised by both the Alberta and federal governments.

“The wind is always blowing in southern Alberta it seems,” said Wayne Oliver, TransAlta’s operations supervisor for the region, which includes Fort Macleod.

“For the locals who have grown up around the wind from childhood, it’s just another day for them.”

TransAlta, Canada’s largest publicly traded power generator and marketer of electricity and renewable energy, has 460 wind turbines in the area. Some of the older models are being decommissioned and the pricetag for new ones isn’t cheap, running between $2 million and $5 million, depending on the output, which can be as much as three million watts of electricity per hour.

But Oliver said 100 megawatts of energy will supply the needs of about 120,000 homes.

He also said most people don’t understand where their electricity comes from.

“The general public just wants to know that when they hit the switch the lights will come on and they can cook supper when they get home from work.”

With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promising to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and Alberta’s plan to impose a broad carbon tax and eventually end coalfired electricity generation, wind energy is getting increased attention.

“We have a long-term, viable resource in the quantity of wind that blows through southern Alberta,” Oliver said.

“Until we get to the point that we’d have large-scale battery storage of wind energy, wind is always going to be supplemental to a base power load structure,” he added.

“In Alberta we have coal and natural gas, we have some hydro. These are our baseload generators and wind can nicely supplement that for the time being.”

TransAlta said last month that plans to invest in hydroelectric, wind, solar and natural gas co-generation facilities in Alberta were “on hold” until the details of the province’s climate change plans are known.


Proposed transmission line threatens heritage rangeland

21 Feb 2016

Lethbridge Herald  LETTERS

Southwestern Alberta is more than a place to live; it’s the heart and soul of Alberta’s heritage rangeland. It’s an increasingly rare piece of Alberta’s once vast natural capital. Plants, birds and animals that are threatened on the nearby landscape thrive here because of landowners’ careful stewardship.

The ecological health of this land forms the foundation on which geotourism operators — including B&Bs, fishing guides and equestrian trail riders — build businesses.

This landscape’s arresting, unspoiled beauty attracts film companies and Hollywood producers. These same virtues are the reason Travel Alberta, showcasing the world-class appeal of southwestern Alberta, markets it around the world.

AltaLink proposes to have the people of Alberta spend $750 million to erect a new transmission line that invades this iconic heritage viewscape and industrializes the headwaters of the Oldman watershed. I ask these questions: 1. How can it be, especially in times of acute economic uncertainty, that AltaLink can propose to build a lattice-tower array that isn’t needed, plan to locate it the worst possible place, and expect Albertans to pay for the product?

2. Do Albertans want to spend the better part of $1 billion to erect an ugly, steel-and-wire electrical substation at heaven’s gate?

One profound reason this headwaters landscape is without industrial development is this: Landowners, government fish and wildlife officials, land trusts, and environmental not-for-profits have invested time and money to protect wildlife habitat, native grasslands and forests of ancient limber pines.

One of AltaLink’s proposed routes, if realized, would carve an industrial route through, or be located directly adjacent to, eight conservation easements. In other words, what society has laboured to protect for posterity, AltaLink has chosen to degrade for short-term corporate profit … doing this with the expectation that the people of Alberta will accept the destruction and pick up the bill.

We can’t let this happen. We can’t allow AltaLink to devalue Alberta’s premier viewscapes and diminish this region’s sustainable rural economy, or put land, groundwater resources, native grasslands and the health of livestock and wildlife at further risk.

David McIntyre

Crowsnest Pass


Landowners oppose transmission line

21 Feb 2016

Lethbridge Herald

J.W. Schnarr

[email protected]


A group opposed to transmission line development planned for the Pincher Creek area say while they support the development of renewable energy, the Chapel Rock transmission line is an expensive and unnecessary burden that will be forced onto the shoulders of ratepayers.

Ted Smith, president of the Livingstone Landowners Guild, said an analysis of the project by the group has identified a number of concerns.

“Our main concern is that it is completely not needed,” he said. “The need for this line was decided in 2008, and things have drastically changed since then.”

In a Feb. 7 news release, the guild stated the cost of the project has increased from $180 million eight years ago to $750 million currently.

They also state the line is no longer needed, as previous projects in the area have lapsed or been abandoned. Turbine technology has also changed to the point where turbines can operate in less-wind proof areas, closer to current transmission lines.

More equitable distribution would also add to reliability and consistency of power delivery, according to the release.

Another major criticism of the line is the belief it would degrade the tourism and aesthetic value of the area, as well as be an unnecessary intrusion on environmentallysensitive land.

The guild states the development is in violation of the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, which directs industrial development to use “existing disturbed corridors.”

Smith said the guild is not against development, but that they try to support development that “makes sense, and that can be aesthetically, environmentally, and economically.

“We’re not an anti – (development) group,” he said. “We’re very much support it. Our group started out with some oil and gas proposals, and we just worked with the companies and got them to (develop) in a more sensible fashion.”

Smith said as it stands, there is no way the guild can support the line.

“It’s totally ridiculous,” he said. “It makes absolutely no sense.”

He added the group consulted with engineers who stated the job could be done in a different manner that would cost far less.

The Livingstone Landowners Guild is comprised of ranchers, acreage-owners, local business operators, and others interested in maintaining the aesthetic and ecological virtues and quality of life of local residents. Currently, Smith said there are as many as 90 families involved in the organization.

“It’s just all local people that have come together to support good development and oppose things that are being done badly,” he said.

Follow @JWSchnarrHerald on Twitter


Betting the farm on big data Agriculture industry using innovation to boost yields and profits

14 Feb 2016   Lethbridge Herald    Ian Bickis THE CANADIAN PRESS — CALGARY

The family farm is going high-tech. From robotic milking machines to datagathering drones, industry watchers say technology is making agriculture more precise and efficient as farmers push for increased profits and yields.

Associated Press photo In this Sept. 18, 2014 photo, with the drone’s camera aimed at himself, Dwight, Ill., farmer Matt Boucher demonstrates the maneuverability of the craft at his farm. The family farm is going high-tech. From robotic milking machines to data-gathering drones, industry watchers say technology is making agriculture more precise and efficient as farmers push for increased profits and yields.“There’s a whole confluence of technologies that are adding a lot of value on the farm quickly,” said Aki Georgacacos, co-founder of Calgary-based Avrio Capital.

The venture capital firm focuses on agriculture and food innovations, and Georgacacos says changes like fine-detailed mapping and sensors for everything from soil moisture to fuel use are just beginning.

“We’re not even scratching the surface,” he said, adding an older generation of farmers have been slow to adopt new techniques. But that’s changing. “Right now we’re at a bit of an inflection point, where we’ve moved beyond early adopters and we’re moving now into fast followers, and so we’re getting to a point where the rate at which some of this technology is accepted is accelerating.”

On Monday, Avrio Capital finished raising $110 million in late-stage venture capital that it plans to invest in the next wave of farm-tech companies.

One of them is Fredericton, N.B.-based Resson Aerospace, which has developed drone-based crop monitoring to know when fields need to be sprayed or watered.

Another is Winnipeg-based Farmers Edge, which 10 years ago was based out of Wade Barnes’s basement in rural Manitoba, where he and cofounder Curtis MacKinnon were pushing to make local farms more efficient.

Barnes started introducing farmers to technology that allowed them to apply varying amounts of fertilizer on their fields depending on where it was most needed.

“That was quite revolutionary back in 2005,” Barnes said in an interview.

Today, the company has evolved into what Barnes says is one of the biggest in the world working in farm data management, using cloud computing to crunch numbers from soil sensors, satellite imagery, weather stations and other inputs to make farms more efficient.

In January, Farmers Edge secured a $58-million investment from investors including Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co. and Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

“The next big revolution in agriculture is big data,” said Barnes from southern Russia, where he was setting up another satellite office for the company now operating on four continents.

Already, he said, farmers are seeing 30 per cent increases in productivity by using the data available, and the technology is only getting more accessible. A system that five years ago would have cost $15 to $25 an acre now costs under $5, said Barnes.

Cheaper technology and advancements in productivity are more important than ever as pressure mounts on the world’s food systems, says Viacheslav Adamchuk, an associate professor in McGill University’s bioresource engineering department.

“We are not going to see more arable land; land is all allocated. The population is growing, the climate is changing,” he said.

Adamchuk’s research has focused on sensor technology in farming, which he says has come down dramatically in price in recent years while at the same time growing in precision.

He estimates that farmers can shave off at least 10 per cent — and upwards of 40 per cent — of their input costs on things like fertilizer, seeds and water thanks to global positioning systems and sensors that allow them to use those resources only where needed.

“You can maintain the same yield with less inputs,” said Adamchuk.

Stan Blade, dean of the University of Alberta’s faculty of agricultural, life and environmental sciences, says innovation is key for the future of farming.

“The farmers who succeed are the ones who are going to incorporate new technologies,” he said.

“Auto-steered tractors, yield monitors on combines — I mean we’re all using those things now because it just makes us that much more efficient. They decrease labour, they make things more efficient, they make things safer, so it just presents a whole array of new opportunities for producers that are involved in generating these yields.”


Which alternate energy sources make most sense?


14 Feb 2016   Lethbridge Herald

I thank Mr. Schaupmeyer for his cost assessment of the application of wind turbines to our future energy needs, with back-up energy facilities and without coal-sourced electricity ( Jan. 28). I also thank Mr. Voutsinos for his considerations when gas turbines are the main back-up to wind turbines (Feb. 6). The contributions relate to the following recent events:

1. On Nov. 20, 2015, the Alberta Climate Change Advisory Panel submitted its recommendations to the Minister of Environment;

2. Two days later Alberta government announced the phaseout of coal burning electricity plants in 15 years;

3. On Dec. 12, 2015, most countries of 195 agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (Paris agreement). The present technology of burning coal is a major source of greenhouse gases and needs to be phased out globally. Which energy source(s) do we choose as the best replacement for coal plants? These plants supply some 55 per cent of our electricity. With respect to intermittent energy from wind, the back-up energy may be sourced from the following:

1. Thousands of wind turbines in many locations in Alberta; or

2. Natural gas turbines with greenhouse gas emissions; or

3. Nuclear power with unresolved waste issue; 4. Combination of the above. The following alternate sources of back-up energy do not apply in Alberta: 1. Hydro (not enough); 2. Biomass (not enough, costly, and misuse of organic matter);

3. Geothermal (remote locations and too costly);

4. Solar (not enough for 3-4 months of the year and too costly, as yet).

Which combination of energy sources makes the most economic and environmental sense? Which combination is sustainable?

Future electrical energy secured without cheap coal will be expensive. Unsubsidized prices for electricity will control consumption, a form of demand management to reduce emissions.

The German government is convening a “round table” of key players — including unions, energy firms and environmentalists — to develop a schedule for the exit of its 40 coal-burning power plants by 2040. This schedule is to be completed in 2016.

Klaus Jericho



Why does wind-energy industry need subsidies?


14 Feb 2016  Lethbridge Herald

In his Monday’s sermon “Praise the Wind” (Feb 8/16), Mr. Hornung, the president of Canadian Wind Energy Association, claims that wind turbines: don’t cause health issues; kill only a very few birds; don’t need continuing shadowing from other electricity sources; that their costs are decreasing; that wind energy today is competitive; and that wind is free.

If all of these claims are true, why then does the wind industry need subsidies, preferential treatment and carbon certificates to make it viable? Why is Mr. Hornung trying to obtain the $20-billion contracts for wind power to be irrevocable for 20 years?

The time has come when Mr. Hornung needs to put his money where his mouth is. How about including in the contracts a clause that in the event that electricity prices increase at rates faster than inflation, the irrevocability of his contracts will become null and void. The government of the day could then follow the example of U.K., Germany and Spain and cancel these contracted subsidies without penalty.

The problem is Mr. Hornung will go on damage control instead, because sanity and rationalism have been cast aside and the whole arena is now a political and ideological battleground whose main protagonists understand nothing about how power generation works.

A few years from now, when power blackouts are complemented by high electricity prices, people will learn the consequences of these actions, but it will have been the hard way.

Cosmos Voutsinos



Tech advances aid wind energy

By Schnarr, J.W. on February 8, 2016.


[email protected]

Alberta’s plans for wind energy are a sign the province is becoming part of a larger global movement toward renewables, says the president of Canada’s wind energy association.

“Wind is now very much a mainstream power generation technology,” said Robert Hornung, president of Canadian Wind Energy Association.

“Today, wind energy is competitive with any form of electricity generation with the potential exception of natural gas,” he added. “And that’s only if you consider no carbon pricing or if you don’t think the price of natural gas will go up in the next 25 years.

“Alberta is not doing something that no one else has done. They’re following what we’re really seeing as a global trend.”

Hornung cited complaints that wind energy is problematic due to the variable nature of generation. A recent article in The Herald spoke about how new wind projects would have to be backed up with wasteful backup energy projects. Hornung said that is not the case.

“There’s a common misperception that when you build a variable generation source, like wind, then you need something to match it one-to-one,” he said.

Hornung said current systems already in place also have functioning backups built in.

“In Alberta today, if a coal plant shuts down tomorrow, you still need to provide power,” he said. “So there are backup reserves to allow that.

“Those backup reserves can also be used to manage the variability of sources like wind.”

Hornung said although wind does ultimately need to be partnered with another energy source, the amount of pairing needed is much less than commonly assumed.

He said any energy source being partnered with wind should be flexible, and easy to ramp up and down based on need. And while natural gas inside Alberta would certainly work, projects outside of Alberta have seen pairings with hydro electric energy and development of storage technology, allowing the wind energy to essentially back up itself.

“There’s a range of different solutions,” he said. “But in Alberta, it’s going to make sense that natural gas plays an important role in that.”

Hornung said while turbine design has not changed in years, the costs associated with generating electricity have fallen significantly.

“In the United States, it has been estimated the cost from wind has fallen 61 per cent in the past six years.”

One of the reasons for this reduction in cost is wind turbines are taller than they were in the past, allowing for longer fan blades. Another is the material used by designers has improved, making the turbines stronger and more efficient

Other types of advances being seen in the industry include lightweighting the turbines and improved data management for integration and adaptation.

A common issue for people opposing wind energy involve the perceived damage to local wildlife, as birds and bats can sometimes be killed by turbines.

Hornung said it is an issue the industry takes seriously, and one they are working toward minimizing. However, he said critics often miss the context of animal deaths when compared to other risks.

“Are there bird deaths around wind turbines?” he asked. “Absolutely. Per turbine, it’s going to be (four to six) bird deaths per year.”

He noted when compared to other dangers for birds, such as skyscrapers, transmission towers and even house cats, turbines represent a very small danger to the creatures. And the largest danger to birds is something wind energy is designed to combat.

“The largest single threat to birds today is climate change,” said Hornung. “You can certainly argue that wind can help in terms of helping address that challenge.”

He said a larger challenge exists protecting bat populations, as there is less known about their behaviour. Hornung said those involved in wind energy have been heavily involved with scientists who study bats, and work is ongoing.

“It certainly would be incorrect to say there are no impacts,” he said. “But it’s important to put those into context and it’s important to the industry to do as much as they can to mitigate those impacts.

Finally, Hornung addressed the myth that wind turbines cause health issues. He said the concensus among scientists is there are no links between wind turbines and human health.

“Actually, the most comprehensive study was done by Health Canada last year,” he said. “The one thing they did find was that wind turbines can cause annoyance.”

For more information on wind energy, visit or


Stable power grid requires reserve capacity

By Letter to the Editor on February 6, 2016.

Re: “Correcting wind energy errors,” by Robert Hornung, president CanWEA, Jan. 23.

Mr. Hornung, perhaps unintentionally, ended up misleading Albertans with his letter. Yes, in order for the grid to be stable and reliable, some kind of reserve capacity is always required, ready to kick in when one of the stations has a problem or shutdown. However, the amount of capacity reserve is defined by the current potential unreliability of the electricity-producing stations in a grid. The higher the unreliability, the higher the needed capacity reserve.

Currently Alberta’s grid is supplied by high-reliability gas and coal power plants that don’t shut down when a cloud passes, at sunset, or when the wind drops. If we go ahead and increase the renewables to supply 30 per cent of the grid, it means that we will be increasing the grid’s unreliability and as a result, we will need a higher number of gas-powered plants to be on stand-by. These reserves will have to be at least 30 per cent of the grid, thus duplicating capital and operating costs and hence increasing our electricity bills.

Having gas-fired plants on spinning reserve, means these gas power plants will run inefficiently continuously, producing little or no power in order to be ready. Running the spinning reserve not only increases the cost but also continuously emits CO2 to our atmosphere from the gas turbines that need to be shadowing unreliable wind power.

Considering the CO2 emissions resulting from the making of the steel towers and concrete bases of the wind turbines, plus the continuing necessity to shadow them with gas turbines, a question needs to be answered: “Does wind power contribute anything more than increased costs of electricity, higher redundancy, and a need for subsidies, all without saving the significant amount of CO2 from our environment, as promised?”

The Energy Collegium stands behind the accuracy of its statements and invites Mr. Hornung to send his experts to Lethbridge where we can help them understand the differences between “regulation reserve,” “capacity reserve” and “spinning reserve” of a grid system. This should help the president of CanWEA to stop confusing the different meanings of these terms.

Cosmos Voutsinos



Energy use, emissions to rise, says NEB report

28 Jan 2016 Lethbridge Herald
Energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in Canada will continue to grow over the next 24 years regardless of whether oil prices rise or pipeline projects are built, a report from the National Energy Board says.
“Scenarios like high or low oil and natural gas prices, or whether or not we build pipelines or we build LNG terminals … are not sufficient to put Canada on a path to declining greenhouse gas emissions,” said board chairman and CEO Peter Watson, who presented the report’s findings to the Toronto Region Board of Trade.
The study released Wednesday takes a long-term view of the country’s energy future and expects power consumption to grow by about 20 per cent by 2040.
The markets will supply Canada’s demand for energy, and fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions are anticipated to increase. Fluctuating oil prices or possible future development of pipelines don’t necessarily impact this, Watson said.
The report offers a number of projections.
Under one scenario, it expects oil prices to climb to US$80 per barrel in four years, with that rising to US$105 per barrel by 2040. In that case, Canadian energy production is forecast to increase 56 per cent to 6.1 million barrels daily by 2040. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers forecast daily production at 3.9 million barrels last year.
If no new pipelines are built during that time, oil production would be 5.6 million barrels daily by 2040.


Emissions cut will come at a cost for Albertans

26 Jan 2016 Lethbridge Herald
A new study has found that Alberta’s climate change initiatives would result in big emission reductions but power producers would need significantly higher renewable rates to justify building wind and solar power.
The report, prepared by utilities consultant EDC Associates Ltd., looked at the impact of the NDP government’s plan to phase out coal power by 2030 and source 30 per cent of energy from renewable sources.
It found that the boost in renewables and the end of coal would mean a 45 per cent reduction in emissions, or 18.5 million fewer tonnes of carbon released into the atmosphere a year.
However, under the province’s privatized utility system, prices for renewable power would have to be between $60 to $85 per megawatt hour to justify wind power construction.
And if solar power were to make up 50 per cent of the renewables mix, power producers would need prices of between $200 and $300 per megawatt hour for solar, the study found.
Those high-rate renewable prices would fall under a separate pricing system that would encourage renewable energy installation.
The report also found that the early closure of coal power plants would mean power producers lose out on anywhere between $3 billion and $16 billion in gross operating margin, depending on how much future earnings are valued and how many years of lost production are compensated.
The NDP government has not made a clear commitment to compensate producers for the early closure of coal-fired power plants, but it has said it would treat producers “fairly” and not “unnecessarily strand capital.”
Allen Crowley, co-author of the study at EDC, said he wasn’t making any policy recommendations and was simply trying to figure out the impact of the new plan. His one recommendation was for the government to take things slow.
“The policy choices are so complicated that they really shouldn’t be going quite so fast,” said Crowley.
“It’s just too big of a thing. It’s a great, big, huge cruise ship that you’re pulling into harbour at 100 miles an hour. It’s not a good strategy.”


New electricity plan a waste of Albertans’ money

28 Jan 2016 Lethbridge Herald – Letters to the Editor

Re: “Correcting wind energy errors,” Jan. 23 Herald.

Robert Hornung, president of CanWEA, discussed “reserves” in a failed effort to pretend all is well in wind’s fantasyland. His mission was to divert attention from the fact that Albertans will pay billions for CanWEA’s and the government’s green dreams. Hornung also failed to mention that CanWEA has asked your Alberta government for subsidies as wind can’t compete because of its abysmal performance.

The annual output of wind is an unreliable 30 per cent of its nameplate capacity, but output varies a lot. For example, the weekly report for Jan. 14 to 20 showed that wind produced a pathetic 19 per cent of its capacity. Worse still, for 50 hours that week, wind produced effectively no electricity! Read the grim statistics in AESO’s weekly reports at

The government proposes to close coal plants by 2030, stating, “Two-thirds … replaced by renewable energy; one-third … by natural gas.” Most of the renewable electricity will come from wind. About 12,000 MW of new turbines will be needed to produce two-thirds of coal’s soon-to be lost 44,000 GW of power. Recently, CanWEA told our government that we need up to 15,000 MW of new renewables, including 9,000 MW of wind.

CanWEA reports that turbines cost over $2 million per megawatt. Thus, using CanWEA’s own figures, the necessary turbines will cost at least $20 billion and Albertans will pay one way or another. In addition, customers will pay billions for new transmission lines that Alberta Energy said will be needed to integrate wind. Then add a few billion for extra gas capacity and 10 billion tax dollars to buy out coal plants forced to close 30 years before the government originally planned.

We will be forced to rely solely on volatile natural gas to supply electricity during wind’s almost-daily failures. Unlike in Ontario and the U.K., Albertans do not have the luxury of a nuclear baseload. Electricity in “green” Germany costs about four times more than in Alberta, yet, they still rely on coal for 40 per cent of their power. Because of renewables’ unreliability, Germany continues to build new coal plants, the newest opening just weeks ago. Yet, our government, counselled by CanWEA, will close reliable coal.

The government’s new electricity plan will cost Albertans tens of billions of dollars directly and indirectly. Our money would be better spent on important needs. For example, the waiting period for an MRI in Shannon Phillips’ riding is nine months. A disgrace.

Clive Schaupmeyer



Wind energy has issues

By Schnarr, J.W. on January 18, 2016.

Clive Schaupmeyer spoke at the Foothills Little Bow Municipal Associaton about potential problems with the cost of wind power versus fossil fuel sources of electricity generation.

J.W. Schnarr


[email protected]

Alberta’s shift to renewable energy and away from coal is going to be bad news for Albertans, members of the Foothills Little Bow Municipal Association heard Friday.

Outdoorsman and author Clive Schaupmeyer represents a local group called the “Energy Colegium” – a group of retired professionals with a wide range of backgrounds with the goal of looking at factors regarding increasing electrical costs, and to provide municipalities with information on the electricity sector.

Schaupmeyer said the plan put forward by the province is to eliminate coal use and replace that lost energy with wind and natural gas.

“Wind and gas are key to the Alberta climate leadership plan,” he said.

“(But) is there a pot of gold out there? Or is it going to cost us a pot of gold?” he asked.

“The plan was produced in weeks in time for Paris,” said Schaupmeyer. “It may be well intentioned, but not well thought out.”

Schaupmeyer noted many people don’t realize the actual cost of renewable energy and how the plan to end coal use is going to bite into their wallets.

“We’re not saying (renewables) don’t work,” he said. “We’re saying they are expensive.”

One issue with wind farms is spatial distribution, meaning wind farms are spread out over a large area. Power has to be gathered and transported over large distances.

“In Alberta, we have the capacity for 1,463 Mw of wind, and we gather that over a huge area,” he said, noting wind energy production is gathered from an area the size of The Netherlands in southern Alberta.

Often, wind generation is only able to hit an average of 30 per cent of capacity due to periods where it slips below the five per cent threshold (considered to be zero output). That instability in power levels is a major issue for supplying power to Albertans.

In contrast, the Sheerness generating station near Hanna has a capacity of 780 Mw.

“It provides more electricity than all the wind turbines in Alberta,” Schaupmeyer said, adding coal generation also has stable output.

Another issue with wind power is that it must be backed up due to the intermittent nature of power generation. Backup is handled through the use of natural gas, but it causes a redundancy in the system as wind power and natural gas power then overlap.

“We duplicate that capacity,” said Schaupmeyer. “When you build a wind farm, you better have something to back it up.

“Wind will often be effectively redundant, and all of our electricity will be coming from natural gas when the wind is not blowing.”

Schaupmeyer compared renewable energy costs in Europe, showing how the cost of energy increased the more renewable energy was added to the system.

“How many have heard how wonderful renewables are in Germany?” he asked. “In 2014, Germany got 43 per cent of its power from coal. More than half of that is lignite.”

He said the renewable push in Germany has essentially doubled the cost of power in that country.

“And remember, Germany still has that baseload of coal that’s going to be taken away from Albertans,” he said.

“Intermittent unreliable wind has not replaced conventional fuel anywhere on Earth,” he added.

Schaupmeyer also pointed out the companies which own the bulk of wind production in the province, such as TransAlta, Enbridge, Enmax, and others, are also involved in natural gas for electricity generation.

It has been reported in the media that Alberta’s climate plan could result in $30 billion in investment in wind and natural gas electricity generation.

“So we build huge numbers of subsidized wind farms, then what do we do?” he asked. “Then we build gas generators to back up the ineffective wind. Duplication and redundancy.

“It’s really great if you are in both businesses.”

While some may point out that energy companies build the infrastructure for energy projects Schaupmeyer said those costs are inevitably passed down to Albertans.

“Sooner or later, you will pay,” he said.

Livingstone Macleod MLA Pat Stier was in attendance and said the presentation confirmed many of the things he has been hearing about renewable energy production.

“They confirmed most of the reports we’ve seen in media where, again, the failed policy that the government is trying to promote to replace coal generation and gas generation to a large extent, by renewables, will not work, is not economically viable and will cost this province billions of dollars,” he said.

“It’s nice and refreshing to see some real numbers instead of the less-than-truthful policies the government has been giving us.”


St. Albert feels tremors from earthquake near Fox Creek

By Emily Mertz and Caley Ramsay Global News

The Alberta Energy Regulator confirmed a 4.8-magnitude earthquake happened near Fox Creek Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016.

EDMONTON – Tremors from an earthquake near Fox Creek, Alta. Tuesday were felt as far away as St. Albert, about 280 kilometres away.

The Alberta Energy Regulator confirmed the 4.8-magnitude earthquake, and initially said it was caused by hydraulic fracking. But the AER later backed away, saying it could not confirm the cause, only that it happened in an area where fracking occurs.


The AER has sent a team of investigators to the site, owned by a company called Repsol. The company has ceased operations in the area and will not be allowed to resume fracking until AER gives the go-ahead, according to AER spokesperson Carrie Rosa.

Natural Resources Canada’s preliminary findings measured the earthquake at a 4.5 magnitude. NRC said the earthquake happened at 11:27 a.m. (MST) Tuesday about 31 kilometres west of Fox Creek.

NRC said the quake was “lightly felt” in Fox Creek and St. Albert. There were no reports of damage.

“It felt like a large truck driving by,” said Fox Creek operations manager Roy Dell. “Some saw pictures shake on the wall. The Town of Fox Creek is disappointed to hear of another seismic event.”

Cory Sinclair works for the City of St. Albert. He was on the third floor of St. Albert Place when he felt a jolt at around 11:30 a.m.

“I felt a bit of a shake in the building and they were doing a bit of work on the main floor so I thought perhaps it was associated with that, and there was also a door just down the hall so I thought someone has slammed that door,” Sinclair said.

“But afterwards I realized it was in fact a tremor that we had felt.”

Sinclair said it was one single shake, not a continued shake.

“Someone had jokingly said that it might have been an earthquake, but we never suspected that at all until one of our colleagues informed us that they had heard report of seismic activity,” Sinclair said.

Ken Munroe works in St. Albert’s Campbell Business Park. He said he was sitting at his desk, working away, when he felt the quake.

“Suddenly the building shook,” he said. “It was just a bump… It felt like a truck hit the wall or something like that. It was a noticeable enough bump that the monitors shook a little bit.”

Munroe said the shake was very quick and only lasted about two seconds.

“We were sort of thinking, ‘Is it an earthquake? Is it an aftershock? How big is it? Or is it just something falling on the floor?’” he said with a laugh.

“The funny thing is that I said, ‘This feels like an earthquake.’ And, you know, everyone just started laughing at me.”

It’s not unusual for earthquakes to be reported in the Fox Creek area. There have been about 200 quakes in the area since December 2013. Alberta averages 30 earthquakes each year.

Last year, there were two 4.4 magnitude earthquakes in the area. Authorities said both quakes were the result of hydraulic fracturing in the oil and gas industry.

READ MORE: Another earthquake in Fox Creek raises concerns over hydraulic fracking 

The premier is asking that an Alberta Energy Regulator review of fracking be sped up.

“My officials have been in touch with the AER to find out exactly what the situation is and where we can get more details on that,” Notley said.

“Generally speaking the AER has been engaged in a review of fracking in particular as it relates to this issue and I’ll be asking them to speed that review up a little bit more to come up with some recommendations that we can consider sooner rather than later.”

The AER announced new requirements in February 2015, after several seismic events in the Fox Creek area. If a seismic event measuring 4.0 or greater occurs within five kilometres of an operator, it must cease operations and inform the AER. If a seismic event between 2.0 and 4.0 occurs, operators must inform AER and invoke their response plan.

The AER reports three events measuring 4.0 or greater in 2015: Jan. 14 (4.23), Jan. 23 (4.61) and June 13 (4.26).

Fox Creek is 263 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

With files from Slav Kornik, Sarah Kraus, Global News and The Canadian Press. 

*Editor’s note: The Alberta Energy Regulator originally told Global News the earthquake was due to hydraulic fracking. However, the AER later said it could not confirm that. 

© Shaw Media, 2016


Letters: Notley deserves credit over Bill 6

Edmonton Journal
Published on: December 22, 2015 | Last Updated: December 22, 2015 3:47 PM MST

At the Alberta legislature on Dec. 3, 2015, Premier Rachel Notley explains the many exemptions for Bill 6 and apologizes for poor communication to farmers and ranchers that has lead to confusion. Ryan Jackson / Edmonton Journal

Notley deserves credit over Bill 6

As an agricultural producer, I was appalled at the anti-Bill 6 demonstrations at the legislature, the lineups of expensive machinery and especially the death threats made against Premier Rachel Notley, her cabinet ministers and other NDP members.

Once fully implemented, this bill would protect the rights and safety concerns of farm employees. This should have been in place years ago; after all, it is a human rights law. Agriculture was the only industry in Alberta that did not have this protection, and Alberta the only province that did not do so.

Although I have never voted NDP, I applaud Notley and her party for their initiative. Regardless of party affiliation, recognize her progressive advance in agriculture and let her party know your positive feelings on this important bill.

Maurice L. Parrent, Clyde

Canada’s firearms laws are robust

Re: “Crack down on rapid-fire weapons,” Letters, Ron Charach, Dec. 22

The letter writer is completely misinformed as to Canada’s extensive firearms control legislation.

You cannot simply show up at a gun store and buy one; you must take a firearms safety course. Once you have passed the exam, you apply for a firearms licence, where you need to supply character references — who, 100 per cent for certain, are called by the RCMP. The licence application takes four to six months.

As for handguns, you can only legally own one if you are a certified collector or belong to a shooting range. There are extensive requirements for storage and transportation of firearms.

The problem with Canada’s gun laws is they tend to target law-abiding owners and do nothing to keep firearms away from those who’d use them for criminal purposes.

Mark Stead, Sherwood Park

Cartoons insulting to Premier Notley

Re: Malcolm Mayes cartoons

I am surprised that a newspaper which has won journalism awards would continually print insulting, demeaning pictures about our premier. I don’t call them cartoons because they are not funny.

They’re mean, unkind, unfair and meant to belittle the competent Rachel Notley and her government. I am not surprised that Mayes does it, but I am surprised the Journal continually prints this stuff.

Frank Parker, St. Albert

Could do more for beleaguered merchants

Re: ” ‘Cash mob’ aims to boost shops hurt by bridge delays,” Dec. 10

The recent comment attributed to Coun. Scott McKeen really underscores just how little regard this city council has for 102nd Avenue merchants affected by the prolonged closure of the bridge over Groat Road.

Area merchants have been hard-pressed to keep their doors open because of the apparent blundering of the contractor in installing bridge girders in the first place. To further exacerbate the merchants’ dire financial situation, the purported opening of the new bridge is October 2016 — about a full year later than originally set. This is extraordinary, and requires compensation.

What reeks is the rather cavalier manner in which the thought of compensation to merchants was cast aside as being a “can of worms” council did not want to open. The City of Edmonton is not only continuing to collect taxes from the merchants, but is also collecting late penalties of $11,500 per day as the contractor has failed to meet the deadline. The subsequent silence on this matter is deafening. One day of a cash mob rally is clearly not going to ease the pain.

I’m glad I live in St. Albert, where ignorance at this level only surfaces on rare occasions.

Robert M. Claney, St. Albert

Tears cannot undo damage to others

Re: “Boy weeps as charges read in court,” Dec. 22

Everything we do, right or wrong, has a price that we could never imagine. That is what a 13-year-old boy has learned, and tears cannot undo a crime against other human beings.

Kenneth T. Tellis, Mississauga, ON

We’re more welcoming than letter indicates

Re: “Unbridled growth nothing to celebrate,” Letters, P.J. Cotterill, Dec. 21

So if the letter writer had her way, the wonderful 65,835 folks choosing to call Edmonton and the rest of Alberta home in 2014-15 are only welcome if they’re directed and confined to live in infill, refurbished and renovated properties? Well, actually a welcoming environment like ours sees fit to enable new Albertans and their families to own the home of their choice.

Is she correct in assuming municipalities only receive residential taxes to pay for infrastructure? Municipalities also receive millions through commercial-industrial business taxes, provincial grants and federal funding.

I suppose if she had her way, new Edmonton signage would read: “All welcome as long as you live where we say and in what we tell you.”

Rick Preston, executive director, Urban Development Institute, Edmonton Region

Consult with Albertans on climate issues

After reading the Climate Leadership Report and the government documents on their Climate Leadership Plan, I have concerns.

The report recommends a tax at the pumps of seven cents, on top of the already increased fuel tax of 13 cents. It also recommends homeowners and business owners pay a new natural gas carbon tax of $1.68 per gigajoule.

For January to November 2015, my average cost for natural gas was $2.93 per gigajoule. Now the government wants to increase my heating costs by 57 per cent — for what? I can’t reduce my home heating cost any further or I’ll freeze. While the report did not specify what additional cost will be implemented for electricity, it did indicate there should only be a small change.

No amount of increased tax will cause residents to reduce the amount they use their vehicles or heat their homes. The report suggests the government use some of the revenue from increased carbon taxes for a rebate to lower- and middle-income residents to offset the increased costs resulting from the new carbon taxes (the report suggests additional annual costs of $500 in 2018 to $900 in 2030). If these residents can’t afford the new taxes in the first place, why charge them at all? Also, wouldn’t a rebate negate any intended impact of the carbon tax?

The government now suggests closure of coal-fired electricity plants well before their natural lifespan — at what additional cost to taxpayers, not to mention the human cost?

Nowhere in the government website documents is there any mention of the costs I have outlined above. Given the communication mistakes they made with Bill 6, the government should at least consult with Albertans.

Arthur Hagan, Edmonton

Emperor Trump has no clothes

Can someone please find a child to tell Americans the emperor has no clothes? How long will Donald Trump be allowed to denigrate and embarrass his fellow citizens?

In Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, the emperor’s tailor pretends to outfit him with a new suit, but he’s actually naked. Still, all the yes-men tell him what a beautiful suit it is. The emperor can’t see the suit either, but he listens to the yes-men until a child calls out, “But the Emperor has no clothes!”

Surely everyone recognizes the clown that Trump is — a foolhardy, rich braggart with so much money he can afford to either buy anyone out or blaspheme anyone who stands in his way. His last tirade against Hillary Clinton about her bathroom break was so crude and offensive on every level that I believe that’s where Trump’s campaign should now end — in the toilet, clothes or no clothes.

G.A. Teske, Sherwood Park

Parties of all stripes ban comments

Re: “So much for consulting people,” Letters, Marika Pender, Dec. 21

I can empathize with the letter writer because I was outright banned from commenting on Stephen Harper’s Facebook page this year. I emailed the PMO and was allowed to post messages, but only for a short time before I was banned completely. Every time I tried, the screen went blank.

Clearly, the banning of commentary is not the exclusive territory of Rachel Notley’s NDP government.

Ron Bereznicki, Edmonton


Bill 6 Was Communicated To Albertans Poorly: Notley

The Huffington Post Alberta  |  By Sarah Rieger

Posted: 12/16/2015 2:29 pm EST Updated: 12/16/2015 2:59 pm EST

Bill 6 may have passed, but debates on the controversial farm safety bill are far from over.

On Tuesday, nearly 300 people gathered on the snowy steps of the Alberta legislature to protest the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers legislation.

“It’s not even about the bill anymore. It’s about the Alberta advantage. Where did we lose track of that along the way?” rancher Kim Keely told the Edmonton Journal. “Everybody knew safety legislation was coming, but nobody asked us what we thought about it.”

Another day, another #Bill6 rally. #yeg #abag #ableg

— Ted Bauer (@tedgbauer) December 15, 2015

Rural Albertans have been afraid the bill, which passed its third reading in the legislature on Thursday, will threaten family farms by forcing them to buy expensive insurance to cover children and volunteers.

Premier Rachel Notley says she’s willing to accept full responsibility for the anger over the bill, and acknowledged that her government needs to mend some fences with rural Albertans.

“We have to take responsibility ourselves for the fact that we created a certain amount of confusion in how we originally communicated and we allowed families to be in a position where they were worrying about what the impact of these changes would be on their family farm,” Notley told the Calgary Herald.

The government says that the bill was intended to offer workers’ compensation benefits and occupational health and safety rules for only paid farm employees, and that coverage for family members and volunteers would be optional.

However, that messaging hasn’t been consistent. When the bill was announced, as well as in a Workers Compensation Board (WCB) document released a few weeks later, the government said farm volunteers and children would be subject to the same rules and coverage.

“We have to take responsibility ourselves for the fact that we created a certain amount of confusion in how we originally communicated.”

Amendments were later added to make the legislation more clear, but the damage from poor communication was already done.

Wildrose labour critic Grant Hunter told CBC News he feels as if the NDP was making up the details of the bill as they went along.

“When you read it, it’s fairly clear what their intent was,” Hunter said of the initially misleading WCB document.

The bill is set to become law on Jan. 1, but farmers and ranchers continue to voice their opposition, including at a town hall meeting in Coaldale on Tuesday.

There’s not a lot we can do now that the bill has passed. However, we can be in control of some of the regulations that they make with it,” rancher Jean Minchau said in an interview with Global News.

.@PatStier_WR encourages to continue to pressure AB gov’t by writing letters, making their voices heard. #yql #bill6

— Sarolta Saskiw (@ssaskiw) December 16, 2015


How Does Bill 6 Compare with Farm Workplace Legislation in Other Provinces?

The Alberta government passed its new farm labour legislation last week. Bill 6 is supposed to make Workers’ Compensation Board insurance coverage mandatory for farm workers while bringing Occupational Health and Safety and labour standards to farms.

Amendments made to the bill clarified that it only applies to farms with at least one paid worker.

Since the regulations and technical codes supporting the bill have yet to be written, there’s been plenty of frustration and confusion caused by an absence of concrete information about how the legislation will affect farms. The government says it will consult with the industry in developing these employment and labour relations standards over the next 12 to 18 months.

In trying to understand the context of Bill 6 we examined the policies that are already in place in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. In most cases, these provinces adopted their farm workplace policies in stages over several decades, rather than a simultaneous change to WCB, OHS and labour relations rules. It’s also difficult to assess how strictly each province enforces its policies.

This is meant for information purposes only. Sources are listed below.

Comparing Bill 6 to other provinces 3

Sources/Further Reading:


Bill 6 rallies continue: Hundreds expected at Sylvan Lake rally and Legislature

By , Edmonton Sun

First posted: | Updated:

Sylvan Lake raly
People in Sylvan Lake, AB hold up protest signs as they prepare for the Stand Up For AB: Be Seen, Be Heard rally in the central Alberta town next weekend. PHOTO SUPPLIED

The Alberta Legislature may be on break over the holidays but that won’t stop angry Albertans from voicing their displeasure with the government.

Alberta has seen it’s fair share of protests over the past few weeks, as tensions rose over the controversial Bill 6, a farm safety legislation bill which prompted farmers and ranchers to gather in rallies across the province.

Now, a group in Sylvan Lake are prepared to do the same next weekend in a rally dubbed Stand Up For AB: Be Seen, Be Heard.

“Our community in Sylvan Lake is about farming and oil. We bleed oil here and it’s just not getting any better,” said rally organizer, said Sheri Hutlet. “Everyone is scared for their futures and none of us know what to do other than this kind of thing, because there’s nothing we really can do other than this.”

Hutlet, along with fellow Sylvan Lake residents Lisa Nielsen and Steven Ruttan, decided to organize the rally just six days ago and interest has already grown to include hundreds of people confirming their attendance.

“It’s just insane how much this thing has blown up,” said Hutlet. “There are a lot of upset people in this province and it’s time they’re heard.”

The rally is scheduled to be held on Dec. 18. along Highway 11 and range road 212. Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Don MacIntyre is scheduled to attend to say a few words.

On Saturday, the Wildrose Shadow minister for Electricity & Renewables attended a Bill 6 town meeting at the Calnash Ag Centre in Ponoka, AB. Similar town meetings were held last week, and over the weekend, in Hanna, AB and Olds, AB.

Another rally against Bill 6 is scheduled to take place at the Alberta Legislature on Tuesday at 11 a.m. People attending Tuesday’s rally are encouraged to bring a donation to Edmonton’s Food Bank.

[email protected]



Bill 6 – Dec. 17 – Bill 6 passes: anger ‘all out of proportion’

Posted Dec. 10th, 2015 by Saskatoon newsroom

Bill 6 protestors on horseback in Leduc. | Mary MacArthur photo
Bill 6 protestors on horseback in Leduc. | Mary MacArthur photo

UPDATED: December 18, 2015 – 1200CST – Farmers drove their trucks down highways, parked their tractors outside meeting halls, carried signs on pitchforks, created Facebook pages and presented more than 22,000 signatures in the legislature, all in an effort to kill a controversial Alberta farm worker bill. (Full story is here, or scroll down)

Side view of #bill6 rally in Leduc

— Mary MacArthur (@marymacarthur) December 7, 2015

Horses and rider at #bill6 rally in Leduc — Mary MacArthur (@marymacarthur) December 7, 2015

Convoy of grain truck arrive at Leduc #bill6 meeting.

— Mary MacArthur (@marymacarthur) December 7, 2015

The Alberta government’s proposed changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Bill 6, continues to rile farmers. You can find all The Western Producer’s coverage of this controversial proposed legislation below.

Healthiest option to elevate blood pressure in Leduc… #bill6 — The Western Producer (@westernproducer) December 7, 2015

East bound and town from Fort Macleod to Lethbridge. #Bill6 convoy on its ways. #killbill6 #ableg #wrp #ndp

— Lori Creech Loree (@loricreech) December 3, 2015

One farm death is one death too many, said @oneilcarlier. OHS should investigate to prevent further accidents. — Mary MacArthur (@marymacarthur) December 1, 2015


— Mary MacArthur (@marymacarthur) December 1, 2015

The ministers and MLAs ready to talk at #Bill6 meeting. — Mary MacArthur (@marymacarthur) December 1, 2015


Bill 6 passes: anger ‘all out of proportion’
– Farmers drove their trucks down highways, parked their tractors outside meeting halls, carried signs on pitchforks, created Facebook pages and presented more than 22,000 signatures in the legislature, all in an effort to kill a controversial Alberta farm worker bill.

Alberta NDP gov’t passes Bill 6
– Alberta’s controversial farm safety legislation debate ended as the government majority passed Bill 6. The Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act passed third reading today 44-20.

Government must stop Bill 6 until consultation complete
– Alberta’s NDP government has bungled Bill 6. The Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act has galvanized agriculture into unprecedented opposition, and with good reason.

Farm groups speak out on Alberta’s Bill 6, Alberta’s proposed farm labour changes
– Many agricultural and rural groups in Alberta have issued public responses to Bill 6, the Alberta government’s Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act. Here is a summary of their views.

What the other provinces are doing about farm worker safety
– Alberta’s Bill 6 plans to eliminate the farm exemptions on the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Workers Compensation, Labour Relations and Employment Standards. Legislation in the other western provinces varies when it comes to coverage and exemptions for farmers and farm workers.

Lethbridge farmers challenge Bill 6 – About 750 farmers rallied in Lethbridge today and they didn’t get what they wanted. They wanted the Alberta government to “kill Bill 6”, according to the many placards stuck to vehicles and held aloft.

‘We will pass this bill this fall’: Notley – Alberta premier Rachel Notley is pushing ahead with Bill 6 despite protests across the province to delay or kill the farm safety bill.

Alberta exempts Hutterites from Bill 6 – RED DEER — In a complete reversal, the Alberta government has announced it will exempt Hutterite colonies and their 22,000 members from mandatory Workers Compensation Board and Occupational Health and Safety coverage.

Alta. vows to amend Bill 6; farmers not satisfied – RED DEER — A clarification of farm safety rules by the minister of agriculture did little to quell the unhappiness of 500 angry farmers at a consultation meeting.

Alta. farmers protest Bill 6 – EDMONTON — Protests against Alberta farm worker legislation keep building momentum.

Slow down Bill 6, say farmers – GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. — Almost 400 angry farmers sent a clear message to the Alberta government last week: they don’t want the new farm safety legislation and they believe it is being rushed through without consultation.

Alberta Hutterite colonies want exemption from farm worker compensation bill – GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. — Mandatory workers compensation premiums would cost Alberta Hutterite colonies more than $22 million a year, said the Hutterite business adviser with accounting firm MNP.

New farm worker safety rules to alter landscape in Alberta – GIBBONS, Alta. — Sweeping changes to work and safety rules for Alberta’s farms and ranches have generated concern among those in farming.

First farmer speaker. We don’t like you. We don’t like your Bill. We don’t trust you he says. #westcdnag

— Barb Glen (@BarbGlen) December 3, 2015


Notley NDP limits Bill 6 debate as Alberta legislature gets rough and rowdy

By Rick Bell, Calgary Sun

First posted: Tuesday, December 08, 2015 09:05 PM MST | Updated: Wednesday, December 09, 2015 08:01 AM MST

Bill 6 demonstration

People hold signs protesting Bill 6 in a meeting with provincial Labour Minister Lori Sigurdson and Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier in Okotoks December 2, 2015. Alberta’s government will retool a bill that would overhaul workplace standards on farms in Canada’s biggest cattle-producing province, its agriculture minister said, after protests by farmers and ranchers. (REUTERS/Mike Sturk

It is a day where the events type out the story on the keyboard all by themselves.

It is a day where the Notley NDP government clearly has had enough of the bare-knuckles brawling, the political temperature ever rising as the aggravation intensifies.

They want to get what they need done, they want it done pronto and then they want to high-tail it out of Dodge for a Yuletide reprieve.

So it goes. On Tuesday they serve notice. Debate on Bill 6, the NDP’s farm bill, will end sooner rather than later, likely by Thursday.

The opposition is steamed but the NDP don’t care. They hold the hammer and the atmosphere is already ugly.

“We’re not ramming it through and declaring victory,” says Brian Mason, the NDP’s legislature quarterback.

“The rights of working people have to be protected.”

Greg Clark, leader of the Alberta party, offers words of caution.

“It creates headlines you don’t want,” says Clark, of the move.

They’ve already had plenty of headlines they don’t want. They’re used to it.

Yes, Tuesday is a day where Mason loses his temper and calls Wildrosers “goons” and “a bunch of gangsters” before apologizing and withdrawing the colourful lingo.

The veteran of many a political war proceeds to paint the Wildrosers as “a solid wall of noise” behaving in a way that’s “nothing more than an attempt to prevent ministers from answering properly.”

Mason adds it is “interfering with our ability to perform our jobs.”

Ric McIver, the PC’s interim leader, is no slouch when it comes to giving it back to the NDPers, talking about a “little bit of gamesmanship going on here.”

He actually refers to Danielle Larivee, the NDP municipal affairs minister.

McIver says she turned around in her legislature seat, taunting people sitting in the legislature gallery and supporting the opposition’s position.

“I would definitely say that qualifies as language designed to incite, likely to create disorder.

“Congratulations, minister. You wanted to create a ruckus and the minister created a ruckus.”

McIver goes further.

“The government can get their feelings hurt but I hope they didn’t expect to be here and not be held to account by the opposition,” he says.

“We have limited tools and one of the tools we have is to bang and make noise.

“If people are concerned about having their feelings hurt they might be sitting in the wrong room.”

Oh, it is quite the day.

It is the day where the Wildrose want the legislature to hold an emergency debate on “the bleak fiscal picture many Albertans are facing.”

Wildrose leader Brian Jean speaks of the human costs of the economic downturn, from drug use to suicides to bankruptcies and individuals losing jobs and “gripped with a sense of self-doubt and hopelessness.”

McIver supports having the debate and thinks it’s “made all the more urgent” by the NDP limiting discussion on Bill 6.

Once the legislature sitting is done politicians won’t get another chance to jaw over the issue until well into the new year.

The NDP believe it’s just a Wildrose stunt to keep the legislature sitting and the government as a punching bag. So it’s a no-go.

It is one heck of a day.

Wildroser Jason Nixon, representing the good people of Sundre and Bentley, is far from amused with the NDP closing down the amount of to-and-fro over Bill 6.

“Our constituents are asking us to stand up and speak,” says Nixon.

“I think the government is running scared. They’re doing this because they screwed up on Bill 6 so bad. And it’s their fault not the fault of the people of Alberta.”

He then mentions two women in a farm group from the Nanton area in southern Alberta.

Nixon saw them sitting in the legislature gallery, looking down at the action on the legislature floor.

“They were crying in the gallery. That’s how upset they were about what is going on. They’d driven here all the way from Nanton and they were crying.”

[email protected]


Alberta’s Bill 6 amended to exempt family farms

Emily Chan,
Published Tuesday, December 8, 2015 12:09PM EST

Alberta’s NDP government has announced new amendments to its controversial proposed farm safety legislation, Bill 6.

Under the amended act, farms with one or more paid employees would have to provide workers’ compensation benefits and apply occupational health and safety rules.

However, family farms without paid workers will be exempt.


Alberta farm safety Bill 6 protest

Farmer and farm families gather at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015. (Dean Bennett/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

“Unpaid farm and ranch workers, such as relatives, friends and neighbours helping out on the family farm, will not be affected,” the government website now says.

The government announced the changes on Monday afternoon, saying the amendments help clarify the original purpose of the bill.

“This was our intent all along,” said Lori Sigurdson, Alberta’s minister of jobs, skills, training and labour.

Sigurdson said there was a “miscommunication” when the NDP first proposed the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act on Nov. 17. At that time, it appeared that the bill would also apply to family members and volunteers.

“When the miscommunication came out it did take some time for us to get that clarity,” Sigurdson said.

According to the government, “Alberta offers less protection for farm and ranch employees than any other jurisdiction in Canada,” and Bill 6 is designed to bring the province in line with national safety standards.

If passed, the bill will go into effect on Jan. 1.

But critics are trying to stop that, saying the proposed legislation threatens to destroy traditional family farms and agricultural lifestyles.

In recent weeks, thousands of protesters organized and attended rallies against the legislation.

“They’re basically saying ‘Trust us, we are from the government, we’ll help you,” Farmer Erin Wall told CTV Edmonton at one protest. “But we don’t want their help.”

Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean has been outspoken against bill, speaking at rallies and calling on the government to kill the act.

And Alberta’s interim Progressive Conservative leader Ric McIvor has also been critical of the proposed law.

The former PC government, led by Alison Redford, also promised to bring in safety regulations. But McIvor says the NDP government failed to properly consult farmers about the proposed rules.

On Monday, he said the NDP’s recent amendments merely add “confusion” to the debate.

That same day, unions moved to back the bill, calling it a step in the right direction.

Speaking at a news conference to commemorate the 112 workers who have died on Alberta farms since 2009, the head of the Alberta Federation of Labour gave Bill 6 his support.

“It is really about removing the exemptions in law that have denied Alberta’s 50,000 agricultural workers the same kind of rights and basic freedoms in the work place that other Albertans take for granted every day,” Gil McGowan, the association head, said.

With files from CTV Edmonton and the Canadian Press


Bill 6 wipes the smile off happy face barn near Cayley, Alta.

Owner says she was just trying to capture how Alberta farmers are feeling right now

By The Calgary Eyeopener, CBC News Posted: Dec 08, 2015 2:08 PM MT Last Updated: Dec 08, 2015 2:08 PM MT

The happy barn near Cayley, Alta. is now a sad barn.

The happy barn near Cayley, Alta. is now a sad barn. (Kylana Rogers-Hambling/Facebook)

Happy face barn wears a Bill 6 frown 7:06

Related Stories

A southern Alberta barn that has been smiling at drivers for more than 30 years as they pass the hamlet of Cayley, Alta., has been feeling a bit down lately.

Last week the owner wiped the grin off the famous Highway 2 landmark and replaced it with a frown in protest of the NDP’s proposed farm safety legislation.

“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t that just capture how farmers and ranchers feel right now?’ I couldn’t think of a better landmark to kind of represent them and their feelings toward Bill 6,” said Kylana Hambling.

She and her brother made the change to the barn before attending a farm protest in Okotoks on Dec. 2.

Bill 6, which comes into effect Jan. 1, will force farms and ranches to provide their employees minimum wage, vacation pay and injury compensation benefits.

Workers will also have Occupational Health and Safety protection — a right already held by agricultural employees in every other province in Canada.

Cayley Alberta

An anti-Bill 6 sign in the field next to the landmark happy face barn off Hwy. 2 near Cayley, Alta. (Kylana Rogers-Hambling/Facebook)

The legislation exempts family members, whether they are paid for farm work or not. Neighbours who come to the farm to help are also exempt.

Hambling says the law, as it’s written now, means she probably won’t be able to employ her hired man next year and believes many other farmers will be in the same position.

“We just feel it’s been too fast. We’d like to see an opportunity for all of us to consult on it and be part of a really good stakeholder group with government officials and agricultural representation and then we could really make it work for us,” she said.

“You can tell by the back-peddling, and the trying to make amendments really fast before they push it through — it just shows it’s not ready. And we would just really like that opportunity to help them with that.”

Hambling says the smile on the barn was originally put up by a previous owner, who kept horses and ran the Happy Face Equestrian Barn.

She says she’s been getting plenty of emails from people asking her if she will ever turn the frown upside down again.

The answer is yes. The happy face barn will be back — right after Christmas.


Rural rage: Alberta farmers steal page from French with rolling protests over NDP’s new safety bill

Tristin Hopper | December 9, 2015 | Last Updated: Dec 9 1:58 AM ET

LEDUC, Alta. — With a John Deere tractor leading the charge at a top speed of 35 kilometres an hour, Alberta’s latest protest convoy pulls onto Highway 2 for a drive to the capital.

Over the citizens band radio, organizer Laci Pighin rallies the group with a recording of the C.W. McCall hit, Convoy, as the motley group begins the not-insignificant task of manoeuvring a line of farm vehicles and trucks into downtown Edmonton.

“We should move to France, I’m getting to like this,” jokes one farmer over the CB radio in a nod to their more protest-oriented European brethren.

This is what happens when Alberta farmers get angry, and Wild Rose Country is currently being wracked by a wave of anger not seen in a generation.

Kilometre-long protest convoys of tractors and farm vehicles coursing down major highways. Thousand-strong gatherings of farmers at public meetings. Cows painted with political slogans. Turkeys sporting anti-NDP badges. Literal pitchforks brandished on the steps of the legislature.

Shaughn Butts/Postmedia News

Shaughn Butts/Postmedia NewsThe Alberta NDP’s workplace safety legislation has turned the province’s farmers into political activists.

Hundreds of Carhartt-clad grain farmers whose political involvement seldom extended beyond casting a ballot are suddenly entering the alien world of carrying placards and signing petitions.

“I didn’t even know where the legislature was before this,” joked one protester outside Alberta’s seat of government on Tuesday.

And the culprit for all this rural rage? A piece of farm safety legislation that, at best, farmers say is a slapped-together mess of red tape; at worst; a secret NDP plan to unionize farm children and force Alberta cowboys into hard hats and safety vests.

“She [Premier Rachel Notley] is going to make every single farm and ranch go bankrupt,” said Laci Pighin.

Bill 6, tabled by the NDP last in mid-November, would extend workplace safety standards and worker’s compensation to the agricultural sector.

Jim Wells/Postmedia Network

Jim Wells/Postmedia NetworkFarmers protest in Okotoks, Alta on Dec. 2, 2015.

“[Agricultural] deaths and injuries can be prevented and this is why I believe we need to act now,” said Notley in a recent open letter. “We cannot prevent them by doing nothing.”

In 2014, Alberta recorded 17 farm-related deaths, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Currently, Alberta is Canada’s only province without any farm-specific safety legislation.

Any injury coverage provided to farm workers comes from private insurance plans. And, technically, Alberta farm workers are not protected by provincial law if they choose to refuse unsafe work.

For Edmonton commuters on Tuesday morning, it might be easy to believe that the province’s farmers are taking up arms to defend their God-given right to continue grinding up farmhands in combines–particularly when they’re cut off by a semi-trailer bedecked in Bill 6 signs.

“It’s about ‘freedom’? Freedom to hurt yourself?” reads a typical online critique.

But Tuesday’s protesters counted farmers who are pro-safety, pro-safety legislation and even pro-WCB.

Campaigners are simply convinced that the NDP — even with the best intentions — is going to screw this legislation up.

“There’s some things going that we could look after … but I’m against the principle of them forcing it down our throat without consultation,” said Cor DeBoon, a farming contractor who voluntarily opted-in to WCB six years ago.

Early releases by the government, for instance, raised the spectre of WCB coverage being required for children to do chores or for neighbours to help with the harvest.

“If you are operating a for-profit farming operation … you must cover any unpaid workers, including family members and children, performing work on your farm,” read a WCB document.

A farmer from Nanton, who preferred to withhold his name, similarly said all this farmer’s ire probably could have been avoided with a few town hall meetings.

“I think a reasonable government would have come out and said, ‘Hey, do you want to make these places safer?’ and they’d have gotten a pat on the back and a ‘show me a way,’ ” he said.

“To infer that we’re willingly putting our employees in danger is just offensive.”

Just north of farm country, of course, Alberta is already home to some of the strictest safety regulations in Canada. In the Alberta oilsands, taking off one’s safety goggles for a few seconds can be enough to get a worker fired.

Shaughn Butts/Postmedia News

Shaughn Butts/Postmedia NewsHundreds of Alberta Farmers and ranchers descended on the Alberta Legislature to protest against Bill 6, the province’s new farm safety legislation.

“This is a one-size-fits-all bill that would instantly move farms into the same realm as oil and gas,” said Mike Gibb, who divides his time between Southern Albertan rancher and a safety manager in the oil and gas sector.

“If you modelled the legislation after what neighbouring provinces are doing, like Saskatchewan, you wouldn’t have the backlash,” he said, noting Saskatchewan’s much greater attention to detail on small-farm exemptions.

Other oilsands veterans joining the Bill 6 protests worried that sloppy regulations would force cattle ranchers to wear bull-angering safety vests or mandate fire extinguishers in every truck cab.

And, unlike the average factory or construction site, farmers live at work — raising fears that accidents in the home could soon be classified as workplace injuries.

“If a kid gets crushed by a TV set, OHS doesn’t feel the need to go into their homes to see what’s wrong,” said Doug Schneider, a Leduc farmer.

The NDP, for its part, has explicitly promised to exempt children from WCB coverage, something that was not noted in previous drafts of the legislation. Exemptions were also extended to Hutterites, a sect of Anabaptist communal farmers.

Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty ImagesFrench farmers drive tractors during a national protest on the Cours de Vincennes avenue in Paris on Sept. 3, 2015.

But the changes have only deepened suspicions that the government “didn’t do their homework.” And Hutterites, for their part, have rejected any offer of “special treatment.”

Also working against the NDP is the simple fact that it is the first government in Alberta history to have a caucus virtually devoid of farmers.

Although Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier was raised on a Saskatchewan farm, one protester sneered Tuesday that he’s never gotten any “shit on his boots.”

Case in point: If Rachel Notley really understood farm life she would have waited until spring to pass a piece of unpopular agricultural legislation.

“You’d do this in April when everyone was on their air seeders; they wouldn’t have time to come to the protests,” said Gibb.

National Post

• Email: [email protected]


NDP’s mishandling of Bill 6 cost the party its rural support

By , Postmedia Network

First posted: | Updated:


A man takes part in an anti-Bill 6 rally outside the Leduc Recreation Centre on Monday. (BOBBY ROY/Postmedia Network)

In light of the NDP’s complete and utter botching of Bill 6, I’m betting that selection process for naming Oneil Carlier as ag minister in Alberta’s urban-dominated cabinet last May went something like this:

Premier Rachel Notley: “Ah, Oneil, I know you’ve been an organizer for a federal civil service union for the last 13 years, but your riding is sorta rural, right?”

Whitecourt-Ste. Anne MLA Oneil Carlier: “Yes, Madame Premier. The eastern half of my riding snuggles up to St. Albert, Spruce Grove and Stony Plan. But the western half is about as rural as they come!”

Notley: “And you’ve at least been on a farm, right?”

Carlier: “You bet! Lots of time.”

Before he worked more than a dozen years for the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Carlier was a bureaucrat (a geotechnical technician) with Agriculture Canada.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that when the NDP government went to draft a hasty new farm-safety bill this fall, Carlier didn’t see anything wrong with taking a unionist-bureaucratic approach.

At a meeting of nearly 500 angry farmers and ranchers in the gym of the Bassano school this past weekend, Carlier looked like a man begging the tiger not to eat him.

No, no, the Ag Minister pleaded. The government doesn’t intend to make farmers and ranchers treat their children and neighbours as though they were unionized civil servants when they help out on the farm.

“Officials are currently working on amendments that we will share very soon that clarify those intentions,” Oneil entreated as the crowd heckled him, booed his promises to listen to producers’ complaints and chanted, “Kill Bill 6! Kill Bill 6!”

Sure enough, Monday, the battered and bruised NDP introduced amends to Bill 6 that exempt family members of farm and ranch owners (whether paid or not) from the workers’ comp and occupational health and safety regulations the bill imposes on the ag sector. It also exempts friends and neighbours who volunteer their time.

That’s a welcome improvement, but it hardly goes far enough.

Politically, to use a farm analogy: The horse has already left the barn. No sense for the NDP to lock the door now.

Most, if not all of the NDP’s few rural seats, are already lost to them — and the next election is still almost three-and-a-half years away. The way they sought to impose Bill 6 — without notice or consultation, using ham-fisted, bully tactics — has cost them what little rural support they had.

No doubt Wildrose is licking its chops at the high price the NDP are going to pay.

Labour Minister Lori Sigurdson insisted Monday that it was the NDP’s intent all along to exempt family and friends in the regulations that often come out after a bill passed. The government had seen no need to do so in the bill itself, she explained, because they had the best of intentions all along. But they would now rewrite the bill to include a specific family and friends exemption.

“Sure. Sure. You were planning that along,” you could imagine farmers and ranchers saying while they pursed their lips and slowly nodded.

Even after the amendments, Bill 6 will still subject tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers who hire help to onerous new regulations and stacks of paperwork that go with the bill’s new bureaucratic obligations.

There will be at least two unintended consequences.

First, fewer farm workers will get hired because of the added red tape. And more family farmers will sell their operations to corporate farmers who have the clerical staff to file all the mandatory reports and forms.

Just what Alberta needs at the moment: more government, fewer family farms and fewer jobs.


Bill 6 meeting brings out 500 disgruntled farmers in Bassano

RCMP direct traffic as a convoy of concerned residents leave Strathmore on the morning of Dec. 5 on route down the Trans-Canada Highway for the Bill 6 meeting at Bassano organized by MLA Derek Fildebrandt.
RCMP direct traffic as a convoy of concerned residents leave Strathmore on the morning of Dec. 5 on route down the Trans-Canada Highway for the Bill 6 meeting at Bassano organized by MLA Derek Fildebrandt. Strathmore Standard

Just as the sun was rising over Strathmore on Saturday, a convoy of pickup trucks and farm equipment was gaining momentum as they drove down the Trans-Canada Highway en route to Bassano. The small farming community 140 kilometres east of Calgary was the site of a Bill 6 town hall meeting.

“I grew up just south of Strathmore, so when this bill came around, we didn’t hear about it until two weeks ago, and it hits a little bit too close to home,” said Katrina Janzen, a member of the convoy who had anti-Bill 6 posters plastered on the side of her horse trailer.

“I think this bill has been rushed and the proper consultation, I feel, hasn’t been there,” she said.

“All we want as farmers is information.”

At least 500 disgruntled farmers and ranchers packed the Bassano School gym holding signs, such as one that read “Naughty Notley.” They chanted “Kill Bill 6,” and stomped their feet.

The event attracted young and old alike.

Morgan Hale, a 14-year-old 4-H Club member, attended the meeting with her brother Blue Hale. She takes part in the Beef project for 4-H, meaning she raises, feeds, grooms and shows a steer throughout the year and prepares it for sale.

“I wanted to speak out against Bill 6,” she said. “If it passes, it affects my future.”

“We knew this was not good for Alberta,” said Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt.

In attendance were moderator Kelly Christman from Bassano, Bow River MP Martin Shields, Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barns, MLA Rick Strankman from Drumheller-Stettler, and MLA David Schneider from Little Bow.

The meeting was organized by Fildebrandt, and also featured NDP Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier. The new minister was heckled several times during the meeting.

“We are all angry, we are very upset about the way this happened,” Fildebrandt said.

“You deserve to be heard,” he told the crowd.

Aleta Steinbach, the first member of the public to speak, outlined how the process of farm succession works and how the bill would affect many people in the area. She noted 98 per cent of the farms in Alberta are family farms.

“We deserve the right to choose WCB, or private insurance that suits our operation,” she said.

Carlier tried to assure the crowd that the WCB legislation would affect only paid farm workers. He apologized for the way the provincial government handled consultations and the perceived lack of clarity in communications with the public.

“We should have provided the details about how we planned to protect farmer-ranch families when we first introduced this bill,” Carlier said. “Officials are currently working on amendments that we will share very soon that clarify those attentions.”


Sandra Desmet, from the Strathmore area, asked the minister and NDP government to get their facts straight in regards to statistics for agricultural deaths versus highway and construction deaths.

“Regarding OH&S, I am afraid,” she said.

“Give me a break, you’re going to keep us safe?” she said, emphasizing that there has been an increase in construction deaths from 45 fatalities in 2006 to 254 fatalities recently.

“How can you put legislation through without the figures in front of us, so we know what you are trying to mandate?” she asked.

Over the past two weeks, demonstrations have been held on the steps of the legislature in protest of the farm safety bill. Approximately 1,500 people protested on Thursday.

Some aspects of the bill would come into effect on Jan. 1, 2016. The bill would subject farms and ranches to occupational health and safety regulations, and would force farms and ranches to acquire Workers’ Compensation Board insurance for paid workers.

The bill is in its second reading.


Bill 6 meeting brings out 500 disgruntled farmers in Bassano

Monique Massiah, Strathmore Standard

RCMP direct traffic as a convoy of concerned residents leave Strathmore on the morning of Dec. 5 on route down the Trans-Canada Highway for the Bill 6 meeting at Bassano organized by MLA Derek Fildebrandt.
RCMP direct traffic as a convoy of concerned residents leave Strathmore on the morning of Dec. 5 on route down the Trans-Canada Highway for the Bill 6 meeting at Bassano organized by MLA Derek Fildebrandt. Strathmore Standard

Just as the sun was rising over Strathmore on Saturday, a convoy of pickup trucks and farm equipment was gaining momentum as they drove down the Trans-Canada Highway en route to Bassano. The small farming community 140 kilometres east of Calgary was the site of a Bill 6 town hall meeting.

“I grew up just south of Strathmore, so when this bill came around, we didn’t hear about it until two weeks ago, and it hits a little bit too close to home,” said Katrina Janzen, a member of the convoy who had anti-Bill 6 posters plastered on the side of her horse trailer.

“I think this bill has been rushed and the proper consultation, I feel, hasn’t been there,” she said.

“All we want as farmers is information.”

At least 500 disgruntled farmers and ranchers packed the Bassano School gym holding signs, such as one that read “Naughty Notley.” They chanted “Kill Bill 6,” and stomped their feet.

The event attracted young and old alike.

Morgan Hale, a 14-year-old 4-H Club member, attended the meeting with her brother Blue Hale. She takes part in the Beef project for 4-H, meaning she raises, feeds, grooms and shows a steer throughout the year and prepares it for sale.

“I wanted to speak out against Bill 6,” she said. “If it passes, it affects my future.”

“We knew this was not good for Alberta,” said Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt.

In attendance were moderator Kelly Christman from Bassano, Bow River MP Martin Shields, Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barns, MLA Rick Strankman from Drumheller-Stettler, and MLA David Schneider from Little Bow.

The meeting was organized by Fildebrandt, and also featured NDP Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier. The new minister was heckled several times during the meeting.

“We are all angry, we are very upset about the way this happened,” Fildebrandt said.

“You deserve to be heard,” he told the crowd.

Aleta Steinbach, the first member of the public to speak, outlined how the process of farm succession works and how the bill would affect many people in the area. She noted 98 per cent of the farms in Alberta are family farms.

“We deserve the right to choose WCB, or private insurance that suits our operation,” she said.

Carlier tried to assure the crowd that the WCB legislation would affect only paid farm workers. He apologized for the way the provincial government handled consultations and the perceived lack of clarity in communications with the public.

“We should have provided the details about how we planned to protect farmer-ranch families when we first introduced this bill,” Carlier said. “Officials are currently working on amendments that we will share very soon that clarify those attentions.”


Sandra Desmet, from the Strathmore area, asked the minister and NDP government to get their facts straight in regards to statistics for agricultural deaths versus highway and construction deaths.

“Regarding OH&S, I am afraid,” she said.

“Give me a break, you’re going to keep us safe?” she said, emphasizing that there has been an increase in construction deaths from 45 fatalities in 2006 to 254 fatalities recently.

“How can you put legislation through without the figures in front of us, so we know what you are trying to mandate?” she asked.

Over the past two weeks, demonstrations have been held on the steps of the legislature in protest of the farm safety bill. Approximately 1,500 people protested on Thursday.

Some aspects of the bill would come into effect on Jan. 1, 2016. The bill would subject farms and ranches to occupational health and safety regulations, and would force farms and ranches to acquire Workers’ Compensation Board insurance for paid workers.

The bill is in its second reading.


UPDATED: Alberta exempts Hutterites from Bill 6

The Western Producer

Posted by

 The Alberta government has announced it will exempt Hutterite colonies and their 22,000 members from mandatory Workers Compensation Board and Occupational Health and Safety coverage. | File photoThe Alberta government has announced it will exempt Hutterite colonies and their 22,000 members from mandatory Workers Compensation Board and Occupational Health and Safety coverage. | File photo

This story has been updated with Premier Notley’s comments.
RED DEER — In a complete reversal, the Alberta government has announced it will exempt Hutterite colonies and their 22,000 members from mandatory Workers Compensation Board and Occupational Health and Safety coverage.
Alberta premier Rachel Notley confirmed occupational health and safety investigators would not be able to investigate a death on a Hutterite colony because they will not have mandatory WCB.
“The issue there is are they paid, or are they not paid, are they family or not family. When you get into the issue of digging into the issue of family organizations that becomes rather complex. I suspect you would find in some of these large places some people are being paid and a result the investigation function would still flow,” said Notley in a news conference.
When the Alberta government announced Bill 6, the farm safety bill, documents showed Hutterite colonies would be required to follow the same safety standards and workers compensation rules as other farmers.
During a consultation meeting in Red Deer two weeks later, Alberta agriculture minister Oneil Carlier said Hutterite colonies would not be required to have mandatory workers compensation coverage because the premiums were based on salary and colony members aren’t paid a salary.

All WP Bill 6 coverage here.

“WCB premiums are matched to what they pay. As unpaid farm workers, how can you match premiums if they are not getting an actual wage? I think there are some details to be worked out around Hutterite colonies,” Carlier told reporters after the meeting.
He also said occupational health and safety rules would not be applied to colonies.
“OHS would be a concern on Hutterite colonies. Colonies I have visited this summer all took safety as extremely important,” he said.
Later, Carlier’s press secretary, Renato Gandia, wrote in an email: “If there are no paid workers on a colony, which is the way that colonies operate, neither WCB nor OHS would apply. The only way that WCB and OHS would apply would be if there were paid employees on the colonies. This will be clarified in the amendments to Bill 6,” he wrote.
“There have been miscommunications on Bill 6, including from official channels because government was not clear about our intention and we are clarifying that now with amendments,” he added.
Because the colonies would not be covered by OHS, safety officials would not be able to investigate any fatalities or deaths on the colonies, he said.
In November, a 10-year-old boy on the Lougheed Colony died when the forklift he was driving flipped.
But the flip flop by the minister has Hutterite colony members feeling they are being singled out by the proposed changes and will pit farming neighbours against colonies.
Gord Tait, Hutterite business adviser with MNP, said the colonies have not asked for specific exemptions and said Carlier’s flip flop has created concern.
“Hutterites don’t want a special exemption. They don’t want to be pointed out,” said Tait.
After the Red Deer meeting, Tait requested the minister not single out Hutterites in his new messaging.
“We said, ‘don’t point us out, don’t single us out, don’t use our name if you don’t use anybody else’s name,’ ” said Tait before the Lethbridge consultation meeting.
Until Tait sees the proposed amendments, he can’t say how they will impact colony members.
“The colonies do not want a special exemption. The colonies are pushing the agenda that they are a great example of a family farm and they are part of agriculture and want to be treated by the rules of agriculture,” he said.
“The new rules they say are coming, we can’t wait to see them.”
Contact [email protected]


Opposition mounts against Alberta farm safety bill

Jodie Sinnema, Edmonton Journal

In the face of mounting criticism and protest rallies drawing thousands of farmers and ranchers across the province, Premier Rachel Notley is forging ahead with her farm safety legislation to protect farm workers from injury and death.

“I will never be able to accept that injuries and deaths caused by workplace accidents are simply a fact of life,” Notley said, hours after more than 1,000 farmers and ranchers rallied on the steps of the Alberta Legislature, calling for her to kill Bill 6.

Notley stood firm and said the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act will pass this fall, with clear amendments that show farms with paid employees — not volunteering neighbours or farm children or family members — must protect those workers with basic safety rules and through Workers’ Compensation in the case of injury. The legislation will give paid workers the right to refuse unsafe work and allow investigators to enter those farms to investigate injuries or fatalities, make recommendations on how to prevent similar accidents in the future and hold workplaces accountable. Family farms or Hutterite colonies that have no paid workers will be exempt.

According to the 2011 Census data, 12,748 farms out of 43,234 farms in Alberta reported having paid labour.

Between 1990 and 2009, an average of 18 people have died each year in agriculture-related accidents. For every one person who died, 25 needed hospitalization, according to statistics from the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research.

Preliminary statistics from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s office indicate there have been 11 farm-related deaths in Alberta this year, as of Nov. 18.

Currently, Occupational Health and Safety has no authority to investigate the farm fatalities, including the death of a 34-year-old man killed on a farm southeast of Black Diamond last month. An internal government document obtained Thursday by the Journal shows the man was making a delivery to the farm when he fell 3-1/2 metres from a tank and was impaled on a ladder.

“This is a farm incident and OHS has no jurisdiction,” the report says.

Notley, who worked as an injury lawyer, said farm injuries can’t be prevented without investigations.

“It (is) quite disturbing that in a province like ours, that is made up of people who want to work together, who help each other out — whether you’re on the farm or in the city — who are modern and progressive and forward-looking, that we somehow have this little exclusion where paid farm workers, who are often the most vulnerable workers we have, are somehow exempted from the most basic of employment protections that you would find in much less progressive jurisdictions,” she said. “To me, this is work that is long overdue because the families and the farm workers themselves need that.”

Notley said her government will pass Bill 6 this fall, then start “extensive and fulsome” consultation with farmers and ranchers to create “common-sense” safety and work regulations that take the unique needs of the farming industry into account. She promised to continue to listen to farmers and to earn back their trust as they see that family farms will remain robust, that children will still be able to do chores, neighbours will still be able to help during times of need, and 4-H and recreational activities on farms will continue.

Notley took full responsibility for confusing messaging around the bill, despite her comments earlier this week that civil servants were at fault.

Groups of farmers and ranchers have hit the highway all week — to an Edmonton rally on Monday, a protest meeting Tuesday in Red Deer, another in Okotoks Wednesday, followed by Thursday’s demonstrations in Edmonton and Lethbridge — and were expected to crowd Medicine Hat for another meeting Friday. The Wildrose party called an “emergency town hall” on the issue Saturday in Bassano, 150 kilometres east of Calgary.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said the rallies will continue.

“If the government doesn’t relent, they will get bigger,” Jean said, noting 11,000 of Alberta’s farms and ranches are currently represented by NDP MLAs. He led the crowd in chants to “Kill Bill 6!” and said Wildrose MLAs will continue to speak against the bill in the house.

“The government’s town halls on this bill have been an absolute joke,” he said. “The crowds get bigger. The answers get far less clear. Farmers and ranchers tell the government to stop. The government is deaf.

Opposition members criticized the government for its apparent unwillingness to speak in favour of the legislation. In three days of debate, only three New Democrat MLAs — including Labour Minister Lori Sigurdson — defended the bill in the chamber.

“I think the NDP rural MLAs are doing a disservice to their constituents by not standing up for what their constituents are telling them,” Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark said. “They’ve blown their chance to consult on Bill 6 at this point. … They’ve got to go back to the drawing board, start again, start a respectful, honest consultation with farmers all around Alberta and then come back with a new bill in the spring.”

Liberal interim leader David Swann said the province should establish a committee with farmers and farm workers to find common ground and move forward with the bill.

“It’s quite clear this is part of human rights to protect safe and fair compensation, child labour standards,” said Swann, who was not allowed by organizers to address Thursday’s crowd. “It’s part of our international commitment. It’s part of our basic commitment to human right and constitutional rights. The question now is how we go forward.”

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Bill 6 convoys rolling to Lethbridge

WATCH ABOVE: For the second day in a row, farmers and ranchers joined in solidarity on Alberta highways to protest Bill 6. Global’s Quinn Campbell reports.

LETHBRIDGE – For the second straight day, convoys protesting the controversial Bill 6 are rolling on Alberta highways.

Multiple convoys are travelling to Lethbridge ahead of Thursday’s 1 p.m. feedback session at the Lethbridge Lodge. One convoy started in Cardston and made its way up Highway 5; another arrived on Highway 3 from Fort Macleod. Those participating are eager to voice concerns at the feedback session.

“It’s very hard to define the family farm, and if that’s what [the NDP] want to try to do, it’s not going to happen in the next two weeks,” said Casey Christensen, a farmer from outside Magrath. “A year is not even enough time. We need to take the time, they need to do it properly and they need to consult with farmers.”

Thursday’s convoys come one day after hundred of farm vehicles traveled along Highway 2 to Okotoks in a similar protest.

“Our voice needs to be heard,” said Doug Keeler, another farmer participating in the convoy. “In this whole process we’ve never been consulted once. This is the only way we think we can let our voice be heard.”

After an uproar from protesters earlier in the week, the NDP government announced amendments to the bill that will see neighbours and children volunteering their time exempt from Workers Compensation Board (WCB) and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) regulations.

As the two convoys arrived in Lethbridge, police were directing traffic – clearing a path for the column of vehicles to the Lethbridge Lodge on Scenic Drive South. The city issued a rally permit allowing the convoy into the Lethbridge, as long as traffic laws were obeyed. As traffic downtown slowed to a standstill, some took to social media to vent frustrations:

Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Lori Sigurdson and Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Oneil Carter are expected to address a large crowd of farmers and ranchers at Thursday’s meeting.

© Shaw Media, 2015


Bill 6: Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act

29th Legislature, 1st Session (2015)

Bill 6: Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act (Sigurdson)


First Reading:
Nov. 17, 2015 aft. (H.501) — passed

Second Reading:
Nov. 25, 2015 aft. (H.619-20)
Dec. 1, 2015 eve. (H.735-51)
Dec. 2, 2015 eve. (H.) — adjourned
Committee of the Whole:

Third Reading:

Royal Assent:

Comes into force:

View Bill 6 (PDF) 432 KB

Reference Only
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Alberta Premier Rachel Notley won’t back down on Bill 6

Government plans to introduce amendments to ‘clarify’ the legislation

By Michelle Bellefontaine, CBC News
Posted: Dec 03, 2015 11:43 AM MT
Last Updated: Dec 03, 2015 8:30 PM MT

Minnie the pot-bellied pig was among the protesters at today's protest, outfitted with a sign that reads "pigs are smarter than dogs, and both are smarter than the NDP."

Minnie the pot-bellied pig was among the protesters at today’s protest, outfitted with a sign that reads “pigs are smarter than dogs, and both are smarter than the NDP.” (Kim Trynacity)

Rachel Notley explains Bill 6 2:37

Not long after 1,500 farmers and ranchers protested Bill 6 outside the Alberta legislature Thursday, Premier Rachel Notley vowed to push ahead with the legislation.

In her first appearance in the legislature this week, Notley refused to back away from a plan to implement aspects of the bill that come into effect Jan. 1.

“I’m very, very proud that when passed this fall, this bill will ensure that paid farm workers will finally enjoy the protections enjoyed by every other worker,” she told the legislature.

The government plans to introduce amendments  to “clarify” that the bill, which subjects farms and ranches to occupational health and safety rules and mandatory Workers’ Compensation Board coverage, only applies to paid workers.

Cabinet ministers have insisted this was the government’s intention all along, despite contrary indications in WCB documents.

Notley said she takes full responsibility for the “miscommunication” around the bill.

“As the premier, that ultimately rests with me,” she said. “But I also, as the premier, have to think about the 177 farm workers who are paid, who will be hospitalized between Jan. 1 and  Apr. 1.”

Notley said she wasn’t sure if the amendments would immediately quell protests against Bill 6.

But she told reporters at a news conference that people will eventually come around, particularly when critics see the legislation won’t prevent children from doing chores on family farms, as some critics had feared

“I think when all is said and done, people will see that we’ve protected a vulnerable group of workers, and we have also not in any way undermined the ability of our very important farm families to continue to do what they do.”

As a former advocate for injured workers, Notley said the issue is personal to her. She wants farm workers to have the right to refuse unsafe work and get access to compensation if they are hurt.

The amendments to the bill will address some contentious issues that the government originally planned to write into regulations over the next year, Notley said.

“When the process is finished, I hope to have earned back whatever trust we may have lost.”

Protests growing

About an hour and a half earlier, the boisterous but peaceful protest crowd chanted “Kill Bill 6” and sang along to a rewritten version of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” called “Naughty Notley Running the Show.”

Bill 6 protest

Ranchers and farmers angry at Bill 6 held another protest at the Alberta legislature on Thursday. (CBC)

An earlier rally on the steps of the legislature on Monday drew more than 1,000 people. Farmers also packed town hall meetings in Okotoks and Red Deer over the past two days to voice their anger with the bill.

So far the government has resisted calls from farmers and the opposition to ditch the bill and do more consultations.

MLAs debated the bill, which is currently in second reading, until about 1:30 a.m. Thursday.

Government House Leader Brian Mason accused the opposition of filibustering the bill. He said the government will introduce amendments when the bill moves into committee of the whole.

Not a single NDP member spoke about Bill 6 during the debate Wednesday night. Mason said he didn’t think that was unusual.

“Once we have our amendment on the floor, our members will feel they will have a lot more to talk about,” he said.

During the debate, Conservative MLA Sandra Jansen called on the government to pull the bill and consult further. She said the situation is similar to what the Conservatives experienced with Bill 10, which dealt with gay-straight alliances, a year ago.

“We misjudge on our legislation,” Jansen said. “We go in with the best of intentions, and then we have to turn around and say, ‘you know what, that wasn’t the right fit,’ ” she said.

“So there is an opportunity here. There’s an opportunity to pull this, to go back, and to sit down with these folks who want good legislation.”

Notley was out of the country at the United Nations climate change talks while opposition to the bill has intensified.

On Thursday, her staff distributed a fact sheet to show that every other Canadian province and territory has workplace safety rules on farms. Four provinces — Alberta, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia — don’t require WCB coverage on farms.

NDP to amend farm safety law, premier blames officials for misinformation

Farmers down by Nanton took their protest on Bill 6 to Highway 2.

Farmers down by Nanton took their protest on Bill 6 to Highway 2. Don Patterson / For the Calgary Herald

Premier Rachel Notley says misinformation from government officials has helped whip up concern and opposition to the new farm safety legislation, but she insisted the bill will be passed this fall.

Speaking in a conference call from the international climate conference in Paris, Notley said there will be an announcement soon on how the government will address those concerns and proceed with the legislation.

Labour Minister Lori Sigurdson later clarified on a Calgary radio show that amendments will help clear up confusion around Bill 6 and reassure Albertans that family farms will be protected.

However, Notley said Bill 6 will be passed during the current sitting of the legislature — expected to end next week — prompting the opposition Wildrose to call on the government to slow down.

Bill 6 would compel roughly 43,000 Alberta farms and ranches to abide by occupational health and safety standards, secure Workers’ Compensation Board coverage and comply with labour rules, such as vacation pay and minimum wage.

Farmer Scott Anderson at a protest against Bill 6 at the Legislature on Monday.

Monday’s protest against Bill 6 at the Legislature. Jodie Sinnema

But mass protest rallies were held in front of the legislature on Monday and last Friday, with thousands of farmers and ranchers saying the bill will drive up their costs and limit how much their children and friends will be able to help their operations.

“It has not ever been, nor will it ever be, our intention to introduce a bill that interferes with the ability of family members to do what they have always done on the family farm, or for neighbours to help neighbours or friends to help friends,” said Notley.

“That has never been our intention and frankly, that is not actually the outcome of the bill as it is currently constructed. That being said, I will acknowledge that as a result from some misinformation that has emanated from some government officials, there may be legitimate confusion about that.”

Notley said that miscommunication occurred at public consultation hearings where ministry officials were speaking.

“There was an unfortunate lack of knowledge by the people that were speaking about the bill,” she said.

Another information session is set for Tuesday afternoon in Red Deer.

Notley said she was consulting with members of her NDP government on how to reassure Albertans and an announcement will be forthcoming “in the next short while.” But she said the government would “absolutely not” pull the legislation.

“It is possible to regulate and protect paid farm workers while at the same time excluding family members and volunteer work and educational work and all the other kind of stuff that goes on day-in and day-out on farms,” she said, pointing to the judicial review following the death of Kevan Chandler, who suffocated in a grain silo in 2006.


On Tuesday, Sigurdson said the NDP government will introduce amendments to Bill 6 to clear up misinformation from government officials that has confused the legislation.

“We want to make sure that neighbours can still help neighbours, family members can work on farms, and we were going to put that in the regulations, but we’re going to make that complete in the bill with the amendments coming forward,” Sigurdson told a Calgary radio station.

She lauded farmers for voicing their concerns across Alberta.

“We’re going to do some further diligence on this, create these amendments, certainly speaking with farmers and ranchers in that process. And our consultations are going on throughout the week, so we very much want to make this right and make sure we’re understanding.”

The issue is one of the first in which Notley’s government has been faced with large public protest, petitions and escalating social media outrage.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean says the government needs to go back to the drawing board and not ram the controversial legislation through before Christmas.

More consultation is needed, he said.

“Families understand better than anyone how their farms work and how Bill 6 will impact their lives. They’ve heard bureaucrats and the minister talk down to them, but all they want is to have their voices heard,” Jean said in a statement Tuesday.

“Bulldozing ahead with Bill 6 and making adjustments on the fly is not how we should be legislating changes to the 45,000 farms across the province.”

With files from Jodie Sinnema, Edmonton Journal, and Chris Varcoe, Calgary Herald

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Alberta’s Bill 6: Answers to common questions on controversial farm-safety legislation

Government ministers fanning out to personally clarify points about proposed new law

CBC News Posted: Dec 01, 2015 11:47 AM MTLast Updated: Dec 01, 2015 4:30 PM MT

Alberta farmers gather along Highway 2 near Nanton on Monday, Nov. 30, 2015 to protest Bill 6.

Alberta farmers gather along Highway 2 near Nanton on Monday, Nov. 30, 2015 to protest Bill 6. (Kyle Kohut)

Related Stories

Confusion has surrounded the debate over Alberta’s Bill 6, as the NDP government continues to push forward legislation aimed at making farm work safer and bringing the province’s labour laws more in line with the rest of Canada.

Farmers and ranchers see the proposed law as a threat to their businesses and ways of life, however, and they have not been shy about saying so.

The often emotional debate has been heightened by the recent deaths of a 10-year-old boy who was killed driving a forklift on a farm near Killam, Alta., and three sisters who suffocated in canola seed near Withrow, Alta.

In the face of a protest involving more than 1,000 people outside the Alberta Legislature, Labour Minster Lori Sigurdson admitted the government “could have done a better job in communicating.”

She and other ministers then pledged to personally attend town halls and public meetings around the province to offer more clarity about the bill.

Still, many questions remain.

Here, we do our best to answer five of the most common ones, and compare Alberta’s proposed regulations to those in our neighbouring provinces:

1. Will workers compensation be mandatory for all farm workers, including family members?

According to the current wording of the bill, yes, but that could change.

“If you are operating a for-profit farming operation … you must cover any unpaid workers, including family members and children, performing work on your farm,” the Workers Compensation Board (WCB) of Alberta states in its explanation of Bill 6.

Farm operators would be asked to provide a “value of service” for the work unpaid labourers perform, the board explains.

Sigurdson, however, later suggested that would be amended in a new version of the bill, which would include an “explicit” exemption for families working on farms.

The province later clarified in a press release that “WCB coverage would be required only for paid employees, with an option for farmers to extend coverage to unpaid workers like family members, neighbours and friends.”

In Manitoba, workers compensation coverage was made mandatory for farm labourers in 2009, but family members were exempted from that change.

2. How much will WCB coverage cost?

Workers compensation premiums, which must be paid by employers, range depending on the risk of injury associated with the type of work being performed.

Alberta is proposing rates ranging from $1.70 per $100 of insurable earnings for things like greenhouse work up to $2.25 for grain farming and $2.97 for workplaces involving large animals, including beef producers, feed lots, livestock auctions and horse stables.

In British Columbia, by comparison, the rates are more expensive.

At the low end, orchard and vineyard work in B.C. comes with WCB rates of $1.73 per $100 of insurable earnings, but at the high end, the rate for grain farming stands at $4.87 and ranching at $5.65.

3. How dangerous are farms?

Alberta averages about 17 farm fatalities each year, including three deaths of children, based on data collected by the provincial government since 1985.

Most of those deaths in recent years are due to machine runovers or rollovers, although not all were work-related.

By contrast, there are an average of 13 people killed on Saskatchewan farms each year, most involving machinery.

About 14 per cent of serious farm-related injuries in Saskatchewan involve youth.

4. What about occupational health and safety?

Unlike other provinces, farm workers in Alberta are currently exempt from occupational health and safety laws and have no right to refuse unsafe work.

That also means data on work-related injuries and deaths are considered incomplete in Alberta, because currently all accidents don’t need to be reported, and investigations aren’t routinely launched.

In Saskatchewan, by contrast, employers are required to provide safe working environments and must ensure their workers know they have the right to refuse what they perceive to be unsafe work.

Alberta’s occupational health and safety exemption for farms and ranches would change under Bill 6, with standards applying “when a farm employs one or more paid employees at any time of the year,” according to a government press release.

5. Will kids and neighbours still be able to help out on family farms?

That’s been a particularly unclear point, according to Stephen Vandervalk, vice-president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers in Alberta, who has been watching the legislation closely.

If Bill 6 is passed and indeed takes effect on Jan. 1, Vandervalk says farmers and ranchers aren’t sure if neighbours could casually pitch in with cow branding or if children younger than 16 could help or even accompany their parents if they’re working long hours.

Premier Rachel Notley, however, later pledged that kids living on family farms “will continue to be able to work on the farm as they always have.”

“And they will continue to be educated on the farm through 4H programs as they always have,” the premier said, speaking to reporters via conference call from Paris, where she was attending the COP21 climate change summit.

In Saskatchewan, there are exceptions to occupational health and safety rules that allow kids to help out on family farms, but children are prohibited from tasks like operating motorized farm equipment and handling dangerous chemicals.

No such prohibitions on kids operating motorized farm equipment currently exist in Alberta.

There have been cases in Saskatchewan of confusion, however, where parents have run afoul of labour laws for having their kids take on particular tasks on the family farm.


Bill 6 will pass, but Alberta government says it will be amended

Michelle Bellefontaine, CBC News Posted: Dec 01, 2015 10:20 AM MTLast Updated: Dec 01, 2015 5:06 PM MT

A protester holds a sign at a rally protesting Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act.

A protester holds a sign at a rally protesting Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act. (CBC)

Labour Minister Lori Sigurdson says the government will introduce an amendment to Bill 6 stating that farm and ranch safety rules will apply only to paid workers.

The amendment specifies that mandatory Workers Compensation Board coverage will only apply to workers earning a wage. As well, occupational health and safety rules will only apply to operations that employ one or more workers at any time of the year.

The minister claims the government always intended for family members to be exempt from the contentious farm safety law, but the exemption was to be written into regulations coming in 2017.

However, when the legislation was first introduced, ministry officials said occupational health and safety rules would apply to everyone — paid or unpaid.

Now it will be made explicit that they will only apply to paid workers.

“Farmers and ranchers have told us loudly and clearly, and we’ve been listening, that it’s important for us to have this actually in the legislation,” Sigurdson said. “They said, ‘Hey, we want this up front, we want this in writing,’ so we said OK.”

Sigurdson’s comments came one day after more than 1,000 farmers and ranchers held a protest on the steps of the Alberta legislature.

Bill 6 proposes to introduce a range of new safety regulations on farms and ranches. It will also make Worker’s Compensation Board coverage mandatory.

Farmers and ranchers are concerned the new rules will prevent their children from helping out with family chores and make it impossible for neighbours to help with activities like harvesting and calving.

They have called for the government to exempt small family farms.

Premier Rachel Notley said the government intends to pass Bill 6 in the fall session and won’t delay implementation.

However, Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said the government needs to kill the bill, and properly consult with farmers and ranchers first. Jean said adding an amendment shows the government got it wrong in the first place.

“The number one amendment I would like to see is to stop right now, not pass this bill, not force it through the legislature,” he said. “And take a break, take a step back and listen to Alberta farmers and ranchers.”

The government has admitted communication on the bill has been mishandled. While Sigurdson said she takes responsibility for the botched message, both she and Notley are blaming government officials for giving out wrong information about the bill at a town hall meeting in Grande Prairie last week.

Progressive Conservative Leader Ric McIver said Notley is throwing bureaucrats under the bus.

“That is a far cry from the level of responsibility Albertans should get from their premier,” he said.

Notley said the bill does not prohibit children from working on family farms, as critics have suggested. Nor will it prevent children from taking part in 4H activities.

“Their kids will continue to be able to work on the farm as they always have,” Notley said in a conference call from Paris, where she is attending the COP21 conference. “And they will continue to be educated on the farm through 4H programs as they always have.”

Notley also discussed her activities while in Paris for COP21, where she said Alberta’s new message on climate change was heard.

The government announced Alberta has been accepted as a member of the Climate Group’s States and Regions Alliance.

The group is made up of 31 subnational regions across the world.


Alberta family wants talks on farm contaminated by oil and gas industry

  Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

An Alberta family whose farmland has been tainted by chemical contamination has asked the province’s energy regulator to force the responsible companies to negotiate compensation.

“These are very solid facts upon which the regulator can demonstrate it does have the ability to be an enforcer when things go wrong,” said Keith Wilson, lawyer for Ron and Lonni Saken.

The Sakens were informed in 2014 that groundwater under their dairy farm — which has been in the family since 1929 — was contaminated by a solvent used in the treatment of sour gas.

That solvent comes from a gas plant owned by Bonavista Energy, which bought the plant from Suncor (TSX:SU) in 2010. Bonavista’s studies show the leaching began years before it bought the plant.

Experts say it will be at least a decade before the groundwater is safe and will more likely take 30 years or longer. Meanwhile, the contamination prevents the Sakens from selling their farm or borrowing against it.

Plans to expand the farm to allow their son and his fiancee to join it have been put on hold.

The Alberta Energy Regulator has ordered Bonavista to truck at least 9.5 million litres a year to the farm for the family, staff and cattle. Bonavista has complied.

But the water is only a stop-gap, said Wilson. He points to provisions in the 2013 law that created the agency, allowing it to direct companies to attend a dispute resolution meeting.

His letter to the regulator asks it to force both Bonavista and Suncor to do so.

“The meeting will provide an opportunity for the two energy companies known to be responsible for the contamination of the Saken farm to develop a long-term solution,” he wrote.

In a letter to the regulator, Bonavista says it is willing to attend such a meeting but is wary of the stakes. It argues the rules say those talks could only involve the order to supply water.

“Bonavista understands Mr. Wilson’s request to relate to more than the order,” says the company’s letter.

It said it would negotiate with the Sakens if the scope was agreed on in advance.

In earlier correspondence with The Canadian Press, Suncor has said it’s “not appropriate” to comment on a plant it no longer owns.

Nigel Bankes, a resource law professor at the University of Calgary, said Wilson might get the regulator to force Bonavista to the table, but is unlikely to get Suncor.

He said both companies could be included in a contaminated sites order using provincial legislation.

“Then there is a possibility of implicating other persons responsible, (which) would include a prior owner of the facility,” Bankes said.

“I’m not sure why that wouldn’t have been done yet. There doesn’t seem to be much doubt there is contamination.”

A spokesman for the Alberta Energy Regulator was not immediately available.


Donald Trump, Eminent Domain & Property Rights

“In the long run, one of the best ways to promote economic development is to respect property rights.”

In the rush to stop Trump’s presidential bid a lot of media and pundits have suddenly discovered property rights because Eminent Domain (government expropriation) is one of the GOP front runner’s vices.

This is good news for Canadian landowners as US political topics eventually trickle into the public debate in Canada too.

This article, while a bit too sympathetic to the “hold out” argument in favour of expropriation, does point out a couple of things CAEPLA supports: engineering innovation and secret assembly.

There is simply no need to violate property rights, ever. Respecting property rights in fact enhances economic development.

Arguably resorting to Eminent Domain/expropriation hurts industry.

The case could be made that had TransCanada not indulged in the practice in Nebraska and other states for the construction of its ill-fated Keystone XL pipeline, the project might have gone through. Local farmers and ranchers would not have been alienated, meaning celebrity and other environmental activists might not have found fertile ground to help create the political cover President Obama needed to block it.

We would note too that in Canada, where TransCanada effectively respected landowners and property rights, CAEPLA was able to negotiate a precedent setting, ‘win, win’ business agreement with the company.

We look forward to seeing how the latest property rights debate plays out over this US election cycle. If you want to take a closer look at the subject we hope you will check out the first issue of the quarterly print edition of the Pipeline Observer, where several writers discuss the topic and its importance to you as a landowner and citizen at length. If you are already a member of CAEPLA you will be receiving your copy in the mail soon. If you would like a free subscription, contact us here.


Will Trudeau promote pipelines and make the NEB respect your property rights?

Pipeline Politics

 Canada’s 42nd federal election is finally over.

Justin Trudeau is in with a majority and Stephen Harper, styled by some the “pipeline prime minister,” is out.

CAEPLA of course is non-partisan but that won’t stop us asking what you and pipeline landowners across the country are wondering right now: what will the Trudeau Liberal government mean for pipelines and property rights in Canada.

No new major pipeline projects were completed on Mr. Harper’s nearly ten year watch, despite the moniker.

We already know PM-elect Trudeau is supportive of TransCanada’s controversial and long delayed Keystone XL, the Canadian leg of which was completed with CAEPLA’s assistance and without incident nearly a decade ago.

Mr. Trudeau has also said he would “send Enbridge back to the drawing board” on Northern Gateway (Source: ResourceWorks Newsletter), adding “I am, however, very interested in the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline that is making its way through — I certainly hope that we’re going to be able to get that pipeline approved.”

It appears the incoming prime minister is generally supportive of pipeline development and is on record as saying we need more resource development to create jobs for the middle class he put at the centre of his platform.

Interestingly, a minor controversy during the election over revelations a top Liberal operative was offering advice to TransCanada on how to lobby government to get Energy East built failed to derail the party’s electoral fortunes.

This could indicate popular opposition to the project is not particularly strong and that Trudeau himself will be given a lot of latitude by the public when it comes to high profile pipeline projects.

Indeed left of centre parties like the Liberals are often politically more able to “get away” with implementing “right wing” policies than Conservatives are – case in point the Paul Martin Liberals being more hawkish on the fiscal front than Mulroney ever was.

So if we can be reasonably confident a Trudeau administration will approve major pipelines – albeit with tougher environmental rules, or the appearance of same, along with better salesmanship — sometime soon, what might this mean for the property rights of pipeline landowners looking to participate in a new energy transport boom?

This is a significant question given Mr. Trudeau’s pledge to reform the National Energy Board (NEB).

Could respect for property rights become criteria for the Board along with yet more environmental consideration?

This is not as farfetched as it might sound.

Justin Trudeau has made it clear he is a proud champion of the Charter – his father Pierre was its architect, after all.

What is not commonly known especially among conservative minded Canadians is that the elder Turdeau had originally wanted to include property rights in the document.

That they were left out has been a bone of contention for conservatives and property rights advocates ever since.

The second Prime Minister Trudeau has an opportunity to complete his father’s Constitutional vision in a way that benefits landowners, industry and the economy as a whole.

And the first best opportunity Mr. Trudeau has to do so would be repealing the NEB’s powers of expropriation and allow landowners and industry to partner in the ‘win-win’ business agreements CAEPLA advocates.


NEB Promises to “Do Things Differently”

Government needs to talk property rights with landowners – or get out of the way.

 At this summer’s National Energy Board (NEB) Safety Forum, newly minted Board chair Peter Watson informed those of us in attendance that he planned to do things differently. 

As a long-time advocate of the NEB doing things differently – or better yet, not at all – I was curious. His predecessor had claimed the Board could only operate within the limitations of government legislation. So I asked Mr. Watson, publicly, what in fact he meant by “doing things differently.”

His response was that he intended to consult and “talk more” with “stakeholders.”

The new chair did not elaborate on who all he would recognize as “stakeholders.”

But unless Mr. Watson starts talking to landowners – the only real “stakeholders” – about property rights, he won’t really be saying anything new at all.

Property rights are the pre-requisite for any serious discussion about safety.

When most people talk about pipeline safety what they are really talking about is protecting people and the environment – i.e., public and private property – from the risk of leaks and spills.

Property rights empower landowners to demand the safest pipelines possible in the deals we negotiate – something even company shareholders want, too.

That’s because property rights are the foundations of a free market system that includes contract and the rule of law which has always been the real way to guarantee the greater good.

Expropriation of private property for the benefit of governemnt and its cronies throws the whole system out of whack.

It is just a subsidy, a kind of rent control, and license for indifferent or reckless behaviour by the recipient.

In other words, if you get to use something for next to nothing, and you don’t even own it, you tend not to look after it very well. This is what’s known in economics as Tragedy of the Commons. It’s the same reason why rent controlled, subsidized, and public housing usually deteriorates so badly – people are getting it for free or cheap, so they don’t look after it.

Meanwhile, even though the majority of landowners are pro-oil pro-development, they are increasingly also pro-property rights and pro-choice — meaning they want the right to say no to a bad development deal.

As we at the Canadian Association of Energy and Pipeline Landowner Associations (CAEPLA) like to say, “Landowners want in!”

In other words CAEPLA encourages agribusiness and other landowners to see themselves not only as voluntary partners in the energy transport industry, but as part of that industry.

Which of course would make the NEB redundant.

Regulators’ original purpose was never really safety or the environment. Those agenda items were only added to their mandate in order to placate the public and justify the Board’s existence.

The NEB has never been an effective guarantor of safety and has lost whatever public confidence it might have enjoyed in any case.

The real route to pipeline safety are property rights that recognize landowners’ right and responsibility to steward the land, to ensure the safety the public demands by way of ‘win-win’ business agreements bound by contract law.

Why would anybody – industry, landowners, or the public – want government to meddle and insert itself in energy transport?

While it may once have protected pipeline companies and politicians, the NEB has never benefited landowners and the public. In fact, the bureaucratization and politicization of pipelines has now paralyzed the industry, with few or no new project in any danger of proceeding any time soon.

This obviously hurts the companies, but it also hurts farmers and the public who rely on safe, abundant cheap energy.

CAEPLA has proven of late that landowners can work with, in, and as part of the energy transport industry.

So if a safe prosperous energy economy is the goal – why not get government regulators out of the way? Why not let the real stakeholders – landowners and pipeline companies get on with it, just like EVERY…OTHER…INDUSTRY…does?


AltaLink line could face fight in Supreme Court

30 Sep 2015

Lethbridge Herald


Some Alberta landowners are hoping to use the Supreme Court to fight a power transmission line that they say could be left idle as the province cuts its greenhouse gas emissions.

The landowners are completing an application to appeal a provincial regulatory decision that gave power transmission company AltaLink approval to use their property for the line.

Lawyer Donald Bur said Alberta’s Surface Rights Board unfairly ruled that AltaLink’s 350 kilometre line from west of Edmonton to the Calgary area should be considered entirely in Alberta, even though it connects to power lines that leave the province.

That would mean the board didn’t have the right to grant permits to the company to access the appellant’s land, he said.

“All we can do is say to the Surface Rights Board, ‘You don’t have jurisdiction, so you cannot grant a right of entry order on this land,’” said Bur.

If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, Bur said his clients will ask the court to tell AltaLink to remove the line from their property.

The line has long been controversial.

Alberta’s previous Tory government called the line crucial infrastructure. But critics argued its capacity was far in excess of what Albertans required.


Lundbreck area resident talks transmission lines to MD council

Pincher Creek Voice

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Photo from Russ Thompson letter
to council – possible location of
power line crossing, north
of Lundbreck
Chris Davis
Lundbreck area citizen Russ Thompson appeared as a delegation before council for the Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9 at their August 25 meeting. He expressed his concerns about potential power line construction in his area. Using maps and diagrams he illustrated those concerns and his proposed alternative solutions. Among other things, Thompson would prefer to see a crossing at the man-made Oldman River Dam Provincial Recreation Area instead of across natural areas of the Crowsnest River and Connelly Creek. According to Thompson, “AltaLink’s proposed routing along Highway 3 will devastate existing viewscapes”.
Map of Lundbreck area, from
Russ Thompson document
submitted to council

Regulatory power for transmission lines is reserved for the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), Council for the Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9 has no regulatory power but is regularly asked by its citizens to present their concerns to the provincial government.

“My background is in pipeline routing, so 30 years of routing experience on linear projects, albeit on pipelines, not power lines,” said Thompson. “I have looked at all the AltaLink routes, and I would like to present some alternates to you today.””In October, 2014 AltaLink had a different map, that showed 500Kv routes, but they really didn’t tell us they intend to build two lines on the site with Kv sections.”

“There is not just one, but but two sets of towers along those roads.””It’s definitely going to impact the viewscapes around here, having 2 500 Kv lines, versus a single line.”

“AltaLink’s shortest route is 38.27 kilometres. The next shortest is 38.4.”

“The one to Chapel Rock is 13.5 kilometres of 500 Kv, so that’s those two lines, whereas our option has 4.7 kilometers of 500 Kv which will equate to 9.4 kilometres of 500 Kv with the two lines there.

Thompson was also concerned about greenfield ratios.  “How much of the new alignment is what’s called greenfield. That’s not parallel to existing infrastructure, such as pipeline right away, or utility corridor. Anytime you are not directly abutted to that, it’s called greenfield.”

“Greenfield is fairly important.” Thompson said the level of greenfield can escalate a project to another level of regulatory control.

“I was really alarmed when I saw these green fieldpercentages.” He said one route along the Pincher Creek Airport had 78% greenfield.

Water crossings were also a concern for Thompson. “It (Crowsnest River north of Lundbreck) is the most picturesque part of the river, and that’s exactly where AltaLink is proposing to cross.”

According to Thompson there are some issues around power lines crossing at the Oldman River Dam Provincial Recreation area. “AltaLink is trying to stay out of that, because there are some issues crossing that. In exchange for crossing a man-made feature for ease, they are proposing to cross a pristine river valley.”

Thompson explained the area was enhanced to replace destroyed habitat when the dam was established, and said it was home to wildlife and migratory birds, and frequented by kayakers and fly-fishers.

He demonstrated one proposed route with 4 crossings across Highway 3 between Pincher Station and Lundbreck. “This is going to look like an industrial park, if that route is adopted.”

“These towers are 60 to 70 metres tall. That’s 6 to 10 times taller than any structures, any aluminum power line structures that are out there, so these things are going to be very intrusive. They are going to impact all of our views.”

A view near Lundbreck –
Photo from Russ Thompson
letter to council
He said of a proposed route that goes close to Cowley “You’re pushing 150, 146 residences that would be within 800 meters, which is pretty significant.” He said Lundbreck also was also affected by this route.
“I looked at all these roads on the ground, this wasn’t just a desktop exercise,” said Thompson, at one point explaining he had driven over 300 km of back roads.

“You can lessen the impact everywhere you are, but that requires crossing the reservoir.”He offered alternate routs that he said ranged from 4.8 to 13 kilometres shorter than what Alta Link has proposed. “That being the case, it should be significantly less cost to the rate payers, and should have significantly less footprint in the MD.”

He said the routes he is proposing would have less visual impact as they do not run along the highways as much, two of his alternatives have no crossing of Highway 3, and they cross waterways. “Let’s cross it at the reservoir. It’s a man-made feature versus natural.”

Thompson said AltaLink’s proposed routes have anywhere from 37-146 residents within 800 metres, while his route proposals include some guidelines. “The green option has zero residences within 114 metres, and only 14 within 800 metres.””Another thing I want to point out to you is AltaLink just a few years ago built this line to Goose Lake which is just northeast of town, here. They’ve already developed a corridor to there, now they want to develop another corridor west of the Highway 6 junction that runs north-south. When is enough enough?”

Thompson said he presented his suggestions to AltaLink. “Their current position is they are not going to entertain any of the routes that I’ve suggested. I fully expected that they would say that. I think it is very apparent that AltaLink is not going to do anything, unless they’re forced to do it. The only people that are going to be able to force them to do it are the people who live in this area, and maybe the other people in this province that say enough’s enough.”


Windmill in Cowley Falling Down on the Job

The wind caused a Windmill in the Cowley area to fall down.  Pictures shown below provided by alf2000:










Canadian Natural posts $405-million net loss on higher tax rate, lower revenue

Follow The Lethbridge Herald on Twitter @LethHerald Latest Tweet

By The Canadian Press on August 6, 2015.

CALGARY – Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (TSX:CNQ) had a $405-million net loss in the second quarter but the company says it would have been profitable without a 20 per cent increase in Alberta’s corporate tax rate.

The Calgary-based oil and gas producer says the higher tax rate – which rose to 12 per cent as of July 1 – increased Canadian Natural’s deferred income tax liability by $579 million.

Excluding that item, Canadian Natural says it had $178 million of adjusted earnings from operations.

The results were weak compared with the same period last year, when Canadian Natural had $1.07 billion of net earnings and $1.15 billion of adjusted net earnings.

Canadian Natural’s revenue fell 36 per cent or nearly $2 billion compared with the second quarter of 2014, when global oil and gas prices were much higher.

It says total revenue the second quarter was $3.42 billion, down from $5.37 billion a year earlier.


Canadian Natural blames Alta. tax rate for loss

Follow The Lethbridge Herald on Twitter @LethHerald Latest Tweet

By Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press on August 6, 2015.

CALGARY – Canadian Natural Resources is warning that Alberta’s corporate tax hike will hit employment, though both company executives and Premier Rachel Notley agree the steep drop in crude prices is a much bigger challenge.

The Calgary-based oil and gas giant posted a net loss of $405 million during the second quarter, mostly because of a $579-million charge related to the higher tax rate.

All things being equal, the higher tax tab means $579 million less will be invested over the lifespan of Canadian Natural’s assets, chief financial officer Corey Bieber said in an interview.

That figure translates into 4,100 fewer “position years” of direct, indirect and induced employment in that time span, he said, citing a study by a third-party consultant.

The study wasn’t undertaken specifically to look into the impact of the tax changes, but is part of work the company routinely does as part of the regulatory process for its projects, said president Steve Laut.

Unlike many of its peers, Canadian Natural has not announced staff layoffs since crude prices began their sharp decline from above US$100 a barrel a year ago to around US$44 on Thursday. Rather, top brass are taking a pay cut and company-wide pay increases have been scrubbed.

Notley, speaking to reporters in Edmonton, said Albertans accept that higher corporate taxes are going to hit the bottom lines of companies.

“Albertans clearly considered that issue very thoroughly in the last election,” she said. Given the province’s fiscal challenges, Albertans realize it’s necessary to “pull up our socks and tighten our belts” and “everybody needs to chip in.”

She said the tumbling price of crude is having a much bigger impact on employment than the tax increase to 12 per cent from 10 per cent, which came into effect on July 1.

Bieber agrees with that assessment.

Between the first six months of 2014 and the first six months of 2015, Bieber figures the price drop had around a $2.3-billion impact on cash flow.

“The bottom line is, reduced cash flow leads to less ability to reinvest in the business and ultimately that’s what drives growth of the economy,” he said.

Canadian Natural is one of a number of major Calgary oil company to take a tax charge against its second-quarter results.

Last week Canadian Oil Sands (TSX:COS) said its deferred tax expense was $120 million during the quarter, while Imperial Oil (TSX:IMO) took a $320-million charge. A $315-million tax expense at Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE) was mainly due to the Alberta tax hike, as well.

Without the tax expense and other items in the mix, Canadian Natural said its adjusted earnings from operations were $178 million, compared to $1.15 billion a year earlier.

The Alberta government is setting up expert panels to look into the province’s royalty rates and climate change policy. Notley said more details will be coming out next week.

Laut said until there’s clarity on what kind of additional costs may arise from both reviews, it can’t pin down 2016 spending plans.

He sees work on the Horizon oilsands expansion continuing and more drilling off the shores of Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa.

“But other than that we have to wait and see how the world shakes out.”

Follow @LaurenKrugel on Twitter.


Abandoned wells remain Alta. concern

  • 4 Aug 2015
  • Lethbridge Herald
  • Ian Bickis


A program in Alberta to deal with thousands of dormant oil and gas wells that don’t meet safety and monitoring standards needs to be strengthened, critics say as falling crude prices could see their numbers swell.

Energy operators have brought about 3,600 wells in line with regulations as part of a compliance program the province launched in April. The Alberta Energy Regulator’s goal for the 2015-16 fiscal year is just under 5,500 wells.

While that shows that the organization is two-thirds of its way to meeting its goal, that still leaves more than 22,100 wells that aren’t complying with rules that govern fencing, and testing for leaks, among other measures, said Carrie Rose, a spokeswoman for the regulator.

Rose said the program is meant to bring them into compliance over the next five years.

But Barry Robinson, the national program director for regions at Ecojustice, said in the meantime those wells could still contaminate the environment.

“In the worst-case scenario you can have a well that is venting something or leaking something and not being aware of it because you’ve never done the pressure testing that was required,” said Robinson.

Jason Unger, staff counsel at the Environmental Law Centre, said the regulator should explain why operators were allowed to have so many wells not complying with regulations in the first place.

A bigger problem is that the program doesn’t set deadlines for well closures, Unger added.

He said unreclaimed wells continue to impact the land and could affect property values, while an increase in the number of inactive wells means an overhang of liabilities for companies that may not be able to pay reclamation costs.

“It’s reliant on the operator to determine when to abandon them,” said Unger.

Concerns over inactive wells comes as the number of orphaned wells has swelled from 162 in March to more than 700.

Wells are orphaned when the company that owns them goes bankrupt or can’t be found. The wells then become the responsibility of the Orphaned Well Association, an industry-funded group that was set up to deal with them.

Brad Herald, a director of the association, says low oil prices have contributed to an increase in orphaned wells.

“We know that given the economic times, there’s probably more coming,” said Herald.

Despite an increase in the number of orphaned wells, Herald doesn’t think Alberta needs to set timelines for reclaiming old wells.

He said wells can be inactive for a variety of reasons, from waiting for the construction of a pipeline to holding on until prices recover.

But Robinson says the province should consider firm timelines for well reclamation like many U.S. states have, because many wells in Alberta have been sitting idle for years.

According to the Alberta Energy Regulator, of the roughly 77,000 inactive wells in the province, 18,000 haven’t been active for more than a decade.

“If there’s some good reason why the well’s been inactive for five years and needs to be inactive longer, well then the company should have to justify that,” said Robinson.

Last year, the Progressive Conservative government committed to reviewing well closure timelines.

A spokeswoman for Environment Minister and Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips said in an email that the current NDP government will look at strengthening existing programs to address inactive and orphaned wells.


Watchdog welcomes findings against TransAlta

  • 29 Jul 2015
  • Lethbridge Herald
  • Ian Bickis


The Alberta Utility Commission’s conclusion that TransAlta triggered outages at power plants to raise electricity rates is a welcome step towards fair markets, the head of the province’s utility watchdog said Tuesday.

“It’s a huge win for Albertans, who deserve to benefit from a fair, efficient, openly competitive market,” said Harry Chandler, administrator of the Market Surveillance Administrator. Chandler accused TransAlta of deliberately timing outages at coalfired power plants in Alberta at peak times in late 2010 and early 2011 in order to drive up electricity prices.

In a report released Monday, Alberta’s Utility Commission agreed.

During hearings held by the commission, TransAlta argued that it believed it was allowed to do that based in part on discussions with the Market Surveillance Administrator. But the commission found that TransAlta should have made further consultations before going ahead with its plan.

TransAlta has said it is reviewing the ruling, and a further response could include the possibility of an appeal to the province’s highest court.

Chandler said the decision provides more clarity for Alberta’s utility market going forward.

“This is a watershed decision that all market participants, and even outside of Alberta, are going to pay a great deal of attention to because it gives very clear guidance on appropriate behaviour in the electricity market.”

The commission said it will resume proceedings later to determine how much TransAlta benefited from the closures and what penalties to impose against the company.


Not-so-smart meters in Lethbridge

  • 4 Aug 2015
  • Lethbridge Herald

In 2011 the Union of B.C. Municipalities voted in its annual convention to ask the B.C. provincial government to put a “moratorium” on its plan to revamp the province’s power grid. The core of this plan involved the installation of smart meters.

In B.C. and many other jurisdictions in the world there is growing resistance to installing smart meters. Smart meters are a high-tech wireless device designed for two-way broadcasting through the medium of high-frequency microwave radiation.

At the B.C. municipal union “some of the concerns brought up by the delegates included health impacts, privacy issues, and potential rate hikes.” Sharon Noble, spokesperson for the Coalition to Stop Smart Meters, warned that if the B.C. Energy Ministry “chose to ignore what people have said through their councillors, through their mayors, then I think the government is making a big mistake.” She anticipated “plans to take the government to court over human rights complaints.”

In Lethbridge, our city government is not in a position to respond like municipal governments did in B.C. to growing public concerns. Because of the differences in our provincial histories, our city government is the primary custodian and renovator of our local power grid and metering system.

Unbeknownst to most Lethbridge residents, the city is rapidly pushing ahead with the installation of wifi communication devices that it refuses to identify as smart meters. At a recent community meeting at the University of Lethbridge, Mayor Chris Spearman commented that 19,000 meters have been installed with 26,000 yet to go.

At this gathering organized by the U of L’s New Media instructor, Lance Chong, there was a specific focus on a City of Lethbridge web page entitled “Electric Meter Replacement — Frequently Asked Questions.” One of the statements was that “the meters being installed in the city are not smart meters.” It also stated “the meters are safe.”

At this public meeting, our mayor repeatedly emphasized the safety of the electric meters. As on his own Facebook page, Mayor Spearman justified his claim by directing people to Health Canada’s Smart Meters information packages. He specifically pointed out that “Health Canada has issued limits of human exposure to RF (radio frequency) radiation in Safety Code 6.”

While city officials insist that the installed devices are not smart meters, they concurrently direct citizens’ public safety concerns to Health Canada’s assessment of “smart meters.”

The deceptiveness of this communications strategy raises important issues about consent. Indeed, the only document announcing the changeover in technologies calls into question the city government’s understanding of our collective and individual right to give informed consent to this controversial technology.

An official letter from the City of Lethbridge placed into the mailbox of every “resident/homeowner” states that “Electric Operations is replacing residential electric meters in the city, and your meter will be replaced within the next four-week period.”

The recipients are told they can call a city line during business hours if they have any questions. The letter also indicates, “As the meters are on the exterior of most homes, we will complete the work if no one is at home… The replacement process will take approximately five minutes.” The experience of litigation in other jurisdictions suggests that the City of Lethbridge is acting as if the failure to phone the assigned number for whatever reason constitutes “implied consent.”

The debate in B.C. demonstrates the breadth of concerns about the changeover to smart meters, or “Smart Grids” as an Alberta government report referred to the new technology in 2011. Done at the behest of the Alberta government, the publication is entitled Alberta Smart Grid Inquiry: Final Report.

The authors of the “final report” explain that “Smart Grid” is a “broad concept that describes the integration of hardware, software, computer monitoring, control technologies and modern communications strategies in the electricity grid.” The report underlines that smart meters are a part of Alberta’s Smart Grid plan. It refers to the City of Lethbridge’s relationship to the project along with that of Atco, Enmax, Epcor, Direct Energy and Fortis.

A special section is devoted to privacy issues. This topic is clearly connected to warnings that smart meters provide public utilities along with their attending corporations and governments with vast new surveillance capabilities and potentials. The Smart Grid Report notes that the then-privacy commissioner of Alberta, Frank Work, QC, cautioned that many privacy issues remain unaddressed.

Specifically, Work pointed out that the engineering of the Smart Grid could not advance until Alberta’s privacy laws were taken into account. These statutes include the Alberta’s Personal Information Act, the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act, and the Health Information Act.

These observations indicate that the City of Lethbridge is withholding important information from its constituents that we need to make informed, democratically-based decisions about our new Smart Meter and Smart Grid technology. The city’s haste of installation together with its eclipsing of the true nature of smart meters indicates that serious investigation is required. Could this haste have anything to do with the recent change in the provincial government from PC to NDP control?

The smart meter project is more consequential than a simple “replacement” of electric meters. It’s part of a far-reaching international reengineering of our power infrastructure. Smart meters, smart grids, and ubiquitous two-way microwave communications are impacting our lives in many ways.

Mayor Spearman owes his constituents open-minded consideration of our concerns as well as full disclosure about the true nature of the project. It would be a conflict of interest for him to act exclusively as a proponent of smart meters. An immediate halt to the project would enable the community and individuals to become collectively informed about our options. We do have a choice.

Anthony Hall is a professor of Globalization Studies in the Liberal Education Program at the University of Lethbridge.


Tilting the wind in Southern Alberta

Pincher Creek Voice

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

  • Survey trespass
  • Livingstone Landowners prod council for support
  • Oh those blinking lights
  • Intangibles
  • Anyway, the wind blows
  • TransAlta price rigging
  • Markets coalescing

Christian Davis

Survey trespass

The Livingstone Landowners Group (LLG) last week issued a press release titled “After denying access, landowners catch subcontractor hired by AltaLink trespassing on their property.” In that release LLG stated that AltaLink subcontractor Stantec trespassed on the land of Dan and Rose Skierka while conducting a field study for the proposed Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock transmission line.  The Skierkas have been participants in numerous public landowner issue discussions in the Pincher Creek area.”  According to the press release, “Despite the Skierkas behaving with admirable respect and patience (spending two hours with senior AltaLink representatives), AltaLink still ordered the subcontractor to go on their land.”

 In a letter to AltaLink President Scott Thon the Skierkas said the trespass occurred on June 29, 2015 when Stantec was conducting a a breeding  bird survey for the transmission project.  According to that letter, Dan Skierka and another landowner met with AltaLink representatives at the local Tim Horton’s and at that meeting denied AltaLink access. “We denied the request for very legitimate reasons and subsequently filled out the six page ‘AltaLink Land Form’ to that effect,” continues the letter. “We were assured that our position would be respected. The discussion and completing the forms took over two hours to complete.”

On July 13 Thon wrote back, saying “I want to apologize on behalf of AltaLink for the recent trespass on your land. It was an incident for which we apologize and accept responsibility for our contractor.”
“Our understanding is that you did not grant Stantec access to your land for any environmental  survey and therefore  it should not have taken place. We pride ourselves on creating positive relationships with landowners and regret that this incident has tarnished your view of Alta link. We understand how important your land is to you and appreciate that trespassing will not be tolerated.”

Thon said AltaLink is “using this situation to identify gaps within our processes with contractors regarding land access. We absolutely do not want this situation to be repeated. Improvements to our process will be made moving forward to close any gaps.”

“The individual who trespassed on your land has been removed from working on the Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock Transmission Project.”

“As you requested, no information gleaned from the unauthorized environmental survey will be entered into our database. We will also provide you with any data that was collected during the survey.”

Thon also attached a letter of apology from Stantec’s Ted Zuurbier. In it Zuurbier said Stantec “would like to apologize for this incident. We understand the frustration and anger that these incidents ause landowners and truly regret any adverse effects that this particular incident has caused Mr. and Mrs. Skierka”.

“Going forward Stantec is imposing stricter protocols for our crews to follow when conducting surveys on the Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock Project in the future. Crews have been advised to be very diligent when accessing any property to ensure that the proper permissions are in place prior to access.”

“All information that was gathered during the Breeding Bird survey on the Skierka’s land in question will be removed from the record and will not be included in the Environmental Evaluation.”

Livingstone Landowners get letter of support from MD
In February of this year LLG issued a press release which stated as its four key points:
  1. The Livingstone Landowners Group (LLG) does not endorse any AltaLink route proposals, as we are not proponents of a new power line in the area.
  2. Given the values at stake and recent changes in the electric energy sector, LLG has requested the Premier of Alberta to re-evaluate the need for this proposed line and consider whether it should be deferred or cancelled.
  3. The LLG has advised AltaLink that, should a line be built, it should avoid native fescue grasslands, environmentally sensitive areas and scenic areas that give the Livingstone area and Cowboy Trail (Highway 22) their iconic beauty.
  4. The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) sets clear direction that new development should minimize landscape fragmentation and be concentrated in existing developed areas. The LLG supports this policy direction.

LLG’s core purpose puts them in regular opposition with forestry, wind energy, transmission line, and oil and gas interests. They’re on Facebook. They have a website. They hang out in Cowley and Lundbreck. They have support in spirit from landowner rights groups, including the Chinook Area Land Users Association (CALUA). CALUA members have been breathing hesitant sighs of relief as there is no current threat of transmission lines in their area.

In July they sent a delegation to speak to a receptive Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9 council.
“It’s not that we’re against development, we just want to see it in a balanced way that protects the environment, and is sustainable,” representative Norma Dougall told council.
“In September 2014, Altalink announced plans to build a transmission line from Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock to connect a 1201 line, which is the big line that runs up to Calgary and down to the Crowsnest and over into BC.””All three routes went into the environmentally sensitive eastern slopes of Livingstone.”

Council was told route options and the project itself should be reassessed.

LLG avers that due to changes in the economy and other factors the planned wind turbines may not be erected even if the transmission line is built.

“This project is based on a need that was identified eight years ago in the Southern Alberta Transmission Reinforcement (SATR) Plan by the AUC, and it was then approved by Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC). Only AESO (Alberta Electric System Operator) and AUC have the power to review or cancel a project, once it’s been approved.”

Wind farm developments were waiting to be approved “but they needed the infrastructure to be able to send their energy on to market”.

Changes in wind technology allowing for more local use are pointed at as a change in the way energy may be transported in the future – as little as possible. Unsteady wind energy in turn creates an unsteady flow, resulting in the “sporadic spikes that we create down here”. It is LLG’s contention that our unreliable winds create sudden gluts on the system, which in turn creates a drop in prices, a big supply that has to be bought and used immediately. It’s called the Pincher Creek discount, with producers earning “about 20% less for their energy than elsewhere.”

“LLG favours wind, and green energy, we just feel for economic, environmental, and aesthetic reasons there’s enough here and this line in particular is not needed.”

“This line has actually more to do with a behind-closed-door deal that was made years ago to provide or sell cheap Canadian electricity to the States, who were trying to get off of their coal burning plants but were happy to buy ours.”

“The problem there is… their transmission lines run on a different frequency than ours do,” thus requiring more infrastructure to work.

“Once again, the ratepayers for the electricity will get the honour of paying for the infrastructure being made, then the electrical companies will make the money off the power being sold.”

LLG has decided to be proactive in their approach to the new Alberta government. “We will be following up with them sooner, rather than later.”In a February 2015 press release LLG said “Ongoing changes in the energy sector have resulted in re-evaluation and subsequent cancellation of other portions of the Southwest Alberta Transmission Reinforcement (SATR) that were previously considered necessary. In light of this, and given the significant environmental risks, the LLG has asked (then) Premier Prentice to order a re-assessment of the SATR including the need for new transmission capacity in our area. The risk of lasting harm warrants careful consideration of whether a costly new line is even needed.”

LLG continues to bond with similar organizations, and asked MD of Pincher Creek No. 9 council to support LLG’s request for a needs review of the transmission project.  After some discussion on July 14 council passed a resolution supporting that request.  An email dated July 20, 2015 was addressed to the President of AESO, with Reeve Brian Hammond as signatory.   It reads in part “As the proposed project has received several negative comments from our taxpayers,  and information  received would appear to indicate that the transmission line may no longer be needed, council requests a favorable response to the question of re-examining the need for the proposed line”.
Blinking lights
Oh, those blinking lights!  Landowners in the MD of Pincher Creek have long been lamenting the loss of their night sky to the synchronized warning lights atop many of the windmills out there.  Blink.  Blink.  Blink.

Citizen delegations have appeared before MD of Pincher Creek councils past and present to ask that something to be done about it. Former Reeve and Division 4 councilor Bjorn Berg was vocal in his concerns about the issue. Present Reeve and Division 4 councillor Brian Hammond has been vocal in his concerns about the issue. These days, Division 4 is a candle you can see for miles around. However, the issue is bigger than any one council, any one landowner group, and the power is in the hands of the regulatory bodies.

Landowners have asked for the lights to be less synchronised if they are to continue blinking.
Blink.  Blink.
The biggest issues for the landowners are intangibles.  Most are generational ranchers and farmers.  The lifestyle comes at a price, and the view ranks way up there in terms of payoff.
Southern Alberta landowner groups have in general adopted a very calculated process of using the system against itself by seizing on every manner of delay possible.  It’s worked to some degree for some time.  Some projects that seemed like a given green light not so long ago seem to have fallen off the radar.
Numerous open houses have been held over the years in Pincher Creek area community halls and conference rooms. AltaLink open houses to show maps of proposed transmission routes. Q&A opportunities with AESO representatives.  Grassroots meetings at which the above mentioned landowner organizations formally formed and developed their strategies.  Like the entities they oppose, they wield press releases, not protest signs. They’ve united in a cause, they’ve shown up early for meeting after meeting, they’ve asked the probing questions.  Many of them grew up in 4-H, and 4-H teaches debate.
Landowner groups may have slowed the system, but there are still a lot of new windmills out there.

Blink. Blink.

TransAlta price rigging

The AUC decided against TransAlta in a price rigging/market manipulation case.  They timed power outages to drive up market prices. The AUC decision states in part TransAlta “intentionally took certain coal-fired generating units that it owned, that were subject to power purchase arrangements (PPAs), offline for repairs during periods of high demand when it was open to TransAlta to delay those repairs to a period of lower demand. The MSA submitted that TransAlta engaged in this conduct to drive up electricity prices to benefit TransAlta’s portfolio. The MSA asserted that this conduct restricted or prevented competition and restricted or prevented a competitive response and manipulated market prices away from a competitive market outcome.”
That’s given the Wildrose Party a bone to chew on.  It’s more than a little early-game to blame the majority NDP government, so rarely accused of being friendly with Big Power.
Anyway, the wind blowsHere’s a simple fact about southern Alberta.  Windmills have been good for business.  As the area combustible market winds down, renewables are one of the viable replacement enterprises.  Like the switch to canola, some landowners are cashing in, leasing windmill locations in hay fields, each with an annual income.  Farming the wind.

You can’t beat the views from the top of those towers.   They’re sleek, artistic, hyper-modern and retro at the same time.  LLG believes there’s a point at which there’s just too many of them and the infrastructure they require.

Related, the Southern Foothills Study, Phase 3 Report was recently released and got a thumbs up from the LLG.Markets coalescing

According to Grid Integration in the West,  a report prepared for the Hewlett Foundation and the Energy Foundation, “On September 8, 2011 the loss of a single transmission line in Arizona initiated a cascading electricity outage that affected parts of Arizona, Southern California, and Baja Mexico. The outage left approximately 5 million people without power for up to 12 hours. A joint analysis performed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) determined that inadequate planning and deficiencies in real-time situational awareness were primary contributors to the outage.”

The report posits the renewable industry’s need to work co-operatively to create\interconnections to disperse power around the western United States on an as needed basis, creating the ability to better utilise the more quickly dissipating renewable energies.

The report also mentions similarities between the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), saying they “and a majority of the entities in the Eastern Interconnection have centralized markets and operations that are co- optimized to transact, schedule and dispatch energy, capacity, and a host of ancillary services that support the efficient and reliable operation of the grid. These regions transitioned to centralized sub-hourly operations and markets years ago to protect system reliability and optimize efficiency.”
According to The Western Grid (headline: The Western US Needs Better Regional Planning to Modernize the Grid), “Holistically addressing Western electricity system challenges will require electricity providers, regulators, and a myriad of stakeholders to collaborate across the Interconnection. Sub-regions of the West are highly likely to eventually transition to variants of consolidated system operations and markets for both reliability and economic reasons.”

Landowners have longed voiced the opinion that the southern Alberta wind power generation is destined for the U.S. market. Given the increasing interconnectivity of the continental marketplace, the need to use power before it dissipates, and given the huge U.S. hunger for power, that seems almost an inevitability.

What a shock!


  • 28 Jul 2015
  • Lethbridge Herald

TransAlta Corp. deliberately timed outages at power plants in Alberta at peak times in order to drive up electricity prices, the province’s utilities commission said in a ruling Monday.

The Alberta Utilities Commission conducted hearings after the province’s market surveillance administrator alleged that the Calgary-based company manipulated the electricity market by shutting down coal-fired power plants in late 2010 and early 2011 to drive up power costs during periods when demand was high.

“The commission concludes, based upon clear, cogent and convincing evidence that TransAlta could have deferred each of the above described outages to off peak hours but chose instead to take them during peak or super-peak hours so as to maximize the benefit to its own portfolio,” the commission said in its decision.

“In other words, the timing of the outage was determined by market conditions rather than by the need to safeguard life, property or the environment.”

The commission also found that TransAlta breached a regulation by allowing its energy trader Nathan Kaiser to use privileged information related to plant shutdowns so that the company could benefit in the market.

“TransAlta knew, or should have reasonably known that Kaiser had information regarding the capability of Sundance 1 and 2 to produce electricity that could reasonably be expected to have a material impact on market prices and would give him an advantage over market participants who did not have that information,” the commission found.

But the commission said Kaiser established a defence of due diligence based on repeated assurances from senior TransAlta management that he could direct trades despite possessing information that wasn’t public.

The commission also found that the market surveillance administrator did not prove allegations that TransAlta’s compliance policies, practices and oversight were inadequate and deficient.


Wind power not an effective alternative

Lethbridge Herald

By Letter to the Editor on July 16, 2015.

Re: All-time summer peak record set for electricity in Alberta during heat wave July 9.

The record demand for electricity last week is a stark reminder of the hopeless inadequacy of wind power. For several hours that day, Alberta’s $5-billion wind infrastructure produced zero electricity.

Thus far in 2015, wind’s average output has been 33 per cent of nameplate capacity and for the past few weeks, wind’s dismal output ranged from 13 to 20 per cent of capacity. In that period, production from Alberta’s wind turbines has been less than five per cent of capacity, or effectively zero, several times each week.

Last week across Alberta, air conditioners were running apace keeping people comfortable at their places of work and at home. But peak power demands are even higher in winter when people and industry must be kept from freezing. Major outages in winter, because of wind’s failures, have the potential to be dangerous. Yet the government wants more ineffective wind power.

The current government’s election platform stated, “We will phase out coal-fired electricity generation … and expand … windÉ” Before taking such action, Premier Notley and the Hon. Shannon Phillips must present a plan to replace coal power in a way that will prevent permanent harm to our modern society when we run short of wind electricity because of its unreliability.

Recently in The Herald online, this illogical statement was posted, “…wind is always blowing somewhereÉ” It is like saying the sun is always shining somewhere. It is misleading because it implies wind electricity will be available from elsewhere, when it will not. In addition to the unthinkable monetary and resource costs of an extensive transmission grid dedicated to wind, this illogical thinking has a fatal flaw. If the wind is not blowing in Alberta or elsewhere over vast tracts of North America, but is blowing in (say) Iowa, there will be many times when none of that wind power will be available for Alberta because the limited supply will have been consumed elsewhere.

Consider the absurdity of replacing Alberta’s 6.3 GW of coal power with wind. The initial cost for new turbines and transmission will be over $20 billion (billion)! And since this must be 100 per cent backed up with (what?) natural gas, add another $6 billion or so. So much for the Green mantra of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. More like Duplicate, Mothball and Abandon.

If you don’t like your high electricity bills now, just wait a few years.

Clive Schaupmeyer



Davis “Bullying” Story not an Isolated Case

I have talked with TransCanada and the man in charge of lands on the company’s Eastern Mainline pipeline project (applied for at the same time as the Energy East Project) concerning the complaint about land agent bullying. This gentleman stated that he believes his land agents would never bully a landowner and his proof is that he has seen the land agent’s reports and his report does not “refer to any bullying.” He said he would fire any agent that bullied and that there were no implications of that in the Davis case!!!!

I was assured that the company was not threatening landowners that TransCanada would apply to the NEB for Right of Entry on landowner’s property to do the archeological survey.

CAEPLA sent this message to some of our members along the project.

As a result, CAEPLA has been contacted by another landowner confirming that the bullying was not an isolated case, confirming the Davis family interpretation of what the land agent “inferred.”

Dan Walker, a landowner near Grafton, Ontario, sent me an email last week to report his neighbor also refused to work his land for TCPL’s archeological survey, the same as the Davis family. Dan’s neighbor grows his crop using a no-till cropping to protect his soils so working the soil would compromise his crops and therefore refused to work his land. The TransCanada land agent told this gentlemen that if he did not work the proposed easement, TransCanada would get Right of Entry from the NEB and have someone else do it. The same threat as posed to the Davis family.

The same agent visited Dan’s property. In his email Dan says, “The same agent also came here (TCPL’s Enforcer) to get me to sign for survey, but when I refused, because they only wanted to pay for one property not the two, as he was leaving my kitchen he turned and looked at me and said they will be getting a ROE from the NEB and that this was my last chance to get a thousand dollars for free.”

Dan concluded his email with, “TCPL knows what is going on; you know it and I know it.”


Privacy Rights Are Property Rights

Privacy Rights Are Property Rights

Everybody has the right to privacy – even pipeline companies

Our recent post critiquing the reliance of some landowners on freedom of information (FOI) laws to help level the playing field when dealing with pipeline companies struck a chord with many landowners and seems to have touched a raw nerve for one irate industry critic. 

Indeed the gentleman who types the “Line 6B Citizens’ Blog” in Michigan waxed a wee bit hyperbolic in response to our pro property rights post. We will try to remain calm as we reiterate our respect for property rights fundamentals and disdain for regulatory schemes and pipe dreams.

We proceed from the premise that property rights are like the right to free speech: It is often said that we must defend the unpopular speech of our enemies if we want that freedom for ourselves.

So too must we defend the privacy and property rights of others – even if they are pipeline companies, the corporate pariahs of our era – if we wish to protect our own.

It was from this standpoint that we addressed HB 4540 — a proposed exemption for pipeline companies in Michigan’s FOI legislation, the stated purpose of which is to reduce the amount of information that might be accessible to those plotting terror attacks against the industry.

Our thesis was basically that so-called transparency laws are useless at best and a threat to property rights at worst. Not to mention generally bad for business — especially since, as we pointed out, FOI laws were conceived to keep government accountable, not there to provide a backdoor through which to monitor private companies.

We also suggested limiting the amount of information pipeline companies are forced to make public was hardly putting said public “at risk,” as opponents of the bill claim.

What seems to have set our erstwhile “friend” at the Line 6B Citizens’ Blog off was our saying that FOI laws are a threat to privacy and as such are a threat to property rights because privacy is part and parcel of private property.

The blogger let loose with a nearly 2000 word screed mischaracterizing CAEPLA’s case for privacy and property rights and casting aspersions on our integrity, cognitive capacity, and tone.

What really seems to have irked him most is our objection to the use of the word “secret” instead of “private,” when describing efforts to deny businesses – whether big bad corporate ones, or yours — the right to keep private what ought to be kept private. Corporate secrecy sounds so much more ominous than, say, ‘private business documents.’

Bizarrely, the “Citizens'” blogger then went so far as to attempt to deny what every English dictionary we are familiar with agrees on: that secret is synonymous with private. Seriously. The closest he came to any genuine attempt to address our argument was to desperately claim we were misusing language:

“The word secret is not another way of saying private; it’s a way of saying undisclosed. We have no idea why CAEPLA would try to smuggle the word “private” into this discussion. Presumably, it’s meant to push all sorts of buttons, since we all know that privacy is sacrosanct. You don’t want your privacy invaded, do you? That’s actually the line that CAEPLA takes. We’re not kidding. They say so very explicitly.”

We do say that.

Meanwhile, unsurprisingly, every dictionary we know of includes “private” on the list of synonyms for secret.

And an additional quick stroll through Wiktionary or any other reputable dictionary would reveal to our Line 6B “Citizens'” Blogger that privacy means “the state of being private,” and further defines private as all of the following:

“Belonging to, concerning, or accessible only to an individual person or a specific group.”

“Not publicly known; not open; secret;”

“Protected from view or disturbance by others;”

“Intended only for the use of an individual, group, or organization;”

“private papers;”

“Not accessible by the public;”

“private property;”

“Not traded by the public;”

“private corporation;”

 Etymological debates aside, CAEPLA believes too many landowners fail to challenge the essentially Big Government, anti-capitalist bias most pipeline opponents espouse.

We prefer the ideas embodied in the Magna Carta, and the Fourth Amendment, specifically that old-fashioned notion most Americans cling to, about “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects.”

CAEPLA believes that property rights provide the best framework for landowners to do business with the energy transport or any other industry. It is the absence of property rights — in the form of Eminent Domain and other expropriations — that creates the moral hazard and tragedy of the commons that too often encourages bad behaviour by pipeline companies.


Pipeline Land Agent Bullying

Brad and Karen Davis own and operate a sheep farm in Eastern Ontario. Following is their personal story of their experience with pipelines, dealing with pipeline company land agents and the effects of the National Energy Board (NEB) Act.

We purchased our farm in September 2012 knowing there were pipelines running through the farm, but not having any knowledge of what exactly that meant to us. Our farm is 400 acres with the pipelines splitting the farm into north and south halves. We operate a pasture based sheep farm where all 400 acres are used for rotational grazing.

Click Here to Read More


Livingstone Landowners Group asks Premier Notley to reconsider $500M infrastructure project

Pincher Creek Voice

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Livingstone Landowners Group press release

  1. The Livingstone Landowners Group (LLG) does not endorse any AltaLink route proposals, as we are not proponents of a new power line in the area.
  2. Given the values at stake and recent changes in the electric energy sector, LLG has requested the Premier of Alberta to re-evaluate the need for this proposed line and consider whether it should be deferred or cancelled.
  3. The cost of proposed line has ballooned from original estimate 7 years ago of $189 million to somewhere between $350 and $750 million now. The line will be paid for by Albertans and Alberta businesses through increases to electricity bills – a high price to pay for something that, based on the original assumptions, is now unnecessary.
  4. The LLG engaged a recognized engineering expert and has provided AESO with two alternatives that are one fifth of the cost and would have minimal environmental impact.
  5. The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) sets clear direction that new development should minimize landscape fragmentation and be concentrated in existing developed areas. The LLG supports this policy direction.


The LLG believes the proposed new AltaLink transmission line could have significant negative impacts on sustainable agriculture operations, native biodiversity and one of Canada’s most scenic landscapes.

Ongoing changes in the energy sector have resulted in re-evaluation and subsequent cancellation of other portions of the Southwest Alberta Transmission Reinforcement (SATR) that were previously considered necessary. In light of this, and given the significant environmental risks, the LLG has asked Premier Prentice to order a re-assessment of the SATR including the need for new transmission capacity in our area. The risk of lasting harm warrants careful consideration of whether a costly new line is even needed.

LLG has advised AltaLink that, should a line be developed, it is essential to avoid native fescue grassland and other sensitive environmental areas that are difficult or impossible to fully restore, and to avoid further fragmentation of a landscape of which our members are careful stewards. The SSRP provides policy direction for development in our area. Released by the Government of Alberta in September 2014, it specifies that new development must be concentrated whenever possible in areas already disturbed by previous development.

AltaLink’s routing options presented in January for the proposed transmission line demonstrate that the company understands our concerns and the SSRP policy direction and can find route options that use existing industrial corridors, but also that the company remains willing to deviate into environmentally-sensitive lands where a new line would cause lasting harm.

All of AltaLink’s new route options violate the SSRP and would further fragment and industrialize the LLG landscape. Part of one new route option in particular, impinges on an important wildlife corridor and natural habitat whose protection has been the subject of significant investment by Albertans, the Southern Alberta Land Trust Society, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and the Government of Alberta.

Centre Peak – the highest point on the Livingstone Mountain Range and Chapel Butte in front (photo 18 May 2015) – part of the viewscape along the Cowboy Trail – Hwy 22, considered among the top ten most scenic drives in Canada.

The premise in SATR for the Castle Rock to Chapel Rock transmission line has been: a) to allow more wind development in the Pincher Creek area; and b) to provide “redundancy” to avoid a repeat of the 2011 power generation shortage. Both premises are no longer true or needed based on AESO’s own analysis. New wind development in the area is not needed and the new generation capacity (wind and natural gas in other areas) has effectively negated the redundancy issue. It appears that moving forward with this line is largely in AltaLink’s interest but with little concern for the public interest. In a time of economic restraint, unnecessary infrastructure development would not be prudent.

The LLG believes existing wind generation in the Pincher Creek area is functioning well with recent transmission upgrades and does not need this added Castle Rock Ridge-Chapel Rock line. Over 90% of the proposed wind projects in the AESO queue were initially stalled by lack of transmission access; however, these projects are no longer economically viable due to wind pattern in the Pincher area creating a discounted price for producers and new wind turbine technology favoring development elsewhere. The AESO must stay current with market realities to ensure costly transmission projects are not built using outdated rationale.

LLG supports the development of wind and other forms of alternate energy as a means of reducing Alberta’s reliance on coal-generated electricity and to improve our energy reputation. We note, however, that improvements in wind generation technology actually reduce the likelihood of new wind farms in our region because new wind plants are most productive at lower wind speeds and are vulnerable to damage from the extreme gusts that are common in this area.

The LLG is committed to the principle that any necessary development in this area must respect its unique environmental attributes, agricultural stewardship and wealth of natural capital. If industrial development is deemed necessary, it should be conducted with best practices that protect wildlife habitat and sensitive environments for all Albertans and with minimal impact on sustainable agriculture and world-renowned scenic landscapes. Proposed development must adhere to policy direction contained in the SSRP approved by the Government of Alberta under its land-use framework. Burying transmission lines may be a viable alternative where sensitive areas cannot be avoided by careful route selection as well as where the line unduly affects residents’ views.

Please take the opportunity to learn more about the project and express your concerns. More information is available on the AltaLink website:

To learn more about the Livingstone Landowners Group, please visit:


Let’s prevent the mess that now obstructs the view from Pincher Creek from happening again along the Cowboy Trail – Hwy 22.


Letter from Grant Thornton proposing to resiliate lease agreement

I am forwarding an email from Keith Wilson concerning attempts by Verity to resiliate (cancel) a surface lease so they no longer have to pay annual rentals, and possibly may no longer need to reclaim it as well.

I am becoming very concerned with the Oil Industry’s attempts to circumvent the intent of the Surface Rights Act and other legislation put in place to protect landowners when Industry comes on there land.

There are four main areas where the SRB and Industry is circumventing the intent of the SRA.

1)  The Board refuses to deal with Section 36 applications where the Operator has bankruptcy protection.

2)  The Board commonly only awards 25% of what is owed in Section 36 Recovery of Rentals owing.

3)  The Board apparently is stating that it cannot order the Minister of Finance to pay landowner legal costs for dealing with any Orphan or Bankrupt company situations.

4)  Oil companies are attempting to cancel leases so that they will not have to pay landowner annual compensation, and possibly will not need to reclaim surface leases.

It looks like there will be hundreds of Oil and Gas companies going bankrupt and they are seeking to leave landowners holding the bag.  The PC government was warned that this could happen and they did nothing to protect landowners.  It remains to be seen what the NDP government will do.

In the meantime, the Surface Rights Associations are going to need to fund some legal challenges, or at least help pay landowner legal fees in challenging some of these Operator tactics.  This is simply too important and will have serious repercussions if not stopped.

Please circulate this to your SRA directors and landowners who may be willing to help fund these legal challenges.

Daryl Bennett

The Companies Creditors Arrangement Act is more complex and uncertain than the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.

It is not clear that the Verity can resile (cancel) the leases.  It may be possible to convince a court that leases have to remain in place.

It is possible that if the leases are cancelled under the CCAA that the Board may not award any further compensation under section 36 and the landowners will be left on the hook.

If the court is made to understand that these are not ordinary commercial leases (see arguments in Lemke) and if the court is made aware of the provincial statutory provisions prohibiting the cancellation of leases without there being a reclamation certificate, and if the court is informed of the hardship that the landowners will suffer, the court may deny Verity’s plan to cancel the leases.

A lawyer would need to serve immediate notice on Verity, the monitor and parties that an application will be made to the court to challenge the plan.  That notice would have to be circulated tomorrow, Friday, June 5th, 2015.  Then an application would have to be brought forward in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary before June 22, 2015.

Immediate action needs to be taken.

I have hearings starting on June 15th and would not be able to bring the application to the court on the Verity matter.  Alex Mosaico, the lawyer who has been assisting me on the sec. 36 matter, may be in a positon to take this on.

I have copied Alex with this email.

Let me know your thoughts on this.


Keith Wilson

Notley’s new, but Alberta’s old budget problems linger

This 1 Cartoon Perfectly Sums Up The Alberta Election

Posted: Updated:
There was no shortage of articles, opinions and analysis this week that aimed to break down the stunning election results in Alberta, where an NDP majority government will end 44 years of Progressive Conservative power.

But sometimes even a simple comic, like the one below by Bruce MacKinnon, can sum up a colossal political shift.


Reddit user pixelpumper shared the image by MacKinnon, a Halifax Chronicle Herald cartoonist, on Reddit Friday, although some didn’t understand the reference.

“Context for this one?” one user wrote.

Another user put it this way: “After over four decades of electing a right-wing government, Alberta has turned left.”


AltaLink backs out of Pass route

By John Stoesser, Pincher Creek Echo

AltaLink, the Berkshire Hathaway owned-transmission system developer, ruled out the Bellevue route for their Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock project due to residential impact, constructability access and cost, leaving three possible power line pathways within the MD of Pincher Creek.

The company is continuing individual landowner negotiations and holding three additional open houses late this spring to solidify a main and alternate route for the proposed CRRCR project before applying to the AUC for approval this fall.

“Based on our analysis of a number of different things we’ve chosen to eliminate that [Bellevue] route for consideration,” Peter Brodsky, an external communications manager with AltaLink said during a phone interview.

“Accessibility and constructability are relatively challenging there,” he said. “A lot of the areas are not accessible by our equipment and with the strong rock formations below the property they’re difficult to drill into…It’s also very high residential impact. It’s probably the most densely populated area along this project’s southern loop route. Just the number of interactions with residential properties made it less attractive as an option.”

The spokesperson also noted that the company identified critical environmental areas in the region.

The Crowsnest Pass council was vocal in their objection to the proposed transmission lines running through their community, releasing a letter late March that claimed the project would damage the marketable landscape of the area.

The MD of Pincher Creek council has not publicly stated a position on the project.

Brodsky was adamant that the decision to remove Bellevue as a possible route location came after contemplating all the factors involved.

“Putting all those together in consideration it just didn’t make sense to pursue that portion of the route from Lee Lake to Bellevue,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s a question of trying to prioritize the conditions, it’s looking at the overall conditions.”

Brodsky indicated that route would have been the most expensive.

Kevin Thorvaldson, an AltaLink stakeholder engagement manager, summarized residents’ concerns in a letter. He says the company is now considering the use of underground power lines in areas of high visual value, something that AltaLink has strongly denied as a possibility in the past.

“It’s a serious discussion,” Brodsky said. “We wouldn’t put an option on the table if it wasn’t under serious consideration. That’s why we’re looking for input from residents.”

Brodsky noted he could not identify specific areas that may be considered for underground lines but that AltaLink would bring preliminary options to the upcoming open houses.

Thorvaldson also identified that residents are concerned the proposed project might negatively affect fragile areas of environmental significance. The Livingstone Landowners Group, that has disagreed with the CRRCR project, commissioned a number of maps of the area that studied vegetation, animal migration and water drainages. AltaLink is now taking these maps into consideration.

The company must also conduct their own environmental surveys and include them in their facility application to the AUC.

“We have both in-house environmental experts as well as contractors we would hire to go in and do environmental surveys of flora, fauna, flight patterns for birds,” Brodsky said. “All of that goes into consideration when we’re firming up the final routes.”

In terms of the consultations between AltaLink and landowners, the company keeps records of their conversations and gives the participants a chance to validate them.

Once a deal is reached, “We subject ourselves to a non-disclosure,” Brodsky said. “We won’t let a neighbour know what agreement we signed with a given neighbour. But the landowners themselves are not subjected to a non-disclouse. They can talk to whomever they want about it.”

There are three open house coming up this spring on May 26 from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Community Hall in Cowley, Alta., May 27 from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Heritage Inn in Pincher Creek, Alta. and June 2 from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Coast Plaza Hotel in Calgary, Alta.

“This time we’re trying something a little bit different,” Brodsky said. “We’re actually going to have an open house on June 2 and that’s in recognition that there are a number of Calgarians who have summer residences in the area.”

The proposed CRRCR project is expected to cost between $500 million and $750 million.

It includes building a new substation, building a new 240 kilovolt double circuit transmission line approximately 20 to 41 kilometres in length from the existing Castle Rock Ridge Substation to one of the proposed Chapel Rock Substation locations, building approximately one to 13 kilometres of new 500 kilovolt transmission line depending on the location of the Chapel Rock Substation, building a new telecommunications tower and expanding the existing Castle Rock Ridge Substation.


AltaLink announces more public consultations re Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock transmission line

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pincher Creek Voice

As posted on the blog of Crownest Pass Councillor Dean Ward, the following correspondence from AltaLink is reprinted here in its entirety. As noted by Ward, it appears that the AltaLink Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock Transmission Project will not be going through the Pass. (Related reading: Crowsnest Pass council opposes transmission line).


Dear Municipal Stakeholder:

Today, as part of my commitment to keep you informed of AltaLink’s projects in your area, I’m pleased to send you the Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock round 2 public consultation material being mailed in the coming days to the landowners and stakeholders in your Municipal District. AltaLink will also be providing your municipal office with printed versions of this material so you’ll have exactly what stakeholders will receive in their mail boxes. All the project details and the proposed schedule are shown in the Newsletter and other information attached.

AltaLink has refined the routing under consideration by adjusting some proposed routes and eliminating other routes and substation sites. The Dropped Route Letter will only be sent to the Stakeholders whose land is on dropped routes but is included in this email for information purposes.

The proposed project includes:

  • A new substation, to be called Chapel Rock Substation, located near the existing 500 kV (500,000 volts) 1201L transmission line. The proposed substation site will be approximately 255 by 210 metres (820 by 1,150 feet).
  • The existing Castle Rock Ridge Substation will be expanded as part of this project to accommodate the termination of the proposed new 240 kV transmission line. We are proposing to extend the northeast and northwest fence by approximately 25 metres (82 feet) in each direction.
  • Approximately five to 15 kilometres (3.1 to 9.3 miles) of two new, single circuit 500 kV transmission lines will also be required. The length of these lines depends on the location of the Chapel Rock Substation. We are proposing to use two single circuit, guyed structures for the portion within the hills west of Highway 22. These structures will be used for straight portions of the line. At locations where the line deflects, self-supporting steel lattice structures will be used.
  • Approximately 24 to 37 kilometres (15 to 23 miles) of new double circuit 240 kV transmission line from the existing Castle Rock Ridge Substation to the proposed Chapel Rock Substation. Final line length is dependent on the route approved by the AUC.

There are numerous ways for the public and stakeholders to provide input including:


Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO)

Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC)

PCs: Prentice reconsiders charitable tax credit changes

By Lethbridge Herald on April 21, 2015.

Joined by members of the Calgary philanthropic and charitable community, Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Prentice said today that after hearing directly from Albertans during the course of the election campaign, he has reconsidered the reduction to the charitable donation tax credit in the budget, and a PC government will maintain the previous rate.
“I’ve said during this campaign that leadership is about difficult and sometimes unpopular choices,” Prentice said. “But hearing from Albertans during this campaign, it’s become clear that this choice was more than simply unpopular. Rather, Albertans have told me it was seen as contrary to our values as Albertans – values of generosity, community, and looking out for one another. These are the leaders who manage your charitable dollars to deliver critical services and cultural excellence.These are the people we turn to, to help build and support our communities and we cannot tolerate even the impression that we might put that in jeopardy.”
Prentice pointed out that the measure would have resulted in savings of about $90 million annually, but that not moving forward with the change will not affect the timeline for balancing the provincial budget.
“Our plan has fiscal discipline at its core,” said Prentice. “This is a small change, but an important one and one we must take to respect what Albertans have told us. We will continue to move forward with a realistic plan, taking immediate action on challenges we face, while breaking the boom and bust cycle and saving for future generations.”

‘It’s hard to admit you are wrong, but . . . ‘: Prentice reverses budget plan to cut charity tax credit

April 21, 2015 1:00 pm

Calgary Herald

James Wood is with the premier today on the campaign trail.

And here’s his file.

The Tories got it wrong in reducing the tax credit on charitable donations, tPC Leader Jim Prentice acknowledged today as he announced plans to reverse course and restore the original credit.

While the move was hailed by charities, Prentice’s change of heart on the tax credit drew little applause from his opponents on the campaign trail.

In last month’s provincial budget, the Progressive Conservative government rolled back the Charitable Donation Tax Credit to 12.75% from 21% on donations of more than $200.

The government said it would save $90 million with the move and that the rate had been ineffective in boosting donation rates since it was introduced in 2007.

But speaking to reporters, Prentice said he had heard loud and clear that Albertans weren’t happy with the changes.

“It’s hard to admit you are wrong but it is also important to know when to do so. This is how government is supposed to work,” he said at a campaign event at the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre.

“Today, I need to admit that we got one very important thing wrong in our budget proposal . . . we risked putting the good work of Alberta’s many charitable causes and the work that they do at a disadvantage.”

The premier said the Tories will now retain the current 21% rate. The Liberals, Wildrose and NDP had all slammed the budget change by the Tories and had promised to reverse the move.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the PC decision in the first place “was definitely evidence of the wrong priorities by Jim Prentice.”

“We’ve heard from people from all sectors who say that that tax credit is critical to helping them contribute to community growth and community support across the province,” she said in Edmonton.

In a news release, Wildrose Leader Brian Jean called the government’s original decision “cruel.”

“Albertans can’t trust the PCs after an election to not hurt charities,” he said.

The budget — which includes tax hikes and a spending freeze as part of an effort to wean the government from its dependence on energy revenues — is the centrepiece of the PC campaign ahead of the May 5 election.

Prentice said he did not foresee any other changes to the document.

The Tories appear to be in a tough three-way fight with the Wildrose Party and NDP, and have been slamming the other parties for inadequate costing of their platforms.

Prentice was not specific over where the Tories would make up the $90 million lost by not changing the tax credit, noting it would be found through “savings elsewhere” He said it would not affect plans to balance the budget by 2017-18.

Eva Friesen, president of the Calgary Foundation, said the tax change had struck a sour note in the charitable sector, especially with the state of the provincial economy.

“When charities were finding fundraising difficult at the best of times because people are being laid off and corporations are sponsoring less … to alter the climate of giving to potentially diminish donor giving was worrying,” said Friesen, one of a number of charitable leaders who appeared with Prentice Tuesday.

“It’s good leadership to recognize when you make a mistake,” she added.

Herald reporters and columnists immediately saw it as a PC reaction to polls showing the party tied with the Wildrose and NDP parties.


Sparks fly at Lethbridge West forum

April 22, 2015.

Nick Kuhl

Lethbridge Herald

[email protected]

To no one’s surprise, it was health care, education, and even fracking, that dominated discussion during an often heated Lethbridge West provincial election forum Tuesday night.

In front of a capacity crowd at the Lethbridge Public Library’s Theatre Gallery, candidates Ron Bain of the Wildrose, the NDP’s Shannon Phillips, Sheila Pyne of the Liberals, and incumbent MLA Greg Weadick of the Progressive Conservatives, had their chance to share their ideas and party platforms with local voters.

The forum, presented by the library and the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs, used pre-written SACPA-formed questions, as well as an audience question and answer period.

Staff actually had to turn people away about 10 minutes before it began, due to fire code regulations, and an additional crowd of about 25 simply listened through speakers in the lobby as the candidates fielded two rounds of questions, starting in alphabetical order by surname.

Bain had the first one, which asked how the $19-billion provincial health-care industry can have so many problems. He suggested Alberta needs a return to open government through a balanced budget.

“We’d like to reduce the bureaucracies,” Bain said, adding the government needs to stop giving away “ridiculous severance packages.”

Phillips was asked if Alberta has a revenue or a spending problem, or both. She replied with detailed information on how the NDP would present a “very modest fiscal plan” and would “set the right priorities.”

She also said the PCs’ deep cuts to education and health care won’t stand any longer. “The wheels are coming off the bus” after 44 years of PC control, Phillips said.

Weadick countered that his party is creating for the future, citing local examples of the Chinook Regional Hospital expansion and new forthcoming buildings at both Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge.

He was also asked about how the government is managing royalty rates with oil and gas companies. He said he was “not afraid to look at how royalties” both work and would work moving forward.

“It’s good that Mr. Weadick will look at royalties because his premier does not,” Phillips sharply rebutted.

“It’s time for change,” Bain also interjected.

Pyne, who agreed that big cuts are to health care and education are not acceptable, was asked about oil profits and her stance on fracking.

“Cities and towns should definitely have the ability” to make their own decisions on the topic, and that the Liberals would support other renewable options through enhanced research. She added the Liberals would be able to ease student debt through grants and bursaries because of corporate tax adjustments.

Maria Fitzpatrick of the NDP, Tammy Perlich of the PCs, the Wildrose’s Kent Prestage, and Bill West of the Liberal party, will try to make an impression on Lethbridge East voters during a forum at Country Kitchen Catering tonight from 7 to 9:30 p.m.

The Alberta election is set for May 5.


CAEPLA – Fair Market Value: A Letter to Landowners Affected by BiPole III

Did You Know?…

The National Energy Board (NEB) has just created a pamphlet on the new Administrative Monetary Penalties that can penalize landowners for crossing pipelines without permission. For individual landowners the “daily” penalty could range from $250 to a maximum of $25,000 per violation. If, as a landowner, you have a corporation the “daily” penalty could range from $1,000 to a maximum of $100,000 per violation. The original agreement on my family farm said the pipeline was not to interfere with normal farm practices!

CAEPLA has been advised that the NEB has no intention of sending notice of these new regulations or the new pamphlet out to pipeline landowners. Be sure to understand your risks. If you would like a copy of the pamphlet titled “Administrative Monetary Penalties Information for Landowners”, contact the NEB at 1-800-899-1265.

Written by CAEPLA

What is fair market value? For land? For energy projects?  See the letter below written March 25th to landowners affected by BiPole III.


MBLC Letter

Click Here to Read Letter


Alta. NDP would add longterm care beds

Lethbridge Herald

April 15, 2015


Leader Rachel Notley says the New Democrats will improve access to long-term care if they win the Alberta election on May 5.  Notley says hundreds of patients are being forced to spend months in hospital waiting for room in a nursing home.  She says the severe bed shortage is due to the PC government not giving the issue enough attention.  She says the NDP would add 2,000 long-term care spaces over four years to reduce the wait list and relieve pressure on overcrowded hospitals.  Notley made the announcement at the Edmonton home of Bernie Travis, whose husband, Clarence, has been waiting in hospital since August for a long-term care bed.


Where is Democracy?

Sunny South News

Posted on April 14, 2015 by Sunny South News

By Debby Gregorash

I wasn’t much interested in politics until I married and nearly died of boredom with toddlers, laundry and endless cleaning up.
I started listening to CBC Radio and became fascinated with how our political system works.
I soon came to realize the average citizen out here in Alberta doesn’t study politics or the issues either.
So, the wool can be pulled over their eyes with ease. I pray this next generation pays attention.
I remember listening to the radio when the Premiers’ conference was on and was impressed by Peter Lougheed and his provincial savings account — the Heritage Fund.
Well now, it’s pretty well gone. We charged decent royalties back then for the oil taken from our province.
Now, we practically give it away, which is pretty much why we are broke. How did this happen? Well, we have become a Petro-state.
At the same time, I was learning about all this, I was developing my spirituality.
I liked the part in the New Testament where Jesus says if you feed the poor, care for the sick and visit people in jail, and all those compassionate things — you are doing the same thing for him.
I looked around at the province back in the 1970s and it wasn’t too bad and almost seemed to have a civilized and compassionate air to it.
Alas, now the food banks can barely keep up, too many poor people are in jail, the push for private health care is on and the government is no longer “of the people” but “for the corporations.” Rule of government by corporation is fascism.
I understand immigrants in the 1950s were sick of totalitarianism and fascism in their home countries, so what I don’t understand is why they can’t see it now, here in Canada, and in fact keep voting for it.
Is it true people vote a certain way because “we’ve always voted this way?”
I once voted federally for the Progressive Conservatives but they are dead and gone now, replaced by the Reform Party, which stole the name “Conservative.”
Meanwhile, old men vote Conservative and tell the wives who to vote for. I know of a woman who said, after her husband died, “Oh well, now I can vote for the candidate I want.” It’s a secret ballot, for heaven’s sake, you can vote as you please.
Meanwhile, democracy is dying and the gap between the rich and poor is increasing.
Funding is being stolen from public health and education and the world is being funnelled into private hands.
In other countries around the world, you can go to university or college for free and the citizens in those countries are prospering.
We need young people to get well-rounded educations that include the arts and sciences.
Graduates should not be indentured for the rest of their lives. That’s slavery.
We need somehow to revoke the law that says corporations are persons. We need to force them to have a conscience that includes the costs of protecting the environment instead of using rivers and lakes, and the air and the soil, as toxic dumps.
The technology to move to a world without fossil fuel energy is here but the people who make the rules are the same people who profit from this dinosaur industry.
I once thought “Globalization” would mean a world-wide awakening to truth, peace, co-operation and all those good things communities can have.
But the corporate view of globalization is making a profit wherever democracy is not strong. Greed is the new God.
Every day I listen to the economic reports and the market numbers and I wonder why we don’t have a “Happiness” report or a “Democracy” report.
Why is it all about how much you can steal from people, nature, and the soil?
Why must unemployment be good for industry? Why do we put up with modern day slavery? Where are the Democrats?
Their democratic voices need to burst forth and we need to pay attention.


Prentice takes heat for province’s climate change strategy

Time for a change in Alberta politics

Lethbridge Herald

By Letter to the Editor on April 14, 2015.

Insanity is said to be doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Premier Prentice has shown great hubris and called an early election to give him a mandate to fix Alberta’s budgetary failings. This is a totally unnecessary and very expensive waste of money. Albertans have already told the premier what they want through an online survey initiated by the government. Unfortunately, the results did not match the premier’s plans and virtually all of the wishes expressed by Albertans in the survey have been ignored. In fact, Premier Prentice’s plans are in complete opposition to the wishes of Albertans expressed in the survey.

Health-care premiums are to be reintroduced. There will be no return to a progressive personal income tax. Corporations are to feel no increased tax pain. Incredibly low oil royalties are to remain the same. Massive debt will once again be incurred over the next few years.

Premier Prentice says, “All Albertans need to look in the mirror” when dealing with Alberta’s budgetary problems. In this, he is absolutely correct. It is Albertans who continually elect inept and entitled Progressive Conservative governments with a massive majority. Another such Progressive Conservative government, with little opposition, is the worst possible electoral outcome. It can and will cater to the vested interests of the wealthy, corporations and oil companies. Average Albertans will be left to pay for the Progressive Conservative government’s financial mismanagement and corporate welfare.

I encourage everyone to vote in the upcoming election, but I strongly urge you not to vote for the very political party that got us into the present financial mess. The Progressive Conservatives have had over 40 years to get Alberta on a sound financial footing that is not reliant on oil prices. We accept change in all walks of life. Why not in Alberta politics? It is time for a change in who runs our province. The Progressive Conservatives have not earned and do not deserve your vote.

Robert King-Brown



Prentice says Alberta will not have provincial sales tax as long as he’s premier

The Canadian Press

Wildrose demands Prentice divulge details of deal for golf course

The Canadian Press

Jim Prentice acknowledges Albertans are unhappy with the PC party

CALGARY – Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Prentice says he knows there is a certain level of public anger being directed at his party.

In a speech to about 200 supporters in Calgary, the incumbent premier said Albertans have not been happy with PC governments that lost sight of party values.

He says his government will not make the mistakes of the past and will earn back the trust of voters.

FULL COVERAGE: Decision Alberta 2015

But he warns there are tough times ahead and there will be items on the public wish list that will go unfulfilled.

Prentice is attempting to extend the PC party’s four-decade dynasty, having just brought down a budget that hikes taxes and runs a record $5-billion deficit.

He has spent the first week of the election campaign touting the spending plan, while challenging the opposition parties to provide more than just the bare bones of ideas on how to deal with low oil prices.


Crowsnest Pass council opposes transmission line

Pincher Creek Voice

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

 Chris Davis

Surface rights group taking issue to court Lease payment concerns have group looking for financial support from Alberta landowners


An Alberta surface rights group plans to fight to ensure that landowners don’t lose lease payments from bankrupt oil companies. Don Bester, president of the Alberta Surface Rights Group, accuses the provincial board that oversees surface rights issues of changing a longstanding practice of guaranteeing annual surface lease payments. The practice ensured that landownersweren’t left out of pocket when oil or gas companies went out of business. Bester said the board “erred in an interpretation of law” in a 2014 case involving Drayton Valley-area farmers Doug and Marg Lemke and Petroglobe Inc. The Lemkes argued that the insolvent company owed them $3,700 in lease payments.  However, the Surface Rights Board rejected their application to seek compensation through the board. “The (Alberta) Surface Rights Board claimed the Bank and Insolvency Act superseded the Alberta Surface Rights Act, although it is veryclear that this is not the case,” said Bester.
He said the board would previously order companies that were defaulting on their payments to pay up or be stripped of their mineral rights. The board could provide compensation to landowners if no agreement was reached with the company. Bester said the implications extend beyond lease payments to farmers. There is also the question of who will be responsible for cleaning up former well sites.
“To us, it’s one of the more important issues we have faced,” he said. Municipalities also stand to lose thousands of dollars in taxes that oil and gas companies pay on the land on which their pipelines and facilities are located, he added. Alberta Surface Rights Board counsel Karen Sinclair-Santos said there has been no change in legislation or the board’s options for dealing with
companies that are behind on their payments. These options include suspension or termination orders for the site in question and board-issued directions to pay. Each case is dealt with on its own
facts, which can be complicated in cases of bankruptcy or receivership. She said the board can still offer compensation.
“Each time an application comes before the board, it makes its decision on the particular facts. There’s no guideline directing a board member to make a decision in a particular way.” There have been a number of decisions where the board has recognized that Bankruptcy Act provisions halt enforcement actions under the surface rights legislation.  Sinclair-Santos said landowners who aren’t satisfied with the board’s decision can seek a judicial review.
Bester said taking the board to court is expected to cost as much as $30,000. The group is hoping to raise money to wage its fight by appealing to those potentially affected, including the counties of Red Deer, Clearwater, Knee hill and Mountain View. “We’re on the fundraising trail.” Clearwater County chief administrative officer Ron Leaf said assessment staff are not expecting any changes that will affect pipeline tax collection, which can be complicated when oil or gas companies are in arrears because they do not own the land on which their pipeline sits.

Who’s really running the province?

Lethbridge Herald

By Letter to the Editor on April 11, 2015.

A recent Crowsnest Pass Herald article entitled “Council takes a firm stand against AltaLink” made me sit up and take special notice.

Particularly eye-opening were the comments attributed to AltaLink’s John Grove, who is reported to have told Crowsnest Pass municipal council “to refrain from sending a letter (to government officials) outlining É opposition to the project.”

The referenced project: AltaLink’s proposed $750-million Castle Rock Ridge to Chapel Rock transmission line.

Crowsnest Pass Mayor Blair Painter is reported to have said, “Grove suggested we not send the letter as it might jeopardize our relations with Edmonton.”

Reading the mayor’s statement, I have to believe AltaLink has revealed that all its community consultation, open houses, route-finding exercises, environmental assessments and other work is mere window dressing. It appears AltaLink believes it can do whatever it wants, and that the Government of Alberta will stand behind this outcome, regardless of the wishes of Albertans.

What, exactly, did AltaLink’s John Grove say and, perhaps more importantly, what message was he attempting to communicate?

The article raises many questions, such as: Does the Government of Alberta use its power to punish people who express concerns with industrial development?

Is AltaLink’s CEO Alberta’s de facto premier?

Do Premier Prentice and AltaLink’s CEO sit behind the same desk and to whom are we speaking when we address either?

If cash-strapped Albertans don’t want to pay $750-million for a transmission line many reviewers don’t feel is necessary, to whom do they address their concerns?

David McIntyre

Crowsnest Pass


Too much government control?

Lethbridge Herald

By Letter to the Editor on April 11, 2015.

Deeper skims into disposable income and net pay don’t heighten our standard of living. Can “progressive” taxes address Alberta’s debt? This idea of the solution is one big facet of the problem.

A little government is necessary, but we have way more than that. Taxation is government greed. Instead of preparing for bad times, policy-makers run up the usual expenses and bill us. They use, elsewhere, predatory measures against personal finances to cover an unaffordable status quo.

The government of Cyprus seized private savings two years ago to avert bankruptcy. The Greek government now plunders its own citizen’s pensions so it can meet IMF and EU obligations. Poor households, already without nearly 86 per cent of their former income, lose a further nine per cent to tax increases.

The next involuntary forfeiture introduces a change in account-holder status: depositors become “creditors” to whom the system owes money. Good luck collecting! The policy’s ideal because it leaves people without recourse.

U.S. Civil Asset Forfeiture laws are so abused that Ottawa issued a travel advisory against carrying large amounts of cash into the United States. Victims have a poor track record of getting it back.

In Alberta we haven’t reached those extremes – but we’re on that road, and the latest budget didn’t roll back the general hit.

Jim Prentice gesturally cut caucus pay by five per cent. If he’d cut 25 per cent, he would’ve been serious. If the budget had phased out unseen cadres of deputies, assistants, executives and managers, secretariats and commissions, he’d have fully changed the game. What we see instead is that Prentice fronts a self-protective establishment. We had no direct say when it broke its own law against going back into debt; we’re at its whim on the new election. Among the first acts of a trustworthy Opposition administration should be to open all the books, and show us how the money’s gone.

Freedom’s sticker shock, maybe … but the more beholden to government we are, the less freedom we really have.

Tom Yeoman



Alberta premier promises to double size of Heritage Fund for future generations

By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press on April 10, 2015.

CALGARY – Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Prentice cited the legacy of former premier Peter Lougheed as he promised again to double the size of the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund over the next 10 years.

Prentice noted that previous Tory governments lost their way with the $17-billion fund and he wants to return it to its original purpose – saving revenues for future generations.

“When (Lougheed) was a young man he worked for a time in a place called Tulsa, Okla., and he saw what happened to that community when the oil resources were spent and the economy was in decline,” Prentice said Friday.

“And Peter Lougheed vowed that would never happen in our Alberta. There are those who think our resources are infinite and our energy resources are endless and the dollars that we receive are endless.

“The truth is our resources are not endless and the abundance of them isn’t the only factor we need to consider.”

For decades the Alberta government has been skimming the investment income earned from the fund and transferring it to general revenues for program spending.

Under Prentice’s plan, which was first announced in last month’s budget, 25 per cent of all provincial energy revenues would be saved in the Heritage Fund starting in 2019-2020.

Prentice said that should double the size of the fund by 2024-2025.

“We will reduce our dependency on energy revenue by year four and five. We will have that dependency down to 50 per cent, which is the appropriate balance,” said Prentice.

“If we carry forward on that basis we will have the Heritage Fund at a figure like $30 billion by year 10 and after that it will really start to accelerate.”

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean announced a financial blueprint Thursday in which he promised to slash management jobs in government and health care, defer some capital projects and avoid tax hikes to balance the budget by 2017.

Prentice said with a $7 billion revenue shortfall this year and $6 billion next year that just isn’t realistic.

“Who are they proposing to cut? They talk about cutting infrastructure … which communities are they planning to cut those projects in and who are they talking about cutting in terms of front line services?”

Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter


Alberta premier protecting the interests of the rich

Lethbridge Herald

By Letter to the Editor on April 8, 2015.

Wake up, Albertans! It is time to start fighting against the dictatorship we have. No opposition, no democracy, our opinions are not listened to, nobody protects us from the abuses the government is doing against the citizens.

We have learned about dictatorships in another countries but now we have one in our house. Premier Prentice is protecting wealthy companies’ interests by making us pay for every single service. Are we to blame for the low gas prices? We have saved some pennies by getting the gas at a low price. Now Prentice is making Albertans pay to keep rich people’s privileges, by bringing the gas prices higher. But that is not enough for him; he brings out premiums for health care, taking away more than we have saved.

The federal Conservatives are bringing down Canada’s international reputation by military intervention in other countries to fight terrorism, an idea created by the real terrorists in the Canadian government. Harper and Prentice are the real terrorists. Their political decisions are against human rights. When is this abuse to stop? Albertans have the answer.

Roberto Hernandez



So much for fixed election dates

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on April 8, 2015.

Rules do give premier the power to call an election ahead of Election Act schedule

It was a good idea at the time.

Alberta’s Election Act set the stage for regular elections every four years.

Under the legislation, Premier Jim Prentice had until next spring to wait and face the electorate. Rules dictated an election had to be called in the fourth calendar year following polling day in the most recent general election. That would have meant Albertans would vote for their next government between March 1 and May 31 of 2016.

Of course, that is not going to happen. An election has been called, and Alberta will head to the polls this May instead.

The act also stipulates the Lieutenant Governor’s powers are not impacted, meaning the power to dissolve the Legislature is still in the hands of the Lieutenant Governor. Section 38.1 (1) states that power can be used, in Her Majesty’s name, when the Lieutenant Governor sees fit.

In reality, it is whenever the premier sees fit, as it is the province’s top politician who makes the request, and in this case, Prentice has decided to strike when the iron is hot, and when his opponents are most vulnerable.

No doubt, the Progressive Conservatives are in the driver’s seat. With 70 seats at dissolution, thanks in part to the defections of 11 Wildrose members who crossed the floor, the stage is set to return Canada’s longest-ruling political dynasty to power once again.

Time will tell whether Albertans – upset the provincial budget levied a host of tax and fee increases on the public, once again avoided touching the sacred cow of corporate taxes and also refused to hike oil and gas royalties – will be enough to derail the PCs.

Opposition parties have been buoyed by recent polls, which suggest gains have been made by the Wildrose and Alberta NDP, and the challenge Prentice faces with a $5-billion deficit is very real. Over four decades into power, the PCs have yet to develop a plan to wean Alberta off its resource revenue, and spending has been a major issue, as the province spends $1,300 more per capita than any other jurisdiction in Canada.

Those realities are staring the premier in the face, and party faithful know full well the dangers of letting those issues grow and fester for another year. A 2016 election, of course, would allow the province’s other political entities time to regroup, with new leaders in tow, develop more complete platforms and formulate a plan to take on the PC juggernaut

That was the intent of the Election Act. It was to level the playing field, give Albertans and its political parties a fixed election period and in general, boost the level of democratic transparency.

Unfortunately, the result has been the exact opposite. A chain reaction set off by Danielle Smith’s floor crossing has created a situation where every opposition party has a new leader. Smith, one election removed from leading in the polls until very late in the game in the battle against Alison Redford, is now out of the political game, and her former party must now rely on a new leader and a new slate of candidates in many ridings.

Fixed election dates would have prevented the manipulation of the system for the benefit of the party in power. Instead, we are left with a business-as-usual approach.

Time will tell if the calculated gamble by Prentice and company will pay off.


Off to the races — local MLA incumbents agree it’s full speed ahead for next four weeks

By Mabell, Dave on April 8, 2015.

Dave Mabell


[email protected]

They’re off and running, following Tuesday’s provincial election announcement. Three southern Alberta members of the legislature seeking re-election agree on one thing: it’s full speed ahead for the next four weeks.

Beyond that, their responses differ. For Lethbridge West MLA Greg Weadick, the election campaign is about the province’s finances.

“We’ve got to get our financial house in order,” and some budget cuts are required to make that possible, the Progressive Conservative member says. Albertans were expecting that, he suggests.

The province’s education budget has been trimmed, for example.

“The schools have been working to prepare for this,” Weadick says.

At the post-secondary level, Weadick says the loss of operating cash is less than 1.5 per cent. What’s important, he adds, is the government’s confirmation that funding will be available for the new science building at the University of Lethbridge – though a year later than expected.

“That huge project has been spared.”

For Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier, the region’s only remaining Wildrose member, the campaign is about debt and taxes.

“We are the only party that stands up for Albertans and advocates no new taxes,” he says.

The Prentice government, he points out, has ordered no fewer than 57 tax hikes – higher fees for everything from birth to death certificates.

“The government wants to tax every Albertan more,” and Wildrose officials estimate that could amount to $2,000 or as much as $2,500 a year for many families.

“We would look at cutting wasteful spending and corporate subsidies,” Stier says.

One of the latest examples of waste, he points out, is the Conservatives’ decision to pay $5.4 million to a golf course operator with Tory connections – and likely $15 million more to rebuild the Kananaskis links – in the wake of flooding in 2013.

Stier has called for an official investigation by Auditor General Merwan Saher. While the Tories are anxious to repair the government-built course, he says, many High River residents are still waiting to have their disaster recovery claims settled.

Water is also one of the issues for Little Bow MLA Ian Donovan, one of a dozen Wildrose MLAs who left the party last fall. Wildrose had no policy about irrigation system improvements, he says. And there wasn’t much of a focus on agriculture — the mainstay of the Little Bow economy.

“That was one of the challenges,” he says now. “It was hard to look constituents in the eye.”

But the Tories have earmarked money for irrigation system upgrades, he adds.

“Agriculture is the most important renewable resource we have in this province,” he maintains.

Health care spending remains an election issue as well, Donovan says, and the new budget includes plans to cut more of the fat out of the Alberta Health Services bureaucracy.

“There are 1,700 (vacant) positions at AHS that won’t be filled,” he says.

Instead, more health spending decisions will be made at the local level.

Donovan says it was also local-level consultation that led to recently announced plans for safety improvements at two critical highway intersections. Government officials recently confirmed plans for a traffic circle at the Highway 23 junction with Highway 519 near Nobleford, and for extended acceleration and deceleration lanes at the Highway 3 access to Coalhurst.

Two of the region’s current MLAs will be watching this election from the sidelines. Bridget Pastoor, who’s represented Lethbridge East for three terms, will be retiring from political life. And Gary Bikman, one of nine Wildrose MLAs who bolted to the Conservatives in December, was not nominated to run for the governing party in the Cardston-Taber-Warner constituency.


Governing for the short term?

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on April 1, 2015.

Province needs stable revenue, not repeat of same old formula

Bryson Brown, John Vokey and James Byrne


Premier Jim Prentice told Albertans to “look in the mirror” if they wanted to see who is responsible for Alberta’s sudden financial embarrassment. He himself is the leader of our perpetual party of government, with a long record that he seems bent on continuing: periodic surges of spending when times are good, followed by desperate, crude spending cuts whenever revenues decline.

Making cuts across the board gives an impression of toughness, but it hides the real problem: this government has no idea of how to prioritize and focus spending for Alberta’s future, and no will to build a stable revenue base that could support the planning we need to do.

It may not be what people want to hear, but Alberta’s biggest problem is with revenues. The flat income tax has mostly benefitted high-income Albertans. Adding a tiny bit of progressivity makes little difference – and some of that will soon disappear: the government has promised the extra 0.5 per cent of income tax Albertans earning over $250,000 will pay for the next few years will drop to the same level as the tax on income over $100,000 by 2019. The new “health-care fee” is just a surtax on income; it goes into general revenues, and reaches its highest level at an income of $130,000. And these increases are far from enough to put the budget on steady path. The obvious proof of this is that the government’s projection of future balanced budgets still depends on assuming oil revenues will rebound. Low taxes and low royalties for corporations remain, while higher taxes on individual Albertans and damaging cuts to basic services we all rely on leave most of the deficit in place.

Apparently, the government is also considering removing the cap on university tuition fees, making it even harder for children from lower-income families to pursue a university or other post-secondary education; Alberta already has the lowest rate of PSE participation of all the provinces. Of course, Alberta will also continue to have the highest school fees in Canada.

Alberta has already given up other sources of stable revenue: the electric power generation and the power grid for the entire province (Trans Alta), the telephone system (Alberta Government Telephones, AGT) and all the liquor stores. The first two of these also ensured that even the most remote Alberta citizen would have both electricity and a telephone line; the costs of extending these lines to remote locations were picked up collectively by the people of Alberta. These investments laid the groundwork for broader prosperity across Alberta. But they’ve been sold off, and the proceeds spent – worse, the new electrical system transformed Alberta from one of the lowest-cost regions for electrical power in North America to one of the highest; it was subsidized with $2.3 billion in public money to lower the spike in consumer costs.

Alberta has lots of room to raise income taxes and corporate taxes while remaining the lowest taxed jurisdiction in Canada. But rather than a gradual plan to fill the revenue gap, Mr. Prentice is imposing drastic cuts in the public sector. He told us that public-sector salaries there are far too high compared with the rest of Canada, when the difference between salaries in Alberta and the rest of Canada is even higher in the private sector. Worse, cutting peoples’ salaries will only amplify the recession that’s already taking hold here.

Underlying this mess is a simple fact: governments cannot plan and spend efficiently when revenues are unstable. Big cuts in lean times leave a mark: lost positions, tired buildings, deferred maintenance and missed opportunities. We try to catch up in the good times, but they don’t last long enough for our services and infrastructure to recover from the last round of cuts. And wild swings back and forth make it easy to argue for a new round of cuts; just start the clock when spending began to increase in the last recovery, and it looks as if spending is growing way too fast. But that’s an illusion (or a deception); teachers have gone through three years of zero increase in their pay scales, universities were cut by over seven per cent in the March 2013 budget and grants to the universities were cut again in 2014, with cuts of 1.4 per cent this year and 2.7 per cent next still to come.

Tragically, the government has no long-term plan beyond waiting for another boom – a boom which may never come, since the bitumen we produce is some of the most expensive and polluting oil in the world, and the threat of global warming means we can’t afford to burn all the fossil fuel reserves we already have. In the competition to decide whose reserves will remain in the ground, Alberta starts with a big handicap.

We need a new direction in this province, not a repetition of the same old story. With stable, balanced revenues Alberta could begin to plan for a future beyond oil – a future based on a wealth of renewable energy, strong agriculture and a creative, well-educated population. Without them, we’ll settle for a diminished future for our children, where once there was so much promise.

Bryson Brown, John Vokey and James Byrne are University of Lethbridge professors in the departments of philosophy, psychology and geography respectively. They were writing on behalf of 18 other U of L faculty members who are signatories to the column. The full list of signatories can be found at


Graceful in defeat

By Simmons, Garrett on April 1, 2015.

Trevor Busch

Southern Alberta Newspapers

Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Gary Bikman has lost the right to represent the Progressive Conservative Party in an upcoming provincial election following a nomination defeat over the weekend.

Bikman was trumped on Saturday by M.D. of Taber Reeve Brian Brewin, who managed to secure enough votes from party faithful to edge out the first-term MLA, who crossed the floor to the PCs in late 2014.

“I really believe in democracy, and I think I’ve done a good job on both sides of the floor,” said Bikman on Monday. “Having been on the other side in opposition, it’s been very interesting to now be part of the solution, and to look at some of the simplistic solutions that were headlined when we were on the other side, and see how inadequate and incomplete they are. But the fact that we had to rely on that probably says more about the media than it does about us.”

Saturday’s vote marks the second time in recent memory that a sitting PC MLA has been defeated in a nomination battle in the Cardston-Taber-Warner riding. Prior to the 2012 provincial election, PC nomination candidate Pat Shimbashi turfed sitting PC MLA Broyce Jacobs, but was ultimately unsuccessful in securing a position as the riding’s representative in the following election, going down to defeat to then-Wildrose candidate Bikman.

Displaying no bitterness about his nomination loss, Bikman instead heaped praise on his opponent’s character.

“I like Brian Brewin. I can tell you truthfully that if I wasn’t running, I’d have been voting for him,” said Bikman. “I wish Brian all the best, he’s a great guy and a great candidate. He’s a solid guy – a man of integrity, hard-working – he will be a good candidate and a great MLA. Brian had a great ground game in Taber and Milk River. I won in the other towns, but not as significant numbers as he was able to muster in his home base. He’s a good guy, and I’m confident he’ll do a good job.”

Bikman, along with nine other Wildrose MLAs, crossed the floor to the ruling PCs in a controversial move in late 2014. Over the past weekend, former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith who was part of the surprise exodus from Wildrose party ranks, was also defeated in her own nomination battle in the Highwood riding.

“I’m not totally surprised. I sensed, quite clearly, that there were still people upset with our crossing, and it created an interesting dynamic in the communities, and it manifested moreso in Cardston, Magrath, Raymond and Stirling. People haven’t really been able to get past that sense of betrayal.”

According to Shimbashi, who currently serves as Cardston-Taber-Warner PC constituency organization president, roughly 1,200 votes were cast in the riding, making overall voter turn-out higher than Highwood’s much-touted nomination vote which saw former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith suffer defeat at the hands of a relative unknown in Okotoks councillor Carrie Fisher.

“Brian and I have had a good relationship for the three years that I’ve been in play, through his role as reeve of the M.D. of Taber,” said Bikman. “He and I have worked together to advance the cause of the M.D. on drainage issues and other things that have been important to our constituents.”

Bikman will continue to serve as Cardston-Taber-Warner’s MLA until a provincial election is called. Much speculation is currently centered on the prospect of an early election call for spring, however the PC’s current mandate – achieved under the now-maligned tenure of Alison Redford – still extends into 2016.

Bikman thanked constituents for permitting him to serve them over his more than three years in office.

“I’d like to thank for them the opportunity that I have had to serve them, and that I’ve always worked hard to serve them the best way that I know how. I’ll continue to work as best I can until the election takes place. Life goes on, as far as continuing my services and my life. When all is said and done, with 40 grandkids and one more on the way – that’s a full time job. I’m happy that I served, and have no regrets about the things that we did. I always tried to act in the best interests of our constituency and our province – I put the party third.”


ATB Financial says province’s economy slowing significantly, job losses likely

by The Canadian Press

Posted Mar 31, 2015 2:10 pm EDT

Last Updated Apr 1, 2015 at 4:29 pm EDT

CALGARY – The chief economist of Alberta’s Crown-owned financial institution says the province’s economy is slowing significantly due to slumping oil prices.

Todd Hirsch of ATB Financial says that will likely mean job losses and curtailed investment in the energy sector.

He says housing starts remain stable, but the residential real estate market is soft, which suggests construction activity will cool.

Hirsch says people are still moving to Alberta, but in lower numbers.

He says the biggest change since ATB’s forecast in January is that energy prices aren’t expected to stabilize and start to gradually rise until late summer and the fall.

Hirsch says on the bright side agriculture, forestry and tourism are benefiting from lower fuel prices and the lower Canadian dollar.

“While it will be a challenging year, Albertans shouldn’t panic,” Hirsch said Tuesday in a release. “It will by no means be the worst economic year in recent history.”

Hirsch is forecasting economic growth this year to be 0.8 per cent and unemployment to rise to six per cent.

He predicts an average U.S. oil price of between $50-60 per barrel by the end of the year.


Credit counselling in high demand in Alberta

Reprinted in Lethbridge Herald on April 1, 2015

CALGARY – The Racette family is on a cash-only diet for the next four years.

Dale Racette, a truck driver, and his wife, a school bus driver, are trying to dig themselves out of a $45,000 hole.

It wasn’t any one thing. The day-to-day costs of raising two children just piled up over 14 years, Dale Racette said from Red Deer, Alta.

Two months ago, the Racettes sought the help of a credit counsellor to work out a debt repayment plan. The first step was to shred their six credit cards.

Racette says he’s optimistic his job at a distribution company is safe, but he’s lived through enough economic ups and downs in Alberta to know he can’t take anything for granted.

“I think I’m pretty secure. I wouldn’t bet a whole lot of money I don’t have, mind you,” he said.

According to Statistics Canada, Alberta lost 14,000 net jobs in February — 7,000 of those in the natural resources sector. Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU), Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE), Nexen ULC and ConocoPhillips Canada are among the big oil companies to have cut jobs as they grapple with low oil prices.

The pain is being felt in the public sector, too. In announcing a grim budget with a record $5-billion deficit last week, the Alberta government said it would be shedding 2,016 jobs. Most of those cuts will be through attrition, but around 370 layoffs are expected.

And there’s another layer of hardship that doesn’t grab headlines, said credit counsellor Nadia Graham.

“We’re seeing people in the oil and gas industry who aren’t necessarily getting laid off, but they haven’t got their annual bonus, . . . (and) they aren’t getting the overtime they normally get.”

“It’s putting a pinch on peoples’ finances,” Graham said. “The debt problems that we’re seeing are not debt problems that have been created in the last, say, four months or so, but they’re issues that have come to a head.”

Jeff Schwartz, executive director of Consolidated Credit Counselling Services of Canada, said he saw a 38 per cent year-over-year increase in clientele from Alberta in February. Nationwide, there was also an increase — but in the order of 10 to 15 per cent.

Schwartz said he’s not surprised by the numbers. A report by credit monitoring agency Equifax earlier this month said Calgarians had the highest non-mortgage debt loads in the country — an average of $28,263 in the last three months of 2014. Edmonton wasn’t far behind, with average debt at $26,305.

“Albertans are in the deepest debt,” said Schwartz. “They’re used to earning big. When a boom cycle comes through, they do very well and that’s a good thing. But as part of that, they also live big.”

There was a 58.7 per cent increase in consumer proposals in Alberta between December 2013 and December 2014, according to Ottawa’s latest insolvency statistics.

Bruce Alger, a licensed trustee at personal insolvency firm Grant Thornton in Calgary, said more than half the work he’s doing these days is on consumer proposals — a legal process where debtors can pay some amounts owed to a creditor, without having to resort to bankruptcy.

Alger said he’s already seen a bit of an uptick in clients asking him for help, but he’s expecting to see an “influx” come summer or fall.

“As a lot, Albertans are typically young and optimistic and credit is readily available,” said Alger. “It’s been generally so good here for so long that if you survived 2008-2009 unscathed, you think ‘wow, I can handle just about anything.'”

— Follow @LaurenKrugel on Twitter

By Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press


Second thoughts?

April 1, 2015.

Dave Mabell


[email protected]

One disapproving poll doesn’t guarantee political disaster for the province’s Conservatives.

But Lethbridge political scientists say it could force Premier Jim Prentice to have second thoughts about calling a spring election.

“We’ll see how the premier responds to his internal (party) polling,” says Geoffrey Hale, a member of the political science faculty at the University of Lethbridge. If they’re similar to the results of a poll released by a national polling firm Tuesday, he could wait for a better time.

A Mainstreet Technologies poll of more than 3,000 Albertans, taken after the Conservatives tabled their tax-hike budget, showed Prentice’s party tied with the opposition Wildrose party at 30 per cent support.

The pollsters also reported 44 per cent of those who responded said Alberta should raise its taxes on corporations – a move the government refuses to do – while 49 per disapproved of the budget overall.

Particularly in Edmonton, they added, the New Democrats are also benefitting from voters’ rejection of the long-ruling Conservatives and their latest leader. In that city, leader Rachel Notley and her candidates are polling at 43 per cent of the decided voters.

Political scientist Faron Ellis, who leads a political opinion survey project at Lethbridge College, noted the Mainstreet poll was “a snapshot” taken just as Albertans were responding to the government’s plans for cradle-to-grave tax hikes.

“But they have been very accurate in the last few elections they’ve tracked,” Ellis said.

“They had a large sample size, and the patterns were very similar to ours” in recent Citizen Society Research Lab surveys.

Mainstreet said that sample gives it a margin of error of just 1.8 per cent, plus or minus, 19 times out of 20.

Given the timing, Hale said, “It’s not surprising that the premier has had a bit of push-back.”

“The budget was heavy on slapping the general public,” but Albertans expected to see big business step up to the plate as well. “There was political room for an extra point on the business income tax,” he pointed out.

But instead Prentice – formerly a bank vice-president with CIBC – told Albertans any tax increase would drive the big companies out of the province.

Prentice had promised Albertans a “transformative” budget, Ellis noted.

“But instead he raised taxes across the board – 53 of them – while still running a deficit.

“He’s done nothing ‘transformational’, and a lot of people don’t like that business got off scott free.”

For Hale, last week’s document amounts to “a stop-gap budget.”

“The subtext is, ‘See us after the election.’”

How soon that will come is a little less certain, Hale added.

“A week ago, a lot of people thought he would do the cynical thing and take advantage of the opposition’s weakness.”

Prentice engineered that weakness, Hale asserts, by co-opting leader Danielle Smith and eight of her Wildrose cohorts and then “hanging them out to dry.”

Now Smith, Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Gary Bikman and central Alberta member Rod Fox – three of the nine who quit Wildrose – have lost their nominations while three more have walked away from politics.

Bikman and others, says Ellis, fell victim to local voters’ repulsion over Smith and most of her caucus seemingly abandoning their supporters. For once, he suggests, Albertans have drawn a political line in the sand.

“This flagrant opportunism has created a line that politicians can’t cross without raising the ire of the voters.”


Transmission line or limber pine?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Letters to the Editor

The Pincher Creek Voice

David McIntyre

Dear Premier Prentice,
Yesterday afternoon, without really knowing where I was headed, I arrived at an ancient limber pine that, growing from a thrust-faulted alter of sandstone, lies within a spectacular natural sandstone amphitheater.

My wife and I refer to the location as a vision quest site, but it isn’t a prehistoric site as far as we know, or can tell, although it affords views of such sites, and of a Serengeti-like landscape – it’s drop-dead gorgeous – that’s rich in archaeological and paleontological treasures.

Yesterday’s footloose escape took me past blooming wildflowers, flocks of migrating birds, parades of mule deer and flocks of displaying wild turkeys. Overhead, an adult golden eagle soared over a cliffside nesting site.

Deer and elk sign covered the rough fescue grasslands, where the season’s first emerging Columbian ground squirrels could be seen, and where the skeletal remains of a black bear left me to wonder what had caused the animal’s death.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away, … but in another sense, I was looking at them, and the reason for sleepless nights. I was looking at the Crown of the Continent landscape where AltaLink proposes to erect a view-degrading, ecologically-destroying array of overhead transmission lines.

This morning, from my home overlooking Rock Creek on the eastern flanks of the Livingstone Range, I’m viewing, as I write this message, two moose and herds of mule and white-tailed deer. And I can glance up, above my computer screen, to see a large elk herd that, moving slowly, is grazing its way northward.

Within this same view, if AltaLink’s $750-million wish comes true, I’ll soon look out at – and under and through – approximately 3 km of lattice towers and screaming-in-the-wind transmission lines … all paid for by cash-strapped Albertans.

David McIntyre
[email protected]


Prentice says party had ‘good reasons’ to reject candidate in Chestermere-Rocky View

James Wood, Calgary Herald More from James Wood, Calgary Herald

Darcy Henton, Calgary Herald More from Darcy Henton, Calgary Herald

Published on: March 30, 2015
Last Updated: March 30, 2015 8:17 PM MDT

A longtime Tory barred by the party from running for a Progressive Conservative nomination says he’s hurt and disappointed and may jump to another party after the way he’s been treated by the PC brass and Premier Jim Prentice.

The party announced just after midnight Sunday that Jamie Lall had been disallowed as a candidate in Chestermere-Rocky View, leaving former Wildrose education critic Bruce McAllister to be acclaimed to represent the PCs in the riding.

No reason was given and Lall said in an interview Monday that he’s still in the dark about why he was blocked, just days before the riding’s April 1 nomination date.

“People are going to connect dots. That’s up to them. I am in a lot of ways still in shock. It’s upsetting, it’s hurtful. I think that if there was some sort of smoking gun or reason, common sense would suggest it would be brought out before that,” said Lall, who noted he was vetted twice before being appointed as the PC candidate in Calgary-Buffalo in the 2012 election.

Lall, who is also president of the PC’s Calgary-McCall riding association, said he has been a loyal Tory but hasn’t ruled out joining, or perhaps even running for, another party in the election that Prentice is expected to call this spring.

“Anything is possible. I never thought my party, the PCs, would do this to me,” he said, noting that he had been approached by multiple other parties.

McAllister is one of nine Wildrose MLAs who crossed the floor en masse to the government benches in December. Three of the defectors — Gary Bikman, Rod Fox and former party leader Danielle Smith — were defeated for PC nominations on Saturday just hours before Lall was texted at 11:27 by PC executive director Kelley Charlebois that his candidacy had been disallowed.

Some in Lall’s camp have suggested the party was motivated to stop Lall’s candidacy because of concern about losing another ex-Wildrose MLA.

Lall said he doesn’t know for sure but “the timing would probably suggest that.”

McAllister’s campaign manager, Ken Boessenkool, has said he was absolutely confident the former Wildrose MLA would have won a contested nomination.

The PC party has refused to comment on the reason for disallowing Lall’s candidacy.

Prentice also refused to disclose details Monday but defended the party’s decision.

“They made their decision in the case of Mr. Lall for good reasons,” the premier told reporters Monday in Calgary. “I’m satisfied that they made the right choice in terms of what is in the best interests of the Progressive Conservative party.”

Prentice said only “four or five” of several hundred candidates vying for nominations as PC candidates in the province’s 87 ridings were disallowed, and the party had excellent candidates nominated.

Prentice also defended the PC party’s use of a private investigator as part of the vetting process in Chestermere-Rocky View, which has raised eyebrows in some corners.

Charlebois suggested in an email on the weekend that it was not unusual, saying that “a private investigator was hired to assist with vetting in all 87 riding nominations.”

Lall said Monday that investigator Gordon Bull was “aggressive” in pressing him for phone numbers of family and friends.

Pollster and political analyst Janet Brown said Lall has been a “loyal Conservative soldier,” who appears to be well-regarded by many within the PC camp.

“The premier does have the power to step in and override a local riding association. He’s got to be careful about appearing undemocratic and, quite frankly, mean-spirited,” she said.

With files from Trevor Howell, Calgary Herald

[email protected]

[email protected]


Danielle Smith apologizes after angry text to Global News reporter

By Amy Minsky and Vassy Kapelos Global News

OTTAWA — She came within inches of forming government in Alberta, then crossed the floor where she had to battle for her seat, but in the end lost it all. Now, former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith is leaving public life.

Asked Sunday afternoon via text message whether she had a few minutes to talk about Saturday night’s shocking upset, Smith responded, “No. I am leaving public life.”

A follow up message asked whether that ruled out any future runs for public office.

“P#ss off,” Smith responded.

She later apologized, saying her response was inappropriate and that she wasn’t ready to speak to the media.

Despite losing the PC nomination, Smith remains MLA for Calgary’s Highwood riding until she either resigns or an election is called.

Smith found herself in a tough race to win the PC nomination for her riding after crossing the floor from the Wildrose Party last year. Several senior cabinet ministers campaigned on Smith’s behalf over the weekend in High River, fuelling speculation Alberta Premier Jim Prentice would simply appoint her as the candidate.

After 972 ballots were cast on Saturday, however, Okotoks councillor Carrie Fischer won the Highwood PC nomination.

Following her defeat, Smith said she didn’t regret crossing the floor, adding she looked forward to “seeing Carrie be successful,” urging all conservatives to “unite under Jim Prentice’s leadership.

Smith had many supporters in her riding before she crossed over to the Tories, but it remained unclear whether their support would carry over after what some felt was a betrayal.

Smith shattered her caucus in December when she led an en masse floor crossing, saying she no longer had the fire in the belly to oppose the premier.

Smith and eight of her Wildrose party colleagues were accepted into Prentice’s Progressive Conservative caucus, leaving behind a five-member rump while elevating the Tory majority to an overwhelming 72 seats in the 87-seat legislature.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was first published on Sunday, March 29 at 2:45 p.m. EST. It was later updated to include Danielle Smith’s apology. 

Global News reporter Vassy Kapelos’ text message exchange with former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith.


Former Wildrose members lose Tory nominations


March 29, 2015

The former leader of Alberta’s Official Opposition and another former Wildrose member have paid a political price after crossing the floor to join the governing Progressive Conservatives. Danielle Smith lost the Tory nomination to Carrie Fischer in the riding of Highwood, south of Calgary, on Saturday while Gary Bikman lost the Cardston-Taber-Warner PC nomination to M.D. of Taber Reeve Brian Brewin.

Smith led eight of her colleagues of the Wildrose party, including Bikman of Stirling, across the floor to join the government last December in a stunning move that created a national stir among political watchers. More than 1,200 votes were cast in the Cardston-Taber-Warner nomination. Smith says she has mixed feelings with the loss. She says she’s disappointed but believes she helped make Alberta a better place.


Ex-Wildrose leader Danielle Smith loses nomination race after defecting to Alberta PCs

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, March 28, 2015 9:50PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, March 28, 2015 10:42PM EDT

HIGH RIVER, Alta. — The former leader of Alberta’s Official Opposition paid a high political price on Saturday after creating a national stir when she crossed the floor to join the governing Progressive Conservatives.

Danielle Smith lost the Tory nomination to Carrie Fischer, a town councillor in Okotoks, in the provincial riding of Highwood, south of Calgary.

Smith led eight of her colleagues of the Wildrose party across the floor to join the government last December in a stunning move that created considerable buzz among political watchers.

“This is of course a mixed emotions day for me. I did want to get a mandate to be the PC candidate for Highwood but of course residents felt otherwise,” she said in her concession speech.

“I’m grateful for the residents of Highwood for coming out and participating in the process. I think it was an invigorating process. I think it was good for the party.”

Smith still believes switching parties was the right thing to do and she has no regrets about crossing the floor four months ago.

“No. Absolutely not. I believe that Jim Prentice is exactly the leader that we need right now. I think it’s important for Conservatives to unify under his leadership,” said Smith.

Smith’s loss happened on the same day that the Wildrose picked former federal Conservative MP Brian Jean as the new leader of the opposition party in a leadership vote.

The Progressive Conservatives did not give a breakdown on the nomination results but say 972 people voted.

Fischer said she understands that the floor crossing did have an impact on the outcome.

“I think it was on the minds of some of the voters but I hope my conversations with them earned their trust and support,” said Fischer.

Smith said she has no immediate plans but intends to join her parents on a trip to Mexico in May.

She told reporters earlier this year that she underestimated the amount of public anger that resulted from her decision to abandon the Wildrose Party.


How long will oil remain cheap?

Saudi producers have the money to hold out for two years, but U.S. can’t afford to let frackers fail

Gwynne Dyer is an independent London-based journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

I’m in Alberta, the province that produces most of Canada’s oil, and there’s only one question on everybody’s lips: How long

will the oil price stay down? It has fallen by more than half in the past nine months — West Texas Intermediate is $48 per

barrel today — and further falls are predicted for the coming weeks.

This hits jobs and government revenues hard in big oil-producing centres like Alberta, Texas and the British North Sea, but its effects reach farther than that. “Clean” energy producers are seeing demand for their solar panels and windmills drop as oil gets

more competitive. Electric cars, which were expected to make a major market breakthrough this year, are losing out to traditional gas-guzzlers that are now cheap to run again. Countries that have become too dependent on oil revenues are in deep trouble, like Russia (where the rouble has lost half its value in six months) and Venezuela. Countries like India, which imports most of its oil, are getting a big economic boost from the lower oil price. So how long this goes on matters to a great many people.

The answer may lie in two key numbers. Saudi Arabia has $900 billion in cash reserves, so it can afford to keep the oil price low for at least a couple of years. The “frackers” who have added four million barrels a day to U.S. oil production in the past five years (and effectively flooded the market) already owe an estimated $160 billion to the banks. They will have to borrow a lot more to stay in business while the oil price is low, because almost none of them can make a profit at the current price. Production

costs in the oil world are deep, dark secrets, but nobody believes that oil produced by hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) comes in at less than $60-$70 per barrel. The real struggle is between the frackers and Saudi Arabia, because the latter is the “swing

producer” in OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries), the cartel that has dominated the global oil market for the past fifty years.

All oil exporters want to keep the price high, but Saudi Arabia was the one OPEC member that could and would cut its production sharply for a while when an over-supply of oil in the market was driving prices down. It could afford to do that

because it has a relatively small population, very large savings — and a cost of production so low that it can make some profit

on its oil at almost any price. But even the Saudis cannot work miracles. They can aim for maximum production or maximum price; they cannot do both at the same time. Normally they would cut production temporarily to get the price back up. This time they refused to cut production and let the price collapse, despite the anguished pleas of some other OPEC members that need money NOW. The Saudis are thinking strategically. OPEC only controls about 30 per cent of world oil production, which is a very low share for a cartel that seeks to control the price. If fracking continues to expand in the United States, then OPEC’s market share will fall even further. So it has to drive the frackers out of business now. At first glance the Saudis look like sure

winners, because they can live with low prices a lot longer than the deeply indebted frackers can. The banks that have lent the frackers so much money already won’t get it back if the industry implodes in a wave of bankruptcies, but they don’t want to throw good money after bad.

The real wild card here is the U.S. government, which wants the “energy independence” that only more domestic oil production through fracking can provide. Will it let the American fracking industry go under, or will it give it the loan guarantees and direct subsidies that would let it wait the Saudis out? Stupid question. Of course it will do what is necessary to save the fracking

industry. Ideology goes out the window in a case like this: you can get bipartisan support in Washington for protecting a key American industry from “unfair” foreign competition. That will certainly be enough to keep the frackers in the game for another two or three years. Meanwhile, the OPEC members that depend on oil income to keep large populations well fed and at least

marginally content (e.g. Iran, Nigeria and Venezuela) will be facing massive public protest, and possibly even the threat of revolution. Their governments will be putting huge pressure on Saudi Arabia to save them by cutting production and driving the price back up.

It’s impossible to say how this game will end, but it’s pretty easy to say when. Two years ought to do it. Once the outcome is clear, the price of oil will start going back up no matter which side wins, but it will go up relatively slowly. We are unlikely to

see $100-a-barrel oil again before 2020 at the earliest.


It’s the PCs who got us into this mess

I hope Albertans take note of being blamed for the political mess — a looming crisis the PCs have got us into over the past 44 years. Mr. Prentice, you must accept responsibility. It was your party with power that set policies, laws and direction and tinkered with regulations to suit the big guy. You tried to prep us offering to take a cut and now when it suits, you try to tell us “we’re in this together.” You continue to favour big business and industry and now want the small guy again to suffer, most of whom try to eke by, many on little more than minimum wage.

Let me remind you how over the years those near the bottom of the scale were getting two, three or, if lucky, four per cent, and when a couple years ago MLAs awarded themselves a 30 per cent increase, yes, it should be easy for you to take a five per cent reduction. No thanks; we’re not fooled! It’s no wonder the banks have been increasingly concerned about the steadily increasing

debt-load of average Canadians and you resolutely refuse to consider a sales tax or return to progressive taxation which, if adopted, judging by B.C., would increase revenues by $11.6 billion.

We ask, what have you done to curtail spending or to diversify our economy and get us away from this “boom and bust” economy? Why threaten education? Is health care next? Mr. Prentice, one does not have to be a rocket scientist to realize that it’s

much easier for you, with salary of a couple hundred thousand per year and MLAs with $127,000 per year plus expenses including travel, as well as your industrial and big-business cronies, most on even bigger salaries and benefits, to go after those on close to minimum wage or not much more.

Yep! Easy to talk and “good try” trying to psych us into believing we must go along with you. It’s high time the opposition got a chance at re-balancing things. The only way we can establish some balance is, and I plead with you my fellow Albertans, vote for the opposition in the upcoming election.

Michael Cormican