Area MLA hearing plenty of concerns

16 Oct 2016

Lethbridge Herald



Grant Hunter, MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner, has been hearing the concerns from his constituents.

Wildrose MLA Hunter held meetings at the beginning of September in Cardston, Warner, Milk River, Coutts, Magrath and Raymond to hear what the public’s concerns are, so he can bring them to the Legislature.

The meetings went well, says Hunter and he was interested to hear the different concerns of the people.

A lot of people were asking him questions about the carbon tax, the implications of increasing minimum wage and how it’s going to affect their businesses.

As well, some of the seniors were asking about the new Seniors Home Adaptation and Repair Program (SHARP).

“It was actually … very good to be able to meet with the constituents and get some feedback on them from what they feel is going on,” adds Hunter.

Hunter says he likes to hold these meetings in most of the different communities within his constituency every six to eight months or so.

He wants to keep up to date with what the people in his constituency want to see happen as well as their specific concerns.

When it comes to the SHARP program, Hunter says he talks to the seniors about how they can qualify for that and if they might qualify and he talks to the seniors about the program and its benefits.

He adds probably nine out of 10 people he spoke with said the Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives should unite, so Hunter says it is interesting that high of a number of people said they need to get together with the PC party.

At some of the meetings there were only a couple of people while others had better attendance. All of the meetings were done on a drop-in basis.

This month, Hunter says they are going back to the Legislature to discuss the revisions to the Municipal Government Act coming out, which is Bill 21.

“We’ve heard some good information from the reeves and mayors … at the reeves and mayors meeting that we have and so they’ve given us … ideas about maybe some amendments that should be brought forward,” he adds.


Prentice a great politician and family man

15 Oct 2016

Lethbridge Herald

Dave Mabell [email protected]

Shocked by his sudden death, political leaders spoke out Friday in tribute to former Alberta premier Jim Prentice. Retired from politics since the Progressive Conservatives lost power in May 2015, Prentice was one of four people killed when a small aircraft crashed Thursday near Kelowna.

“For Alberta, today is a day of sorrow in the face of terrible tragedy,” said Premier Rachel Notley.

“He served our province in so many roles for so many years. He deeply loved Alberta. He worked tirelessly for all of us, in the true spirit of one who is committed to public service,” she said.

“I benefited from his advice, and the government of Alberta is continuing to pursue many of his initiatives. All Albertans are the better for this.” Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge West, paid tribute to Prentice’s work on environmental issues while serving in the federal cabinet.

“I did not know him personally, but I see the echoes of his work on the environment,” she said, particularly with regard to oilsands monitoring.

As a Calgary MP, Prentice filled several roles in Stephen Harper’s federal cabinet including minister of the environment.

Phillips, now Alberta’s environment minister, said she’s learned more about his efforts from other government officials who worked with him.

The minister was scheduled to address members of the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce during their “Opportunity South” conference Friday. Out of respect, Notley and her cabinet members cancelled appearances for the day.

Lethbridge East MLA Maria Fitzpatrick praised Prentice’s spirit of public service.

“Anyone who has put themself out for public service the way Mr. Prentice did deserves every accolade anyone can give,” she said. “He served both his province and Canada well.”

Mayor Chris Spearman voiced city council’s sorrow at the former premier’s death.

“The sudden passing of Mr. Prentice is a shocking and tragic loss,” he said. “My heart goes out to his wife Karen and the entire Prentice family.

“Mr. Prentice was a dedicated public servant who enriched our province with his leadership and passion.”

The mayor ordered flags be lowered to half-mast at city hall and other civic locations.

Former Lethbridge East MLA and city council member Bridget Pastoor praised Prentice’s contributions as the nation’s aboriginal affairs minister.

“The work he did with First Nations was exemplary,” she said. “His heart was in it, and he knew what he was doing.”

Prentice was a political leader with integrity, Pastoor said, and “You probably couldn’t find a nicer gentleman.

“He served Canada very well, and devoted his life to public service.”

Greg Weadick, MLA for Lethbridge West and a cabinet minister under several Progressive Conservative premiers, described Prentice as “very hard-working MP, MLA and premier.”

Part of that work, he said, was finding ways to support First Nations in southern Alberta and elsewhere in their economic development initiatives. When Prentice served as environment minister, Weadick added, he attempted to balance the needs to safeguard Canada’s environmental values while recognizing the importance of resource-based employment.

At the same time, Weadick said, Prentice was “very dedicated to his wife and family.”

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Former Alberta premier Jim Prentice among 4 killed in B.C. plane crash

 Twin-engine Cessna en route to Calgary area disappeared from radar shortly after leaving Kelowna on Thursday

By Robson Fletcher, CBC News Posted: Oct 14, 2016 10:49 AM MTLast Updated: Oct 14, 2016 6:05 PM MT

During the 2015 Alberta election campaign, Jim Prentice included a stop at Al's Pizza in Calgary. Prentice served as premier from 2014-2015 before a resounding defeat to the NDP. On Oct. 14, 2016, it was announced Prentice had died in a small-plane crash the night before, along with three others.

During the 2015 Alberta election campaign, Jim Prentice included a stop at Al’s Pizza in Calgary. Prentice served as premier from 2014-2015 before a resounding defeat to the NDP. On Oct. 14, 2016, it was announced Prentice had died in a small-plane crash the night before, along with three others. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

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Former Alberta premier Jim Prentice was among the four people killed in a small-plane crash in British Columbia on Thursday night.

Prentice, 60, was aboard a twin-engine Cessna Citation that disappeared from radar shortly after takeoff from Kelowna, en route to the Springbank Airport, just outside Calgary.

Bill Yearwood with the Transportation Safety Board confirmed Friday that the plane’s wreckage was found in Lake Country, B.C., just north of Kelowna, and described the crash as “unsurvivable.”

“The aircraft is destroyed; all persons on board lost their lives,” Yearwood said.

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Aerial footage of B.C. plane crash

Also killed in the crash was Ken Gellatly, the father-in-law of Prentice’s daughter Cassia.

The Prentice family issued a statement Friday, saying the loss of two family members at once is “unbelievably painful.”

“Words cannot begin to express our profound shock and heartbreak,” the statement reads.

The plane is owned by Calgary-based Norjet Inc. The company stated it will co-operate with the Transportation Safety Board’s investigation.

“Norjet lost friends in the tragic crash near Kelowna and we are struggling to cope with that loss,” according to the press release.

Prentice became Alberta premier in September 2014 when he won the leadership of Progressive Conservative Party.

In February 2015, Prentice discussed the challenges facing his province and the country at large in the wake of plunging oil prices in an extended interview with Peter Mansbridge.

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Mansbridge One on One: Jim Prentice

In May 2015, the PCs were handed their first electoral defeat in nearly half a century, at the hands of the Alberta NDP, and Prentice resigned as both party leader and member of the legislature.

Before becoming premier, he served as vice-chair and senior executive vice-president with CIBC from 2010 to 2014.

Prentice also had a career in federal politics. He served as MP for Calgary Centre-North from 2004 to 2010, with stints as industry minister, environment minister and minister of Indian affairs and northern development in Stephen Harper’s cabinet.

‘He really cared deeply about the people he served, and he was always devoted to their best interests.’ – Joe Oliver, former Conservative finance minister

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley was among those offering their condolences Friday.

“There are no words adequate for moments like this, as my family knows very well,” said Notley, whose own father died in a plane crash on Oct. 19, 1984.

“[Prentice] worked tirelessly for all of us, in the true spirit of one who is committed to public service. I benefited from his advice, and the government of Alberta is continuing to pursue many of his initiatives. All Albertans are the better for this,” she said in a statement.

Former Alberta premier Alison Redford described Prentice as an “icon” —  a thoughtful man who looked to the long term and successfully brought people together to deal with difficult issues.

As a young lawyer, Redford articled for Prentice. Both shared an interest in politics.

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A timeline of Jim Prentice’s leadership in Alberta politics

“The work that we were doing at the time was around the development of the Oldman River Dam in southern Alberta,” she said. “I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with him in southern Alberta meeting ranchers and meeting First Nations leaders. That connection to land and environment was something that was always important to him, and something I think touched everything he did in his life.”

Former Conservative finance minister Joe Oliver described Prentice as a passionate and skilled public servant who got into politics for all the right reasons.

“He really cared deeply about the people he served, and he was always devoted to their best interests,” Oliver said.

“He was never pompous. He was always a straight shooter, someone whose integrity and good judgment you could always rely on.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi expressed a similar sentiment.

“In politics, I get to work with people from all political stripes who are filled with a desire to do good no matter what. I also get to work with people who are thoughtful, respectful and driven by a need improve this community we all share,” he said.

“Jim was all of these things, and so much more. He is an inspiration to all of us who aspire to public service.”

Manmeet Bhullar Memorial 20151129

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and former Alberta premier Jim Prentice embrace during a memorial service for Alberta member of the legislature Manmeet Bhullar, who was killed in a car crash in November 2015. On Friday, Nenshi reacted to the death of Prentice by saying: ‘He is an inspiration to all of us who aspire to public service.’ (Mike Ridewood/Canadian Press)

Nenshi recalled Prentice’s connection with Alberta member of the legislature Manmeet Bhullar, who was killed in a car crash in November 2015.

“When the Sikh community was struggling to set itself up in Calgary and trying to build the first gurdwara in this city, they faced a lot of opposition from a community that didn’t know much about their faith,” Nenshi said.

“They were represented by an idealistic young lawyer who fought for respect, acceptance and diversity. That lawyer was named Jim Prentice.”

‘Strong voice for the people,’ PM says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described Prentice as a skilled politician and said he will “profoundly” miss him, despite their political differences in the past.

“Jim was a man who brought his deep convictions to everything he turned his hand to, whether it was law, business or politics,” Trudeau said.

“At each step of his career, Jim was a strong voice for the people of Alberta and for the people of Canada. He was highly respected and well-liked in the House of Commons across all party lines, because he brought an intelligent, honest and straightforward approach to everything he did.”

Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose praised Prentice for his devotion to the party and public service and said he had much to be proud of in his political career, although that was just one aspect of his life.

“He was most proud of being a good husband, a good father and a very proud new grandfather,” she said.

Passion for politics

This June, Prentice became an energy adviser with Warburg Pincus, an international private equity firm, but politics was always a passion of his.

He started working for federal and provincial parties at age 20, mostly in backrooms, before stepping into the spotlight himself later in life.

Apart from one failed run for provincial office in 1986, he said he had an agreement with his wife, Karen, to wait until their three children were grown before venturing into the rigours of elected life.

But long before he would hold political office, Prentice was a boy who grew up “under the bins” of a coal mine.

Prentice, as a university student, worked seven summers underground in choking dust and heat amid deafening machinery.

Ontario roots

Prentice was born on July 20, 1956, in South Porcupine in northern Ontario.

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Robin Campbell talks about losing friend Jim Prentice

His dad, Eric Prentice, was a gold miner and former pro hockey player, a 17-year-old whiz-kid winger and the youngest player ever signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was a career minor leaguer, but had a minor stint in the big leagues — playing five games with Toronto in 1943.

As the gold mine dwindled, Eric Prentice picked up his family in 1969 and moved to a new coal mine in Grande Cache, Alta., when Jim was 13, and eventually to the mines farther south in the Crowsnest Pass.

Jim Prentice became a top-flight winger in his own right, but his promising junior hockey career ended with a devastating knee-on-knee hit.

From then on, he focused on university, graduating with a law degree before working in Alberta as an entrepreneur and a lawyer dealing mainly with land and property rights.

Conservative reunification

After his failed 1986 bid for provincial office, Prentice wouldn’t take a political run again until 2002, when he earned the PC nomination in Calgary Southwest, but later withdrew as a byelection candidate.

The federal conservative movement was in turmoil at the time, fractured between the PCs and the Canadian Alliance.

Prentice urged reunification and stepped aside so that Alliance leader Stephen Harper could run unopposed to represent the centre-right.

In 2004, at age 47, he won the Calgary riding for the newly merged Conservative Party.

In 2006, Harper won a minority government and Prentice was in cabinet. Over the following six-plus years, he was given high marks for his work in diverse portfolios — in the ministries of Indian and northern affairs, industry, and environment.

But the defining moment, he said, came before his cabinet days, when the Conservatives were still the Opposition in 2005.

Prentice decided to vote for a controversial Liberal bill endorsing same-sex marriage.

With files from The Canadian Press


Energy East setback a sign of flawed process

30 Sep 2016

Lethbridge Herald


Delays caused by the replacement of a panel reviewing the Energy East Pipeline project show that Canada’s regulatory system is flawed and must be fixed, says a former CEO of proponent TransCanada.

Hal Kvisle said Thursday the recusal of a National Energy Board panel in early September just after hearings on the controversial project began was a victory for activists whose only objective is to block the process.

“I think it’s another failure of (the) regulatory process in Canada that we can’t even commence a regulatory process without it coming off the rails,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“It’s regrettable. I’ve been making the point to the government of Canada for about 12 or 13 years there needs to be significant improvements in the regulatory process and here we’ve just had it thrown in the ditch again by people whose objective is really just to stop the whole thing.”

The NEB’s review broke down after hearings in Montreal were disrupted by protesters. Critics charged the panel was biased after learning that two of three panellists met last year with former Quebec premier Jean Charest, then a consultant for TransCanada.


NDP says Alberta will have 30 per cent renewable power by 2030 but questions loom

Alberta’s NDP government says it’s committed to having 30 per cent of the province’s electricity supply come from renewables by 2030, but opposition parties are taking aim at what they say is a vague plan that could leave taxpayers on the hook.

The NDP’s climate change strategy, released last fall, set a target of 30 per cent power from sources such as wind, solar and hydro to accompany the plan’s accelerated phase-out of coal power by 2030.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says that target is now “firm” and the province will support the creation of an additional 5,000 megawatts of renewable power that will bring in at least $10.5 billion in investment.

“Alberta will lead forward, not go backwards,” she told reporters Wednesday after speaking at the Alberta Power Symposium at the Telus Convention Centre.

But details on how the province will reach its target — and the financial cost to the province — remain sketchy.

The province’s climate change panel called for an auction system where producers will bid for contracts that will include government support for the development of new renewable capacity.

The government’s website says that $3.4 billion out of the nearly $10 billion expected to be collected from the incoming broad-based carbon tax over the next five years will go toward “large scale renewable energy, bioenergy and technology.”

But Phillips said the province can’t yet put a price tag on how much it will spend to subsidize renewable development.

And while there will be an auction system, how it will function is still being developed by the Alberta Electrical System Operator, which will oversee the program.

“There are many different ways to structure renewable procurement,” said Phillips.

“We are currently examining how that looks in Alberta so that we get the least-cost procurement. What we know about renewables is they lower the price for consumers.”

About half of Alberta’s power came from coal-fired plants in 2015. Alberta Energy estimates that as of June, about 39 per cent of the provincial capacity of 16,300 MW came from coal and 44 per cent from natural gas. Phillips said Alberta expects about 70 per cent in 2030 will be generated by natural gas.

Patrick Bateman of the Canadian Solar Industries Association said he anticipates the cost to the province will ultimately be low because of the competitive bidding process.

But he said there needs to be revenue certainty for potential producers, perhaps through mechanisms such as contracts that would see the province top up revenue if it dropped below a certain level, for projects to go ahead.

“We’ve got a situation where investment in any generation technology is a challenging prospect … for any new generation we’re going to need to see the new policy certainty the minister has been describing today,” he told reporters.

Proponents say that wind projects that would produce about 6,800 megawatts and solar projects responsible for 600 megawatts are already being proposed for development in Alberta.

“We’re not looking at getting government subsidies necessarily for all of these 7,000 megawatts in the queue to come online,” said Evan Wilson, regional director for the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

“It’s waiting to see what the system is going to look like, waiting to see what the policy will look like and how that will shape the market moving forward.”

While the government’s announcement was hailed by companies such as TransAlta, it was met with skepticism by opposition parties.

In a news release, the Wildrose Party said the NDP should release the full economic costing of its plan, including the impact of the early shut down of coal-fired power plants and the increase in natural gas generation.

“Today’s announcement doesn’t provide any more certainty for Albertans,” said Wildrose Leader Brian Jean. “The minister should release her government’s own internal analysis today.”

The Progressive Conservatives questioned how the government expects to attract private sector investment after launching a legal battle with three power companies over their relinquishment of power purchase arrangments for coal-fired electricity.

Liberal Leader David Swann said he supported the government’s initiative but said the NDP had left Albertans in the dark over its plan.

“Until we know how it’s going to work, all those investment dollars are going to be on the sideline,” added Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark.

In an updated report Wednesday, the Pembina Institute estimated that an accelerated phase-out of coal generation in Alberta could result in 600 fewer premature deaths, 500 fewer emergency room visits and save nearly $3 billion in socio-economic value of avoided health outcomes linked to coal pollution between 2015 and 2035.

— With files from The Canadian Press

[email protected]


Twin Butte area rancher’s solar insight

Pincher Creek Voice

Monday, September 19, 2016

Quentin Stevick

Quentin Stevick / Oldman Watershed Council blog – When I heard that our provincial government was interested in Green Energy, Anne and I got all excited. I have been using portable solar powered water systems since about 2002 to pump water from surface locations to our cattle to provide them with clean, fresh water and to prevent pollution of water bodies by these same livestock. I have learned many things: one of which is “Energy free does not mean labour and maintenance free”.

I felt the next step would be solar power for our ranch. The following information is current to mid April 201

I have a quote from a local contractor to install a 10.4 kW grid tied, roof mounted array of 40 X 260 watt solar panels. I already have an East-West orientated building which would be ideal for the project. The quote to me is $32,800.00 plus GST.

The most recent power bills I have are the complete year Dec. 15/2014 to Dec. 15/2015. Our total bill was $2823.84. We used a total 11,307 kW for this year. The actual power cost was $904.56 or approximately 32% of the bill. Anne gave me a link to Growing Forward 2 and I contacted Kelly Lunn and received the following reply. “Any electricity exported from a Micro Generator will only be used to credit against the electricity consumption at the meter; none will be applied to distribution (line) charges. Any electricity that you produce that you can use for farm loads at the time it is produced will reduce imported electricity, so will reduce the (relatively small) variable portion of Transmission and Distribution”. As of May 23/2016 Growing Forward 2 is not accepting applications.

My take-away is this:

When we were in Germany visiting one of my former students at her farm near Fulda, she was constructing a new barn and installing solar panels on it. The program available to her would generate approximately 12% return on investment.

I believe the following:

  1. The electricity providers should be required to accept enough electricity on an annual basis to off set total charges (in our case about $2900/year) not just the approximate $900 under the current regulations.
  2. A cap should be placed on the maximum power that could be generated so we do not have solar “farms” created that would cause the same blight on our landscape the wind farms create with their large foot print which fragments the land with roads and transmission lines.
  3. Individual houses and apartment buildings should be allowed the same advantages and access to the grid as farms so we can lower the reliance on fossil fuels.

The Alberta government is seeking public input on the new Energy Efficiency Alberta agency. Stakeholders, Indigenous communities and interested Albertans are being asked how to best promote energy efficiency and community energy systems across Alberta. An open house was recently hosted in Lethbridge where you could speak to panel members and technical experts. We encourage you to participate in the Energy Efficiency Alberta consultation before September 30, 2016.  Click here to share your thoughts and ideas. Click 

Editor’s note: Quentin Stevick is also the councillor for MD of Pincher Creek No. 9 Division 1.

Alberta gov’t. targeting for 30 per cent green power by 2030

15 Sep 2016

Lethbridge Herald

J.W. Schnarr

[email protected]


Alberta’s provincial government is shooting for 30 by 30 when it comes to green power generation.

On Wednesday, Shannon Phillips, Alberta’s minister of environment and parks, announced the government’s firm target of 30 per cent of electricity used in the province set to come from renewable sources, such as wind, hydro, and solar, by 2030. The other 70 per cent would come from natural gas after the complete phase out of coal-fired generation.

“We solve problems,” Phillips said. “We don’t run away from them. Tackling climate change is no different. Alberta will lead forward and not go backwards.”

Details of the plan are still being worked out and are expected in the coming months. Phillips called energy production “the backbone” of modern economies.

“Going forward, the success of the electricity industry will also be increasingly judged on its ability to thrive and support a carbon-competitive economy,” she said.

In order to facilitate this goal, the government is intending to support 5,000 megawatts of additional renewable energy capacity for Albertans through the Climate Leadership Plan.

That plan states the government intends to collect $9.6 billion over the next five years through the carbon levy, with $3.4 billion tagged for largescale renewable energy, bioenergy and technology projects.

An estimated $10.5 billion in new investment is expected to flow into the provincial economy by 2030, according to a government news release. This will mean at least 7,200 new jobs for Albertans as projects are built.

Projects would be awarded by “competitive procurement,” or a bidding process, the details of which are expected in November.

Phillips said there are a number of ways the government may encourage more development of renewable energy generation, and that further details will be rolled out in the coming months.

“We have several thousand megawatts that are in the regulatory queue, both solar and wind,” she said. “There have been some hydro projects discussed as well. So we know the appetite for investment in this province among renewable players is significant.” The province’s Renewable Electricity Program will be a way to solicit investment in Alberta’s electricity system to meet the target, while ensuring projects come online in a way that does not impact grid reliability and is cost-effective. The program will be run by the AESO.

To be eligible, a project must be based in Alberta, be new or expanded, be five megawatts or greater in size, and meet the Natural Resources Canada definition of renewable sources.

The program will be based on recommendations provided to government by the AESO. The government is also looking at the rules surrounding small-scale and micro-generation.

Phillips said coal-fire power generation costs the province millions in health-care dollars and contributes to lost lives.

“Coal emissions have a very human and environmental cost,” she said.

Follow @JWSchnarrHerald on Twitter


Large yield expected from sugar beet harvest

15 Sep 2016

Lethbridge Herald

J.W. Schnarr

[email protected]

The annual sugar beet harvest is about to get underway, and with it a reminder for local residents to keep an eye out for the hauling trucks that will soon be hitting southern Alberta roads.

More than 200 local farmers will defoliate and harvest about 28,000 acres of beets over the next eight weeks, working around the clock. Piling grounds where the beets are stored are located in Taber, Picture Butte, Vauxhall, Tempest, Enchant, Coaldale and Burdett.

There is a limited amount of time to get beets out of the ground and to the processing plant, meaning trucks will be hauling beets at all hours of the day.

“There are going to be trucks on the road at 2 a.m., 4 a.m., and 4 in the afternoon,” said Melody Garner-Skiba, executive director of the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers.

“So everyone is asked to be mindful of that. Especially in areas where they are piling locations. There are always lineups of the beet trucks getting ready to unload. Everybody is doing their best to get sugar beet harvest off, and we just ask people to be cautious around the trucks.”

This year’s sugar beet harvest is split into two parts. Garner-Skiba said this year the harvest is starting early, with a mini harvest to run from Thursday to Oct. 3. “Our main processor needs some sugar sooner rather than later,” she said. “So we are going to be delivering around 6,000 acres early on in the harvest.”

The main harvest will begin Oct. 3, and run to about the end of October. Beet processing is set to ramp up on Sept. 20 in Taber at the Roger’s Sugar factory.

“They will probably be slicing beats until the end of January,” said Garner-Skiba.

She said the crop appears to a good one this year, in spite of the hail and chaotic weather over the summer. Sugar beet yields are expected to be between 26 to 28 tonnes per acre and over 100 million kilograms of sugar is expected to be extracted from this year’s crop.

Alberta and Ontario are the only remaining provinces still growing sugar beets, and Ontario ships their harvest to Michigan for processing as U.S. sugar.

“Southern Albertans should be extremely proud of the fact that we are home to the only truly Canadian sugar that exists,” Garner-Skiba said. “Not only are sugar beets grown here, but they are refined here.”

Further, she noted the history of southern Alberta agriculture and sugar beets are intertwined, as new Canadians coming to the area were once hired to work the fields. Later, some became landowners themselves.

“This is a long history in southern Alberta that we should all be proud of,” said Garner-Skiba.

She asked local residents to consider supporting local sugar production as the fall baking season begins.

“I would like people to ask themselves if they are buying Alberta sugar,” she said. “Are you buying sugar that is manufactured in Brazil or Mexico? Buy local. Look for that Roger’s sugar, because it is our sugar, beet sugar. It is truly made-in-Alberta sugar.”

Follow @JWSchnarrHerald on Twitter


Hearings on Energy East pipeline a circus

1 Sep 2016

Lethbridge Herald


Demonstrators for and against the Energy East pipeline project were out in force Monday when the National Energy Board opened the Montreal phase of its national hearings on the project. The anti-pipeline crowd, however, not content to make their point out in the street, pushed their way into the hearing room, shoved the security guards aside and broke up the meeting. The energy board members, ill-prepared for the antics of the demonstrators, were driven from the room and the hearing was called off.

The Energy East pipeline, using the path of TransCanada’s existing natural gas pipeline, would pass under the St. Lawrence River near Montreal and then lead to a terminal near St. John, N.B. It would allow for refinement and export of bitumen from the northern Alberta oilsands.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who had been scheduled as the first witness, has been leading the area opposition to TransCanada’s pipeline project, complaining that members of the energy board had previously met privately with Jean Charest, a former Quebec premier and more recently a lobbyist for TransCanada. He wanted this week’s hearing called off because of that. When the energy board tried to hold the hearing anyway, the protesters appeared and broke it up, achieving what Mr. Coderre was not able to do through political manoeuvring. Mr. Coderre walked out of the adjourned hearing, calling it a circus.

Mr. Coderre and his allies turned it into a circus and hurt their messaging. Had they allowed the hearing to proceed, Mr. Coderre’s complaints about the energy board would have been exposed as totally fake. The invasion of the hearing room and cancellation of the hearing spared Mr. Coderre from exposing his complaints to rational study.

In January 2015, National Energy Board chairman Peter Watson and two commissioners met with Quebec representatives from a wide range of groups: municipal associations, chambers of commerce, mayors (including Mr. Coderre) and former premier Charest to seek their advice on how to engage with the province. This was an entirely appropriate step toward ensuring they listened sensitively to all relevant points of view. When these meetings were disclosed by the National Observer news website a month ago, the energy board at first denied Energy East was discussed in the meetings, which was a foolish thing to do. Then the board backed away from its denial, creating an appearance of impropriety.

Board members are perfectly free to meet with advocates of Energy East such as Mr. Charest and opponents of the plan such as Mr. Coderre in order to ensure everyone interested in the subject can get their views before the board in its hearings. How can Mr. Coderre complain about Mr. Charest attending such a meeting when Mr. Coderre himself was also there?

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has been urging Canadians to have confidence in their institutions and especially in the National Energy Board. That will be easier to do when the board shows it has the muscle to protect the integrity of its public hearings. The board should overwhelm Mr. Coderre with the facts and reduce him to silence. It should hire enough security guards to ensure the public hearings can in fact happen and the facts of the case can be widely understood.

Rational study may lead to the conclusion that the Energy East pipeline should be built. For that reason, Mr. Coderre and the protesters will do all in their power to prevent rational study from happening. The energy board should be ready for them.

An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press (distributed by The Canadian Press)


China extends canola deadline

1 Sep 2016

Lethbridge Herald


China says it will lift a fastapproaching deadline to introduce rule changes on Canadian canola shipments that threatened to inflict damage on the multibillion-dollar sector.

Starting today, the Chinese government had planned to enforce tighter regulations on the amount of foreign materials — such as weeds, other crops and detritus — permitted in canola exports from Canada.

But after a meeting Wednesday in Beijing between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the two countries announced the existing rules would stay in place as they continued to negotiate a long-term solution.

The two sides disagree on the level of foreign material, known as dockage, that should be considered acceptable in Canada’s canola exports to China. The Chinese government wants the contamination cut by more than half.

The canola dispute was expected to dominate the trade agenda during Trudeau’s high-level meetings during his first official visit to China.

“We’re happy to reassure Canadian farmers that (at) the Sept. 1 deadline we will be able to continue with the current regime of canola and we (will) work together very closely towards a longterm solution in the coming days and weeks ahead,” Trudeau said.

Speaking through a translator, Li said both sides have “shown flexibility” on the issue.

He noted that while China itself is a large canola producer, it has no intention to keep its door closed to other exporters. But he said Chinese producers and consumers have concerns that disease could be imported.

“We believe that both sides will be able to make some mutual adjustments with the larger picture of China-Canadian trade and ties in mind,” he said.

National Energy Board cancels first day of Energy East hearings in Montreal after protests

August 29, 2016

MONTREAL — Protesters chanting anti-pipeline slogans forced the cancellation Monday of the first day of hearings in Montreal into TransCanada’s Energy East project.

The head of the hearings for the National Energy Board said the federal regulatory body will try to resume proceedings Tuesday.

“TransCanada will not pass,” screamed one protester as police dragged him away from a downtown conference room.

Police made three arrests. Two men aged 35 and 44 were charged with assaulting a police officer and with obstruction of justice, while a 29-year-old woman was charged with obstruction of justice.

The 35-year-old man remained detained as of early Monday afternoon, while the two others were released.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, along with the mayor of Laval and other municipal representatives, walked out of the hearings not long after the demonstrators charged in.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian PressA demonstrator confronts Montreal mayor Denis Coderre as they disrupt the National Energy Board public hearing into the proposed $15.7-billion Energy East pipeline project.
Paul Chiasson/The Canadian press

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian pressA demonstrator is taken away by a police officer after disrupting the National Energy Board public hearing into the proposed $15.7-billion Energy East pipeline project proposed by TransCanada Monday, August 29, 2016 in Montreal.

Coderre was the first person scheduled to give testimony Monday but chose instead to leave, calling the protests a “masquerade.”

He, along with many provincial politicians and First Nations groups, oppose TransCanada’s project to transport crude oil from Alberta to New Brunswick.

“There are too many problems we are witnessing to accept the project,” Coderre told reporters after he decided to quit Monday’s hearings.

“We’re saying the project (TransCanada) presented is wrong, it’s bad and we don’t have the answers. And frankly one of the main issues is contingency plans, everything regarding safety.”

Last week Coderre asked for the hearings to be suspended after media reports revealed that two of the three NEB commissioners overseeing the review process met former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who was at the time a lobbyist for TransCanada (TSX:TRP).

Coderre said he wasn’t calling for the commissioners to resign, but that there was a perception of bias.

Nonetheless, Coderre said it was important for him to give testimony in order for the NEB and the rest of the country to appreciate the concerns of local citizens.

One of the anti-pipeline protesters, Kristian Gareau, entered the room and started chanting and clapping with the other protesters.

He said the entire NEB process is illegitimate because two of the commissioners had met with Charest.

“There is a perception of bias,” said Gareau, 36. “These two commissioners are part of this democratic institution, which has the sweeping power of a federal court.

“So a judge cannot go and meet with people in a back room. It just shows this smug elite privilege which is completely unacceptable.”

The hearings are set for this week in Montreal before moving to Quebec City the week of Oct. 3.


Concerns raised over NEB panel members

25 Aug 2016

Lethbridge Herald


The National Energy Board says it is accepting written comments on motions calling for two of three people to step down from a panel reviewing the Energy East Pipeline over perceptions of bias.

The move follows revelations, first reported by the National Observer, that panel members Jacques Gauthier and Lyne Mercier met privately with Jean Charest early last year while he was a consultant for TransCanada, the company behind the $15.7-billion Energy East project.

No ‘free ride’: Notley

25 Aug 2016

Lethbridge Herald


Premier fires back at power companies in lawsuit

Premier Rachel Notley says the highstakes court fight over millions — if not billions — of dollars in power contracts is about protecting consumers against entitled power companies seeking “a free ride.” Notley made her first comments about the dispute Wednesday in a speech to Unifor union members at their convention in Ottawa.

“When a group of private companies decided to try to off-load onto the people of Alberta up to $2 billion in losses due to decisions that they made under a privatized system that they asked for, they didn’t get the free ride they would have gotten if the Conservatives were still in government,” Notley said to applause. “Instead, they got themselves a lawsuit. “Because there’s a new government in Alberta now. A new government that is committed to protecting the public to whom it is ultimately, completely accountable.”

Notley’s government launched the lawsuit on July 25 over power purchase arrangements, better known as PPAs. The PPAs form the spine of a deregulated electricity system created under the former Progressive Conservative government of Ralph Klein in 2000 to boost competition and bring in lower prices.

Under the system, power companies buy electricity from generators at auction via the PPAs, then re-sell it to the public with the promise that no matter what happens the generators get a reasonable rate of return.

The power buyers were in turn promised in 2000 they could effectively hand the contracts back if the province enacted changes that made the deals unprofitable or worsened deals that were already unprofitable.

In recent months, the companies have returned or have announced they will return a number of PPAs from coal-fired power plants, which the province says could leave taxpayers on the hook for $2 billion over the next few years.

Other analysts have disputed those figures, saying the hit could be half that or less.

Alberta is moving to end coal-fired electricity by 2030, and the power buyers say recent hikes to carbon fees on large generators have made the money-losing PPAs more unprofitable, triggering the give-back.

The province has fired back in the lawsuit, saying its own arm’s length energy regulator overstepped its authority in 2000 by allowing companies to ditch unprofitable PPAs just because they are more unprofitable.

They are also contesting that market forces and other actions by the companies, not just the carbon fee hikes, have contributed to the red ink in the PPAs.

The case has its first hearing in court in Edmonton on Nov. 2.

The respondents include Capital Power, Enmax and TransCanada.

The companies, in statements, have raised concerns about the court action, particularly that the province is trying to change deals entered into in good faith.

Opposition politicians say Notley’s government has only itself to blame, by making changes to carbon fees without understanding the implications.

They also say the lawsuit sends the more alarming message to investors that, in Alberta, deals with Notley’s government are subject to retroactive repeal.

Braid: While PC Party examines navel, Kenney edges toward victory

It’s political identity theft.

Jason Kenney is becoming the face of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party, simply by being out there by himself, fighting for the leadership.

This is bad news for party survivalists. Kenney has never been a centrist Alberta PC. His whole political life has been devoted to the right and the rise of the national Conservatives.

Now, his provincial goal is identical.

The Calgary MP wants to bundle the PCs with Wildrose to form a new conservative party, which he would lead, to win the government, which he would then run as premier.

You’d expect some kind of reaction from the party that won 12 straight elections and ran Alberta for 43 years.

But, no, there’s nothing at all — not even a hint of annoyance from a PC party board that is probably the most progressive since Peter Lougheed’s day.

Does this party have anything left in the tank, just a hint of fighting spirit?

If anything’s there, the PCs don’t have a lot of time to show it.

The board will finalize some leadership rules this weekend. It’s been a complicated job, because this will be a delegate convention to be held next March 18, not a general vote of party members. The PCs haven’t done it that way since 1985.

The formal race will begin Oct. 1. If nobody else declares before then, Kenney will have another five weeks all to himself.

This gives him enormous advantages. He’s left with a clear field to scoop up scarce political donations through his budding SuperPAC, Unite Alberta.

It’s a smart, disruptive strategy reminiscent of Jim Prentice’s takeover of the PC leadership in 2014.

First came the planted rumours, then the early entry and then Prentice’s easy run to the premier’s office.

It was more like Caesar’s march on Rome than a real leadership contest. One reason was that Prentice got that early lock on organizers, volunteers and donations.

The Wildrose reaction to Kenney has been to rally quietly behind Leader Brian Jean, while smiling publicly at the unity idea.

Many Wildrosers would support a merger, of course. But there’s also a hint of the anger Prentice provoked when he stole all those Wildrose MLAs in 2014.

Jean’s party could end up more united, not less. The PCs, with much more at stake, seem almost paralyzed.

The first job is to get a good candidate out there early. There’s a lot of talk about Doug Schweitzer, a young Calgary lawyer who’s little known to the public but has a long political pedigree.

He ran the Manitoba PC party, helped Doug Black’s senatorial campaign and had a key role in the Prentice leadership drive.

The thing that excites some veteran PCs about Schweitzer is that he’s apparently a mesmerizing public speaker, with inspirational qualities to rival those of Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.

That may or may not be true. I’ve haven’t heard a word from the guy. He’s not ready to talk yet.

Neither are several others who are reported to be kicking tires. While they’re at it, Kenney might steal the vehicle.

He has some problems of his own, however.

Kenney’s use of Unite Alberta to raise money is increasingly controversial. He said it would be a non-profit organization but, technically, it turns out to be a corporation.

Kenney says he won’t use any money raised by Unite Alberta in the formal leadership race after Oct. 1. That’s the law and he’ll surely follow it. Nor is there any intent to make a profit.

But the larger question is whether Unite Alberta later slides over the line and becomes a genuine SuperPac, raising and spending money without limits outside a general election campaign.

Kenney has also annoyed many PCs by saying he won’t leave his federal seat until the Oct. 1 PC kickoff. Quitting one elected job to run for another is always risky, especially when the ambitious politician moves between governments.

But those are niggles. Kenney is already way out in front. He’ll stay there unless the PCs emerge from sleepy hollow.

Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald

[email protected]


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Redford office broke law in data leak

11 Aug 2016

Lethbridge Herald


Alberta’s privacy commissioner says the office of former premier Alison Redford broke the law by using and leaking personal information about cabinet officials.

In August 2014, the cellphone bill of then deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk, as well as three other government officials, was leaked to the Edmonton Sun.

It showed Lukaszuk rang up more than $20,000 in international data roaming charges while on a personal trip to Poland and Israel in October 2012.

At the time, Lukaszuk was vying to become leader of the Progressive Conservative party.

Privacy commissioner Jill Clayton says the documents were disclosed in an uncontrolled manner and contravened the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act.

Clayton says determining who in Redford’s executive council leaked the information was outside the scope of her investigation.

“While it is arguable that the release of information about cellphone charges may have been in the public interest, it was leaked in an uncontrolled manner — nobody’s privacy interests were considered,” Clayton said in a news release Wednesday.

“Government needs to carefully consider its security arrangements for paper records and electronic systems to reduce the risk of another leak of what could possibly be more sensitive information.”

Lukaszuk said he feels vindicated and at least it’s known where the leak came from.

“This speaks to the fact what will happen if you stand up to the premier’s office, and how they will try to use any information they can against you at the most inopportune time knowing that I couldn’t speak to any of it and I still can’t because documents are court-sealed,” Lukaszuk told Edmonton radio station CHED.

At the time the bill was leaked, Lukaszuk said a cabinet minister called him in distress. He said the minister told him violence was involved and police were on the way, so he stayed on the line with the person until officers came.

Braid: Enmax breaks silence on NDP lawsuit, executive who worked for Enron

Don Braid, Calgary Herald

Published on: August 9, 2016 | Last Updated: August 10, 2016 11:02 AM MDT
City-owned Enmax has hunkered down in public silence since the legal assault from the provincial government began.

But with the latest twist — the revelation that a current Enmax executive once negotiated the “Enron clause” for his then-employer — the gloves are off.

“We have done nothing wrong,” communications vice-president Tamera Van Brunt said in an interview Monday.

“Sixteen years ago we bid on a power purchase agreement (PPA) in good faith. So did other buyers in the process. All the bidders knew what they were walking into.”

This contradicts the NDP’s claim that the Enron clause was negotiated illicitly and in secret, outside the knowledge of other companies.

The chief negotiator for Enron was Calgary lawyer Robert Hemstock, who in 2000 was senior director, government and regulatory affairs, for Enron Canada Corporation.
Emails from Hemstock, supplied by the government and published in the Herald, showed him jubilant after advocating successfully “for changes that would mitigate or eliminate many of the risks in the PPAs.”

Hemstock was sent a celebratory email from Enron’s chief lobbyist in the U.S., saying “your work on the Alberta PPA has not gone unnoticed.”

The next year, parent company Enron Corp. was embroiled in a huge U.S. scandal over billions in hidden debt, power price manipulation in California, and accounting practices that masked criminal fraud.

Current Enmax executive Robert Hemstock, shown here as vice-president, regulatory affairs, Direct Energy, in 2004, once negotiated the “Enron clause” for his then-employer with the Alberta government over power purchase arrangements. Leah Hennel / Postmedia

Nobody is saying Hemstock was aware of any of this. People who know him say there’s no chance he was. In 2000, Enron’s interest in the Alberta electricity market was actually considered a prestige thing by the PC government.
Enron Canada later collapsed under the weight of the U.S. uproar. Afterward, Hemstock worked at UBS Warburg Canada and then as vice-president of government and regulatory affairs at Direct Energy.

In 2006, Enmax hired him as executive vice-president of regulatory and legal services. He was in that job until quite recently, when he became special legal counsel to CEO Gianna Manes, a post where he’s still listed as part of the executive team.

Van Brunt says the move has nothing to do with the NDP lawsuit or his background with Enron. He’s working on important legal files, she says, including the government’s lawsuit.

Hemstock won’t speak publicly, she added, also because of the lawsuit.

“Robert Hemstock is an experienced regulatory lawyer, ” she says. “He was doing his part at that time (2000) to ensure that in any agreement the bidders were going into, there was an understanding of what was going to be outlined.”

“It was a clause that all the bidders were aware of. He did his part to put that in place. That affected how we were going to invest . . .”

That suddenly-famous clause, of course, says buyers of PPAs may terminate them if a change in government policy makes them not simply “unprofitable,” but “more unprofitable.”

The latter part triggered the termination by a half dozen companies of agreements to buy coal power, at a potential public cost of $2 billion, according to the NDP.

Van Brunt says Enmax is entirely justified in dumping its PPAs because the financial burden of NDP policy changes was going to be enormous — a $600 million hit over five years.

That would virtually wipe out Enmax profits, which run about $150 million annually, and last year provided a $56 million dividend to the city treasury.

If Enmax is stuck with this liability, it will land on city taxpayers when Enmax inevitably comes to council for more capital.

Enmax puts the blame for its termination of the PPAs squarely on the looming carbon tax, and increases in the levy on heavy emitters.

The annual cost of the original emitters levy was about $15 million a year for Enmax, Van Brunt says. The new policies will raise that to $160 million.

“What’s important to understand is that these carbon levies are not a tweak, these changes in law are a major, major change in law, a tenfold change (for Enmax),” she adds.

The crazy irony is that Enmax is Alberta’s greenest utility, the one you’d think would be an NDP favourite rather than a demon.

Enmax no longer puts a single coal-fired electron into the provincial grid. Eighty-six per cent of generation is fired by natural gas, mostly from the new Shepard generator. The remaining 14 per cent is from renewable sources, including solar and wind.

How the province’s lawsuit helps foster goals like that is beyond understanding. So far, the dispute doesn’t seem to benefit anyone but corporate lawyers.

“Everybody’s lawyering up,” says one, who doesn’t want to be named, for reasons that will be clear from the rest of this quote.

“It’s awesome. Bring it on, Premier Notley. Too many lawyers are sitting around twiddling their thumbs right now.”

Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald

[email protected]


Alison Redford and her part in Tobaccogate being investigated again

By , Calgary Sun

First posted: | Updated:

The Toryland dynasty is dead but its memory lives on — in another probe of a former PC premier.

Yes, Alison Redford is back in the news. Toryland is once again under the magnifying glass.

Let us be clear. No one has been found guilty of anything but another investigation of alleged wrongdoing begins.

For all of us, it is a flashback to the latter days of PC rule, such as it was. Yes, those not-so-glorious days when almost every week turned up a story with a smell.

It’s Thursday afternoon when we get our hands on a letter from Paul Fraser, B.C.’s Conflict of Interest Commissioner.

Fraser’s job was to decide whether he should take a thorough look into Redford and how a group including her ex-hubby’s law firm got to be representing the provincial government in its $10 billion lawsuit against tobacco companies.

Fraser says what has come to be known as Tobaccogate should be given another once-over because of new info revealed after Alberta’s ethics boss Neil Wilkinson cleared Redford in 2013.

Just so you know, Wilkinson, formerly the Tory-appointed chair of the Capital Health Authority, once said the PC government was a “family” in defending the Tories quickly hiring back a defeated cabinet minister.

This story is about Redford as justice minister awarding a group of lawyers the contract to get tobacco companies to cough up $10 billion to the provincial government for health care costs.

If the lawyers win the court case, the cut of the action for the legal beagles could be in the hundreds of millions.

As we now know, one of the groups wanting the work included a Calgary law firm where Redford’s ex-hubby Robert Hawkes was a partner.

Redford and Hawkes were still politically close.

When Redford became premier Hawkes led her transition team.

Well, it was the job of bigshot provincial government lawyers to recommend which lucky group got to represent the province in the pricey lawsuit.

But the committee of lawyers came up with two versions of what they recommended.

In the first version, the group including the firm of Redford’s ex-hubby came last out of three outfits because of “their lack of depth.”

The committee recommended Redford choose between one of the other two groups.

But after this note was sent to Redford’s executive assistant Jeff Henwood the committee cooked up another version.

The group including Redford’s ex-hubby and his law firm was back in the game and nothing was mentioned about them being ranked last.

Instead, each group had “unique strengths and weaknesses” and deciding among the three was up to Redford.

Other paperwork shows government bigwigs did not consider all three groups equal.

Redford chose the group led by her ex-hubby’s firm.

Earlier this year, in a $160,000 probe, retired Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci found it “abundantly clear” Wilkinson hadn’t eyeballed all relevant evidence, including the first version of the briefing note and government emails.

The justice found no evidence Redford saw the first version of the briefing note.

Iacobucci’s report made its way to Fraser. Now we have a re-investigation.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean says this isn’t the end of Toryland being in the news.

“There are going to be skeletons falling out of the closets for a long time,” he says, adding it will remind Albertans of why they voted the PCs out.

Jean speaks of the former government’s “trail of deceit and inexcusable behaviour and cronyism.”

The Wildrose leader says it is important to get to the bottom of things.

The Notley NDP don’t have the same feeling. They don’t want to tear down the PCs. They want the PCs fighting it out with Wildrose.

Still, Jean does not believe this news of another look-see of Redford has the same impact it would have had a couple of years ago.

“Today Albertans know the PCs are dead. Everybody knows they’re dead,” says Jean.

“So this is just one more pile-on.”

[email protected]

Conflict of interest probe into ex-Alberta premier Alison Redford lacked important evidence: report

Mariam Ibrahim, Postmedia News | April 4, 2016 11:59 PM ET
A former Alberta ethics commissioner lacked important evidence in his conflict of interest investigation into how Alison Redford awarded the province’s lawsuit against big tobacco companies, a new report has found.

Former Supreme Court of Canada justice Frank Iacobucci’s independent review of Neil Wilkinson’s 2013 investigation into Redford’s handling of the file found the former ethics commissioner wasn’t given more than a half-dozen relevant emails and briefing notes.

“The information that was not available to the ethics commissioner raises questions that bear on the subject matter of the … investigation,” Iacobucci said in his 27-page report released Monday, which cost the Alberta government $160,000.

Iacobucci recommends the government refer the matter to current ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler to determine if a new investigation is needed.

“Members of the public will continue to harbour doubts about the propriety of the selection of external counsel to conduct the tobacco litigation, and this may lead to an erosion of confidence in the administration of government in the province more generally,” he wrote.

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley has referred the report to Trussler and asked for her advice even though Redford is no longer a sitting MLA. The former scandal-plagued MLA resigned as premier in March 2014 and then gave up her Calgary legislature seat less than six months later.

“I think people still have outstanding questions arising from this matter and I think it’s really important that we do our absolutely level best to ensure that those questions are answered, and that the public can have confidence in their government and particularly in the ministry of justice,” Ganley said.

The NDP government appointed Iacobucci to independently review Wilkinson’s investigation in December.

Wilkinson launched his investigation after it was revealed the former premier, while justice minister, chose the International Tobacco Recovery Lawyers Consortium to represent the province in its $10-billion lawsuit against the tobacco companies.

Redford’s ex-husband, Robert Hawkes, was a partner at one of the firms included in the consortium; however, ex-spouses aren’t named as a potential source of conflict in the province’s conflict of interest laws.

Government documents show the consortium ultimately chosen for the litigation in 2010 had originally been ranked last out of three potential firms interviewed for the contract.

A review committee drafted a briefing note stating the consortium was ranked last, “primarily due to their lack of depth and the lack of any presence in Edmonton,” Iacobucci’s report said.

A further revision of that note included a recommendation that Redford instead select between two other firms — Bennett Jones or McLennan Ross — for the contract.

However, that recommendation was ultimately removed from the briefing note delivered to Redford. Instead, it said: “All three consortiums have unique strengths and weaknesses, and the decision really depends on what ‘package’ is most appealing to government,” according to Iacobucci’s report.

The retired justice said in his report he found no evidence that Redford knew about the earlier draft or the review committee’s initial recommendation.

Both Hawkes and Redford were among the 15 people interviewed by Iacobucci for his report, which examined only whether Wilkinson had all the necessary information at his disposal in 2013.

Coal power buying rule challenged – Alberta NDP say consumers left on the hook

26 Jul 2016

Lethbridge Herald

John Cotter


The Alberta government is going to court to challenge a regulation it says will saddle consumers with billions of dollars in losses from coal-fired power agreements. The NDP says last-minute changes to a regulation passed secretly by the Progressive Conservatives in 2000 allows power companies to hand back agreements to buy electricity from coal-fired plants if actions by the government make them more unprofitable.

Deputy premier Sarah Hoffman said the government estimates these power purchasing arrangements could end up costing consumers up to $2 billion by 2020.

“Today our government is taking legal action to protect everyday Albertans from having to pay for the business losses of Alberta’s biggest and most profitable power companies,” Hoffman said Monday.

“We think this is not only unfair to Albertans, it is also unlawful.”

Hoffman said U.S.-based Enron lobbied the Alberta Tories for the change as part of the government’s plan to deregulate the province’s electricity market. Enron declared bankruptcy in 2001 following an accounting fraud scandal.

Hoffman said the Tory government at the time told Albertans the risks of a deregulated electricity system would be shared by power companies.

She said the “Enron clause” did the opposite — it set up a system where consumers bear all the risk.

“Our government believes that regular Albertans should not be on the hook for secret backroom deals between companies and the previous PC government.”

Hoffman said the clause was not included in more than a year of public hearings and the government took steps to hide the clause by exempting it from standard public disclosure.

Enmax Corporation has used the regulation to terminate its power purchasing arrangement. Earlier this year Enmax said the government’s decision to charge companies a higher tax on carbon dioxide emissions this year and in 2017 made the agreement unprofitable.

The government contends the Tories had no legal right to create such a legal loophole and is seeking a court order declaring the regulation to be void.

The NDP also wants a judge to quash a decision by a government agency called the Balancing Pool to accept Enmax’s decision to hand back its agreement.

Other companies that have served notice they intend to terminate such arrangements include TransCanada Corp., Capital Power PPA Management and the ASTC Power Partnership.

On Monday, Enmax issued a news release saying they have concerns with the accuracy of information in the filing.

“These legal agreements with the government have been in place and relied upon for 16 years, and were intended to be respected for a 20-year period by an industry that has invested billions of dollars in Alberta during this time,” said the release.

“We are very disappointed that the government is retroactively challenging fundamental aspects that have been in place in these agreements since their inception.” Capital Power Corp. also issued a statement Monday.

“We will exercise every legal avenue at our disposal to ensure that the Government of Alberta honours the terms of the PPAs,” said Capital Power president and CEO Brian Vaasjo.

“We believe the legal claim is without merit, and we will look to the courts to ensure that the Government of Alberta cannot retroactively amend an arrangement for which Albertan companies paid and upon which they have been relying in good faith for 16 years.”

Capital Power also called into question some of the government’s assertions.

“Today’s announcement by the Government of Alberta claims that the PPA terminations will result in consumers bearing up to $2 billion in costs between now and 2020. This claim is misleading because it is incomplete. Based on available public information, the Balancing Pool can reduce its liability to an estimated $950 million by terminating the PPAs that were recently turned back to them, or to an estimated $635 million by terminating some PPAs, and retaining and managing others.”

Spokesman Mark Cooper said TransCanada has always operated in a fully open and transparent manner and will defend its right to terminate the arrangements.

“We properly exercised our termination rights under provisions in the Power Purchase Arrangements that were clear 16 years ago and that remain clear today,” he said in a statement.

“The Government of Alberta through its regulator the AUB clarified the intent of these provisions for all parties during a fully public process back in 2000. We relied on the termination provisions in the PPAs as fundamental to the commercial decision to participate in the PPA auction and would not have participated without them.”

In March, TransCanada and Capital Power both cited the increasing costs of CO2 emissions when serving notice of their intention to terminate their agreements.

NDP gov’t continues to pile up debt

Lethbridge Herald

By Letter to the Editor on July 26, 2016.
There is something very wrong with our NDP government in Alberta. They said they would discuss plans with the people before they acted. This has not been the case.

The biggest mistake so far is probably the environmental minister slashing the firefighting budget even though they knew it was a dry winter and dry spring forecasted. What would have happened with the Fort McMurray disaster had a water bomber got out on day one instead of day three? They were available. The fire disaster might have been avoided?

Their failure to work with farmers when they went ahead and changed the rules for the Workers Compensation Board. What were they thinking?

The following will increase spending for most Albertans and will probably lead to a loss of jobs and businesses because of less disposable cash. Introducing a carbon tax that the people of Alberta will have to pay for even though the oilsands industry currently accounts for approximately 0.12 per cent of global GHG emissions (Environment Canada 2015). This will increase costs at all levels and no rebates will cover it all and won’t make a dent in world emissions. It will hurt the poorest the most. Minimum wages to continue to rise to a point where people will stop going out to eat, etc. because of increases in prices.

Introduction of a beer tax which will hurt and possibly close the fledgling microbreweries. The government is moving forward with its plans to expand the bureaucracy and reward the friendly unions who helped elect an NDP government in Alberta.

According to the NDP’s forecast, in five years, Alberta’s debt will reach $47.4 billion. That’s about $12,000 for every man, woman and child in the province. What are they going to come out with next?

Finally with all the promises of infrastructure funding why aren’t our MLAs and our MP not fighting for dollars for our second bridge? The time is right.

Jim Tratch



Alberta NDP to challenge coal power buying rule known as ‘Enron clause’

WATCH ABOVE: The Alberta government is taking some of the province’s biggest power providers to court. The NDP alleges a series of backroom deals involving Enron and the former PC government could cost consumers $2 billion. Fletcher Kent explains.

 The Alberta government is going to court to challenge a regulation it says will saddle consumers with billions of dollars in losses from coal-fired power agreements.

The NDP says last-minute changes to a regulation passed secretly by the Progressive Conservatives in 2000 allows power companies to hand back agreements to buy electricity from coal-fired plants if actions by the government make them more unprofitable.

Deputy premier Sarah Hoffman said the government estimates these power purchasing arrangements could end up costing consumers up to $2 billion by 2020.

“Today our government is taking legal action to protect everyday Albertans from having to pay for the business losses of Alberta’s biggest and most profitable power companies,” Hoffman said Monday.

“We think this is not only unfair to Albertans, it is also unlawful.”

Hoffman said U.S.-based Enron lobbied the Alberta Tories for the change as part of the government’s plan to deregulate the province’s electricity market. Enron declared bankruptcy in 2001 following an accounting fraud scandal.

READ MORE: Alberta electricity rates to rise sharply because of climate plan, says study

Hoffman said the Tory government at the time told Albertans that the risks of a deregulated electricity system would be shared by power companies.

She said the “Enron clause” did the opposite – it set up a system where consumers bear all the risk.

“Our government believes that regular Albertans should not be on the hook for secret backroom deals between companies and the previous PC government.”

Hoffman said the clause was not included in more than a year of public hearings and the government took steps to hide the clause by exempting it from standard public disclosure.

Enmax Corporation has used the regulation to terminate its power purchasing arrangement. Earlier this year Enmax said the government’s decision to charge companies a higher tax on carbon dioxide emissions this year and in 2017 made the agreement unprofitable.

The government contends the Tories had no legal right to create such a legal loophole and is seeking a court order declaring the regulation to be void.

The NDP also wants a judge to quash a decision by a government agency called the Balancing Pool to accept Enmax’s decision to hand back its agreement.

Other companies that have served notice they intend to terminate such arrangements include TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP), Capital Power PPA Management (TSX:CPX) and the ASTC Power Partnership.

On Monday, Enmax issued a news release saying they have concerns with the accuracy of information in the filing.

“These legal agreements with the government have been in place and relied upon for 16 years, and were intended to be respected for a 20-year period by an industry that has invested billions of dollars in Alberta during this time,” said the release.

“We are very disappointed that the government is retroactively challenging fundamental aspects that have been in place in these agreements since their inception.”

READ MORE: Alberta NDP’s plan to phase out coal could triple power bills, says Coal Association

Capital Power Corp. also issued a statement Monday.

“We will exercise every legal avenue at our disposal to ensure that the Government of Alberta honours the terms of the PPAs,” said Capital Power president and CEO Brian Vaasjo.

“We believe the legal claim is without merit, and we will look to the courts to ensure that the Government of Alberta cannot retroactively amend an arrangement for which Albertan companies paid and upon which they have been relying in good faith for 16 years.”

Capital Power also called into question some of the government’s assertions.

“Today’s announcement by the Government of Alberta claims that the PPA terminations will result in consumers bearing up to $2 billion in costs between now and 2020. This claim is misleading because it is incomplete. Based on available public information, the Balancing Pool can reduce its liability to an estimated $950-million by terminating the PPAs that were recently turned back to them, or to an estimated $635-million by terminating some PPAs, and retaining and managing others.”

Spokesman Mark Cooper said TransCanada has always operated in a fully open and transparent manner and will defend its right to terminate the arrangements.

“We properly exercised our termination rights under provisions in the Power Purchase Arrangements that were clear 16 years ago and that remain clear today,” he said in a statement.

“The Government of Alberta through its regulator the AUB clarified the intent of these provisions for all parties during a fully public process back in 2000. We relied on the termination provisions in the PPAs as fundamental to the commercial decision to participate in the PPA auction and would not have participated without them.”

READ MORE: Electricity analyst says Alberta has reasonable deadline to get off coal 

In March, TransCanada and Capital Power both cited the increasing costs of CO2 emissions when serving notice of their intention to terminate their agreements.

Nigel Bankes, chairman of Natural Resources Law at the University of Calgary, said he is surprised by how the amendment was developed and handled by the then Tory government and regulators.

He wondered how officials at the time decided it was in the public interest.

“This amendment is not the sort of clause you would expect to see in any ordinary commercial arrangement because it really did provide an open-ended opportunity for companies to walk away from unprofitable arrangements having taking advantage for many years of very profitable arrangements,” he said.

“The transfer of risk that was going on here was just remarkable and it was just done with a sleight of hand.”

The Progressive Conservatives issued a statement Monday afternoon suggesting the NDP was trying to dodge accountability for its policy decisions.

“This government has a habit of blaming others for the consequences of its own policy decisions – decisions that are costing Alberta taxpayers billions,” interim PC party leader Ric McIver said in a release. “The regulation in question has been a matter of public record and available via the Queen’s Printer for the past 15 years. The government failed to read the contract before triggering this clause with its poor policy decisions.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi also criticized the NDP government’s decision to take legal action Monday.

“This suit is outrageous,” Nenshi told reporters Monday evening.  “We have this spectacle of the provincial government suing itself because apparently it didn’t know its own policies that have been in place for 15 or 16 years, and that Enmax has been abiding by.”

Watch below: Mayor Naheed Nenshi blasted Alberta’s NDP government on Monday over its decision to take power providers to court over a controversial coal power buying rule. Nenshi suggested the government was “suing itself” because it didn’t know its own policy.

The Wildrose Opposition called the government’s court action “heavy-handed.”

“Today’s announcement to take private companies to court over agreements signed at the turn of the century is extremely short-sighted and will keep billions of dollars of necessary investment away from our province,” Wildrose critic Don MacIntyre said in a news release.

Hoffman said lower electricity prices are why power companies are losing money.

The court action is to be heard in November.

-With files from Global News.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

Varcoe: Blame game heats up as province heads to court over unprofitable power contracts

Is the former Progressive Conservative government responsible for a critical electricity decision that could cost Albertans up to $2 billion in higher charges — or is the current NDP government accountable?

Or is anyone to blame in this high-voltage affair?

Ultimately, that question could be decided by an Alberta court after the Notley government started legal action Monday to try to stop utility companies from unloading unprofitable power purchase arrangements (PPAs) on to consumers.

It’s a showdown that’s been brewing for months, but dates back to the Klein government’s deregulation of Alberta’s power market almost two decades ago.

The lawsuit involves a provision contained in the power contracts that the government is now calling “the Enron clause” after the notorious U.S. energy company — and the NDP is fighting to have the clause voided.

“Our government believes that Albertans shouldn’t be on the hook for secret back-room deals that were created between companies like Enron and the previous PC government,” Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman told a news conference at the legislature.

“We think it is not only unfair to Albertans, it is also unlawful.”

Since the spring, the government has been trying to find a way to prevent the utilities from transferring money-losing PPAs into the lap of a government-created agency, the Balancing Pool.

The agency sells electricity from older generation contracts that weren’t sold at auction when Alberta’s market deregulated in the late 1990s.

It allocates any profits or losses back to consumers on their monthly electricity bills. To date, the pool has returned more than $4.4 billion to Alberta consumers.

Rapidly, however, the profits are turning into losses. Power prices have recently plunged to 20-year lows.

On Dec. 11, Calgary’s power utility Enmax gave notice it was terminating its PPA for the Battle River coal-fired power facility.

It noted the province was increasing Alberta’s carbon tax on heavy greenhouse gas emitters and that the PPA became “unprofitable or more unprofitable” for Enmax.

The power arrangements originally contained an exit clause that allowed for the contract to be terminated if a change in law made the PPAs unprofitable.

But the arrangements were later amended in August 2000 to also include the words “more unprofitable.”

The province claims the change was made at the behest of now-defunct Enron, then a big player in Alberta’s power market.

The province argues no public notice was given or hearings held into the changes made by Alberta’s Energy and Utilities Board at the time, and that the province’s own energy regulator made an amendment “that it was not authorized by law to make,” according to court documents.

The government says it isn’t fair for consumers to have to pay for losses on contracts that were already unprofitable due to market conditions. It notes the buyers collectively made an estimated $11 billion in profit from their PPA operations dating back to last decade.

After Enmax terminated its PPA, the decision was accepted by the Balancing Pool in January — something the province is also contesting.

Other utilities stuck with unprofitable coal-fired PPAs have since joined the stampede and terminated their contracts. However, their cancellations haven’t been accepted by the pool.

In March, a statement by Energy Minister Marg-McCuaig Boyd noted “any change of ownership of the power purchase arrangement will have minimal impact to consumers.”

But stuck with the unprofitable contract, the Balancing Pool has already begun taking steps to brace for the financial meteor heading its way.

Its board of directors approved a strategy this spring to liquidate its $705-million investment portfolio due to the cash requirements tied to the contract terminations.

If the cancellations are upheld, the Balancing Pool will have to cover the shortfall, estimated at up to $2 billion by the time the contracts finally expire in 2020, according to the government.

In essence, the NDP government is blaming the former PC government for being asleep at the switch and not examining the repercussions of the “more unprofitable” clause on Alberta consumers.

Hoffman leaned heavily on inflammatory language at the news conference, using words like “secret clause” and “covert moves” to describe the changes made back in 2000.

“It’s clear there was an intention to have this deal struck secretly between Enron and the then government, and that certainly is not in the public interest, and we’re arguing it’s also unlawful,” she said.

But there’s a counter-point to be made here.

If the NDP hadn’t changed the carbon levy on heavy emitters, it wouldn’t have given companies the opportunity to terminate the contracts in the first place, critics contend.

“It’s a banana republic move,” charged Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark. “They’ve tied themselves in legal knots to try to find some way of un-ringing the bell.”

Enmax added that the government should have known about the implications of its carbon levy. “Enmax’s actions on its PPAs were completely foreseeable, legal and reasonable,” it said in a statement.

In its court filing, the province contends the energy, environment and justice ministers only became aware of the “more unprofitable” clause in a mid-March 2016 meeting with the Balancing Pool.

And so the case is now headed for the courts in November.

Meanwhile, the Balancing Pool has to accept all of the losses of the terminated power contracts until the legal matter is decided.

This messy case may have its roots back in the formative days of power deregulation some 16 years ago, but the issue will have ramifications for consumers in the days ahead with higher surcharges likely added to their power bills.

And the blame game is only getting started.

Chris Varcoe is a Calgary Herald columnist.

[email protected]


Fracking may worsen asthma, study says

19 Jul 2016

Lethbridge Herald


Fracking may worsen asthma in children and adults who live near sites where the oil and gas drilling method is used, according to an eight-year study in Pennsylvania.

The study found that asthma treatments were as much as four times more common in patients living closer to areas with more or bigger active wells than those living far away.

But the study did not establish that fracking directly caused or worsened asthma. There’s also no way to tell from the study whether asthma patients exposed to fracking fare worse than those exposed to more traditional gas drilling methods or to other industrial activities.

Fracking refers to hydraulic fracturing, a technique for extracting oil and gas by injecting water, sand and chemicals into wells at high pressure to crack rock. Environmental effects include exhaust, dust and noise from heavy truck traffic transporting water and other materials, and from drilling rigs and compressors. Fracking and improved drilling methods led to a boom in production of oil and gas in several U.S. states, including Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado.

Johns Hopkins University researcher Sara Rasmussen, the study’s lead author, said pollution and stress from the noise caused by fracking might explain the results. But the authors emphasized that the study doesn’t prove what caused patients’ symptoms.

More than 25 million U.S. adults and children have asthma, a disease that narrows airways in the lungs. Symptoms include wheezing, breathing difficulties and chest tightness, and they can sometimes flare up with exposure to dust, air pollution and stress.

Previous research has found heavy air pollution in areas where oil and gas drilling is booming.

The new study was published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The researchers noted that between 2005 and 2012, more than 6,200 fracking wells were drilled in Pennsylvania. They used electronic health records to identify almost 36,000 asthma patients treated during that time in the Geisinger Health System, which covers more than 40 counties in Pennsylvania. Evidence of asthma attacks included new prescriptions for steroid medicines, emergency-room treatment for asthma and asthma hospitalizations.

During the study, there were more than 20,000 new oral steroid prescriptions ordered, almost 5,000 asthma hospitalizations and almost 2,000 ER asthma visits.

Those outcomes were 50 per cent to four times more common in asthma patients living closer to areas with more or bigger active wells than among those living far away.

The highest risk for asthma attacks occurred in people living a median of about 12 miles from drilled wells. The lowest risk was for people living a median of about 40 miles away.

Dr. Norman H. Edelman, senior scientific adviser for the American Lung Association, called the study “interesting and provocative.” But he said it only shows an association between fracking and asthma, not a “cause and effect,” and that more rigorous research is needed.


County faces lawsuit due to tax

Posted on July 12, 2016
By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News

A group of feedlot operators and supporters from the Lethbridge County area are using the courts to try and get a judge to make a ruling the new county Funding Our Future tax bylaws are invalid through a recent lawsuit.
“It was delivered to the courts June 18,” said Rick Paskal, from Van Raay Paskal Farms near Picture Butte. Paskal is one of the litigants in the law suit.
It was announced earlier this year, new county taxes were on the way for livestock operations, after Lethbridge County passed second and third reading of three bylaws at a regular meeting held Apr. 21.
The Business Tax Bylaw, Special Tax Bylaw and Community Aggregate Payment Levy became a reality, after tedious deliberations and public consultation.
As for the Business Tax Bylaw, the 2016 county budget includes $1.6 million for road construction, $1.4 million for bridge replacement/repair and $500,000 for hardtop surfaces, which will be placed in a capital reserve for a future hardtop project.
According to a report submitted to county council for consideration, the phased in approach to Funding Our Future, which includes the business tax bylaw, special tax bylaw and community aggregate levy bylaw will result in a total of $850,000 less in revenue in 2016, as the county moves forward to fund maintenance and reconstruction of the county’s Market Access Network, which includes 2,000 kilometres of roads and 167 bridges. The county, according to a report, needs to collect over $3 million annually to invest in this network starting in 2016.
Funding Option 4 is based on a two-year phase-in approach of Option 1 with 75 per cent of revenue from the business tax and special tax in 2016 and increased to 100 per cent in 2017. Option 1, the report stated, reflects calculations based on the economic impact method resulting in $925,740 or 26 per cent of revenue generated from special tax and $2,474,260 or 71 per cent from the intensive livestock industry through a business tax. The report stated the 2016 tax rate in Option 4 is $3 per animal unit and a 2016 revenue of $1,855,695.
What the group of litigants and supporters are concerned about, Paskal noted, is the county elevating the tax level to an area where feedlot operators will be in a very uncompetitive position with other jurisdictions.
There’s two sides of the equation, Paskal explained — there’s a revenue side.
“The county is requesting more dollars for revenue, and we’re rather supportive of the county on lobbying the provincial government and the federal government for proper allocation of fuel taxes. We’re already paying a bunch of tax. A 25,000-head feedlot pays about $125,000 a year in fuel tax plus our regular property assessment that everybody gets assessed in the county,” Paskal said.
According to Paskal, by the county enacting this law, they allegedly have the power on their own to increase tax to whoever, whenever to balance their budget.
“They already published the tax is going to be higher next year and they wish they would have started it at $7 a head. They have a mandate to balance their budget by revenue only,” Paskal said.
What the group’s issue was right from day one — Paskal noted, is what about expenditures? What about the county’s handling of ratepayers’ dollars?
Before the group launched the lawsuit, Paskal added, it could see the county’s spending is, in the group’s opinion, totally out of control.
“The money they are wasting here today, they’ve told county residents the roads are in bad condition. The roads are not in bad condition, they’re taking perfectly good roads rebuilt seven years ago and spending $100,000 a mile to redo these roads again. It’s just a total waste of taxpayers’ dollars,” he said.
Council does not run the county, he noted — management runs the county, in Paskal’s opinion. “That’s a real problem here,” he added.
Lethbridge County Councillors and staff have been advised not to speak about matters currently before the courts, it was reported.


County tax fight goes to court – FEEDLOT OPERATORS SAY THEY’RE FED UP

14 Jul 2016

Lethbridge Herald

Stan Ashbee


A group of feedlot operators and supporters from the Lethbridge County area are using the courts to try to get a judge to make a ruling the new county Funding Our Future tax bylaws are invalid.

“It was delivered to the courts June 18,” said Rick Paskal, from Van Raay Paskal Farms near Picture Butte. Paskal is one of the litigants in the lawsuit.

It was announced earlier this year that new county taxes were on the way for livestock operations, with the Business Tax Bylaw, Special Tax Bylaw and the Community Aggregate Payment Levy.

The 2016 county budget includes $1.6 million for road construction, $1.4 million for bridge replacement/repair and $500,000 for hardtop surfaces, which will be placed in a capital reserve for a future hardtop project.

According to a report submitted to county council for consideration, the phased in approach to Funding Our Future, which includes the business tax bylaw, special tax bylaw and community aggregate levy bylaw, will result in a total of $850,000 less in revenue in 2016.

The county is trying to fund maintenance and reconstruction of its Market Access Network, which includes 2,000 kilometres of roads and 167 bridges. The county, according to a report, needs to collect more than $3 million annually to invest in this network, starting in 2016.

Funding Option 4 is based on a twoyear phase-in approach of Option 1 with 75 per cent of revenue from the business tax and special tax in 2016 and increased to 100 per cent in 2017. Option 1, the report stated, reflects calculations based on the economic impact method resulting in $925,740 or 26 per cent of revenue generated from special tax and $2,474,260 or 71 per cent from the intensive livestock industry through a business tax.

What the group of litigants and supporters are concerned about, Paskal noted, is the county elevating the tax level to an area where feedlot operators will be in a very uncompetitive position with other jurisdictions.

There’s two sides of the equation, Paskal explained — there’s a revenue side.

“The county is requesting more dollars for revenue, and we’re rather supportive of the county on lobbying the provincial government and the federal government for proper allocation of fuel taxes,” he said.

“We’re already paying a bunch of tax. A 25,000-head feedlot pays about $125,000 a year in fuel tax plus our regular property assessment that everybody gets assessed in the county.”

According to Paskal, by the county enacting this law, they allegedly have the power on their own to increase tax to whoever, whenever to balance their budget.

“They already published the tax is going to be higher next year and they wish they would have started it at $7 a head. They have a mandate to balance their budget by revenue only,” Paskal said.

What the group’s issue was from day one, Paskal noted, is what about expenditures? What about the county’s handling of ratepayers’ dollars? Before the group launched the lawsuit, Paskal added, it could see the county’s spending is, in the group’s opinion, totally out of control.

“The money they are wasting here today, they’ve told county residents the roads are in bad condition,” he said. “The roads are not in bad condition, they’re taking perfectly good roads rebuilt seven years ago and spending $100,000 a mile to redo these roads again. It’s just a total waste of taxpayers’ dollars.”

Council does not run the county, he noted — management runs the county, in Paskal’s opinion. “That’s a real problem here,” he added.

Lethbridge County Councillors and staff have been advised not to speak about matters currently before the courts.


Landowners losing on leases

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

Posted by

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?

Posted by

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.

[email protected]


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.

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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.”

[email protected]


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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If a Bill comes into force “on proclamation,” “with exceptions,” or “on various dates,” please contact Legislative Counsel, Alberta Justice for details at 780.427.2217. The chapter number assigned to the Bill is entered immediately following the date the Bill comes into force. SA indicates Statutes of Alberta; this is followed by the year in which it is included in the statutes, and its chapter number. Please note, Private Bills are not assigned chapter numbers until the conclusion of the Fall Sittings.

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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

[email protected]


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.