Tax writeoffs coming for off-road electric cars, Trudeau tells miners

Trudeau was in Toronto speaking at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s annual convention in Toronto on Monday, March 2, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

OTTAWA — Canada is making off-road electric vehicles and automotive equipment eligible for immediate tax writeoffs in a bid to encourage Canadian companies to buy them, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said March 2.

Trudeau was in Toronto speaking at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference, where he lauded the mining sector’s efforts to protect the environment. He also offered up some help.

“As people in this room know, electric vehicles are not just for city streets,” he said. “They’re for cleaner mining operations, which protects the health of workers and the environment.”

He gave a shout-out to Goldcorp’s Borden mine in Chapleau, Ont., as Canada’s first all-electric underground mining project, and to MacLean Engineering, a Collingwood, Ont., company that is producing electric mining vehicles.

“This is only the beginning,” said Trudeau. “Our government wants to support this sector in accelerating the use of clean mining trucks here at home.”

Last year’s federal budget created the zero-emission business tax writeoff for zero-emission vehicles including electric cars, hybrid-electric cars and hydrogen-fuel cell cars. Businesses can write off 100% of the purchase price, up to $55,000, in the year the car goes into service.

The writeoff is not available if the cars in question also benefit from the parallel rebate program, which sees the cost of many electric cars reduced for consumers by as much as $5,000.

The business program will now extend to off-road vehicles as well such as mining equipment and farm equipment. With the types of vehicles available expanding each year, the program specifies that the 100%writeoff will be available for vehicles that will be used before 2024. MORE

Why Trudeau’s Circus Act May Not Survive the Blockade Crisis

Events in BC keep knocking the PM off balance. Will Liberals give him the hook?


Cartoon by Greg Perry.

Is the curtain coming down on the Justin Trudeau era in Canadian politics?

When the next election rolls around, both the Conservative and Green parties will have new leaders. Even NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is newish.

No one should be surprised if the Liberal party follows suit. The case for dumping Justin Trudeau before the Liberals face the electorate again gets stronger by the day.

The federal government’s handling of the Wet’suwet’en protest against TC Energy Corp.’s Coastal GasLink project has been a month and more of Amateur Hour come to politics.

First, the prime minister ignored the crisis in favour of a foreign trip to promote a temporary seat for Canada on the UN Security Council. That made him look completely off rhythm.

When he finally did cut his travels short and returned to Canada, Trudeau claimed that protesters in violation of court injunctions were the problem of the B.C. government because it was responsible for enforcement and policing.

As Singh tweeted at the time, “pretending the federal government has no role is a failure of leadership.”

Although Trudeau advised patience in dealing with the Wet’suwet’en protests, a course far wiser than Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s shrill demand for frontier justice, the PM backed away from his own stand on Feb. 21, declaring that the blockades must come down.

No one on the Indigenous side listened, and the police were called in. That made the PM look hypocritical. Again, Singh skewered Trudeau, tweeting that it was heartbreaking to see “land defenders and Indigenous matriarchs dragged off their land.”

And when new blockades sprung up in places like Saskatoon and L’Isle Verte, as others were taken down in Ontario and Quebec, Trudeau simply exuded weakness.

The Wet’suwet’en and the Mohawk Warriors showed more resolve than the leader of the country, as they continued to defy the law — or from their perspective, to follow a higher one.

Irresponsible, hypocritical and weak are not the stuff of which leaders are made.

Trudeau has made himself chief juggler in a circus of incompetence. Already the damage to the Liberal government has been great.

The mortal sin of politics

At the height of the crisis, Via Rail Canada laid off 1,000 workers, and Canadian National Railway another 450.

Critical supplies of important items like propane dwindled to dangerously low levels in Eastern Canada.

As freight trains ground to a halt in front of solidarity blockades, Canadian ports saw a dramatic drop in landed cargo. Vessels diverted to more reliable ports in the U.S. They may or may not come back when rail service is fully restored in this country.

In his handling of this crisis, two weeks too late, Trudeau has committed the mortal sin of politics: he has made everyone unhappy. If in losing the last election, Scheer missed an open net on a breakaway, as Conservative leadership hopeful Peter MacKay quipped, the PM has scored on his own net in overtime.

Indigenous activists are disgusted by the PM’s flip-flop on the use of the police against them on their own territories. It is about as far as a politician can get from any known theory of reconciliation.

Nor has Trudeau’s failure to meet personally with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs created much confidence in his leadership. The swagger and spontaneity seem gone. Only the cynical political calculations remain.

Provincial premiers and business leaders are equally unhappy. They have criticized the PM for doing damage to the economy by not acting quickly and forcefully enough to get freight trains moving again.

For the official opposition, it has been the perfect opportunity to use the prime minister as a political piñata. Not only have his actions angered both protesters and business leaders, the polls show Canadians too are disenchanted with their prime minister.

In a recent DART Maru/Blue poll, 69 per cent of respondents agreed that “Canada is broken,” the country is headed in the wrong direction, and Trudeau is not governing well.

As for the standoff with Indigenous protesters, the poll found that just 27 per cent endorsed the PM’s course of action. By comparison, 36 per cent of respondents thought the hapless Scheer had done a good job.

With that kind of opening, political rivals pounced. Scheer claimed that the PM had actually “elevated” the crisis by his approach to it, that relying on protesters rather than police to take down the blockades early in the standoff was not leadership, but abdication.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney used the crisis to drum up support for his kneejerk Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, aimed at what the premier described as “green, left militants” who do things like blockade railways. That will soon be a crime in Alberta with serious consequences.

Kenney seems to be echoing former Conservative public safety minister Vic Toews, who put opponents of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline in the same category as terrorists. Kenney also blamed Trudeau for driving investment away by creating the appearance of “anarchy” in Canada.

Despite the string of stumbles and bumbles, there was still a chance for the PM to recover. If he could negotiate a settlement to the crisis, what would otherwise be seen as feckless dithering might be turned into statesmanship. Again, the federal government faceplanted.

What’s been ‘arranged’?

Consider the murky, March 1 “arrangement” with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs aimed at defusing a bitter dispute over the construction of the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline through that nation’s traditional territory.

All Canadians have been told is that a proposal has been made by the federal government and the provincial government of British Columbia that the Hereditary Chiefs will now take back to their people. That proposal in part is to recognize Wet’suwet’en land ownership of 22,000 square kilometres of unceded territory in northwestern B.C. As for the full Monty on the deal, Trudeau says he will leave the release of details to the discretion of the Wet’suwet’en.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett has made clear that the federal government offered recognition of land title without asking for anything in return.

No wonder.

The Supreme Court of Canada confirmed Wet’suwet’en title to traditional lands and waters 23 years earlier in the landmark case of Delgamuukw v. British Columbia. Back then, the issue was clear-cutting forests on the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en. Though today it is about pipelines, the collision between government and First Nations remains inextricably linked to the environment.

It is true that the Supreme Court didn’t cross every “T” and dot every “I” of that landmark ruling. But the only thing new in this so-called “breakthrough” agreement after talks in Smithers, B.C., is the prospect of an endless round of implementation talks around the 1997 decision — in other words, a classic example of governments ragging the puck.

Nor has there been any mention, at least publicly, about how this agreement would deal with other First Nations with overlapping claims on the same territory as the Wet’suwet’en.

So far, there is no good reason to believe this deal will ultimately be embraced by the Wet’suwet’en Nation in two weeks or so. That’s because the negotiations failed at three critical levels.

First, the proposal does not deal with the issue of the Coastal GasLink pipeline itself. In fact, the position of both parties remains unchanged. The governments insist the project will go forward; the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs continue to oppose it. Since government negotiators have made clear that any agreement will not be retroactive, further protests appear inevitable.

Nor has the policing issue been dealt with. The Wet’suwet’en wanted the RCMP completely out of their territory. Instead, the force closed their outpost, euphemistically known as the Community Industry Safety Office. It moved its 20 officers to a detachment in nearby Houston, B.C.

But RCMP patrols of the Morice West Forest Service Road, inside Wet’suwet’en territory, were set to continue after negotiations ended. Since the Wet’suwet’en have said that out means out, it is hard to imagine how they will be satisfied with a continued RCMP presence on their territory. They are still under surveillance.

Finally, the Wet’suwet’en wanted all workers on the Coastal GasLink project off their traditional lands. Instead, work was scheduled to resume on the project after the draft agreement was reached by Chief Woos for the Wet’suwet’en, and ministers Carolyn Bennett and her provincial counterpart, Scott Fraser, for the governments involved.

PM as expanding target

Why does all of this matter?

With all the big issues outstanding, it is difficult to see a long-lasting solution coming out of the Smithers negotiations. That is ominous. As Douglas Porter, the chief economist of the Bank of Montreal told the Financial Post, the last month of painful disruption to the economy from the blockade will have long-term damage if it was not a one-off.

Protests sparked by the Coastal GasLink project are not the only white water Trudeau is facing. When work begins in earnest on twinning the Trans Mountain pipeline, that project too is certain to meet with vigorous protests.

What those potential protesters have learned from the Wet’suwet’en is that crisis democracy works, as writer Robert Jago of the Kwantlen First Nation and the Nooksack tribe recently told The Tyee. Standing up to this government on matters of principle, rights and constitutional law, gets the attention of the big boys.

Since the PM made the dubious move of buying TMX, he will have little option but to force it through, even as the price-tag for construction spirals out of control toward the $12-billion mark. That will leave Trudeau looking like a reactionary colonialist to the Indigenous community and a faux-environmentalist to all those people who once embraced the star of the Paris climate talks as their champion.

In other words, B.C. could easily end up being Trudeau’s political Waterloo, the place where his words and deeds no longer align.

When you add in the cancellation by Teck Resources Ltd. of its $20-billion Frontier Mine project, and the lingering bad taste left by the PM’s unethical performance during the SNC-Lavalin scandal, it is easy to see how Trudeau will be targeted by his political opponents: He will be painted as the leader who is all image and no substance, who says one thing and does another, who wants to have it both ways on all issues, but usually delivers to the corporate side.

At the deepest level, it comes down to the perils of charisma politics. A charismatic leader is like a shot of adrenalin, as Trudeau proved in 2015, when he took the third party in Parliament all the way to a majority government.

At the time, former federal environment minister and B.C. MP, David Anderson, told me that when a political party places its bet on leader star-power, it is a two-edged sword. They can lift a party up in a big hurry, but they can also bring it down even faster. Again, Trudeau proved that in 2019, losing his majority government to an inept contender.

It will take more than a beard to hide the brewing leadership problem faced by the Liberals.  [Tyee] SOURCE


Trudeau urges patience as Wet’suwet’en mull over proposed deal

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Wednesday, February 26, 2020 in Ottawa. File photo by The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he knows people are impatient for a resolution to tensions involving a disputed natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia, but time is needed to respect the traditions of the Wet’suwet’en people.

Speaking to reporters in Halifax Tuesday, Trudeau acknowledged the opposition of some Wet’suwet’en leaders to the Coastal GasLink pipeline has led to difficult times for many Canadians over the past few weeks.

He said his government has been focused on trying to find a solution, but added that current tensions stem from Canada’s dark history of mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

“We know that centuries of marginalization, of oppressive, broken government policies have created a situation that is untenable,” Trudeau said.

“It is not an easy process. It is a process we are all impatient with that needs to move forward, but we need to remain positive because the only path forward for our country is for all of us to work together and that is what we’re going to stay focused on doing.”

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and senior federal and B.C. cabinet ministers reached a proposed agreement over the weekend, but details are not being released until the Wet’suwet’en people are consulted through their traditional feast protocol, which could take up to two weeks.

Trudeau says his government is respecting this process, and will not discuss details of the agreement until the Wet’suwet’en “have an opportunity to share it and discuss it internally,” he said.

But the prime minister also sidestepped a question about how the deal will affect the pipeline project.

All parties have made it clear the agreement touches only land and title rights generally. The natural gas pipeline itself remains in dispute.

Five Wet’suwet’en elected chiefs from councils that support the pipeline released a statement saying they are pleased that progress was made in the talks with the provincial and federal governments but they said the agreement was reached without input from all the Wet’suwet’en communities.

The statement said they “envision” the elected chiefs and council of the various Wet’suwet’en communities will be included in a review of the deal.

“We need to be engaged in our feast hall, in our respective communities to ensure all of our clan members are heard and acknowledged,” it said.

The hereditary chiefs could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

B.C. Premier John Horgan said Monday the pipeline project will go ahead.

“This project is underway. It has been approved and ratified. It’s going to be completed,” Horgan told the B.C. legislature Monday.

He noted the tentative agreement with the Wet’suwet’en chiefs is “forward looking,” dealing with their role in future discussions of land rights.

“There was not, at any time, any objective to go in and convince people to have a different point of view. We had a frank discussion. There was disagreement. The project will proceed. Dissent is appropriate. Unlawful dissent is not,” Horgan said.

Trudeau noted the federal and provincial governments had been working previously with the Wet’suwet’en Nation on rights issues, including a deal signed with Ottawa in 2018 giving the Wet’suwet’en full jurisdiction over their own child and family services.

The new deal, if agreed to by the community, will build on this work, Trudeau said.

While not saying so overtly, Trudeau’s remarks intimated that Ottawa hopes the deal can help lower the opposition to the pipeline project.

“Obviously we have come to what is hopefully a new level of solutions and collaboration with this most recent agreement,” Trudeau said.

“We understand that this is a challenging situation for everyone, but we must remain committed to reconciliation and to the respect and partnership that must underly the path forward we take.”

Meanwhile, Canadian National Railway Co. has started to recall most of the 450 workers temporarily laid off last month during the height of rail blockades that brought the company’s eastern network to a near standstill.

The blockades sidelined more than 1,400 freight and passenger trains and, according to analyst estimates, cost the company scores of millions of dollars.

CN chief executive JJ Ruest says the recovery process will take several weeks as shipments of bulk and consumer products ramp up.

At the ongoing rail blockade south of Montreal on the territory of the Mohawks of Kahnawake, discussion is ongoing about whether the barricades should remain, a spokesman said Tuesday afternoon.

Kanentokon Hemlock, a traditional chief of the Bear Clan, said the tracks will stay blocked as the community builds a consensus on its next steps.

The Mohawks have been in contact with the hereditary chiefs in B.C., who had expressed their gratitude for the support they’ve received, Hemlock said. However, he says it’s up to the Kahnawake Mohawks to decide if and when the blockade comes down.

“They were just really thankful for the support and everything from this way, but it’s on our end now too, as well, (to decide) on how we’re going to continue to support them moving forward,” Hemlock said in a phone interview.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2020. SOURCE

If Teck offered lessons, it’s not clear Alberta is learning them

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews insists the federal government is mainly to blame for the cancellation of the Teck Resources oilsands project.

By the time the Frontier mega-mine proposal died a swift and unexpected death last week, the proposal had taken on a national significance that dwarfed even the 29,000 acres of forest and wetland it sought to take over.

To Alberta’s United Conservative government, its approval would indicate whether Prime Minster Justin Trudeau really supported the oilsands. To environmentalists, it was a scourge.

But to Teck Resources, the Vancouver-based company behind it, it was a chance to balance oilsands development with environmental rigour, in a project they believe should have satisfied both sides. But, they argued in their letter to the federal environment minister, Canadian regulations have not caught up.

Global markets are changing fast, Don Lindsay, CEO of Teck, wrote in the letter last weekend.

“Investors and customers are increasingly looking for jurisdictions to have a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change,” he said.

“This does not yet exist here today.”

But if it’s true that oilsands projects are now forever tangled up in the climate change debate, observers say Alberta isn’t learning that lesson.

Mike Holden, the vice-president of policy and chief economist of the Business Council of Alberta, said he was surprised that the provincial budget had lots of plans for what they hope is a coming upswing in the oil industry, but almost nothing to say about climate change.

“I think that there was an opportunity that the province could have taken to spell out a climate strategy that could have helped with investor confidence, that could have helped with sending a message to the federal government that it was serious about working in this area, and it didn’t do that,” he said.

“That’s not to say that it might not at some point down the road, but it was fairly silent.”

The budget has one reference to the global challenge that is climate change, and notes that Alberta’s “global leadership in clean energy and (greenhouse gas reducing) technologies is also key to investment attraction.”

It also includes their TIER, or Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction, program, which places a $30 per tonne tax on large emitters. According to the budget, it will put $969 million into climate technology and emission reduction over 3 years.

Despite Teck’s lengthy letter, Alberta government officials don’t believe that the Teck cited the real reason for cancelling the project.

When asked about Teck’s decision in advance of the budget being tabled Thursday, Finance Minister Travis Toews cast the blame east.

“We have a federal government who didn’t categorically affirm its support for a project that’s gone through in every environmental hurdle put in front of them,” Toews said.

“The fact that the goal posts were seemingly, potentially to be adjusted at the last minute has a profound effect.”

In this, Toews echoed Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who has put the blame for the cancellation at the feet of rail blockade protesters across the country who have been affecting transportation for nearly three weeks, as well as federal inaction.

On Monday, Kenney said “there is absolutely no doubt” that the blame for the decision lies with the federal government and called for action from Ottawa to restore investor confidence in the province.

But Chris Severson-Baker, the Alberta regional director of the Pembina Institute, says sound climate policy is a major way to attract investors. It’s possible to pursue climate goals while still investing in oil development, he said, but there should be incentives for projects or types of development that are lower in carbon.

He said he was disappointed to see little talk of climate in the new budget, especially as the current federal government plans for Canada to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

He points to the oil industry leaders who have publicly supported a carbon tax. He says that many in the industry realize that many big oil projects now have to prove their green bonafides to get approval.

“Until this is resolved, it’s going to be a barrier to make further investments in Canada and in Alberta,” said Severson-Baker. SOURCE

Canada Oil-Sands Plan Collapses Over Politics and Economics

A developer has abandoned a nine-year effort to extend mining, sparing Justin Trudeau a choice between energy interests and environmental concerns.

A pond collects soil and water residue from oil-sands mining near Fort McMurray, Alberta. The oil sands account for 60 percent of Canada’s oil output.

Credit…Ian Willms for The New York Times

A major effort to expand development of Canada’s oil sands has collapsed shortly before a deadline for government approval, undone by investor concerns over oil’s future and the political fault lines between economic and environmental priorities.

Nine years in the planning, the project would have increased Canada’s oil production by roughly 5 percent. But it would have also slashed through 24,000 acres of boreal forest and released millions of tons of climate-warming carbon dioxide every year.

Some Canadian oil executives had predicted that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet would approve the project by a regulatory deadline this week, though with burdensome conditions. But in a letter released Sunday night, the Vancouver-based developer, Teck Resources, declared that “there is no constructive path forward.”

The unexpected withdrawal relieves Mr. Trudeau of a choice that was sure to anger environmentalists or energy interests, if not both.

Conservatives were quick to blame Mr. Trudeau for the loss of a project that they said would have created thousands of jobs and given an economic lift to the western province of Alberta, the hub of Canada’s energy industry, which has suffered from low oil prices over the last five years. They suggested that the government felt pressure from weeks of protests by Indigenous groups opposing a natural gas pipeline, even though some Indigenous groups supported the Alberta project, known as the Frontier mine.

“It is what happens when governments lack the courage to defend the interests of Canadians in the face of a militant minority,” Alberta’s premier, Jason Kenney, said in a statement.

The decision to abandon the Frontier mine project in Alberta spared Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet a politically fraught decision.
Credit…Blair Gable/Reuters

The chief executive of Teck Resources, Don Lindsay, said in a letter to federal officials that global capital markets, investors and consumers were looking to governments to put “a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change, in order to produce the cleanest products” — something that he said “does not yet exist here.”

While environmental concerns were part of government and company calculations, there was no guarantee that the Frontier project would have gone forward even if it gained final regulatory approval. Mr. Lindsay had said the company needed a deep-pocketed partner to help pay for the project, and higher oil prices.

Canada supplies nearly six million barrels of oil a day, making it the world’s No. 4 producer and the biggest source of American imports. The oil sands contribute over 60 percent of that output and are vital to the west’s economy. Canadian output continues to grow because of investments made when global supplies were tighter.

The oil sands are a watery mixture of sand and clay soaked with a dense, viscous form of petroleum known as bitumen. But in addition to being a fossil fuel, bitumen is difficult to extract and energy-intensive to process.

And when Teck Resources proposed the Frontier project, the energy world was very different. The American shale-drilling frenzy was in its infancy, and the Keystone XL pipeline was seemingly going to deliver the oil-sands output to the American market.

Now the United States has an abundance of relatively cheap oil, prodigious deposits are being tapped in Brazil, Norway and Guyana, and the Keystone project is still awaiting completion. Delays in pipeline approvals have prompted the Alberta government to mandate production cutbacks over the last two years to drain a glut of oil in storage.

A water-intake pipe for oil-sands operations north of Fort McMurray. A downturn in oil prices has changed the economics of such projects.
Credit…Ian Willms/Getty Images


Kevin Birn, a vice president and oil-sands expert at the consultancy IHS Markit, estimated that for a project like Frontier to break even, the price of West Texas intermediate oil, the North American benchmark, would need to average $65 a barrel over a decade or more of operations. That is roughly $15 above the current price, and other analysts put the break-even figure at $80 to $85.

But until Sunday night, despite a regulatory review that cost it hundreds of millions of dollars, Teck Resources refused to give up. The company argued that its project, at a cost of 20.6 billion Canadian dollars ($15.5 billion), would create 7,000 construction and 2,500 operational jobs and eventually generate more than 70 billion Canadian dollars in local and national government revenue.

Andrew Leach, a professor of energy economics at the University of Alberta, said some might read the project’s demise as a fatal blow to oil-sands development, but he interpreted Teck Resources’ decision as a pragmatic one.

“Teck was clear that it does not want a situation where one project has to answer for all of Canada’s climate policies and climate commitments,” he said. Moreover, he added, “global investors are not prepared to help a company the size of Teck to build a multibillion-dollar project. The global market was not prepared to be part of the political football.”

No new oil-sands mine has opened since 2018, but more than a dozen proposals are awaiting regulatory approval or investment decisions. Mr. Leach said some of those were economically and environmentally more viable than the Frontier project.

But resistance to new pipelines and high production costs have steadily reduced investments in oil-sands fields. There has been an exodus of international oil companies, including ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell and Equinor of Norway.

At the same time, there are questions about the market outlook. While world demand is roughly 100 million barrels a day, a figure that increases by 1 percent every year, the International Energy Agency projects that growth will begin to slow considerably in 2025. The agency says demand could fall to 67 million barrels a day in 2040, especially if governments increase regulation and electric cars become commonplace.

Reduced demand would focus production on places where it is cheapest, like Saudi Arabia.

A proponent of energy development mixed with environmental activists at a demonstration outside the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton in October.
Credit…Amber Bracken/Reuters


“Companies like Teck are realizing that global capital markets are changing rapidly,” said Simon Dyer, executive director of the Pembina Institute, a leading Canadian environmental research organization. “There was never an economic pathway for this project under global demand scenarios consistent with the Paris climate agreement.”

A federal-provincial panel that reviewed the project, he said, “didn’t properly assess the climate impacts.” The national parks agency also raised concerns about the possible effect on a national park downstream that is a UNESCO world heritage site.

The Alberta Energy Regulator wrote in July that “there will be significant adverse project and cumulative effects on certain environmental components and Indigenous communities.” Nevertheless, it approved the project after finding it in the public interest.

Two federal officials — Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan — issued a joint statement welcoming Teck’s decision. “A strong economy and clean environment must go hand in hand,” they said. SOURCE

Cuthand: Modern-day treaty needed to end unrest

The party of Diefenbaker, Clarke and Mulroney is now acting like a right-wing fringe supporting vigilantism and racism.

Columnist Doug Cuthand

Columnist Doug Cuthand Liam Richards / Saskatoon StarPhoenix

The crises around the pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory and the subsequent outpouring of support nationwide have isolated the Conservatives and placed them as the odd man out in the House of Commons.

On Tuesday, Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau’s speech was heckled by the Tories to the point that the speaker had to appeal for calm. When Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer spoke to rebut the prime minister’s comments, his speech was negative and clearly on the side of the pipeline developers. He called for the prime minister to end the pipeline protests and that the protesters should “check their privilege,” whatever that meant.

Meanwhile the other parties in the House including the Bloc Quebecois, the NDP and the Greens all supported the position that the government must proceed with dialogue and negotiations to settle the matter. They got together to discuss it further, but the Conservatives were not invited. It was obvious that Scheer would have nothing to offer and be a distraction.

The Conservatives’ position was clear: They wanted the government to take action to remove the blockades. While the Conservatives constantly refer to the rule of law, there is a long-standing practice in Canada that police forces are independent and not to be directed by politicians or a political party. To do otherwise would lead to a slippery slope toward a police state and totalitarianism.

Speaking of the rule of law, the Conservatives have ignored the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled that most of British Columbia has never been ceded by treaty and the title remains with the First Nations. In this case, the rule of law is on the side of the Wet’suwet’en.

West of Edmonton, a group of vigilantes took it upon themselves to take down a blockade of a railway right of way. This drew a tweet from Conservative leadership hopeful Peter MacKay, “Glad to see a couple Albertans with a pickup truck can do more for our economy in an afternoon than Justin Trudeau could do in four years.” This support for vigilantism was later taken down, but it is a reflection of the attitude that is prevalent in the Conservative camp.

Which leads me to ask, “What happened to the Conservatives?” The party of John Diefenbaker, Joe Clarke and Brian Mulroney is now acting like a right-wing fringe supporting vigilantism and racism. I doubt that those gentlemen would be welcome in today’s Conservative Party.

In the past, relations between the First Nations and the Conservative Party were usually positive. Mulroney supported the Treaty Land Entitlement Agreement for Saskatchewan which addressed a long-standing injustice over treaty land and was the largest land settlement in southern Canada.

In 1962, Diefenbaker extended voting rights to First Nations. His minister of Indian Affairs was Helen Fairclough who was Canada’s first female cabinet minister. Many First Nations voters, particularly in Saskatchewan, were Conservative party supporters.

Things changed for the worst in the 1980s and ’90s when the Reform Party came to prominence. It was a western-based party and its members discovered that attacking chiefs and First Nations was red meat to their base, so they pursued it. Rather than look at the potential of First Nations support, they chose to exploit us and our leadership.

The Reformers rebranded, and the Canadian Alliance united with the Progressive Conservatives. The Progressive was dropped, and the party became more like the old Reform Party. Gradually the Progressives or Red Tories were either forced out or left. The Conservatives are now a parochial right-wing party with roots in the West.

Canada is a nation that is built on the rule of law and common sense. Before a railway could be built across the new nation, the government had to make treaty with the First Nations of the plains. This process stopped in the mountains because the American settlers in British Columbia refused to see the need to deal fairly with the First Nations.

Today Canada is paying the price and the politicians and those in power know it. Now Canada must make a modern-day treaty that is fair to all sides or we will continue to have confrontation and unrest as the people defend their land against outside development. SOURCE


GAIL LETHBRIDGE: Reconciliation — Trudeau uttered the word, but didn’t do the work

Bruce MacKinnon's editorial cartoon for FEb. 21, 2020. VIA rail, CN rail, layoffs, rail yard, protests, blockade, Wet'suwet'en Nation, climate activists.

Bruce MacKinnon’s editorial cartoon for Feb. 21, 2020.

Like you, I’ve been watching the protest blockades this week and feeling more and more annoyed.

But strangely, I wasn’t sure who or what exactly was getting my goat.

Was it the RCMP for occupying unceded First Nations lands in British Columbia?

Not exactly.

Was it the First Nations hereditary chiefs for demanding the RCMP get off their land so they could have a say on who puts gas pipelines there?

Not really.

Is it the protesters thousands of miles away who were strangling a nation’s transportation grid by blocking trains in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs?

A bit, yes, but that wasn’t the thing that was bugging me the most.

And then it occurred to me. Do you know who was really making me angry? Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

It’s not just that he spent the first days of this protest swanning around in Africa putting on the diplomatic charm offensive to get Canada a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

That didn’t help, but it’s more than that.

And it’s not just the question of whether he did or didn’t enforce court injunctions to end blockades.

What’s bothering me is that he should have seen this whole train wreck coming a mile away. It was a locomotive steaming down the tracks towards us.

We’ve heard Trudeau talk about his commitment to Aboriginal issues and how reconciliation is the most important issue of his prime ministership.


So how could he let something like this happen? And then let it ratchet up to the point it has?

He should have been talking with Aboriginal communities on pipeline routes, negotiating and figuring out how he was going to combine reconciliation with running the country.

If there was going to be a problem — and there obviously was — he should have been anticipating it right from the word “go” when he came into office with an agenda of reconciliation.

These hereditary chiefs in B.C. are not just making this stuff up. They have a 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision to back up their claims. If there is no treaty, the land is unceded. They have to be consulted about what happens on their lands.

Even if the elected chiefs and some other hereditary chiefs are in favour of this particular pipeline because it will produce jobs and prosperity, there are important constitutional principles at stake.

And now people are losing their jobs because we can’t get exports out or imports in. Container lines are diverting cargo to other ports.

Propane rations are hammering made-in-Nova-Scotia businesses like Acadian Seaplants. How are we going to get the cars out of the autoport, Michelin tires sent out to markets and P.E.I. frozen french fries exported?

And then we end up with fingers being pointed in all directions, accusations being made, jobs being lost, First Nations communities being divided and an economy held at ransom to this whole mess.

Is this really the prime minister’s vision of reconciliation?

I doubt it, but here we are.

Reconciliation is not just a word. It’s a historic challenge that required the prime minister himself to get out to those unceded lands a long time ago, roll up his sleeves, sit around the coffee table all day and all night and work things out with his Aboriginal partners in reconciliation — before something like this happened.

But he didn’t. And even if he gets the trains rolling this time, this thing isn’t over. It will happen again in one way or another because Trudeau didn’t do his homework. SOURCE

Government asking for an extra $2.1 billion for Indigenous programs

Proposed initiatives range from forgiving land claims loans to preserving Indigenous languages

A stop sign in English, French and Inuktut syllabics is seen in Iqaluit, Nunavut on April 25, 2015. The federal government is proposing new spending to, among other things, preserve Indigenous languages. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is asking Parliament to spend an additional $2.1 billion on Indigenous programs and initiatives, above and beyond what MPs already have approved.

While $2 billion of the proposed spending for Indigenous services would be new money, supplementary estimates tabled in Parliament show that more than $53 million in net transfers from various departments would go to a wide range of Indigenous programs and projects.

Among other things, the government is proposing an additional $52.9 million for the RCMP for First Nations Community Policing Services and $1.2 million for Library and Archives Canada to help it preserve Indigenous culture and language recordings.

Overall, roughly 53 per cent of $3.8 billion in new money the government is asking MPs to approve would go to initiatives involving Indigenous communities.

The tabling of the supplementary estimates comes as tensions are running high over Indigenous-led rail blockades that have crippled Canada’s freight network.

Mohawk protesters near Belleville have vowed to maintain their blockade until the RCMP leaves territory in northern British Columbia where Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have been fighting the construction of a natural gas pipeline.

A protester stands between Mohawk Warrior Society flags at a rail blockade in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ont., Feb. 16. The protest is in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the LNG pipeline in northern British Columbia. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)


The spending Parliament is being asked to authorize is in keeping with the Liberal government’s commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous communities and promises it made in its last budget.

“It is a continuation of what we’ve been doing since Day 1,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau told reporters when he tabled his 2019 budget last March. “It is driven by the fact that we know, in this country, we need to get this right. We’ve got a lot of work to do and we are going to stay on it.”

One of the bigger items in the supplementary estimates would forgive $919 million in debt that Indigenous groups across Canada accumulated while they participated in comprehensive land claims negotiations.

The government announced in its budget last year that it would repay or forgive $1.4 billion in loans the government gave Indigenous communities — many of them in British Columbia — to allow them to participate in land claims negotiations.

The supplementary estimates provide for an additional $588.3 million to be spent on children and family services, while another $232 million would fund health, social and education services for First Nations children in keeping with the Jordan’s Principle policy.

The policy is named after Jordan River Anderson, a First Nations boy from Manitoba who died following a dispute between the federal and provincial governments over which level of government should pay for his care.

The Department of Indigenous Services is to receive $150 million for emergency management service providers on reserves across Canada, while $18.1 million has been earmarked to strengthen environmental protections and address the concerns raised by Indigenous groups about the Trans Mountain Expansion project.

First Nations women drum while leading thousands of people during a protest march against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion in Vancouver, B.C., Nov. 19, 2016. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)


Conservative Treasury Board Critic Tim Uppal said his party will work to make sure the money being spent makes a difference.

“Canada’s Conservatives have long advocated for the federal Liberal government to take more steps to ensure Indigenous peoples across the country are able to more fully participate in Canada’s economy,” he wrote in a statement. “We will continue to use our strengthened opposition to ensure that any new funding for Indigenous programs, projects and initiatives is used to make real and measurable improvements.”

NDP MP Gord Johns (Courtenay-Alberni) welcomed the proposed new spending, saying the money to forgive land claims negotiation loans will be particularly helpful.

“It’s going to take an enormous amount of pressure off of the Indigenous communities that had been carrying an enormous amount of debt with the government of Canada,” he said. “It’s going to relieve a lot of pressure so they can invest in important things in their communities, especially their youth.”

But Johns said the government has to do more.

“There is systemic racism in their policies and chronic underfunding and this needs to be addressed,” he said.

Johns dismissed the suggestion that a call for billions of dollars in new spending on Indigenous programs and initiatives in the midst of the blockade crisis could itself trigger a controversy.

“I think the only thing that’s controversial is that they’re still fighting Indigenous children in court. They haven’t addressed the outstanding issues that are there,” he said.

“There are Indigenous people that are living in squalor conditions, in poverty. They haven’t even got a plan for Indigenous housing … [for] people that are living in urban, rural and northern communities.”

Some of the other spending items the government is asking Parliament to approve:

    • $487.3 million for the Department of National Defence for military equipment, physical infrastructure and information management and technology systems under its Strong, Secure, Engaged program.
    • $128.5 million for the Department of National Defence for its land task force in Latvia, an air task force for patrol and training and naval vessels to work with NATO partners.
    • $180.4 million to write off student loans that the government hasn’t been able to collect — something it does periodically.
    • $1.6 million to implement the new system of record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis convictions.
    • $5.3 million to reduce plastics pollution.


Meeting between Trudeau and cabinet ministers to discuss how to handle anti-pipeline protest underway

Prime Minister is foregoing today’s planned trip to Barbados

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Incident Response Group will talk about how to handle the protests against a natural gas pipeline that crosses Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia. (Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is meeting with an emergency group Monday to discuss anti-pipeline blockades that have shut down swaths of the country’s train system.

Trudeau says the Incident Response Group will talk about how to handle the protests against a natural gas pipeline that crosses Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are opposed to the project.

The group was described upon its inception in 2018 as a “dedicated, emergency committee that will convene in the event of a national crisis or during incidents elsewhere that have major implications for Canada.”

Doug Ford asks for ‘immediate action’

Trudeau is foregoing today’s planned trip to Barbados, where he was slated to meet with Caribbean leaders to campaign for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council.

He faced criticism last week over his presence in Africa and Europe as the protests were beginning, so Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne will represent Canada in Trudeau’s place.

There’s mounting political pressure for Trudeau to put an end to the blockades.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford spoke with Trudeau late Sunday and issued a statement urging the federal government to take action.

“Premier Ford asked the prime minister to take immediate action and provide detail on a clear plan to ensure an end to this national issue,” the statement read.

Scheer wants end to ‘illegal blockades’

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said last week that Trudeau should tell Public Safety Minister Bill Blair to use his authority under the RCMP Act to end what he called the “illegal blockades.”

But Trudeau shot back, arguing that Canada is not a country “where politicians get to tell the police what to do in operational matters.”

A protester stands between Mohawk Warrior Society flags at a rail blockade in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ont., on Sunday. The protest is in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the LNG pipeline in northern British Columbia. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)


Thus far, the public-facing part of Trudeau’s plan appears to centre on discussions and negotiations, rather than police action.

Carolyn Bennett, the minister for Crown-Indigenous relations, is due to meet today with her British Columbia counterpart, Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser. Bennett is also ready to meet with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, should they give the go-ahead.

‘Did we learn from Ipperwash?’

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller met with Mohawk Nation representatives for hours on Saturday and said they made “modest progress.” The focus of their talks, he said, was on the pipeline in northern B.C. rather than the blockade on Tyendinaga territory near Belleville, Ont., which was at that point in its 10th day.

In an appearance on CTV’s political show Question Period, Miller pointed to the Oka and Ipperwash crises as reasons why dialogue is preferable to police intervention.

A police officer died during a police raid in 1990 when Mohawks at the Kahnawake reserve south of Montreal blocked the Mercier Bridge, which became the Oka crisis. Five years later at Ipperwash, Ont., one man was killed during a standoff over a land claim by Chippewa protesters outside a provincial park.

“Thirty years ago, police moved in in Kanesatake and someone died,” Miller said. “And did we learn from that? Did we learn from Ipperwash?”

But while Ontario Provincial Police have so far declined to enforce injunctions and remove protesters from that blockade, RCMP in B.C. have made more than two dozen arrests while enforcing similar injunctions near worksites for the pipeline at the centre of the dispute. SOURCE


Canada does not deserve seat at UN Security Council: Opinion

UN Security Council

A gate on the Morice River Forest Service Rd is dismantled during RCMP operations. Photo: Unist’ot’en Village/Twitter.

Pam Palmater
Special to APTN NewsReconciliation is dead. It died when the RCMP invaded Wet’suwet’en territory with heavy machinery, helicopters, weapons and police dogs to forcibly remove Wet’suwet’en peoples and supporters from their homes on their own lands.In quite literal terms, the RCMP destroyed the “reconciliation” sign posted on the access point to the territory, to make way for pipeline workers to force a pipeline on Wet’suwet’en Yintah (lands) without consent from hereditary chiefs.While they were at it, Coastal Gaslink pipeline workers removed the red dresses memorializing the thousands of Indigenous women and girls who have been abused, exploited, disappeared and murdered – some at the hands of those who work in man camps.

In reaction to this violation of Indigenous land rights and the aggressive invasion of Wet’suwet’en lands by the RCMP, grassroots Indigenous peoples and Canadian allies have engaged in protests, rallies, marches and blockades all over Turtle Island.

UN Security Council

300 people blocked the intersection at Cambie and Hastings in Vancouver in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. Photo: Simon Charland/APTN

Meanwhile, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not even in Canada. He is travelling the world campaigning for a seat on the United Nations (UN) Security Council.

Canada is a state perpetrator of genocide against Indigenous women and girls. The national inquiry found that all levels of government – federal, provincial, territorial and municipal – have engaged in historic and ongoing genocide; a form of gendered colonization which targets Indigenous women and girls for violence and denies them basic human rights protections. This genocide includes the theft of Indigenous lands and resources and the criminalization of Indigenous peoples who peacefully defend their lands and peoples from the violence, especially from the extractive industry.

The UN Security Council should not welcome a state perpetrator of genocide that has failed to accept responsibility for the genocide and failed to act urgently to end it. Similarly, member states of the UN should recall that Canada was one of only four states that fought against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which protects the rights of Indigenous peoples to self-determination, control over their traditional lands and resources and protections from forced removal from their lands by the state. While Canada has reversed its position on UNDRIP and claims to now support it unconditionally, it has failed to implement it into domestic law (with the exception of the Province of British Columbia).

The UN Security Council’s mandate is to maintain international peace and security. They are responsible to identify threats to peace or acts of aggression and have the authority to impose sanctions or authorize intervention. The Council has 15 members, five are permanent (China, Russia, France, United Kingdom and the United States) and ten are non-permanent and replaced on a rotating basis. Canada is vying for one of five seats that will be elected in June alongside other countries like Norway and Ireland. Canada lost its seat under the former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. To this end, Trudeau is campaigning on the African continent and will soon be headed to the Caribbean and eventually Germany to make his case.

UN Security Council

A truck sits by the tracks near the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. Photo courtesy: Annette Francis

Yet, it is hard to contemplate how the member states of the UN could vote for Canada given its record of human rights abuses and genocide of Indigenous peoples. Keep in mind that both the UN and the Organization of American States (OAS) have shared their grave concerns about the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls finding of ongoing genocide in Canada. The UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) has also asked Canada to urgently withdraw the RCMP and weapons from Wet’suwet’en territory and to halt any major development projects on Indigenous territories unless they have consent.

The UN member states should also consider that Canada has continuously failed to act on the numerous recommendations from various UN human rights treaty bodies pleading with Canada to end its grave human rights violations against Indigenous peoples, especially Indigenous women. Whether it is the UNCERD, UN Human Rights Council, UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Canada consistently fails to remedy these serious human rights breaches.

While there will be many other political considerations that go into each UN member state’s decision as to whether to support Canada’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, Canada’s record of ongoing genocide and human rights abuses against Indigenous peoples, and its recent armed invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory should give them pause. Canada has long pointed fingers around the world, criticizing human rights breaches, yet it has failed to address its own – and it’s killing our people.

UN Security Council

Red dresses hang at the 27 km marker along the Morice Forest Service Rd. Photo: Lee Wilson/APTN

Canada does not deserve a seat at the UN Security Council unless and until they address peace and security in their own country. Indigenous women and girls continue to disappear and be murdered, Indigenous peoples are grossly overincarcerated, and our children are stolen into the foster care system at rates higher than during residential schools.

Our lands and waters are being destroyed by massive development and extractive projects without regard for the cost to the planet or human lives. Canada’s continued acts of genocide and ecocide will eventually impact other states as climate change cannot be contained within artificial political borders. The planet is in crisis and the UN Security Council will have to face ever growing threats to peace and security worldwide. The last thing they need is to be guided by states that don’t address their own human rights, peace and security issues.

Pamela Palmater is a Mi’kmaw citizen and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in northern New Brunswick. She has been a practicing lawyer for 20 years and currently holds the position of Professor and Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University. SOURCE