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Coastal GasLink pipeline could face federal regulatory review

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In addition to opposition from the hereditary chiefs of Wet’suwet’en Nation, the proposed Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline faces another battle that TransCanada says could put the project at risk.

The National Energy Board (NEB) launched a multi-step process last fall to determine whether the $4.8-billion pipeline should fall under federal jurisdiction and perhaps undergo further regulatory review — ​potentially delaying the project for months.

A hearing has not yet been scheduled, but the NEB has listed several filing deadlines between January and March.

The 675-kilometre pipeline, which would move natural gas from Groundbirch, B.C., to Kitimat, B.C., for international export was cleared by provincial officials by April 2016. It is owned by TransCanada Corp., now officially known as TC Energy.

But members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in northern B.C. who don’t support the pipeline crossing their territory established camps with fortified checkpoints, barring workers from a road and bridge they need to cross for construction activities. This week, RCMP enforced an injunction allowing workers access to the area.

The NEB case was triggered by Smithers, B.C., resident Michael Sawyer, an environmental consultant with over two decades of experience in Alberta’s energy sector, who believes the project should fall under federal jurisdiction.

TransCanada said in filings from an earlier phase in the process that if the NEB even entertained the jurisdictional question it would have grave implications.

“It would create regulatory uncertainty and inefficiency at a time when these issues are jeopardizing Canada’s global competitiveness,” said TransCanada. 

“It would put real, tangible benefits to people in B.C., including First Nations, at risk.”

The company said in an emailed statement that it was “disappointed” with the NEB’s October 2018 decision to review jurisdictional arguments.

It said the project underwent a “robust two-year environmental and technical review” through B.C.’s regulatory system.

Intervener status awarded

The NEB granted the federal government, B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan intervener status on the case last December. 

Several energy companies involved in the project, like Shell Canada and PetroChina Canada, which are part of the joint venture behind the LNG terminal in Kitimat, have also been granted intervener status.  

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership, along with 11 other First Nations, requested intervener status in the first round of the process but were rejected by the NEB.

The B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines did not provide comment, but in filings the province said the project was its responsibility.

Natural Resources Canada spokeswoman Vanessa Adams said in an emailed statement the issue was up to the NEB.

The Alberta government did not respond to a request for comment.

Visit to Gidimt’en camp

Sawyer said the B.C. judge who issued the injunction ordering people at the camps to stop preventing workers from accessing the area did not have all the facts of the project before making the decision.

“The crazy thing is that the government knows of my challenge and TransCanada, but no mention of it was made in the injunction application,” said Sawyer.

“It is very peculiar that they would take these dramatic steps on a project that has a high risk of being deemed illegal.”

RCMP officers approach the barricade at the Gidimt’en camp in northern B.C. on Monday. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Sawyer said he supports the resistance by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to the natural gas project.

He visited the Gidimt’en camp last week and dropped off hundreds of pounds of potatoes, carrots and onions, along with coffee.

RCMP entered the Gidimt’en camp on Monday to enforce the injunction, arresting 14 people.

“Nothing makes better friends than a common enemy and that is what we have,” said Sawyer.

A link to Alberta? 

A Supreme Court decision, known as Westcoast, created two tests to determine whether a pipeline that begins and ends within the same province should fall under federal jurisdiction.

Sawyer’s argument hinges on the first test which rests on whether the project is “functionally integrated and subject to common management, control and direction,” according to the 1998 ruling.

“This Coastal GasLink pipeline is intended to be part of of an inter-provincial pipeline system that would bring gas from Alberta and northern B.C. out of Kitimat for export,” said Sawyer’s North Vancouver, B.C., lawyer William Andrews.

TransCanada disputes this.

In its filings, the firm states that while the project will eventually connect with the Nova Gas Transmission system, which spans Alberta and B.C., the two would operate independently. The firm also said there is currently no application on the regulatory books to connect the two systems.

When the company originally submitted the Coastal GasLink project for a federal environmental assessment in 2012, it said there would be “an interconnection with the existing [Nova Gas Transmission] System at Groundbirch.”

Michael Sawyer, a Smithers, B.C., resident has triggered a jurisdictional review of the Coastal GasLink pipeline before the National Energy Board. (Greg Brown)

After the Stephen Harper Conservative government changed the regulatory process, narrowing the types of projects covered by federal review, the assessment was stopped, leaving B.C. to approve it on its own.

Sawyer believes political machinations between Harper and the previous B.C. Liberal government of Christy Clark greased the gears for this to happen.  

Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has the same suspicions.

“It’s certainly a convoluted path that the Kitimat LNG project benefited from,” said May, who failed to get intervener status with the NEB for the jurisdictional case.

“I sure would like to see it properly analyzed; I would like to see it challenged.”

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Future of Ottawa: Chefs with Kathryn Ferries

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This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the bar and restaurant industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Kat Ferries on the future of chefs, or read posts from Quinn Taylor on bars or Justin Champagne on fine dining.

Kat Ferries is Sous-Chef at Stofa Restaurant and a 2020 San Pellegrino North American Young Chef Social Responsibility Award Winner.

Apt613: What is the current landscape for chefs in Ottawa?

Kat Ferries: There is such great talent in Ottawa with so many chefs either being from here originally or have returned after traveling and have since opened some incredible restaurants. Many chefs have focused menus that really highlight their strengths, their heritage, and their passion for food. Dominique Dufour of Gray Jay, Marc Doiron of Town/Citizen, Steve Wall of Supply & Demand, Daniela Manrique Lucca of The Soca Kitchen, and so many more are all cooking up beautiful and delicious food in this city.

If you care to make a prediction… Where is the food industry in Ottawa going for chefs in 2021?

The industry right now is, unfortunately, in a really tough spot. The pandemic has been so devastating on mental, physical and emotional levels for so many and I know that many of my friends in this industry are burning out. There are many discussions happening on work/life balance and what is healthy for everyone. Some may never return to the long, hard hours we are expected to put in day after day and instead opt for a more flexible schedule or hire more staff to lighten the load on everyone, with some even leaving the industry indefinitely. Some may throw themselves back into this industry 10x as hard and create some of the best restaurants and concepts we’ve yet to see. I think all that will happen after the pandemic though.

For this year, it’s mostly about survival and finding happiness in creating what we can in the spaces we have while following all the laws and guidelines from public health officials. I think we will see more chefs creating experiences for guests that we otherwise wouldn’t have: think pop-ups, virtual dinner clubs, cocktail seminars, collabs, etc.

Where in your wildest dreams could the Ottawa culinary community grow in your lifetime?

I would love to see the Ottawa community support more small, local restaurants so our streets are bustling late into the nights like they are in Montreal, New York, or Europe. Having a local restaurant to frequent should be so much more commonplace, where you can enjoy a night out more often than just Friday or Saturday night. I would also love to see many more of our local chefs highlighted for the amazing food they create!

What is the best innovation to take place in your industry since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

Turning all our restaurants into mini-markets for customers to enjoy the food and wine of their favourite places at home. We have bottle shops for all your wine, beer and cocktail needs as well as menus that reflect what each restaurant does best. Some have even pivoted to a point where they are 100% a store and have paused any type of “service-style” dining.

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Future of Ottawa: Fine Dining with Justin Champagne

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This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the bar and restaurant industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Justin Champagne on the future of fine dining, or read posts from Kathryn Ferries on chefs or Quinn Taylor on bars.

Justin Champagne went to culinary school at Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver. He got his start in fine dining restaurants at C Restaurant under Chef Robert Clark, then at Hawksworth Restaurant under Chef Eligh. He staged at three-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn under Chef Dominque Crenn before moving to Ottawa and spending five years at Atelier, working his way up to Sous-Chef. He’s now the Head Chef of Bar Lupulus.

Apt613: What is the current landscape of fine dining restaurants in Ottawa?

Justin Champagne: Ottawa punches well above its weight class when it comes to quality restaurants in general. Fine dining is no exception to that—we have some amazing chefs here that are doing really great things. We also have some phenomenal sommeliers in town that are a huge factor when it comes to a guest’s experience in a fine dining restaurant. While there are some fantastic fine dining restaurants in town I do believe there’s room for more, and definitely room for more creativity and unique styles of cooking! I think we’ll see more small fine dining restaurants opening up, “micro-restaurants” where there’s maybe 20 seats. This will be over the next few weeks as the industry did take a big hit financially with COVID-19, but we still have a lot of great young chefs who have the fire inside of them to open their own location!

If you care to make a prediction… Where is fine dining going in Ottawa in 2021?

I’m not sure it’ll be 2021 or 2022 with the way the vaccine rollout and stay-at-home order is going, but I do expect there to be a wave of people looking to go out to fine dining restaurants. We’ve been cooped up cooking for ourselves or ordering takeout for over a year now. People are getting antsy and ready to go out and have fantastic meals again with exceptional wine and not have to worry about doing all the dishes afterwards!

Where in your wildest dreams could fine dining go in Ottawa in your lifetime?

That’s the fun part about “fine dining,” it can go anywhere and it can mean many things. Fine dining is about amazing service and well thought out, unique food that the kitchen spent hours fussing over, being meticulous in execution. Outside of that, you can have a lot of fun and be creative in different ways. My wildest dream I guess is that fine dinning restaurants begin to thrive and are able to charge without backlash the kind of prices that they need to charge in order to keep the lights on and pay their staff a proper living wage!!

What is the best innovation to take place in your industry since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

I’m not sure if I would really say there’s been a best “innovation” in my industry during the pandemic, but I will say that seeing the “adaptability” by all the restaurants in Ottawa has been incredibly inspiring. Ottawa’s food scene has always been a tight-knit community, “everyone helping everyone” kind of mentality. And this pandemic has really helped show that—restaurants helping restaurants through all of this!

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Ottawa’s Giant Tiger chain celebrating 60 years in business

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OTTAWA — An Ottawa staple, along with what might be the most famous cat in Canada, are celebrating a milestone Monday.

Giant Tiger is 60 years old.

“It all started with a very simple idea,” says Alison Scarlett, associate VP of communications at Giant Tiger. “Help Canadians save money every single day. Bring them products that they want and need. When you focus on those core principals, it really is quite simple to succeed.”

In 1961, Gordon Reid opened the first Giant Tiger in Ottawa’s ByWard Market. The company now has more than 260 locations across Canada and employs roughly 10,000 people.

“If you were at our store on opening day 60 years ago, the in store experience would be a little bit different from your local Giant Tiger store today. So that’s changed. A lot of our products and offerings have changed or expanded as Canadian consumers wants and needs have changed or expanded,” says Scarlett.

The homegrown department store continues to be a favourite for many shoppers looking to for the best deals on everyday products.

Helen Binda has been shopping here for decades.

“Many years. I can’t remember when. I’ve always loved Giant Tiger. It’s always been a good store for me.”

“I think its amazing and I think that we need more department stores,” says shopper Fay Ball. “And if it’s Canadian, all the better.”

The Canadian-owned family discount store carries everything from clothing to groceries, as well as everyday household needs. They’ve also expanded their online store and like most retailers provide curbside pickup during the pandemic.

“Doing what is right for our customers, associates, and communities. That has enabled us to be so successful for all of these years,” says Scarlett.

To celebrate, Giant Tiger is hosting a virtual birthday party at 7 p.m. Monday with live musical performances from some iconic Canadian artists.

You can visit their Facebook page to tune in. 

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