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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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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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