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Trump threatens to declare emergency on border visit | USA News

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US President Donald Trump threatened on Thursday to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress if he can’t reach a deal with Democrats to fund his promised border wall, which has been at the centre of an ongoing partial government shutdown.

Trump flew to the Texas border with Mexico to try to bolster his case that the country is facing a crisis which can only be solved by spending billions of dollars to construct a wall.

“We can declare a national emergency. We shouldn’t have to,” Trump told reporters. “This is just common sense.”

His trip to the border town of McAllen, Texas, came on the 20th day of the shutdown, which has left some 800,000 Americans out of work or working without pay. 

Prior to the shutdown, Trump said he would be “proud” to shut the government down over the issue but has since blamed Democrats.

He also has been considering whether to declare a national emergency and use it to circumvent Congress by building the wall with money allocated for the Department of Defense. 

On Thursday, Trump said it would be “very surprising” for him not to declare a national emergency if he can’t make a deal with Democrats.

“I’m not prepared to do that yet, but if I have to, I will,” Trump told reporters. “We’re either going to have a win – make a compromise – because I think a compromise is a win for everybody – or I will declare a national emergency,” he said.

It’s not clear what a compromise would entail, as Trump has so far refused to give up on his demand for $5.7bn in border wall funding, and if he were to go through with the threat to declare a national emergency, it would likely be challenged in the courts.  

Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, refuse to approve the funding, saying a border wall is ineffective, expensive and immoral. They have instead said they will allocate more than $1.3bn for border security measures that don’t include a wall. 

Texas visit

McAllen is located in the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest part of the border where individuals cross between official ports of entry.

Trump travelled there with the state’s two US senators, Republicans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

Signaling he’s ready to maintain the game of brinksmanship, Trump wrote on Twitter on arrival in Texas that he will scrap a visit to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which runs from January 21-25.

Trump had been expected to make a brief appearance at the influential get-together, attended by many world leaders, but said that opposition Democratic “intransigence” required him to stay home.

But Trump has also expressed his own doubts that his appearance and remarks in Texas will change any minds as he seeks money for the wall that has been his signature promise since his presidential campaign.

On December 22, about 25 percent of the government – excluding mainly the Department of Defense and health-related programmes – shut down because of Congress’ inability to meet a September deadline on funding. 

‘Another temper tantrum’ 

The impasse has continued, while Trump’s meetings with Democratic congressional leaders have ended in bitterness. On Wednesday, he stormed out of a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, calling it “a total waste of time”. 

Trump says undocumented immigrants and illegal drugs are streaming across the border from Mexico, despite statistics that show irregular immigration is at a 20-year low and that many drug shipments likely are smuggled through official ports of entry.

Democrats accuse Trump of using fear tactics and spreading misinformation about the border situation in order to fulfil a 2016 campaign promise as he looks towards his race for re-election in 2020.

“Again, we saw a temper tantrum because he couldn’t get his way,” Schumer told reporters on Wednesday after Trump walked out of the meeting with Democrats. 





Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speak to the news media as they depart the West Wing after meeting with Trump on Wednesday [Carlos Barria/Reuters] 

The president has been working to make his case to the public and bolster any congressional Republicans who might be wavering. 

Pressure on them could intensify on Friday when hundreds of thousands of federal employees – including border patrol agents and airport security screeners – miss their first paycheques.

“I have never been more depressed about moving forward than right now. I just don’t see a pathway forward,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, who said it was time for the president to declare a national emergency.

On Tuesday, Trump said in his first prime-time television address from the Oval Office that there was a growing security and humanitarian crisis at the border.

On Wednesday, he visited Republican politicians at the US Capitol, emerging from a meeting to say his party was “very unified”. 

Less than two hours later, eight Republicans in the House voted with majority Democrats on a bill that would reopen the Treasury Department along with some other programmes and did not include any funding for the wall.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear, however, that he will not allow that chamber to vote on any measure that does not include wall funding.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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Canada: Significant Changes To Canada’s Federal Environmental Protection Regime Proposed

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On April 13, 2021, the government of Canada proposed significant changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”)1 through the introduction of Bill C-28, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act (the “Amendments“).2

With these Amendments, the government hopes to modernize Canada’s environmental regime which has not undergone significant change in over 20 years. CEPA is the primary statute through which the federal government regulates and protects the environment. CEPA and its accompanying regulations regulate among other things the treatment and disposal of chemicals and hazardous waste, vehicle and engine emissions, equipment and other sources of pollution, and the prevention and impact of environmental emergencies such as oil and chemical spills.

This bulletin provides an overview of the major changes to CEPA that have been proposed.

The Right to a Healthy Environment and Certain Soft Rights

Significantly, the Preamble under the Amendments will officially recognize Canadians’ right to a healthy environment. Section 2 of CEPA will require the government to protect that right when making decisions relating to the environment.3

The Amendments set out specific obligations the government must undertake to safeguard this right, including developing an implementation framework to set out how this right will be considered in the administration of CEPA as well as conducting research, studies and monitoring activities to support this goal.

In addition, the Preamble will recognize some additional considerations, including confirming the government’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as recognizing the importance of considering vulnerable persons, reducing or replacing the use of animal testing, and the right of Canadians to have access to information on product labels.

Project Impact Assessment

With respect to risk assessments under CEPA, under the new provisions the federal government must consider impacts on vulnerable populations and possible cumulative effects of the proposed conduct. Vulnerable populations will include groups of people with elevated biological susceptibility, such as children, and groups with elevated exposure risks, such an indigenous communities. Consideration of cumulative effects of proposed conduct takes a holistic approach to substance management by considering the compounding risks of exposure to various chemicals during daily life rather than looking at substances on their own.

Chemicals Management

The federal government has identified the management of chemicals as a key target area under the new CEPA.

The Amendments thus propose to overhaul this regime in order to better protect Canadians from the evolving risks of harmful chemicals and pollution. To accomplish this, the government has proposed wide ranging changes relating to risk assessment, public accountability, management of toxic substances and new substances, which are discussed in turn below.

Risk Assessment

The government must consult, develop and publish a Plan of Chemicals Management Priorities which will set out an integrated plan for the risk assessment of various chemical substances currently being used in Canada. The Plan will establish priorities for the management of substances, taking into account a number of factors including among others the views of stakeholders and partners, public comments, the effects on vulnerable populations, the toxicity of the substance, the ability to disrupt biological reproduction or endocrine systems, and whether there are safer and more sustainable alternatives.4 The government will also be empowered to make geographically targeted regulations to address pollution “hot spots”.

Additionally, the Amendments will establish a mechanism through which any person can submit a request to the Minister to assess a substance to determine its toxicity and risk to the environment. The Minister must provide a response within 90 days, indicating whether they intend to assess the substances and their reasons for their decision.

Public Accountability Framework

The Amendments intend to increase transparency and public participation in risk assessments by the government for the categorization and management of potentially toxic chemicals. Currently, CEPA contains a public accountability framework under section 77 and provides time limits for the government to assess substances under sections 91 and 92. However, these provisions only apply to certain risk assessments being conducted by the government such as substances placed on the Domestic Substances List that in the opinion of the Minister present the greatest potential for exposure to Canadians or are persistent or bio-accumulative. The proposed Amendments plan to amend section 77 to expand these transparency and accountability measures to all substance risk assessments for toxic or capable of being toxic substances, with the exception of assessments for new substances.5

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Scientists, Homalco First Nation team up to probe massive B.C. landslide — and its impact on salmon

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When the side of a B.C. mountain gave way on Nov. 28, 2020, crashing into a glacier fed lake and creating a 100-metre high tsunami, no one was around to see the destruction or hear the sound of rocks and trees tearing through the valley below. 

But scientists say the force, which was picked up by seismographs across North America, was the equivalent of a 4.9-magnitude earthquake. 

Fortunately, no one was in the slide’s path, but experts believe that a melting glacier likely contributed by making the slope less stable — and climate change means it is a growing risk. 

As more of Canada’s glaciers recede, scientists say there is great interest in finding out what exactly triggered this slide, and how the rocks and sediment have impacted the salmon population of nearby Elliot Creek and Southgate River. 

The mountain, which is located about 220 km north west of Vancouver, is on the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation. 

It’s an area of remote wilderness, only accessible by air or by boating 80 km up Bute Inlet.

When the slide hit last year, more than 18 million cubic meters of rock barrelled down the slope hitting the lake within 30 seconds. 

“That is the equivalent of all of the cars in Canada coming down the hill at once,” said Marten Geertsema, a geomorphologist who works with the B.C. government studying landslides. 

He is one of several scientists, along with members from the Homalco First Nation, who have been studying the landslide and its cascading environmental impact on the watershed and salmon habitat. 

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