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Notley fed up with ‘ridiculousness’ of Ottawa’s inaction on oil and gas

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Alberta Premier Rachel Notley expressed frustration again Monday about a lack of progress in completing the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Notley’s comments came after a federal cabinet shuffle that left Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi in his portfolio.

She said that’s probably a good thing as removing Sohi before the outcome of a court-ordered Indigenous consultation by the National Engery Board would be likely to cause even further delay.

“Albertans still need the federal government to step up and support the industry while we are trying to get through this ridiculousness of having not enough capacity to get our oil and gas to market,” Notley said.

“We’ve talked about that. We’ve talked about rail. We’ve talked about other interim programs that could come into place, and we’re disappointed we’ve not heard anything from the federal government yet.”

Notley announced late last year that her government will buy rail cars to transport an additional 120,000 barrels a day, which would increase the amount of oil being moved by rail in Canada by one- third.

Discussions about a purchase agreement are ongoing, she said.

She was asked whether the current Liberal government should receive another mandate from voters in a federal election expected later this year.

“The facts of the matter is that the previous government, which happened to be from a different political party, also didn’t get it done,” she said.

“Quite honestly, the considerations that have led to the ridiculousness that Albertans are so frustrated with right now … has been in the making for decades.”

Trans Mountain report due in February

The federal government bought Trans Mountain and its expansion project for $4.5 billion last summer only to have the Federal Court of Appeal strike down the energy board’s approval. The court said there had been inadequate Indigenous consultation and failure to consider impacts on the marine environment.

The board’s final report needs to be submitted to the federal cabinet by Feb. 22.

Notley said partisanship should have nothing to do with support for the resource sector, which is an economic engine for the rest of Canada.

The current federal government has at least accomplished one thing, she said.

“There was decades of factors that were at play which led to the instability that jeopardized that project. We did get the federal government to buy the pipeline. That’s not nothing. There is a vested interest they have now in getting this darn thing built.”

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Federal Budget 2021: Ottawa adds $1B to broadband fund for rural, remote communities

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The federal government will add $1 billion to a fund for improving high-speed communications in rural and remote areas of Canada, bringing the total to $2.75 billion by 2026, the Liberals said Monday in their first full budget since the pandemic began last year.

The money is going to the Universal Broadband Fund, which is designed to support the installation of “backbone” infrastructure that connects underserved communities to high-speed internet.

It’s one of many government and private-sector initiatives that have gained urgency since the pandemic began, as Canadians became more dependent on internet service for applications ranging from e-learning to daily business operations.

Ottawa says the additional money will keep it on track to have high-speed broadband in 98 per cent of the country by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030.

Money spent on high-speed communications will be good for a recovering economy, said Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, a non-partisan think-tank.

The latest data from Statistics Canada says there were about five million people working from home during the pandemic, up from about two million prior to that, Antunes said in an interview.

“That’s a quarter or so of the workforce,” he added. “And I think a fair number of those people are going to continue to work from home, at least in some part-time way.”

Improved connections to high-speed broadband and mobile communications will add to the productive capacity of the economy overall, especially as it reaches beyond Canada’s cities, Antunes said.

He said there’s been a “real issue” with economic growth outside major urban centres and the improved connectivity “is something that can help stimulate that.”

The Universal Broadband Fund was initially mentioned in the 2019 budget, though specifics were not available until last November’s fiscal update.

The $1-billion top-up to the broadband fund announced today is in addition to $1.75 billion promised to the fund by the federal government’s November fiscal update.

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COVID-19: What you need to know for April 19

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Provincewide

  • Per today’s government report, there are 4,447 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 421,442 since the pandemic began; 2,202 people are in hospital, 755 of them in intensive care, and 516 on ventilators. To date, 7,735 people have died.
  • According to data from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, there are 40 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 36 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 127 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 3,755 confirmed resident deaths and 11 confirmed staff deaths.
  • Per the government’s report on Ontario’s vaccination program, as of 7 p.m. yesterday, Ontario has administered 66,897 new doses of COVID-19 vaccines, for a total of 3,904,778 since December 2020. 3,212,768 people have received only one dose, and 346,005 people have received both doses.

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Federal budget 2021 highlights: Child care, recovery benefits, OAS increases – everything you need to know

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The federal government’s first budget in more than two years certainly looks the part: At 739 pages, it is a hefty document chock full of billions in new spending.

Those funds will be spread among a number of key groups – students, seniors, parents and small-business owners, to name a few – as Ottawa looks to bolster Canada’s recovery from COVID-19 but also plan for life beyond the pandemic.

To that end, the deficit is projected to hit $354.2-billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which just ended – better than expected about five months ago, given the economy’s resilience over the winter months. It is estimated to fall to $154.7-billion this fiscal year, before dropping further in the years to come as pandemic spending recedes from view.

Here are some of the highlights from Monday’s budget.

The budget outlines tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies for a national child-care program, a promise the Liberal Party has made in some form since the early 1990s. Child-care supports became a point of national debate during pandemic lockdowns as parents with young children struggled to juggle work and family responsibilities.

In total, the government proposes spending as much as $30-billion over the next five years, and $8.3-billion each year after that, to bring child-care fees down to a $10-a-day average by 2026. The proposal, which requires negotiation with the provinces and territories, would split subsidies evenly with those governments and targets a 50-per-cent reduction in average child-care fees by the end of 2022.

The federal program is largely modelled on Quebec’s subsidized child-care system, implemented in the 1990s in an effort to increase women’s access to the labour market. Since then, labour participation rates for women aged 25 to 54 in the province have grown to exceed the national average by four percentage points.

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