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Why Rachel Notley’s crude-by-rail plan is risky and possibly unnecessary

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The Alberta government has once again intervened in the energy sector, signing contracts to spend $3.7 billion to ship more oil out of the province by rail, but industry experts say the plan is risky.

The province announced Tuesday it has signed contracts with CN Rail and CP Rail to lease 4,400 rail cars to move oil across North America and to international markets.

Consider it an expensive insurance policy against a repeat of last year’s oil price woes. 

In 2018, demand for crude-by-rail surged and the private sector didn’t have the capacity to boost shipments fast enough. As a result, there was a backlog of oil in the province and prices plunged, costing the industry and the government a hefty amount of potential revenue.

Premier Rachel Notley wants to prevent that from happening again. 

Hundreds of oil tank cars wait to be loaded at a terminal near the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan. (Dave Rae/CBC)

What’s different now is that by the time the majority of the government’s rail cars arrive in 2020, Alberta should have more pipeline capacity to export oil, and the private sector will likely also continue to ramp up its ability to move oil by rail.

That’s why industry experts say the government’s commitment to spend billions of dollars on crude by rail is a gamble. In fact, it may prove to be an unnecessary investment and put a significant amount of taxpayer money at risk. 

“There’s no reason why private sector companies couldn’t have done this on their own — and, in fact, they have been doing it on their own,” said Robert Cooper, with the institutional sales and trading team at Calgary-based investment firm Acumen Capital Partners.

Publicly traded Cenovus and Imperial Oil have also invested heavily in expanding crude-by-rail export capacity out of Alberta.

So it’s the rail companies that stand to benefit most, Cooper says. “What the government has basically done is bolster CN and CP’s oil-by-rail profits for the next three years.”

Full capacity by mid-2020

Under the government’s plan, the first shipments are expected to start in July and get up to full capacity by mid-2020. Provincial officials say the program will cost an estimated $3.7 billion over three years and generate a profit of $2.2 billion in increased royalties and tax revenue. But if the industry’s current investments pan out, there will be no need for the province’s plan, and it could fall short of the expected profit. 

Building new export pipelines has proven to be difficult for industry. However, the oilpatch has reason to believe there will be more pipeline space soon. 

By the time the bulk of the rail cars arrive in Alberta, Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline replacement project is scheduled to begin operating and add 370,000 barrels of export capacity.

Canada set several records in 2018 for shipping oil by train. (Dave Rae/CBC)

Enbridge is also looking at several other ways of building more export pipeline space in the next few years.

The company wants to create about 200,000 barrels per day by using drag-reducing agents in its pipeline. Upgrades to pumping stations could add another 125,000 barrels per day of capacity.

Enbridge may also convert its Southern Lights pipeline, which currently imports diluent, to export oil. That would produce 150,000 barrels per day of pipeline space.

Added together, Enbridge could increase pipeline export capacity in Western Canada by 845,000 barrels per day in the next few years. That amount dwarfs Alberta’s rail strategy of adding up to 120,000 barrels per day of export space by train.

“It looks a little bit like an act of desperation by a government trying to be seen to be doing something, and the timing is probably going to be off,” said Cooper.

‘Not without risk’

One benefit of the government’s plan to lease rail cars is that it provides another option to oil producers in the province who can’t afford to sign their own long-term contracts with railways to ship oil.

“This is to help ensure smaller producers are not left out of the system over the next few years,” said Kevin Birn, a Calgary-based analyst with energy research firm IHS Markit.

The crude-by-rail plan follows several other initiatives by Notley and her government to help the beleaguered oilpatch, such as subsidies for new petrochemical plants, partial upgrading facilities and new refineries, while also curtailing oil production, among other measures. 

The government’s rail car plan is clearly designed to make sure more of Alberta’s oil gets to market, but the thousands of tankers may not be needed.

“It’s not without risk,” said Birn. “We are putting taxpayer dollars on the line here.”

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Ottawa Book Expo 2020 – Authors, Publishers look forward to a top-notch Canadian book fair

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Diversity has always been a complex issue, no matter where you look.Case in point, world-famous writer, Stephen King, has recently come under criticism for his views on diversity. The best-selling author had stated, “I would never consider diversity in matters of art, only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.” Many criticized the novelist as being out of touch and “ignorant,” but one cannot deny that King’s opinions on diversity, mirror the thoughts of a whole lot of people in the creative industry.

The Toronto Book Expo is coming back in 2020, with a multi-cultural concept that aims to include marginalized authors.  The Expo intends to celebrate literary works of diverse cultural backgrounds, and the entire literary community in Canada is expectant. Book-lovers and writers alike, are invited to three days of uninhibited literary celebration where diverse cultural works will be prioritized. At the event, authors will be allowed to share their culture with a broad audience. The audience will be there specifically to purchase multi-cultural works.

Multicultural literary expos do not come every day. In Canada, there is a noticeable lack of literary events celebrating other cultures. This leads to a significantly lower amount of cultural diversity in the industry. The Toronto Book Expo would aim at giving more recognition to these marginalized voices. Understandably, more recognizable work will be prioritized.

The Toronto Book Expo is making a statement that diversity is needed in the literary community. The statement is truly motivating, especially if you consider the fact that this could mean more culturally diverse works of literature.

There is a lot of noticeable cultural ignorance in literature. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and books are one of the best means of improving multi-cultural diversity in literature. The Toronto Book Expo is going to fully utilize books to fight ignorance in the literary industry.

Real progress cannot be made if there is a substantial amount of ignorant people in the industry. In spite of advancements made in education in recent years, there is still a considerable percentage of adults who remain unable to read and write.The Toronto Book Expo aims to bring awareness to social literacy issues such as illiteracy.

It is important to uphold high literacy levels in the community and to support those who are uneducated. A thriving society cannot be achieved if the community is not able to read their civil liberties and write down their grievances.

The major foundation of a working and dynamic society is entrenched in literature. Literature offers us an understandingof the changes being made to our community.

The event would go on for three days at three different venues. Day 1 would hold at the York University Student & Convention Centre at 15 Library Lane on March 19. Day 2 would be held at the Bram and BlumaAppel Salon Facility on the second floor of the main Toronto Reference Library near Yonge and Bloor Streets in downtown Toronto on March 21 and day 3 of the expo would take place at the internationally famous Roy Thomson Hall.

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A Week In Ottawa, ON, On A $75,300 Salary

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Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.Attention, Canadians! We’re featuring Money Diaries from across Canada on a regular basis, and we want to hear from you. Submit your Money Diary here.Today: a biologist working in government who makes $75,300 per year and spends some of her money this week on a bathing suit. Occupation: Biologist
Industry: Government
Age: 27
Location: Ottawa, ON
Salary: $75,300
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,930
Gender Identity: Woman

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Ottawa doctor pens nursery rhyme to teach proper handwashing

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An Ottawa doctor has turned to song to teach kids — and adults, for that matter — how to wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs.

Dr. Nisha Thampi, an infectious disease physician at CHEO, the area’s children’s hospital, created a video set to the tune of Frère Jacques and featuring the six-step handwashing method recommended by the World Health Organization.

Thampi’s 25-second rendition, which was co-authored by her daughter and Dr. Yves Longtin, an infectious disease specialist at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, is featured in the December issue of The BMJ, or British Medical Journal. 

Thampi said as an infectious disease physician and a mother of two, she thinks a lot about germs at home and school.

“I was trying to find a fun way to remember the stuff,” she said. “There are six steps that have been codified by the World Health Organization, but they’re complex and hard to remember.” 

Thampi said she came up with the idea to rewrite the lyrics to the nursery rhyme on World Hand Hygiene Day in May, when she was thinking about how to help people remember the technique. 

She said studies have shown that handwashing is effective in reducing the risk of diarrhea-related illnesses and respiratory diseases. 

“So I’d say it’s one of the most important and easiest things we can do.”

The video includes such often-overlooked steps as “wash the back,” “twirl the tips around” and “thumb attack,” which pays special attention to the first digit.

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