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NEB to release new Trans Mountain report on possible marine impacts

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The latest chapter in the Trans Mountain pipeline saga will be written Friday as the National Energy Board releases the conditions for proceeding with the contentious project should the federal government choose to do so.

It comes nearly six months after a Federal Court of Appeal effectively halted construction of the $7.4-billion pipeline expansion, sending the NEB back to drawing board to assess the impact increased tanker traffic would have on marine life, including the endangered southern resident killer whales.

The taxpayer-owned pipeline project aims to ship more diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to tanker terminals in Burnaby, B.C., but it has been met with both political and environmental resistance.

The list of conditions and recommendations from the NEB would shape how the project is developed, but the decision on whether to proceed with it still rests with the federal government, which purchased the project last year for $4.5 billion.

Most experts anticipate the NEB will again recommend the federal government continue to pursue the project.

“The review will actually address the concerns that were addressed by the Federal Court of Appeal,” said Lori Williams, a political science professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary. “Albertans will take some encouragement from it.”

Examining project impacts

Among a list of draft conditions the regulator released in January is a plan for marine spill prevention, while also recommending potential limits on the number of whale watching boats in the area. 

Warren Mabee, director of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy at Queen’s University, said the NEB’s final conclusions will be important for many people concerned about West Coast marine life.

“It’s a major point of concern for lots of people on the West Coast; we’re talking about people of all different stripes — Indigenous people, people in Vancouver,” Mabee said.

“So looking at what those impacts might look like … is really important. That’s critical to moving that project forward.”

A pipeline marker for the Trans Mountain pipeline as it passes by a playground near the Coldwater River and Coldwater Reserve in B.C. (CBC)

The ruling at the Federal Court of Appeal last August determined the NEB’s project assessment was flawed and couldn’t be relied upon by the federal cabinet when it gave final approval to proceed in November 2016.

The NEB’s recommendations Friday stem from the court’s concerns with how the regulator initially dealt with potential environmental impacts from marine shipping, leading to a re-do of that work.

The board researched the topic extensively prior to its initial assessment and openly acknowledged increased marine traffic would have a “significant” impact on B.C.’s killer whale population.

But this was not considered when the NEB first approved the project. The NEB said this issue was outside of its scope and other government agencies already regulate marine traffic.

An aerial view of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain marine terminal filling a oil tanker in Burnaby, B.C. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The court found the NEB should have included those environmental impacts in its decision. That way, the federal government would have had a clearer picture of all the pipeline’s implications.

The government instructed the board in September to complete another assessment, which also included three weeks set aside to receive oral traditional evidence from members of Indigenous communities in Alberta and B.C. 

More consultations

Among the draft recommendations issued in January are potential noise reduction targets for regularly operating ferries.  Draft conditions included a requirement for Trans Mountain to file a marine mammal protection program with the NEB at least three months prior to commencing operations. 

In addition to the NEB review, Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi ordered a new round of consultations with Indigenous communities to address the court’s concerns that wasn’t done adequately the first time.  

There is no deadline for those consultations to wrap up.

However, the federal government says its consultation teams have met already with more than three-quarters of all Indigenous communities affected by the planned Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

A female resident orca whale breaches while swimming in Puget Sound near Washington State. (The Associated Press)

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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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