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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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Ottawa sets monthly record for total COVID-19 cases with 99 new cases on Friday

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Sixteen days into October, Ottawa has already set the record for most cases of COVID-19 in a single month.

Ottawa Public Health reported 99 new cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa today, and three more deaths linked to novel coronavirus.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health had reported 108 new cases of COVID-19, but there is sometimes a lag in COVID-19 case reporting between Ontario and Ottawa Public Health. On Wednesday, Ontario reported 39 new cases in Ottawa, while Ottawa Public Health reported 45 new cases.

There have been 1,511 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa in October, surpassing the September record of 1,413 new cases.

Since the first case of COVID-19 on March 11, there have been 5,908 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, including 301 deaths.

Across Ontario, there are 712 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Health Minister Christine Elliott reported 213 new cases in Toronto, 135 in Peel Region and 62 in York Region.

HOSPITALIZATIONS IN OTTAWA

One more person was admitted to an Ottawa hospital with COVID-19 related illnesses on Friday.

Ottawa Public Health reports 47 people are currently in hospital with COVID-19, including eight in the intensive care unit.

ACTIVE CASES OF COVID-19 IN OTTAWA

The number of active cases of COVID-19 increased on Friday.

There are 792 active cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, up from 777 active cases on Thursday.

A total of 4,806 people have recovered after testing positive for COVID-19.

The number of active cases is the number of total laboratory-confirmed cases minus the numbers of resolved cases and deaths. A case is considered resolved 14 days after known symptom onset or positive test result.

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Ottawa mayor rejects possible return of Ottawa-Gatineau border checkpoints, ‘I really don’t think they work’

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Mayor Jim Watson does not want to see police checkpoints return to the five interprovincial crossings between Ottawa and Gatineau, saying “I really don’t think they work.”

Earlier this week, Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin told the Ottawa Citizen that police checkpoints could return to the Ottawa-Gatineau border at “any time,” with the final decision in the hands of the Quebec Government. Earlier this month, Dr. Brigitte Pinard of the Centre Integre de sante et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais said border checkpoints were “possible,” adding “right now, our message is to limit large gatherings.”

When asked by CTV Morning Live host Leslie Roberts about the possibility of police checkpoints returning to the Ontario-Quebec border, Watson said he did not think they worked back in the spring.

“There were so many gaps when the police were not there, and people just figured out I’ll go at an earlier time or a later time. We saw police officers sticking their heads in the car with no masks, so that was not healthy for those individuals,” said Watson Friday morning.

“It’s a costly expense when our police are stretched already to the limit trying to do the work, to have them set up at five different bridge points potentially 24 hours a day would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars every month and I think the money is better spent.”

On April 1, Gatineau Police and the Surete du Quebec set up checkpoints along the Ottawa-Gatineau border to limit non-essential trips into Gatineau. Gatineau Police estimated the random police checkpoints between April 1 and May 17 cost the service more than $400,000.

Mayor Watson tells CTV Morning Live that the Quebec Government’s decision to move Gatineau into the “red zone” two days after Ontario moved Ottawa to a modified Stage 2 should help.

“We are a close relationship and when things happen in Gatineau there’s often a trickle effect over here and I think the fact that we’re both in the red zone, and Quebec of course is the worst hit province, at least levels the playing field for our restaurants and bars,” said Watson.

“I think in the past what had happened was our restaurants and bars would close and then the ones in Gatineau would stay open, and then people from Ottawa would go over there irresponsibly, in my opinion, and then come back potentially with the virus and spread it here.”

While border checkpoints would limit the non-essential travel across the Ottawa-Gatineau border, Watson says that’s not the way to beat COVID-19.

“The message is very clear, stick to your household. This is not the time to have an AirBNB party or a keg party in your backyard, or have 20 people or 30 people in for an engagement party. I know a lot of these get-togethers are important socially for people and emotionally, but we have to ask people to be reasonable and responsible, and this is not the year to do those kinds of things.”

Roberts asked the mayor if he would have a conversation about border checkpoints with Gatineau’s mayor.

“I had it the first go-around, but at the end of the day I also respect their jurisdiction and their autonomy. It is the province that would have to impose that, not the municipality,” said Watson.

“From our perspective, we don’t think it’s an effective use of resources. We want to continue to get the message across that we can win this battle against COVID-19 if we socially distance, we wear a mask, we actually follow the simple rules that are put forward.”

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Ottawa woman breaks 14-day quarantine rule to work at long-term care home: police

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OTTAWA — A 53-year-old Ottawa woman is facing charges under the federal Quarantine Act after Ottawa police say she failed to self-isolate for 14 days after travelling abroad and returned to work at a long-term care home.

Ottawa Police say information was received indicating that an Ottawa woman had travelled abroad. She returned to Canada on Sept. 26, so she was required under federal law to quarantine for 14 days, until Oct. 9

“The woman decided not to respect this order and went to work on Sept. 30 at a long-term health facility in Ottawa,” police said in a news release. “When management was apprised of the situation, she was immediately sent home. The facility immediately activated mitigating self-isolation and cleaning protocols and informed all persons that had been in contact with the subject.”

Police say none of the residents of the long-term care facility have tested positive for COVID-19 as a result of the woman attending work.

Ottawa police say this is the first person they have charged under the Quarantine Act during the pandemic.

The woman is charged with failing to comply with entry condition under section 58 of the Quarantine Act and cause risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm under section 67 of the Quarantine Act.

The maximum penalty for causing risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm is a $1 million fine and three years in prison. For failing to self-isolate for 14 days, she faces a $750,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

Police did not release the name of the woman, nor where she worked. The woman is due in court on Nov. 24.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s office issued a statement following the announcement of the charges.

“Mayor Watson was disturbed to learn about the alleged carelessness of the individual in question. This type of reckless behaviour could have harmed their colleagues, and more importantly, the residents of the long term care home. We must all do our part to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”

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