BC Premier derails bid to forge national energy strategy

HALIFAX — British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said Friday that she couldn’t sign onto a national energy strategy before resolving a dispute over the Northern Gateway pipeline.Clark stepped out of meetings at the Council of the Federation in Halifax to make the announcement as premiers tried to cobble together a pan-Canadian strategy on energy.She said she wouldn’t endorse a deal before discussions take place with Ottawa and Alberta over how B.C. would be compensated for allowing the $6-billion pipeline to transit through the province.“British Columbia will not be participating in any of those discussions until after we’ve seen some progress that our requirements for the shipment of heavy oil will be met,” she told a hastily called news conference.“It’s not a national energy strategy if B.C. hasn’t signed on.”Clark said she and Alberta Premier Alison Redford had a “very frank discussion” about it Friday morning, but didn’t reveal details or if they planned on holding further talks on the matter.At the closing news conference of the premiers meeting, Redford said the lack of unanimity on a national energy plan wasn’t something that concerned her.“I don’t think we should lament the fact that we’re not all the way there yet,” Redford said.“I think we should actually celebrate a tremendous amount of success in that we had almost every premier in the country talking about the fact that we need to come together and talk about how to grow Canada’s energy economy.”Clark has said she decided to ask for an unspecified share of benefits from the Northern Gateway after doing analysis on the development, which will move bitumen from Alberta to the B.C. coast for shipment to Asia.Her government has released five conditions she says need to be met before she can move forward with plans for the pipeline. In addition to the demand for a greater portion of the economic benefits, they include the completion of an environmental review now underway, assurances that the “best” responses will be available for potential spills on land and at sea and recognition of aboriginal rights on the land.Clark repeated her position that the province bears too much risk from oil spills at sea or on land, while receiving only eight per cent in tax benefits.She added another wrinkle to the feud when she called on Ottawa on Wednesday to sit down with her and Redford to hash out the issue. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird weighed in on the dispute, questioning Clark’s stance and reiterating the federal government’s support for the project.Redford has flatly dismissed Clark’s position as one that would “fundamentally change Confederation” because it would mean new negotiations for projects throughout the country.According to research in an application filed by Enbridge, 8.2% of the Northern Gateway’s projected $81 billion tax revenue would flow to B.C. over a 30-year period. That equates to $6.7 billion for B.C., while Ottawa is expected to receive $36 billion and Alberta would earn $32 billion.Saskatchewan is expected to top the remainder of the provinces in terms of tax benefit, receiving about $4 billion.Enbridge’s proposed 1,177-kilometre twin line would carry heavy oil from Alberta across a vast swath of pristine B.C. wilderness and First Nations territory to a port at Kitimat, B.C., for shipment to Asia.Last week, the company announced it will shore up another $500 million in safety improvements.Next year’s Council of the Federation meeting will be held in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. read more

Largest joint UN humanitarian convoy of the war reaches remote Syrian settlement

The vulnerable inhabitants, the vast majority of whom are women and children, are living in desperate conditions that have worsened due to the harsh winter: at least eight young children have reportedly died in Rukban in recent weeks.The convoy of 133 trucks –a joint operation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent – is delivering food, health and nutritional supplies, as well as hygiene materials, education items and children’s recreational kits. In addition, vaccines for 10,000 children under the age of five have been sent with the convoy.This large-scale delivery of essential humanitarian supplies to the extremely vulnerable in Rukban could not have happened a moment too soon – UN Syria Coordinator, Sajjad Malik “This large-scale delivery of essential humanitarian supplies to the extremely vulnerable in Rukban could not have happened a moment too soon”, said UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Mr. Sajjad Malik in a statement released by the UN on Wednesday. “While this delivery of assistance will provide much-needed support, it is only a temporary measure. A long-term, safe, voluntary and dignified solution for tens of thousands of people, many of whom have been staying at the Rukban settlement for more than two years in desperate conditions, is urgently needed.”The humanitarian supplies provided during this convoy were chosen based on the findings of a needs assessment carried out during the previous convoy to reach the outpost, in November 2018. Monitoring will also take place during the current convoy by the UN and Red Crescent teams to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches civilians in need.In order to bring about a situation where the displaced people at the settlement can return home, or to a place of their choosing, the UN and Red Crescent will carry out a survey to consult with them on their wishes and priorities. In the Wednesday statement, the UN underlined the fact that it urges all parties to allow safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access to all people in need in Syria line with their obligations under International Humanitarian Law.In the last three years, tens of thousands have fled to Rukban from ISIL or Da’esh extremist- held parts of Syria being targeted by Russian and U.S.-led coalition air strikes, according to news reports.The camp lies inside a “deconfliction zone” set up by US-backed coalition, Russian and Syrian Government forces, which has reportedly encouraged many of Rukban’s inhabitants to stay rather than go back to their homes in areas under Government control where they fear retribution by the Syrian army. read more