VANCOUVER – The BC Utilities Commission has released a preliminary report into the future of the controversial $8.8-billion Site C dam project in the province’s northeast.But the commission said in its report released late Wednesday night that it does not have enough information in several areas to recommend whether the project should proceed.BC Hydro has said it has already spent $1.8 billion on construction for the massive hydroelectric dam, but Premier John Horgan’s NDP government asked the commission to review the economic viability of the project after taking office.The panel did conclude in its preliminary report that as of June 30 when BC Hydro submitted its must recent quarter-end report, the project was on track for its planned completion in 2024, but did not have enough data to determine whether the project is currently on budget,It also said it also does not have sufficient information to predict possible budget overruns once the Site C project is complete, or the total costs for the project in the event it is suspended and restarted later.Hydro’s 866-page submission to the commission said completing the dam as planned would still be best for ratepayers and terminating the project would cost $7.3 billion on a present-value basis.The commission also warned Wednesday night that if a diversion of the Peace River is not achieved in September 2019, the project will not stay within its budget.The commission said it will now conduct an “extensive consultation process” on the preliminary findings and submit a final recommendation on Nov. 1.The BC Hydro submission said demand for electricity is growing and without the dam, the province will face an energy shortfall by 2031.A report submitted for the commission’s review by the auditing firm Deloitte LLP concluded that putting the project on hold until 2025 would cost about $1.4 billion, while cancelling it outright would cost $1.2 billion.The Deloitte report says that the dam’s construction faces major risks including contractor performance problems, unforeseen geotechnical conditions and cost issues related to major contracts that haven’t been awarded yet.
Matthew Richardson decided it was finally time to change his cooking habits.After moving in with his girlfriend this past summer, Richardson, 36, figured they should put a stop to their frequent eating out and make a real effort to prepare their own meals at home.But he didn’t know where to start. Elaborate recipes felt intimidating and he had no clue where to look for easy, healthy food that would appeal to both of their tastes.“She’s a vegetarian, I am not a vegetarian,” says Richardson, who lives in Saint John, N.B.“I was looking for ways to learn some recipes, and figure out how to prepare things I don’t know how to prepare.”So he turned to home-delivered meal kits, a phenomenon that has quickly grown into a $120-million industry in Canada, according to the market research company NPD Group.Meal-kit companies offer consumers a menu of ready-to-prepare dishes that are typically marketed as easy to make, healthy and delicious. Meal ingredients arrive pre-portioned with a recipe for consumers to follow.The meal-kit industry started in Sweden, according to Robert Carter of NPD Group, and has spread globally over the last five years. The industry has roughly doubled in Canada since 2014, Carter added.“It’s grown fairly aggressively in the U.S. marketplace, and kind of filtered here into Canada,” he said, adding that meal kits are “now one of the fastest-growing food segments in the Canadian marketplace.”On a friend’s recommendation, Richardson first signed up for Goodfood, a meal-kit company founded in Montreal in 2015. The largest family-sized meal-kit boxes start at $8.75 per person per meal and recent options have included whisky rubbed pork chop with scalloped potatoes, red lentil stew with sweet potatoes, and acorn squash tacos.One of Richardson’s favourite meals — quinoa-stuffed peppers — arrived boxed with portions of poblano peppers, corn, spinach, cilantro, quinoa, cheese, tomatoes, an onion, panko crumbs and a spice blend. It took Richardson and his girlfriend about 45 minutes to make.For Jayne Zhou, an HR co-ordinator in Vancouver who’s been on maternity leave since early in the year, meal kits have made life a little simpler.She says it initially took some trial and error to figure out how much food to order for her family of four. She started getting weekly meals delivered but found some food would get wasted if her family met up with friends or went out to dinner.They now order meals for two people every other week. Zhou says she loves that as a self-described “newbie cook” she’s built confidence in the kitchen.“We had ginger pork meatballs and I was like: ‘That wasn’t too hard, maybe I’ll be able to make this recipe again,’” she says.Richardson also believes his kitchen chops have improved. In the fall, a few months into his flirtation with meal kits, he visited his family’s farm in Nova Scotia and decided to pick some chanterelle mushrooms to make a risotto.“A year ago, I wouldn’t even consider making a risotto,” he says. “It would seem like this huge, intimidating task that I would never tackle. It definitely gave me more confidence, to go out and try dishes that I normally would be like, ‘That’s something that somebody who’s a professional would make.’”Both Zhou and Richardson say meal kits have been a cheaper alternative than ordering in or going to a restaurant but they’ve definitely been more expensive than doing their own grocery shopping.Graham McDonnell, a stylist from Dartmouth, N.S., was lured by the convenience of having meal kits delivered to his door but has gone back to doing his own grocery shopping.He and his partner used to shop for groceries often but would end up throwing away a lot of food since they didn’t plan properly. Now they’ve refocused their energy on meal planning.“If you take the time to plan your meals and not over-shop … you can kind of organize (a meal-kit type experience) yourself, basically,” McDonnell says.While meal-kit companies often market their food using buzzwords like “farm-fresh,” “sustainable,” and “antibiotic- and hormone-free,” one nutritionist says it’s too early to assess the health benefits of buying into a meal plan given few real studies have been done on the subject. But University of Guelph Prof. Jess Haines does see the appeal of the service, particularly for people who work long hours or don’t have a lot of time to think about shopping for food. And some of the meal kits she’s seen “appear to have very healthful options,” Haines says.After about three months of using Goodfood, Richardson and his girlfriend decided to try some of the competition. Richardson heard others swear by Toronto-based Chefs Plate but personally found the ingredients to be a little less fresh than what he was used to. He liked German company HelloFresh but found the vegetarian options lacking.The couple continues to try meal kits from new companies looking to cash in on the trend, especially since social media ads targeted to them are often offering a few free meals.“Apparently I’m looking at these things enough that the advertisers know that that’s what I’m into,” he says.
AL-MASNAA, Lebanon — Lebanese exporters rejoiced last month when the Syrian government opened a key land crossing with Jordan that had been closed by years of war, restoring a much-needed overland trade route to lucrative Persian Gulf markets.But lingering disputes between Lebanon and Syria, and political gridlock in Beirut, mean that many Lebanese businesses still rely on longer and costlier transport by sea, further stalling efforts to restore an economy battered by years of war in its larger neighbour.The reopening of the Naseeb-Jaber crossing allowed Mohammed Araji, owner of a trucking firm in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, to retrieve two trucks that had been stranded in Jordan since 2015, when Syrian rebels captured the crossing. Two other of his refrigerator trucks had been parked in front of his house for the last three years.Even before the crossing officially closed, his brother was briefly abducted by rebels while driving a truck through Syria, underscoring the perils they faced in trying to keep the route open.The crossing was Lebanon’s “lung,” Araji said, and its closure was a “death blow” to the economy, affecting farmers, merchants, industrialists and drivers. So he was pleased when Syrian government forces reopened the crossing and secured the route.But for weeks he was unable to find exporters ready to give him shipping contracts. Finally, on Saturday, he sent his first truckloads to Saudi Arabia after offering an exporter an attractive price.“People are still waiting to see what will happen,” he said.The land route through Syria, Jordan and Iraq is vital to Lebanon, which is squeezed between Syria, the closed border with Israel, and the sea. Lebanon’s exports plunged from a high of 78 per cent of GDP in 2008 — three years before the start of Syria’s civil war — to a low of 36 per cent in 2017.Before Naseeb’s closing, more than 250 trucks a day headed from Lebanon to markets in Syria, Jordan, Iraq and the Gulf. After the closure, that dropped to some 300 trucks in a good month, bound only for Syria, customs officials said.An estimated 550,000 tons of vegetables and fruits a year used to be exported through the Syria-Jordan crossing, according to Ibrahim Tarshishi, head of the Bekaa farmer’s union. Since the shutdown, that flow has dropped by nearly 40 per cent, to no more than 330,000 tons. Exports from Bekaa to Saudi Arabia have dropped by 60 per cent, according to figures from the Bekaa chamber of commerce.After the crossing reopened, Syria and Jordan imposed new transit tariffs on trucks heading to the Gulf. The Syrian increase alone was five-fold, Tarshishi said. Lebanon meanwhile subsidizes transport by sea.Traders hope improved ties between Syria and Lebanon will lead to reduced tariffs, but Lebanon’s political leaders are fiercely divided between supporters and opponents of President Bashar Assad, and they have been unable to form a government since elections in May.Contacts among Lebanese and Syrian officials remain personal and partisan — and some complain Syria is using the tariffs to force normalization. Experts say opaque policies and decision-making have also hindered trade.Charles Zarzour, the head of the government agency for agricultural exports and imports, said the opening of the crossing has at least offered “psychological relief” to traders.“God willing, when we have a government in Lebanon, it lays down a wise policy that serves the country’s interest,” including tariff reductions, he told The Associated Press.Syrian officials had no immediate comment.Tarshishi has pressed for an end to the sea shipping subsidies and other government action to revive land exports, but in the caretaker government “no one wants to take responsibility,” he said.On a recent afternoon at al-Masnaa, the Lebanese side of the crossing into Syria, nearly a dozen trucks loaded with bananas were bound for Damascus. Just one truck, carrying cleaning supplies, was heading to Jordan. None were bound for the Gulf.Talal Darwish, a produce exporter, is still sending his grapes, apples and pears by sea, and on a recent day, workers raced to prepare a shipment bound for Kuwait. By land would be cheaper and faster — a five-day trip as opposed to 25.He has heard talk of efforts to reduce tariffs, but says “we still don’t know officially, so there is no rush.”___Associated Press writer Hiba Delwati in Beirut contributed to this report.Sarah El Deeb, The Associated Press
“The simple measure will be we want to see shovels in ground and pipelines being built.”Suncor reported that the discount paid for oilsands blend Western Canadian Select compared with New York-traded West Texas Intermediate crude widened to an average of US$24 per barrel in the first quarter, double the US$12 per barrel average in the fourth quarter of 2017.The higher difference is blamed on difficulty in getting heavy crude out of Western Canada because of a lack of pipeline space.Williams said he’s “greatly encouraged” by what Alberta and federal governments are saying recently and believes even the Trans Mountain expansion project will be built, despite proponent Kinder Morgan threatening to abandon it if it isn’t reassured about its construction by the end of May.He said he also believes Enbridge Inc.’s Line 3 pipeline replacement project into the U.S. Midwest will proceed, despite an ongoing disagreement in Minnesota over its routing.Suncor reported lower production in the quarter ended March 31 because of cold weather-related outages at its Base Camp north of Fort McMurray, Alta., and the nearby Syncrude Canada oilsands mine. It said operations returned to normal at Base Camp in February after a water line leak caused a power outage in the upgrader. At Syncrude, a blockage in a bitumen transport line led to the company starting a planned eight-week maintenance shutdown a month early.Total upstream production came in at 689,400 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the first quarter, compared to 725,100 boe/d in the prior year quarter, as oilsands output fell to 404,800 barrels per day from 448,500 bpd.The operations “fell short” of Suncor standards, Williams said on the call, adding, “We need to do better and, be assured, we will.”Suncor reported net earnings fell to $789 million, compared to $1.35 billion in the same period of 2017. CALGARY, A.B. – The CEO of oilsands giant Suncor Energy Inc. says he’s confident new oil pipelines will be built after hosting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at its newly opened Fort Hills oilsands mine in early April.The message he left with Trudeau was that pipeline access must be assured if the industry is to attract the capital it needs to grow, Steve Williams said on a conference call on Wednesday.“We don’t want these new projects to have to bear the burden of some of these (oil price) differentials,” he said, reiterating Suncor’s commitment to build no new major oilsands projects without new pipelines. Williams said the differential had no impact on Suncor’s earnings, however, because what was lost in the pricing of oilsands was recovered through the company’s marketing and refining operations, which benefited from low-cost feedstock as well as high capacity utilization and profit margins.First-quarter earnings included a $329-million non-cash loss on foreign currency denominated debt.There was also a non-cash gain of $133 million from a deal to buy a 37 percent interest in Canbriam Energy Inc. in exchange for northeastern B.C. mineral land holdings and $52 million.(THE CANADIAN PRESS)
BURNABY, B.C. – Protesters at an anti-pipeline camp in Burnaby, B.C., say they will meet with officials to discuss safety measures, but they will not comply with a city-issued evacuation order.The City of Burnaby says there are safety concerns surrounding “Camp Cloud,” including a two-storey wooden watch house and a fire that protesters describe as sacred and ceremonial.Protest organizer Kwitsel Tatel says the participants will not leave, nor will they extinguish their fire. Tatel suggests the structures around the camp’s sacred fire could be modified if only to refocus the attention away from the physical camp and back to the anti-pipeline protest.She adds that snuffing out the fire would constitute a breaking of both B.C. Supreme Court and Coast Salish law.The protesters say the city’s notice, which was issued on Wednesday and expired early Saturday, was written without adequate consideration of a recent court decision or consultation with camp residents.The B.C. Supreme Court ruled in March that both the camp and a nearby watch house could remain in place in response to a court injunction filed by Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd., the company behind the Trans Mountain expansion project.Tatel said the residents of the camp have had conversations with the City of Burnaby about the demands set out in the eviction notice, and they are willing to negotiate in good faith. But she said the city has not engaged in those discussions.“The executive assistant to (Burnaby Mayor) Derek Corrigan came many times with orders instead of questions and concerns. I’m respectfully announcing that is not good faith discussion or negotiation,” Tatel said Saturday. She added that they spoke with the City of Burnaby fire department overnight about the sacred fire, and that a load of timber would be dropped off by the department.Tatel said she will request federal intervention if need be, citing the protesters’ charter right to peaceful demonstration.“I’m asking for (federal Justice Minister) Jody Wilson-Raybould to step up and assist, to pull her goons and her dogs,” said TatelShe and several other camp residents said they saw between 30 and 60 “paramilitary” individuals in and around “Camp Cloud” and the woods around the Kinder Morgan tanker terminal late Friday night, and said additional audio and video surveillance near the entrance to the terminal had recently been installed. Demonstrators are angry over the expansion of the pipeline between Alberta and B.C. that would triple its capacity to carry bitumen destined for export.In May, the federal government announced it would buy the pipeline in an effort to see the expansion completed.(THE CANADIAN PRESS)
According to Brownsey, they have two goals that focus on the recovery of caribou and ensuring the success of the affected communities, while also maintaining a form of dialogue that will allow community members to have future input on the matter.Doyle says establishing a leadership table and a common knowledge base is important when it comes to Caribou Recovery.“That’s exactly what we were thinking through is a leadership table that would be able to oversee and provide input for the development of the Section 11 and the Partnership Agreements. I think that establishing a common knowledge base is really important to ensure that everything is known, from on the state of the caribou, on the economic analysis, and that is shared and everybody has an opportunity to question the experts that have done that work.”Lekstrom says he remains optimistic that they can develop a path forward, adding that it will take everybody at the table to form a resolution on the Caribou Recovery Program.“I remain optimistic that we can find a path forward but it will take, as it was laid out here, everybody at the table to find that resolution.”The full special meeting can be found on the Regional District’s website. DAWSON CREEK, B.C. – The Peace River Regional District Board held a special meeting on Friday, August 23, to hear about the next steps for Caribou Recovery in the Peace Region.Presenting to the Board on the next steps for Caribou Recovery were Community Liaisons Blair Lekstrom and Lorne Brownsey. Also in attendance was Cassie Doyle of Environment and Climate Change Canada.Brownsey says he was appointed by Premier John Horgan to facilitate an engagement process that aims to establish a pathway to conclude the Caribou Recovery agreements and in a manner that reflects the concerns of all community members.