The province of Alberta has been entirely rat-free for almost 70 years. Although rats, quite obviously, meander into the province, they never stay long enough to breed, according to the National Post.
Rats are not native to North America, migrating on wooden ships to the New World from Europe, along with their fellow European puritanicals and imperialists. Unlike humans, however, it took the species a significant amount of time to move inland—not reaching Alberta until the 1950s.
A liquor store in Edmonton is testing out a new security program to combat a string of thefts over the past 18 months. Under the proposed new security system, customers will have to scan their ID before they can enter the premises according to a recent article in CBC.
Alcanna, Canada’s biggest private retailer of alcohol is launching a pilot project in partnership with Edmonton police. The project will be tested at Ace Liquor, located at 11708 34th St. in northeast Edmonton. Alcanna stated the intent of the project is to deal with “the epidemic of liquor store robberies that has plagued the city,” a problem that has escalated rapidly in the past year and a half.
“In 2019, EPS officers responded to almost 9,600 calls of theft of liquor — about 26 calls per day across the city,” Const. Robin Wilson said in the release. An increase of 200 percent since 2018.
“It’s not just people taking advantage of something that is easy, it’s somebody preying on people as well,” he said.
Dale McFee, Chief of Edmonton police told CBC News that investigators often find that some of the thefts are gang-related and that it presents a huge problem for the city.
“Ultimately, the way we are right now and the amount of officer time and different things that are going on in this space, it’s not working. So it’s time to try a few things.”
The new scan system requires patrons to scan their identification before the door will unlock and allow entry into the store. This practice has already been used by bars and nightclubs in Edmonton for years.
The Alcanna pilot project has been positively received by many including Const. Wilson who commended the company for “taking proactive steps to increase the safety of both their employees and the general public,”
Joe Cook is the vice-president of Alcanna which in addition to Ace Liquor, also owns the Liquor Depot, Wine and Beyond and Nova Cannabis brands. “Just as was done with pre-pay and pay at the pump for gas stations, we are hoping Patronscan creates a safer shopping experience,” said Cook in a news release. “This is not shoplifting,” he said. “It is robbery with real or threatened violence.”
Edmontonians won’t have to worry about their privacy rights as the customer ID information will not be kept in the devices but stored in Patronscan’s data centre with restricted access, according to a press release from Alcanna.
Albertan oil and gas companies owe the province’s rural municipalities unpaid property tax, and the amount has doubled since the beginning of last year. Some people are referring to this trend as a tax revolt according to CTV News.
“If Alberta’s property tax system is not amended to prevent oil and gas companies from refusing to pay property taxes, many rural municipalities will struggle to remain viable,” association president Al Kemmere said in a release.
The municipalities want the province to change the rules in order to force companies accountable for the taxes they owe Kemmere explained. As it currently stands property taxes are controlled by the province and not the local communities.
“A lot of the oil and gas is doing their fair part as citizens, but we need legislation to force others to pay much like everybody else has to pay,” said Kemmere.
Rural Municipalities Alberta conducted a survey of the owed taxes and found that the number has increased 114 percent from a similar survey they conducted in the spring of 2019. According to the survey, oil and gas companies owe a total of $173 million.
Reeve Paul McLauchlin estimates that his municipality of Ponoka County, south of Edmonton, is owed about $2.6 million out of a total of $27 million. The oilpatch consultant said, “It creates operational constraints, our ability to provide community services. We have nonprofits asking for assistance. We say ‘no’ more and more.”
Many people in the industry believe that it’s the way that taxes are assessed that is driving companies out of business. The provincial government is in charge of assessing properties however they evaluate them based on replacement cost and not market value.
“We defend the need for the province to take a look at how assessment works and have it reflective of the market,” said Ben Brunnen, vice-president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
“A lot of these unpaid taxes are coming in jurisdictions where you’ve got assets that are older and not as productive or economic. The choice for these types of assets is to shut (them) in or find a way to reduce costs.” he said.
Brunnen suggested that some municipalities are going to have to accept less revenue from oil and gas companies as a result of such shut-in walls which are often abandoned or never reclaimed after bankruptcy.
Last year it was ruled that municipalities are unsecured creditors by the Alberta Court of Appeal. This ruling effectively puts them at the back of the line when it comes to tax collection following a bankruptcy.
The Alberta Liabilities Disclosure Project works to comprehend the impact of old energy infrastructure on the province. Regan Boychuck, a researcher working for the project claimed, “Oilpatch property tax are now voluntary.”
About 40 per cent of unpaid taxes are from distressed companies that are feeling the effects of an industry hit by lower resource prices according to McLauchlin. The rest belongs to companies that continue to operate without paying.
“My personal opinion is that this is a tax revolt,” McLauchlin said. “They are using this as a lever to decrease their assessment and change those costs.”
One could argue that in a sense the process has already begun. Alberta’s United Conservative government brought in legislation that allowed municipalities to cut taxes on specific well by up to about one-third last year.
Initially, the cuts would be reimbursed by the province but the municipalities said that the program has been abandoned and they are left to deal with the loss.
Boychuck said despite the decline of oil and gas reserves the mill rates on wells and other facilities have remained unchanged for years.
“What industry is really saying is that they’ve depleted their wells so far they can’t cover operating costs. The wells are done and whatever wealth remains needs to be directed to clean up rather than looted any further before bankruptcy.”
The Orphan Well Association is an industry-funded group that was created to clean up abandoned wells. They currently have 3,400 abandoned wells under their care and that number is up by 300 since the beginning of last year.
Former Saskatchewan MP and Liberal cabinet minister Ralph Goodale said the nascent Wexit separation movement threatens Conservative parties in the province and “would be devastating” economically.
“Because where will those votes come from in the first place, those votes that would support the Wexit movement if it became a party? Those votes would come primarily from the Conservatives and the Sask Party,” Goodale told CBC Saskatchewan.
“So it is in the interests of the Conservatives and the Sask Party to ensure that the Wexit movement does not become a political party that would take votes from them.”
Goodale had served as Regina-Wascana’s MP since 1993 but lost his seat to Conservative Michael Kram in last year’s 43rd general election, leaving the province without a single seat in the House of Commons.
The former Finance minister (PM Paul Martin) and Public Safety Minister in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s previous majority government also said separation would have immediate economic consequences for Saskatchewan.
“When you actually go to the dollars and cents and the nuts and bolts of it all, it would be devastating,” he said.
“We would lose right off the top, for example, $1.7 billion in transfer payments that come into Saskatchewan because of the government of Canada. We would lose things like the RCMP Training Depot at Regina. That would be gone. That’s $40 million every year into the economy.”
Goodale went on to suggest that the Wexit debate itself was “counterproductive.”
“It leads people to have great and furious arguments. It leads to divisions being created and it takes people down a counterproductive rabbit hole,” he said.
An Alberta company that makes diesel from garbage is planning to take the company a step further by adding three new plants—all in southern Alberta.
Cielo Waste Solutions and Renewable Energy currently operates near Lethbridge, AB and plans to make the expansion later this year. So far they’ve started a trial plant in Aldersyde, AB.
The company produces biodiesel fuel by mixing waste and motor oil that has already been recycled. The end product is meant to be a high-grade fuel at a low cost.
CTV reported that the fuel has been used in both vehicles and jets.
Since the recent success of the company, they want to bring the new plants to Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, and Brooks.
Director at the company, Lionel Robins said, “Any kind of wood waste, plastics – all seven types, not just a few plastics—all the clamshell plastics that just been buried in the past, rubber, municipal sod waste. Basically everything but rock, metal and glass.”
By next summer, the company is planning to have all of their new plants in full operation.
They have started construction on an additional plant in Grande Prairie, Alberta.