There is severe winter weather coming to Alberta. Alongside the snow showers expected this weekend, Albertans are also going to have to suffer through 100 km/h winds, according to CTV news.
To prepare for this Snowpocalypse, the RCMP are advising motorists to avoid driving this weekend due to poor road conditions, which have already created accidents on Highway 43.
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.
A state of emergency was declared for St. John’s today due to a giant storm system that is moving through eastern Newfoundland.
Northeast Avalon can expect as much as 75 cm of snow throughout the day today.
The blizzard passing through the area is forcing the city of St. John’s to brace themselves for strong winds and heavy snowfall.
Danny Breen, the Mayor of St. John’s declared that the city is in a state of emergency around 11 a.m. NT. During the state of emergency, all businesses have been ordered to close and all vehicles outside of emergency crew vehicles have been told to stay off the roads.
Breen told CBC News, “Anybody that’s out right now, you need to return to your home and you need to stay there until we lift the state of emergency.”
Over 75 centimetres of snow has been forecast for the Avalon Peninsula by tonight and winds up to 150 km/h are expected in coastal areas.
Even snowplows have been pulled from highways by Newfoundland and Labrador’s government.
The conditions in the area started to get much worse during the morning as visibility worsened.
Breen noted, “When you get the high winds like that, and the snow, there’s just so many issues at play that you really do need to just shut it down, get everything cleaned up.”
Breen also mentioned that this is the harshest storm he can recall in decades. He said he does not know when he will be able to lift the order.
Snow was falling at approximately 10 centimetres and hour in St. John’s this morning and could continue at 5 centimetres an hour through the rest of the day.
Environment Canada Meteorologist, Mike Vandenberg said, “This is gonna be a bad storm,” he added, “Visibility is expected to stay pretty bad with a lot of snow blowing around for the next 36 hours or so.”
Many schools have been closed by the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District. Metrobus also called off its transportation services and the St. John’s International Airport has cancelled most flights.
Vanderberg noted that recovering from the storm could take days as the storm will likely continue through to Saturday afternoon.
There is also a possibility of rising water levels and flooding near the region’s coast.
“One of our biggest concerns is that motorists may slow down due to poor visibility, get stuck in the snow, that sort of thing, and then a second motorist comes along and makes contact with the first — collides with the first,” said RCMP Const. Dave Bourden.
St. John’s residents are asked to stay indoors until further notice.
Meteorologists say Toronto and Southern Ontario will soon see the coldest weather it’s seen so far this year. Temperatures will drop and there will be a good deal of snow to top it off.
An extreme cold weather alert was issued by Toronto’s Medical Officer, Dr. Eileen de Villa.
Environment Canada issues these alerts when the temperature is forecast to be -15 C or lower. They are also issued if wind chill is predicted to make the air feel colder than -20 C.
The temperatures will be felt throughout the GTA.
Environment Canada says that on Thursday night there will be a low of -12 C in Toronto and the wind chill will make it feel like -19 C, accompanied by flurries.
The cold temperatures will carry on into Friday. The Weather Network said it will be “the coldest air we’ve seen so far in 2020.”
It is estimated that Toronto will see the most snow it’s seen all season with 20 cm expected through Saturday and Sunday.
De Villa’s alert from Thursday morning says, “Exposure to cold weather can be harmful to your health.”
“Those most at risk of cold-related illness are people experiencing homelessness or those under-housed, those who work outdoors, people with a pre-existing heart condition or respiratory illness, elderly people, infants and young children.”
Toronto Public Health is asking people to stay dry, wear layers and try to stay indoors if possible.
It is also advised that people keep tabs on friends, neighbours and family who may be more vulnerable to the dropping temperatures.