Tag Archives: Brad Wall

One great heart, united


It’s a truism that bears repeating: We all came from somewhere else. Canadians remember this to their credit as they prepare to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees this year and early next.

Of these, New Brunswick is on tap to resettle about 1,500 in Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton. In fact, all regions of this country are old hands at this form of humanitarian aid.

According to one federal government web site, “Our compassion and fairness are a source of great pride for Canadians. These values are at the core of our domestic refugee protection system and our Resettlement Assistance Program. Both programs have long been praised by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).”

The system works this way: “Refugees selected for resettlement to Canada have often fled their homes because of unimaginable hardships and have, in many cases, been forced to live in refugee camps for many years. When they arrive in Canada, they basically pick up the pieces of their lives and start over again.

“As a member of the international community, Canada helps find solutions to prolonged and emerging refugee situations and helps emerging democracies try to solve many of the problems that create refugee populations. To do this, Canada works closely with the UNHCR.”

Crucially, “Under our legislation, all resettlement cases must be carefully screened to ensure that there are no issues related to security, criminality or health. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) works with its security partners such as the Canada Border Services Agency to complete this work as quickly as possible.”

Meanwhile, “Private sponsors across the country also help resettle refugees to Canada. Some are organized to do so on an ongoing basis and have signed sponsorship agreements with the Government of Canada to help support refugees from abroad when they resettle in Canada. These organizations are known as Sponsorship Agreement Holders. They can sponsor refugees themselves or work with others in the community to sponsor refugees. Other sponsors, known as Groups of Five and Community Sponsors, are persons/groups in the community who are not involved on an ongoing basis but have come together to sponsor refugee(s).”

All of which is to say that despite the appearance of cultural homogeneity along the East Coast, the Maritimes remains one of the most diverse and hospitable places in one of the most welcoming nations in the world for people in trouble. Well, most of the time.

“Even before the attacks in Paris last week, some Canadians were already chattering about security risks and the threat of insurgents sneaking through,” notes Robert J. Talbot, a postdoctoral fellow in history at the University of New Brunswick, in a recent piece for iPolitics. “Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, in particular, made political hay out of the crisis.”

But, Mr. Talbot adds, “the British refugees of two hundred years ago wanted the same thing that the Syrian refugees seek today: to settle down to quiet, peaceful and productive lives, for themselves and for their families. . .The year 1783 is far removed from the here and now, but the fact remains that many of us and our ancestors – my own Loyalist ancestors included – came here as refugees. French Huguenots fleeing religious fundamentalism, Iroquoian First Nations fleeing American expansionism, British Loyalists fleeing radical republicanism, Irish Catholics fleeing famine, German Mennonites (perhaps some of Brad Wall’s ancestors) fleeing Russian nationalism, Europeans fleeing fascism, Vietnamese fleeing communism, Kosovars fleeing ethnic cleansing, and now, Syrians fleeing suicidal nihilism.”

At the centre of this nation is a great heart that understands implicitly that these truisms do, indeed, bear repeating.

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Want more jobs? Drop the trade barriers



Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is proving that oil is not the only commodity in which the west is awash these days. Some pretty nifty ideas are also in long supply in Big Sky country where Maritimers go to, among pother things, retire their debts.  

Consider Mr. Wall’s concept of a “Canada Free Trade Zone”, in which goods, services, people, skills and professions move effortlessly across provincial borders, goosing the national economy by as much as $50 billion a year.

According to a report in the Globe and Mail this week, British Columbia and Alberta Premiers Christy Clark and Dave Hancock think it’s a grand idea and signed a letter to that effect, “urging their counterparts” in other provinces “to agree to modernizing the 20-year-old Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) when their meet in Charlottetown in August for the Council of the Federation.” 

As Mr. Wall tells the Globe, “AIT is pretty anemic as a trade agreement. . .We start from the premise that everything is open.”

Evidently, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island Premiers Stephen McNeil and Robert Ghiz are enthusiastic. And while there’s no official word on New Brunswick Premier David Alward’s sentiments, the chances are excellent that Mr. Energy East Pipeline will endorse anything that threatens to enrich Canada’s second-least populous province, where 750,000 souls shoulder an annual public deficit of $500 million and a long-term, structural debt of $12 billion.

In fact, dismantling inter-provincial trade barriers in this country has been an ongoing home improvement project for provincial premiers since at least 1995, when the AIT first came into effect to “reduce barriers to the movement of persons, goods, services and investments within Canada.”

Effectively, according to an Industry Canada blurb, the agreement establishes “general rules which prevent governments from erecting new trade barriers and which require the reduction of existing ones in areas covered under the Agreement; specific obligations in 10 economic sectors – such as government purchasing, labour mobility and investment – which cover a significant amount of economic activity in Canada; the streamlining and harmonization of regulations and standards (e.g. transportation, consumer protection); a formal dispute resolution mechanism that is accessible to individuals and businesses as well as governments; and commitments to further liberalize trade through continuing negotiations and specified work programs.”

The problem is, as Mr. Wall observes, it’s worn out and obsolete. Recent international trade agreements provide foreigners, in many cases, with readier access to Canadian markets than Canadians, themselves, enjoy.

In an interview with the Halifax Chronicle-Herald last year, Corinne Pohlmann, vice-president of national affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said a study her Halifax office conducted “indicated that nearly half of all small business owners want apprenticeship changes. . .It seems ironic that we are approaching a trade deal with the European Union while we have so much regulatory variation between our own provinces and territories. . .All these often conflicting restrictions on interprovincial trade and movement of skilled workers and products must seem petty when viewed from outside Canada.”

They do, indeed. Still, there is precedent for enlightenment in this country. There is, for example, the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) between Alberta and British Columbia. 

Signed in 2006, its purported benefits include the scaleable opportunities (in terms of both GDP growth and job creation) possible in a fluid marketplace of nearly eight million people and an economy of more than $400 billion.

Moreover, says the Agreement, “A tradesperson such as a plumber or a welder, or a professional such as an architect or a nurse, can move to Alberta from British Columbia or vice versa and have his or her certification recognized in the new province of residence. . .Duplicate business registration and reporting requirements as well as residency requirements have been removed.”

Meanwhile, “Allowing goods, services, capital and labour to flow more freely across the Alberta-BC border (boosts) trade, makes it easier for businesses to expand into the other province, and lower costs for businesses and taxpayers. . .Open procurement policies with low thresholds help ensure that people get the best value for tax dollars. They also create more opportunities for businesses to bid on public contracts at dollar levels where small and medium-sized enterprises are able to compete.”

Perhaps, this time, Mr. Wall’s modest proposal is an idea whose time has come. 


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Pipelines hold both promise and peril


Canada is one of the world’s great energy behemoths; a constipated behemoth, yes, but a behemoth, nonetheless. All it needs is a fact-acting laxative or, as Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall advises, a few more oil pipelines to. . .well, stay regular.

Here endeth the metaphor (you are welcome), but not the over-arching point, which is accumulating currency in political circles across the country these days: Canada’s natural resources, particularly oil, promise untold prosperity from coast to coast to coast, if we could only get them to markets.

At a Canadian Chamber of Commerce event last week week, Mr. Wall sounded downright dejected. Another “country with all this (oil) would find ways to move energy to tidewater, to improve the return to Canadians for the resource, to ensure there are jobs for the future for all of us – including First Nations – for the entire country,” The Canadian Press quoted him.

“We would do everything we could to ensure we had this great resource working not just for today’s economy  but helping for the economy of tomorrow. We have to get our head around moving that energy.”

In fact, it would seem, most Canadians agree with him. Research company CROP Inc. has released a survey that indicates that people in this country are generally keen on at least the idea of pipelines. According to the Telegraph-Journal’s Chris Morris,  “The survey suggests that more Canadians agree with the major pipeline projects, including the Energy East proposal to bring oil to New Brunswick. The results found that 57 per cent of respondents endorsed the project compared to 25 per cent against.”

Meanwhile, “83 per cent of respondents said they are favourable to to the development of the oilsands,” though “41 per cent believe development should be slowed down, while 42 per cent are happy with the current pace.”

So, the solution to Canada’s energy stultification seems obvious. Or does it?

A recent CBC News investigation suggests the issue is a tad more complicated than the pro-pipeline lobbyists would have us believe. The public broadcaster reports that “pipelines regulated by the federal government – which include some of the longest lines in the country – have experienced a swell in the number of safety-related incidents over the past decade.”

Specifically, documents the CBC obtained under access-to-information from the National Energy Board (NEB) show that the number of “overall pipeline incidents”, which include leaks, spills and fires, has jumped by a factor of two since the turn of the century. The number of spills, alone, have tripled.

“More than four reportable releases happened for every 10,000 kilometres in 2000, or 18 incidents in total, according to NEB data,” the CBC reports. “By 2011, that rate had risen to 13 per 10,000 kilometres, or 94 incidents.”

In fact, that may not sound like much, given that 90-odd companies operate roughly 71,000 kilometers of pipe in Canada. And, in the context of this summer’s  devastating events at Lac-Megantic – at which a derailment of train cars carrying heavy oil exploded, killing dozens of people – pipeline leaks seem the far lesser of two evils.

Certainly, the NEB doesn’t appear overwrought about the numbers, attributing their rise to better reporting standards. “We’ve been out there talking with industry associations and the companies themselves to ensure that they are fully aware of what the reporting requirements are and I think that’s why we’re seeing an increase right now,” the NEB’s business leader for operations, Patrick Smythe, told the CBC.

It’s entirely possible he’s correct. But even if he is, that doesn’t change the fact that pipelines are, like any other piece of transportation infrastructure, vulnerable to the inexorable onslaught of time and weather. They must be maintained. And, just as importantly, they must be seen to be maintained.

In the end, nothing halts energy development in Canada with greater force than a distrustful, angry, agitated public.

The current shale gas debate in the pristine countryside of fair New Brunswick – where a pipeline might well wend  – proves definitively that industrial-strength spin has its limits.

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