- 300 South African firefighters to leave Fort McMurray early after wage dispute
- Hope fades for Mauril Belanger’s anthem bill as Conservatives block motion
- Politicians outraged after damning auditor testimony about Transports Quebec corruption
- Your Manitoba: June 2016
- Canadian natural gas prices expected to fall, says National Energy Board
Monthly Archives: March 2019
Premier Rachel Notley said the government of Alberta is paying South African firefighters roughly $170 per day plus expenses and she expects the money to go to the workers.
“That’s what we anticipated would essentially form the basis of what they were earning and so now we’re going to look into it to ensure they are paid,” Notley said Thursday afternoon.
South African firefighters start fighting Fort McMurray wildfire
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“It’s not acceptable to me and to my government that we would have people working for wages in our province that do not align with our labour laws.”
The comments come as the agency that employs 300 South African firefighters who have been helping battle the Fort McMurray wildfire said it is bringing the workers home early after a pay dispute.
In a statement released Thursday, Working on Fire said it has dispatched a management team to address the firefighters’ concerns and assist with their “smooth demobilization.”
The firefighters have not been working for the past couple of days, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, which coordinates international firefighting response.
“Alberta has been able to move on with resources without them so their deployment will be finished,” said Kim Connors, the CIFFC executive director.
READ MORE: Some South Africans leave Fort McMurray fire fight, questions linger over pay
Working on Fire said all the firefighters signed an agreement that they would earn their normal stipend, plus any overtime, as members of South Africa’s public works department. They will also receive $50 Canadian a day in two separate payments: $15 while in Canada and $35 after returning home.
However, some of the South African firefighters were concerned they may never receive the second payment.
“There is no guarantee,” said Ditiro Moseki, who has been a firefighter in South African for four years. “We feel very bad and we don’t know what to do with the situation. What I’m hoping to happen is for them to pay us, that’s what I’m hoping for.”
Watch below: South African firefighters break into song and dance upon arrival in Edmonton
Moseki said he and some of his co-workers saw a news story from South Africa that said their employer is paying them $21 an hour.
“So, comparing the $21 per hour to that $50 that they are going to give us a day – there is a serious difference there.”
READ MORE: ‘We are ready for it’: South African firefighters land in Edmonton, eager to help battle Fort McMurray wildfire
In its statement, Working on Fire said the $21-per-hour rate was never part of the agreement.
Connors said it appears the situation is the result of a “series of misunderstandings” between the firefighters and Working on Fire. He said Canadian officials have encouraged Working on Fire to clarify the situation with its staff.
Notley said while it’s a dispute between the firefighters and their employer, she maintained every firefighter will be compensated in accordance with Alberta’s laws.
“I will be directing officials to ensure that any further contracts with these kinds of agencies outside of our jurisdiction ensure that the minimum standards of Alberta law are honoured.”
A spokesperson with Alberta Foresty said Wednesday the province is aware of the wage dispute.
“We have a contract with the South African government based on a rate per day per firefighter,” Renato Gandia, press secretary for Alberta Forestry, said in a statement.
“We’re paying that rate. It’s our understanding these firefighters are being paid what they agreed to before they arrived but if there is a disagreement here, it’s between the firefighters and their employer and not with the Government of Alberta.”
The firefighters arrived in Edmonton on May 29. At the time, a spokesperson for Alberta Wildfire said the crew would do a 14-day rotation and then their involvement in fighting the blaze would be reassessed.
With files from Julia Wong, Global News and .
Mauril Belanger’s attempt to change the lyrics to Canada’s national anthem have hit another snag in the House of Commons, as the Ottawa MP’s health continues to deteriorate.
The Liberal government attempted to move a motion Thursday that would have permitted to bill to be shepherded by Chief Government whip Andrew Leslie, covering all the bases in case Belanger isn’t able to be physically present in the House to initiate the final steps.
The motion required unanimous consent from MPs on all sides, which it did not receive.
There were cries of “shame” from the Liberal side of the House, directed at the Conservative benches.
Tom Kmiec, MP of Calgary Shepard says his constituents are opposed to changing National Anthem
MP Niki Ashton says the NDP are proud to support change to National Anthem
How would gender-neutral lyrics in ‘O Canada’ debated at the House look like?
Green Party leader Elizabeth May also took to 桑拿会所 to express her displeasure at what had happened. She later explained that she had clearly heard Conservatives saying “no” to the motion but wasn’t sure exactly which MPs did so.
What a shame! CPC blocks consent to allow Mauril Belanger’s PMB on inclusive O Canada to proceed, even if he is too sick to be here.#cdnpoli
— Elizabeth May (@ElizabethMay) June 9, 2016
Liberals weren’t much happier.
[email protected]_Belanger’s bill deserves to move forward. Denying consent because he isn’t in the chamber just so the bill dies is just sad.
— Sonia Sidhu MP (@SoniaLiberal) June 9, 2016
Belanger’s bill, if it doesn’t die in his absence, would change the lyrics to O Canada to be more gender neutral. Specifically, the line “in all thy sons command” would be changed to “in all of us command.”
Belanger recently served as honorary Speaker of the House of Commons for a single day and is dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — an incurable neurodegenerative disease, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
READ MORE: Tories block bid to ensure dying MP sees gender neutral ‘O Canada’ bill passed
His caucus colleagues are trying to get Belanger into the chamber on Friday so he can, as required, move the motion for the adoption of his bill at report stage if no amendments are sought. Liberal MPs have told reporters that it might be the last time the ailing MP will be able to come in to work.
It’s not the first time the Conservatives have apparently attempted to use procedure to halt the bill’s progress. In early May, they put up enough speakers to fill the first hour of allotted debate on the bill, rather than let the debate run out and thereby force a second reading vote the following week.
WATCH: House of Commons offers touching tribute to Mauril Belanger
Liberal MP Greg Fergus then sought unanimous consent to continue the debate for another hour — which would have had the same effect of forcing a vote — but Conservative MPs refused to give it.
At the time, Tory MP Andrew Scheer denied the Conservatives tried to hold up the bill, saying they treated it the same way as they would any other private member’s bill. On Thursday, he repeated those lines.
“We all love and support Mauril and we understand he’s going through a difficult time,” said Scheer “But it’s not about Mauril, it’s about the bill itself.”
Scheer explained that the vast majority of the Conservative caucus is opposed to the bill.
“They’ve heard from their constituents. I think the vast majority of Canadians feel they haven’t even been consulted or even informed that this change to their national anthem is even happening.”
Scheer said the government was informed “long ago” that the Conservatives would not facilitate the bill’s passage.
With files from the Canadian Press.
QUEBEC CITY – Damning testimony about the “illegal awarding of government contracts” has outraged politicians at Quebec’s National Assembly.
It left many pointing fingers, as opposition parties try to get to the bottom of the scandal.
“I really was scared,” said Louise Boily, internal auditor director at Transports Quebec, Wednesday night in front of the Public Administration Committee at the National Assembly.
UPDATED: Whistleblower in Transport Quebec corruption allegations testifies Wednesday
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Boily testified alongside Annie Trudel, the investigator hired by former Transport Minister Robert Poëti to look into “irregularities” in the transport ministry.
READ MORE: UPDATED: Whistleblower in Transports Quebec corruption allegations testifies Wednesday
Both women said they were afraid to reveal their suspicions that Transports Quebec was awarding contracts without tender.
The whistleblowers also said numerous reports they prepared were later doctored and falsified.
Thursday morning, there was fallout from the meeting as opposition parties demanded an emergency debate.
“I spoke, of course, this morning with the minister, but also the deputy minister, Mr. [Denis] Marsolais, who is going to introduce significant changes,” said Premier Philippe Couillard.
WATCH BELOW: Whistleblower testifies at National Assembly hearing
It’s not enough for opposition parties, who are calling for the Premier to fire Marsolais and Transport Minister Jacques Daoust.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen a government table false documents in the National Assembly,” said interim Parti Québécois leader Sylvain Gaudreault.
“It should be seen as contempt.”
Yet, the second opposition argued responsibility also lies with former ministers, like Gaudreault himself who ran the transport file under former PQ Premier Pauline Marois.
READ MORE: Transports Quebec corruption documents not yet public
“I think those problems were very bad and Mr. [Sam] Hamad, Mr. Gaudreault, they must have seen that,” said Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) leader François Legault.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. I’m going to stop you right there,” Gauldreault said in response.
He argued he didn’t know the scope of the problem, but said he tried to overhaul Transports Quebec and appointed an external auditor.
The scandal also roped in an embattled former Couillard cabinet minister: Sam Hamad was also transport minister under Premier Jean Charest.
Thursday, Quebec’s ethics commissioner harshly criticized Hamad’s lack of prudence and judgement in an unrelated allegation of influence peddling, but didn’t find enough proof to lay blame.
Now, Hamad has been thrown back in the hot seat for hiring a controversial deputy transport minister: Dominique Savoie.
READ MORE: UPAC, Auditor General investigate falsified documents in Quebec’s transport ministry
Savoie lost her job when the issues at Transports Quebec became public; opposition MNAs have accused her of lying about what she knew.
Savoie has now found a job in the premier’s office, and Couillard defended both her and Hamad, arguing the problem is institutional.
“There’s also been a culture of information not circulating as freely as it should and obviously not reaching previous ministers, not only the current one, but previous ones as well, of all parties, by the way,” the Premier said.
He said the culture will change, but he’s not firing anyone.
Lower prices and increasing competition from the United States are expected to add to the woes of Canadian natural gas producers over the summer, but the picture then brightens, according to a report from the National Energy Board.
The federal agency said Thursday it expects natural gas prices to fall from an average of about US$2.70 per million British thermal units in 2015 to an average of US$2.50 this year, and then gradually rise to average US$3 in 2018. Prices were almost US$5 in early 2014.
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Paul Mortensen, the NEB’s director of energy supply, said short-term pain for Canadian producers will pay off in higher prices next winter.
“We’ve been on this declining trend on price since 2014 so we think with this summer it’s going to get more negative before it gets better in terms of storage being pre-filled,” he said.
“But then that potentially sets us up for a gradual increase in prices through the winter.”
He said a warm winter reduced demand for natural gas in North America. Canadian storage has already been refilled to about 82 per cent, higher than normal for this time of year and that means demand will be lower this summer.
“What that means to me is that there’s likely going to be a need for producers to pull gas production offline before we get to October or at least ratchet it down before we hit full storage,” he said.
READ MORE: Alberta’s oil and gas industry stays competitive with carbon tax, says energy minister
Analyst Kris Zack of Desjardins Capital Markets said in a report to investors that stronger prices Thursday were likely a short-term overreaction to a smaller-than-expected weekly natural gas storage build in the United States. The near month contract price rose to a nine-month high of about US$2.60 per mmBtu.
“Bottom line, the next few months will be critical for working off the massive storage overhang ahead of winter, and higher prices could ultimately prove self-defeating through reduced summer power burn,” he wrote. He pointed out that higher gas prices will discourage U.S. power producers from switching from coal to gas to generate electricity.
The NEB forecasts Canadian natural gas production, which peaked in 2005 at 17 billion cubic feet per day, will fall from 15 bcf/d in 2015 to 14.5 bcf/d in 2018, based on its report’s mid-price-range scenario.
READ MORE: NEB recommends approval for expansion of TransCanada’s Alberta natural gas system
On Tuesday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration issued a report forecasting that the United States will become a net exporter of natural gas by 2018. It would be the first time since the 1950s because its production is expected to outgrow domestic consumption.
It said natural gas production from shale gas and tight oil plays now make up about half of the U.S. production. That proportion is expected to grow to 69 per cent by 2040 as output from the new plays doubles to 29 trillion cubic feet per year.
The NEB said natural gas exports to the U.S. Midwest continued to decline in 2015 as pipeline reversals and expansions brought more U.S. gas into Central Canada. It said Canadian gas exports to the Western U.S. rose as higher temperatures increased demand for gas-fired power generation to meet air conditioning demand.
It pointed out that development of a Canadian liquefied natural gas export industry would help gas producers, but it’s unclear if any of the nearly 20 proposed projects will be sanctioned by proponents in the near future.