Provincial cuts leave adults with disabilities ‘hanging on a ledge’

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Like too many young people on the autism spectrum, Nazarenus Rimando struggled with the transition from high school to adulthood.

After failing most of his college courses in computer repair maintenance, he retreated to the family’s Scarborough apartment, where he grew increasingly withdrawn and depressed.

Rimando’s mother Maria, who searched frantically for help between shifts at her factory job, says it “felt like watching a slow death. It was heartbreaking.”

The turning point came in the spring of 2016 when the provincial Developmental Services Office suggested the family try independent facilitation, a service that since 2015 has helped more than 1,700 young people like Rimando create a meaningful adult life.

Through independent facilitation, Rimando was able to re-enrol at Centennial College, start volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, join a local martial arts gym and even learn how to sail a tall ship.

Provincial NDP social services critic Lisa Gretsky (Windsor West), who met with families in her riding Thursday, said she is shocked Ford’s “government for the people” is abandoning such a vulnerable population.

“These families have been completely blindsided by this cut and don’t know where to go to pick up the pieces,” she said Friday.

“People with developmental disabilities want to be part of society just like everybody else,” she said in an interview. “And we need to make sure, as legislators, we are making decisions that are empowering them to be able to do that.”

Before the Rimandos met facilitator Joanne Wilson, Maria says her son was “just a shell.”

“Now, he has someone he can trust. And who I can trust too. I can really see the growth. He’s becoming a better person,” she says.

Rimando, 24, also feels the difference.

“I was stranded. I didn’t know where to go,” he says. “Joanne gave me the direction I needed … If the government is going to completely cut this fund, I will be left hanging on a ledge or worse. I may even topple down.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services said the “time-limited project” has run its course and that an independent evaluation by the previous government concluded its benefits were not demonstrably different than services and supports offered by community agencies.

Those who want to continue using independent facilitation can use Passport funding, a provincial program that provides money to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to pay for respite and personal support in the community, said Graeme Dempster.

But advocates say the government’s evaluation was seriously flawed. As for using Passport funding, they say it isn’t a viable option because more than 16,000 individuals, including the Rimandos, are on the wait list. And those who get Passport funding say it’s not enough to cover services as well as independent facilitation, advocates add.


Life is full of transitions, but the passage from adolescence to adulthood is arguably the most difficult, says Judith McGill, a Toronto social worker who has been helping individuals with developmental disabilities and their families navigate the journey for more than 20 years. With provincial funding, McGill’s organization, Families for a Secure Future, has been able to train and mentor eight facilitators who support the Rimandos and 220 others in Toronto, Guelph, Peel, Halton and Durham.

For young people with developmental disabilities such as autism or Down syndrome, becoming an adult too often means moving from high school to their parents’ basement, segregated day programs or group homes.

Admission to psychiatric wards, long term care and even homeless shelters are common — and costly — responses when things go wrong.

Independent facilitation was beginning to change that trajectory, McGill says.

“Individuals with developmental disabilities yearn to find places in the world where they belong and can make a contribution,” McGill says. “They have the right to take up their citizenship and be supported to fully participate in life alongside others in their community.”

Unlike other “person-directed planning models” for people with developmental disabilities, independent facilitation is truly independent, she says. It does not offer residential or day services, nor does it manage or oversee an individual’s provincial funding, assessment, eligibility or service provision.

Instead, facilitators are problem-solvers and “community connectors” who “walk alongside people as they begin envisioning and making changes in their lives,” she says.

“We help people find their voice after years of having parents, teachers and professionals speak for them,” McGill says. “We help them explore their gifts and talents. And then we help people put them into action.”

Parents unable to manage or co-ordinate their adult son or daughter’s daily life believe the only options are day programs, which cost as much as $35,000 a year, or residential care, that typically runs at $140,000 annually, McGill says.

Independent facilitators, however, work with individuals to discover their dreams, interests and goals and connect them with much less costly community resources.

Since Ontario began funding independent facilitation as a demonstration project in 2015, seven such organizations in Ottawa and southern Ontario have helped 458 people plan to move out of the family home into more independent living arrangements. They facilitated 879 transitions from high school to post-secondary education and other adult roles, and helped 266 establish community support networks.

Over three years, the demonstration project has helped young adults with developmental disabilities establish, enhance or sustain more than 2,100 jobs, volunteer positions or meaningful leisure roles in the community, according to the Ontario Independent Facilitation Network.

Independent facilitation also supports families as their children move through different life stages. And it helps parents prepare for their children to be supported when they are no longer around by helping them maintain relationships with extended family and friends, and develop meaningful connections to people in their neighbourhood and broader community.

“It keeps them out of crisis, which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars,” McGill says. “Walking away from 1,354 people we are currently working with is tantamount to throwing away millions and millions of dollars.”

For Rimando, “expressing things is sometimes a hill you have to climb.”

But he is determined to tell anyone who will listen how his life has changed with his facilitator’s help.

“I always wanted to achieve something … that recognizes me not as an autistic person who has this disability and drawbacks, but recognizes me as a person who can overcome these drawbacks.”

“If this funding is cut and the program shuts down, there is no way for me to move forward,” he says. “I won’t know what to do next.”

Laurie Monsebraaten is a Toronto-based reporter covering social justice. Follow her on Twitter: @lmonseb

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Amid provincial review, Simcoe County leaders and residents want to chart their own course

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Nadine Woods, a business owner in the Georgian Bay town of Port McNicoll, doesn’t mince words when discussing the notion that a provincial review encompassing 82 municipalities and millions of people will result in improvements to her small community.

“I don’t think they know enough about our area to be able to butt their nose into our area and say that they know how to fix everything,” says Woods, the owner of Port McNicoll Barbershop. “I’m wary of the whole thing.”

Woods wants her local representatives to address the issues themselves.

County leaders couldn’t agree more. They say they intend to get ahead of provincial reviewers by coming up with recommendations of their own for reform.

The government’s announcement this week that it will review the governance of eight regional municipalities and the County of Simcoe has sparked a mix of speculation, concern and hope across the large part of the province that’s affected, which includes the highly-populated GTA regions of Peel, Durham and York. The consequences will also be felt in areas with more rural residents like Oxford and Simcoe counties.

The province says its goal is to cut red tape, find efficiencies and improve services, but some residents and municipal leaders worry the exercise is more about trimming the provincial deficit and getting rid of politicians.

“I think Queen’s Park is hemorrhaging money and they need to find some,” says Woods.

Her town of Port McNicoll is part of Tay, which has a population of roughly 10,000 and is represented by five ward councillors, along with a mayor and deputy mayor, who serve on county council — translating to an average of about 1,400 constituents per representative.

“They’re looking for things to cut here but we don’t have enough already,” she says.

Simcoe County politicians say previous attempts to slash the 32-member regional council (the largest in the province) have failed and the county must address representation across the board — at ward and regional level — that isn’t optimal, and improve service delivery. Made up of 16 member municipalities, all of which have two representatives at the regional council table, the county is a vast patchwork of jurisdictions ranging in population from 8,962 in Penetanguishene to 36,566 in Innisfil.

Spanning from York Region boundary in the south, up to the southern shores of Georgian Bay in the north, it’s also home to Barrie and Orillia, cities that function independently and don’t have a seat at county council, but share county-provided services like paramedics, long-term care and social housing. A county statement boasts of being one of the largest counties in Ontario, with combined population expected to surpass half a million this year.

Considering the looming review, county politicians are urgently developing their own plans for reform.

Anita Dubeau, deputy mayor of Penetanguishene, says the province’s unexpected move last spring to slash Toronto council in half during an election was “a wake-up call” for those in her region.

She says she and her colleagues must be proactive, considering past failed attempts to chop county council.

“I have supported downsizing our council for many years,” she says.

“There has been attempts to try to downsize that house (county council) for some years, but it’s very difficult when you bring it to the floor.”

Past efforts fell through because, among other reasons, the deputy mayor and mayoral representative from each of the 16 townships couldn’t agree on who should concede their seat, Dubeau says.

“I think there is more of a flavour for that now,” she says. “There is a lot of work to be done in the next six months.”

But she says an arbitrary cut like that inflicted on Toronto, would do more harm than good.

“We need to try to come up with a plan on our own,” she says.

Consolidation has been an ongoing evolution for Simcoe County, which once consisted of 32 municipalities — until a rearrangement of boundaries in the mid-’90s.

Tiny’s Mayor George Cornell, who also heads the county council, says “now that the province has come forward with a request for review, that definitely puts (municipal reform) front and centre for the county.

“We don’t want to be waiting.”

He wants to look at representation across all 16 communities to address set-ups that “aren’t optimal,” for a region he describes as “somewhat unique” due to its municipal makeup.

Cornell says it will be on the agenda for the next meeting.

“I don’t get the sense at all that it will be anything like the process used with Toronto,” he says, of the province’s review. “This will be more collaborative.”

Cornell and Dubeau agree the review could be catalyst for how to better deliver public services.

“We (Penetanguishene) do have some shared services with Midland and that’s a good beginning,” Dubeau says. “We have fire services that have been amalgamated.

Simcoe County residents and business owners the Star spoke to expressed a range of opinions about the provincial review, with some saying there is plenty of opportunity to find efficiencies, while others worrying about losing political representation or the province simply bungling the process.

Shanta Cadeau, co-owner of the Old Corner Store in Hillsdale, is among those who support the province.

“I think there is lot of wastage,” Cadeau says.

Across the street Evan Nelson, the owner of Hillsdale Truck and Auto Supply, is also on side. He says he supported the Ford government’s unprecedented move to slash Toronto city council by nearly half, but hopes Premier Doug Ford doesn’t take a similar rushed approach in Simcoe County.

“They should consult with us,” he says.

Missy Edwards, who resides in Tay Township but works as an accountant in neighbouring Midland, fears the review will result in municipalities being amalgamated and residents losing their political voice.

“Even with the councillors we have now it’s still hard to get your voice heard,” she says.

“When they get rid of red tape, it just seem to create more red tape.”

Jason Miller is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Reach him on email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca

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Quebec provincial police investigating fatal fire in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu – Montreal

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The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) is investigating a fatal apartment fire in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, 45 kilometres east of Montreal.

Emergency crews responded to a fire in a residential building on Laurier Street at around 3 a.m. on Sunday.

READ MORE: Woman dies in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu house fire

SQ spokesperson Daniel Thibaudeau said the blaze started in an apartment occupied by a couple in their 60s.

The woman was able to exit the apartment on her own, but the other occupant had to be pulled out by firefighters.

Thibaudeau said firefighters immediately administered first aid, but the man was later pronounced dead in hospital.

READ MORE: SQ investigating 2 suspected arsons in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

The woman suffered minor injuries.

Damage to the building was limited.

Thibaudeau said that while it was too early to say what caused the fire, it does not appear to be criminal.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Ontario Provincial Police say ‘stay off the ice’ – Kingston

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The recent snowfall has prompted many people to get outside and take advantage of the winter weather. With fast-changing temperatures, police are warning people not to venture onto the ice.

Constable Sean McCaffrey is with the OPP East Region SAVE Team, a group dedicated to ensuring Ontario trails and frozen waterways are a safe place for all. McCaffrey says the message is simple.

“We’ve always said no ice is safe ice, so we’re never officially going to tell you that the ice is safe to go on. And the latest phrase that we’ve started using is ‘If in doubt, don’t go out,’ and that’s exactly what it means.”

MORE:Widow of OPP Sgt. responds to Ontario review of police suicides






McCaffrey believes climate change is causing some of the problems and the ice we knew when we were younger no longer exists. He says every day and every hour the ice is changing so people have to be aware. And while they don’t encourage it, McCaffrey says if you “must” go out on the ice, there are a number of safety tips you should follow.

“First and foremost never go out alone, so ideally you want to be with someone local that has local knowledge, who’s aware of the ice, ideally a guide or something like that. When you’re out there we encourage you to have things such as a compass, a map, a GPS, so you know where you are at all times.”

MORE:Lifesaving rescue mission: Emergency crews prepare for thin ice






McCaffrey also says heading out on the ice and alcohol don’t mix. In fact, not only does alcohol impair your judgment and your ability to think clearly, it actually increases and speeds up the effects of hypothermia.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Sask. film industry seven years after the provincial tax credit cut

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It was almost seven-years ago when the Saskatchewan Film Tax Credit was axed, an industry that once saw multi-million dollar movies made now is barely hanging on.

“We’re not gone, we’re just smaller,” ACTRA Saskatchewan Union Branch Representative Mike Burns said.

“We certainly are productive and we are still creative, and the industry is funded by Creative Saskatchewan which does a good job with the resources that they have. Unfortunately, resources they have are under what required to attract larger productions here.”

The province’s Creative Sask. gives the film industry two million dollars through grants.  A study commissioned by the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce and Sask Film that was done in 2012 said the industry generated $44.5 million in economic spinoffs and created about 850 jobs when the tax credit was available.

READ MORE: Chamber says Saskatchewan film tax cut kicked industry out at the knees

“We do continue to see activity in the province although it has declined, some film producers have chosen not to film in Saskatchewan, but overall we have not seen an impact in our provincial economy when it comes to that,” Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sports Dep. Asst. Minister of Stewardship Candace Caswell said.

“In Manitoba, they had a $220 million in business in 2018, in Alberta, almost $300 million, this isn’t small business this a big business,” Burns said.

While the industry still sees independent and low budget films using what Saskatchewan has to offer, Burns hopes to see bigger budget films make their way back to the province.

It would take a plot twist in this year’s provincial budget, which the premier has already said it’s going to be tight.

“We think eventually there will be a bigger and better film industry here again,” Burns said.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Feds, Toronto united in support for Waterfront Toronto as provincial appointments loom

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If Premier Doug Ford wants a ferris wheel waterfront, his representatives will have to convince federal and city counterparts opposed to any efforts to “blow up” Waterfront Toronto.

As the Ford government prepares to appoint four members to the board of the federal-provincial-city agency, after dumping past appointees, the City of Toronto and federal government are poised to use their combined eight board members as a firewall to protect existing waterfront plans.

“We can’t allow short term thinking to shift the focus from waterfront revitalization to a sell-off,” of priceless land, says Councillor Joe Cressy, a downtown representative just appointed by council, with Mayor John Tory’s blessing, to the 12-member Waterfront Toronto board.

“My understanding is the premier has made it known he’s looking at changing the board in terms of its composition, not to throw in a grenade but rather to see improvements to governance. If that’s all it is, count me in.”

Adam Vaughan, the Liberal MP representing the same shoreline residents as Cressy, says if Ford appointees to the city-provincial-federal board attempt radical changes to plans for downtown waterfront development focused on people, not profit, they’ll have a fight on their hands.

Like Cressy, Vaughan says Ford appears, for the moment at least, content with sweeping out past Liberal appointees and getting his own people around the boardroom table on Bay St. steps from Lake Ontario.

But as a city councillor Vaughan fought his then-colleague Ford’s attempt to tear up decades-in-the-making Port Lands plans, for careful mixed-use development with private sector involvement overseen by government, in favour of a megamall, Ferris wheel and yacht-friendly hotel.

“Hopefully we can find a way to stabilize (the board) and move forward, but the vision holds, the work plan is a good one and the deliverables so far have been brilliant,” Vaughan told the Star.

“From the federal perspective, there is no need for any wholesale changes. We’re thrilled with the work (Waterfront Toronto) is doing — it’s one of the best infrastructure programs in the country.”

Provincial Infrastructure Minister Monte McNaughton recently fired three board members, including chair Helen Burstyn, after a stinging report by provincial auditor general Bonnie Lysyk. She accused the agency of inadequately consulting with governments on the Quayside smart-city project, failing to make other projects financially self-sustaining, and more.

The fourth provincial vacancy was made by the earlier resignation of Julie Di Lorenzo, a prominent developer who said efforts to draft a partnership agreement on Quayside with Google sister company Sidewalk Labs are not in the public’s best interests.

In a statement to the Star, McNaughton said the Waterfront Toronto needs “stronger oversight” and the new provincial appointees will be named “in the time ahead.”

“Any discussion at this point about specific actions we may or may not take is speculative. And I won’t speculate,” he said.

“I will say that our actions going forward will be guided by three principles: respect for taxpayer dollars, strong oversight and the protection of people’s privacy.”

Waterfront Toronto was set up in the early 2000s to oversee development of a once-industrial waterfront in danger of becoming a long, solid curtain of condo buildings where Torontonians hoping to visit their lake might be met by a security guard with a dog.

The three levels of government contributed funding to oversee 1,150 hectares along Lake Ontario from Dowling Ave. in the west to Coxwell Ave. in the east, including more than 300 city-owned acres in the Port Lands at the south end of the east downtown core.

The agency has a 12-member board — four from each government, electing a chair from amongst themselves, with the option of a 13th member as chair if all three governments agree on that appointment.

What worries some observers is that, while the governments appear to have equal power, Waterfront Toronto and the rules under which it operates were created in 2002 by provincial legislation that could be amended by a majority Ontario government like the one led by Ford.

The province, which traditionally has a representative as board chair, has “a bit more power over the board operations than the federal and city partners because Waterfront Toronto is a creature of provincial legislation,” Vaughan said.

But “there are extensive and substantial investments by all three governments and multi-year contracts. Making real changes would not be as easy changing the size of city council … The province has the capacity to be catalyst for change, but it doesn’t have final say on the outcome.”

Sevaun Palvetzian, chief executive of CivicAction and a federal Waterfront Toronto appointee, said it’s unusual to have three levels of government at one table but the board functions well.

“We’re all representing appointments from different orders of government but we’re all there, and vote, as individuals with the public interest in mind,” she said. “We have tonnes of work ahead of us, and the three new provincial members will bring fresh perspective and insight and expertise, but this is a ship that I have felt is moving in the right direction with many great folks rowing in the same way.”

Waterfront Toronto has been lauded for projects including Sugar Beach, Corktown Common, Sherbourne Common and undulating “wavedecks” along Queens Quay.

It has been criticized for extra cost and time taken to revitalize Queens Quay, and the safety of the “complete street” for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. The Quayside proposal has generated a lot of controversy, much of it centred on protections for privacy and data generated in the proposed neighbourhood aimed at testing technology to solve urban problems.

Waterfront Toronto has just broken ground on a massive $1.25-billion flood-proofing of the east waterfront, cost-shared by the three governments, that will “renaturalize” the mouth of the Don River, create a new river valley and clean polluted land to unlock it for development.

Terms for Toronto’s three current citizen board appointees expire in March. One of them, developer Steve Diamond, said he had planned to quit at the end of 2018 due to work obligations but Tory convinced him to remain until March to retain stability on the board.

Tory told the Star any new members will reflect the city’s full confidence in Waterfront Toronto’s work and plans for the future.

“I am not one for blowing up the waterfront corporation, to use the expression that is bandied about,” Tory said. “I’m for making sure that as a partnership we continue to invest in projects like the naturalization of the Don and the flood protection, but also then the orderly, sensitive, compatible development of the Port Lands over time.

“If there are ways to improve it based on the auditor general report and other things, so be it. But I’m for building that waterfront corporation, not for tearing it down.”

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider

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Quebec provincial police search for missing driver after truck slams into overpass – Montreal

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Quebec provincial police are looking for a truck driver whom they believe abandoned his 18-wheeler after slamming into an overpass on Highway 30 on Sunday night.

READ MORE: Highway 640 West reopens ahead of schedule

The truck was carrying a mechanical shovel when it collided into the structure, which is used by CP trains.

“The accident is considered a hit-and-run by our investigators and we are still looking at all the theories,” said Geneviève Bruneau, a Sûreté du Québec (SQ) spokesperson.

The eastbound lanes of Highway 30 in Vaudreuil-Dorion, west of Montreal, were closed for several hours.

READ MORE: Montreal artist builds giant bulldog in snow bank to warm people’s hearts

Police officers found the truck abandoned several hundred metres away from the accident.

“It’s probably the shovel that hit the overpass and the truck went through the overpass and the driver left the truck there,” Bruneau told Global News.

Officers are working to find out why the driver left the scene and if the truck was stolen or not.

READ MORE: Montreal artist builds giant bulldog in snow bank to warm people’s hearts

Transports Quebec deemed the area safe and reopened the highway around 4 a.m. Monday.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Ken Thomas calls for meeting with Provincial Complaints Commission – Saskatoon

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The lawyer for Ken Thomas is calling for an urgent meeting with the chair of Saskatchewan’s Provincial Complaints Commission (PCC) after it found allegations by Thomas of a starlight tour were unfounded.

Thomas claimed two Saskatoon police officers picked him up and drove him out of the city on April 21.


READ MORE:
Man files complaint against police, says officers left him outside Saskatoon

The PCC dismissed the allegation on Dec. 18 following an investigation, including a review of GPS logs provided by the force, and video and audio recordings.

The commission found there had been no contact between Thomas and police on the night in question.

WATCH BELOW: Starlight tour allegation against Saskatoon police unfounded






Donald Worme, who is representing Thomas, wants the meeting with the PCC to discuss its findings.

Worme has also not ruled out filing a civil suit against the Saskatoon Police Service, but said more questions need to be answered before they explore their options.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Ontario Provincial Police have new ways to deter distracted, impaired driving – Kingston

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The holiday season is in full swing, and with this time of year, many motorists risk driving while impaired.

That’s a problem the Ontario Province Police are trying solve through a program called Festive Ride Checks.


READ MORE:
Why are Canadians still drinking and driving?

The checks began on November 23rd and wrap up after Christmas on January 2nd. Since the OPP started the checks, they have charged a total of 340 people with impaired driving.

The Frontenac detachment alone has charged six people with impaired driving over the same period and five others have received a suspended licence for having alcohol in their system.

WATCH: New impaired driving laws now in effect






A new federal law that came into effect on December 17th allows officers to identify impaired drivers more easily.

“This new legislation gives police more power to stop someone and ask for a breath demand without having reasonable suspicion,” said Roop Sandhu, a provincial constable with the Frontenac OPP detachment.


READ MORE:
More than 200 Manitobans busted for distracted driving in November

Another legislative tool given to the Ontario Provincial Police and other forces, effective January 1st, will be changes to the penalties for distracted driving.

In the new year, officers will be issuing court summons to those caught driving distracted and, rather than a set fine, they could face a judge who will determine what the fine will be — which could range anywhere between $500 and $2,000, according to Sandhu.


READ MORE:
1 in 4 Canadians admit to driving while legally drunk, half think limit is too low

Global News spoke with many Kingston drivers about the increased penalty for distracted driving. Each respondent said that if you’re putting drivers around you in danger, the fines should be hefty.

It remains to be seen whether the number of distracted or impaired drivers will go down, but being seen is what the OPP’s Festive Ride Check is all about: letting drivers know that the new rules and penalties are on the road in order to keep those who do not get the message off of it.

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Why there won’t be an Alberta sales tax any time soon, and who to blame for provincial pipeline paralysis

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In a year-end interview with the CBC, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley ruled out the idea of introducing a provincial sales tax (PST), saying it’s not a conversation she’s interested in having while trying to get the provincial economy back on track.

Notley sat down with CBC Calgary News at 6‘s Rob Brown and talked about the state of the economy, the impact of carbon pricing, who to blame for the pipeline paralysis and the upcoming 2019 provincial election campaign.

What she didn’t talk about was how much fuel consumption has decreased since the implementation of the carbon tax, and whether she regrets putting all her eggs in the Trans-Mountain pipeline basket.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: Albertans are very angry right now. Who do you think they should hold responsible for the fact that construction [on the Trans Mountain pipeline] hasn’t started yet?

A: There’s a number of different factors. It’s been almost 70 years since we’ve gotten a pipeline built to Canadian tidewater. You probably heard me talk about it when I was at the Canadian first ministers meeting in Montreal a couple weeks ago. It’s as if Canadian political leaders both federally and provincially, for the last 10 to 15 years, sat around and watched this car crash happening in slow motion, and they sat back and politely admired the problem without actually digging in to find a fix.

  • Watch an extended version of CBC News’ interview with Premier Notley above

We know the obvious barrier to getting Trans Mountain built is the decision of the Court of Appeal — and they identified different problems: the direction of the previous federal government to the NEB [National Energy Board] to exclude consideration of marine safety, and the failure of the current federal government to engage in appropriate consultations with Indigenous people.

As the people of Alberta, we just sit by the wayside and pull our hair out, and get increasingly frustrated — particularly now — because we’ve got the [price] differential blowing out.

Q: You’ve been focused on the prime minister lately, and used much sharper language in describing him. Any regrets about going all in on the Trudeau/Trans Mountain basket? And giving in on Gateway and Energy East?

A: I wouldn’t put it that way. We worked very hard on Line 3, on Keystone, and, as you know, with Trans Mountain.

Gateway was pretty much over by the time we got elected, because the court’s review of it was a great deal more scathing and the fix for it much more complicated than what we’re dealing with Trans Mountain.

Premier Rachel Notley announces at a news conference her government wants expressions of interest from private companies wanting to build an oil refinery in Alberta. (David Bajer/CBC)

And of course, with Energy East, I’m very frustrated — like all Albertans are — that we can’t function more like a country in terms of supplying our product to Canadians. But I do think we need to continue to have that conversation about shipping our products east. That’s one of the reasons we’ve been raising concerns about Bill C-69.

Q: As a province, we’re still riding the economic ups and downs of the royalty roller-coaster. You’ve spoken in the past about how we need to have a conversation about a PST [provincial sales tax].

A: No, no,  no — I haven’t been talking about that.

Q: Your exact quote is: « In the long term, is this a conversation we need to have? I think it is — but not right now. It needed to happen in the context of a government needing a mandate. »

Is this something you want Albertans talking about in the coming campaign?

A: No. Not at all.

Q: Why not?

A: Because we are working really hard to bring Alberta through a recovery and to get our oil and gas industry back on its feet — and to do a lot of other work that we have been doing to promote diversification and economic development.

Now is not the time to bring something like that in.

Instead, what we need to do is carry on with what we have been doing, and on some fronts it has been successful.

Before we got to the point, in August, of the Federal Court of Appeal decision, Alberta was leading the country in economic growth this year. It led the country in economic growth last year, creating well over 100,000 jobs since the depth of the depression.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said it’s not the right time to have a conversation about introducing a provincial sales tax to Alberta, in a year-end interview with CBC’s Rob Brown. (CBC News)

Q: Introducing a PST could address that. So if not now, when it’s so acutely needed, then when?

A: I don’t think you take that kind of money out of the economy when the economy is struggling.

Right now, it’s just not on my horizon.

My horizon is for our economy to get to a point where it has actually recovered, where people who have lost their jobs have work again, and where they feel confident and secure in that employment. That’s absolutely our focus right now.

Q: Are you tax adverse because of the backlash you’ve seen with the carbon tax?

A: No. It’s really about what the economy can handle. For instance, If you look over at Saskatchewan, they took a much different approach. They took a very austerity-based approach to their public services and then they extended their sales tax — which is not insignificant —  to construction, out of the blue, and we’ve seen their growth diminish quite significantly.

That doesn’t work to build the economy. And so we’re focused on building the economy.

Q: We’ve had two years with a provincial carbon tax. What kind of decline in fuel consumption have we seen in Alberta in those two years?

A: I would have to get back to you on that. Because, of course, it’s related to economic activity as well. So you’ve got a lot of different things going on at the same time.

Q: Do you know if we’ve had a decrease in car emissions during that time?

A: I honestly can’t tell you right now because I wasn’t prepped for that. What I can say is just yesterday, through our CLP [climate leadership plan], we had our second and third auctions for renewable energy. And in doing that, we’ve now managed to bring in enough renewable energy — electricity — to power 300,000 homes in Alberta, to create 1,000 jobs, and to do so less expensively than anywhere else in North America

In the last 12 months, through our climate leadership plan, and the carbon pricing it generates, we’ve tripled the amount of renewable energy being used in Alberta in 12 months. As opposed to the amount of renewable energy being used in Alberta over the previous 20 years. So we’re doing some good work there.

Q: British Columbia measured fuel decrease — and in the first five years, they saw, I think, a 16% decrease. I can appreciate you don’t have those numbers at hand, but wouldn’t they be top of mind so you can explain to Albertans, in two years, that we’ve made this much of a difference in cutting emissions from vehicles? Are you not getting those numbers?

A:  We may have been, Rob, but there’s other things that have been going on: the economy was picking up, and so that’s a factor [with emissions] that you have to take into account.

As you know, our carbon pricing at this point still — as a portion of the fuel cost — is still very very small. But at the same time, what we are doing is we’re able to look at other things we’re doing — other projects we’re funding through it. That’s why I’m telling you about the renewable energy piece, which is a very direct, measurable thing.

We’ve also been able to dedicate funds toward the phasing out of coal. And as you can imagine, going from being the single biggest coal producer in the country — the rest of the country doesn’t produce as much coal combined as we do in Alberta — we’re well on track to be completely off coal by 2030.

That is going to bring about measurable reductions. There’s a lot of things we can look at.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley arrives at the first ministers’ meeting in Montreal on Dec. 7, 2018. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Q: Your party is trailing provincially. You’re ahead in Edmonton but behind in Calgary. Do you think you can win the next election without winning Calgary?

A: I think Calgary is absolutely fundamentally important … but we’re not into the election campaign yet. We’re still focused on doing things like governing the province, which we were elected to do, and that’s why we’ve been focused so much on work around the energy industry, the curtailment, the rail, pushing for more upgrading here in Alberta and more diversification like the announcement I made today.

The fact is, when we get to the campaign — I’m looking forward to it — I think when you get to the actual election, it turns into a choice between two options, and I’m looking forward to that debate.

Q: Your personal approval numbers are higher than your party’s. Does that keep you up at night? Do you feel like you’re carrying a burden?

A: Not at all. At the end of the day, polls are an interesting snapshot in time. The campaign is where people make their decisions. You get a chance to talk to folks about what your record is, what your vision for the future is, and to present that with as much honesty and integrity as you can — and that’s when we’ll have those conversations.

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