The News Rundown
- Canada got pretty cold last week, and in BC, we went from record high winter temperatures to record low winter temperatures, as an arctic front blew into Western Canada, which saw parts of the prairies and interior BC drop to as low as -40C and even mild Vancouver and Vancouver Island saw temperatures down to -15C, which is very unusual. This of course put strain on power and energy sources, as many people were trying to keep their homes heated and stay warm themselves.
- Alberta made headlines last week when an emergency alert was sent out by the Alberta Electric System Operator, urging Albertans to reduce electricity usage to essentials only to prevent rotating outages. Alberta was receiving electricity from B.C., Saskatchewan and Montana last Saturday night but BC’s ability to export was curtailed, mainly due to our own grid system being put under pressure as well.
- And yet, the victory laps were out in full force at the beginning of the week, both for BC Hydro, the province's crown utility corp, as well as the BC NDP government. And yet, challenges still remain going into the future that shows that British Columbians shouldn't be celebrating just yet, lest we be put into a very similar situation even next winter as Alberta.
- Because of the cold snap, BC Hydro says the province set a new record for electricity demand. According to the utility company, residents consumed 11,300 megawatts of electricity in just one hour on Friday night — 30 per cent higher than the previous Friday night before the cold snap began.
- Despite the record-breaking power usage, B.C. did not require imports from other markets, and they also had enough to lend a helping hand to Alberta and the Pacific Northwest, after both places had increased demand and system challenges. This includes about 200 megawatts exported to Alberta following an electrical grid alert from the Alberta Electrical Systems Operator.
- Josie Osborne, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, said: “Extreme weather events like drought and cold snaps are putting people and communities at increased risk. Thanks to the resiliency of our energy system and exceptional planning by BC Hydro, we are able to meet the needs of British Columbians while also delivering clean, reliable hydro-electricity to our neighbours in Alberta when they needed it most.”
- Chris O’Riley, president and CEO of BC Hydro said: “B.C. is fortunate to have an integrated, provincial hydroelectric system that allows BC Hydro to ramp up quickly when generation is needed and scale back when it is not. Our teams carefully plan and prepare for cold weather events like this to ensure our generating facilities are running at full capacity so we can deliver clean electricity to our customers when they need it the most.”
- The utility company added that despite historic droughts impacting some of their operations, crews have been preparing for these types of conditions and how to respond to the challenges it can present for over a year.
- BC Hydro's statement said: “BC Hydro has the tools to manage these conditions, including multi-year storage in its reservoirs, regional diversity in its generating facilities, contracts for power, and the ability to import and export power through the Western Interconnection – a network of high-voltage transmission lines that connects B.C. with other utilities in western North America. ”
- The company added that it expects demand to remain above normal over the next several days as the cold weather persists, but it does not expect any further records to be broken. Susie Rieder, utility spokesperson, said Monday that: “We plan very carefully for these cold events. We saw the cold snap coming and we ramped up generation, which is something that hydro electricity is great at doing. You can ramp up or down at a moment’s notice.”
- Premier David Eby said at an unrelated press conference Monday: “I’m so grateful to the team at BC Hydro for their careful work managing our power supply so we were able to respond in a moment of crisis. I’m glad we were able to do it. With climate change, there’s no question that we’re seeing remarkable extremes in weather.”
- BC Hydro can generate about 12,000 megawatts of power at any given time. The Site C Dam is also expected to be fully operational next year, providing the equivalent amount of energy needed to reliably power about 450,000 homes, or 1.7 million electric vehicles per year.
- Nevertheless, some critics are concerned about a prospective shortage of power on the horizon for B.C., as more and more residents turn to electric vehicles and heat pumps, and climate change intensifies drought and temperatures.
- The province imported a record amount of power last year after 18 months of drought — the equivalent of about two Site C Dams. Last week, the advocacy group Energy Futures Initiative suggested B.C. could become an “at-risk” area for power generation as early as 2026. About 20% of BC's power comes from out of province.
- BC Hydro’s decision to import $450 million in power last year helped it withstand record demand during this weekend’s extreme cold snap without the threat of rolling blackouts seen in Alberta.
- O’Riley said purchasing power when it was cheap in 2023 allowed BC Hydro to save water in its reservoirs during a difficult drought year, which it was then able to draw upon to heat homes during the record arctic weather in recent days.
- BC Hydro faced criticism last year for importing 10,000 gigawatt hours of electricity, roughly one-fifth of the province’s needs. It was a rare move for a corporation that is usually a net exporter of power.
- But it meant Hydro was able to handle a record draw on electricity usage Friday and Saturday that peaked at 11,300 megawatts, as British Columbians turned up the heat to combat record cold. Not only that, BC Hydro was also able to sell a combined 350 megawatts of power to Alberta, Washington state and Oregon for a premium.
- Despite all the congratulations, how close did B.C. come to its own limit due to the cold temperatures? B.C. did not have to activate any emergency natural gas power plants during the coldest moments, such as one on Vancouver Island that is in the middle of phasing out. It also did not have to push extra water through its hydroelectric dams. But O'Riley says that 'we weren’t running all of our generating [stations]'.
- B.C. Hydro is particularly suited to addressing gaps in supply with a jurisdiction like Alberta, which is moving to a mix of natural gas and wind power, and lacks the battery-like storage facilities of hydro reservoirs. Boasting aside, the weekend’s spot response to peak demand in the region constituted only a tiny fraction of the power that B.C. Hydro had to import last year on a continuing basis.
- Despite BC Hydro’s enviable performance compared to Alberta this past weekend, the Crown corporation still faces a challenging future. Hydro has admitted there it does not have enough power in the future to accommodate the NDP government’s CleanBC plan, which proposes to transition people to electric vehicles and heat pumps, while pushing big industries onto electric power.
- The droughts we've had in the past year were real and lasting. Perhaps it will continue. Perhaps there will be another heat dome this summer with its attendant demands on air conditioning. Perhaps Hydro won’t be able to keep up with the NDP government’s ambitious targets for “electrifying” the economy.
- A more prudent government would not be trumpeting success based on a weekend of impressive results after a year of struggling with drought and diminished reservoirs.
- Rachel Notley has announced that she is stepping down as leader of the Alberta NDP. She will step down once a new leader has been chosen, details for the leadership race will be made public later this month.
- Rachel Notley won the NDP leadership only a few months before the 2015 election, taking over from veteran MLA Brian Mason.
- The party at the time contested seats in Edmonton and won between 0 and 4 seats most elections.
- When she was announcing her resignation she stated that in the 2015 election, the NDP had no idea who the people were who voted for them.
- They had no idea that they were going to win that election going into it.
- Subsequent elections have shown that a united right in Alberta makes it very difficult for the NDP to win even when they surpass their 2015 vote totals.
- For many people the Alberta NDP became about Rachel Notley and Rachel rather than the name ‘NDP’.
- We saw just what effect Rachel Notley had on discourse this week when she was discussing why she was stepping down. A reporter had asked her if the party’s doing well, why step down, she said, “I’m a bit of a polarizing figure in the province.”
- This as we will see is part of what rubbed so many Albertans wrong onward from 2015.
- Many pundits from out east questioned after the 2015 election if Alberta could be “an NDP province” or if something else was at play. It’s clear now what happened and the dynamics that were at play.
- Before we get into that and what it means for the NDP though we want to go through some of the NDP’s policies that hurt Rachel Notley.
- First and foremost is the Alberta carbon tax. The carbon tax wasn’t campaigned on and was announced on a weekend with little fanfare but it became a lightning rod for everyone except the most die-hard NDP supporters in urban Edmonton and Calgary.
- The carbon tax was so hurtful to many that the Carbon Tax Repeal Act became Jason Kenney’s Bill 1.
- The Premier’s Office and offices of many senior ministers were staffed with people from out of province that sent the wrong message.
- In particular in this case, we go to Brian Topp who was the Premier’s Chief of Staff. He ran to the left of Thomas Mulcair in the federal NDP race which shows who and what type of influences were being exerted on the Alberta government.
- Rachel Notley’s government also appointed Tzeporah Berman, an anti-fossil fuel advocate to the provincial oil sands advisory group.
- The NDP also rushed to shut down the provinces coal fired power generators and replacement has lagged behind.
- These policies and the government’s luke-warm approach to the energy industry while also supporting the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion sent mixed signals to the industry.
- That combined with the policies of Justin Trudeau put an exacerbated weight on the province’s energy industry.
- The rebound in just a year after the UCP took power in 2019 was astounding. One might wonder if the province and world didn’t shut down in early 2020.
- There was also the government which had a huge government caucus from Edmonton and Calgary just not understanding the rural Alberta way of life.
- The farm safety bill otherwise known as Bill 6 required farm and ranch workers to be governed by occupational health and safety laws.
- This would have brought in safety standards for all workers including family members and many people were concerned what this would have meant to the friends and family that are required to help out on the farm.
- When the UCP came to power they repealed the NDP’s Bill 6 and replaced it with a Bill that required only large agricultural operations to be covered by the Workers’ Compensation Board.
- Bill 6 was simple but it told rural Alberta that they were not understood by the NDP despite the Bill being a no-brainer for most people in the city.
- The Alberta NDP also did away with the requirement for a private ballot when it came to unionizing work places.
- Under the NDP a group of Calgary construction workers made history in what was Alberta’s first union certification without an employee vote.
- We covered this story on Western Context episode 70. Effectively a union representative came to the workers of Icon Western Construction saying they owed $250 in past dues but if they paid $2 now and signed on the dotted line those debts would be wiped.
- What wound up happening is that while the workplace was unionized the workers were not, this signature unionized the workforce.
- The secret ballot was restored under the UCP.
- The NDP and Rachel Notley were seen as an era of hardship for many Albertans who had just emerged from 44 years of one-party rule.
- The Alberta NDP also continued the budget deficits of the Progressive Conservatives adding almost $100b to the debt that at one point was paid in full to $0.
- This had a knock on effect of lowering investor confidence and slowing the economy when combined with other NDP policies and signals.
- There are more cases of policies and actions that defined the NDP under Rachel Notley but these are just a couple of them. I’m sure that our listeners have their own NDP policies that they remember that they were fond of or equally offended by.
- So what was Notley’s biggest downfall?
- Looking back it’s clear that the NDP moved very quickly to try and transform the province in their image. One might ask, what would have happened if the NDP took things slower?
- What if the NDP governed as though the Progressive Conservatives did? Have a progressive social policy, be careful about budgetary spending, and not rock the boat too much?
- They probably would have been successful and there’s a very real alternate history story where Rachel Notley didn’t come from a NDP family and instead was a Progressive Conservative.
- She would have fit into the mould of the party after Ed Stelmach and could have carried the party forward to win more elections.
- With Rachel Notley’s departure we have to ask of course what this all means for the NDP.
- Will they go with a leader from Calgary to try to win seats there? Will they stick to the centre? Or will they go back to traditional NDP policy?
- This will determine if they contest power again or if they’ll go back to that spot in the legislature occupying between 0 and 4 seats.
- The UCP on the other hand would be wise to take advantage of the situation and solidify Calgary (which polls are suggesting they may have already started to do) and bring back the former Progressive Conservatives turned off by Danielle Smith.
- The UCP at the end of the day needs to both see this as an opportunity to pick up a section of the voter base that was luke-warm to them in 2023 but also to realize that going forward there can never be a fractured right again in Alberta.
- Immigration is out of control. Even Trudeau's immigration minister is saying that segments of immigration is out of control, something that would have been unheard of 2 years ago. Even Sean Fraser, the former immigration minister who is now the minister of housing, is saying that immigration is making the housing crisis more difficult, also something that was unheard of when he was immigration minister.
- And yet the Liberal ministers are tip-toeing around the problem yet again, when Miller blamed the provinces for letting in so many international students, when it's the federal government that issues the study permits.
- Let's say it again. Immigration is out of control, and it is not racist to say that, even though this federal government was trying paint people who said that even up to a few years ago as such. And yet, even Patrick Brown, the mayor of Brampton, Ontario, one of Canada's most immigrant friendly cities, has said that there needs to be a cap. He would not say this if this was a statement that the many south Asians and Indians in his city did not also agree with this.
- Over the past few years, there is growing acknowledgment that the country doesn't have the capacity to integrate the increasing number of immigrants.
- Miller has said that the number of temporary workers and international students has grown too quickly in Canada, and says in the next few months he’ll be looking at the possibility of putting a cap on the number of international students living in Canada, but he wouldn’t say how great a reduction the government is planning on making.
- The federal government has faced criticism for welcoming an increasing number of immigrants — both permanent and temporary residents — while the country faces an acute housing shortage.
- Meanwhile, new reporting citing internal documents obtained through an access to information request — shows the federal government was warned by public servants two years ago that its ambitious immigration targets could jeopardize housing affordability.
- The Liberals have set targets aiming to bring in 485,000 immigrants this year, and 500,000 in both 2025 and 2026.
- Temporary residents, largely comprised of international students and migrant workers, are another part of the equation, with more than 300,000 of them arriving in Canada in just the third quarter of last year.
- When asked why his government is only considering a cap now, when the idea of one has been floated for months, Miller said there’s a need to sort out numbers on a federal level before looking with “a little more granularity” at what individual academic institutions are doing in different provinces, possibly profiting off bringing in more international students.
- Miller said: “We need to be doing our jobs and making sure that we have a system that actually makes sure people have a financial capability to come to Canada, that we're actually verifying offer letters. And now it's time for us to have a conversation about volumes and the impact that that is having in certain areas.”
- When pressed further on the number of international students coming to Canada far outpacing the number of homes the federal government has announced it’s planning to help build, Miller also said housing is only part of the calculation when it comes to immigration targets. The pressing need to bring down the average age of the workforce also needs to be taken into consideration, he said.
- Meanwhile, the number of international students in Canada now exceeds one million, according to official figures that show an increase that has escalated far faster than the government’s own internal forecasts.
- Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told The Globe and Mail that at the end of December, there were 1,028,850 study permit holders, with just over half of them in Ontario.
- International student numbers have increased rapidly from 637,855 in 2019 to 807,260 in 2022, and concerns have been expressed that many students, including from India, are being exploited by agents who recruit them to attend private colleges in Canada with poor standards, support and facilities.
- The IRCC said that of the more than one million study permit holders – who include school, college and university students and those pursuing “other studies” – 526,015 were in Ontario, 202,565 were in British Columbia, and 117,925 were in Quebec.
- The disclosure that only 343,470 of the 1,015,744 students were studying at institutions accredited by Universities Canada showed that many international students coming to Canada were studying at private colleges, technical schools and other postsecondary institutions with varying standards.
- It's become more clear than ever that there are too many international students in Canada, many of whom will be getting permanent residency, and the government will let them bring their whole families, including dependents over as well, as they have in the past decade. This is on top of the half of a million immigrants per year that the Liberals have already doubled in the time they've been in office.
- Enough is enough. The time is over to consider caps or reductions. We need a change now, before our infrastructure is overwhelmed any further and Canada falls even further.
- The mainstream media out of the east has always questioned Western lead Conservative parties and put their leaders under a great amount of scrutiny.
- This week in the Toronto Star in an opinion column by Fae Johnstone the question was asked what queer rights would look like under a Poilievre led government.
- The article’s sub-headline reads: As prime minister, would he stand up for 2SLGBTQIA+ people? Or would he bargain away our rights and equality to appease his social conservative base?
- The first example given is the most recent Conservative contention where this past September members voted and passed two motions requesting in policy to prevent people under the age of 18 from accessing gender-affirming care.
- The other was a resolution that asked for single-sex spaces that are only open to women, which would be defined as a “female person” with the adoption of the policy.
- The Toronto Star piece makes it sound like with these policy resolutions passing they would be guaranteed to make it into law under a Poilievre government.
- But policy conventions in general do not lead to pieces of legislation. The party leader and government cabinet still have total control of what the party campaigns on and what moves its way to legislation and what becomes enacted.
- Three paragraphs in and we’ve already discovered a key problem with this article.
- Overall the general thought of the opinion piece is that: “the Conservative movement is re-engaging with an anti-queer and socially conservative kind of politics that many Canadians hoped they’d left behind.”
- There is also the allegation that Poilievre has remained silent is also quite odd.
- Poilievre has wished people a happy Pride month, mentioned that it’s in line with the party’s stance on freedom.
- He has also condemned Uganda’s plan to jail gender and sexual minorities.
- Poilievre’s own father later on in life came out as gay.
- The deputy leader of the party, Melissa Lantsman, is a lesbian.
- So to say that the Conservative party is anti-queer is quite the stretch of the imagination.
- The article also highlights that in 2005 Poilievre voted against legalizing gay marriage but to go back almost 20 years would be asking somebody in 1990 if their policies were the same as they were in 1972. The answer: probably not.
- The article also mentions the appearance of “gender ideology” being taught in schools.
- It’s at this point we can hone in on what this columnist is missing and what members of the Conservative party want when it comes to LGBTQ+ policies.
- It’s clear that at this point a majority of Canadians are largely in support of LGBTQ+ rights and everything that entails.
- There was question in 2011 when the last Conservative majority was formed if there would be a turning back on the legalization of homosexual marriage.
- That didn’t happen and the opinion of many has evolved since then.
- Even though a majority of people are now broadly supportive of LGBTQ+ rights the issue comes to schools.
- In particular pushes by school boards and some governments to abstract away what would have typically been no-brainers to alert parents about.
- In particular we are talking about:
- Lessons that teach gender and sexual fluidity. Sure this is something some people may want their kids to learn about and see the world in this way. But much like previous generations, it needs to be said that parents should have the final say if kids are taught in this manner.
- The gender-neutral restrooms, again, some people are comfortable with the concept of gender-neutral restrooms but there are questions of whether or not they should be present in schools. And with that, again, the parents should be aware if gender-neutral restrooms are in place and if their kids are going to have to use them.
- And the biggest thread running through all these is that parents have the final say in the education of their children which is entirely in line with the personal-freedom angle of the modern Conservative party.
- We bring this article to you as a preview of what’s time come in the next election campaign when the question of the Conservative party’s social-conservative base comes up.
- The reality is that the Conservative party of today is largely focused on personal freedom, parental rights, and issues that the vast majority of Conservative members agree on rather than those where there are differences such as social-conservative issues.
- With a gay father, a LGBTQ+ female deputy leader, and elected MPs also part of the LGBTQ+ community, asking whether or not the conservatives will strip away LGBTQ+ rights ignores the facts in the room and shows the desperation that some will stoop to.
Quote of the Week
“I’m a bit of a polarizing figure in the province.” - Outgoing Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley on part of the reason why she is leaving.
Word of the Week
Import - to bring goods or services into a country for sale
How to Find Us
Episode Title: In The Cold
Teaser: Canada’s cold snap raises questions of BC Hydro’s future, Rachel Notley is stepping down as Alberta’s NDP leader, and even Liberal ministers agree that immigration is out of control. Also, an opinion piece questions Poilievre’s commitment to queer issues.
Recorded Date: January 20, 2024
Release Date: January 21, 2024
Edit Notes: AB end pause
Podcast Summary Notes