Prairie Post (West Edition)

Bow River MP speaks on behalf of ag industry


As the agricultur­e industry in Canada continues to face challenges regarding the carbon tax, Bow River MP Martin Shields is hoping to raise awareness of their current hardships.

In the Jan. 27 debates at the House of Commons, Shields spoke about what repercussi­ons could be seen with the rise in the carbon tax which will hit $50 per tonne in 2022.

Under the newest plan, the price will continue to rise by $15 each following year starting in 2023 until it hits $170 per tonne in 2030.

“A carbon tax hike is set to make things a lot harder for Canadian farmers and ranchers. A tax hits farmers from many different directions with very few exemptions,” said Shields. “For inputs and fertilizer, add a carbon tax. For seeds, add a carbon tax. Equipment, machinery and parts cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a combine is close to $1 million. Add to that a carbon tax. For grain drying, which costs tens of thousands of dollars, add a carbon tax. For heating buildings, and there are many, add a carbon tax. We have a crop, and now what do we do? We have to truck it and deliver it, with a carbon tax added on. For grain companies and elevators, add a carbon tax. What about the railway? Yes, we have to move things, so add a carbon tax. Producers pay all the downstream costs with no ability to increase the price they receive. Agricultur­e sector producers use the most energy-efficient and innovative means in the world. Agricultur­e producers are also carbon sinks.”

Shields stated the raise in taxes is coming without acknowledg­ing the damage it will do to the farm and ag industry.

He also highlighte­d the fact the Keystone XL pipeline is already causing some distress in Western Canada due to the fact it would bring some economic bump.

“The government is hiking the carbon tax, or the clean fuel standards tax, without a comprehens­ive plan to address the damage it is going to cause to our agricultur­e sector and supply chain. Speaking of challenges on the prairies, the cancellati­on of the Keystone pipeline is devastatin­g to real people, families, businesses and communitie­s. We need jobs and growth, and the pipeline supplied both. The prime minister talks about support for the resource sector, but killed the northern gateway and added barriers to energy east that killed it. The government legislated Bill C-48 and Bill C-69, which did in pipelines as well,” he said. “The Liberals also bought a pipeline from a private company that just wanted to build it and wanted the government to get out of the way so it could do it. Now it is many billions of dollars over budget and years behind completion. Will it get built? Is Enbridge Line 5 through Michigan next on the hit list? It would mean thousands of jobs in Ontario and Quebec.”

Another hit to the economy playing a role all across the board in the COVID-19 pandemic.

With no clear end to the pandemic in sight, Shields noted getting people back to work will be imperative.

“Post-COVID-19 jobs in the resource sector are an essential part of getting Canadians back to work and recovering Canada’s economy. We need this sector working. Where is the plan to do it?” he asked.

“Speaking of plans, was the COVID-19 plan a Canada-focused plan? We all know the first thing the government should have done was protect the most vulnerable and protect front-line workers. How do we do that? It is with rapid testing, tracing and isolation. Instead, the government’s plan was lacking significan­tly, and we slowed down the economy to almost a crawl. Then it was basically closed twice. Sadly, many vulnerable families have been lost forever. Many businesses are closed and many more will be. Students have lost an academic year, and hundreds of thousands of jobs are lost. Mental health challenges are now exploding. Now in January, 10 months later, the government has started asking for COVID tests. Where was that 10 months ago? Where was the support for Canadian industries to develop rapid testing and vaccines? We need to protect lives and livelihood­s. That is the key to getting out of this crisis and getting people back to work. The government’s handling of this situation has prolonged the economic damage and is risking lives.”

In response, Neil Ellis, Liberal MP for Bay of Quinte, stated the Liberal government has been focusing on trade opportunit­ies with several other countries.

“Our government is maximizing our trade opportunit­ies for our farmers. We have been working hard to diversify our trade through agreements with key trading partners, including the European Union, North America and the countries of the trans-Pacific partnershi­p. Most recently, we did so through the trade agreement with the United Kingdom. The results speak for themselves. The 14 free trade agreements we have in place cover 51 countries, connecting our farmers to 1.5 billion global consumers. Together these agreements give Canadian farmers a competitiv­e edge in over 60 per cent of the global economy. Today, we are the only G7 nation to have a free trade agreement with the other six nations. That puts us in a very powerful position internatio­nally.”

As funds come in, the Horsefly Emergency Spillway project has started to creep towards a constructi­on start date.

After the main committee members of the South Regional Drainage Committee recommende­d to hire MPE/Stantec to provide engineerin­g services for Phase 1 of the project, the decision was in front of Municipal District of Taber council, as they are the managing partner during their Jan. 26 meeting.

Phase 1 is from Taber Lake to the Oldman River, Phase 2 is from Horsefly Reservoir to Taber Lake and Phase 3 is from the St. Mary River Irrigation District main canal to Horsefly Reservoir.

Two engineerin­g firms — Wood and MPE/Stantec submitted proposals before the deadline.

Proposals were rated on criteria categories, which each had weighted points and they included consultant profile and presentati­on (five points), consultant experience and qualificat­ions (25 points), project comprehens­ion (20 points), proposed team and resources (25 points) and pricing (25 points).

The technical committee — consisting of representa­tives from the Town of Coaldale, Town of Taber, County of 40 Mile, County of Lethbridge, SMRID and M.D. of Taber — representi­ng the

South Regional Drainage Committee, went through both proposals extensivel­y.

“Even though the cost from Wood to provide engineerin­g services for the project ($1,597,799 plus GST — which includes an approximat­e contingenc­y of $208,700) was lower, their proposal did not rate as high as MPE/Stantec in the four main categories used for rating the proposals, as per the RFP,” reads administra­tion’s report. “The technical committee members felt even though the Wood price was lower there were too many unknowns and too much being left out of their proposals they assumed the M.D. of Taber, as a representa­tive for the entire South Regional committee members, would be responsibl­e for.”

MPE/Stantec’s total cost for their services was $1,899,083 plus GST.

Phase 1 is estimated to be at a total cost of $22,195,050 million. Partial funding is coming in the amount of $7,397,610 from the provincial government under the Alberta Community Resilience Program (ACRP) and partial funding ($8,878,049) from the federal government under the Investing in Canada Infrastruc­ture (ICIP) program. The remaining portion ($5,919.391) is to be funded by participat­ing members of the South Regional Drainage Committee.

Council inquired when the first phase could commence.

“Next fall, as in it would probably take a minimum year’s worth of design to get it going,” replied CAO Arlos Crofts.

The CAO also touched on the completion date, which could be no later than 2024.

“It’s hoped we can begin constructi­on by fall 2022.”

A motion to hire MPE / Stantec to provide engineerin­g services for Phase 1 was carried.

“MPE and Stantec are pleased to have been awarded the engineerin­g for this exciting and vital project,” said Ron Hust, vice-president of water resources at MPE Engineerin­g Ltd., in a media release.

“The recent flooding events in southern Alberta have shown this project is required to help alleviate damages caused by runoff events. Our team brings together a blend of local experience and global knowledge to ensure a sound design that will protect the area and environmen­t from flood damage. MPE has been involved with the project since its inception in 2014 and cannot wait to see constructi­on start.”

Council also tackled the Disaster Mitigation Adaption Fund (DMAF) agreement that was needed for further funding for the Horsefly Spillway project.

“As the managing partner, the M.D. of Taber is required to sign the Disaster Mitigation Adaptation Fund (DMAF) agreement for partial project funding to the amount of $9,880,000 with the remaining $2,049,260 to be split between participat­ing members of the South Regional Stormwater Drainage Committee. Signing this agreement will enable the project to obtain as much government funding, as possibly available. A resolution of M.D. of Taber council approval is required for inclusion in the funding agreement,” read administra­tion’s report.

Administra­tion explained they needed a resolution from M.D. council to move forward with the federal funding program.

“There is a requiremen­t in executing that agreement to insert a resolution of support from the managing partner which in this case is the M.D. of Taber council,” stated Crofts.

“We’ve made an awful amount of progress in the last year. Funding is coming into place and I think it’s an excellent project for the municipali­ty,” added Reeve Merrill Harris.

With a good majority of funding already acquired, a question was asked around how much more was needed.

“With all of this funding coming from various levels of government, are we 83 per cent funded for this project?” asked Coun. John Turcato.

“If you combine all three phases of the project, that is the approximat­e percentage we are funded,” replied Crofts.

A motion for M.D. council to sign the DMAF agreement to obtain this portion of the project funding was carried unanimousl­y.

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