Review of oilsands cleanup funding program needs public input, says Alberta NDP
Alberta's New Democrat Opposition says a government review of the program that's supposed to ensure oilsands companies can clean up their mines was conducted too privately and should have been done in public.
Environment critic Marlin Schmidt said Albertans now know even less than before the review of the Mine Financial Security Program began.
"Given how much money is at stake and how important this sector is to our economy, the fact the public was completely shut out of this process is really concerning," he said.
Alberta's United Conservative Party government wrapped up consultations this month on how industry financially backstops its cleanup obligations.
It held a yearlong series of meetings with industry and First Nations. No public input was sought.
Estimates of the environmental liability of the mines and their tailings ponds vary widely. Official figures peg it at $34 billion, while an internal estimate from Alberta Energy Regulator staff put it at $130 billion.
The government currently holds no more than four per cent of the security required for a cleanup. Even that level of public disclosure has now been obscured, Schmidt said.
Schmidt said that during the program review, the government changed its rules on how companies must ensure their cleanup obligations can be met. Instead of relying on lines of credit or other forms of capital, the totals of which were made public, companies can now provide demand bonds from insurance companies.
The number of companies using such bonds and the size of the liability they insure against is not released, even on an aggregate basis.
"We need to have a simple accounting of how much money is available to cover liability," Schmidt said. "If the government and industry won't tell us how much of the liability these demand bonds cover, how will we know if the financial security program is working?"
Thomas Schneider, associate professor of accounting at Toronto Metropolitan University, said accepting insurance instead of requiring resources to be set aside allows producers to delay reserving the billions of dollars the cleanup would take even as some mines approach end of life.
The program review was called after two scathing reports from Alberta's auditor general. But First Nations consulted during the review have said the government's current direction holds on to most of the old program's mistakes and makes some new ones — including failing to account for changes in the oil market as countries move to low-carbon economies.
An analysis of the government's direction by University of Alberta energy economist Andrew Leach, who acted as a consultant to the First Nations, concluded the assumptions used in the government's modelling of the industry's future "provide a false and dangerous sense of security."
A spokesman for Alberta Environment and Protected Areas said the government expects to complete its review this year and begin implementing changes — "if any" — in 2024.
The department did not immediately respond to a request for an explanation of why the review shut out the public.
Schmidt said the process needs to open up. Proprietary business information can be kept confidential, he said.
"We're generally good at what needs to be protected and what doesn't," he said.
"Every mine, at some point, will have to end its operations. We need to have a plan for making sure there's enough money in the bank to cover those liabilities.
"We can't make that mistake, especially considering how big the bill to taxpayers will be if we get this wrong."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2023.
Edmonton Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
As Canadians miss out on benefits, Ottawa promises automatic tax filing is on the way
The Canada Revenue Agency will pilot a new automatic system next year to help vulnerable Canadians who don't file their taxes get their benefits. This week's federal budget says the Canada Revenue Agency will also present a plan in 2024 to expand the service, following consultations with stakeholders and community organizations.
'It's going to take the community': Yukon faces Canada's worst toxic drug death rate
When the doors close at night at the administration office at Yukon's Carcross Tagish First Nation, a van hits the road and drives through the communities to offer naloxone to reverse overdoses, drug testing kits, food and even a friendly face to help those struggling because of the opioid crisis.
A rare weather phenomenon strikes southern Ontario again
Thundersnow has struck southern Ontario for a second time this month.
'Leave this with me': Alberta premier heard on call with COVID-19 protester
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, in a leaked cellphone call, commiserated with a COVID-19 protester about his trial while divulging to him there was an internal dispute over how Crown prosecutors were handling COVID-19 cases.
Canada makes amendments to foreign homebuyers ban – here's what they look like
Months after Canada's ban on foreign homebuyers took effect on Jan. 1, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has made several amendments to the legislation allowing non-Canadians to purchase residential properties in certain circumstances.
What is the grocery rebate in federal budget 2023? Key questions, answered
To help offset rising living expenses, the Government of Canada has introduced a one-time grocery rebate for low- and modest-income Canadians. Here is what we know about the rebate.
Victim of Vancouver stabbing had asked man not to vape near toddler, says grieving mom
The family of a 37-year-old man who was stabbed to death in Vancouver last weekend says he was attacked after asking someone not to vape near his young daughter.
5 things to know for Thursday, March 30, 2023
A new grocery rebate designed to offset food inflation, amendments to legislation on Canada’s ban on foreign homebuyers, and Alberta’s premier was heard on a call with a COVID-19 protester. Here's what you need to know to start your day.
Gwyneth Paltrow's widely watched ski crash trial nears end
The closely watched trial over a 2016 ski collision between Gwyneth Paltrow and the retired optometrist suing her for the injuries he sustained is expected to draw to a close Thursday, when attorneys give closing arguments and send the case to the eight-member jury.
‘I started breaking down:’ Friends remember 15-year-old homicide victim
A 15-year-old girl shot to death in the community of Martindale early Tuesday morning, has now been identified by friends and police as Sarah Alexis Jorquera.
Woman in custody, charges pending following Lions Park LRT station stabbing
Calgary police say they've arrested a woman in connection with a stabbing at the Lions Park LRT station that stemmed from a fight between several people.
Lethbridge UCP candidate Torry Tanner's claims against teachers disputed
A United Conservative Party candidate in Lethbridge claims teachers are exposing students to pornography and gender reassignment without parental knowledge.
Saskatoon police release video of 3 people placing 'large container' in dumpster where body was found
Saskatoon Police Service is asking for the public’s help in identifying three individuals they believe are connected to a suspicious death.
Saskatoon murder trial on hold as police investigate new revelations
A Saskatoon murder trial is being adjourned to allow police to follow-up on "significant information" that just came to the Crown prosecutor's attention Wednesday.
Dog that attacked five-year-old Saskatoon boy involved in three other attacks
CTV News has learned a dog that attacked a five-year-old boy last week had been declared dangerous in February 2022, but the city had lost track of the owner a year ago.
City council waiting for next steps in Experience Regina rebrand
The City of Regina is waiting for an update regarding the next steps for the Experience Regina rebrand.
Regina's Dewdney Avenue strip to undergo 2 year renovation project
The Dewdney Avenue strip between Broad Street and Albert Street is about to undergo a major two year renovation project.
Saskatchewan to spend $6 million for some hip and knee surgeries in Calgary
The Saskatchewan government is set to spend up to $6 million to send patients to Calgary for hip and knee surgeries.
Final report to be released today into 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting
The public inquiry that investigated the April 2020 mass murder of 22 people in Nova Scotia is releasing its final report today.
Cold front to sweep mix of snow, rain across the Maritimes Thursday
A low-pressure system moving north of the St. Lawrence River valley will sweep a cold front across the Maritimes on Thursday.
N.S. regulator gathers info on Ozempic prescriptions written to U.S. patients
After British Columbia singled out a Nova Scotia practitioner for writing thousands of Ozempic prescriptions to Americans through pharmacies in metro Vancouver, officials in Nova Scotia began looking into the matter.
BREAKING | Man pulled from house fire in Toronto's Junction Triangle dies in hospital
A man is dead after being pulled from a fire at a home in Toronto’s Junction Triangle neighbourhood.
A rare weather phenomenon strikes southern Ontario again
Thundersnow has struck southern Ontario for a second time this month.
Why is there no cell service on the TTC? Riders say it could increase safety
The Toronto Transit Commission signed a deal in 2012 to provide cellular service on the subway network, but over a decade later, few are able to make a call in an emergency—something the TTC board members, riders and parents say has to change in the wake of the death of Gabriel Magalhaes.
Seven lives lost: The victims of the Old Montreal fire
It's been two weeks since a major fire ripped through a heritage building in the heart of Old Montreal, killing seven people and forever altering the lives of families across the globe. For the families of those who died, the grieving process is only starting.
Bill 15: Quebec tables legislation to overhaul health system
The CAQ government has unveiled its long-promised plan to improve Quebec's public health network. Tabled at the Quebec legislature Wednesday by Health Minister Christian Dubé, Bill 15 promises a major shakeup.
18-year-old man shot late Wednesday night in Saint-Leonard
A young man found wounded late Wednesday night in the parking lot of a shopping centre in northeast Montreal is believed to be the victim of an earlier shooting in the same area. Montreal police (SPVM) reported Thursday morning that the 18-year-old man's life was no longer in danger.
LRT | Stage 2 of Ottawa LRT faces further delay
The long-awaited southern extension to Ottawa's light rail network is facing a further delay, a city committee heard Wednesday.
NEW THIS MORNING
NEW THIS MORNING | Here's what you need to know about the World Men's Curling Championship in Ottawa
CTV News Ottawa looks at what you need to know about the World Men's Curling Championship in Ottawa.
Truck held together with bungee cord pulled off the road in eastern Ontario
Quinte OPP says officers stopped the vehicle on Trenton-Frankford Road on Wednesday with a bungee rope stretching across the back of the truck.
Kitchener minor a victim of “child sextortion scheme” in Minnesota, U.S.
What the United States Attorney’s Office is calling a “child sextortion scheme” run by a man from Coon Rapids, Minnesota involved a minor from Kitchener, Ont.
Vietnam War survivor shares her story at Wilfrid Laurier
It was a packed house at Wilfrid Laurier University on Wednesday night, with many sitting in to listen to a key note speech by a peace activist known around the world as ‘the girl in the picture’.
'Fairly emotional for everybody': Teen struck by LRT visits emergency crews who rescued him
Several weeks after a teen was stuck under an LRT train in Kitchener, he’s now up and walking and visited the emergency crews who helped rescue him.
Northern Ont. family ‘ecstatic’ as 25-year-old murder mystery finally solved
Robert Steven Wright was convicted Wednesday of murdering Renee Sweeney, a little more than 25 years after her brutal killing shocked the community.
B.C. man pleads guilty to northern Ont. shooting, Crown drops attempted murder charge
A man who admitted to shooting up a home in Greater Sudbury in 2020 over a drug theft pled guilty Wednesday to reduced charges.
Driver caught travelling 200km/hr on major Ontario highway
A 20-year-old has been charged with careless driving after travelling double the speed limit on a major Ontario highway.
Manitobans should prepare for a gas price hike according to an expert
Come the weekend, Manitobans will be paying more for gas and the price could climb even higher in the coming weeks and months according to a gas expert.
Brandon pauses public engagement on 30-year vision over 'inappropriate and unsafe behaviour'
The City of Brandon has paused its public consultation on its 30-year plan for the city due to 'inappropriate and unsafe behaviour' from some residents.
Manitoba family launches lawsuit over COVID-19 vaccination
A Manitoba family has launched a lawsuit alleging their 23-year-old son had a stroke days after receiving a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, leaving him legally blind.
'I made it': Inside the addiction and mental health treatment ongoing at old Riverview Hospital site
The Riverview Hospital itself has been closed for more than a decade, but 289 people are currently receiving treatment for mental health, addictions or both at the old site.
City of Vancouver considering requiring grant recipients to be 'respectful' in order to get funding
Vancouver city council has asked staff to shape a policy that would require grant recipients to engage with officials in a "respectful manner," a move that one political scientist says suggests an attempt to prevent or punish criticism.
'A freeze response of shock': Expert weighs in on bystanders not stepping in during fatal Vancouver stabbing
After a man was fatally stabbed outside of a Vancouver Starbucks in front of dozens of witnesses, video of the attack is circulating on social media, raising questions about why nobody stepped in to help.
IIO investigating after man driving construction vehicle shot, seriously injured by police in Duncan, B.C.
A man was taken to hospital with serious injuries following a police shooting in Duncan, B.C., on Tuesday evening.
Vancouver Island non-profit calls for more support for women with brain injuries from violent partners
A Vancouver Island non-profit is calling for more support for women who suffer a brain injury at the hands of a violent partner.
Police investigating 'targeted' attempted arson at home in Saanich
Police are investigating what they believe was a targeted arson attack at a home north of Victoria.