Archive for August, 2019

A new study says rules governing how much water oilsands plants can take from the Athabasca River aren’t based on enough information and don’t account for how low flows can get in the crucial waterway.

It’s the second recent paper that questions assumptions about water use in the region and comes after withdrawal permits from the river were suspended due to low levels.

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“There’s much more variability than what we’ve experienced, or than what we’ve measured,” said David Sauchyn of the University of Regina, whose paper was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sauchyn said allocations from the Athabasca have been based on flow data from monitoring stations set up in the river. He points out that data only goes back a few decades and that good, consistent information doesn’t exist before the 1950s.

READ MORE: Alberta Energy Regulator restricts river water use by oil sector, cites drought 

Official statistics don’t even include the drought of the 1930s, one of the driest periods in the historical record.

Sauchyn and his colleagues used a scientifically well-established method of using tree rings to estimate water flows going back 900 years. They found the river level has fluctuated much more widely than the last 62 years of records suggest.

Although the Athabasca’s flow rate has never had a yearly average of less than 200 cubic metres per second during the recorded period, Sauchyn found it has dropped below that level 36 times since about 1100 AD.

The 200-level translates into a winter flow of about 46 cubic metres per second.

Over the next decade, the Alberta government estimates oilsands demand will grow to 16 metres per second, meaning industry could be removing more than a third of the river’s entire winter flow.

Sauchyn also found that low-flow periods sometimes lasted more than a decade.

“We’ve been able to withstand single-year droughts pretty well,” he said. “But if it gets to three, five, 10, 20, like we saw in the past, that is a much more challenging scenario.”

The study also exposed the role of long-term, large-scale climate cycles in the Athabasca’s flow.

North America is currently in the wet phase of a 60-year cycle. When the dry phase returns, it will do so with the Athabasca already experiencing declining average flows.

“It’ll compound the problem. It’s a double whammy.”

Sauchyn’s paper follows one in August that concluded climate change will further decrease flows in the Athabasca by reducing the amount of water stored as snow in the river’s headwaters.

That paper in the publication Climate Change suggested that by mid-century — well within the expected lifespan of most oilsands developments — low water levels leading to withdrawal disruptions could increase by up to 40 per cent.

That study was released the same week Alberta’s energy regulator cancelled 72 industrial temporary water withdrawal permits for the Athabasca. The regulator cited water levels that were 43 per cent below normal.

Industry is taking steps to reduce its dependence on the Athabasca. Oilsands producers have committed to cut water use by 30 per cent by 2022. Some facilities store water on site for use when flows are low.

Sauchyn said his research applies to allocations of water from other rivers as well.

His study was funded by Environment Canada with the endorsement of Canada’s Oilsands Innovation Alliance, an industry group that seeks to share research. The alliance has been given a copy of his work.


VANCOUVER – A British Columbia man found guilty of luring teenage girls into prostitution should spend more than 20 years behind bars, says a Crown lawyer.

Prosecutor Kristin Bryson argued in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday that Reza Moazami should serve back-to-back sentences for each of his 11 victims, who ranged in age from 14 to 19.

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In the first human-trafficking conviction in the province, Moazami was convicted last September of 30 of 36 charges laid against him, including sexual exploitation, sexual assault and living off the avails of prostitution.

The court heard during his trial that Moazami recruited vulnerable girls by promising them drugs, alcohol and, in one instance, a puppy.

“Crime must not get cheaper by the dozen,” Bryson told the court, quoting an earlier judgment to bolster her case.

Moazami was arrested in 2011 and spent three years and seven months in custody, meaning the Crown’s proposed sentence would amount to a further 17 years imprisonment.

A sentencing hearing was scheduled initially for early December but was delayed after Moazami fired his counsel.

Moazami was present for the sentencing hearing and wore jeans and an untucked, neatly pressed, blue dress shirt. When not staring ahead passively he fidgeted in his seat and periodically hunched forward to scribble notes on a yellow pad of legal paper.

One of Moazami’s two lawyers began Monday’s hearing by asking that Justice Catherine Bruce reconsider her judgment on his client’s five convictions of living off the avails of prostitution.

Lawyer Jeremy Fung argued those convictions were no longer constitutional because the Supreme Court of Canada’s one-year delay in overturning the country’s prostitution laws had expired since Moazami’s conviction.

The country’s top court struck down Canada’s prostitution laws in December 2013, but gave the government a year to establish new legislation.

Bruce rejected Fung’s argument, saying what mattered was that the laws were constitutional at the time of Moazami’s conviction.

“Mr. Moazami may have an appeal,” she said. “But I’ve convicted him and I’m going to sentence him.”

Speaking outside the courtroom, defence lawyer Brian Coleman said he would push for a sentence of “significantly less” than 17 years, but declined to provide specifics.

Moazami testified in his own defence at his trial, saying he didn’t know the teens were underage and that he hadn’t been living off the money they earned while having sex with a dozen men a day on average.

He is scheduled to appear in court next month to face additional charges of breaching his bail conditions and obstructing justice.

In both instances he allegedly made contact with victims, once online while on bail and once through a third party while in custody at a pre-trial centre.

Moncton held its annual APEGNB Soapbox Derby over the weekend bringing nearly 40 drivers out to the event, but it was a real-life “Masked Crusader” and his devoted father that really cleaned up at the event.

“He’s my son and I would go over the top for my son anytime,” said Robichaud Gautreau.

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Robichaud and his son Brandon Gautreau spent three longs weeks huddled in their secret imaginary “Batcave” to build a soapbox car “Batmobile. The dynamic duo believed their car was worthy of the one and only dark knight himself.

“When we were kids that is all we watched was Batman and Spiderman and the car fit into the Batman material and we went with it.” said Robichaud.

“I just like Batman, he is my favorite superhero.” said Brandon

The boys say they spared no expense.

“We have a satellite radio and a C.B. radio and a tube running up that he can actually drink from when he is driving.  He’s got horns he’s got bells and I was even going to give him a head of nails if he wasn’t winning and then he would spin out” says Robichaud.

He was joking of course, Robichaud opted out on the nails and to getting behind the wheel too.

“I will leave that to him, I am over the 200 (lb) weight limit”

The right of competing was reserved for Brandon’s alter-ego, the “Caped Crusader” himself. For the races Brandon, was in full costume, confident that he and his teammate would clean up at the derby.

The dynamic duo’s hard work paid off, the “Bat” and his mobile cleaned up, winning all four races and the contest for the most creative ride.

But Brandon says his dad is the real super hero for putting so much effort into building him the car in the first place.

Robichaud says it was the time spent with his son Brandon to build their prized car that was the most precious prize of all.


TORONTO – The city’s most iconic retail property is getting a new name.

Real estate giant Cadillac Fairview is rebranding the Eaton Centre – and 19 other malls across Canada – as part of a newly revealed corporate makeover.

Each mall is getting a CF appended to its name, meaning the downtown Toronto mall is becoming the “CF Eaton Centre.”

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All the company’s malls, including other Ontario locations like Sherway Gardens, Ottawa’s Rideau Centre and Vancouver’s Pacific Centre will similarly get the new “CF” before its name.

The renaming comes as part of a larger overall image makeover, which introduced a new logo and slogan – “Where it all comes together” – for the multi-billion-dollar developer, which is owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

The move is just part of a larger effort to “establish a more direct connection with Canadian shoppers,” according to a company release.

“Putting a new logo on the door is the easy part,” says Jason Anderson, the company’s senior vice president of marketing. “The real work is designing and implementing changes to the way consumers experience our shopping centres. We know technology and unique and engaging experiences will play a big role in changing the way people think of the shopping mall.”

The Eaton Centre hasn’t actually contained an Eaton’s store since the company went bankrupt and converted the last of its locations to Sears stores in 2002.


MONTREAL – The City of Montreal has announced a number of proposed changes to Quebec’s Highway Safety Code.

The proposals were made Monday morning in the hopes of protecting pedestrians cyclists, vehicles and even animals following countless accidents.

The changes would allow cyclists to ride on sidewalks in certain circumstances, while cracking down on those who ride under the influence of alcohol.

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One proposal will also seek to reduce the number of cyclists who talk on cell phones or wear headphones while riding.

The city is also recommending that cyclists be allowed to ride in reserved bus lanes.

No proposal was made to make helmets mandatory.

READ MORE: Reserved bike lane opens on Saint-Denis Street

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said the changes are about tailoring the provincial Highway Safety Code to the particular needs of Montrealers.

“I want to make sure that we reflect the reality of the field, but at the same time I want to make sure that the cyclists, like the drivers, will be responsible,” he said.

“The one who is most vulnerable needs to be protected. We are focusing on prevention, but when the worst happens, you want to make sure that there are consequences attached to it.”

Critics welcomed most of the changes, but were concerned with cuts to public transit.

“We think that less cars on the road means an easier sharing of the space and more safety,” said Marianne Giguere, VP of the City Hall transport committee.

“Alternatives really should be promoted and effectively financed.”

READ MORE: Has Peel street become a cycling hazard?

Montreal cyclists also weighed in.

“I was drunk biking the other night and I got this injury on my face and on my hand,” said one cyclist.

“I thought I was in control, but I should have listened to my friends.”

Some mentioned the proposed changes should think about protecting everybody.

READ MORE: Montreal police operation encourages cycling safety in Plateau

“We need changes so that cyclists don’t crash into people, crash into cars, cause more damage, injure themselves, hurt other people, hurt cats, hurt dogs,” said another cyclist.

“I prefer to use the bike paths, not sharing with cars or buses.”

The Quebec transportation minister is expected to table the proposed changes by the end of the year.