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Canada Morning Update: Alberta to impose cleanup timelines on energy firms; full Canada Post service set to resume

Good morning,

These are the top stories:

Alberta has pledged to impose cleanup timelines on energy companies

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The major policy shift comes after a Globe investigation that detailed the environmental and financial risks tied to a surging number of idled oil and gas wells. Data show there are 122,456 inactive sites in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, while another 84,569 wells have been abandoned as companies put off the cost of remediation. (for subscribers)

Alberta’s Energy Minister said she has also told the provincial regulatory body to beef up oversight of energy companies’ financial health. The Globe reported that major firms often offload wells requiring major cleanup onto smaller players who are increasingly at risk of failing, which could punt costs to the public. Alberta isn’t committing to giving the regulator greater powers over corporate takeovers where the buyer has insufficient funds for cleanups.

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The RCMP have been probing former Liberal MP Raj Grewal’s gambling for months

The force has been closely analyzing millions of dollars in transactions, including at a casino near Parliament Hill, and occasionally tracking his movements, federal sources say. Grewal is said to have spent millions at casinos over the past three years. He resigned last week from the Liberal caucus and his seat of Brampton East, actions which caught many by surprise given his recent nomination to run for a second term in the next federal election. But sources say there’s been a growing interest by law-enforcement authorities into Grewal’s gambling activities. Upon his resignation, the Prime Minister’s Office said Grewal had a gambling problem and had accumulated “significant personal debt.”

GM’s Oshawa plant shutdown: The key takeaways

Almost 3,000 people will lose their jobs at the plant just east of Toronto by December of 2019 (for subscribers). GM blamed the decision, which also ends production at four U.S. factories, on changing consumer demand. The company said it is eliminating older, poorly selling vehicles like the Oshawa-assembled Chevrolet Impala sedan and refocusing on cleaner energy options and automation.

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The news sparked a walkout by Oshawa employees while union leaders urged the federal and provincial governments to take action to save manufacturing jobs. The latest collective agreement guaranteed production through September, 2020, according to Unifor. But Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he was told by a GM executive that there’s nothing the province can do. “Basically the ship has already left the dock,” Ford said.

The move also underscores a number of issues facing the auto industry, Ian McGugan writes (for subscribers). For one, consumers are buying cars at a slower rate and driving less than they used to. And while strong economic growth in recent years has kept car sales in good shape in North America, rising interest rates may deter buyers over the next year. Automakers also face enormous development costs for electric vehicles, and even in good times GM has earned only about 8 cents of profit, before taxes, for every dollar of revenue.

The suspended B.C. Legislature officials have spoken out

Clerk of the House Craig James, who has been suspended from his role as the top administrator of the legislature pending a criminal investigation, says he was the architect of “bulletproof” accounting changes that tightened spending controls. James said he helped shape new policies after a 2012 review found the legislature had “significant deficiencies” including sloppy handling of travel expenses. Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz, who has also been suspended, said: “I know I have done nothing wrong. It’s not an issue of anything I have done that’s going to be coming out.”

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The Senate has passed legislation ordering an end to rotating Canada Post strikes

All services are set to resume today, putting an end to five weeks of rotating postal strikes across the country. The walkouts have led to backlogs of mail and parcel deliveries at the Crown corporation’s main sorting plants in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Canada Post has said it expects delays to continue through the holiday season and into January. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers went on strike to fight for better pay and job security, guaranteed hours for rural and suburban carriers and rules to cut down on workplace injuries it says have reached a “crisis” level. The union said the back-to-work legislation is unconstitutional and has vowed to challenge it in court.


Markets turn sour

Stock markets fought to keep a global rebound alive on Tuesday after U.S. President Donald Trump seemed to quash hopes of a trade truce with China, clouding what had been a bright start to the week. Tokyo’s Nikkei gained 0.6 per cent, though Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.2 per cent, and the Shanghai Composite dipped. In Europe, London’s FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were down by between 0.2 and 0.3 per cent by about 6 a.m. ET. New York futures were also down. The Canadian dollar was below 75.5 cents.


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Justin Trudeau: Environmentalist or oil sands saviour? He can’t be both

“When then prime minister Stephen Harper yanked Canada from the Kyoto climate accord in 2011, environmentalists labelled him a fossil. Perhaps, but he wasn’t a hypocrite. He knew Canada had zero chance of meeting carbon-reduction targets as long as it remained a resources-based economy, and he was right. Trudeau is promising a greener future, but his enthusiasm for carbon-intensive projects belies that image. Canada is still part of the global warming problem.” – Eric Reguly (for subscribers)

America is the bad guy now

“On Sunday, U.S. agents shot canisters of tear gas at migrants attempting to cross the southern border from Tijuana, Mexico. Photographs of women and children crying as they fled clouds of gas now join the disturbing images of migrants in cages, toddlers wailing behind chain-link fences, families separated by armed guards with little hope of reuniting. This chaos, and the mounting pain in the name of the American flag, has made one thing painfully obvious: the United States is on the wrong side of history. That unfortunate truth has become more evident since Donald Trump took the oath of office and steered the country by its worst instincts. The unvarnished bigotry of his campaign and eventually his administration peeled back the thin veneer hiding our ugliest prejudices. We are in very deep, very dark waters.” – Jared Yates Sexton, associate professor at Georgia Southern University

To connect with my 10-year-old son, I learned to play Fortnite: Battle Royale

“Last weekend, I spent some time in the Tilted Towers, fell into the Dusty Divot, learned how to jump off the battle bus and worked on my Orange Justice moves in Disco Domination. Many of you will have no idea what I’m talking about. The rest of you probably have some kids at home, 9 or older. Maybe they’ve been teaching you how to floss. No, not your teeth. I’ve been playing Fortnite, a blockbuster online video game produced by Epic Games that has attracted more than 125 million players worldwide since its release last year. It is a phenomenon so addictive that the Vancouver Canucks have banned the team from playing it while on the road.” – Marsha Lederman

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A Chinese scientist says he helped produce the world’s first genetically edited babies

The unverified claim, which has already sparked backlash, would be a major technological milestone. Researcher He Jiankui says he edited embryos, resulting in the birth of twins with a genetic code manipulated to make them less vulnerable to HIV. While altering genetic codes offers the promise of eradicating heritable disease, it also creates the potential to design human beings with biological advantages. China has been at the forefront of genetic advancement, but even many in the country’s scientific community signed a petition of condemnation. “Pandora’s Box has been opened, but we may have a chance to close it before it’s too late,” it reads.

Here’s the view from André Picard: “There is no question that Dr. He’s experiment was cavalier, unethical and potentially illegal. But the technology is changing so quickly that many scientists are taking a ‘if I don’t do it, someone else will’ attitude. The therapeutic and preventive potential for gene editing is enormous. The opportunity for abuse is also significant. We can’t let fear of eugenics stifle scientific progress. We need to find a way to navigate that ethical minefield. We won’t get there with sweeping bans or self-righteous pronouncements, but with tough discussions leading to some form of societal consensus on how “designed” our future designer babies can, or should, be.”


Original Penn Station opens in New York

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(The New York Public Library Digital Collections)

Nov. 27, 1910: When the station opened in November, 1910, it was a temple to transportation. The new New York terminal of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company reflected all the grandest civic impulses of its age: its waiting room modelled after the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, sculpted from travertine and pink granite. Designed by the great New York architects McKim, Mead and White, it was a high point of public architecture in North America. And then, quite quickly, it began to crumble. In 1961, after decades of booming car ownership and the decline of rail travel, news of the end came: the station would be replaced by a new one, a new Madison Square Garden and an office complex. The result was beloved by nobody: subterranean, labyrinthine, fluorescent-lit, reeking of fast food. The architectural historian Vincent Scully captured the change: “One entered the city like a god,” he wrote. "Now one scuttles in like a rat.” Still, the battle over whether to preserve the station spurred the historic preservation movement, in New York and then across North America. The destruction of this temple brought about a reverence for history that remains with us today. – Alex Bozikovic

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