Good morning, it’s James Keller in Calgary. And on a Wednesday! How novel.
For at least the next month during the Alberta election, we’re bumping up our Western Canada newsletter to two issues per week – the same Saturday newsletter that you know and love, with an added mid-week edition on Wednesdays.
We’ve had a lot of Alberta election coverage lately – and we’ve got more great stuff coming this weekend – so why don’t we start in B.C. and the never-ending debate about transportation apps such as Uber.
Uber has been trying to break into Vancouver for the past seven years, and it’s easy to see why. Vancouver is probably one of the least car-dependent cities in Canada, and even many people who drive don’t own their own cars, with car-sharing services flourishing. But provincial laws effectively ban services such as Uber and Lyft, even after B.C.'s 2017 election in which all major parties promised to quickly open up the ride-sharing industry.
The New Democrats came to power in 2017 on a promise to regulate such services by the end of that year. The deadline came and went, and now B.C. Premier John Horgan has a new timeline: the end of this year.
The legislature passed a law regulating ride-hailing services last year and is now working on regulations, but that hasn’t been easy.
An all-party committee of the legislature assigned to examine ride-sharing hasn’t even been able to agree on what type of driver’s licence operators should hold. The government says drivers should be required to have a commercial Class 4 licence – the kind taxi drivers have – but the legislature committee argued a standard Class 5 licence should be enough.
Despite the fighting, Mr. Horgan insists that “we’re almost there.”
This is the Western Canada newsletter written by Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.
ALBERTA ELECTION: It’s the second week of the campaign ahead of the April 16 election, and the parties are trading policy proposals and attack ads. Here’s what’s been happening:
– UCP Leader Jason Kenney revived the debate about gay-straight alliances in the province’s schools by promising to roll back NDP legislation. Mr. Kenney said he would maintain rules requiring schools to allow students to start GSA clubs but he would repeal an NDP law that prohibited teachers from telling parents when a kid joins.
– NDP Leader Rachel Notley unveiled a $25-a-day child-care program that would provide tens of thousands of affordable spaces. Ms. Notley says the program would also boost the economy by allowing more parents to return to the work force sooner.
– Mr. Kenney announced increased access to skills-trade education and apprenticeship learning, arguing that a bias toward university education has fuelled a skilled-worker shortage that will only get worse when older workers retire.
– Mr. Kenney wrote Toronto’s mayor to oppose a city councillor’s motion calling for lawsuits against oil producers. Mr. Kenney says such lawsuits, which have also come up in Whistler, B.C., Victoria and West Vancouver, are little more than transparent “virtual signalling.” But he says they still represent serious attacks on the province’s oil industry, and he’ll fight back if he’s elected premier.
MONEY LAUNDERING: The head of B.C.'s civil forfeiture office is defending the agency after it waited three years after RCMP raids to target nearly $5-million in assets from the couple accused of running a massive money-laundering business.
Bill C-69: A Senate committee studying Bill C-69, which would overhaul federal environmental approvals, is preparing for a western tour that includes two stops in Alberta for hearings that will take place during the provincial election. The committee is examining legislation that has drawn criticism from Ms. Notley and Mr. Kenney.
CANOLA: Regina-based Viterra Inc. is the latest canola producer to face a ban on exporting to China amid increasing tensions between China and Canada. Viterra Inc. is the second Canadian company to have its canola-seed export rights revoked, after China’s General Administration of Customs halted shipments from Richardson International Ltd. earlier this month. And Chinese importers have also stopped all purchases of canola from Canadian producers, according to industry group Canola Council of Canada.
NANAIMO BY-ELECTION: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called a May 6 by-election for the B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith. The riding was left empty when former New Democrat MP Sheila Malcolmson left to successfully run for the NDP in a provincial by-election.
ENMAX: Calgary’s city-owned utility, Enmax, is purchasing Emera Inc.’s transmission and distribution operations in Maine for $1.3-billion. The deal, in which Enmax will assume $500-million in debt, marks the company’s first foray outside Canada.
GENDER: Saskatchewan residents no longer have to specify their gender on driver’s licences and photo ID cards under new rules that allow people to mark an X instead.
Lisa Kerr on the truck driver’s sentence for the Humboldt Broncos crash: “The number of victims in Mr. Sidhu’s case makes it tragically unique. For that reason, many expected to see a sentence at the high end of the typical range of 14 months to four years for this manner of dangerous driving. The question is whether the highly publicized and terrible harms in this case should attract a punishment so far beyond what other dangerous but sober drivers have received for similar conduct.”
Adrienne Tanner on the B-line debate in West Vancouver: Concern over climate change has given public transit somewhat of a renaissance, particularly in urban centres where service is more frequent and faster. Many young people in Vancouver rely exclusively on transit, car sharing and bicycles to get around. Seniors also migrate to transit when they no longer wish or are able to drive."