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Feds silent on $120M loan to company not ‘worthy of taxpayers’ largesse”

Both CMHC and the Department of Social Development declined to respond to questions.

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Federal agencies yesterday remained mum about a $120 million housing loan to one of Canada’s wealthiest developers, after Cabinet earlier defended the loan as critical, said Blacklock’s Reporter.

“This project will help over 300 local families find rental housing units,” Ahmed Hussen, minister responsible for housing, told reporters. “That’s why the government is taking action to increase the supply of rental housing through projects like the one we’re announcing.”

Cabinet on July 19 announced the $120 million loan to build 302 apartments in Brampton, Ont. The developer is Choice Properties Real Estate Investment Trust. The company’s CEO was paid $3 million in salary and benefits last year, according to corporate filings.

“This project will help over 300 local families find rental housing units,” Hussen’s department said in a statement. “A solid and reliable supply of rental housing is critical to ensuring more Canadians have access to housing that is affordable.”

Choice Properties is owned by George Weston Ltd. The developer’s 2020 net income totaled $451 million. The loan was approved through a federal program, the Rental Construction Financing Initiative, that extends 10-year, easy-term credit “for certainty during the most risky periods of development,” according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Both CMHC and the Department of Social Development declined to respond to questions. The news website Press Progress cited data from Canada Mortgage and Housing that of 302 apartments in the Brampton project, as few as 61 would rent at below-market rates. The building is scheduled for completion by 2023.

“We know that finding an affordable place to live is a challenge for many Canadians in communities across the country,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the time. “Today’s announcement is great news for families in Brampton. The Government of Canada will continue to invest to increase affordable housing options.”

George Weston Ltd. reported net earnings of $1.6 billion last year. It also operates the Loblaw Companies Ltd. supermarket chain that in 2019 received a $12 million federal grant to install new freezers. “Canadians might wonder why the Liberals handed over $12 million to Loblaw’s, one of Canada’s richest companies,” Conservative MP Mark Strahl (Chilliwack-Hope, B.C.) earlier told the Commons.

The freezer grant was paid under a Low Carbon Economy Fund. A now-disbanded ecoEnergy program similarly paid grants to large corporations in the name of energy efficiency.

Sobeys Inc. received $1.48 million in ecoEnergy grants in the period from 2006 to 2013. Loblaw Companies received $801,000. A total $207,968 was paid to McDonald’s Restaurants and $153,960 to Sears Canada.

“These companies are flush,” Liberal MP John McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood, Ont.) said in an interview at the time. “Companies, given their financial statements, don’t seem to be worthy recipients of taxpayers’ largesse.”

Mike D’Amour is the British Columbia Bureau Chief for the Western Standard.
mdamour@westernstandardonline.com

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Dennis

    July 28, 2021 at 8:26 am

    One more of a Looong List of reasons why Albertans need to rid ourselves from this dysfunctional system. Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta in 2023. There is no fixing confederation.

  2. Steven

    July 28, 2021 at 6:00 am

    I’m not a O’Toole fan Claudette Leece, but I don’t recall O’Toole being in power as a Prime Minister or otherwise to show that he did do the same thing.

    If you are going to vote Liberal that’s ok. Maverick Party for me.

  3. Claudette Leece

    July 27, 2021 at 10:05 pm

    Well considering OToole did the same thing, going to be hard to use that against Trudeau, during the election. Politicians never learn

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Loophole benching minor hockey in Cochrane

Within hours of sending out the e-mail, Oaten confirmed between 30 and 40 kids had withdrawn from the program.

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Although new restrictions announced this week allow for recreational sports to continue for youth under 18 without proof of vaccination, one minor detail is benching minor hockey players in Cochrane.

Thursday morning, Cochrane Minor Hockey Association (CMHA) President Cory Oaten, was sent an e-mail from Hockey Alberta stating: “…based on Hockey Alberta’s interpretation of current information, minor hockey games and practices can continue, subject to the updated temporary measures that came into effect at 12:01 am this morning.”

However, Friday morning, Oaten was notified by his local facility, Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre, it would be requiring proof of vaccination for those 12 and older entering the building.

That morning Oaten notified families registered with CMHA of the new requirement and included a provided statement from the facility and assured families the decision was not that of Hockey Alberta or CMHA.

“… all persons entering the Cochrane Arena or SLSFSC (ages 12+) must show proof of full vaccination, proof of a single dose as long as the dose was given more than two weeks ago, a negative test result or a medical doctor approved medical exemption.”

“Tonnes of kids are withdrawing,” Oaten said.

Within hours of sending out the e-mail, Oaten confirmed between 30 and 40 kids had withdrawn from the program.

“I’m not against the vaccines, but I’m pro-choice,” Oaten said.

The Western Standard spoke with one father who pulled his CMHA player as a result of the facility mandates. He requested to remain anonymous.

“Obviously the government is just passing the buck on this and it’s the businesses that are going to take the brunt,” he said.

A father of four children under the age of 12, he was also in line to coach his son’s team, but will not be permitted inside as he is not vaccinated.  

“We’re not the type of parents that are just going to drop our kids off at a facility and leave them unsupervised,” he said, adding those decisions effectively ended his kids’ participation in CMHA’s sports programs.

He said he also has concerns for the liability involved with those businesses being ill-equipped to manage peoples’ sensitive health records.

“Forget the legality of all this. Morally, we just can’t support businesses that take this approach.”

Alberta Country Singer and former health care worker at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, Paul Brandt, took to Facebook on Friday to express his thoughts on the vaccine passport issue.  

Facebook post

“I want to be clear, I am not against vaccines,” his post confirms. “What is troubling to me is this: Why aren’t people who have had COVID and recovered being included in the conversation?”

Brandt’s son is a CMHA player. Both have recovered from COVID-19.

“Why are we not being recognized as people who have adequate immunity?

As of today, my son has also been told by the arena that hosts his hockey association he will not be allowed to participate in sports unless he is vaccinated—even though he has immunity to COVID-19, and is of no greater risk to his peers than anyone else.”

Oaten pointed out that players who have yet to be vaccinated will be eliminated from the important tryouts happening now and, because of wait times between doses and the 14-day waiting period to be considered fully vaccinated, many will miss a chunk of the season.

“It’s about the kids,” said an emotional Oaten.

“What makes me upset is kids are going to have to quit hockey because they don’t want to have to choose a medical procedure in order to play.”

Risdon is a reporter for the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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WS EXCLUSIVE: UCP vice-president calls for emergency meeting to initiate leadership review

“I think we need to carefully consider the option of initiating a leadership review. I believe the future of our party may be at stake.”

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The Western Standard has obtained an email from the vice-president (policy) of Alberta’s United Conservative Party (UCP) calling for an emergency meeting of the province-wide board of directors to discuss a leadership review of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.

Joel Mullan e-mailed the party’s board of directors at 8:33 pm MST September 17, under the subject line “Leadership review—request for meeting.”

“In light of events this past week, I believe we should meet and therefore request a meeting,” wrote Mullan.

“Specifically, I think we need to carefully consider the option of initiating a leadership review. I believe the future of our party may be at stake.”

The Western Standard spoke to a member of the party’s board of directors who received the e-mail who said—on condition of anonymity—a timely review of Kenney’s leadership has “become inevitable.”

As of publishing it’s not known if the request for an emergency meeting has been accepted by party president Ryan Becker or the board at large.

One day before, the Western Standard reported the UCP constituency association (CA) in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills voted almost unanimously to trigger a prompt leadership review of Kenney.

The party currently has a review scheduled for late 2022, but that could be within six months of the next election, and for local CA president Robert Smith, that’s not good enough.

By a vote of 27-1, the CA’s board voted to send a letter to the party demanding a review before that as soon as possible, but before next March, said Smith.

“We would love for it to happen tomorrow,” Smith told the Western Standard.

“In talking to people, mainly rural people, it’s fair to say we have no confidence in the premier.”

While the letter was sent on the heels of controversial new COVID-19 lockdown restrictions introduced by Kenney—including the imposition of a vaccine passport—Smith stressed the letter wasn’t as a result of that, but had been brewing for months.

But he said those restrictions could help the momentum to reach the mark of 22 ridings needed to spark a leadership review.

Smith said he gets a sense in talking to other constituency association leaders “critical mass of 22 ridings could have been reached now.

“I feel confident in saying that target can now be met. I’m surprised it hasn’t been met before,” he said.

Clockwise, Jason Nixon, Tyler Shandro, Jason Kenney, Travis Toews, and an unidentified guest on the rooftop patio of the “Sky Palace”

One of the biggest concerns for the board was when the now infamous pictures f Kenney holding an outdoor dinner on the balcony of the “Sky Palace”—in contravention of the government’s of laws, regulations, and guidelines—were published.

“The entitlement and the double standard incensed the board,” said Smith.

In April, a UCP MLA told the Western Standard they are “100% certain” Kenney will be the subject of an early party leadership review.

“Caucus is in total chaos,” said the MLA, who spoke with the Western Standard on the condition of anonymity.

The Western Standard reported earlier there are at least eight ridings now on board for a review.

Even earlier this week there were signs of dissension with the UCP Caucus.

During a tense meeting of caucus Tuesday, three MLAs told Kenney they had “no confidence” in his continued premiership of the province and leadership of the party, multiple sources told the Western Standard.

Sources inside of the caucus told the Western Standard the emergency meeting saw sharp polarization around the issues of putting the province under another lockdown, a potential mandatory vaccine passport, and firing healthcare workers who did not agree to be vaccinated.

According to the MLAs who attended the caucus meeting, three MLAs openly told Kenney they had “no confidence” in him, and several others implied as much using softer language.

The sources all gave the same three names, but none of the three MLAs responded to request for comment or confirmation from the Western Standard.

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THOMSON: An Alberta solution to the drug poisoning crisis

A regulated drug supply is the best deal on offer to shrink public health costs and enforcement budgets and repossess the drug market from organized crime syndicates, while creating good jobs and preserving the lives of thousands of working-age Albertans.

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Dr. Euan Thomson is an entrepreneur, scientist and director of EACH+EVERY, a coalition of over 100 Alberta businesses calling for policy action to end the overdose crisis.

Drug poisoning is the leading cause of death among working-age Albertans, claiming more than 1,800 Albertan lives since the beginning of 2020. Almost all of these people were between the ages of 15 and 60, and people in the trades are vastly overrepresented.

These tragedies are more accurately called poisonings because people typically cannot be certain what they’re taking when they consume illegal drugs. Surviving through an unregulated drug supply is its own small miracle, particularly as elephant-strength synthetic opioids like carfentanil now slip through our sieve-like borders.

Let’s face it: synthetic opioids have extinguished any hope of “winning” the war on drugs, given the entire 2016 American fentanyl supply could fit into a dozen oil drums.

Albertans are free thinkers, and this crisis calls for a made-in-Alberta solution that centres personal autonomy, free enterprise, fiscal responsibility, and a healthy irreverence toward federal power. A century into drug prohibition with nothing to show but accelerating body counts, it is time to regain control through a regulated market.

The idea that in a regulated market, we would walk into corner stores and find crystal meth between the Mentos and Tic Tacs would be laughable if it wasn’t so widely cited. For experimenting adolescents, alcohol is at least as hard to obtain as illegal drugs precisely because its access is controlled—a distinction that also encourages open conversations and harm reduction measures. We can implement regulatory barriers as needed to keep kids safe, but only once we control the supply. For adults, the question is much simpler: shouldn’t we be allowed to put what we want in our bodies?

Decriminalization is the first step toward a legal market. Since decriminalizing drugs 20 years ago, Portugal has among the lowest youth drug use rates in Europe and effectively left its drug poisoning crisis behind. Our federal parties are short on details around their vision for ending Canada’s crisis, but the Western Standard Editorial Board recently gave the federal NDP’s platform section on drug policy the only A-grade for endorsing decriminalization and other measures emphasizing personal autonomy and freedom from harassment by authorities. (For the record, it was one of the only high-scoring parts of the NDP platform from the Western Standard.)

It turns out, people across the political spectrum agree after a hundred years, criminalization has failed to even slow down drug use, let alone end it.

While personal autonomy and market philosophy are intuitive drug policy cornerstones, the fiscal argument is at least as compelling. The Cato Institute reports ending the War on Drugs would eliminate $27 billion USD a year from American enforcement budgets and siphon $40 billion a year from organized crime. For Canada, this translates to billions cut from our enforcement, judicial and incarceration balance sheet and billions added to taxable sales. Meanwhile, reducing hospital visits due to drug poisonings could single-handedly solve the chronic ambulance shortages squeezing our emergency response capacity.

A regulated drug supply is the best deal on offer to shrink public health costs and enforcement budgets and repossess the drug market from organized crime syndicates, while creating good jobs and preserving the lives of thousands of working-age Albertans.

How can we propel this plan against the drag of federal inaction?

First, set up a province-wide exemption from Section 56 of the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to abolish police enforcement of drug possession laws.

Next, support Albertan pilot projects to prescribe safe supply options to encourage more widespread access and choke off the demand for a street supply. Non-profit compassion clubs would cover those who cannot afford their prescriptions, as we saw during cannabis prohibition.

Finally, establish the first provincial Section 55 exemption to allow for drug manufacturing and distribution here at home, a move that would instantly benefit a Lethbridge-based operation and their partners in the nearby Blood Tribe. Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis already looks after compliance for legal drugs; we can apply similar stringency around labelling on the new products so people know what they’re taking.

Then watch as other provinces struggling with the same crisis adopt this updated, evidence-based Alberta Model; one that aligns compassion for people who use drugs with core values shared by so many in this province: personal autonomy, free enterprise, and fiscal responsibility.

While we’re at it, we can thumb our collective nose at a century of bad federal policy—all together, on brand for Alberta.

Tell your local federal and municipal candidates, as well as your provincial MLA, you want to see your values reflected in our drug policies.

Dr. Euan Thomson is an entrepreneur, scientist and director of EACH+EVERY, a coalition of over 100 Alberta businesses calling for policy action to end the overdose crisis.


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Petition: No Media Bailouts

We the undersigned call on the Canadian government to immediately cease all payouts to media companies.

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No Media Bailouts

The fourth estate is critical to a functioning democracy in holding the government to account. An objective media can't maintain editorial integrity when it accepts money from a government we expect it to be critical of.

We the undersigned call on the Canadian government to immediately cease all payouts to media companies.

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