‘That’s a clear cut’: Residents in Kelowna-area neighbourhood outraged over logging

Residents of the Joe Rich area near Kelowna were stunned to learn that hectares of land near their homes appeared to have been mostly clear-cut by a logging company.

“Two days ago, this was all trees. And today…they’ve raped it,” area resident John Collinson said.

In recent years, the area has struggled with washouts and mudslides, and locals are concerned that logging will just make it worse.

Read more: Legislative changes urged after logging proposed near key North Okanagan drinking water source

“With the loss of all the trees from the fire three years ago, there’s already more instability,” resident Kristi Smith said.

“The highway washout a couple years ago was part of it, and there’s been all kinds of issues with water and washouts because there’s no ground stability with no trees,” she added.

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In an email, Tolko said it’s trying to help reduce the wildfire risk in the area and that some trees have to be harvested because of the killer Douglas fir beetle.

Read more: Tolko alters logging plans for cutblock located above Greater Vernon’s primary water source

Residents claim that’s just an excuse and also allege that the logging is putting nearby homes in danger.

“If they take away the trees right up to this property line, it no longer has any stability,” Smith said, pointing to where trees had been flagged above a house.

Residents also believe that the increased sedimentation caused by logging could potentially impact the city’s drinking water supply.

“There needs to be much more interest on behalf of the city, regional district and politicians generally in protecting the community watershed, not just for this community but for the city of Kelowna also,” resident Reg Volk said.

Read more: Tolko receives 1-year extension to submit report on shuttered waterfront mill in Kelowna

In a statement, a spokesperson for the forestry ministry said Tolko conducted geotechnical assessments and is following the geoscientist’s recommendations.

“Legal and right are two different things. They’re just here to make the money,” Collinson said.

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Read more: B.C. government pausing controversial Rose Swanson logging project

After Global News reached out to Tolko, the company said it will halt its harvesting activities until September and consult with nearby property owners.

Local residents hope that they’ll permanently stop logging the area.

Click to play video: 'Future of former mill site in Kelowna’s north end still up in the air' Future of former mill site in Kelowna’s north end still up in the air
Future of former mill site in Kelowna’s north end still up in the air – Feb 26, 2021

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

How Greyhound Canada’s permanent end of bus services could impact Ontario communities

Hours after Greyhound Canada announced it was permanently ending bus service across the country, questions were being raised in Ontario about how people in communities with reduced transportation options will be able to travel.

“The announcement is obviously very fresh and I’m in the process of gathering more information to determine what the social and the economic impacts this may have on our city and the rest of northern Ontario,” Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger told Global News Thursday afternoon, calling the announcement a “setback” for bus users in and around his community.

“The bus services are an important connection for people in northern Ontario. A lot of students use it for going to school, seniors and it’s an affordable method for getting around.”

Read more: Greyhound Canada to cut all bus routes, end operations

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Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson called the termination of service “regrettable.”

“It was an economical way for many of our residents to travel to different parts of Quebec and Ontario,” he tweeted Thursday afternoon.

“I hope this will encourage another bus service to fill the void or see an increase in future VIA Rail trips.”

Andrew Ivimey, a standup comedian who lives in Toronto, is one of many who have relied on the interregional bus service over the years to travel to gigs. He said Greyhound was integral as his career was just beginning.

Read more: Greyhound temporarily suspends service in Ontario, Quebec due to coronavirus pandemic

“Greyhound is something I didn’t even realize until today that I had an emotional connection with,” he told Global News Thursday afternoon.

“As a standup comedian in my early 20s, when you’re not making a lot of money doing it, Greyhound was incredible. Like, it provided me opportunities to go do one-night shows in towns that I wouldn’t be able to make it to as a young, broke comedian without a car.

“It’s just something that like there’s been a lot of opportunities over the years as a young comic that that Greyhound provided me that I never really thought about until this week.”

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Earlier in the day, the Canadian branch of Greyhound announced the permanent end of its remaining routes in the province that were suspended in May due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, around 260 employees were laid off when the suspension was announced. Now those employees along with 45 others will be let go.

Read more: Loss of Greyhound bus service makes some rural areas ‘feel cut off’

The following routes will be discontinued as of the end of Thursday: Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal, Toronto-London-Windsor, Sudbury-Ottawa/Toronto, Toronto-Kitchener/Guelph/Cambridge, Toronto-Niagara Falls and Ottawa-Kingston.

Greyhound Canada senior vice-president Stuart Kendrick said the company plans to sell the bus stations it owns. As for its leased properties, some of the agreements have expired or have an “out clause,” while it will honour the terms of leases it’s obliged to continue paying, Kendrick said.

However, some stations were shuttered months after the suspension began. In October, the company announced it was leaving the Catherine Street terminal in Ottawa and at the time promised to operate at a new location.

The company said tickets for travel after Thursday will be refunded. Customers with a valid travel voucher can also request a refund.

Read more: Greyhound to vacate downtown Ottawa bus station

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The decades-old bus carrier struggled for years with declining ridership, increasing competition and deregulation. In 2018, it suspended all operations in western Canada, citing similar reasons.

Kendrick said the complete loss of so-called farebox revenue during the pandemic has forced the company to permanently cease operations. He said despite the ongoing challenges with its remaining routes, nothing could have prepared the company for the dramatic 95 per cent drop in passengers at the outset of the pandemic.

The decision is a blow to rural and remote areas that rely on a patchwork of private intercity bus companies for transportation. The service has long been part of a network linking smaller communities and big cities, offering an affordable and convenient mode of travel for everyone from essential workers and students to the elderly and backpackers.

Yet the rise in car ownership, ride-sharing, discount airlines and urban migration has slowly eroded bus ridership, leading Greyhound Canada to gradually reduce the frequency of some services and cut other routes altogether.

Read more: Fragmented bus service market emerges as Greyhound exits Western Canada this week

“Private carriers are relying on the farebox revenue to maintain these rural routes,” Kendrick said.

“When ridership declines, we have a decision to make. We either cut the frequency, exit the rural markets or look for some help.”

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Multiple coach bus companies teamed up and approached the federal and provincial governments for financial aid amid mounting COVID-19 restrictions. But Kendrick said they were referred to existing pandemic supports — what he called “negligible” for the beleaguered passenger transportation industry — prompting Greyhound Canada to temporarily suspend all service last May.

“There’s really been a lack of support,” Kendrick said, adding the company doesn’t receive subsidies and is left to compete with publicly funded transit systems

Read more: What are the alternatives to Greyhound in Western Canada?

The Ontario government has also promised to deregulate the intercommunity bus industry starting in July, a move that would end Greyhound Canada’s control of certain routes.

“We have had exclusive private bus service on certain corridors,” Kendrick said, noting that it provided passengers with safe, frequent and affordable service

Natasha Tremblay, a spokesperson for Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney, told Global News in a statement that provincial officials are “disappointed” with Greyhound Canada’s decision.

“This pandemic has brought significant challenges to businesses across the country. We are continuing to act based on the advice of the chief medical officer of health and health experts to protect the health and well-being of Ontarians,” she wrote.

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Read more: Greyhound exit leaves gap for homeless, domestic violence shelters

Tremblay went on to say the government is still moving ahead with deregulation of the industry in the province by removing certain licensing requirements. The planned change date is set for July 1.

“We are providing more opportunities for carriers to access markets across the province and fill service gaps as Ontario recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

“Ultimately, this problem is national in scope and Ontario is committed to working with the federal government and the intercommunity transportation sector to continue connecting communities in Ontario and across Canada.”

Meanwhile, Bigger said he is hopeful Ontario Northland, the agency charged with providing passenger bus and rail service along with rail freight with a focus on serving northern Ontario, or other transportation providers will fill the void left by Greyhound Canada.

Read more: Greyhound Canada to end routes in Prairies, B.C.

He noted the agency is now the only major bus connection.

“All of northern Ontario for sure is impacted by reductions in bus service,” Bigger said.

Global News contacted Ontario Northland to ask if there are plans to expand service, but a spokesperson reiterated the agency’s existing mandate.

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— With files from The Canadian Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Social media campaign aims to help young Indigenous Manitobans get vaccinated

With Manitoba lowering the minimum age down to 18 for a COVID-19 vaccine, the province is hiring prominent social media influencers to help spread the word and increase vaccinations, particularly among young Indigenous Manitobans.

Comedian Sherry McKay is one of them, and is using her own story to convince young people — including her 11,000 Instagram followers — to get the shot.

“Because I was on the fence (about getting the vaccine) for so long, I ended up getting COVID myself,” McKay said.

“It’s something that I completely regret, taking so much time to make those decisions, so that’s why this is super important to me.”

Read more: COVID-19 vaccine eligibility lowered to 18 for all Manitobans

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McKay is part of the new #protectourpeoplemb campaign, which also features local Indigenous influencers, including cosmetics businesswoman Brandi Woodhouse, community activist Michael Redhead Champagne and singer-songwriter Leonard Sumner.

Even when she wanted to get vaccinated, McKay said, there was still a lot of confusion around where and when to go, and she hopes the new campaign, which includes a website with COVID-19 resources, will help others in the same situation.

“There was a pop-up site and I missed it because I didn’t get the information,” she said.

“I was really trying to get vaccinated and I just didn’t know where to go, and the information wasn’t out there.”

Click to play video: 'Canadians remain confident in vaccines' Canadians remain confident in vaccines
Canadians remain confident in vaccines

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

New Brunswick to hold COVID-19 update as questions swirl around AstraZeneca

New Brunswick will be providing an update on the COVID-19 situation in the province on Thursday at 2:30 p.m.

The briefing will include Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dominic Cardy and Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health.

Read more: N.B. COVID-19 cabinet committee meets Wednesday with AstraZeneca expected to be ‘major topic’: Higgs

The conference will be livestreamed here.

The province’s all-party COVID-19 cabinet committee held a meeting Wednesday night, where Premier Blaine Higgs said the use of AstraZeneca would be a “major topic.”

Nova Scotia had announced earlier in the day Wednesday that it will be pausing the use of AstraZeneca as a first dose. It joins a growing list of provinces to pull AstraZeneca — due to the risk of a rare blood clot and because of supply considerations.

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Read more: New Brunswick reports first death linked to AstraZeneca vaccine

Last week, New Brunswick announced its first death connected to a rare form of blood clot after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

As of Wednesday, the province had 123 active cases of COVID-19.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Police charge 3rd teen in fatal 2020 Hamilton Mountain stabbing

Hamilton police say they have made a third arrest in the stabbing death of 19-year-old Ali Mohummad, who died after a dispute between two groups on the Mountain in 2020.

Detectives say a 17-year-old was picked up without incident by officers at a west Mountain residence on Wednesday. The teen is facing a pair of aggravated assault charges and a charge of assault with a weapon.

Read more: Man dead after ‘street disturbance’ in Hamilton: police

Investigators say the probe into the incident, which saw two groups converge at a plaza parking lot at 310 Limeridge Rd. W. during the early hours of July 19, 2020, is ongoing.

The deceased was Hamilton’s ninth homicide of 2020. He was discovered by a police canine unit hours after the altercation, which officers say involved 20 to 30 people from Hamilton and a number of men from Peel Region who arrived in three cars.

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Ali Mohummad, 19, was the victim of a stabbing that occurred during a large brawl near Limeridge Road West in Hamilton, Ont. on the morning of July 19, 2020. Hamza Choudry


Mohummad was one of three hurt in the incident. Two others, who were hit by a car, checked into a hospital, according to detectives.

A fourth person was also hurt and later released from hospital.

Read more: Police charge 2nd teen connected to fatal stabbing in Hamilton

Two other male young offenders, both aged 17, were arrested in 2020 and both were charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon within days of the murder.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Ontario residents 40 and older can book COVID-19 vaccines

TORONTO — Ontarians aged 40 and older can book COVID-19 vaccine appointments across the province today.

The province is opening eligibility to the age cohort through its vaccine booking portal.

People in their 40s could previously take Oxford-AstraZeneca shots at pharmacies and they can now book at other clinics.

Read more: Ontario expands COVID vaccine eligibility to 40+, more people who cannot work from home

The province stopped giving first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine this week, citing risk of a rare but serious blood clot linked to the shot.

People with at-risk health conditions and more people who can’t work from home also became eligible to book shots this week.

The province is expecting millions of vaccines in the coming weeks and is aiming to get first shots to 65 per cent of adults by the end of May.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

Ex-cops charged in George Floyd murder accuse prosecutors of witness coercion, leaks

Attorneys for three former Minneapolis officers awaiting trial in George Floyd’s death will be in court Thursday to argue pretrial motions, including a request that prosecutors be sanctioned after media reports that Derek Chauvin had planned to plead guilty a year ago, and allegations that they haven’t disclosed information about the alleged coercion of a witness.

Attorneys for Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao have said they want the court to require prosecuting attorneys to submit affidavits under oath that they aren’t responsible for the leak to the media. In a filing late Wednesday, Thao’s attorney also alleged that the Hennepin County medical examiner was coerced to include “neck compression” in his findings — and that prosecutors knew of it.

The former officers waived their right to appear at Thursday’s hearing. Their trial is set for Aug. 23.

Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is prosecuting the officers, has said allegations that his office was involved in a leak are false. His office had no immediate comment on the allegations of coercion. A spokeswoman for Dr. Andrew Baker, the medical examiner, said they could not comment due to the pending case.

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Read more: ‘Gives us hope’: George Floyd’s family grateful for former cops’ federal indictment

Chauvin, who was seen in widely viewed bystander video pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck as the Black man said he couldn’t breathe, was convicted in April of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. He’s to be sentenced June 25.

Lane, Kueng and Thao are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Their trial was separated from Chauvin’s to comply with COVID-19 courtroom spacing restrictions.

Bob Paule, Thao’s attorney, said in a court filing Wednesday that Baker initially said there was no physical evidence that Floyd died of asphyxiation. But after talking twice to Dr. Roger Mitchell — a former medical examiner in Washington, D.C. — he amended his findings to include neck compression as a factor, according to Paule.

Paule said that in one of the conversations, Mitchell called Baker and told him he was going to submit an opinion piece critical of Baker’s findings to the Washington Post. When Baker released final autopsy findings June 1, they included neck compression, Paule wrote, and Mitchell never submitted his piece to the newspaper.

Click to play video: 'Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin asks judge for new trial' Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin asks judge for new trial
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin asks judge for new trial – May 4, 2021

Mitchell, now chairman of the Department of Pathology at the Howard University College of Medicine, did not immediately respond to a phone message left at the department after hours.

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Paule also took aim at Mitchell’s criticism of Dr. David Fowler, a key defense witness for Chauvin who testified that the former officer was not responsible for Floyd’s death. Mitchell sent a letter — signed by 431 doctors from around the country — to the Maryland attorney general, saying Fowler’s conclusions were so far outside the bounds of accepted forensic practice that all his previous work could be questioned.

Maryland officials then announced they would review all in-custody death reports during Fowler’s tenure. Paule said Mitchell’s accusations had a chilling effect on Thao’s ability to find medical experts unafraid to testify on his behalf.

He said prosecutors have yet to give the defense evidence about Mitchell’s actions. He’s asking that the case against Thao be dismissed.

Paule also said in a court filing in February that he wants an order sanctioning the state for “its role _ directly or indirectly _ in the leaking of highly prejudicial information related to potential plea agreements of co-defendants.”

Read more: Ex-cop Derek Chauvin, convicted in murder of George Floyd, asks judge for new trial

The New York Times reported Feb. 10 that Chauvin was ready to plead guilty to a third-degree murder charge last year but then-Attorney General William Barr rejected the agreement. The Associated Press published a similar report the next day, citing two law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the talks. Paule alleged that the leaks came from the state, and asked that anyone who did so be barred from participating in the trial. Tom Plunkett, Kueng’s attorney, echoed his statements.

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Ellison earlier dismissed Paule’s motion as “completely false and an outlandish attempt to disparage the prosecution.”

Earl Gray, Lane’s attorney, has a motion asking Judge Peter Cahill to compel the state to disclose all use-of-force reports over the past 50 years in which a Minneapolis police officer used force and another officer intervened verbally or physically. Gray said it’s necessary to show the jury that no such intervention has been made in the past 50 years, which would call into question the state’s expert testimony about the duty of officers to intervene.

Prosecutors have said that request should be denied. They’ve noted that department policy requires officers to intervene when excessive force is used, and say Gray hasn’t shown how the testimony of experts could be called into question by a lack of interventions.

All four officers have also been indicted on federal charges alleging they violated Floyd’s civil rights.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

New Zealand to explore more ‘travel bubbles’ with other countries later this year

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday her government will explore more travel “bubbles” and lead trade delegations later this year to re-connect with a post-pandemic world after more than a year of border closures.

Tough lockdowns and its geographical location has helped New Zealand eliminate the novel coronavirus within its borders, but left the country of 5 million isolated from the rest of the world.

With a majority of its essential workers now being vaccinated and inoculation for the wider population starting in July, the government is preparing a plan for how it would reopen.

Read more: New Zealand to open long-awaited travel bubble with Australia in mid-April

Ardern said New Zealand started rebuilding contact by opening quarantine-free travel with neighboring Australia and the South Pacific’s Cook Islands, and is considering more such travel bubble options.

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“Niue is the natural next addition. Beyond that we are relatively open-minded, and I do anticipate there will be other countries we can explore opportunities with,” Ardern said in her pre-budget speech in Auckland.

More than 70,000 people landed in New Zealand from Australia since the travel bubble opened last month, and over 57,000 have traveled the other way, Ardern said.

She, however, noted that vaccine roll out in New Zealand is incomplete and the number of countries it could safely open up to is also limited.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: New Zealand reports first known cases of U.K. COVID-19 variant' Coronavirus: New Zealand reports first known cases of U.K. COVID-19 variant
Coronavirus: New Zealand reports first known cases of U.K. COVID-19 variant – Feb 15, 2021

Ardern said she will lead a trade and promotional delegation to Australia in early July, and will also look to lead delegations into Europe, the United States, China and the wider Asia-Pacific.

“These trips may not have been overly notable pre-COVID, but they are hugely significant in light of the domestic realities we’ve been experiencing, and the global ones that still persist,” Ardern said.

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New Zealand will announce its annual budget next week, which Ardern said would continue supporting recovery from the pandemic but will also see a shift towards a more targeted response.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Michael Perry)

Saskatchewan faces uncertainty as battle over the future of Line 5 heats up

The battle over the future of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline is raising red flags for both Saskatchewan policymakers and environmental experts.

While Line 5 runs through Michigan state, from Superior, Wisc., to Sarnia, Ont., it is considered a vital link in Enbridge’s export network. Saskatchewan transports 70 per cent of its oil from the mainline, which connects to it. 

“This is a real impact not only to Saskatchewan workers — Saskatchewan producers — but workers on both sides of the border,” said Saskatchewan Energy Minister Bronwyn Eyre on Wednesday, the deadline given by Michigan’s governor, who has ordered the shutdown of the aging piece of infrastructure due to environmental risks. 

The day before, Canada launched a legal challenge in a U.S. court. Eyre noted the province has been working with federal counterparts in preparing diplomatic and legal documents.

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Enbridge, a Calgary-based company, is proposing to enclose it in a tunnel to protect the water against spills and is keeping it running in the meantime.

Read more: Line 5 pipeline: How did we get here and what it means for Canada

The mayor of Swift Current, an important oil-producing part of the province, said he is very concerned about the situation.

“If we didn’t have that export around Swift Current here, it would definitely have an economic impact on us,” said the mayor, Al Bridal.

Roy Ludwig, the mayor of another important oil-producing area, said he believes Line 5 should continue to be used, saying it would be “catastrophic” if it were shut down.

“It would be very disconcerting if they were to shut that off because a lot of the oil that goes through that line comes from Saskatchewan,” Ludwig said.

Read more: Canada could see 50% cut in fuel capacity if Line 5 pipeline shut down: experts

University of Regina geography and environmental science professor Emily Eaton says the circumstances facing these small Saskatchewan communities indicates better management is needed when it comes to planning for phasing out fossil fuels.

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Eaton said it will be a frustrating time for oil and gas-producing families in Saskatchewan when the transition does happen.

“We know that if the phase-out of fossil fuels isn’t going to be managed, we’re going to find ourselves in more of these situations. It’s going to be chaotic, it’s going to be filled with crises,” Eaton said.

The Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES) says true progress on this issue will require a greater level of cooperation.

“Obviously, Michigan needs to be sensitive to the concerns of Saskatchewan and Alberta and all of Canada in terms of Line 5 being a very important source of energy supply to eastern Canada and important source of employment in western Canada,” said Prebble, who sits on the organization’s board.

“I feel that Saskatchewan and Alberta and Canada as a whole need to take account of Michigan’s situation. The area in dispute is a 67-year-old pipeline that should have already been replaced.”

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Over the years, reports indicate that Line 5 is showing signs of wear and tear.

A 2017 report by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) revealed that Line 5 had spilled 1.1 million gallons of oil in 29 incidents since 1968. The date was obtained by NWF through a freedom of information request.

The report also show many of the incidents were related to construction mishaps whereas others were caused by defects in the pipe, such as stress cracking along the seam.

Prebble cited Enbridge’s “bad environmental record” in Michigan with the major 2010 spill in the Kalamazoo River.

“You can understand why Michigan is concerned,” he said.

 – With files from Roberta Bell, Rachael D’Amore

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Quebec’s location and energy alternatives give it options if Line 5 closes: expert

While political and business leaders across the country scramble to avoid a shutdown of Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5 pipeline, Quebec could be spared the most serious consequences if the oil stops flowing.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, backed by environmentalists and Indigenous groups, says the pipeline that runs under Lake Huron and Lake Michigan is vulnerable to a catastrophic spill. She ordered the critical piece of energy infrastructure closed by May 12.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said in a recent statement “Line 5 does not just affect one province or one region — it supports our entire country.”

The Canadian government has filed a brief in connection with the legal dispute between Michigan and Enbridge. The Canadian and U.S. chambers of commerce have also joined forces with their counterparts in Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin by filing a joint brief in court arguing against Whitmer’s bid to shut down the cross-border pipeline.

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“It remains the safest, most efficient way to transport fuel to refineries and markets and is a reliable source of energy for Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ontario and Quebec,” O’Regan said, adding that close to half of Quebec’s fuel supply derives from that pipeline.

But Suncor’s refinery in Montreal and Valero’s refinery in Lévis, Que., south of Quebec City, say they have contingency plans in place. And Pierre-Olivier Pineau, chair in energy sector management at HEC business school in Montreal, says Quebecers wouldn’t be seriously impacted if Line 5 were to close.

“If there’s such a strong political reaction in Canada, it’s because to the contrary of Quebec, other provinces don’t have options,” Pineau said.

Read more: Line 5 pipeline: How did we get here and what it means for Canada

Shutting down Line 5, Pineau explained, would be like going back in time. In 2015, before Enbridge received the authorization to operate their pipeline in Quebec, Valero and Suncor received crude oil by boat, rail or from the pipeline between Portland, Maine, and Montreal.

If Line 5 is closed, then Quebec’s refineries could be served by those three other options, he said.

Suncor and Valero didn’t want to give details about where they would look to fill the gap left by Line 5. Marina Binotto, spokeswoman for Valero, says the location of Lévis’s refinery along the St. Lawrence River is key when it comes to diversifying fuel suppliers.

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“We have access to a deepwater port, allowing us to be supplied by ships,” Binotto said. “It is always desirable to have flexibility in our sources and ways of supply.”

Sneh Seetal, a spokeswoman for Suncor, said the company and its refinery in Montreal “have contingency plans in place, but as it’s commercially sensitive, I can’t provide specifics.” But she added that places such as Eastern Canada, Michigan and neighbouring states might have to import refined fuel products to fill any gaps and “this will come at a cost.”

Quebec Energy Minister Jonatan Julien said in a statement on Tuesday the pipeline is a “crucial infrastructure” for the province and the government is in favour of keeping Line 5 in operation. Julien, however, also said Quebec “continues efforts to ensure the diversification of our sources of energy.”

Michigan’s governor and Enbridge have agreed to mediation sessions but Enbridge won’t budge. The company says it won’t cease operations unless ordered by a court, arguing that the pipeline is running safely and reliably.

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Read more: Canada fighting ‘on every front’ to keep Line 5 pipeline open, says O’Regan

An expert who studies the Great Lakes region disagrees.

David Schwab, a research oceanographer at Michigan Technological University, has been studying the Great Lakes for the past 45 years. He pointed to a 2013 investigation by the National Wildlife Federation, which revealed that the 68-year-old pipeline, which runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac and carries 540,000 barrels per day of propane and crude oil, was unsupported and vulnerable to strong water currents.

“What happened is over time, the sand, mud and certain sections of the pipeline have been washed away,” Schwab said in a recent interview. “If we were to try and build that pipeline today, would it even be allowed?”

Schwab argues that the aging pipeline is a catastrophe waiting to happen if nothing is done. The researcher conducted more than 800 simulated spills in 2016, which he said indicated that depending on weather conditions and currents, the oil could reach Canadian shores.

“The Straits of Mackinac is the worst place in the Great Lakes to have an oil spill,” Schwab said. “There are so many different places that the oil could go. It could go anywhere!”

© 2021 The Canadian Press