Bilous trying to quell fears amongst Calgary businesses

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Just one day after the Alberta government projected a $6.3 billion deficit, the province’s economic development and trade minister is trying to calm everyones nerves.

Minister Deron Bilous calls the economic situation in Alberta a “crappy” one, but says the key will remain in getting Alberta product to tidewater.

Bilous couldn’t however define how the province will get product out, beyond any ideas already on the table.

The main focus right now per Bilous is on creating jobs in the private sector while the Notley NDP is working at ways of creating the right circumstances.

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Less ‘snow’ means more ‘dough’

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The City of Calgary is saving big money on its ice and snow budget this year after a very mild start to the year.

According to stats just released, not only did the city save two million dollars last year, it could also save that same amount in the first two months of 2016.

The savings are due to material costs instead of cutting staff hours.

Om average, the city uses about 56,000 tonnes of a “pickle mix” to clear off roadways, but crews have only used around 37,000 tonnes leading to savings of $900,000 in January.

Calgary has seen less than 20 days of snow this season according to Environment Canada and only about a third of the average amount in February.

Despite clear roads free of snow, street sweeping is not expected to start early.

The mild temperatures are great for Calgary’s budget, but heavy snowfall in March or April could swallow up a significant amount of cash.

Only time will tell if we have truly escaped the cold this winter season.

Alberta government seeking support for Green Transit Initiative Program

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The Green Transit Initiative Program (GreenTRIP) will provide funding to municipalities to support local priorities for sustainable, affordable, and environmentally sound public transit in their communities.

This is the third call for GreenTRIP projects with a total of $415 million of the original $2 billion commitment remaining in the the fund.

The money will be allocated in the following way:

  • $130 million for municipalities within the Calgary Region of a total allocation of $800 million
  • $285 million for rural municipalities from the original allocation of $400 million.
  • $285 million for rural municipalities from the original allocation of $400 million

Application will be accepted for the project until the end of June 2016 and all approved projects will be announced in the fall of 2016.

The full $800 million for municipalities within the capital region, including Edmonton has been allocated.

Assisted death to be available, with restrictions

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A special parliamentary committee says medical assistance in dying should be made available to Canadians who suffer from grievous medical conditions that cause endless suffering.

The committee introduced its long-awaited recommendations Thursday which says that should include people suffering from both physical and psychological medical conditions.

The report also says individuals diagnosed with incurable conditions are likely to cause loss of competence, such as dementia, should be able to make advance requests for medical assistance in dying.

The committee says physician-assisted dying should be immediately available to competent adults 18 years or older and further consultations should be expanded to include “mature minors” within three years.

The recommendations are intended to guide the federal government as it drafts new legislation governing medical assistance in dying.

 

Police seeking masked men in NW home invasions

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One man is in hospital after being tied to a chair and taking a baseball bat to the face during a home invasion in the northwest.

Police are investigating the break-in which occurred just before 4 a.m. Thursday at a home on Citadel Peak Circle NW.

Police say three masked men were going after the home’s licensed marijuana operation and were carrying handguns and knives.

The victim suffered only minor injuries and was taken to Foothills hospital in stable condition.

In another incident, police are looking for three other masked men who broke into a home in the 200 block of Edgeburn Lane NW around 11:30 Wednesday night.

Investigators say these suspects again were carrying hunting knives and were apparently known to the residents of the home.

Police say the offenders told the homeowners that they came for their two puppies after their pit-bulll had just given birth.

There were four adults and three children at home at the time, but no one was injured.

The suspects are described as white men wearing balaclavas, baseball caps, and black clothing.

Acquittal overturned in Neil Bantleman case

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(Photo Courtesy of CTV News)

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion says the Canadian government “is deeply dismayed and shocked” by the Indonesian Supreme Court decision to overturn the acquittal of Calgary schoolteacher Neil Bantleman.

Bantleman is accused of sexually abusing three young children at a prestigious international school in Jakarta and the high court has order both Bantleman and an Indonesian teaching assistant to serve 11 years in prison.

Bantleman and Ferdinant Tijong were each sentenced in April 2015, but maintained their innocence and filed appeals to the High Court, which acquitted them last August.

A three-member judge panel handed down its verdict Wednesday based on the prosecutors’ appeal.

The pair were also ordered to pay a $7,440 fine each or to serve six months more in jail.

Further and further into debt, Alberta sees deficit increase by nearly $200 million

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Alberta’s budget defecit is expected to rise to $6.3 billion this year as the province struggles to operate in a low oil price environment.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci delivered the announcement saying the Alberta will go another $197 million in the red this fiscal year, which ends on March 31.

Ceci added that by the 2016/17 fiscal year, the deficit could increase by $5.4 billion putting out province up to $10 billion in debt.

Ceci told media on Wednesday he won’t respond with any knee-jerk cuts to make a bad situation worse, including any taxes such as PST.

Instead, the NDP alternative is to bend the curve on healthcare spending, constrain expenditures across the board, freeze salaries, and freeze hiring.

This announcement comes one day after Alberta benefitted from a one-time grant of $251 million from the federal government.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says this funding will not be enough, but still plans to take on debt, build roads, schools, and hospitals.

As these tough economic times continue, oil and gas investment is expected to fall by 20 per cent in 2016.