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Trudeau promises rebates as Ottawa moves to levy carbon tax on provinces outside the climate plan

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The federal Liberal government will slap a carbon tax on fuels in provinces and territories with no adequate emissions pricing plans of their own — but will send annual rebates to Canadian families to offset most of the added costs of this climate-change fighting initiative.

Extreme weather events like floods, wildfires, storms and droughts offer proof that Canada is already grappling with the effects of climate change — and these increasingly frequent events demand action from Ottawa in the form of a national price on carbon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday in Toronto.

Watch Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc explain the backstop on Power & Politics

‘Climate change is real, people expect their governments to take action,’ says the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. 8:56

Trudeau said he believes the added cost on fuels will tamp down carbon-intensive consumption, reduce emissions and help curb pollution.

“The science is unequivocal: putting a price on pollution is one of the best ways to move forward,” he said to reporters and Humber College students in the Etobicoke riding of Ontario Premier Doug Ford, a vocal carbon tax foe.

PM Justin Trudeau announces the federal price on pollution will be implemented in four provinces that haven’t come up with a plan of their own – Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick. 2:27

“The problem exists because your political leaders have done far too little about this. Will we kick this can down the road yet again? Or will we show some courage to do what needs to be done?” Trudeau said.

“Starting next year, it will no longer be free to pollute anywhere in Canada. And we’re also going to help Canadians adjust to this new reality … Every nickel will be invested in Canadians in the province or territory where it was raised.”

Climate plan differs across Canada

There are two parts to the federal “backstop” climate program, which will apply in different ways across the country.

The first part is what the government is calling “a regulatory charge on fuel,” which will be levied on gasoline, light fuel oil, natural gas and propane.

Under the terms of the national climate framework — a deal agreed to by most of the provinces and the federal government roughly two years ago — Ottawa will levy a tax of $20 on every tonne of greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2019, rising by $10 each year to $50 a tonne by 2022.

According to background documents supplied by the government, the $20-per-tonne carbon tax will result in an approximate cost increase of 4.42 cents a litre for gasoline, 3.91 cents per cubic metre for natural gas and 3.10 cents a litre for propane.

Consumers will not pay the tax directly to the federal government; rather, Ottawa will impose the tax on fuel and production and distribution companies — natural gas providers like Enbridge, for example — which will in turn pass on those costs to customers.

This federal “backstop” will apply in provinces and territories that do not have adequate climate pricing plans of their own that meet federal standards — that’s Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick starting in April 2019, and Yukon and Nunavut as of July 2019.

The other provinces — Quebec, Alberta, B.C., Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador — will meet the federal benchmark of having a price on carbon of at least $20 a tonne as of Jan. 1, 2019. The federal backstop will not apply in those jurisdictions.

So what initially was meant to be a backup plan in the event that a few provinces failed to design their own carbon pricing plans has now become the principal carbon pricing mechanism for nearly half of the country’s population. Roughly 47 per cent of Canadians live in provinces or territories that have said they will not follow through on the national climate framework.

‘Action’ incentives promised

In an effort to make most Canadian families in those provinces whole, and to offset the resulting costs of these new taxes, the Liberal government will offer direct rebates to taxpayers — called Climate Action Incentive payments.

While Trudeau insisted that the carbon tax and the payment program will be revenue-neutral for the federal government, a government official at a technical briefing for journalists acknowledged that some Canadians — about 30 per cent of them — will pay more a year in carbon taxes than they stand to gain from the new backstop program. The official said these people are more likely to be wealthier Canadians who have to heat bigger homes or fuel larger vehicles.

On the other hand, a sizeable majority of Canadians receiving the federal payments — the other 70 per cent in those provinces without carbon pricing plans of their own — will receive more in climate payments than they’ll pay each year through the new carbon tax.

PM Justin Trudeau says he is not buying votes for next year’s federal election by giving rebates to families in advance of the carbon price implementation in Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick. 2:09

For efficiency, people in affected provinces will indicate on their tax returns if they are eligible for the payment.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will then ensure people are adequately compensated. So the payments will be made annually and will reflect about a year’s worth of emissions.

If someone is entitled to a tax refund, that refund would be boosted by the amount a taxpayer is entitled to under the new climate incentive payment program. If you owe the federal government money at tax time, that amount would be reduced by the amount you stand to gain from this initiative.

The payment is not intended to be part of the federal tax system as such; the government said CRA’s existing infrastructure is best placed to make payments like these to taxpayers.

Here’s what the average household (defined by Ottawa as 2.6 people) will receive from the federal government:

  • In Ontario: about $300 a year.
  • In New Brunswick: $248.
  • In Manitoba: $336.
  • In Saskatchewan: $598.

The amount will vary based on the province and the number of people in a household.

The Liberals say average households will come out ahead in its plan to levy a carbon tax and provide direct rebates to consumers in six provinces and territories that don’t have a carbon-pricing plan. Conservatives say it will make everything more expensive, while the NDP and Greens say it won’t get Canada to its emissions targets. (CBC News)

For example, a single adult in Ontario would see about $154 next year from the payment.

These payments will rise in lockstep with the annual hike in the carbon tax. Even after accounting for the fuel cost hike, most families will come out marginally ahead, officials said.

Payments for people in small communities and rural areas will also include a 10 per cent supplement, government officials said, “in recognition of their specific needs.”

Election ‘gimmick’

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer dismissed the Liberals’ plan as an election campaign tactic, and questioned the government’s claim that the new program won’t result in a sizeable hit to wallets.

“Today, Justin Trudeau unveiled his election gimmick to try and trick Canadians into paying higher taxes on the basic necessities,” he said, calling the levy a “tax plan dressed up as an emissions plan.”

“Canadians are now supposed to take his word that a measly $12.50 a month will cover the true cost of his carbon tax … it will make everything more expensive for the people who can afford it the least,” he said, adding many Canadians simply don’t have the means to replace a less efficient furnace or buy an electric vehicle.

(The $12.50 figure Scheer cited is the approximate amount a single Ontarian would receive, each month, to help offset the carbon tax on fuels.)

Ontario Premier Doug Ford accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of making the federal carbon tax announcement a personal attack against Ford because Trudeau held the announcement in the premiers’ back yard. 0:22

Ford said the decision to unveil the tax at a college in the premier’s riding was no coincidence.

“Justin Trudeau wants to make it personal, going to my backyard to make the tax. I’ll tell you one thing, people of Etobicoke don’t see eye-to-eye with Justin Trudeau, number one, but they [also] don’t see eye-to-eye with Justin Trudeau when he wants to get his hands in your pocket, another tax grab from Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

“That’s all he knows how to do,” Ford said at an event in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Trudeau said the Liberals picked the location because it’s the riding of federal Science and Sport Minister Kirsty Duncan.

Another anti-carbon tax crusader, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, said the payment program is a “shell game” and a “cynical vote-buying scheme” that will make life more expensive. Moe has vowed to press ahead with a legal challenge of the climate framework.

While the carbon pricing plan was being ripped by conservative voices Tuesday, it drew praise from many of the country’s environmental organizations.

Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network-Canada, praised Trudeau for refusing to “bow to industry pressure and provincial politicking” and following through on his stated commitment to implement a national carbon price.

“The latest UN climate report makes it clear that climate change is a health emergency and carbon pricing is a critical way of addressing that emergency. Political leaders in provinces and in Ottawa who continue to pretend pollution is free and score cheap points with the denial of climate action are doing a criminal disservice to Canadians,” Abreu said.

Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer takes a shot at the government’s carbon tax plan. 0:44

The David Suzuki Foundation said the carbon pricing scheme will encourage greater economic efficiencies and investments in cleaner energy choices.

The second part of the new federal backstop system is a separate fuel charge for large industry, called the ‘output-based pricing system’. Officials said details of this policy will be provided at a later date; Ottawa hasn’t finished designing this program yet. When it takes effect, it will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2019.

While P.E.I. will have its own provincial price on fuels, it will look to Ottawa to apply this charge on larger emitters when the program is up and running.

The proceeds from this large industry tax won’t be returned to Canadians through payments, but will be used to support future climate actions in the jurisdiction in which the revenue is raised.

Tax to help meet Paris climate targets

Canada signed on to ambitious emissions reduction targets at the Paris climate accord meeting in 2015, and a national pricing strategy is seen by Ottawa as the best way to live up to the accord.

PM Justin Trudeau says his government will move forward with a carbon pricing plan despite opposition from many provinces, and says all citizens will get a rebate 1:52

(The Liberal government maintained the same targets set by the former Conservative government: 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 30 per cent below by 2030.)

The government projects the pricing plan will reduce carbon pollution by 50 million to 60 million tonnes by 2022  — the
equivalent of taking 12 million cars off the road or closing 14 coal plants.

However, the government has conceded a carbon price alone won’t be enough to meet those targets.

The national climate plan also includes other measures to battle climate change, including new building codes to boost energy efficiency, more charging stations for electric cars, expanding clean electricity sources and upgrading power grids.

Watch the Power Panel tackle the imposed carbon tax below

Francoise, Evan, Supriya and Dan discuss Trudeau’s move to impose a carbon tax on certain provinces. 12:27

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Top 5 Analytics Trends That Are Shaping The Future

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Digital transformation is increasingly becoming the focus for many CIOs around the world today—with analytics playing a fundamental role in driving the future of the digital economy.

While data is important to every business, it is necessary for businesses to have a firm grip on data analytics to allow them transform raw pieces of data into important insights. However, unlike the current trends in business intelligence—which is centred around data visualization—the future of data analytics would encompass a more contextual experience.

“The known data analytics development cycle is described in stages: from descriptive (what happened) to diagnostic (why did it happen), to discovery (what can we learn from it), to predictive (what is likely to happen), and, finally, to prescriptive analytics (what action is the best to take),” said Maurice op het Veld is a partner at KPMG Advisory in a report.

“Another way of looking at this is that data analytics initially “supported” the decision-making process but is now enabling “better” decisions than we can make on our own.”

Here are some of the current trends that arealready shaping the future of data analytics in individuals and businesses.

  1. Growth in mobile devices

With the number of mobile devices expanding to include watches, digital personal assistants, smartphones, smart glasses, in-car displays, to even video gaming systems, the final consumption plays a key role on the level of impact analytics can deliver.

Previously, most information consumers accessed were on a computer with sufficient room to view tables, charts and graphs filled with data, now, most consumers require information delivered in a format well optimized for whatever device they are currently viewing it on.

Therefore, the content must be personalized to fit the features of the user’s device and not just the user alone.

  1. Continuous Analytics

More and more businesses are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) and their respective streaming data—which in turn shortens the time it takes to capture, analyze and react to the information gathered. Therefore, while analytics programspreviously were termed successful when results were delivered within days or weeks of processing, the future of analytics is bound to drastically reduce this benchmark to hours, minutes, seconds—and even milliseconds.

“All devices will be connected and exchange data within the “Internet of Things” and deliver enormous sets of data. Sensor data like location, weather, health, error messages, machine data, etc. will enable diagnostic and predictive analytics capabilities,” noted Maurice.

“We will be able to predict when machines will break down and plan maintenance repairs before it happens. Not only will this be cheaper, as you do not have to exchange supplies when it is not yet needed, but you can also increase uptime.”

  1. Augmented Data Preparation

During the process of data preparation, machine learning automation will begin to augment data profiling and data quality, enrichment, modelling, cataloguing and metadata development.

Newer techniques would include supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning which is bound to enhance the entire data preparation process. In contrast to previous processes—which depended on rule-based approach to data transformation—this current trend would involve advanced machine learning processes that would evolve based on recent data to become more precise at responding to changes in data.

  1. Augmented Data Discovery

Combined with the advancement in data preparation, a lot of these newer algorithms now allow information consumers to visualize and obtain relevant information within the data with more ease. Enhancements such as automatically revealing clusters, links, exceptions, correlation and predictions with pieces of data, eliminate the need for end users to build data models or write algorithms themselves.

This new form of augmented data discovery will lead to an increase in the number of citizen data scientist—which include information users who, with the aid of augmented assistance can now identify and respond to various patterns in data faster and a more distributed model.

  1. AugmentedData Science

It is important to note that the rise of citizen data scientist will not in any way eliminate the need for a data scientist who gathers and analyze data to discover profitable opportunities for the growth of a business. However, as these data scientists give room for citizen data scientists to perform the easier tasks, their overall analysis becomes more challenging and equally valuable to the business.

As time goes by, machine learning would be applied in other areas such as feature and model selection. This would free up some of the tasks performed by data scientist and allow them focus on the most important part of their job, which is to identify specific patterns in the data that can potentially transform business operations and ultimately increase revenue.

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Waterloo drone-maker Aeryon Labs bought by U.S. company for $265M

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Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs has been bought by Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc. for $256 million, or $200 million US.

The acquisition was announced Monday. 

Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aeryon Labs, says not much will change in the foreseeable future.

“The Waterloo operations of Aeryon Labs will actually continue as they did yesterday with manufacturing, engineering and all the functions staying intact in Waterloo and ultimately, we see growing,” he said.

“The business here is very valuable to FLIR and our ability to sell internationally is a key piece of keeping these components of the business here in Canada.”

Aeroyn Labs builds high-performance drones that are sold to a variety of customers including military, police services and commercial businesses. The drones can provide high-resolution images for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The drones already include cameras and thermal technology from FLIR. Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems, said acquiring Aeryon Labs is part of the company’s strategy to move beyond sensors “to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods.”

‘A piece of a bigger solution’

Kroetsch said this is a good way for the company to grow into something bigger.

“We see the business evolving in much the direction our business has been headed over the last couple of years. And that’s moving beyond the drone as a product in and of itself as a drone as a piece of a bigger solution,” he said.

For example, FLIR bought a drone company that builds smaller drones that look like little helicopters.

“We can imagine integrating those with our drones, perhaps having ours carry their drones and drop them off,” he said.

FLIR also does border security systems, which Kroetsch says could use the drones to allow border agents to look over a hill where there have been issues.

“We see the opportunity there as something that we never could have done on our own but being involved with and part of a larger company that’s already providing these solutions today gives us access not only to these great applications, but also to some fantastic technologies,” he said.

Aeryon Labs has done a lot of work during emergency disasters, including in Philippines after Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, Ecuador after an earthquake in 2016 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.

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Inuvik infrastructure may not be ready for climate change, says study

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The Arctic is expected to get warmer and wetter by the end of this century and new research says that could mean trouble for infrastructure in Inuvik.

The study from Global Water Futures looked at how climate change could impact Havipak Creek — which crosses the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, N.W.T. — and it predicts some major water changes.

“They were quite distressing,” John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures and the study’s lead author, said of the findings.

Researchers used a climate model and a hydrological model to predict future weather and climate patterns in the region. They also looked at data gathered from 1960 to the present. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate — which Pomeroy said they are on track to do — the study projects the region will be 6.1 C warmer by 2099 and precipitation, particularly rain, will increase by almost 40 per cent.

The study also found that the spring flood will be earlier and twice as large, and the permafrost will thaw an additional 25 centimetres. While the soil is expected to be wetter early in the summer, the study said it will be drier in late summer, meaning a higher risk of wildfires.

John Pomeroy is the director of Global Water Futures. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“The model’s painting kind of a different world than we’re living in right now for the Mackenzie Delta region,” Pomeroy said.

He noted these changes are not only expected for Havipak Creek, but also for “many, many creeks along the northern part of the Dempster [Highway].”

Pomeroy said the deeper permafrost thaw and a bigger spring flood could pose challenges for buildings, roads, culverts and crossings in the area that were designed with the 20th century climate in mind.

He said the projected growth of the snowpack and the spring flood are “of grave concern because that’s what washes out the Dempster [Highway] and damages infrastructure in the area.”

Culverts and bridges may have to be adjusted to allow room for greater stream flows, Pomeroy said. And building foundations that are dependent upon the ground staying frozen will have to be reinforced or redesigned.

Pomeroy said the ultimate solution is for humans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This study is the future we’re heading for, but it’s not the future we necessarily have if we can find a way to reduce those gases,” he said.  

“It’d be far smarter to get those emissions under control than to pay the terrible expenses for infrastructure and endangered safety of humans and destroyed ecosystems.”

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