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Enbridge pipeline foes look past regulators after another loss in Minnesota





Opponents of Enbridge Energy’s proposed Line 3 crude oil pipeline replacement are turning their attention to fighting the project on other fronts after a Minnesota regulatory panel took one of its final steps Thursday and reaffirmed its approval of the project.

The Public Utilities Commission unanimously rejected petitions by environmental and Native American groups that asked the panel to reconsider its 3-2 decision in June to approve a route permit for the line across northern Minnesota. Those opponents acknowledged ahead of time that they held out little hope, given the commission earlier this month unanimously rejected their petitions to reconsider the project’s certificate of need.

Supporters of the project started arriving before 6 a.m. and grabbed most of the 83 public seats in the hearing room. So only a few opponents, from environmental groups including MN350 and Native American tribes, were in the room to protest immediately after the decision.

“Line 3 is a climate change disaster so we will stop Line 3,” they chanted.

Court of Appeals

Groups fighting the project conceded beforehand that persuading their people to show up and wait in line in the cold for an uncertain chance at a seat had gotten harder. But around 30 people from MN350 and other groups gathered near the hearing room afterward for a short rally.

Now opponents are shifting their focus to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and preparing for demonstrations along the route as construction preparations ramp up.

“This is not the last time I’ll be seeing any of you,” Andy Pearson, Midwest tar sands co-ordinator for MN350, vowed to the protesters.

Old pipeline

Enbridge wants to replace its existing Line 3 because it was built in the 1960s and is increasingly subject to cracking and corrosion. Line 3 crosses northern Minnesota and a corner of North Dakota on its way from the oil fields of Alberta to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wis.

Calgary-based Enbridge persuaded the commission that it’s a critical safety issue.

“The replacement of Line 3 is a safety and maintenance driven project intended to protect the communities and the environment in northern Minnesota,” Enbridge said in a statement afterward. “The approved route represents more than 115,000 hours of engineering and environmental study, ensuring the safety of communities and the protection of cultural and natural resources.”

Environmental and tribal groups say the project will aggravate climate change because the new line will carry Canadian oilsands oil, which generates more climate-warming carbon dioxide during the production process than regular oil. They also object because of the potential for leaks where it crosses the pristine Mississippi River headwaters region, where Native Americans harvest wild rice and claim treaty rights. They say the oil should stay in the ground.

Ongoing protest

Native American activist Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, renewed her prediction of mass protests patterned on those against the Dakota Access pipeline, which drew thousands of people to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota in 2016 and 2017. Those protests resulted in 761 arrests over a six-month span.

Three Line 3 opponents were arrested late last month for blocking access to a pipe storage yard along the route in Minnesota, near Carlton. LaDuke was among more than 20 pipeline protesters blocking an intersection in Bemidji in August.

LaDuke issued a statement saying the commission had “recklessly acquiesced” to Enbridge.

“Given what is at stake, history will not look kindly on their decisions,” she said. “Nor should it.”

LaDuke has applied for a gubernatorial appointment to the seat on the Public Utilities Commission that’s being vacated by Chair Nancy Lange, whose term ends Jan. 7. Environmental lawyer Leili Fatehi, who represents the Sierra Club against Line 3, has also applied.


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Real Estate

Montreal real-estate prices climbing much faster than Toronto or Vancouver: study





MONTREAL — The cost of housing per square foot has skyrocketed in Montreal while other cities saw little change over the last year, according to a new national survey.

The study found that condominium prices in downtown Montreal are up 13.5 per cent from last year to, on average, $805 per square foot.

That’s not as high as other cities, but it’s catching up — and Montreal’s rate of growth is outpacing other major Canadian cities.

Toronto’s condo prices grew to $1083 per square foot, an increase of just under 10 per cent, according to the study. In Vancouver, where you can find some of Canada’s most expensive condo prices, rates are down 4 per cent to $1192 per square foot.

To make the comparisons, Canadian real estate giant Century 21 collected data from real estate boards across the country to calculate the home costs per square foot.

“It’s important to compare apple to apples,” said Todd Shyiak, the company’s vice president of operations.

Montreal’s rise was even more explosive for detached homes and townhouses.

Detached houses in Montreal’s downtown and southwest rose to $958 per square foot, 40 per cent up from last year.

“It’s wild,” said Century 21 broker Angela Langtry. She says the pandemic raised demand.

“People had a lot of time to figure out they don’t like the home they’re in,” she said. “They all want pools.”

There was a big spike in sales, she noted, following a pause in brokerage during the spring, at the peak of the pandemic.

Experts say the pandemic will push people into the suburbs as they search for affordable housing and home office space.

“A huge portion of our society’s housing needs changed overnight,” said Shyiak. People “no longer need to be 10 minutes from the office.”

He says that could mean less demand for condos in the future. “People want their own front door,” he said.

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Real Estate

Carttera buys prime downtown Montreal development site





Carttera has acquired a prime downtown Montreal site at 1455 De La Montagne St. which will mark its third development on the thoroughfare.

“We think it’s probably one of the best, if not the best, locations in the whole city,” Carttera founding partner Jim Tadeson told RENX. “We’ve had great success on De La Montagne.”

The two earlier projects are: L’Avenue, a building with 393 residential units, 84,000 square feet of office space and 34,000 square feet of retail that was developed with Broccolini and occupied in 2017; and Arbora Residences, a two-phase development with 434 rental and condominium units in three buildings being built in partnership with Oxford Properties.

Thursday’s latest acquisition, for $48.5 million from 630745 Ontario, is a 31,750-square-foot surface parking lot with flexible mixed-use zoning on the corner of De La Montagne and De Maisonneuve Boulevard West.

The site is near the Vogue Hotel Montreal Downtown, the new Four Seasons Hotel Montreal and high-end retail.

“It’s zoned for up to 203,000 square feet of density, which we’re going to take advantage of,” said Tadeson. “Our vision for the site is a condominium project with some retail.”

Since there is no demolition required and no heritage issues to contend with, Toronto-based Carttera plans to move ahead quickly with the luxury project.

It’s in the concept design phase and Tadeson said it could take six months or more before it’s prepared to make a submission to the city.

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Real Estate

Montreal Has the Hottest Real Estate Market in Canada Right Now





If you thought Toronto’s real estate market was on fire, it’s time for a second take, because the market in Montreal is the hottest in all of Canada right now.

A newly-released annual report from CENTURY 21 Canada reveals that, following an early-spring decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sales numbers are bouncing back and house prices across the country are maintaining their strength. The study compared the price per square foot of properties sold between January 1 and June 30 of this year, compared to the same period last year.

In Toronto and Vancouver, unsurprisingly, prices remain high. But while regions across the country are seeing varied stories when it comes to their housing market fluctuations, Montreal stands out — there, prices have increased dramatically since 2019. While the numbers remain lower than Toronto and Vancouver, that housing market is proving to be the country’s strongest right now.

In Quebec’s largest city, prices have increased significantly since last year, particularly in the downtown detached house and townhouse markets. For example, the price of a detached house in Montreal’s downtown and southwest rose 42.14% to $958 per square foot, while townhouses went up 44% to $768, and condos, 13.55% to $805. Comparatively, in Toronto and Vancouver, prices saw more modest increases or, in some cases, even declines.

“Even though real estate in Quebec was not considered an essential service, we have seen strong demand and a jump in prices in 2020,” said Mohamad Al-Hajj, owner of CENTURY 21 Immo-Plus in Montreal.

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