AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email The countdown is on for the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth Stampede 2015 is only 14 short weeks away!Calgary Stampede Publicity Manager Jennifer Booth tells 660News they have been preparing for this event ever since the gates closed last year.She said they have a huge programming team working behind the scenes.“So they’re out there in the dead of winter, mapping things out, like how far things can be apart from each other and how many more food vendors we can bring in. And they’re booking all the food vendors starting in the fall, so we have some of the greatest new food on park each year which is an anticipated announcement,” she said.The Calgary Stampede officially kicks off on Friday, July 3rd. by News Staff Posted Mar 29, 2015 4:22 pm MDT
AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by Keith Leslie, The Canadian Press Posted Apr 5, 2015 11:06 am MDT TORONTO – A decision 16 years ago to divide Ontario Hydro into several different companies resulted in a new charge that’s still on all electricity bills and a multibillion-dollar debt that critics warn will keep driving up rates for years to come.The residual stranded debt stems from the 1999 breakup of the province’s giant electrical utility, which had $38.1 billion in debt, mostly from building nuclear plants in the 1970s and ’80s.Only a portion of that debt was supported by the assets of the new hydro companies — Ontario Power Generation, Hydro One and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) — leaving $20.9 billion in so-called stranded debt.Households and businesses paid out more than $11.5 billion in a residual stranded debt charge on their electricity bills between 2002 and 2014 — the last year for which statistics were available — with the outstanding balance still over $2.5 billion.“For years we were collecting a debt retirement charge but we never retired any,” said Bryne Purchase, an associate professor of economics at Queen’s University and a former deputy minister of finance under the Tories.“This is the sleight of hand,” added Purchase, who was also deputy minister of energy under the Liberal government.“They never crystallized those numbers, never said ‘this is how much we’re going to collect and once we’ve collected that we can retire the debt retirement charge.’”When Ontario Hydro was broken up, the government expected $13.1 billion in revenues and payments in lieu of taxes from OPG and Hydro One, which reduced the residual stranded debt to $7.8 billion.A debt retirement charge of 0.7 cents a kilowatt hour was added to all electricity bills starting in 2002, which raised about $940 million a year.The residual stranded debt, administered by the Ontario Electricity Financing Corp. (OEFC), increased to $11.9 billion in 2004, after the previous Tory government froze electricity prices in May 2002, which the Liberals, who took office in 2003, did not lift until March 2004.“We have a stranded debt because of mistakes made by the previous Conservative government, frankly,” said Finance Minister Charles Sousa.The rate freeze cost about $900 million, but the government also had to lower its “over-estimation” of expected OPG revenues, adding $4.4 billion to the stranded debt in 2004. It increased again in 2011 to $5.8 billion from $5.4 billion because of lower returns from Hydro One and OPG and because of OPG’s high pension costs.“When the revenues fall, then the residual stranded debt goes up accordingly because they have to make up for the difference,” said Sousa.Energy sector analyst Tom Adams said “there’s no way to confirm the truth or otherwise” about the government’s statements on the residual stranded debt.“There’s a huge transparency problem here,” said Adams. “The key missing ingredient is the underlying financial plans behind their projections around the date when the residual stranded debt will be paid off.”The province was paying 8.9 per cent interest on the OEFC’s long term debt in 1999, which was down to 5.4 per cent — or about $1.45 billion a year — in 2014.The government did not issue a single update on revenues raised by the charge on hydro bills until 2012, when it reported the residual stranded debt was $4.5 billion. The law required only that the finance minister determine the amount of stranded debt “from time to time” and make that determination public.The auditor general reported the Electricity Act allows the OEFC to use the debt retirement charge “for any of its responsibilities for servicing and managing the stranded debt, and not just for the retirement of the residual stranded debt.”“It’s a giant slush fund effectively,” said Purchase. “Lots of other liabilities have been added in as a result of various manipulations the government has made.”Sousa denied the costs of other projects were added to the stranded hydro debt, but the Opposition said enough was collected over the years to have paid off the debt in 2011 and eliminate the charge on electricity bills.“In reality, the Liberals were collecting the money, saying they were paying off the debt, but were using it to pay for other things,” said interim Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Wilson.NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns said even members of the legislature can’t determine if other debt was added to the hydro file, and perhaps the auditor general should review the matter.The Liberals plan to remove the debt retirement charge from household electricity bills on Jan. 1, 2016 — business and industrial customers will keep paying it until 2018 — which will eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue.“The only way they’re going to be able to keep OEFC able to service its bond obligations is to create a new electricity tax,” predicted Adams.Follow @CPnewsboy on Twitter Debt retirement charge on hydro bills raises $11.5B to pay original $7.8B
In his first address to the UN General Assembly, Félix Tshisekedi underlined the need to reform the primary body charged with maintaining international peace and security.“It is indeed unfair that Africa remains the only region in the world that does not have permanent representation on the Security Council, when in fact the major issues – be they demographic, social or environmental – for the whole planet are inextricably linked to Africa,” he said.“We want a configuration and that is more representative of the world’s peoples in their diversity.”Environmentally sustainable developmentPresident Tshisekedi said the DRC can contribute to the global push to achieve a more just and equitable world, as outlined under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).The 17 SDGs seek to create a more just and equitable world by 2030.“The eradication of poverty and hunger is today an urgent issue. The Democratic Republic of the Congo can be part of the solution, with its 80 million hectares of arable land and its abundant water sources that are enough for more than two billion people,” he stated.Mr. Tshisekedi stressed that while African countries are the “pivot of sustainability”, they also yearn for development that protects the natural environment, such as the vast forests in the DRC, which account for nearly 50 per cent of forest cover on the continent.“We are resolutely committed to protecting our forests. However, the preservation of our national heritage cannot be done at the detriment to our development,” he said, before calling for better integration of environmental issues in development financing.The DRC is also moving to increase production of clean, renewable energy. The objective is to boost electrification from 10 per cent today to around 60 per cent in the next decade, while reducing the use of firewood.President Tshisekedi noted that the average Congolese citizen is around 17 years old, just slightly older than Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who has been at the forefront of a global movement for action to address climate change.“But how can our young people involve themselves in the same fight if they have neither water, nor light?” he wondered.The DRC also is rich in natural resources needed to power the energy and digital transition. President Tshisekedi proposed opening up the country to regulated mining in exchange for development support.“The world needs cobalt, it needs coltan, and it needs lithium. We want industrial jobs. We need training and we need development,” he said,Challenges to peace and stabilityFor President Tshisekedi, the greatest challenges facing the DRC are peace, security and stability. Armed groups operating in the east continue to terrorize the local population.“Some of these rebel movements…are carrying out terrorist attacks that are consistent with their allegiance to Daesh, which represents a new threat to my country and to the sub-region,” he said. “As if conflict and instability were not enough, countries to the east of the DRC are also affected by an Ebola epidemic that has lasted more than a year.”The UN is side-by-side with the Congolese in both battles, through its peacekeeping operation (MONUSCO) and agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO).Regarding the Ebola epidemic in eastern DRC, Mr. Tshisekedi said that the new response strategy was starting to take effect, especially in the city of Goma, “which is now virus free”.Yet, the epidemic is not yet completely eradicated. The UN-supported strategy will be reinforced “by the introduction of five new approved drugs, in addition to the Ebola vaccine, which will completely get rid of the disease,” he added, along with praise for the solidarity shown by the UN and the African Union in the fight against this epidemic.