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Tories Deliberately Disrupted Elections Watchdog's Testimony: NDP

Tories Deliberately Disrupted Elections Watchdog’s Testimony: NDP.

OTTAWA – The Harper government is being accused of trying to limit the chief electoral watchdog’s testimony on its proposed overhaul of election laws.

Marc Mayrand, who has been highly critical of the reforms, was supposed to have 90 minutes this morning — half an hour longer than usual — to testify on the reforms at the Commons procedure and House affairs committee.

The Conservatives agreed to the extra 30 minutes earlier this week as part of a deal to end a filibuster at the committee by New Democrat MP David Christopherson.

But the Conservatives have moved this morning to limit debate on two other bills, requiring votes in the House of Commons at the same time that Mayrand’s testimony was to begin.

Debate and votes on the time allocation motions have now left Mayrand cooling his heels for an hour, with no end in sight.

NDP MP Paul Dewar accuses the Conservatives of orchestrating the timing of the votes to disrupt Mayrand’s testimony.

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan calls that a baseless conspiracy theory, saying the committee is free to rearrange its business to give Mayrand as much time as it pleases.

And he says the NDP has some nerve to complain about the disruption, considering Christopherson’s filibuster delayed the chief electoral officer’s appearance at committee for more than a week.

The filibuster was aimed at forcing the government to agree to cross-country hearings on its controversial proposed changes to the Canada Elections Act, which the NDP believes are designed to stack the deck in the Conservative party’s favour.

Among other things, the reforms would impose stiffer voter identification requirements, eliminate the ability of people to vouch for voters who don’t have proper identification, and increase the amount of money political parties can spend during election campaigns.

As well, Mayrand has said he fears the changes would muzzle him, allowing him to communicate with Canadians only for the purpose of explaining how, where and when to vote.

Tories Deliberately Disrupted Elections Watchdog’s Testimony: NDP

Tories Deliberately Disrupted Elections Watchdog’s Testimony: NDP.

OTTAWA – The Harper government is being accused of trying to limit the chief electoral watchdog’s testimony on its proposed overhaul of election laws.

Marc Mayrand, who has been highly critical of the reforms, was supposed to have 90 minutes this morning — half an hour longer than usual — to testify on the reforms at the Commons procedure and House affairs committee.

The Conservatives agreed to the extra 30 minutes earlier this week as part of a deal to end a filibuster at the committee by New Democrat MP David Christopherson.

But the Conservatives have moved this morning to limit debate on two other bills, requiring votes in the House of Commons at the same time that Mayrand’s testimony was to begin.

Debate and votes on the time allocation motions have now left Mayrand cooling his heels for an hour, with no end in sight.

NDP MP Paul Dewar accuses the Conservatives of orchestrating the timing of the votes to disrupt Mayrand’s testimony.

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan calls that a baseless conspiracy theory, saying the committee is free to rearrange its business to give Mayrand as much time as it pleases.

And he says the NDP has some nerve to complain about the disruption, considering Christopherson’s filibuster delayed the chief electoral officer’s appearance at committee for more than a week.

The filibuster was aimed at forcing the government to agree to cross-country hearings on its controversial proposed changes to the Canada Elections Act, which the NDP believes are designed to stack the deck in the Conservative party’s favour.

Among other things, the reforms would impose stiffer voter identification requirements, eliminate the ability of people to vouch for voters who don’t have proper identification, and increase the amount of money political parties can spend during election campaigns.

As well, Mayrand has said he fears the changes would muzzle him, allowing him to communicate with Canadians only for the purpose of explaining how, where and when to vote.

Ukraine Crisis: Harper Says Canada Sending Observers To Crimea

Ukraine Crisis: Harper Says Canada Sending Observers To Crimea.

OTTAWA – Canada will send two observers to join an unarmed military mission in Ukraine and will impose more sanctions on the regime of fugitive Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a clear violation of international law,” Harper said in a statement.

“Canada will contribute observers to an important military observer mission in a co-ordinated effort to better monitor the Russian military intervention in Crimea.”

The two observers will deploy immediately under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, he said.

The Ukrainian ambassador to Canada, Vadym Prystaiko, told The Canadian Press earlier this week that many governments are looking for a first-hand look at the situation in Crimea.

He said the Ukrainian government wants to disprove the Russian claim that their invasion is in support of civilians in the Crimean peninsula.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird also affirmed that Canada would once again contribute a large contingent of election observers for Ukraine’s next scheduled election in May.

Baird told the Commons that on his recent trip to Kyiv he offered Ukraine’s new prime minister and president “our full support in the conduct of the presidential election on May 25.”

“We have provided substantial assistance in the past, and we will obviously provide long-term and short-term election observers to ensure that the will and courage of the Ukrainian people be fully respected by the international community.”

Canada last sent a large observer force of hundreds to Ukraine in 2012 to monitor parliamentary elections, a regular occurrence that started in 2004 when former Liberal prime minister John Turner led a large team of international election monitors.

Harper also announced additional economic sanctions Wednesday against members of the Yanukovych regime, which he said came “at the request of the prosecutor general of Ukraine.”

Canada is also prepared to offer financial assistance and co-operation with its allies, including collaboration with the International Monetary Fund. Harper said it is critical that Ukraine receive financial assistance.

The prime minister said Canada is also suspending its participation in a joint commercial venture with Russia. The Canada-Russia Intergovernmental Economic Commission had been established to promote bilateral trade.

“Our actions with respect to the IEC, the freezing of assets of corrupt Ukrainian officials held in Canada and our involvement in the OSCE mission are further examples of our support for Ukraine and our goal of stabilizing the tense situation in Crimea,” his statement said.

“President (Vladimir) Putin must now immediately withdraw his forces to their bases and refrain from further provocative and dangerous actions.”

Harper earlier discussed the Ukraine crisis with Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

“The two leaders discussed developments in Crimea,” Harper’s office said. “They condemned in the strongest terms President Putin’s military intervention in Ukraine, noting that a de-escalation of the situation is in the best interest of the entire international community.”

The United States also announced support for its allies in Europe, including joint training with the Polish air force.

The Pentagon is increasing U.S. participation in NATO air missions in support of Baltic countries.

NATO said that it is suspending most of its meetings and reviewing all of its co-operation with Russia.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the alliance’s secretary general, said its 28 members also decided “to intensify our partnership with Ukraine.”

Taxing The Rich Not A Drag On Economic Growth: IMF Paper

Taxing The Rich Not A Drag On Economic Growth: IMF Paper.

CP  |  By Julian Beltrame, The Canadian PressPosted: 02/26/2014 10:33 am EST  |  Updated: 02/26/2014 3:59 pm EST

 

OTTAWA – A new paper by researchers at the International Monetary Fund appears to debunk a tenet of conservative economic ideology — that taxing the rich to give to the poor is bad for the economy.

The paper by IMF researchers Jonathan Ostry, Andrew Berg and Charalambos Tsangarides will be applauded by politicians and economists who regard high levels of income inequality as not only a moral stain on society but also economically unsound.

Labelled as the first study to incorporate recently compiled figures comparing pre- and post-tax data from a large number of countries, the authors say there is convincing evidence that lower net inequality is good economics, boosting growth and leading to longer-lasting periods of expansion.

In the most controversial finding, the study concludes that redistributing wealth, largely through taxation, does not significantly impact growth unless the intervention is extreme.

In fact, because redistributing wealth through taxation has the positive impact of reducing inequality, the overall affect on the economy is to boost growth, the researchers conclude.

“We find that higher inequality seems to lower growth. Redistribution, in contrast, has a tiny and statistically insignificant (slightly negative) effect,” the paper states.

“This implies that, rather than a trade-off, the average result across the sample is a win-win situation, in which redistribution has an overall pro-growth effect.”

While the paper is heavy on the economics, there is no mistaking the political implications in the findings.

In Canada, the Liberal party led by Justin Trudeau is set to make supporting the middle class a key plank in the upcoming election and the NDP has also stressed the importance of tackling income inequality.

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have boasted that tax cuts, particularly deep reductions in corporate taxation, are at least partly responsible for why the Canadian economy outperformed other G7 countries both during and after the 2008-09 recession.

In the Commons on Tuesday, Employment Minister Jason Kenney said the many tax cuts his government has introduced since 2006, including a two-percentage-point trim of the GST, has helped most Canadians.

Speaking on a Statistics Canada report showing net median family wealth had increased by 44.5 per cent since 2005, he added:

“It is no coincidence because, with the more than 160 tax cuts by this government, Canadian families, on average, have seen their after-tax disposable income increase by 10 per cent across all income categories. We are continuing to lead the world on economic growth and opportunity for working families.”

The authors concede that their conclusions tend to contradict some well-accepted orthodoxy, which holds that taxation is a job killer.

But they say that many previous studies failed to make a distinction between pre-tax inequality and post-tax inequality, hence often compared apples to oranges, among other shotcomings.

The data they looked at showed almost no negative impact from redistribution policies and that economies where incomes are more equally distributed tend to grow faster and have growth cycles that last longer.

Meanwhile, they say the data is not crystal clear that even large redistributions have a direct negative impact, although “from history and first principles … after some point redistribution will be destructive of growth.”

Still, they also stop short of saying their conclusions definitively settle the issue, acknowledging that it is a complex area of economic theory with many variables at play and a scarcity of hard data.

Instead, they urge more rigorous study and say their findings “highlight the urgency of this agenda.”

The Washington-based institution released the study Wednesday morning but, perhaps due to the controversial nature of the conclusions, calls it a “staff discussion note” that does “not necessarily” represent the IMF views or policy. It was authorized for distribution by Olivier Blanchard, the IMF’s chief economist.

Canadian Consumer Debt To Hit All-Time High By 2014’s End, TransUnion Predicts

Canadian Consumer Debt To Hit All-Time High By 2014’s End, TransUnion Predicts.

CP  |  By LuAnn LaSalle, The Canadian PressPosted: 02/26/2014 8:29 am EST  |  Updated: 02/26/2014 10:59 am EST

MONTREAL – Canadians are still on target for a record year of personal debt despite ending 2013 by making a small dent in the money they owe, says credit monitoring agency TransUnion.

At the end of last year, Canadians owed a total of $27,368 on such things as lines of credit, credit cards and car loans, TransUnion said in a study released Wednesday.

That’s down $117, or 0.42 per cent, from $27,485 in the fourth quarter of 2012 — the highest level of non-mortgage debt on record.

“We’ve been told over and over and over again from so many places that we’ve got to get this debt down and we can’t make it happen,” said Thomas Higgins, TransUnion’s vice-president of analytics and decision services.

TransUnion is sticking by its prediction that average consumer’s total non-mortgage debt will hit an all-time high of $28,853 by the end of 2014.

“There’s nothing to give us any indication that the debt levels are going to start to come down in any noticeable chunk,” Higgins said from Toronto. “Right now, we’re still trending in that direction (to higher debt), for sure.”

Higgins said Canadians started to pile on debt in the years before the 2008 recession. He said he’d have to see Canadians’ personal debt being reduced consistently by $500 to $1,000 over four to six quarters before he would say “we’re sorting of heading somewhere.”

In the last quarter of 2013, consumers’ credit card debt and debt on lines of credit were down a bit, Higgins said.

But consumers spent a little less on holiday shopping only because they got “better deals” rather than consciously cutting spending, he said.

The study also found that loan delinquencies in the quarter ended Dec. 31 were down, meaning that consumers were making minimum payments on their debts.

“We may not be paying all of it, but we’re paying enough down so that you’re still in good standing.”

But Higgins cautioned that if anything impacts the economy, the markets or interest rates, delinquency rates are usually impacted first.

Meanwhile, the study also found that Vancouver residents experienced the biggest increase in consumer debt, hitting $41,077 at the end of last year, up seven per cent from $38,357 in 2012.

On the other hand, those in Montreal managed to reduce their debt by 5.5 per cent from $19,651 to an average of $18,563, the lowest among residents of all major Canadian cities.

Higgins said Vancouver generally has higher incomes allowing consumers to take on more debt, while consumers in Montreal usually save to buy bigger items or pay with debit cards.

In a report on Tuesday, Statistics Canada said Canadian families have become wealthier over the past several years, with net worth rising despite the well-documented growth in household debt and a setback from the recession.

However, there were big differences across age groups, regions and family types and economists noted that the biggest single reason overall for the improvement was rising house prices, which are widely expected to moderate or even fall in the next few years.

Fair Elections Act: NDP Starts Push To Have Hearings On Changes

Fair Elections Act: NDP Starts Push To Have Hearings On Changes.

CP  |  By The Canadian PressPosted: 02/24/2014 4:10 am EST  |  Updated: 02/24/2014 10:38 am EST

OTTAWA – MPs are set to debate a New Democrat motion today that calls for cross country hearings by a commons committee on the Harper government’s proposed overhaul of the Elections Act.

The governing Conservatives have scoffed at the idea of public hearings across the country, saying they would be nothing more than a circus.

The Tories have used their majority to limit debate and push the bill through the House.

New Democrat MP David Christopherson said last week that such significant changes to electoral laws have never been made before without input from the opposition parties and the chief electoral officer.

The legislation effectively divides Elections Canada, the watchdog that oversees election fairness, by putting its investigative powers in a separate office.

It also restricts the chief electoral officer from communicating with Canadians and effectively increases the amount parties will be able to spend during campaigns.

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand has questioned the proposed changes, fearing they will undermine Elections Canada’s efforts to encourage all Canadians to cast a ballot.

Christopherson says he fully realizes the Conservatives will squash efforts to start public hearings, but hopes today’s debate will draw public attention to the controversial legislation.

Canada Middle-Class Dreams A ‘Myth’ In Troubled Economy: Internal Gov’t Report

Canada Middle-Class Dreams A ‘Myth’ In Troubled Economy: Internal Gov’t Report.

OTTAWA – Canada’s middle-class is mortgaging its future to stay afloat, making the Canadian dream “a myth more than a reality.”

That’s the blunt assessment of an internal Conservative government report, an unvarnished account of the plight of middle-income families that’s in contrast to the rosier economic picture in this month’s budget.

The document was prepared last October by experts in Employment and Social Development Canada, the department that runs the employment insurance fund and other income-support programs. The Canadian Press obtained the report under the Access to Information Act.

“The wages of middle income workers have stagnated,” it says, referring to the period from 1993 to 2007.

“Middle-income families are increasingly vulnerable to financial shocks.”

The document, drawing on three years of “internal research,” was prepared for the department’s deputy minister, Ian Shugart, shortly before the resumption of Parliament last fall.

“In Canada, political parties are making the middle class a central piece of their agendas,” notes the presentation.

A department spokesman, Jordan Sinclair, said in an email that the research “was not linked to the parliamentary schedule or topics raised within the House of Commons.”

The authors say middle-income families have seen their earnings rise by an average of only 1.7 per cent a year over the 15 years ending 2007.

“The market does not reward middle-income families so well,” says the report. “As a result, they get an increasingly smaller share of the earning’s pie” compared with higher-income families.

Shugart was also told middle-class workers “get lesser government support for their work transitions,” referring to a sharp fall-off in employment-insurance benefits compared with other economic groups.

The analysis stops short of the 2008 global recession, though other analysts have noted the economic crisis wiped out many well-paid manufacturing jobs in central Canada that have supported middle-class prosperity.

The report also refers to debt, saying “many in the middle spend more than they earn, mortgaging their future to sustain their current consumption.”

“Over the medium term, middle-income Canadians are unlikely to move to higher income brackets, i.e., the ‘Canadian dream’ is a myth more than a reality.”

Current Conservative messaging emphasizes a million new jobs created since the recession; Canada’s relative economic stability compared with other industrialized countries; and various tax cuts provided to “average” families since 2006.

Sinclair repeated those talking points when asked for comment on the report.

“Today, the Canadian economy is remarkably strong, setting the conditions for Canadians and their families to succeed and enjoy a high quality of life,” he said. “Middle-income Canadians receive proportionately greater (tax) relief.”

This month’s budget acknowledged the need to create jobs and provide workplace training, but the budget documents never refer explicitly to the “middle class.” The term “middle income” occurs just three times in the main budget, and once in a news release.

Since becoming Liberal leader in April last year, Justin Trudeau has frequently cited the plight of the middle class, a theme repeated at the party’s weekend convention in Montreal.

Research from the Library of Parliament shows that since Jan. 1, 2013, Trudeau has used the phrase “middle class” 52 times in the House of Commons, compared with twice for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and nine times for NDP Leader Tom Mulcair. None of them used “middle income.”

Toronto Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland commended the public servants who produced the report, saying that for the Liberals “it was like getting a good grade on your homework.”

“This is a very strong, non-partisan, data-driven report, focused on Canada, which confirms our assertion, which is at the centre of our policy, that the middle class in Canada is being squeezed and that we have to do something about it,” she said in an interview from Montreal.

“The public discourse has been lagging — we’ve been in denial.”

Freeland, who won a November byelection and now is the party’s trade critic, is author of the 2012 book Plutocrats, which argues that wealth distribution has favoured the ultra-rich and left everybody else behind.

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Alberta Oilsands Environmental Health Risks Probably Underestimated: Study

Alberta Oilsands Environmental Health Risks Probably Underestimated: Study.

CP  |  By John Cotter, The Canadian PressPosted: 02/03/2014 3:05 pm EST  |  Updated: 02/03/2014 10:59 pm EST

alberta oilsands health risks

EDMONTON – A new study suggests the environmental health risks of oilsands operations in Alberta’s Athabasca region have probably been underestimated.

Researchers say emissions of potentially hazardous air pollution that were used in environmental reviews done before approving some projects did not include evaporation from tailings ponds or other sources, such as dust from mining sites.

The study, by the University of Toronto’s environmental chemistry research group, looked at reported levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) — chemicals which can be released into the air, water and soil when bitumen-rich oilsands are mined and processed.

“Our study shows that emissions of PAH estimated in environmental impact assessments conducted to approve developments in the Athabasca oilsands region are likely too low,” reads the study published Monday in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The potential therefore exists that estimation of future risk to humans and wildlife because of surface mining in the Athabasca oilsands region has been underestimated.”

Professor Frank Wania, one of the study’s authors, said the results highlight the need for improved accounting of PAH emissions from oilsands operations, especially when more projects are being built or planned in the region.

Using computer models, researchers studied emissions estimates from environmental reports to predict chemical concentrations from direct oilsands industrial activity such as mining, processing and vehicle traffic.

They found the levels were lower than actually measured levels of chemicals in the air recorded in other scientific studies.

Researchers then modified the computer model to factor in estimates of evaporation from oilsands tailing ponds. Predicted concentrations were then much closer to the recorded levels.

They used a third model using concentrations of PAH levels measured by Environment Canada in the region between November 2010 and February 2011.

The results suggest emissions may be two to three times higher than the estimates recorded in project environmental reviews.

Wania said some chemicals pose a potential cancer risk, but nothing imminent.

The concentrations that have been measured in the air in the oilsands region are comparable to a big city such as Toronto.

“It is not that I am raising the red flag here, that we should be very concerned, because we live with these concentrations day in and day out,” he said.

“All we are saying is that the basis for the human health risk assessment is flawed.”

Environment Canada issued a statement saying it is reviewing the study and can’t yet comment on its contents.

Spokesman Mark Johnson said the department considers responsible resource development a priority, adding it has establish extensive monitoring activities in the oilsands and has made progress in studying impacts on air, water, land and wildlife.

Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute, an environmental policy think-tank, said the study raises questions about tailings ponds and oilsands monitoring.

He said industry has never demonstrated that it is able to effectively deal with tailings waste and the government is not enforcing existing cleanup rules.

“This study provides further evidence that rules need to be enforced and the growth of tailings waste halted,” he wrote in an email.

Dyer said governments and regulators need to take the study’s findings into account when determining if it is appropriate to approve new projects.

He also said oilsands monitoring needs to be expanded.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said scientific monitoring, transparency and reporting processes are crucial to understanding industrial impacts and balancing the need for environmental protection, economic growth and secure reliable energy supplies.

Geraldine Anderson, an association spokeswoman, noted the federal and Alberta governments are working together to improve oilsands monitoring.

“This U of T study takes existing data and uses computer modeling to make suggestions,” Anderson wrote in an email.

“As the study notes, there are major efforts under way through JOSM (joint oil sands monitoring) to develop improved models, a better understanding of pathways, and a better understanding of the limits of existing data.

“Science-based research is in everybody’s best interest because it helps achieve the goal of long-term, responsible resource development.”

Wania said the team’s research was funded by the university. He said Environment Canada is now providing money for more research to follow up on the findings.

A report published last year in the same journal found that oilsands development is polluting surrounding lakes in northern Alberta.

The federally funded research by some of Canada’s top scientists found levels of toxic hydrocarbons in six lakes between 2 1/2 and 23 times what they were before the mines were built.

The paper said while overall toxin levels remain low, trends aren’t good and some lakes are already approaching warning levels.

It said the timing of the contamination and its chemical makeup point to industrial sources.

Ontario Budget 2014: Canadian Taxpayers Federation Urges $13B In Spending Cuts

Ontario Budget 2014: Canadian Taxpayers Federation Urges $13B In Spending Cuts.

ontario budget 2014

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is urging the Ontario government to slash $13 billion in spending to balance the province’s books this year. (CP) | CP

TORONTO – The Canadian Taxpayers Federation urged the Ontario government Monday to slash $13 billion in spending to balance the books in 2014 and start paying down some of the province’s record debt.

Ontario’s debt doubled under 10 years of Liberal rule to $272.8 billion, which cost $10.6 billion this year just to pay the interest, said CTF director Candice Malcolm.

“There are real consequences to carrying this much debt,” she said. “This is the third largest, and fastest growing expenditure in our budget.”

The government can’t afford to keep shelling out more in interest charges without actually making payments to lower the debt, added Malcolm.

“This is just a small part of the debt that we owe, which also includes federal debt and most of us owe municipal debt plus any personal debt,” she said. “When you look at the larger debt component, for people in Ontario it’s quite scary.”

The government could save $2.7 billion by ending “corporate welfare” — grants to businesses — and could save even more by killing the full-day kindergarten program for four- and five-year-olds, said Malcolm.

“We call on the government to scrap dumb policies like the $1.5-billion full-day kindergarten program, which was hastily introduced … against the advice of child development doctors,” she said.

“There are unfortunately no shortage of dumb policies here in Ontario.”

The taxpayers’ lobby also wants the government to end the 10 per cent rebate on electricity bills, which cost $1 billion a year, and to kill the 30 per cent tuition discount for most college and university students. It also wants the controversial Green Energy Act repealed and the Liquor Control Board privatized.

The Progressive Conservatives applauded the CTF for focusing on the need to eliminate the deficit as quickly as possible.

“Finally we have people standing up and joining our party, quite frankly, in pitching a balanced budget,” said PC finance critic Vic Fedeli.

“Certainly the government has no intention to balance as we saw in the fall economic statement when they talked about going on a spending spree.”

The Liberals signalled last fall that they would try to stick to their deficit reduction schedule, but said they would not stop spending on new programs to get the economy back on track.

The cuts the CTF is proposing would be more than enough to eliminate Ontario’s projected deficit of $11.7 billion, and leave some to make a payment to lower the actual debt, added Malcolm.

However, Finance Minister Charles Sousa says “zero deficits mean nothing if we have zero jobs and zero growth,” and the Liberals remain on track to balance the books by 2017-18.

But the Conservatives said it’s the debt and deficit that is hurting businesses today.

“Companies like to locate where there’s good management and they are leaving Ontario,” said Fedeli, pointing to recent plant closures announced by Kelloggs, Heinz and Caterpillar.

“They’re still making cereal, they’re still making ketchup, they’re still making earth-moving equipment,” said Fedeli. “They’re just not making them in Ontario any more.”

Manitoba Pipeline Explosion Prompts Evacuation Of Homes (PHOTO, VIDEO)

Manitoba Pipeline Explosion Prompts Evacuation Of Homes (PHOTO, VIDEO).

ST. PIERRE-JOLYS, Man. – Five homes remain evacuated as TransCanada Piplelines deals with a natural gas pipeline fire about 25 kilometres south of Winnipeg.

TransCanada says it has shut down the Emerson Lateral portion of the Canadian Mainline natural gas pipeline system and is venting the gas. Roads leading to the site have also been closed.

It follows an explosion and fire at a valve site near St. Pierre-Jolys about 1:15 a.m. local time.

TransCanada says venting the system generates a loud noise that will gradually lessen over several hours. The company says there is no risk to anyone.

It says the fire is steadily decreasing in size and is being closely monitored by its staff and local emergency response crews. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada and the National Energy Board are also investigating.

There are no reported injuries.

The closed portion of the pipeline system provides Manitoba Hydro with natural gas for several communities in the region.

TransCanada says it’s working with the utility to determine if alternative sources of gas are needed.

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