EDMONTON – The Alberta government announced a surplus in its 2014 budget on Thursday, but critics say the PCs are growing Alberta’s total debt load and saddling taxpayers with interest payments.
“This is not a balanced budget, not by any stretch,” said Wildrose leader Danielle Smith.
“Just because you redefine what it means to have a surplus doesn’t mean that you’re actually in surplus.”
“We are going to have $21 billion of debt by the time we go into the next election… and when we get there, we’ll be spending about $820 million a year on interest charges.”
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Alberta government unveils balanced 2014 budget
WATCH: 2014 Alberta Budget speech highlights
No new money for LRT expansion in Alberta Budget 2014
(Above: Wildrose leader Danielle Smith speaks to Tom Vernon about the 2014 budget)
The government announced a $2.6 billion operating surplus, but will be taking on $5.1 billion in debt to finance capital projects this year.
In the 2014 budget, operational expenses increase by 3.7 per cent from last year’s budget. It’s less than population plus inflation, but higher than it was last year.
“The fact of the matter is we’ve reigned in our spending well below what we’ve had as an average over the last 10 years,” said Finance Minister Doug Horner.
Over the last 10 years, on average, the government says operating expenses increased by 7.3 per cent each year.
Click here to view all the Alberta government’s Budget 2014 documents
The official opposition says that, despite $44.4 billion in total revenue, the PCs will run a consolidated deficit in 2014, while continuing to take on debt.
“With this kind of record-breaking revenue stream, it is unconscionable that the PCs continue to plunge future generations into debt that will cripple our ability to deliver programs and services,” said Wildrose Finance Critic Rob Anderson.
“This year, the PCs had a genuine opportunity to balance the budget and get off the debt path. Instead, they’ve doubled down on debt and are sticking our children and grandchildren with the bill.”
Horner stressed there is no borrowing for operational expenses, money is being set aside to pay off the debt, and that borrowing for capital projects makes good financial sense.
“Spending our savings, which are earning 11 per cent, when we’re borrowing at less than four per cent, doesn’t make sense.”
READ MORE: Alberta government unveils balanced 2014 budget
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation also believes the government will run a consolidated deficit.
“Premier Redford has not only broken her promise to balance the budget by this March, but she is on track to break it again and again for the next three years. Unless oil bails the government out, we can look forward to deficits well past the rest of her term,” said CTF’s Alberta director, Derek Fildebrandt.
The CTF says debt will increase by 38 per cent this year, rising from $8.5 billion to $13.4 billion. It estimates it will reach $20.9 billion by 2016-2017.
(Above: Gord Steinke sits down with Scott Hennig from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to discuss Alberta Budget 2014)
The New Democrat Party says budget 2014 is an attack on Alberta families.
“This budget completely abandons middle-class and vulnerable people,” said NDP leader Brian Mason.
“This budget is the next chapter in the tale of two Albertans. Times are good for PC insiders and corporations, while Alberta families will continue to see tough times ahead.”
The NDP says this budget looks out for wealthy people and corporations, by providing $150 million in-kind royalties to oil corporations, $8.6 million in corporate subsidies to industry in the post-secondary education budget, and a $1 million increase to Alison Redford’s office.
CALGARY- Western Canada High School is changing the name and logo of its sports teams.
On Thursday, a decision was made to scrap the native-inspired “Redmen” moniker following months of discussions with the Calgary Board of Education.
“It is high time for us to move forward and transition for a new name to Western Canada,” said Calvin Davies of the Calgary Board of Education.
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CBE reviews Western Canada High School’s use of ‘Redmen’ name
Mixed feelings about Redmen name change
Saskatoon school board vote to change Redmen team name, logo
Some people say the name as well as the logo, which features the head of a First Nations man, is an offensive misappropriation of aboriginal culture.
“Students know it has to change,” says Jackson McDonough, as student at Western Canada. “It sucks because we’ve been the Redmen. In no sense are we trying to be derogatory but totally understand where First Nations are coming from and honestly most of our school is behind this change.”
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In 2004, Western Canada High School engaged with First Nations groups, students and parents about the name but at the time determined it wasn’t offensive and simply made a slight alteration to the feather in the team logo.
A decision on a new name and logo has yet to be made.
The ruling follows a recent decision by a Saskatchewan high school to change the name and logo of its sports teams, also dubbed the “Redmen.”
On Friday, the CBE released a statement on the review of local mascots and sports teams:
“The Calgary Board of Education is in the process of examining our school names, mascots and logos. We are committed to supporting changes to ensure that schools and the CBE system respect and reflect the diversity of our students, our communities and our city, including First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.
Currently, area directors and principals are undergoing these discussions to ensure we are fully respectful of all the cultures that make up the Calgary community. These conversations are at various stages and involve a variety of stakeholders including students, parents, school community members and elders on our CBE Aboriginal/Elder Advisory Council.
Western Canada High School has made the decision to transition to a different name. Other schools within our system are beginning to examine their names.
Approaches for the selection and implementation of a possible new name at any school will honour the traditions of that school and the interests of all concerned stakeholders.”
Efforts by farm groups, government and others to get more grain to market are intensifying.
The Grain Growers of Canada is urging farmers to contact their members of parliament and tell them know how the rail issue is affecting them personally. Farmers harvested the biggest crop ever last year, there are countries that want to buy it and they don’t want them to look elsewhere for grain.
The railways are largely blaming the weather for their inability to move more grain to port.
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The president of the Grain Growers of Canada said some livestock producers in B.C. are getting feed for cattle, hogs and other animals from the U.S.
“That’s a great concern for me being a western Canadian farmer,” said Gary Stanford. “I can’t sell my own products in my own country because the railways won’t get it there.”
The Grain Growers of Canada wants farmers to contact their members of parliament.
Lethbridge member of parliament Jim Hillyer said, “We’ve got one of the best crops that we’ve had in years and years and years and the fact that farmers are sitting their with their grain still on their land or sitting there on a rail somewhere not moving is a major problem.”
With spring seeding coming up, farmers are concerned about cash flow. There is also concern some countries might stop seeing Canada as a reliable supplier if grain shipments don’t improve and take their business elsewhere.
“There was one ship from Japan that needed to get filled to get back to Japan so they pulled it out of Vancouver and went down to Portland and loaded at Portland so they could get it back,” said Stanford. “That’s what we’re stressing to CP and CN Rail, that if you’re not going to move the grain fast enough or you’re not going to do it, are we going to lose market share.”
Trains that go through the mountains in the winter are shorter than trains are in the summer. The Grain Growers of Canada suggest the railways use more trains in the winter.
Stanford said, “Railways in Canada, they’ve leased some of their locomotives to companies down in the States. So what I’ve recommended to the railways in Canada, can you go get some of those locomotives back.”
Last week, Alberta Agriculture Minister Vern Olson asked his federal counterpart to impose immediate cash penalties on railways that don’t meet their obligations moving grain.
Watch the video above: Study finds energy drink consumption linked to depression, substance abuse in teens. Laura Zilke reports.
TORONTO – A significant proportion of high school students appears to be consuming high-caffeine energy drinks, and for some of them at least there seems to be a link with mental health issues, substance use and sensation-seeking behaviour, a study has found.
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The findings have prompted the researchers to call for a reduction in the amount of caffeine in energy drinks and reduced access to the beverages for teens.
In the study of more than 8,200 high school students in Atlantic Canada, researchers at the University of Waterloo and Dalhousie University in Halifax found that about two-thirds of respondents reported consuming an energy drink in the previous year.
About one in five students said they drank the beverages once or more each month, said the study published in the journal Preventive Medicine.
READ MORE: Caffeine common for kids, even preschoolers, study shows
“We also found something very interesting,” said principal investigator Sunday Azagba, a researcher at the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo in southwestern Ontario.
“The more intense users tend to be more likely to be depressed, they’re more likely to have substance use,” he said, referring to alcohol and marijuana.
Sensation seeking – taking part in novel activities that provide excitement – also was higher among those who reported consuming energy drinks compared to those who don’t imbibe the caffeine-charged drinks, the researchers found.
“While it remains unclear why these associations exist, the trend is a concern because of the high rate of consumption among teenagers,” said Azagba. “These drinks appeal to young people because of their temporary benefits like increased alertness, improved mood and enhanced mental and physical energy.”
The study, based on data from the 2012 Student Drug Use Survey of high school students in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador, found that younger teens were more likely to consume energy drinks than their older peers.
“Marketing campaigns appear designed to entice youth and young adults,” said Azagba, noting that brand names like Monster Energy, Red Bull and Rockstar Energy can be appealing to young people.
“It’s a dangerous combination, especially for those at an increased risk for substance abuse.”
Kathleen Miller, a senior scientist at the Research Institute on Addictions at the University at Buffalo, said the findings are troubling but not surprising, as they’re in line with the body of emerging evidence on energy drinks and their potential effects.
The study’s findings on the tie-in between sensation seeking and energy drink consumption are among the strongest “we’ve encountered yet,” she said.
While clearly intended to provide a bit of a caffeine buzz, most regular or “mainstream” energy drinks contain about the same amount of the stimulant as a cup of coffee, Miller said Thursday from Buffalo. “So it’s not just the caffeine. There’s something else going on here.
“I think it’s more to do with the way these energy drinks are subculturally understood, the way they’re marketed and the narrative behind them. The whole message is take risks, live on the extreme, live on the edge,” she said, pointing out that Red Bull, for instance, is a major sponsor of virtually “every extreme sport on the planet, literally.”
Energy drinks have been associated with a number of adverse health effects, including cardiovascular symptoms, sleep disorders, nervousness and nausea. The side-effects are caused by the beverages’ high concentration of caffeine.
“Given the negative effects of excessive caffeine consumption as well as the coincident occurrence of the use of energy drinks and other negative behaviours in teens, the trends we are seeing are more than cause for concern,” said Azagba.
In recent years energy drink consumption has skyrocketed. In the U.S. alone, sales are expected to reach $20 billion in 2013.
“In our opinion, at the very least, steps should be taken to limit teens’ access to energy drinks, to increase public awareness and education about the potential harms of these drinks and to minimize the amount of caffeine available in each unit,” said Azagba.
“This won’t eliminate the problem entirely, but steps like these can help mitigate harm to our youth that appears to be associated with consumption of these drinks.”
The Canadian Beverage Association (CBA), which represents most manufacturers of non-alcoholic beverages in Canada, said the study findings reflect only an association, not causality, as the researchers themselves admit.
“The use levels reported by the researchers reinforce the fact that the vast majority of teens, over 80 per cent, rarely or never consume energy drinks,” the association said in statement. “Further, there is no evidence – here or anywhere else – to indicate that the consumption of energy drinks in any way led to substance abuse or to the sort of behaviour associated with substance abuse.”
Noting that energy drinks are regulated in Canada and have a capped caffeine content, the CBA said “contrary to the misperception perpetuated by this paper, most mainstream energy drinks contain only about half the amount of caffeine of a similar size cup of coffeehouse coffee.”
Miller, who was not involved in the study, is researching the connection between sexual risk-taking and the use of energy drinks mixed with alcohol – which many researchers deem a dangerous combination.
“What we’re finding is that drinking them together seems to put you at greater risk than just drinking alcohol,” she said, suggesting that the stimulating effect of caffeine in energy drinks may mask the effects of alcohol, so a person may not realize their level of impairment.
“When you drink alcohol alone, it makes you slower, it makes you sleepy and it makes you stupid because it has an effect on cognitive judgment,” she said. “What the caffeine does is take away the sleep part and reduce the slow part.
“You’re still stupid, but you’re in a better position to do something about it. So it’s a recipe for trouble.”
©2014The Canadian Press
Watch the video above: Blades defenceman fitting in with his new club
SASKATOON – Jordan Thomson has made Saskatoon his home for the remainder of the season.
When the Saskatoon Blades acquired 17-year-old defenceman Jordan Thomson back in January, there was doubt that he’d ever suit up with his new club.
Thomson left his former team, the Kamloops Blazers, because of “personal reasons” and it was uncertain whether or not he’d play in the Western Hockey League again.
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Part-time Blade Thomson arrives in Saskatoon
But the fog clouding the young pivot’s future cleared up last week when Thomson committed to a three-game trial with the Saskatoon Blades.
Thomson obviously liked his new surroundings, because after only two games Jordan announced that he would play out the rest of the season with the Blades.
“Everything seemed to tell me just to stay, and that feels unbelievable, and right for me,” Thomson said before practice on Thursday.
Blades head coach Dave Struch kept a close eye on Thomson over the past week, and it’s clear that Saskatoon’s bench boss likes what he sees in the young defender.
“He’s shown a lot of promise,” Struch said. “He moves the puck well, he skates well, mobility, and the biggest part of it is his work ethic.”
Thomson’s future with the Blades past this season remains uncertain, but the fact that he chose to stay and play out the rest of the campaign is a positive sign.
The Blades are back in action on Friday night when they play host to the Red Deer Rebels.
Puck drop is at 7:05 at Credit Union Centre.