Western Canada’s drought is taking a toll

Source: www.edmontonjournal.com

Record-breaking temperatures and extremely low rainfalls across Western Canada are causing chaos for farmers and firefighters this summer as they grapple with the worst drought in more than a decade.

The widespread hot and dry conditions in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan have led to a jump in wildfires, tight water restrictions, and pressure on farmers as many crops remain stunted and the cost of hay skyrockets.

And while some rain sprinkled over the largely bone-dry Prairies this week, it may be too little too late for the western provinces to fully recover before the summer ends.

Plans to help the dry provinces cope with the drought have already been initiated. On Thursday, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced the federal government would grant tax deferrals to livestock producers in regions affected by drought.

On the same day, with smoke billowing from a hillside behind him, Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed to take a hard look at new ways to fight devastating wildfires like the one raging near West Kelowna, B.C.

In Alberta, several counties have declared states of agricultural emergency. In Saskatchewan, crop insurance rules are being loosened to help the anxious farmers. In British Columbia, water restrictions have been imposed while “drought shaming” grows on social media.

And it’s prompting many people to ask just what’s going on.

“Is it climate change? I don’t know. It may just be a fluke, it may just be something coincidental, it’s hard to say,” says David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

He says although many people have associated the lack of rain in the region with El Niño — a climate event that happens when warm water in the Pacific Ocean interacts with the atmosphere — it may actually be connected to a mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean that originated in the Gulf of Alaska and moved down the coast to British Columbia. It’s been dubbed the “Pacific blob.”

“(It) could have contributed to weather blocking, which prevents normal processing of precipitation events, over the western provinces,” Phillips says, adding it also could have brought wetter weather in the east.

“What we’re seeing now is conditions go from one extreme to the other,” Phillips says. “Some parts of the Prairies last year were the wettest on record. This year, we’ve seen the opposite.”

He calls it “weather whiplash.”

“That seems to be a common thing that we’re seeing around the world, where normal doesn’t exist anymore.”

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Failure to Serve a Statement of Claim May Be Fatal

By Jennifer Biernaskie, Partner, and Andrea MacLean, Summer Student

A recent Alberta Court of Appeal decision reiterated the importance of timely service of a statement of claim.

In McGowan v Lang (“McGowan“) the Court found that a plaintiff must formally serve a statement of claim upon the defendant(s) – even in instances where the defendant’s insurer had been provided with a copy of the statement of claim. Failure to do so may be fatal to the action.

The Alberta Rules of Court require that a statement of claim be served on a defendant within one year of its being filed, unless the Court grants an extension.

In McGowan, the plaintiff missed the one-year deadline for service. The statement of claim – relating to a motor vehicle accident – was filed and a copy forwarded to the insurance adjuster who was handling the claim. However, it was not formally served on the defendant until several months after the service deadline.

At no point did the insurance adjuster indicate to the plaintiff that:

  1. service was accepted on behalf of the defendant;
  2. liability was not contested; or
  3. the time limit was waived.

Thus, there could be no extension of service granted under Rule 3.27(1)(a).

However, prior to the service deadline, there had been ongoing negotiations between the adjuster and the plaintiff’s counsel. The adjuster had notified the plaintiff’s counsel that he would file a statement of defence if he did not receive medical documents. The plaintiff argued that this conduct created “special or extraordinary circumstances” which should give rise to an extension of the time for service under Rule 3.27(1)(c).

The Court of Appeal found that the actions of the adjuster did not create special or extraordinary circumstances. Further, plaintiff counsel’s reliance on the adjuster’s statement was found not to be the reason for the failure of service; it was simply a matter that the plaintiff’s lawyer had neglected.

The Court found that an extension of time for service of a statement of claim under Rule 3.27 should not occur where the failure to serve is caused by the plaintiff lawyer’s inadvertence, even in situations where there is no demonstrated prejudice to the defendants.

The takeaway is that according to the Court, a lawyer acting for a plaintiff should file the statement of claim in a timely fashion and thereafter serve it upon the defendant(s) pursuant to the timelines in the Rules of Court, regardless of any ongoing negotiations with a defendant’s insurer.

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