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German manufacturers will make a massive investment over the next three years in electric cars and automated driving, as well as trebling the number of electric models, the head of the country’s car industry association has said.

“We will invest over €40 billion ($45.5 billion) in electric mobility during the next three years, and another €18 billion ($20.5 billion) will be invested in digitization and connected and automated driving,” VDA President Bernhard Mattes said, as cited by Reuters on Saturday, several days before the Geneva Motor Show.

Germany, along with some other major EU economies, is set to have a much higher share of electric vehicles among its new registrations than the average rate across the bloc, he added.

Europe needs to boost electric mobility because without it, goals for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in the EU cannot be achieved by 2030, according to Mattes. For this purpose, the appropriate regulatory conditions must be met. Massive expansion of the charging infrastructure is also required, along with more offerings for e-vehicle buyers.

At the same time, Berlin expects a significant decline in domestic car production this year due to a slowing economy, trade risks linked to US tariffs, as well as the expansion of plants in the US, Mexico and China, the VDA chief warned. German plants are expected to produce 4.8 million passenger vehicles this year, which is around five percent fewer than in 2018.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Florida State posted a 6-0 mark at the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational to strengthens its hold on the No. 1 ranking in this week’s USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Coaches Poll. The defending champs received 29 of a possible 32 first-place votes and 793 points.

The Seminoles (11-0) knocked off three top-10 programs – then-No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 6 Tennessee and No. 8 LSU – along with RV Ohio State, RV Minnesota and Florida Atlantic to remain perfect on the season.

No. 2 UCLA and new-No. 3 Florida kept their perfect records intact as well. The Bruins (9-0) posted four wins in a weather-shortened weekend, while the Gators (11-0) enjoyed a 6-0 week, which included a 7-2 win at then-No. 14 Arizona State.

No. 6 Alabama, No. 10 Louisiana, No. 19 Indiana and No. 23 Texas Tech are the other undefeated programs after two weeks. The Crimson Tide (10-0) swept through the Hillenbrand Invitational, which included a 6-1 win over the hosts and then-No. 9 Arizona. The Ragin’ Cajuns (11-0) joined the top-10 following seven home wins last week, two of which came against RV California.

The Hoosiers (9-0) continued its hot start, second best in program history, rifling up five spots. IU swept four games at the ACC/Big Ten Challenge against Duke and Syracuse in Durham, N.C. 

New to the poll and the final undefeated team in the rankings is No. 23 Texas Tech. The Red Raiders (10-0) swept the competition at the Plainsman Invitational, recording three shutouts and a win over host and then-No. 21 Auburn.

No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 7 Tennessee and No. 9 LSU all competed at the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational, posting 4-1, 3-2 and 3-2 records, respectively. The Sooners (9-1) captured wins over then-no. 18 Kentucky, RV Notre Dame, FAU and then-RV Hofstra. 

The Lady Vols (8-2) triumphed over RV Notre Dame, new-No. 24 Minnesota and then-RV Utah and also dropped a decision to then-No. 23 James Madison. The Tigers (9-2) defeated No. 20 Oklahoma State, No. 11 Texas and RV Ohio State and also fell to then-No. 19 Oregon.

No. 5 Washington and No. 8 Georgia also posted perfect weekends. The Huskies (8-1) earned wins over then-No. 25 Mississippi State, No. 12 Arkansas, UCF and North Dakota State in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, while the Bulldogs (9-1) breezed through its home weekend against Buffalo, Winthrop and Omaha, outscoring the competition 60-4.

Joining Texas Tech as top-25 newcomers are and No. 25 Illinois. Then-No. 17 Michigan, then-No. 22 Texas A&M and Mississippi State dropped out.

The 2019 USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Poll is voted on by 32 NCAA Division I head coaches, one representing each conference. The records reflect games played through Feb. 17, 2019.

2019 USA Today / NFCA Division I
Top 25 Coaches Poll – February 19 (Week 2)

Rank

School

Totals

2019

Record

Prev. Ranking

1

Florida State (29)

793

11-0

1

2

UCLA (2)

767

9-0

2

3

Florida

721

11-0

4

4

Oklahoma

708

9-1

3

5

Washington (1)

676

8-1

5

6

Alabama

614

10-0

7

7

Tennessee

561

8-2

6

8

Georgia

544

9-1

10

9

LSU

536

9-2

8

10

Louisiana

511

11-0

13

11

Texas

485

7-1

11

12

Arkansas

461

8-1

12

13

Arizona State

404

8-2

14

14

Arizona

393

6-4

9

15

South Carolina

366

7-2

15

16

Kentucky

269

6-5

18

17

Oregon

242

7-2

19

18

James Madison

227

3-2

23

19

Indiana

209

9-0

24

20

Oklahoma State

176

7-3

20

21

Baylor

144

7-4

16

22

Auburn

120

7-3

21

23

Texas Tech

89

10-0

RV

24

Minnesota

57

4-3

RV

25

Illinois

52

7-2

RV

 

New to Poll: No. 23 Texas Tech, No. 24 Minnesota, No. 25 Illinois

Dropped Out: No. 17 Michigan (4-5), No. 22 Texas A&M (8-3), No. 25 Mississippi State (6-3). 

Receiving Votes: Michigan (44), Texas A&M (44), Oregon State (35), Mississippi State (26), Louisiana Tech (23), North Carolina (23), Notre Dame (12), Northwestern (10), Ohio State (10), Boise State (9), Loyola Marymount (7), Nebraska (6), Ole Miss (6), Liberty (4), Missouri (4), NC State (4), New Mexico State (3), Southern Illinois (2), Virginia Tech (2), California (1).

The 2019 USA Today / NFCA Division I Top 25 Coaches Poll is voted on by 32 NCAA Division I head coaches with one representing each of the NCAA’s Division I Conferences. Record reflect games played through Feb. 17, 2019.

OTTAWA — The prime minister is adamant a diversity of opinions is healthy for his party, despite new comments from his former Treasury Board president that there’s still much to learn about the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Jane Philpott told Maclean’s magazine in an explosive interview published Thursday that “there’s much more to the story that should be told” about the controversy, but she isn’t in a position to elaborate because of “an attempt to shut down the story” by the prime minister and his inner circle.

She quit Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet earlier this month, saying the government’s handling of SNC-Lavalin controversy made circumstances “untenable” for her to continue as a minister. Her resignation came weeks after former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould left cabinet.

“I made the very difficult decision to step down because my conscience demanded,” she said in the Maclean’s interview.

Watch: PM says ex-ministers still welcome in caucus despite criticism on SNC-Lavalin

Trudeau was asked about Philpott’s comments during an infrastructure announcement in Mississauga. He was pressed to defend why Philpott and Wilson-Raybould remain members of the Liberal caucus.

“We recognize that a diversity of perspectives, experiences, opinions, is extraordinarily important if we’re going to fully reflect the extraordinary diversity of Canadians,” he said.

The prime minister told reporters that their intentions to stay in caucus and to run under the Liberal banner in the upcoming election is an indication of their faith in the party.

“We are pleased to have a diversity of voices in the Liberal party.”

Trudeau has been under weeks of pressure from the Opposition to release the former attorney general from remaining solicitor-client privileges and cabinet confidence to allow her to speak about events that happened after she was shuffled to Veterans Affairs on Jan. 14.

Partial restrictions were waived after the prime minister issued an Order in Council right before Wilson-Raybould’s justice committee testimony in February. The order allowed her to speak about what she alleged were “consistent and sustained” efforts of political interference to help SNC-Lavalin avoid trial when she was attorney general.

Trudeau has repeatedly said that issuing the order was “unprecedented” and satisfactory for the bounds of the justice committee study about what happened up until the January shuffle.

The Opposition are not convinced, and gave notice of 257 motions Wednesday to protest what Tories have called a “gag order” over Wilson-Raybould. MPs voted throughout the night, taking turns sleeping.

Because the votes relate to government funding, an election would be triggered if Liberals lose even one.

Liberal MP suggests Philpott ‘dangling something’ is inappropriate

Neither Philpott nor Wilson-Raybould were present during the overnight marathon votes. Celina Caesar-Chavannes, an Ontario MP who quit the Liberal caucus earlier in the day, participated in the voting session from her new seat in the back row.

The Canadian Press reported Wednesday that Philpott and Wilson-Raybould were given permission to skip the all-night voting marathon to avoid potential confrontations by sleep-deprived MPs, according to an anonymous source.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel raised the point with reporters Thursday.

“I find it really difficult to watch as two strong female colleagues continue to be shut down when I watch their male colleagues putting words in their mouth,” she said, calling the prime minister a “fake feminist.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh again called for a public inquiry to investigate allegations of political interference between the Prime Minister’s Office and the former attorney general.

Watch: As MPs pull all-nighter, Philpott breathes fresh life into SNC-Lavalin scandal

Echoing a point Philpott raised in her interview, Singh said if Liberals have nothing to hide, then “why don’t they waive solicitor client privilege.” Philpott herself said Canadians deserve to learn the truth, he said.

Singh claimed, “If the prime minister was cooperative, the public inquiry would not take very long.”

Some Liberal MPs were more frank than others about the latest layer in the SNC-Lavalin affair — and challenge to caucus morale in an election year.

Toronto MP Adam Vaughan told reporters on Parliament Hill that he wasn’t bothered by Philpott’s comments. “She still supports the party, that’s good enough for me,” he said.

Philpott told Maclean’s that “of course” she wants a Liberal government, adding she doesn’t want to see Andrew Scheer become prime minister after the October election.

Vaughan suggested that the Liberal party is “big enough and strong enough” to withstand its current internal challenges.

Another Toronto MP, Julie Dzerowicz, said despite Philpott’s latest comments, she still regards the former cabinet minister as a valuable colleague and mentor.

Despite neither Philpott nor Wilson-Raybould having explicitly said in public remarks that they have confidence in Trudeau, Dzerowicz said: “I think you don’t stay in the party if you don’t believe in the prime minister.”

Scarborough—Guildwood MP John McKay was borderline critical of Philpott’s latest remarks.

“I understand from an opposition standpoint that this is a political gift that keeps on giving,” he said. Referencing Philpott’s interview, he said if someone believes in cabinet confidence, “then you can’t say something like, ‘Well there’s more to come.'”

He called Philpott and Wilson-Raybould “really talented and able people” who were well-liked up until the SNC-Lavalin affair engulfed the government’s focus.

When asked if he thought the controversy will pose as a “significant” issue in the upcoming issue, he said he wasn’t sure. McKay said Liberal MPs are awakening to the reality that each new layer to the controversy increases the risk of “political consequences.”

“It’s one thing to take a hit from the opposition or circumstances beyond caucus or cabinet,” he said. “It’s another thing to take political hits from your own people”

McKay suggested if Philpott and Wilson-Raybould haven’t crossed a line already with their actions, then they’re now “awfully close to that line.”

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the first time in school history, Science & Arts (Okla.) is ranked No. 1 after winning its first-ever World Series championship, announced Wednesday by the national office. The Drovers (57-5) collected all 18 first-place votes and 498 total points in the 2018 NAIA Softball Coaches’ Top 25 Postseason Poll.

Top 25 Highlights:

  • National champion Science & Arts (Okla.) won the World Series with a 4-1 victory against Columbia (Mo.) on May 31. The Drovers rattled through the event unscathed with a 4-0 mark.
  • As a team, the Drovers ranked sixth in the NAIA in runs scored per game (7.0) and 21st in batting average (.331).
  • National runner-up Columbia climbed up to No. 2 in the postseason edition. With a 37-16 record, the Cougars claimed its highest postseason finish and tied its highest Top 25 ranking – No. 2 on Jan. 16, 2018 (preseason).
  • No. 7 Indiana Wesleyan claims the most wins in the NAIA with a 58-12 mark.

Poll Methodology

  • The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences and the Association of Independent Institutions.
  • The Top 25 is determined by a points system based on how each voter ranks the best teams. A team receives 30 points for each first-place vote, 29 for second-place and so on through the list.
  • The highest and lowest ranking for each team (a non-rating is considered a low ratings) is removed and the team’s ranking will be recalculated with an additional point added to each team for every ballot (including discounted ballots) that the teams appears on.
  • Teams that receive only one point in the ballot are not considered “receiving votes”
  • Frequency of polls occur bi-weekly.
  • For the complete calendar of 2018 Top 25 Polls,click here.

2018 NAIA Softball Coaches’ Top 25 Postseason Poll

RANK LAST WEEK^ SCHOOL (1ST PLACE VOTES) 2018 RECORD TOTAL POINTS 1 5 Science & Arts (Okla.) (18) 57-5 498 2 RV Columbia (Mo.) 37-16 477 3 8 Southern Oregon 51-15 458 4 2 Oklahoma City 53-9 454 5 1 Georgia Gwinnett 53-6 433 6 3 Marian (Ind.) 51-7 425 7 7 Indiana Wesleyan 58-12 402 8 9 Mobile (Ala.) 45-15 372 9 21 Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) 36-16 366 10 17 Faulkner (Ala.) 47-15 351 11 4 Campbellsville (Ky.) 47-10 350 12 6 Hope International (Calif.) 47-11 309 13 20 Oregon Tech 39-15 263 14 10 Vanguard (Calif.) 50-12 260 15 15 St. Francis (Ill.) 41-9 255 16 16 Grand View (Iowa) 48-10 249 17 12 Thomas (Ga.) 39-16 232 18 11 Jamestown (N.D.) 44-9 230 19 13 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) 40-16 227 20 14 Corban (Ore.) 37-15 214 21 18 Central Methodist (Mo.) 43-11 196 22 19 William Carey (Miss.) 39-15 167 23 23 Truett-McConnell (Ga.) 43-17 164 24 22 Southeastern (Fla.) 40-18 112 25 T25 Baker (Kan.) 40-16 91  

Others Receiving Votes: Rio Grande (Ohio) 64; Midland (Neb.) 62; Valley City State (N.D.) 60; Saint Xavier (Ill.) 43; Tabor (Kan.) 36; Aquinas (Mich.) 32; Morningside (Iowa) 25; Brenau (Ga.) 23; Houston-Victoria (Texas) 9; Texas Wesleyan 9;Georgetown (Ky.) 7; Simpson (Calif.) 6; USC Beaufort (S.C.) 5.

Dropped Out: No. 24 Rio Grande (Ohio); No. 25 (tie) Valley City State (N.D.)

^ Previous ranking occurred May 8, 2018

— Courtesy of NAIA

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a May byelection in British Columbia to fill a seat vacated by a former New Democrat.

The Prime Minister’s Office has set May 6 as the date for the ballot for Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

The riding opened up when former New Democrat member of Parliament Sheila Malcolmson resigned in January to run successfully for the provincial New Democrats.

Malcolmson was one of several NDP MPs who decided not to run again in October’s federal election.

The list includes B.C. MP Murray Rankin, Alberta MP Linda Duncan, Ontario MPs Irene Mathyssen and David Christopherson, Quebec’s Helene Laverdiere, Romeo Saganash, Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet and Anne Minh-Thu Quach and B.C.’s Fin Donnelly.

Bob Chamberlin, a long-serving chief counsellor of a First Nation based on Gilford Island in the Broughton Archipelago off northeastern Vancouver Island, has said he intends to seek the NDP candidacy in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

Some 30 percent of Russia-based companies are employing artificial intelligence (AI) technology, leaving European and US firms behind, according to the results of a Microsoft survey of business leaders.

Russian executives are at least 7.7 percent ahead when it comes to adopting the technology, Microsoft said, adding that in France, for example, the level of AI use amounts to 10 percent.

The corporation unveiled the research titled “Business Leaders in the Age of AI” earlier this week. Some 800 executives from eight countries – France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland, the UK and the US – took part in the survey, which was conducted back in January among companies with more than 250 employees.

“We see that the interest to solutions based on artificial intelligence from businesses in Russia has increased significantly over the past year,” ABBYY Russia CEO Dmitry Shushkin said. He revealed that the software company’s revenues from AI-based projects rose 63 percent in 2018.

Russian executives are among those who appreciate AI in their business activities the most, saying that it helps them with company management. The businessmen also demonstrated huge interest in working with the technology more effectively, according to the Microsoft poll. To do that, 90 percent of Russian respondents were willing to consult professionals on the matter, while the average figure around the world is around 67 percent.

However, the research did not include one of the potential leaders of the AI race, China, which has been pouring money into many innovative fields, especially AI. Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for increased development and use of the technology to secure the country’s future in “a new round of technological revolution and industrial transformation.”

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The 2018 Easton/NFCA Assistant Coach of the Year recipients were announced on Wednesday afternoon. Garnering honors this year are Paige Cassady (DI / Liberty University), Jessica McIntyre (DII / Lee University), Robin Baker (DIII / Wisconsin-Eau Claire), Kayla Adams (NAIA / University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma), Shelby Shelton (NJCAA DI / Howard College), DJ Johnson (NJCAA DIII / Rock Valley College), Alex Mascarenas (Cal JC / Mt. San Antonio College), Taylor Gould (Mt. Hood CC / NWAC) and Alyssa Dillard (High School / New Palestine HS [Ind.]).

These awards salute the efforts of coaches from the various NFCA membership categories for their tireless dedication to the sport of softball and to the continued education, growth and development of young women, both on and off the playing field.

The winners were nominated by NFCA member coaches and selected by a panel of their peers on the NFCA Awards Committee.

NCAA Division I: Paige Cassady, Liberty University

In five seasons with the Flames, Cassady has been an integral part of coaching staff which has steered Liberty to 155 victories in the past four seasons, the winningest four-year span in program history. The hard work was rewarded in 2018 with a Big South regular season and tournament titles and a NCAA Regional finals appearance. As the Flames’ pitching and catching coach, Cassady has been the force behind the turn-around of the LU pitching staff. Liberty hurlers have recorded more wins and posted a lower ERA in each of her five seasons. Recently promoted to associate head coach, Cassady has shown a tireless commitment and dedication to the student-athletes and the program, along with her success impacting their lives both on and off the field.

“She is truly amazing at what she does and who she is,” said Liberty head coach Dot Richardson. “Without a doubt, she is one of the best pitching and assistant coaches in the game. I can say this with confidence because of working beside her over the past five year and seeing who and how she empowers our student-athletes to reach their full potential.”

NCAA Division II: Jessica McIntyre, Lee University

McIntyre will be entering her sixth year with the program in 2019. Battling through Hodgkin’s Lymphoma from August through February last season, McIntyre continued to be involved with the team throughout her treatment. Along with her coaching responsibilities, the University of Mobile graduate has implemented a book club program, which involves the coaches meeting weekly with each class to discuss the book they are reading. According to head coach Emily Russell, the book club is good for not only developing relationships with the players outside of softball, but also helping them understand the importance of being a lifelong learner. Additionally, she is instrumental in the Flames making big strides as they transitioned from NAIA to NCAA Division II, while also mentoring 2018 NFCA All-American Taylor Moran.

“Jessica has done so much for this program,” said Russell. “During her fight with cancer, she showed up even on days when that was all she could do. Showing strength and resiliency, Jessica is dedicated to our program and players despite how difficult her treatments were. We are lucky to have a person like Jessica associated with our program.”

NCAA Division III: Robin Baker, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Baker, a 17-year veteran on the Blugold coaching staff, works with catchers, calls pitches and is integral in the defense, all while serving as the athletic department’s associate athletic director. Her pitch calling, according to head coach Leslie Huntington, is masterful. She is heavily involved in practice planning and logistics, freshman study tables and budget management, while adding efficiency to recruiting when evaluating recruits.

“Robin has been with me my entire tenure as head coach and I couldn’t do this without her,” said Huntington. “She is stability in an unstable game and has helped me grow into a more patient, compassionate person and coach. She always treats our players like family, which plays an integral part in our relationships with alumni.”

NAIA: Kayla Adams, University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma

In her third season with USAO, Adams helped the Drovers to their first-ever NAIA national title and a school-record 57 victories. Adams focuses on recruiting, game preparation, player evaluation and academic coordination. With her guidance, seven student-athletes were named all-conference, two earned NFCA All-America honors and Emily Cerny was named the 2018 Schutt Sports/NFCA NAIA National Player of the Year. Adams was responsible for creating a positive and productive environment for the student-athletes, while charting and monitoring the academic progress of each player. Her hard work paid off as USAO finished with a 3.12 GPA and four student-athletes earned Easton / NFCA All-America Scholar-Athlete honors.

NJCAA DI: Shelby Shelton, Howard College

A member of the Howard coaching staff the past three seasons, Shelton helped her alma mater to WJCAC and Region V West titles, along with three appearances in the NJCAA DI national tournament.  As a member of a two-person coaching staff, Shelton is involved in all aspects of the program, including recruiting, infield and outfield play, study hall monitoring and field work. Under her guidance, two Hawks earned 2018 NFCA All-America honors, including outfielder Madoline Seumalo, five garnered NFCA All-Region recognition and six all-conference selections.

NJCAA DIII: DJ Johnson, Rock Valley College

Johnson joined the Rock Valley coaching staff in 2014 and has played a key role in the Eagles’ five consecutive NJCAA DIII national titles. Instrumental in all aspects of the program, Johnson works primarily with outfielders. Three position players flourished under Johnson’s tutelage in 2018 earning first-team NFCA All-America honors. In addition to his on-field coaching duties, Johnson recruits, monitors study hall and lines up fundraising opportunities.

Cal JC: Alex Mascarenas, Mt. San Antonio College

Mascarenas, the program’s lead hitting and infield coach, played an integral role in Mt. SAC winning the 2018 CCCAA Softball State Championship, one year after a runner-up finish. His expertise has influenced the Mt. SAC program to top-three rankings in offensive and fielding categories. Under his tutelage, several student-athletes have garnered NFCA All-America honors, player/pitcher of the year recognition and all-state plaudits, while 20 have gone on to top NCAA Division I and II universities. Additionally, Mascarenas, is a part-time Kinesiology adjunct instructor and also conducts youth field and hitting clinics.

NWAC: Taylor Gould, Mt. Hood CC

Gould has spent the last two years on the Mt. Hood coaching staff, mentoring the outfielders, who have been a stalwart defensively. Under her guidance, Makiah Johnson was named a 2018 NFCA All-American. Diagnosed with ovarian cancer after the 2018 NWAC championships, Gould went through several treatments, but never skipped a beat as a coach, attending open practices and hitting the recruiting trail.

“Taylor’s work ethic and passion for the program are always on display,” said Mt. Hood head coach Brittany Hendrickson. “Taylor is the type of assistant that head coaches dream about having. She is devoted, passionate and knowledgeable about the game. She is a great example to student-athletes about overcoming adversity.

High School: Alyssa Dillard, New Palestine HS (Ind.)

In 10 years as the varsity assistant, Dillard has helped New Palestine to three state championships. The former high school catcher handles pitch-calling duties and works with pitchers, while providing her collegiate third base experience to the infielders during practice. Dillard, a fourth-grade teacher and mother of two young boys, gives willingly and tirelessly to our players, passing up several head coach positions the last several years to stay with the program.

“Alyssa is a terrific role model and gives our players a person to talk to and emulate,” said head coach Ed Marcum. “We would not have been nearly as successful without her!”

WHITEHORSE — The federal government has announced $20 million in funding aimed at reducing diesel reliance in Canada’s rural and remote Indigenous communities but experts say challenges remain.

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said the money will help ensure isolated communities have the capacity to develop their own solutions led by local people as they move toward renewable sources of energy.

“Once they have their plans they can apply for funding,” Sohi said Wednesday.

An all-Indigenous panel will select up to 15 communities to receive support and develop their own energy plans over the next three years, the department says in a release.

Watch: N.W.T. community is solar-powered in the summer

Nicholas Mercer, a PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo and an expert on remote off-grid communities throughout Canada, said developing local expertise to transition off the fuel used for electricity and heating is the way to go.

“I just think there has not been enough money put into the program to get the communities off diesel,”‘ he said.

In 2015, a Senate committee said the northern electricity systems are “aging, under performing and at capacity” but getting off diesel is not quick or easy.

Mercer said installing a diesel generator costs about $1,500 per kilowatt but a wind turbine or a solar panel may cost anywhere from $7,000 to $8,000.

He said the diesel-produced cost is 90 cents per kilowatt hour in Newfoundland and Labrador but wind energy would cost less than 25 cents a kilowatt hour.

‘Diesel is deeply embedded in the communities’

“The problem is the upfront costs for diesel are significantly less expensive than the upfront costs for renewable energy technologies,” Mercer said. “So, renewables are cost competitive in the long term, you’re not buying any more fuel but it’s still really difficult to come up with upfront capital.”

There’s also a historical dependence on diesel because it’s the only form of power source many of the communities have known and jobs are linked to it, he said.

“Diesel is deeply embedded in the communities. It’s been around for about 50 or 60 or 70 years,” he said.

Dylan Heerema, a member of the Pembina Institute’s remote communities team, said providing energy in the region comes with lots of challenges.

“The biggest one is the remoteness and construction and everything is more expensive. It’s difficult to step projects off the ground,” he said.

Some communities have managed a partial transition using both diesel and a form of renewable energy, which produces less pollution.

Great Bear Lake leading the way

Three years ago, the Dene hamlet of about 150 people north of Great Bear Lake became the first in the North to replace its near-derelict diesel generator with a combination of diesel, batteries and a solar array capable of generating 160 kilowatts.

Heerema said those communities had local as well federal support.

Even as diesel generators grow old, Heerema said they will continue to be an important source of backup power in many communities.

“It’s definitely going to take a number of years for all of Canada’s communities to transition off of diesel,” Heerema said. “We’re talking about a multi-year effort and it will require both public and private investment.”

By Hina Alam in Vancouver

The changes to the gas contract between Argentina and Bolivia will allow Buenos Aires to save some $460 million, but the deal has one curious detail on what happens if Argentina needs more supplies.

Bolivia agreed to export less gas to its South American neighbor during a low demand period, the country’s summer, relieving Argentina from paying any penalties that an earlier version of the deal included. According to the renewed agreement signed on Thursday, Argentina will import 11 million cubic meters of gas per day from January through April.

During the higher consumption period the country’s import will rise to 16 million in May and October and to 18 million from June until August.

However, if Buenos Aires needs more energy during the highest demand period, it offered to throw in an airplane with the deal to pay off the costs, according to Argentina’s Ministry of the Treasury.

The country will deliver a Pampa 3 advanced jet trainer aircraft to Bolivia if its gas imports exceed the agreed threshold by 45 million cubic meters during winter months from May to September.

Argentina’s Secretary of Energy Gustavo Lopetegui explained that thanks to the recent discovery and development of the country’s own resources of natural gas, domestic production has significantly increased, and the country had oversupplies during the summer period.

The introduction of such seasonal supplies allows Argentina to save $460 million in 2019-2020, according to the official.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

TORONTO — Ontario’s social services minister opened the door Thursday to giving more funding to children with more severe autism, which an advocacy group described as a “huge concession” in the province’s controversial plan.

The new program announced last month by Children, Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod sparked waves of protests by parents, who said the fact that the funding wouldn’t be needs based — instead, dependent only on age and family income — would mean kids would be left without access to the levels of therapy they need.

MacLeod said Thursday that the past month has been “incredibly emotional” for families, and she has heard their concerns.

“Parents were right when they said that autism is a spectrum and that there are different needs for children on the spectrum,” she said. “So for the next few months I’ll take their input to best assess how we better support those with complex needs and provide additional supports for them.”

Laura Kirby-McIntosh, the president of the Ontario Autism Coalition, said the devil will be in the details, but called the news a very positive development.

“Oh my God, she heard us,” Kirby-McIntosh said. “I heard a commitment to move to a system that is needs-based and that doesn’t simply give everybody the same amount regardless of need, so that’s a huge concession.”

After a month of sustained protests, emotional outbursts from parents observing question period, and the minister receiving threats — one person was charged by Ottawa police — this announcement takes the temperature down, Kirby-McIntosh said.

MacLeod, until now, had been firm in her message that the plan would go ahead as is, and that there was no room to provide additional funding. Next year’s budget will be at least $331 million, and she said Thursday that she was prepared to put more money into the program to provide the new needs-based supports, but couldn’t say yet how much more.

“We’re prepared to go further to support those enhancements,” she said.

MacLeod also announced she is eliminating income testing for the program, so all kids under six diagnosed as on the spectrum will receive $20,000 and kids over six will receive $5,000. The plan as originally designed would only give those maximum amounts to families making under $55,000.

Intensive therapy can cost up to $80,000 a year and many parents with kids already in government-funded therapy have said they will be unable to cover the difference to keep their kids in full-time therapy.

Kids currently receiving government-funded therapy will have their contracts extended by six months, MacLeod said.

“While we empathize with them, our priority has been and always will be to eliminate the wait list,” she said. The government has said there are 23,000 kids on the wait list.

Families had also been asking for more services to qualify under the program and MacLeod said Thursday that speech language pathology, physiotherapy and occupational therapy will now be included.

NDP critic Monique Taylor criticized the announcement of new consultations with parents less than two weeks before the plan starts April 1.

“They should have done the work before they made the announcement and put the policy in place,” she said. “They’ve put families in chaos for the last month and a half for no reason.”

Michelle Costa has been paying out of pocket for therapy for her five-year-old son, who has been on the waiting list for nearly two years. She said she is “cautiously optimistic” about the changes, but giving kids over six a smaller amount of money than younger children still amounts to an age cut-off.

“Until that major issue is addressed I think people will still remain worried,” she said.

Kristen Ellison, whose eight-year-old son is currently in government-funded therapy, said the additional six months is a relief. She said she still isn’t sure she trusts MacLeod to introduce needs-based changes, but wants to work with her on them.

“If she were to respond to my email or take my call and say, ‘Kristen, I’d love to have you come to the table. I want to understand families better,’ I would be there in a heartbeat,” Ellison said.

Earlier On HuffPost: