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Provincial Government Developments - September

British Columbia

  • BC initiates new Clean Infrastructure Royalty Credit Program – As part of BC’s Climate Leadership Plan, the provincial government has announced a Clean Infrastructure Royalty Credit Program. The program aims to attract new private sector funding for clean technologies that will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions linked to the exploration and production of BC’s oil and gas resources. Companies may submit a request for credits that will support projects aimed at reducing methane emissions from their current operations. Up to $20 million in royalty credits are available this year.
     
  • BC government releases new forest sector competitiveness agenda – The BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has released a new forest industry strategy aimed at addressing three key goals: healthy, resilient forests; a diverse, globally competitive industry; and, stable communities and First Nations. The Strong Past, Bright Future: A Competitiveness Agenda for British Columbia’s Forest Sector identifies challenges that may undermine the industry’s ability to compete, including reduced fibre supply and rising operational costs as a result of the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation and increasing market uncertainty. Key actions to be taken include restoring the timber supply, improving data on timber and forest health, promoting new technologies, expanding market and product diversity, maximizing waste utilization, supporting resource-dependent communities, and enhancing First Nations’ participation in the sector, including through skills training.
     
  • BC and State of Washington to create Cascadia Innovation Corridor – On September 20, 2016, BC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the State of Washington affirming a common interest in developing regional economic opportunities for innovation in the technology sector. Government and business leaders are collaborating on the creation of the Cascadia Innovation Corridor to encourage innovation and collaboration to help grow the high-tech, life sciences, cleantech, and data analytics industries across the border.
     
  • BC Budget 2016 fiscal update – The BC government has released the first fiscal update to its 2016 budget. It forecasts property transfer taxes to generate $2.2 billion this year, a large increase from the spring prediction of $1.2 billion. This increase leaves BC with a predicted first quarter budget surplus of approximately $2 billion. BC plans to use the extra revenue to pay down its debt and contribute to the BC Prosperity Fund, which was to be capitalized by liquefied natural gas revenues. BC’s real GDP is forecast to grow by 2.7 percent in 2016, up 0.3 percent from Budget 2016, followed by growth of 2.2 percent in 2017.

Alberta

  • Initial approval of three new oil sands developments – The Government of Alberta has approved proposals for three new oil sands developments, representing $4 billion of potential investment, 95,000 barrels per day of production, and 2.5 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. The proposals include the Blackpearl Resources Inc. Blackrod oil sands steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) development, Surmont Energy Ltd.'s Wildwood SAGD development, and the Husky Saleski oil sands development, all located within 200 km of Fort McMurray. The approval of the three proposals follows a technical review by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER). Project proponents still need to make final investment decisions and work with the AER to acquire specific licenses and approvals in order to comply with environmental legislation.
     
  • Alberta appoints Climate Technology Task Force – The Alberta government has appointed a new Climate Technology Task Force, chaired by retired Suncor executive Gordon Lambert, to provide recommendations on investing in climate technology research and innovation. The task force will engage with academia, business, government, and not-for-profit organizations through meetings in Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, and Lethbridge in October. A written report to the Government of Alberta will be provided at the end of November summarizing findings of stakeholder engagement, and providing a recommended approach for a provincial Climate Change Innovation and Technology Framework.
     
  • Alberta announces renewable energy target – As part of its Climate Leadership Plan, the Government of Alberta announced its support for 5,000 megawatts of additional renewable energy capacity through the Renewable Electricity Program, run by the Alberta Electric System Operator. This is the next step to achieve its target of 30 percent renewable electricity generation by 2030. Eligible projects must be based in Alberta, be new or expanded, be five megawatts or greater in size, and meet the Natural Resources Canada definition of renewable sources. The government estimates that clean energy projects will inject $10.5 billion into the provincial economy and create 7,200 jobs in the next 15 years.
     
  • Alberta Self-employment Training Program – The Government of Alberta has allocated $1.9 million, in partnership with the Government of Canada, towards a Self-Employment training program. The program will provide entrepreneurs with formal instruction in business plan development, business counselling, and coaching and guidance for up to 26 weeks, with the expectation that participants will operate their own business on a full-time basis at the end of the program. Local support will be made available in Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge and other parts of the province.
     
  • Alberta minimum wage officially amended – The Government of Alberta has amended the Employment Standards Regulation to include a gradual increase in the provincial minimum wage. Starting October 1, 2016, the minimum wage will be set at $12.20 per hour, rising to $13.60 per hour in October 2017 and $15.00 per hour in October 2018.
     
  • Community and Regional Economic Support Program – The Government of Alberta’s new $30 million Community and Regional Economic Support (CARES) program will fund locally developed projects that promote long-term economic growth and diversification in the province. The funding over two years includes $26.45 million for eligible communities, regions, municipalities and organizations, $2.2 million for Regional Economic Development Alliances, $600,000 for four Rural Alberta Business Centres, and $750,000 for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to support the Back to Business Resource Centre and Fort McMurray business recovery expos. The first of three grant application intakes will begin on October 1, 2016.
     
  • New federal infrastructure funding programs – The Governments of Canada and Alberta have announced a bilateral agreement providing more than $1.08 billion in funding under the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund and the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund. The Government of Canada is providing up to 50 percent of funding, with the province and municipalities providing the remainder. The funding is part of the first phase of the federal government’s $120 billion, ten-year plan to support public infrastructure across Canada. Funding has been made retroactive to April 1, 2016 to allow projects to begin construction quickly.

Saskatchewan

  • Premier Wall to promote province's export strengths in Asia – On September 17, 2016, Premier Brad Wall embarked on a trade mission to China and South Korea to showcase the province’s global strengths in food, fuel and fertilizer. The 11-day tour aimed to attract new trade and investment to the province and develop new opportunities for Saskatchewan’s agricultural and uranium exports in Asia. Saskatchewan’s overall exports to China have doubled in the last five years, reaching a value of $3.4 billion in 2015, while exports to South Korea in 2015 were valued at $104 million, up from $86 million in 2014.
     
  • Funding for infrastructure projects – The Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan have partnered to provide $237 million in funding for infrastructure projects across the province, under two new federal programs - the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund and the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund. Funding will provide Saskatchewan residents with safe water, reliable wastewater systems, and high quality transit systems. The Government of Canada is providing up to 50 percent of funding, with the province and municipalities providing the remainder.
     
  • SaskPower's solar plan to power 12,000 homes by 2021SaskPower, a provincial Crown Corporation and the principal supplier of electricity in Saskatchewan, plans to add 60 megawatts of solar power to the province’s electricity grid by 2021, enough to power up to 12,000 homes. The projects will be delivered by communities, First Nations groups, and private vendors. Environmentalists in the province view this move as a positive step towards more solar projects in the future to capitalize on Saskatchewan’s abundant sunlight to produce electricity.

Manitoba

  • Premier speaks to Southern Chiefs – Premier Brian Pallister reiterated Manitoba’s commitment to building a productive relationship with provincial Indigenous leaders at their annual assembly on September 14, 2016. The premier committed to initiating discussions with the federal government and Manitoba First Nations to enable a quicker resolution of treaty land claims. Faster resolutions would allow Manitoba First Nations to move forward with their urban economic development zones in communities throughout the province.

 

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News and Opinions Highlights - September

  • Alberta Technology Deal Flow Study – Alberta Enterprise Corporation has released a study on the technology deal flow landscape in Alberta. Deal flow is used as an indicator of the overall health of the technology ecosystem and is defined as the stream of private business venture investment opportunities sought by venture capital, angel, and other investors for the purpose of making a return. The study finds that there are 1,373 technology companies headquartered in Alberta, an increase of 48 percent since 2012. Of the 927 technology companies identified in 2012, about half are still operating today. Approximately 54 percent of companies are involved in software development, 12 percent in life sciences, and eight percent in clean technologies. Companies surveyed for the study indicated multiple sources for funding including personal savings (78 percent), government grants (50 percent), and family and friends (46 percent). Angel investor funding was reported by 38 percent of respondents, while venture capital investments were reported by only 13 percent.
     
  • Treaty alliance against oil sands expansion – A coalition of 50 First Nations and Tribes from Canada and the northern United States have signed a treaty to jointly oppose proposals to build pipelines carrying crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands. Projects named in the treaty include Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline; TransCanada’s Energy East and Keystone XL pipelines; and Enbridge’s Northern Gateway, Alberta Clipper, and Line 3 pipelines. The group advocates for collaboration with Canadians and all levels of government in creating a clean, just and sustainable economy. The group also plans to oppose tanker and rail projects in their respective territorial lands and waters.
     
  • Gold mine reopens in Manitoba – Klondex Mines Ltd. is putting its True North gold mine near Bissett, 235 km northeast of Winnipeg, back into full production. The company will begin processing ore at the mill in October. Klondex has hired 200 people, and expects to invest between $15 to $25 million into operations annually and produce between 45,000 and 65,000 ounces of gold. The mine (formerly known as Rice Lake) was closed in June 2015 after previous owner San Gold Corp. filed for creditor protection. Klondex purchased the property in January 2016 for $32 million.
     
  • PotashCorp and Agrium merge – Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan and Agrium Inc. of Calgary have agreed to merge in a deal that would create a global agricultural giant worth an estimated US$36 billion. The merger brings together Saskatoon’s Potash Corp extensive fertilizer mines with Agrium’s global direct-to-farmer extensive retail network to create the world’s largest producer of potash by capacity and the second largest producer of nitrogen fertilizer, with operations in 18 countries and more than 20,000 employees globally. The registered head office of the new merged company will be in Saskatoon, with Canadian corporate offices in both Calgary and Saskatoon.
     
  • BC Assembly of First Nations and Business Council of BC sign MOU – The BC Assembly of First Nations and the Business Council of BC have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) recognizing significant mutual economic opportunities, and committing to the pursuit of shared economic prosperity based on trust, transparent decision-making, respect, and shared knowledge. The agreement lays the groundwork for economic reconciliation between First Nations and business interest from across the province. The MOU will see the creation of a “Champions’ Table,” where leaders from First Nations and businesses will meet to explore opportunities, identify barriers, and discuss policy approaches.
     
  • Federal government approves Pacific NorthWest LNG project, with conditions – The federal government has approved the Pacific NorthWest LNG (liquefied natural gas) project, subject to 190 conditions. The project, primarily backed by Petronas, a state-owned Malaysian oil and gas company, would see a liquefaction facility and export terminal built on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert, BC, at a cost of approximately $11.4 billion. Further upstream investments in related pipeline and gas extraction infrastructure would bring the total cost of the project closer to $36 billion. The proposal has seen opposition from First Nations and environmental groups primarily concerned with the potential impact on salmon habitat and increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Many of the federal government’s 190 conditions pertain to these concerns, including a cap on greenhouse gas emissions nearly 20 percent below what was initially proposed. It is now up to Petronas and its partners to make a final investment decision on the project.
     
  • Western Feedlots Ltd. to idle operations – Western Feedlots Ltd., one of Canada’s largest cattle feeder operations with three sites in Alberta, has announced it will voluntarily wind down cattle ownership and cattle feeding operations at all its feed yards in early 2017. The company cited a high risk/low return environment in cattle ownership as the main reason for the decision, Western Feedlots Ltd. was founded in 1958 and accounts for 4 percent of Canada’s feed slaughter. It has a 100,000 head capacity and is considered a leader in the feeding industry due to its efficient production system. Alberta is home to over 140 feedlots, with a capacity of 1,338,900 head as of January 1, 2016. Feedlots provide a finishing diet to cattle, helping them to rapidly gain body fat and muscle prior to slaughter.