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Provincial Government Developments - November

British Columbia

  • Joint federal-provincial $90 million investment for SFU The Governments of Canada and B.C. announced a $90 million joint investment in Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University (SFU). The money will fund a new building for energy systems and environmental engineering degree programs, as well as the mechatronics systems engineering program, which combines the fields of mechanical, electrical and software engineering with entrepreneurship and business. The building will allow SFU to expand its research in the energy, hydrogen, electricity and liquefied natural gas sectors. In total, the project is worth $126 million, with investments that include: $45 million from the federal government; $45 million from the B.C. government; $26 million from SFU and private donors toward a second phase of the project; and $10 million worth of land contributed by SFU.
  • Province invests $13 million in drug research and development – B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake announced $13 million in funding for the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) to help support drug research. This funding adds to B.C.’s previous investment of $29 million for CDRD announced in 2012. The funding will support the translation of basic health research from academic institutions into products that improve human health. The centre is widely recognized internationally as a leader in translating research into practice, and has established innovation funds with top pharmaceutical companies including GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer. Federal funding for CDRD includes $32 million from Budget 2016 in addition to $3.1 million in previous funding from WD.
  • B.C. tax competitiveness report recommends tax reforms, exemptions – The B.C. government will study recommendations from the Commission on Tax Competitiveness’ final report, titled Improving BC’s Tax Competitiveness. The report makes four recommendations to encourage investment. One among these is to exempt businesses from B.C.’s seven-per-cent provincial sales tax (PST) on capital expenses for items such as machinery and equipment, which would cost the province $640 million every year. Another is to exempt PST on energy, such as electricity, which would cost $520 million annually. The report also suggests implementing a made-in-B.C. value added tax (VAT). The PST was identified by the report as being a “major burden” on businesses which inhibits productivity.
  • Government of B.C. commits over $500 million towards affordable housing – The Government of British Columbia has announced a funding commitment of $516 million towards 2,900 new housing units across the province. The new projects will increase housing options for low-to-moderate-income renters, seniors, youth, adults with developmental disabilities, Indigenous people, women and children.

Alberta

  • Alberta government delivers fiscal update – The Government of Alberta presented the province’s second quarter fiscal update on November 28, 2016. The update forecasts a deficit of $10.8 billion for 2016-17, $78 million lower than the first quarter update and $449 million higher than estimated in Budget 2016. The increase is primarily due to the impact of the Wood Buffalo wildfire, as well as other factors. Total revenue is forecast at $42.7 billion, up $1.3 billion from Budget 2016, primarily due to increased non-renewable resource revenue, federal transfers, and investment income. Provincial expenses increased by a net total of $1.7 billion from Budget to $52.8 billion, attributed mainly to increased operating expenses, disaster assistance and capital grants. The Government of Alberta forecasts that the province’s economy will begin to recover in 2017, with real gross domestic product (GDP) expected to grow by 2.3 percent. Recovery will be supported by wildfire reconstruction, an anticipated rebound in oil production, additional investments in public-sector infrastructure, and modest improvements in the price of oil. The Government of Alberta is forecasting oil prices of US$45/bbl, US$3/bbl more than in Budget 2016.
  • Alberta begins coal transition plan – The Government of Alberta has announced agreements with TransAlta, Capital Power, and ATCO to end coal-fired emissions by December 31, 2030. The agreements will see the companies provided with transition payments for investments that have been reduced in value by the transition away from coal-fired generation. The electricity companies will receive annual payments until 2030, totalling $1.1 billion in 2016 dollars. The payments will be fully funded by Alberta’s price on industrial carbon emissions.
  • Government of Alberta announces new energy market plans The Government of Alberta is creating a "capacity market" for electricity, where private power generators are paid through a mix of a competitively auctioned payment of their fixed costs and prices from the spot market. The market will be developed in consultation with stakeholders and will be in place by 2021. The Government of Alberta will also implement a rate ceiling on electricity prices. Between June 2017 and June 2021, the province's rate ceiling will ensure that Albertans pay no more than 6.8 cents per kilowatt hour.
  • New program to benefit Indigenous post-secondary students – The Government of Alberta is providing $7 million in scholarships to First Nations, Métis and Inuit students for post-secondary programs in high-demand fields. Eligible undergraduate students may receive up to $4,000 per year, while graduate students may receive up to $15,000 per year. The Government of Alberta anticipates that up to 1,500 students will benefit from the awards annually. The 2015-16 pilot of this program provided 940 students with more than $4.3 million in grants.
  • Alberta signs MOU with Port of Vancouver – The Government of Alberta and Vancouver Fraser Port Authority have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to identify ways to improve access to world markets for Alberta products. The MOU outlines several steps to achieve this goal, including conducting annual meetings between senior executives on best practices and policies, while coordinating and supporting Alberta industry to be export-ready. It also coordinates engagement of trade and investment attraction activities, seeking opportunities to increase investment at the port in order to bring Alberta exports to market, and designating officers to carry out ongoing engagement with Alberta firms. The Port of Vancouver is Alberta’s largest marine export point in Canada.
  • Alberta introduces new Renewable Electricity Program – The Government of Alberta has introduced its Renewable Electricity Program, which will be administered by the Alberta Electric System Operator. The program is expected to add 5,000 megawatts of renewable electricity capacity by 2030, and help the province achieve its target of 30 percent renewable electricity by that time. The Government of Alberta will launch an initial procurement competition for up to 400 megawatts of renewable energy in 2017. Successful projects will be privately funded and supported by the province through reinvesting a portion of carbon revenues collected from large industrial emitters. The province estimates these projects could result in $10.5 billion in new investment in Alberta by 2030, and will create 7,200 jobs. The Renewable Electricity Act, which will provide a legislative framework for the program, will be introduced at a later date.
  • Legislation to cap oil sands emissions – The Government of Alberta has introduced legislation to cap oil sands greenhouse gas emissions at 100 megatonnes per year, with allowances for new upgrading and co-generation. Oil sands operations currently emit 70 megatonnes per year, without limit, and are charged a Specified Gas Emitter Regulation levy based on individual facilities’ historical emissions. Under the province’s Climate Leadership Plan, an oil sands specific emission performance standard will be introduced, with a $30/tonne carbon price applied to comparatively low-performance oil sands facilities. The Government of Alberta expects that these changes will create a more innovative and competitive oil sands sector as producers are incentivized to lower emissions and increase efficiency.
  • New funding for methane emissions management – Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA), formerly Alberta’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC), will receive an additional $33 million to help reduce methane emissions in the province, bringing total funding for ERA to $40 million. The ERA will provide successful applicants with up to $5 million for projects that reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas, agriculture and landfill sectors as well as those that improve methane detection and quantification. The funding is part of the Government of Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan, which aims to reduce methane emissions by 45 percent by 2025. Since 2009, the ERA/CCEMC has committed approximately $300 million to more than 100 projects related to clean energy production, carbon capture and storage, renewable energy, and energy efficiency.

Saskatchewan

  • Saskatchewan Government delivers mid-year financial report – The Government of Saskatchewan released its mid-year financial report on November 22, 2016. Continued low oil and potash prices are having a greater impact on revenue than forecasted, pushing the current deficit to $1.04 billion at mid-year 2016-17. To move towards fiscal balance, the provincial government has cut spending by $217 million across government, imposed a hiring freeze, and pledged further cost-cutting in the next budget.
  • Government of Saskatchewan announces changes to senior public service – Deputy Minister to the Premier, Alanna Koch, announced several changes to the leadership of the province’s public service on December 1, 2016. Lin Gallagher, previously the Deputy Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport, has been appointed Deputy Minister of Environment, while the previous Deputy Minister of Environment, Cam Swan, has been appointed Special Advisor to the Deputy Minister to the Premier with responsibility for transformational change priorities. Tammy Kirkland has been appointed Deputy Minister of Government Relations and First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs, to replace Al Hilton, who is leaving the Government of Saskatchewan. Previously, Kirkland served as Assistant Deputy Minister of Social Services. Koch also announced that Glen Gardner will assume the position of Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General on January 16, 2017, pending retirement of Deputy Minister Kevin Fenwick.
  • Canada and Saskatchewan reach equivalency agreement on coal-fired electricity – The Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan have reached a deal in principle on an Equivalency Agreement for Canada’s coal-fired electricity regulation. Once finalized, the agreement will allow Saskatchewan to meet or exceed federal emission requirements across its electricity sector. As a result, the province may continue to use coal-fired electricity beyond 2030 provided equivalent emission reductions are achieved elsewhere, giving Saskatchewan more flexibility in transitioning out from coal-fired electricity generation. The agreement also recognizes Saskatchewan’s investment in carbon capture and storage technology.
  • Canada and Saskatchewan offer joint funding for water infrastructure upgrades – The Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan partnered on joint funding towards a project in Weyburn, Saskatchewan that includes the construction of a new reservoir, upgrades to existing water infrastructure and improved treatments to the city's drinking water. The federal and provincial governments will invest up to $5.3 million each for this project through the Provincial-Territorial Infrastructure Component, and Weyburn will be responsible for all remaining costs, up to a total of $15.9 million.
  • New Analytics Centre of Excellence in Saskatchewan – The Government of Saskatchewan and ISM Canada announced the creation of a new Analytics Centre of Excellence at Innovation Place Research Park at the University of Regina campus. The facility will allow the government and ISM's partners to better analyze large amounts of information, leading to programs and services that are responsive to the needs of clients. It will have three major functions: acting as a social innovation hub, an analytics ecosystem, and a tele-presence facility—allowing the Centre to host speakers and experts from around the world without the added travel expense.

Manitoba

  • Northern Co-Chairs named – Christian Sinclair, Chief of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, and Chuck Davidson, President and CEO of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, have been named as co-chairs of Manitoba’s Northern Economic Development Strategy. In addition, a request for proposals has been issued to identify a partner organization that will work with the Manitoba government and the co-chairs on the final development and implementation of the strategy.
  • Governments invest in food research – A new $1-million nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imager has been installed at the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM). It is used to detect different chemical compounds in food, making it possible to isolate those with health benefits. Another $340,000 will create a new position for a health economist at the University of Winnipeg, in partnership with CCARM, to determine the economic impact of research on functional foods and nutraceuticals.
  • Manitoba joins the New West Partnership – On November 17, Manitoba formally joined the New West Partnership alongside British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. The Partnership brings the four western provinces together in an open market of more than 11 million people with a combined GDP of over $750 billion. The agreement commits each jurisdiction to enhance trade, investment and labour mobility, and to remove barriers to movement of goods, services, investment and people within and between the provinces.
  • Manitoba Throne Speech – The Honourable Janice C. Filmon, Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba, delivered the Speech from the Throne to open the second session of the 41st Legislature. The speech focused on fiscal balance, reviewing and improving services to citizens, and building the provincial economy, with a commitment to make Manitoba the country’s most improved province by 2020.