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Provincial Government Developments - January

British Columbia

  • BC announces its approval of the Trans Mountain expansion – On January 11, the Government of BC announced that all five of its conditions for the approval of an oil pipeline had been met by Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX). The TMX proposal would increase capacity on the existing pipeline system linking Edmonton and Burnaby to 890,000 barrels per day. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced federal approval of the project in November 2016, after he and his Cabinet considered the conditional recommendation to approve made by the National Energy Board. Since Prime Minister Trudeau’s announcement, the BC Environmental Assessment Office has granted the project an Environmental Assessment Certificate, and the Government of BC has negotiated a first-of-its-kind revenue-sharing agreement with Kinder Morgan. The revenue-sharing agreement will see Kinder Morgan pay the province between $25 million and $50 million annually for 20 years, for a total of up to $1 billion. These revenues will be dedicated to a new BC Clean Communities Program that will provide grants to community groups to invest in protecting and enhancing BC’s environment. The news of BC’s approval was met with mixed reactions. Provincial business organizations are largely supportive, but there is opposition from environmental groups, some First Nations, and some local politicians.
  • BC releases update to its economic strategy, the BC Jobs Plan – Premier Christy Clark and the Minister Responsible for Labour, Shirley Bond, released a 5-year update to the BC Jobs Plan, the province’s overarching economic strategy. According to the update, since 2011, BC has added 191,500 new jobs, 96 per cent of which were in the private sector. Other metrics in the report show BC’s unemployment rate is the lowest in the country at 5.8 per cent, there are a record 2.4 million people working, and BC has the highest GDP growth rate in Canada. Upon release of the report, Premier Clark said, “[o]ur government’s economic plan is clear: creating an environment where hardworking British Columbians can get good-paying jobs to support their families. By focusing on resiliency, and a diversity of markets and sectors expecting solid growth, we’re putting our province in a strong position to make the most of our opportunities in a globally competitive marketplace.”
  • US launches trade action against Canada over BC wine program – The US has initiated a trade enforcement action against Canada at the World Trade Organization (WTO) pertaining to BC’s liquor regulations. The US alleges that provincial legislation introduced in April 2015, which allows the sale of some BC wines in designated grocery stores, contravenes Canada’s WTO commitments by giving local producers an unfair advantage. BC Jobs Minister Shirley Bond said the province will defend its wine policy against the challenge, and that “trade agreements such as NAFTA allow for a number of private wine outlets that sell only BC wine, and that we are confident in the approach we have taken.”
  • Premier appointed Santa Ono as Chief Advisor of the Innovation Network – Premier Clark named UBC President Professor Santa Ono as her Chief Advisor of the Innovation Network, which is designed to foster greater collaboration between public post-secondary institutions and innovation-driven industries. The creation of an Innovation Network will link post-secondary institutions to industry – helping to ensure graduates have the skills that industry and employers need from life science to digital media through to clean energy – so British Columbians are first in line for career opportunities. The network will give industry access to leading-edge researchers inside post-secondary institutions to help solve issues in the industry. The network will also support the attraction of business and talent to BC.

Alberta

  • Government of Alberta announces changes to cabinet – The Government of Alberta has announced several changes to its cabinet, together with the creation of a Children’s Services department (responsibilities for children’s services formerly lay with the mammoth Ministry of Human Services). Danielle Larivee, the previous Minister of Municipal Affairs, will now serve as Minister of Children’s Services, while Shaye Anderson will serve as Minister of Municipal Affairs and join the Municipal Governance Committee. The Ministry of Human Services will be renamed the Ministry of Community and Social Services and will continue to be led by Minister Irfan Sabir. In total, the Government of Alberta’s cabinet consists of 20 ministers, including Premier Rachel Notley.
  • Alberta Innovates appoints new CEO – Alberta Innovates has announced its new CEO, Laura Kilcrease, who will replace interim CEO Pamela Valentine. Ms. Kilcrease previously served as founder and managing director of Triton Ventures, a Texasbased venture capital fund that invests in early-stage technology companies. Prior to that position, Ms. Kilcrease served as executive director of the University of Texas IC2 Institute’s Centre for Commercialization and Enterprise from 1992 to 1997. Ms. Kilcrease has been widely credited for her role in the growth and diversification of Austin, Texas, a formerly oil- and gasdependent economy. She will report to the Alberta Innovates board of directors, which includes 11 innovation experts and business leaders.
  • Alberta announces Non-Profit Energy Efficiency Transition program – The Government of Alberta is launching a $1-million grant for non-profit agencies to assist them in auditing the efficiency of their lighting, heating, cooling, and hot water systems. Those audits will help non-profits to take advantage of Energy Efficiency Alberta’s new rebate program, which was announced in the fall of 2016 and offers incentives for organizations to purchase and install high-efficiency products.
  • Government of Alberta launches new export program – The Government of Alberta has launched an Export Readiness MicroVoucher Program as part of its Export Expansion Package announced in August 2016. The program will be facilitated by Alberta Innovates and will help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to develop strategies for entering new markets, with advice from experts. Under this program, SMEs are able to apply for up to $5,000 to offset the costs of developing international market assessments/business plans for a specific country. Approximately 120 companies are expected to benefit from this support over the next three years.
  • Alberta carbon levy implementation – Alberta’s carbon levy came into effect on January 1, 2017. The levy applies to all greenhouse-gas-emitting fuels, including diesel, gasoline, natural gas, and propane, at a rate of $20/tonne in 2017 rising to $30/tonne in 2018. The Government of Alberta estimates that approximately 60 per cent of Alberta households will receive full rebates while six per cent will receive a partial rebate. Large industrial emitters will continue to be subject to the Specified Gas Emitters Regulations (SGER) framework until the end of 2017. The SGER requires facilities emitting over 100,000 tonnes of GHG emissions to reduce their site-specific emissions intensity by 20 per cent. Compliance with this standard can be met through direct emissions reductions, emission performance credits, Alberta-based carbon offset credits, or contributions to the Alberta Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund.

Saskatchewan

  • Saskatchewan to consolidate health regions to one provincial health authority – The Government of Saskatchewan has announced that it will consolidate its 12 existing regional health authorities into one provincial health authority. Consolidating Saskatchewan’s health regions was recommended by an advisory panel appointed by the government last summer to recommend options for more efficient health service delivery in the province. The new provincial health authority is expected to be launched in fall 2017.
  • Saskatchewan and Canada reach health care funding agreement – The Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan announced a ten-year funding agreement for health care. Under the agreement, Saskatchewan will receive $348.8 million to improve home care and mental health services, in addition to funds delivered through the Canada Health Transfer. Other jurisdictions that have concluded individual funding agreements with the federal government include New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the territories.
  • Government of Saskatchewan orders cap to public service compensation – The Government of Saskatchewan has directed the province’s public service to avoid any increases to their total compensation budgets, indicating that total compensation costs for 2017-18 could not exceed costs for 2016-17. In a letter to public sector services, the government suggested a number of measures to achieve its directive, including a freeze on wage increases, range increments, and performance pay, and urged employers to begin consultations and bargaining. The government has indicated that other options to reduce costs may include a reduction in salaries, unpaid days off or leaves of absence, or layoffs. The Government of Saskatchewan is working to reduce its budget deficit, which is projected to be $1.04 billion for 2016-17.

Manitoba

  • Manitoba government contributes to funding the largest pea-processing facility in the world – European food manufacturing company Roquette has announced it will invest $400 million in a pea-processing facility in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. Over 300 people are expected to be employed during the design and construction stages of the plant, and 150 once the plant is open. The company stated the availability of the crop and hydroelectric power, skilled labour force, and business environment were drivers behind the decision to invest in the province. The provincial and municipal government will provide $6.8 million to the company in tax increment financing and $2.5 million will come from the federal-provincial Growing Forward Program. The plant will be the largest of its kind in the world and will process vegetable proteins and pharmaceutical products.
  • $36 million investment at University of Manitoba – The Governments of Canada and Manitoba announced joint funding ($32 million federal and $4 million provincial) to support the construction of two new buildings, the Stanley Pauley Engineering building and the Smartpark Innovation Hub, on the University of Manitoba campus. The Innovation Hub will include rentable space for companies and will act as an information exchange centre for companies located in the Smartpark.