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Provincial Government Developments

British Columbia

  • BC government releases its budget for 2017-18 – On February 21, 2017, BC Finance Minister Michael de Jong tabled the province’s fifth consecutive balanced budget, delivering tax reductions and spending increases. Tax measures included: an immediate reduction in Medical Service Plan premiums, with a commitment to eliminate premiums altogether in coming years; a phased elimination of the Provincial Sales Tax on electricity; a 0.5 percent reduction in the small business tax rate; and a number of extensions to existing tax credits such as the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Credit and the Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit. The budget also committed $87 million to enhance BC’s tech strategy, $40 million to support rural broadband connectivity, and continued funding of $25 million per year for the BC Rural Dividend Program.
  • David Emerson named as BC’s envoy to US on softwood lumber – BC Premier Christy Clark announced the appointment of David Emerson as the BC Trade Envoy to the United States to work with Canada in securing a new softwood lumber agreement. Mr. Emerson, a former cabinet minister, public servant, and CEO, said, “I am looking forward to working collaboratively with the BC lumber industry and Canadian Ambassador to the USA, David MacNaughton, as we defend BC companies, workers, and communities against the false subsidy allegations made by the US lumber industry.”
  • BC and Pacific NorthWest LNG reach new agreements with First Nations – The Government of BC has reached benefit-sharing agreements with the Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla First Nations around liquefied natural gas (LNG) development in the Prince Rupert area. The agreements provide financial benefits as specific milestones are reached in the development of the coastal LNG industry. The two First Nations have also signed benefit-sharing agreements with the private companies involved in Pacific NorthWest LNG, which is pending a final investment decision by PETRONAS and its partners.


  • Banff International Research Station receives additional funding – The Government of Alberta is committing $4 million over five years to a $12.5 million initiative supporting research and innovation at the Banff International Research Station (BIRS). The funding is in partnership with the federal government, the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the National Science Foundation, and Mexico's National Council for Science and Technology. BIRS’s mandate is to bring together international mathematical, scientific, and industry researchers to share knowledge and methods across their areas of specialization. It is a joint Canada-US-Mexico initiative, inaugurated in 2003, that hosts over 2,000 researchers from 60 countries every year.
  • Alberta funds Bioenergy Producer Program – Thirty-one bioenergy companies are receiving short-term funding through the Government of Alberta’s $60 million Bioenergy Producer Program. This is a short-term program intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create value-added opportunities in the province through increased bioenergy production capacity. A bioenergy industry review is being conducted to inform the Government of Alberta’s long-term policy in this sector. In Alberta, bioenergy currently contributes approximately $800 million to the economy and powers the equivalent of 200,000 homes using wood pellets, biogas, and liquid biofuels. The Government of Alberta estimates that the program will directly support 500 jobs.
  • Alberta government funds Medicine Hat entrepreneurship incubator – The Government of Alberta has approved its first business incubator under the Alberta Entrepreneurship Incubator Program, a two-year, $10-million pilot program delivered through Alberta Innovates. The Apex Incubator in Medicine Hat will receive $342,000 over two years to increase entrepreneurial capacity through mentorship and contact with business development advisors. The Government of Alberta anticipates several regional incubators will receive support.
  • Alberta government provides funding for climate change education – The Government of Alberta is providing $600,000 through the Community Environment Action program to organizations in the province that engage in educational programming on climate change. Eligible applicants include community organizations, youth and senior groups, Indigenous organizations, teacher organizations, and school-based associations but not governments, schools, or businesses. Funding for the grant will come from carbon levy revenues.
  • The Métis Nation of Alberta signs a framework agreement with the provincial government – The Government of Alberta and Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) have signed a 10-year framework agreement formally recognizing their shared commitment to addressing MNA needs and aspirations, preserving Métis identity and cultural heritage, building a nation-to-nation dialogue, and promoting reconciliation. The Government of Alberta states that the agreement reflects many of the principles included in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the federal government fully supported in May 2016. The MNA was founded in 1928 and has 33,000 members across Alberta. Approximately 97,000 Métis people live in Alberta according to the 2011 Census.


  • Saskatchewan leads Canada in manufacturing sales growth – Manufacturing sales in Saskatchewan grew by 5.4 percent between November 2016 and December 2016, the highest percentage increase among the provinces. Manufacturing sales in December totalled $1.3 billion. On a year-over-year basis, sales were up 11.9 percent, the second highest increase of any province and well ahead of the 4.1 percent rate posted nationally.
  • Revenue from sale of petroleum and natural gas rights increases in 2016-17 – On February 7, the Government of Saskatchewan raised $1.7 million from a public offering of petroleum and natural gas rights. This deal brings the total revenue from such sales to $50 million in the 2016-17 fiscal year, surpassing the $43 million raised in 2015-16. The increase in activity is an indication that the oil and gas industry continues to see opportunities for development in Saskatchewan, despite weak demand and low prices.


  • New agriculture research funding – On February 15, the Canada and Manitoba governments announced over $1.6 million for eight research projects through the Grain Innovation Hub. Recipients include a mix of private sector companies, research institutes, and post-secondary institutions. Industry partners will contribute an additional $4 million to the projects.
  • Joint federal-provincial funding to modernize science labs in the North – The governments of Canada and Manitoba provided $1 million in joint funding to retrofit the science labs at the University College of the North (UCN) in The Pas, Manitoba. The upgrade will ensure that students taking science courses will work in facilities that are comparable to their future workplace settings.

News and Opinion Hightlights

  • Bell-MTS deal approved – The proposed $3.9-billion Bell acquisition of MTS has received regulatory approvals from the Competition Bureau. The deal, set to close March 17, was approved after Xplornet Communications Inc. offered to enter the Manitoba wireless market and acquire 24,700 MTS customers once they launch their mobile wireless service in the province. Xlplornet currently provides 300,000 rural and business customers with fixed broadband and telephone services.
  • Saskatoon technology firm on track for high growth – Vendasta Technologies Inc., a WINN recipient, has grown by at least 50 percent over each of the last three years, and is on track to reach $30 million in revenue and 300 employees by the end of 2017. Vendasta’s CEO attributes the firm’s rapid growth to a lack of preconceived notions about Saskatoon-based technology companies in the US, where it does more than 95 percent of its business. The company designs and sells turnkey marketing tools to advertising firms across Canada and the United States. Solido Design Automation, a manufacturing technology firm and WINN recipient, has also announced plans for rapid growth in the coming years.
  • Alberta’s inactive oil and gas wells – The University of Calgary School of Public Policy (SPP) released a briefing paper on the issue of inactive oil and gas wells in Alberta. The Government of Alberta does not enforce a limit on how long wells can be left inactive before they must be abandoned (sealed) or reactivated. As a result, the 81,000+ inactive wells in the province will never be reactivated, regardless of economic conditions. The SPP paper concludes that the best way to limit growth of inactive wells is for the Government of Alberta to recognize that most inactive wells will never produce oil or gas in the future, and limit the amount of time that owners can keep wells inactive.
  • Calgary launches the Ignite Innovation Accelerator – The Calgary Chamber of Commerce has launched a new accelerator aimed at early-stage growth-oriented businesses. The Ignite Innovation Accelerator is a facilitated 12-week program led by Ray DePaul, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Mount Royal University. Its objective is to support participants in bringing an innovative idea from concept to reality and accelerate business success. Three cohorts of 8-12 businesses are expected to participate over 2017.
  • Staff cuts announced in Fort McMurray – The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) has announced that due to the economic slowdown in the oil sands, the impact of the 2016 wildfires, and changes to municipal taxes, 168 positions at the municipality are being eliminated. This decision is expected to save $24.2 million annually and affect 100 current employees, as some of the positions eliminated were already vacant. The total workforce of the RMWB municipal government will be 1,480 following these cuts.
  • Ballard announces new membership, corporate office, and $25M deal – Ballard Power Systems recently announced its membership in the “Fuel Cell Electric Bus Commercialization Consortium,” a pilot program to provide fuel-cell buses to two transit agencies in California. Ballard will provide 20 fuel-cell engines to the project, which is funded by the state of California. Ballard has also recently opened a corporate office in Guangzhou, China and signed a $25M deal with Broad-Ocean for assembly and sale of its fuel-cell engines in China. Ballard received a repayable contribution from WD in 1990 to help develop and commercialize its fuel-cell technology.
  • PayPal buys Vancouver-based TIO Networks – TIO Networks, a Vancouver-based payments-processing firm, has been bought by PayPal Holdings for $304M CAD, pending shareholder approval. The all-cash deal is expected to close in the second half of 2017. PayPal will benefit from TIO’s bill payment services, which processed 60 million transactions in 2016.
  • Weatherhaven selected for Headquarters Shelter System program – Coquitlam, BC’s Weatherhaven, a supplier of portable shelters, has been chosen as the successful bidder for a $169M contract with the Canadian Armed Forces. The company will provide tactical tent-based shelter systems, including integrated lighting, flooring, and HVAC. The Canadian Armed Forces will use these shelter systems on deployed operations. Weatherhaven received several small contributions from WD in the early 1990s to develop and commercialize these products.