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News and Opinion Highlights

  • 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 dealBallard 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.