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Provincial Government Developments

British Columbia

  • Government of BC renews the #BCTECH Strategy – The Government of BC has released an update to its #BCTECH Strategy, which was launched at the start of 2016. The update focuses on skills and talent, including commitments to increase the number of tech grads by 1,000 per year, double tech co-op placements to over 1,400 students per year, and expand the Mitacs student research program by two-thirds to over 800 internships annually. The update also includes expanded eligibility for BC’s Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit to include augmented reality/virtual reality products and an increase in the Small Business Venture Capital tax credit budget of $3.5 million per year. Other initiatives include a new Innovative Ideas Fund, which will encourage government purchase of innovative technology products, a pilot “Startup in Residence” program to support the test and launch of private-sector solutions to public-sector challenges, and a new rural representative on the BC Innovation Council.
  • BC releases rural economic strategy – The Government of BC released a new rural economic development strategy, Building on our Rural Advantages. The strategy outlines a three-pronged approach to build, strengthen, and diversify rural communities. Investments are expected to support up to 26,600 direct and indirect jobs. The impact is expected to contribute $2.8 billion to provincial GDP. Initiatives include $40 million to expand and enhance high-speed Internet, a $10 million investment in management of invasive plant species, an extension of the $25 million Rural Dividend Fund, $150 million for the Forest Enhancement Society of British Columbia to plant trees and create jobs, a phase-out of the provincial sales tax on electricity purchases, and a reduction in the small business tax rate.
  • BC’s mining competitiveness – BC Minister of Energy and Mines, Bill Bennett, announced new policies and funding to increase competitiveness, strengthen First Nations involvement, and enhance responsible resource development in BC’s mining sector. Policies and funding include: $18 million over three years for mines permitting and oversight, elimination of the provincial sales tax on electricity over the next two years, adding community engagement as a deductible expense in BC’s mining exploration tax credit program, establishing a Major Mines Permitting Office to improve coordination of mine permits across government, and reducing turnaround time for Notice of Work permits. Despite these actions the Fraser Institute’s annual Survey of Mining Companies shows BC has dropped ten places to 27th for investment attractiveness in mining. BC, along with the Northwest Territories and Yukon, are the country’s mining districts where it takes the longest to obtain exploration permits, with 60 per cent of survey respondents indicating wait times in BC have lengthened over the past decade.
  • Using innovation to drive commercialization in BC’s forest sector – The Government of BC has announced a Clean-Tech Innovation Strategy for the BC Forest Sector. The strategy, created in partnership with FPInnovations, will help increase the value of BC’s forest resources, as well as identify innovative solutions to strengthen the forestry sector. FPInnovations provides creative scientific solutions to support the global competitiveness of the Canadian forestry sector. The three themes of the strategy are: enhanced economic viability, environmental sustainability, and Aboriginal and community technical support.

Alberta

  • Alberta government releases 2017 budget – Alberta Treasury Board and Finance released its 2017 budget, which forecasts a $10.3 billion deficit for 2017-18 (3.2 per cent of GDP). The province’s net debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to increase from 3.1 per cent in 2016-17 to 12.3 per cent by 2019-20, as the government runs continuous deficits. The budget builds upon initiatives included in Budget 2016 and announcements made over the previous 12 months. These initiatives include continuation of the Climate Leadership Plan which reinvests $5.4 billion in carbon levy revenue over the next three years, continuation of the $250 million Job Creation and Diversification Plan, and $129 million for the First Nations Development Fund. GDP is expected to grow by 2.6 per cent in 2017-18.
  • New funding for Alberta’s Carbon Conversion Technology Centre – Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and Alberta Economic Development and Trade (EDT) have announced $10 million each in funding for the new Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre (ACCTC) in Calgary. The federal funding is part of NRCan’s Oil and Gas Clean Tech Program, from Budget 2016, which provides $50 million over two years for technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector. The ACCTC will be owned and operated by InnoTech Alberta, a subsidiary of Alberta Innovates, and will enable near-commercial scale testing of CO2 capture and utilization technologies. Finalists in COSIA’s Carbon X-PRIZE competition and winners of Emissions Reductions Alberta’s $35 million Grand Challenge will be among the first to benefit from ACCTC facilities.
  • Alberta Premier meets with US lawmakers – Alberta Premier Rachel Notley traveled to Washington, DC from February 26 to March 1 to engage in bilateral discussions with US officials and lawmakers. The mission included meetings with: George David Banks, Special Assistant to the President for International Energy and Environment; Senator Jon Tester, who sits on the subcommittee for energy and water development as well as the subcommittee responsible for agriculture; and Fred Upton, chair of the energy subcommittee. Ms. Notley also met with industry leaders from the US Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian-American Business Council, among others. Prior to this trip, Premier Notley met with Alberta business leaders from the oil and gas, agriculture, forestry, and manufacturing sectors to discuss Alberta’s trade relations with the US.
  • Alberta Premier participates in global energy conference – Premier Notley and Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd participated in the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston. Texas from March 6 to 10. Premier Notley was part of a panel discussion on energy and the environment, where she was quoted as saying that it is important for the oil sands industry to plan on the basis of “a business cycle that is longer than the current political cycle in the US.” Ms. Notley also met with international oil and gas executives and the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, and attended roundtables on innovation, economic diversification, and Canadian perspectives.
  • Alberta provides additional funding for Apprenticeship Training Awards – The Government of Alberta is providing $1 million in additional funding for its Apprentice Training Awards due to increased demand by unemployed apprentices in the province. The original investment in these awards was $1.5 million in the fall of 2016, providing 1,500 apprentices with $1,000 each towards technical training programs. The additional funds will be allocated to 1,000 more apprentices by March 31.
  • Alberta government provides new solar installation rebates – The Government of Alberta has introduced a $36 million Residential and Commercial Solar Program, which provides rebates for homeowners, businesses, and non-profit organizations that install rooftop solar panels. The Minister of Environment and Parks, Shannon Phillips, estimates that the program will lead to new panels on 10,000 rooftops by 2020. Other impacts include the creation of 900 jobs in Alberta’s solar sector, cutting solar installation costs by up to 30 per cent for residences and 25 per cent for businesses, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the province by approximately 500,000 tonnes.

Saskatchewan

  • Government of Saskatchewan releases its budget for 2017-18 – On March 22, 2017, Saskatchewan Finance Minister Kevin Doherty tabled the province’s budget titled “Meeting the Challenge.” The budget controls spending, modernizes and expands the tax base, and invests in priority government programs, services, and infrastructure projects. It also outlines a plan to return to balanced budgets in three years. A deficit of $685 million is forecast for 2017-18, and a number of measures are included in the budget to help meet the financial challenge. Measures include increasing the provincial sales tax by one percentage point, increasing the Education Property Tax, and higher taxes on tobacco. The budget also includes $3.7 billion for investment in infrastructure, $5.6 billion in health spending, and nearly $1.4 billion on social services and assistance. The budget also provides $210 million in program funding for First Nations and Métis organizations and individuals.
  • Premier Brad Wall promotes trade in Iowa – Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall traveled to Iowa in mid-March to help promote trade between Canada and the United States. The trip comes as a result of discussions with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who asked the Premier to represent Canada in Iowa. On March 15, 2017, Premier Wall addressed the Iowa House of Representatives to stress the importance of free trade between Canada and the United States. The Premier referred to Saskatchewan lentil farmers who grow about 60 per cent of the world’s lentils and are in need of fair trading partners. Premier Wall also participated in a roundtable discussion with state agricultural organizations and delivered remarks at a reception attended by several hundred business, government, and academic representatives. Iowa counts Canada among its top trading partners, and last year, Canada-Iowa trade was almost $6 billion. Saskatchewan exporters shipped US$335 million worth of goods to Iowa in 2016, mainly potash, oats, canola, and live swine. Iowa in turn had exports of US$363 million, primarily agricultural equipment, to Saskatchewan in 2016. The United States is the province’s largest export market and a solid economic relationship is critical to maintaining a strong Saskatchewan economy and contributing to one in five Saskatchewan jobs that depend on international trade.
  • Government of Saskatchewan to reduce public sector compensation – In its 2017-18 budget, the Saskatchewan government proposed a reduction of $250 million in public sector compensation, representing a savings of roughly 3.5 per cent. The targeted reduction will apply across the public sector and will impact employees at government ministries, Crown corporations, agencies, health regions, school divisions, and the post-secondary sector. The provincial government has indicated that the specifics of how the savings will be achieved will be determined through negotiation. Previously, the government announced its plan to reduce salaries for Members of the Legislative Assembly and Ministers by 3.5 per cent. At the same time, staff in the Premier’s office, caucus offices, and Ministers’ offices will receive nine unpaid days off in the coming year, which is roughly equivalent to a reduction of 3.5 per cent as well.

Manitoba

  • Diamonds discovered in northeast Manitoba – On March 6, 2017, the Government of Manitoba announced that they have received reports confirming the existence of diamonds in northeastern Manitoba. The discovery, made by geologists at the Manitoba Geological Survey and their industry partners, Lynx Consortium, marks the first time that diamonds have been found in the province.
  • Trades training for refugees in Manitoba – On March 7, 2017, the Government of Manitoba and Red River College announced a new training program to provide language and construction skills to refugees and newcomers that have arrived in the province in the past year. The province is contributing $225,000 to the program, which will focus on developing essential language, safety, and basic construction skills.
  • Province releases third quarter financial report - Manitoba Finance Minister Cameron Friesen released the province’s third quarter report on March 20, 2017. The report projects a deficit of $872 million, which is an improvement from the $911 million projected when the 2016 budget was presented.
  • Pallister, federal Liberals suffer from a failure to communicate – Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister was disappointed that there was no new funding in the federal budget for kidney disease research, medevac flights, or services for refugees crossing the border. The premier has been at odds with the federal government over health funding, climate policy, and funding for a $60 million “Factory of the Future” that the National Research Council had promised to build in Winnipeg in 2015.