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News and Opinion Highlights

  • Government of Canada releases Budget 2017 – Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled the federal budget for 2017-18 in Parliament on March 22. Because of uncertainty over the US government’s near-term fiscal plans, particularly whether they will deliver promised tax cuts, Budget 2017 offered little in the way of new spending. New parts of the Innovation Agenda were announced, including the consolidation of existing programs and the announcement of a Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative. The budget also gave the Government of Alberta $30 million for use in oil well remediation and announced measures to promote economic growth in Indigenous communities.
     
  • MDA acquisition, new technology, and headquarters – MDA Corp. has acquired DigitalGlobe, a US satellite imaging company, in a $4.7 billion deal. The companies were already working together on WorldView Legion, a next-generation imaging constellation that will be able to revisit a location on Earth 40 times per day. While it was speculated that MDA might move its headquarters to the US, Anil Wirasekara, MDA’s CEO, says that the company headquarters will remain in BC, with a goal of increasing its Canadian presence and number of Canadian employees. The DigitalGlobe headquarters will remain in Colorado.
     
  • Calgary company sells flight technology to China – Calgary-based FLYHT Aerospace Solutions Ltd. has announced the US$1.68 million sale of their Automated Flight Information Reporting System (AFIRS) to a Chinese commercial airline. AFIRS is a communications system that allows for real-time communication between an aircraft and a monitoring station. FLYHT won the contract, which is for a five-year period, in a competitive bid among other suppliers. The commercial airline will also have the option to purchase more of FLYHT’s technology over the course of this contract. In 2016, FLYHT received $2.3 million from Western Economic Diversification Canada’s Western Innovation Initiative to upgrade and commercialize two proprietary technologies.
     
  • Saskatchewan’s largest private firm enters the renewable power business – The Brandt Group acquired the former Mitsubishi Hitachi plant in Saskatoon with plans to transform the facility into a wind turbine factory employing nearly 500 people. Brandt, Saskatchewan’s largest private firm, expects the purchase will expand its revenue to $3.3 billion by 2025. The plant is expected to be operational within weeks and will help utilities like SaskPower to expand their reliance on renewable power to 50 per cent by 2030. Wind power represents a new direction for the company, and it will seek partnerships with municipal, provincial, and federal authorities.
     
  • Mobile gas capture technology has huge potential in Saskatchewan – In November 2015, the Government of Saskatchewan introduced new rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from oil wells, which release invisible plumes of natural gas into the atmosphere. The new regulations put limits on venting and flaring these gases, creating a market opportunity for companies like Plum Gas Solutions, which makes facilities to recover and eventually sell natural gas from wellhead fumes. Similar regulations are already in place in Alberta.
     
  • Tech firm grows in Winnipeg, MB – iQmetrix’s Winnipeg office will be adding over 8,000 square feet and 108 skilled positions in 2017, nearly doubling its size. The software developer currently employs 95 people in 10,000 square feet and attributes the growth to their expanding product line within the retail software industry. iQmetrix also benefitted from WD assistance in the early 2000s, under the First Jobs in S&T Program.
     
  • New Flyer Industries surpasses $2 billion in revenue – The bus manufacturer headquartered in Winnipeg, MB announced that it had reached $2.3 billion in revenue for 2016, 48 per cent more than the previous year. The increase was attributed in part to the company’s acquisition of Motor Coach Industries in 2015, the cost savings discovered in combining efforts, and an increase in sales of low-emission buses. In 2017, the company is forecasting a 4 per cent increase over 2016 production with 3,650 new busses and motor coaches, and they have recently confirmed a new contract for up to 100 60-foot Xcelsior clean diesel busses with the Pittsburgh Port Authority.
     
  • Companies divest interests and cut proven reserves in Alberta oil sands – Canadian Natural Resources Limited announced a $12.74 billion deal to purchase oil sands assets from Royal Dutch Shell and Marathon Oil. Shell will continue to operate the Scotford upgrader and Quest carbon capture and storage project. In addition, ExxonMobil announced that it has cut its proven crude reserves including 3.5 billion of bitumen at the Kearl oil sands project in Alberta. Low oil and gas prices have caused these reserves to no longer qualify as “economically producible” under the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) definition. Finally, on March 29, Calgary’s Cenovus Energy announced a $17.7 billion deal to purchase most of ConocoPhillips’ Alberta oil assets.