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Provincial Government Developments

BRITISH COLUMBIA

  • BC government releases a budget update – BC’s NDP government released a budget update, its first financial plan since taking office in early September. Overall, the government forecasted a surplus of $246 million while planning to spend $51.9 billion in the 2017/18 fiscal year. This is almost $2 billion more than the budget proposed by the BC Liberals in February 2017. According to Finance Minister Carole James, the Budget 2017 Update aims to put people first by improving affordability, building better public services, and investing in a strong and innovative economy that creates jobs. Highlights include a 50% cut in Medical Services Plan premiums, a corporate income tax rate increase to 12% from 11%, elimination of tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges, and a decrease in the small-business income tax rate to 2% from 2.5%. The budget update acknowledged downside risks that could affect the economy, including the softwood lumber dispute, the future of NAFTA, economic uncertainties in Europe and Asia, the possibility of rising domestic interest rates, recovery from the wildfire damage, and the ongoing opioid and housing crises.
  • State of emergency lifted as BC wildfires season winds down – On September 15th, the BC Government lifted the provincial state of emergency stemming from the record-setting wildfire season in the province. Earlier in September, the Ad Hoc Cabinet Committee on Federal Recovery Efforts for 2017 BC Wildfires met to discuss next steps for response initiatives. Members of the BC Government, First Nations community leaders and representatives from the Canadian Red Cross were present. Together they discussed updates on evacuation and re-entry support for affected communities, impacts on First Nation communities; and impacts on businesses, especially in the lumber and agriculture sectors. To date, $20 million has been pledged through the 2017 Canada-BC Wildfire Recovery Initiative to aid agricultural producers with recovering their losses.

ALBERTA

  • Alberta launches a coal diversification fund – The Government of Alberta announced a new Coal Community Transition Fund (CCTF) to assist municipalities and First Nations affected by the shift away from coal-powered electricity towards natural gas and renewable electricity generation. Funding will be available for projects that focus on regional partnerships and economic diversification. Eligible parties can apply together or individually until November 30. Funding for this initiative has been allocated out of the $30 million Community and Regional Economic Support (CARES) program. The total amount of available CCTF funding has not been released.
  • Alberta signs a MOU on collaboration with the Northwest Territories – The Governments of Alberta and the Northwest Territories (NWT) signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Cooperation and Development. The MOU will facilitate collaboration on economic development, environmental stewardship, trade and community development. The MOU also supports existing bilateral agreements between Alberta and the NWT that enable labour mobility, the sharing of education resources, and collaboration on energy issues and market access.

SASKATCHEWAN

  • Changes to Saskatchewan’s provincial cabinet – Premier Brad Wall has announced changes to the provincial cabinet in the wake of the departure of five ministers who had announced plans to run for leadership of the Saskatchewan Party. Five ministers are changing portfolios, and five members of the Legislative Assembly are entering cabinet. New cabinet ministers include Steven Bonk as Minister of Economy and Minister responsible for Tourism Saskatchewan, Innovation and Trade and Larry Doke as Minister of Government Relations and Minister responsible for First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs. Six ministers retained their portfolios, including Lyle Stewart, the Minister of Agriculture. The next leader of the Saskatchewan Party and Premier of Saskatchewan will be selected in a party election on January 27, 2018.
  • Government of Saskatchewan restores medical school funding – The Minister of Advanced Education announced an additional $20 million in funding for the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S). The College was facing a projected $17 million shortfall for the current year, in addition to an accumulated deficit of $40 million. The announcement will restore $20 million to the U of S, as the province had previously directed the university to provide the College with $20 million from its operating grant. In its 2017-18 Budget, the Government of Saskatchewan reduced funding for the U of S by 5.6 per cent.
  • SaskPower defers hydroelectric project in northern Saskatchewan – SaskPower announced that development of the proposed Tazi Twé hydroelectric project is being deferred due to lower than expected demand for power in northern Saskatchewan. The Crown utility has stated it will be able to meet demand with existing infrastructure. The $630 million project would have produced 50 megawatts of power and provided an estimated $1.3 billion for Black Lake First Nation over the lifetime of the project. Tazi Twé would have been the first hydroelectric project in the province located entirely on First Nation land.

MANITOBA

  • Canada and Manitoba invest in environmental projects for the agriculture sector – The governments of Canada and Manitoba are investing more than $880,000 in environmentally focused projects that will help to increase productivity and profitability in the agriculture sector and reduce negative impacts on the environment. Funding will be used to enhance riparian areas, build water retention structures, protect sensitive lands with perennial cover and establish grassed waterway buffers. The funding is provided to Manitoba’s conservation districts, who will work with local agricultural producers to complete the projects.
  • Province identifies over 900,000 regulatory requirements – Manitoba Finance Minister Cameron Friesen recently announced that a total of 906,824 regulatory requirements have been identified in 12,393 documents across the provincial government. The province’s new Regulatory Accountability Act requires that a comprehensive baseline count be completed and maintained across government departments, Crown corporations, the Workers Compensation Board, and most government agencies and boards. Minister Friesen noted that the provincial government is committed to improving the quality of public services by creating an effective, efficient and transparent regulatory system.
  • Manitoba Government releases public accounts for 2016-17 – Manitoba’s 2016-17 year-end financial results show a summary deficit of $764 million, $147 million lower than the 2016-17 budgeted deficit of $911 million. Manitoba’s debt-servicing costs are projected to increase to $991 million for the 2017-18 fiscal year, up from $930 million in 2016-17. Minister Friesen noted debt-servicing costs continue to be a concern in the government’s ongoing pursuit of financial recovery.
  • Province invests in local software company - The Manitoba government is investing $270,000 in skills training at Bold Commerce, a local software company specializing in e-commerce and application development. Bold Commerce is one of Manitoba’s fastest-growing tech businesses, with more than 155 employees. The funding will support the hiring and training of 81 new employees and 10 existing employees over two years.