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Internal Parks Canada report looks for ways to make money by selling, transferring assets




Putting tolls on highways that run through Parks Canada sites in Western Canada could net the federal agency about $85 million a year, says a consultant’s report on how to manage the parks’ roads, bridges and dams.

But that revenue-generating measure is likely “off the table” because of a federal policy that requires alternate free routes through national parks.

On the other hand, the report identified 183 dams and bridges worth almost $1.3 billion as prime targets for disposal, whether through sales or transfers to other levels of government.

The aftermath of a mudslide on Highway One through Glacier National Park. Parks Canada is looking at how to better manage its non-core assets, such as highways, through possible sales or transfers. (Parks Canada)

“There are no apparent legal show-stoppers in terms of ability to transfer land under the dams and bridges to another entity,” says the August 2018 report. “This should be examined more closely by PCA [Parks Canada Agency].

“Transfer to another entity is very likely to achieve the outcomes desired by PCA.”

The findings are part of a $204,187 assessment by KPMG LLP of the potential divestiture of “non-core” Parks Canada assets — infrastructure items owned by the agency that are not seen as having heritage or cultural value and therefore fall outside its core mandate.

The 59-page draft report was obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act.

Parks Canada owns about 15,000 infrastructure assets — buildings, roads, dams, etc. — worth $17.5 billion; about $8.3 billion of that asset pool is considered non-core. About half the entire inventory is considered to be in poor or very poor condition, requiring up to $2.9 billion in deferred repairs.

The Liberal government asked the agency last year to prepare medium- and long-term plans for its asset portfolio. Parks Canada hired KPMG to start the process.

Five stretches

The KPMG report examined five stretches of the Trans-Canada highway in Western Canada that have the potential for road tolls. About 186 kilometres of the coast-to-coast highway run through Banff (which has two sections), Yoho, Glacier and Mount Revelstoke national parks.

The consultants reviewed 2017 traffic volumes and assumed a one-way toll of $2.50 per vehicle. Costs to build toll booths, staff them and cover overhead administrative costs were also calculated.

“[P]otential net revenues from tolling were estimated at up to $85 million per year,” says the report. “This would be sufficient to cover the cost of implementation of a tolling system in the first one to two years.”

… the analysis indicates that tolling is not a viable option.– Parks Canada spokesperson Dominique Tessier

A spokesperson for Parks Canada said that the draft KPMG report is preliminary and still being reviewed, and that the “analysis indicates that tolling is not a viable option.”

“Parks Canada currently has no plans for divestiture of these assets and no decisions regarding future action or next steps related to Parks Canada’s assets have been taken,” Dominique Tessier said in an email.

She said the report was “exploratory” and will be finalized later this fall.

The report notes that current federal legislation forbids Parks Canada from transferring ownership of the land under the highways, and that tolling is not currently possible because of a federal policy that “requires … a reasonable alternative ‘free’ route to be available to the public.”

KPMG also suggests that Parks Canada could contract out highway maintenance to the private sector or other levels government to “better optimize” its operational spending.

The non-core bridges and dams “have moderate to potentially high pre-feasibility as a transfer candidate.” There are 80 such bridges — spanning the historic Chambly, Lachine and Rideau canals and the Trent-Severn Waterway — that together are worth about $225 million.

Another 103 dams on the same waterways, as well as the Saint-Ours Canal, are estimated to be worth about $1 billion.

A British Columbia member of Parliament whose Kootenay-Columbia riding includes four national parks – Kootenay, Yoho, Revelstoke and Glacier – said he worries tolls could end up making visits to the national parks less affordable for ordinary Canadians.

Charged again?

“These need to be places that everyone can afford to go to and to get in without having to pay additional costs,” New Democrat MP Wayne Stetski told CBC News.

“You’ve already paid for that highway once through your taxes. Should you be charged again through tolls?”

Stetski, who has experience working with the Manitoba and B.C. provincial parks services, said privatization could hurt small communities that support Parks Canada operations by drastically cutting wages.

“Parks Canada and the federal government need to factor in the potential impact on small communities of privatizing any of those resources, in terms of what it would ultimately mean for those communities being places (where) people can afford to live.”

Stetski said that, at a minimum, the Canadian public needs to be consulted before any decisions are made.

Parks Canada operates 46 national parks, a national urban park, four national marine conservation areas and 171 national historic sites, including nine historic canals.

Follow @DeanBeeby on Twitter


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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla




Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm




Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover




KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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