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Trudeau promises rebates as Ottawa moves to levy carbon tax on provinces outside the climate plan

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The federal Liberal government will slap a carbon tax on fuels in provinces and territories with no adequate emissions pricing plans of their own — but will send annual rebates to Canadian families to offset most of the added costs of this climate-change fighting initiative.

Extreme weather events like floods, wildfires, storms and droughts offer proof that Canada is already grappling with the effects of climate change — and these increasingly frequent events demand action from Ottawa in the form of a national price on carbon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday in Toronto.

Watch Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc explain the backstop on Power & Politics

‘Climate change is real, people expect their governments to take action,’ says the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. 8:56

Trudeau said he believes the added cost on fuels will tamp down carbon-intensive consumption, reduce emissions and help curb pollution.

“The science is unequivocal: putting a price on pollution is one of the best ways to move forward,” he said to reporters and Humber College students in the Etobicoke riding of Ontario Premier Doug Ford, a vocal carbon tax foe.

PM Justin Trudeau announces the federal price on pollution will be implemented in four provinces that haven’t come up with a plan of their own – Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick. 2:27

“The problem exists because your political leaders have done far too little about this. Will we kick this can down the road yet again? Or will we show some courage to do what needs to be done?” Trudeau said.

“Starting next year, it will no longer be free to pollute anywhere in Canada. And we’re also going to help Canadians adjust to this new reality … Every nickel will be invested in Canadians in the province or territory where it was raised.”

Climate plan differs across Canada

There are two parts to the federal “backstop” climate program, which will apply in different ways across the country.

The first part is what the government is calling “a regulatory charge on fuel,” which will be levied on gasoline, light fuel oil, natural gas and propane.

Under the terms of the national climate framework — a deal agreed to by most of the provinces and the federal government roughly two years ago — Ottawa will levy a tax of $20 on every tonne of greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2019, rising by $10 each year to $50 a tonne by 2022.

According to background documents supplied by the government, the $20-per-tonne carbon tax will result in an approximate cost increase of 4.42 cents a litre for gasoline, 3.91 cents per cubic metre for natural gas and 3.10 cents a litre for propane.

Consumers will not pay the tax directly to the federal government; rather, Ottawa will impose the tax on fuel and production and distribution companies — natural gas providers like Enbridge, for example — which will in turn pass on those costs to customers.

This federal “backstop” will apply in provinces and territories that do not have adequate climate pricing plans of their own that meet federal standards — that’s Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick starting in April 2019, and Yukon and Nunavut as of July 2019.

The other provinces — Quebec, Alberta, B.C., Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador — will meet the federal benchmark of having a price on carbon of at least $20 a tonne as of Jan. 1, 2019. The federal backstop will not apply in those jurisdictions.

So what initially was meant to be a backup plan in the event that a few provinces failed to design their own carbon pricing plans has now become the principal carbon pricing mechanism for nearly half of the country’s population. Roughly 47 per cent of Canadians live in provinces or territories that have said they will not follow through on the national climate framework.

‘Action’ incentives promised

In an effort to make most Canadian families in those provinces whole, and to offset the resulting costs of these new taxes, the Liberal government will offer direct rebates to taxpayers — called Climate Action Incentive payments.

While Trudeau insisted that the carbon tax and the payment program will be revenue-neutral for the federal government, a government official at a technical briefing for journalists acknowledged that some Canadians — about 30 per cent of them — will pay more a year in carbon taxes than they stand to gain from the new backstop program. The official said these people are more likely to be wealthier Canadians who have to heat bigger homes or fuel larger vehicles.

On the other hand, a sizeable majority of Canadians receiving the federal payments — the other 70 per cent in those provinces without carbon pricing plans of their own — will receive more in climate payments than they’ll pay each year through the new carbon tax.

PM Justin Trudeau says he is not buying votes for next year’s federal election by giving rebates to families in advance of the carbon price implementation in Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick. 2:09

For efficiency, people in affected provinces will indicate on their tax returns if they are eligible for the payment.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will then ensure people are adequately compensated. So the payments will be made annually and will reflect about a year’s worth of emissions.

If someone is entitled to a tax refund, that refund would be boosted by the amount a taxpayer is entitled to under the new climate incentive payment program. If you owe the federal government money at tax time, that amount would be reduced by the amount you stand to gain from this initiative.

The payment is not intended to be part of the federal tax system as such; the government said CRA’s existing infrastructure is best placed to make payments like these to taxpayers.

Here’s what the average household (defined by Ottawa as 2.6 people) will receive from the federal government:

  • In Ontario: about $300 a year.
  • In New Brunswick: $248.
  • In Manitoba: $336.
  • In Saskatchewan: $598.

The amount will vary based on the province and the number of people in a household.

The Liberals say average households will come out ahead in its plan to levy a carbon tax and provide direct rebates to consumers in six provinces and territories that don’t have a carbon-pricing plan. Conservatives say it will make everything more expensive, while the NDP and Greens say it won’t get Canada to its emissions targets. (CBC News)

For example, a single adult in Ontario would see about $154 next year from the payment.

These payments will rise in lockstep with the annual hike in the carbon tax. Even after accounting for the fuel cost hike, most families will come out marginally ahead, officials said.

Payments for people in small communities and rural areas will also include a 10 per cent supplement, government officials said, “in recognition of their specific needs.”

Election ‘gimmick’

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer dismissed the Liberals’ plan as an election campaign tactic, and questioned the government’s claim that the new program won’t result in a sizeable hit to wallets.

“Today, Justin Trudeau unveiled his election gimmick to try and trick Canadians into paying higher taxes on the basic necessities,” he said, calling the levy a “tax plan dressed up as an emissions plan.”

“Canadians are now supposed to take his word that a measly $12.50 a month will cover the true cost of his carbon tax … it will make everything more expensive for the people who can afford it the least,” he said, adding many Canadians simply don’t have the means to replace a less efficient furnace or buy an electric vehicle.

(The $12.50 figure Scheer cited is the approximate amount a single Ontarian would receive, each month, to help offset the carbon tax on fuels.)

Ontario Premier Doug Ford accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of making the federal carbon tax announcement a personal attack against Ford because Trudeau held the announcement in the premiers’ back yard. 0:22

Ford said the decision to unveil the tax at a college in the premier’s riding was no coincidence.

“Justin Trudeau wants to make it personal, going to my backyard to make the tax. I’ll tell you one thing, people of Etobicoke don’t see eye-to-eye with Justin Trudeau, number one, but they [also] don’t see eye-to-eye with Justin Trudeau when he wants to get his hands in your pocket, another tax grab from Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

“That’s all he knows how to do,” Ford said at an event in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Trudeau said the Liberals picked the location because it’s the riding of federal Science and Sport Minister Kirsty Duncan.

Another anti-carbon tax crusader, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, said the payment program is a “shell game” and a “cynical vote-buying scheme” that will make life more expensive. Moe has vowed to press ahead with a legal challenge of the climate framework.

While the carbon pricing plan was being ripped by conservative voices Tuesday, it drew praise from many of the country’s environmental organizations.

Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network-Canada, praised Trudeau for refusing to “bow to industry pressure and provincial politicking” and following through on his stated commitment to implement a national carbon price.

“The latest UN climate report makes it clear that climate change is a health emergency and carbon pricing is a critical way of addressing that emergency. Political leaders in provinces and in Ottawa who continue to pretend pollution is free and score cheap points with the denial of climate action are doing a criminal disservice to Canadians,” Abreu said.

Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer takes a shot at the government’s carbon tax plan. 0:44

The David Suzuki Foundation said the carbon pricing scheme will encourage greater economic efficiencies and investments in cleaner energy choices.

The second part of the new federal backstop system is a separate fuel charge for large industry, called the ‘output-based pricing system’. Officials said details of this policy will be provided at a later date; Ottawa hasn’t finished designing this program yet. When it takes effect, it will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2019.

While P.E.I. will have its own provincial price on fuels, it will look to Ottawa to apply this charge on larger emitters when the program is up and running.

The proceeds from this large industry tax won’t be returned to Canadians through payments, but will be used to support future climate actions in the jurisdiction in which the revenue is raised.

Tax to help meet Paris climate targets

Canada signed on to ambitious emissions reduction targets at the Paris climate accord meeting in 2015, and a national pricing strategy is seen by Ottawa as the best way to live up to the accord.

PM Justin Trudeau says his government will move forward with a carbon pricing plan despite opposition from many provinces, and says all citizens will get a rebate 1:52

(The Liberal government maintained the same targets set by the former Conservative government: 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 30 per cent below by 2030.)

The government projects the pricing plan will reduce carbon pollution by 50 million to 60 million tonnes by 2022  — the
equivalent of taking 12 million cars off the road or closing 14 coal plants.

However, the government has conceded a carbon price alone won’t be enough to meet those targets.

The national climate plan also includes other measures to battle climate change, including new building codes to boost energy efficiency, more charging stations for electric cars, expanding clean electricity sources and upgrading power grids.

Watch the Power Panel tackle the imposed carbon tax below

Francoise, Evan, Supriya and Dan discuss Trudeau’s move to impose a carbon tax on certain provinces. 12:27

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

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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

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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

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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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