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Pro-pipeline First Nations spar with environmental activists over ‘devastating’ tanker ban bill

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First Nations chiefs and leaders who say they represent over 200 Indigenous communities in B.C. and Alberta are fighting back against the federal government’s plan to ban all oil tanker traffic off the coast of northern B.C., calling it an “attack” on the energy industry that will impoverish remote First Nations.

Chief Roy Jones Jr. of the National Coalition of Chiefs, a group that supports energy projects as a solution to rampant poverty on First Nations reserves, said the federal Liberal government is “arbitrarily denying Indigenous communities … investments” by curtailing development through the northern reaches of the province.

“We’re trying to lessen our dependency on federal [welfare] dollars. Bill C-48 will just set us back,” Jones said.

Calvin Helin, a member of the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation near Prince Rupert, B.C. and an executive with the Eagle Spirit pipeline project, said “elites” from Central Canada are ignoring the pleas of pro-pipeline Indigenous communities who see this sort of development as a solution to unemployment rates as high as 80 per cent, and living standards on a par with sub-Saharan Africa.

“There’s no question the energy industry will be completely savaged,” Helin said. “Canada has become the laughing stock of the energy world.”

Helin said Ottawa brought about this proposed oil tanker ban in part because it is kowtowing to self-described anti-pipeline “leaders” who are “on the payroll of environmental groups.”

“Unfortunately, because there’s literally no employment in our community, that’s how some people remain employed,” Helin said, referring to individuals he claims are falsely presenting themselves as First Nations leaders to politicians and the media to advocate against natural resources development.

Helin said the Nine Tribes of Lax Kw’alaams has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Gary Reece, a former community leader who claims to be a hereditary chief, to stop presenting himself as the voice of the Lax Kw’alaams on energy issues.

Helin accused Reece and others like him of being “absolutely” influenced by U.S.-based environmentalist organizations that are bankrolling anti-oil campaigns, calling them “puppets and props” for the green lobby.

“The chiefs feel that there is foreign interference in their traditional territories, territories they know better than anybody else,” Helin said.

The House of Commons has passed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promised bill banning oil tanker traffic along a stretch of the northern B.C. coast. It is now before the Senate. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

CBC News has asked for comment on Helin’s assertions and will update this story accordingly.

Reece met with senators last week urging them to pass Bill C-48, the legislation that will prohibit tankers carrying crude oil from loading or unloading at ports in northern B.C.

Eagle Spirit claims ‘100 per cent’ support from local chiefs

The bill would block Helin’s quest to build Eagle Spirit, a $16-billion pipeline project to carry medium and heavy crude from Fort McMurray to the Grassy Point port near Prince Rupert, B.C.

Helin has pitched the project as an alternative to the now-defunct Northern Gateway project — which was cancelled by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet — and the long-delayed Trans Mountain expansion project. Helin has the support of 35 First Nations in the area, including every chief along the proposed pipeline’s route.

Tanker ban supporters — including Marilyn Slett, the chief of the Heiltsuk Nation — say they worry that a spill of a crude oil product in coastal waters could threaten the viability of a diverse fishing industry that sustains well over 1,000 jobs in the area, from the fishermen themselves to processing plants along the region’s shores.

The proposed route for the Eagle Spirit Energy Pipeline would run about 1,562 kilometres from Fort McMurray to a terminal at either Grassy Point, B.C. or Hyder, Alaska. (Eagle Spirit Energy)

However, the elected mayor of the Lax Kw’alaams Band — John Helin, the brother of Calvin — has filed a legal challenge against Canada and B.C., hoping to get a court to rule that the tanker moratorium infringes on Indigenous and treaty rights by blocking a plan to build an export port on their territory.

The band asserts it was not adequately consulted or accommodated by the federal government ahead of the introduction of Bill C-48 in Parliament.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau, who introduced the legislation in the Commons, has said he met with representatives from the Lax Kw’alaams Band.

The pro-pipeline group of chiefs said Tuesday they are prepared to file a formal complaint against Canada before the United Nations over an alleged breach of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which asserts Indigenous groups have “the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.”

A competing group — the Allied Tribes of Lax Kw’alaams, which counts hereditary leaders among its members — also claims to represent the “true owners” of the land in question and said Helin and his allies have hijacked the original intent of UNDRIP.

“The federal oil tanker ban is in line with their stewardship obligations to protect the land and waters for future generations from oil spills,” the group said.

Bill C-48 would ban tankers capable of carrying more than 12,500 metric tons of oil from an area that stretches from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Alaska border. The legislation formalizes a similar, voluntary ban that has been in place in the region for the last 20 years.

Supporters of Alberta’s oilsands fear the ban, when combined with scarce pipeline capacity and cratering oil prices, could spell the end of one of the country’s largest export industries. During her swing through Ottawa last week, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the bill should be tossed “into the dustbin.”

Chief Isaac Laboucan-Avirom of the Woodland Cree First Nation in Alberta, which has considerable interests in the oilsands, said Tuesday the tanker ban would be “devastating.”

“Without economic resources, we are all in jeopardy. So many jobs are being lost,” he said.

Bill C-48 was passed by the House of Commons last spring. The bill hasn’t moved beyond the second reading legislative stage in the Senate because a number of senators fear the bill would kill off an international shipping route for Canada’s energy products at a time of constrained pipeline capacity for Alberta oil.

“Without the Trans Mountain pipeline and with the tanker moratorium, there is absolutely no possibility for Alberta to get its product to tidewater. We will have closed the gate and made any alternative solution, if Trans Mountain fails, impossible,” Conservative Alberta Sen. Scott Tannas said in a recent speech in the chamber.

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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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