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March 14, 2019

Manitoba is no longer a top-ranked jurisdiction for mining investment because of government policy uncertainty, according to the Fraser Institute's annual survey of mining companies.

Every year, the Fraser Institute surveys mining companies around the world to determine which jurisdictions are attractive - or unattractive - for investment, based on policies and geology. The survey spotlights policies (taxes, duplicative regulations, availability of labour and skills, etc.) that govern the mining industry and impact the investment attractiveness of jurisdictions worldwide.

Ken Green
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Over the years, Manitoba has had its ups and downs in the survey. Last year, it ranked second worldwide. But it fell to 18th place this year. Why?

Because survey respondents expressed increased concern over political instability and taxation.

The dramatic drop appears to be a made-in-Manitoba problem, as three Canadian provinces - Saskatchewan (second), Quebec (sixth) and Ontario (seventh) - now rank in the top 10 globally. In fact, Ontario saw its rank improve from 18th last year to seventh this year. In Ontario, the industry is now less concerned about uncertainty around disputed land claims and protected areas.

Meanwhile, in Manitoba, 45 per cent of survey respondents cite uncertainty around disputed land claims and protected areas as deterrents to mining investment, compared to much less uncertainty in Saskatchewan (17 per cent cite disputed land claims, 23 per cent cite protected areas).

Given the recent actions - or perhaps inaction - by the provincial government, it's no surprise that mining companies are skeptical about investing in Manitoba.

For example, in 2017 the government unveiled its Climate and Green Plan, which includes a $25-per-tonne carbon tax. According to the plan, the carbon tax will "start and stay" at $25 per tonne and not rise to the federally-mandated $50 per tonne by 2022. However, that raises questions about Manitoba's ability to resist the federally-mandated hike. Surely investors will be watching to see how the federal government plans to implement its "backstop measures" in Manitoba to reach the $50-per-tonne price.

Manitoba's climate plan also states that the province is reviewing its "network of protected areas." However, it's unclear what this means for the mining industry and the ancillary benefits of jobs and tax revenue.

Ashley Stedman
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Clearly, the mining industry has a rich history of wealth generation in the province. But Manitoba seems to be paying the price for unclear policies. For example, Alto Ventures Ltd., an exploration and development company, recently pulled the plug on an exploration program at Oxford Lake in Manitoba. The company cited challenges in obtaining "clear and timely information" about the government's position on consultation and permitting matters. Alto said it will refocus on projects in northwestern Ontario and Quebec.

Policies and investor perceptions matter. Mining investors have a gloomy outlook for Manitoba's mining industry compared to other provinces, as policy uncertainty is deterring investment.

The provincial government should focus on adopting clear and competitive policies to show investors that Manitoba's mining industry is open for business once again.


March 8, 2019

"These new tariffs will cause significant harm to the nation's construction industry, put tens of thousands of high-paying construction jobs at risk, undermine the President's proposed infrastructure initiative and potentially dampen demand for new construction projects for years to come. That is because the newly-imposed tariffs will lead to increases in what construction firms are forced to pay for the many steel and aluminum products that go into a typical construction project. 

"Firms that are already engaged in fixed-price contracts may be forced to absorb these costs, forcing them to cut back on new investments in equipment and personnel. Higher steel and aluminum prices will make the kind of infrastructure work President Trump supports more expensive, forcing federal, state and local officials to cut back on projects they can fund. And the likely trade war these new tariffs prompt will diminish demand for private investment in infrastructure as well as construction demand for manufacturing, shipping and distribution facilities.

"Considering the damages these new tariffs will inflict on the construction industry, it is easy to understand why recent, independent studies estimate that nearly 30,000 construction workers will lose their jobs because of these new tariffs.

"The bottom line is that any short-term gains for the domestic steel and aluminum industries will likely be offset by the lower demand that will come for their products as our economy suffers the impacts of these new tariffs and the trade war they encourage. A better way to cultivate a stronger domestic steel and aluminum industry is to increase federal funding for infrastructure projects that will boost demand for these and many other products. 

"That is why the Associated General Contractors of America will continue to take every possible step to convince the administration and Congress to reconsider these costly new tariffs and instead enact the kind of new infrastructure proposal that will rebuild our steel and aluminum industries while strengthening our overall economy."


CARY, N.C. – LORD Sensing, MicroStrain — a global leader in sensing systems — has announced the launch of a new wireless gateway solution.

The new WSDA®-2000 Wireless Sensor Data Aggregator, connects high-speed sensor data directly to the cloud. Users can now capture up to 256,000 samples per second across the wireless sensor network with up to 4,000 samples per second per node. It includes the ability to remotely connect to SensorCloud™, an optional web-based data platform that allows users to upload, visualize and set alarms for vast amounts of data. The WSDA-2000 can provide GPS time and location by adding a LORD inertial sensor. It also includes a USB connection for direct connections to a PC.

“Customers have been asking for higher data rates and we delivered,” said Chris Arnold, product manager for LORD Sensing. “The WSDA-2000 is the latest product launch that includes the LXRS+ protocol. This solution is cost-effective and ideal for rapid deployment as hundreds of sensors can be managed from a single gateway.”

From remote environments to lab testing, the WSDA-2000 allows the user to monitor sensor systems and visualize the data anywhere in the world.

For more information, call 1-877-275-5673, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit


Calgary, Alberta (March 5, 2018) – The Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC) is pleased to announce that Mr. Tom Whalen has been named Interim President & CEO of the Association, effective March 15, 2018. Mr. Whalen fills the vacancy left by PSAC’s outgoing President, Mark Salkeld, who announced his departure in December. Whalen is expected to lead the Association for one year or until the recruitment process for a new president is completed.
“I’m honoured and excited to be joining PSAC as Interim President & CEO,” said Whalen. “I look forward to working closely with the PSAC Board of Directors and the PSAC team to continue the valuable work that the Association is doing to champion the interests of the members and the Canadian upstream service, supply and manufacturing sector.”

Scott Van Vliet, Chair of the PSAC Board of Directors, noted, “We are extremely pleased to have Tom on board as our interim president and to lead the Association through these challenging times. Tom’s vast experience working within the oilfield services sector, along with his prior position as a PSAC Director, makes him an ideal candidate for this trusted position. Mark has provided great leadership and vision over the past seven years building on PSAC’s reputation as one of the leading industry associations in Canada. We want to continue this work to ensure that PSAC remains the trusted and respected voice of the sector and our growth includes more service providers of alternate energy sources.”

Whalen previously served on the PSAC Board of Directors from 2014 to 2016. He was President & Managing Director of Baker Hughes Canada from December 2013 to May 2016. Prior to being appointed as President of Baker Hughes Canada, Whalen was Vice President of the Canadian Pressure Pumping product line. Whalen received his undergraduate degree in management and a master of business administration from Athabasca University.  

The Petroleum Services Association of Canada is the national trade association representing the service, supply and manufacturing sectors within the upstream petroleum industry. As the voice of Canada’s petroleum service, supply and manufacturing sector, PSAC advocates for its members to enable the continued innovation, technological advancement and in-the-field experience they supply to Canada’s energy explorers and producers, helping to increase efficiency, improve safety and protect the environment.


February 27, 2018

The federal government recently announced its plan to "improve" the National Energy Board. The language of the announcement is all "sunny ways," promising to be all things to all stakeholders. But the promises are incompatible.

The announcement says the new approval process for major energy projects will be rigorous and science-based, but also based on Indigenous traditional knowledge. It says it will be faster and easier for developers, even as it vastly widens the scope of reviews, including new requirements to include "gender-based analysis." It's intended to cut red tape for resource development, even as it asks the public to suggest ways to expand the list of projects requiring review.

In short, the announcement promises a leaner, more efficient approvals process, and a denser, more complex review system. It's a safe prediction that only one of these promises will be fulfilled.

Our informal motto at the Fraser Institute is: "If it matters, measure it." We're all for the empirical, measurable and meaningful analysis of proposed activities. To the extent the government is serious about transparent, science-based decisions, it's all to the good.

However, the government's announcement injects a large number of subjective criteria into project analysis, including such intangibles as the social impact of a proposed investment, its gender implications and climate impacts. The announcement repeatedly invokes science, as in science-based decision-making, but undermines that intention by calling for evaluation of unmeasurable things. The category of "effects on Indigenous people," for example, is so ill-defined as to be meaningless in a scientific context, as are gender-based impacts of proposed activities.

A related problem is the implied invitation for busybodies to flood the system with new demands and obstructionist tactics. While we are not fans of having small numbers of remote bureaucrats making arbitrary decisions, neither is it wise to open the evaluative process to anyone and everyone who wants to participate, regardless of their stake in the project.

Does a person living 1,500 km away from a stretch of pipeline really deserve an equal voice to those who will be locally impacted by the decision?

Should distant provinces (that may be seeking competitive advantage) really have comparable input to a decision-making process as a province that will be directly affected by the outcome?

Giving distant (and self-interested) interest groups and provincial governments a greater voice before a national energy regulator (in Ottawa) can only lead to more delays, and more of the kind of blatant provincial rent-seeking and virtue-signalling we are seeing in the great Alberta/B.C. pipeline war.

The announcement reflects admirable intentions to provide a one-stop approach for reviews. While we like the idea of defined-timeline, single-process regulation, those organizational characteristics are only beneficial if one presumes the regulator's intention is to seek out tangible economic and other benefits for the people being regulated.

Implementing a one-stop, centralized regulator with a fixed timeline has little to do with whether that regulator is likely to approve projects or use federal authority to see them to completion. To the extent that the announced reforms actually reduce local decision-making, increase the subjectivity of evaluation criteria, dilute the voice of the most directly impacted, and increase the number of hoops an investor needs to jump through, concentrating control in fewer hands may actually make the system less responsive and beneficial.

Ultimately, it's hard to tell if the government really wants new resource investment.

The announcement refers to $500 billion in proposed projects over the next decade almost like a threat needing to be headed off with 'better' rules and more formidable standards.

The announcement sounds a few encouraging notes about improving the efficiency of the approvals process, but those hopes are more than drowned out by signals that the new system will be even more difficult and costly to navigate than before.

No one doubts the government's commitment to setting high social and environmental standards. What is doubtful is its commitment to ensuring resource development actually occurs.


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