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More than 100 First Nations could purchase the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline

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Dozens of First Nations leaders are meeting this week to discuss a plan that could make them the next owners of the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline.

Indigenous leaders will debate Wednesday which financial model is ideal if they are able to purchase the pipeline project, which would boost the amount of oilsands bitumen shipped from Alberta to the B.C. coast.

After a private “high level” meeting with the federal government was held in Calgary last month, the Indian Resources Council of Canada (IRCC) is optimistic it will be able to present a proposal to Ottawa to acquire the pipeline project in the coming months. The IRCC represents 134 First Nations that have oil and gas resources on their land.

The leaders are meeting at the Grey Eagle Casino and Resort on the Tsuut’ina Nation outside Calgary.

The proposed Trans Mountain expansion pipeline would ship oilsands crude from Edmonton to the Vancouver area for export. The federal government purchased the project for $4.5 billion from Kinder Morgan Canada last summer, but it doesn’t want to be a long-term owner.

The project is stalled after the Federal Court of Appeal ruled in late August there needed to be more consultation with First Nations. The National Energy Board was also instructed to explore the potential environmental impacts from increased marine shipping.

Stephen Buffalo, chief executive of the Indian Resource Council of Canada, says the pipeline is an opportunity to get out of poverty. 1:15

The IRCC says the majority of its members want to purchase the project and make the pipeline 100 per cent owned, operated and monitored by Indigenous people.

“We all want a safe and proper environment; the environment is so key,” said Stephen Buffalo, chief executive of the IRCC. “But we can continue to still do some economic development and have that balance. And that’s what we need to strive for — to find that balance.”

Along the pipeline route, some First Nations have signed benefit agreements to support the project, while others have resisted and tried to stop progress through protests and legal challenges. The IRCC said it supports those First Nations in B.C. who want to protect their land and waterways, specifically the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh, which have territory near the Burrard Inlet terminal. 

Those who oppose the project have concerns about a potential oil spill, including the impact on salmon and other marine life.

People drum during a rally celebrating a recent federal court ruling against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, in Vancouver, on Sept. 8, 2018. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

However, the organization says efforts to oppose the project are also holding back the First Nations that support the pipelineand are counting on it for economic gain.

Not every First Nation has lucrative land holdings or casinos to benefit from, said Buffalo.

“Our job right now is to get the chiefs together and the leadership together to help make a consensus to ensure we’re all on the same page. We’re all looking for something to get out of poverty,” he said.

If Indigenous people own the project, there would be increased job and economic opportunities, in addition to more control over environmental monitoring, he said.

“I’ll be satisfied to know that there are no rail cars along the rivers and lakes. That there is no possibility of a car derailment,” said Buffalo.

One of the First Nations opposing the project doesn’t seem to care much who owns the pipeline now or in the future because concerns with Trans Mountain remain.

“It doesn’t change the fact on the ground that the federal government has the responsibility to respect our rights and they haven’t yet, and that’s the standard that we set for ourselves,” said Khelsilem, a Squamish Nation councillor and spokesperson.

“The reality is, if they want to build this pipeline they have to come through our titled land. That is our land. They don’t have the right to say anything about what happens on our territory just like we don’t have the right to say what happens to theirs,” he said.

The 1,150-kilometre Trans Mountain expansion pipeline aims to move oil from Edmonton to a terminal in Burnaby, B.C., near Vancouver, where it will be exported. (Scott Galley/CBC)

The IRCC said First Nations in B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan are interested in purchasing the project and the group wants to see if Indigenous people in other provinces want to be involved.

Some Indigenous leaders have already said they want to buy the pipeline.

“First Nations should be the owners of Trans Mountain. All of that resource is coming out of our territory,” said Archie Waquan, chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, located north of Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, in an interview with CBC News in November. “I’d like to see First Nations that are not even close to the pipeline to be owners so they can benefit from it.”

The Whispering Pines First Nation near Kamloops, B.C., has also expressed its interest in an ownership stake.

Some Indigenous groups have already expressed their interest in an ownership stake including Mikisew Cree First Nation chief Archie Waquan, left, and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation chief Allan Adam. (Geneviève Normand/Radio-Canada)

Federal finance minister Bill Morneau’s office declined an interview request. In an emailed statement, a spokesperson said the government is focused on moving forward with the project.

“With that in mind, we welcome the interest of Indigenous groups in the future ownership of the project and will continue these discussions at the appropriate time,” said the spokesperson.

Indigenous involvement in the oil and gas sector has grown in recent decades as First Nations sign benefit agreements with industry, in addition to a number of Indigenous-owned businesses providing services to the oilpatch.

Some First Nations point to the East Tank Farm oil storage project in the oilsands region as an example of an Indigenous ownership deal that has benefited the local community. Calgary-based Suncor sold a 49 per cent stake in the project to the Fort McKay First Nation and the Mikisew Cree First Nation for $503 million in 2017. The First Nations borrowed money to cover the cost.

Four different ownership models will be considered by Indigenous leaders at a conference organized by the IRCC on Wednesday. At this point, the IRCC said some of the details are under non-disclosure agreements and can’t be shared publicly.

While there are several obstacles to overcome for Indigenous groups to own the proposed pipeline, the significance of such a deal can’t be understated, according to Ken Coates, a University of Saskatchewan professor who studies Aboriginal rights.

“It would be extremely difficult to pull off because you have to find ways of getting all the members on board, you have to find ways to raise the capital, you have to find the management system that works,” he said, among other challenges.

However, Coates said he is delighted the IRCC is looking so closely into purchasing the pipeline because it’s a sign of confidence of Indigenous business people and the determination of some First Nations to have greater control of oil and gas projects.

“It changes the game on a number of levels,” he said. “From their point of view this is not just a pipeline investment. This is an investment in the future of their community. Is it possible? Absolutely possible.”

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Canadian Tire and NuPort Robotics to commercialize Canada’s first automated heavy duty trucks

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Canadian Tire Corporation and Toronto based start-up NuPort Robotics, Canada’s first autonomous trucking company, are partnering with the Ontario government to invest $3 million to undertake an automated heavy duty trucking project to test a “first-of-its-kind-in-the-world” technology. 

The breakthrough technology provides a transportation solution for the middle mile, the short-haul shuttle runs that semi-tractor trailers make between distribution centres, warehouses and terminals each day.

It is designed to enable next-generation automated trucks that are more fuel efficient, safer to operate, and provide an enhanced driver experience.

Backed by $1 million in support from the Ontario government through Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network and matched by $1 million investments from Canadian Tire and NuPort Robotics, respectively, the two-year project is applying proprietary, artificial intelligence technology from NuPort Robotics to retrofit two conventional semi-tractor trailers – which will always be attended by a driver – with high-tech sensors and controls, a touchscreen navigation system, and other advanced features such as obstacle and collision avoidance.

Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation, says: “Ontario is proud to be a global leader in automated and connected vehicle technology and this innovative project is an exciting milestone toward automated vehicle tech in the trucking industry.

“Ontarians rely on goods being delivered by trucks across the province every day and projects like this are demonstrating the ways that automated truck technology could help businesses meet delivery demands more efficiently while supporting a strong supply chain in Ontario.”

Vic Fedeli, Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, says: “This project applies unique and made-in-Ontario Artificial Intelligence technology that offers increased safety and efficiency, with a reduced carbon footprint, to the goods supply chains on which we all rely.

“This is the latest example of how Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network acts as a catalyst, fostering partnerships between ambitious technology start-ups and industry to develop and commercialize next generation transportation technologies that strengthen our economy and benefit society.”

Raghavender Sahdev, CEO of NuPort Robotics, says: “The trucks are currently transporting goods between a Canadian Tire distribution centre in the Greater Toronto Area and nearby rail terminals within a 12.5 mile radius, and early results are promising.

“The aim of the project is to develop a system that incorporates an autopilot feature for conventional trucks with a driver, leading to the most efficient way to drive and increase safety.

“The sensors work as a ‘safety cocoon’ to cover blind spots and prevent accidents and the end result is peak fuel efficiency, meaning lower carbon emissions, and peak driving performance for an overall more optimal transportation experience.”

NuPort Robotic’s approach to autonomous trucking is unique in the industry because it focuses only on solving the middle mile challenge, using a known set of predetermined trucking routes that are repetitive and high frequency as opposed to general highway driving.

Ultimately, when implemented on fixed routes in the future, Canadian Tire will benefit from faster commercial deployments and improvements in supply chain sustainability.

Gary Fast, vice-president of transportation, Canadian Tire, says: “Canadian Tire embraces innovation and is always testing new technologies to improve our operational efficiency and safety.

“As proud Canadian companies, the safety of all stakeholders, including drivers, employees, customers, and public will be the top priority as we work together towards deployment of this technology.”

Cari Covent, vice president of intelligent automation, Canadian Tire, says: “Over the last three years, Canadian Tire has made a significant effort to solve complex business problems by using the Canadian start-up Artificial Intelligence ecosystem, and NuPort Robotics exemplifies what we look for in a start-up with a focus on innovation, automation and artificial intelligence.”

Sahdev says: “As NuPort Robotics continues to develop new technologies to overcome middle mile supply chain problems and advance autonomous trucking, I am extremely grateful for the support of the Ontario Government through AVIN and the Ontario Centre of Innovation.

“With their continued support, we are striving to position Canada as the leader in autonomous transportation.”

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Constellation Software is money in the bank, this fund manager says

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If you’re looking for a long-term hold in Canadian tech then Constellation Software (Constellation Software Stock Quote, Chart, News, Analysts, Financials TSX:CSU) should definitely be on your radar. So says Jason Del Vicario of Hillside Wealth Management who likes not only Constellation but its recent spin-off Topicus (Topicus Stock Quote, Chart, News, Analysts, Financials TSXV:TOI) which Del Vicario says could do even better than CSU over the next ten years.

Software consolidator Constellation has been running on the same game plan for years, buying small vertical market software companies providing so-called mission critical software solutions globally. Over the years CSU has completed over 500 such acquisitions, buying the top names in their respective niche verticals and then using its clout and breadth to grow the business and expand into new markets. The resulting cash flow is then plowed back into more acquisitions and the cycle repeats.

The strategy has worked wonders for Constellation, which has grown its revenue from $631 million in 2010 to almost $4 billion for 2020 while taking earnings from $4.12 per share in 2010 to $20.59 per share this past year.

Shareholders were given a special treat last month when Constellation spun out recently acquired Topicus, giving CSU owners about 1.9 Topicus shares for every Constellation share as a dividend-in-kind. Constellation bought Netherlands-based software company Total Specific Solutions BV (or TSS) in 2013 and that subsidiary recently acquired Topicus BV, a Dutch information service company focusing on sectors such as healthcare, education and finance.

Topicus was singled out by Constellation founder Mark Leonard for its ability to grow without using outside shareholder funding. Leonard said the spin-out was part of the intention since a purchase agreement was struck last year.

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Nuvei wins price target raise from National Bank

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Strong quarterly results and an even brighter outlook for 2021 are reasons to celebrate for Canadian payments company Nuvei (Nuvei Stock Quote, Chart, News, Analysts, Financials TSX:NVEI), according to National Bank Financial analyst Richard Tse. In an update to clients on Wednesday, Tse left his rating unchanged at “Outperform” while raising his price target from C$85.00 to C$100.00.

Montreal-headquartered Nuvei is a provider of payment technology solutions to merchants and partners around the world, with a platform geared for high-growth mobile commerce and e-commerce markets. Nuvei’s solutions include a fully integrated payments engine with global processing capabilities, a turnkey checkout solution and a suite of data-driven business intelligence and risk management tools and services.

The company released its fourth quarter and full year 2020 financials on Wednesday, showing Q4 revenue of $115.9 million, up 46 per cent year-over-year, and adjusted EBITDA of $51.3 million, up 61 per cent year-over-year. Total dollar value of transactions processed by merchants (‘total volume’) with Nuvei rose by 53 per cent to $13.9 billion. (All figures in US dollars except where noted otherwise.)

The 2020 year featured revenue up 53 per cent to $375.0 million and adjusted EBITDA up 87 per cent to $163.0 million, with total volume rising a full 76 per cent year-over-year to $43.2 billion.

“Our performance continues to be driven by strong momentum in the high-growth verticals we serve, as well as by our customizable, scalable and feature-rich technology platform which provides one of the industry’s most complete payment technology solutions going well beyond merchant acquiring,” said Philip Fayer, chairman and CEO, in a press release.

The company said the fourth quarter represented the strongest growth yet experienced by Nuvei, driven by wallet share expansion from current merchants along with accelerated uptake of new merchants. New e-commerce business almost tripled compared to a year earlier, Nuvei said, while the company expanded its connectivity coverage over the quarter, introduced new product innovations on its platform and continued to execute on M&A.

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