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40 groups ask Catherine McKenna to retain ‘stringent’ pollution standards for automakers

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A group of 40 organizations and businesses have written a letter to federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna asking her to keep “stringent” pollution emission standards for automakers and move toward a zero-emission vehicle strategy. 

“We urge you to uphold the more stringent GHG emissions standards in Canada through 2025 for light duty vehicles,” reads the letter, sent to media outlets on Wednesday.

“This will reduce household costs, increase jobs in the auto sector, improve air quality, and bring Canada closer to meeting its climate change goals,” the group said.  

Among the 40 business and organizations who signed the letter is a General Motors dealership in Guelph, Ont. — Barry Cullen Chevrolet Cadillac, the only car dealership on the list of businesses. 

Mark Cullen, the dealership’s general manager, urged McKenna to not be “swayed by a U.S. attempt to slash pollution standards in cars and trucks,” said in a release.  

“Auto parts manufacturers in the U.S. have pointed out that having stronger standards actually creates jobs, as well as ensuring a competitive advantage in an international market moving to cleaner, more efficient vehicles,” Cullen said. 

Another organization that signed the letter is Emerge Guelph, a non profit organization helping residents make their homes energy-efficient in Guelph, Ont. 

“Currently the regulation is strong because it reduces pollution with every model year up till 2025,” said Evan Ferrari, the executive director of the organization. 

“It seems silly, but maintaining the status quo is all we’re asking,” he said. “We’re not asking for anything extra on the emissions standard.”  

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says she has started a discussion paper to kickstart a review of the Canada-U.S. vehicle emissions standards. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Canada reviewing auto emission rules 

In August, the federal government announced it will be reviewing auto emission rules as the U.S. moves to roll back requirements. 

Canada and the U.S. have been aligned on vehicle emissions for more than two decades. Unless Canada scraps the existing regulations and writes its own, it automatically follows the American plan.

That plan, agreed to in 2012 by then-prime minister Stephen Harper and then-president Barack Obama, was to compel automakers to make vehicles more fuel efficient each model year between 2017 and 2025.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced he’s going to freeze the standards as of 2021.

Ferrari said not only should Canada maintain the current standards, it should also move toward a zero-emission vehicle strategy. 

“The intention is that governments all over the world are … putting in standards that mandate manufacturers to increase the percentage of zero-emission vehicles, either electric or hydrogen or some other technology,” he said. 

McKenna’s reply

In an email statement Wednesday, a spokesperson from McKenna’s office said “ensuring cleaner cars and trucks” is “a critical part” of Canada’s plan. 

“When we first adopted our rules in 2014, we committed to conducting our own mid-term evaluation following the U.S. review, and that is exactly what we are doing,” said Sabrina Kim. 

“As we continue to consult with Canadians, we are paying close attention to the U.S. regulatory process, and of the actions of California and other like-minded U.S. states,” Kim said.  

“We will be carefully considering environmental and economic impacts to ensure that we enact the best regulations that work for Canada.” 

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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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