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Professor accuses Alberta MP of spreading ‘climate misinformation’ to school kids

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A University of Calgary professor says he’s concerned about what he calls “climate misinformation” presented by a Conservative member of Parliament last week to junior high students in Red Deer.

On Friday, Conservative MP Blaine Calkins was taking questions from Grade 7 and 8 students of É​cole La Prairie when one asked about the carbon tax.

A Radio-Canada reporter was in the room and recorded Calkins’ answer.

Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins’ tells grade 7 and 8 students that adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere can be a good thing. 1:23

Calkins told the students he and the federal Conservative party oppose the carbon tax, then expanded his answer to talk about pollution.

“First of all, right now the current government is pointing at it as a tax on pollution,” he said of the tax. “And whether or not you think carbon dioxide is pollution or not is, I still think, a question. I’m a biologist. I know that carbon dioxide is actually plant food, so there’s arguments for and against.”

Shawn Marshall, a professor at the University of Calgary’s department of geography and Tier II Canada Research Chair in Climate Change, said Calkins’ comments aren’t false but lack context.

“Of course plants need CO2,” Marshall said. “You know kids learn that by the time they get to Grade 7 or Grade 8. But the problem is that the plants are taking up CO2 but they’re not taking up enough to keep up with the CO2 that we’re burning.”

Calkins concluded his comments by saying that burning fossil fuels is having an impact on the environment, but questioned whether that has caused extreme weather events.

“There’s just more people now than there was before,” Calkins said. “So, when we have a major weather event, more people get affected, because the chances of it affecting people are that much higher.”

That statement also struck Marshall as a half-truth.

“The statement that he made is true, that we have a greater population that’s more vulnerable to these kinds of extreme weather events,” he said. “But there’s also this huge overprint of climate change on these extreme weather events.

“Those two things together are the reason why people are concerned about climate change.”

Marshall said such comments about climate change from politicians who disagree with the carbon tax aren’t new, but he was concerned they were made to junior high students.

“These kinds of statements are typical and they get frustrating after a while, because it’s designed to paralyze us a little bit,” he said. “This is very textbook, in that sense and it’s too bad it’s coming into the school system.”

Superintendent statement

Robert Lessard, superintendent of Conseil Scolaire Centre-Nord, issued a statement to Radio-Canada.

“I’m happy that our students care about important questions of our time,” Lessard said.

“We’re taking this as his [Calkins’] personal opinion. It belongs to him. In our classes, we teach about the biological cycle of carbon, about the environment and its impact on the planet. We talk about facts. There are ecological impacts that need to be taken care of.”

CBC News reached out to Calkins’ office on Monday for comment, but those calls were not returned.

Travis.mcewan@cbc.ca

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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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