February 15, 2019

MDA promises Canadian jobs push for warship work

Vancouver-based aerospace firm expects to hire 200 to work on electronics systems

An artist’s rendering of the warships proposed by a consortium led by Lockheed Martin Canada and featuring Vancouver-based aerospace firm MDA | Lockheed Martin Canada

When Canadian engineers embarked on developing the Canadarm in the 1970s, they envisioned astronauts harnessing the power of robotics to control payloads for NASA’s Space Shuttle program.

The technology, developed by what’s now Vancouver-based aerospace firm MDA, has since spun off into the medical field with the NeuroArm now used in operating rooms to perform everything from needle insertion to suturing.

“You wouldn’t have necessarily thought that when you were starting,” said Chris Pogue, president of MDA’s eight-month-old government division.

Turning the page in the MDA playbook from outer space to electronic warfare, a multitude of spinoffs are on the horizon following this month’s massive contract signing with the Royal Canadian Navy, Pogue said.

The agreement between Ottawa and the consortium known as Canada’s Combat Ship Team (CCST) covers the initial design phase (valued at $185 million) for 15 of BAE Systems’ Type 26 warships.

And as part of the country’s largest-ever military procurement, the consortium featuring MDA and BAE is poised to benefit from additional contracts worth as much as $60 billion.

MDA is handling electronics systems for the CCST consortium, which is led by Lockheed Martin Canada and includes CAE Inc. (TSX:CAE), L3 Technologies Inc. (NYSE:LLL) and Ultra Electronics (LON:ULE).

The aerospace firm is developing an electronic warfare jamming system for the ships, radar for the weapons system, and laser warning and countermeasures systems.

Design work for the new warships is expected to take three to four years, and construction is expected to begin in the early 2020s.

The consortium expects to employ 9,000 workers in Canada across 40 facilities.

MDA, meanwhile, will need to hire 200 more workers at facilities in B.C., Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec for the initial design phase.

The firm’s Richmond facility will focus on systems integration for the overall electronic warfare system.

“We’re leveraging, obviously, the expertise in other sites for some of the product development activities. But the whole program is led out of our Richmond facility with work being distributed across Canada,” Pogue said.

“We are pan-Canadian. So we are going to execute part of the CSC [Canadian Surface Combatant ships] program in the various sites where MDA exists across Canada.”

The B.C.-centric role in the big contract may also soothe some concerns that the company is increasingly breaking from the orbit of the West Coast.

Former longtime CEO Daniel Friedmann, a Canadian, left MDA in spring 2016 to make way for California-based defence contract executive Howard Lance, who possessed the right passport to help the company gain access to valuable U.S. government contracts.

Then in January 2016 MDA and its U.S.-based subsidiary, Maxar Holdings, entered into a security control agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense, allowing MDA to pursue classified government programs as it sought to become incorporated in the U.S.

In October 2017, MDA completed a US$2.4 billion acquisition of Colorado-based DigitalGlobe Inc., setting it on a path to be fully incorporated as an American company by 2019.

Lance then became CEO of the new parent company, Maxar Technologies Ltd. (TSX:MAXR), and by January MDA was being led by group president Mike Greenley out of its Brampton, Ontario, office.

If all that corporate shuffling wasn’t enough, Lance departed Maxar last month, with former DigitalGlobe president Daniel Jablonsky stepping in to oversee Maxar and its subsidiaries as president and CEO from its headquarters in Westminster, Colorado.

Pogue said the economic effects of the navy contract will be felt locally as MDA hires additional workers and looks to other B.C. companies’ expertise to help meet its obligations.

“You’re part of that program for many, many years,” Pogue said. “So it does create a long income-earning potential for the company across Canada.

“We would see great potential for some of the systems that we will develop as part of the CSC program as part of a global product market as we try to sell some of these into other countries and other nations that are also developing their own ship programs or modifying ship programs with new sensors.”



Step into a colourful wonderland of illuminated trees at this FREE spring event

All images: Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival

While the Vancouver weather forecast calls for 15 – 25 cm of snowfall as a second low pressure system brings snow to the south coast, some residents can’t wait for spring to arrive.

Cherry blossoms, daffodils, and tulips are just a few of the spectacular floral features that grace the Lower Mainland during springtime. Not only do these beautiful blooms brighten the region, but they also draw residents out in droves to capture photos of the stunning scenes.

Now, Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival brings a breathtaking media-arts installation to the city that illuminates cherry blossom trees with vibrant projections.

Festival Lights Illumination invites guests to Stanley Park where Hfour Design Studio media and experiential artists, Stuart James W and Ben Z Cooper, will create a stunning visual experience.

Have a look at some of the photos from the 2017 event below.






Spring Lights Illumination

When: April 11-13, 2019 Dusk-10:00pm
Where: Stanley Park – exact location TBA
Cost: Free


What are we reading? February 14, 2019


Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.

Kirk LaPointe, editor-in-chief:

An exceptionally illustrated and exhaustive look at a Brazilian mining disaster as part of a series of stories this week on the dangers for its citizens. - The New York Times


We have heard about interference in the U.S. election by the Russians. This investigation, co-authored by Ronan Farrow, examines an operation led by ex-Mossad. - The New Yorker


Jeff Jarvis, one of the edgiest media observers, says it’s time for journalism to be frank about its failures. He predicts another batch of problems that will make media skittish, to say the least. - Medium


Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor

“This company is producing the car that Elon Musk wishes he were building,” says Jerry Kroll, CEO of B.C.-based Electra Meccanica. But can the company’s three-wheeled electric vehicle continue to make inroads into the industry? - Bloomberg


Vancouver has faced a string of gloomy headlines about a slide in housing sales in the region, but other major Canadian cities have been sweating the possible onset of a slide in their own markets. - Globe and Mail


Glen Korstrom, reporter:

Looks like fewer and fewer people are graduating with history majors from universities – except for elite Ivy League schools. Given that understanding history is an important part of being able to comprehend nuances of what’s happening in today’s world, and what actions of political leaders could lead to unpleasant ends, this is a concerning thing. It is also a curious dichotomy, where knowledge of history is increasingly the domain of the elite. - New Yorker


Jeff Bezos’ allegations of blackmail at the hands of the National Inquirer and his high-profile divorce could exact a toll on That is not because of any looming boycott, or negative public sentiment stemming from either. Bezos, however, is showing that he is clearly distracted from running the company he founded, and which made him the world’s wealthiest man. Time is the great equalizer and Bezos is wasting precious resources on personal matters. - Inc.


Nelson Bennett, reporter:

Canadians by now are familiar with the charge that too much foreign influence has skewed the debate over pipelines in Canada, with environmental groups receiving large amounts of funding from American non-profit groups. But this recent CBC expose shows foreign influence in Canadian political debates on issues like pipelines is even more widespread than that. Iran, Russia and Venezuela – all oil producing nations – have also been influencing Canadian attitudes via Twitter. Foreign Twitter bots amplify discord by retweeting both pro and anti-pipeline tweets and news stories. The single most retweeted stories and tweets was from CBC News, followed by Rebel TV. - CBC


Alberta marked a significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions, thanks in no small part to a reduction in electricity produced by coal. As this Calgary Herald story points out, the emissions reduction came largely as a result of reducing power production from coal and increasing it with natural gas: “Within a year, coal generation has fallen from 59 per cent of all power produced in Alberta to 47 per cent. Power from burning natural gas has risen from 31 per cent to 42 per cent.” - The Calgary Herald


Carrie Schmidt, editorial researcher:

Due to a recent reorganization of our cubicles in the office, I now sit next to sales reps, so I hear some of their conversations. It's a weird world, that world of sales and advertising. I've been trying to wear headphones more often. This article, published way back in 2012, points out the privacy invasion of advertising and sales: “How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did.” - Forbes


See also: Glengarry Glen Ross, How to Get Ahead in Advertising, Mad Men


It’s complicated to remove data mining privacy breachers from your life: "I Cut the 'Big Five' Tech Giants from My Life. It Was Hell." - Gizmodo


See also: Brazil, Nineteen Eighty-Four


Tyler Orton, reporter:

The swaths of fake news orbiting the Burnaby South federal campaign will look fairly tame in just a few months time when Canada will find itself in the midst of a federal election. The following essay points out how one entity in particularly has been exacerbating these concerns for a long time. “How Facebook Screwed Us All” - Mother Jones

Still my mission to travel on one of these soon enough. Here’s how it all came undone for Airbus. “A Humiliating End to the Superjumbo Era” -Bloomberg


SNC-Lavalin scandal holds fast to timeless political formula

Political scandals – usually about money, sometimes about sex – have their own laws of physics. Their pathologies rarely deviate. In the case of l’affaire SNC-Lavalin, what we are witnessing is textbook.

It starts with a corporate culture that plays to win. International misbehaviour, the price of doing business in many places, has pockmarked the Montreal-based engineering giant’s history, and its main mess today is that it allegedly bribed Libyan officials over a decade.

A scandal intersects with seeding the ground of political influence. In this case the firm illegally donated $117,000 to Liberals and Conservatives. (A since-departed executive took the fall, and his plea and $2,000 fine sweetly shielded whom it supported.)

Political influence slices dually. SNC-Lavalin is a world-class employer in Quebec and beyond; woe betides the politician who wishes anything but to worship the jewel.

Occasionally the influence yields a tasty dividend – a clever reform, even more cleverly buried within a 556-page omnibus budget bill, designed to extricate the company from its testy domestic trouble. The new procedure fixes exactly, precisely, almost exclusively SNC-Lavalin’s mess. With no parliamentary review, the bill passed along party lines last year as a routine confidence vote on the budget.

In the next physics phase, the seemingly irreversible force meets the immovable object: Jody Wilson-Raybould, then justice minister and perhaps more importantly attorney general. The veteran prosecutor pre-public life was responsible in her portfolio for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, whose unenviable job involved deciding if SNC-Lavalin would face trial or capitalize on this process for which it seemed tailor-fit.

The process can produce a remediation agreement, a get-out-of-jail-rather-free card: admit something, pay something, continue to bid for something. A conviction, on the other hand, blockades a decade of federal contracts.

The crux of the scandal, as we all know, is (a) that Justin Trudeau’s officials allegedly exerted pressure on her to remediate, not prosecute, (b) she told the gang to pound sand, (c) she was relocated to a lesser portfolio at the earliest opportunity, but (d) left a trail of bread crumbs – a beguiling note about speaking truth to power and averting political interference.

Someone – her, her confidants, a Prime Minister’s Office mole, the Russians – tattles to the Globe and Mail and all Hades breaks loose as we connect the dots and understand her note.

The physical laws of scandal follow: Trudeau denies the allegations and his team fans out to whisper what a pill Wilson-Raybould can be. That an Indigenous woman could stand up to a revered Quebec firm is the subtext of the hurled colonialist crap.

Trudeau doubles down, wonders whatever could be the matter, says his government has done nothing wrong, adds he has full confidence in Wilson-Raybould. That canard flies for about one sunset. Turns out the feeling isn’t mutual; she quits and hires a former Supreme Court justice to define her legal privilege as a solicitor with her once-client, now an adversary.

In true textbook fashion, the prime minister again doubles down, jilted and scorned, “surprised and disappointed,” placing, of all things, the blame on her – the person, after all, who tried to keep the government from the scandal of remediating SNC-Lavalin’s exploits.

Two sideshows accompany the main stage: A Liberal-heavy parliamentary committee professes deep concern and pursues a shallow investigation, and the ethics commissioner lurks as a long-shot menace. Pay no mind.

Here, then, is what the textbook says will play out, perhaps not in sequence, barring an unforeseen event:

1. A sacrifice will be necessary in the form of a high-ranking official. Just as SNC-Lavalin could claim it clobbered its corrupt cadre, so the government will say the same.

2. Problem is, the former minister is blocking the road ahead. She will get her moment to talk, and it will be exquisite and historic. She could rent BC Place and fill it faster than Paul McCartney.

3. The prime minister will blush and bear a permanent blotch. How scarring, we do not know. Scandal is dependent on vista, too, and Quebec’s is that remediation is the right thing. If Conservatives are drooling at their prospects, best to pull out the handkerchiefs. I hear there are some good manufacturers of them in Quebec.•

Kirk LaPointe is editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.