Ottawa urged to encourage private-sector projects in remote communities – by Richard Blackwell (Globe and Mail – September 19, 2011)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Private sector investment will be crucial if Canada’s remote communities are to grow and prosper, but the federal government must set the stage by cutting red tape and improving education and infrastructure in smaller centres, a new study suggests.

The report, to be released Monday by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, says a long-term strategy for remote community development is needed, but there are many things the government can do to encourage investment.

The conclusions stem from a series of cross-country round tables conducted with business leaders over the past year, and an online survey, conducted by the chamber in collaboration with General Electric Canada.

The report concluded that remote communities can make a huge contribution to Canada’s overall wealth, mainly because they form the gateway to key resources. Private companies can unlock that wealth, it says, but only if they are encouraged by supportive government policies that can help draw in business investment.

Ottawa’s role should not be to pump more money into remote communities, but to establish a coherent plan that will encourage private-sector spending, said Elyse Allan, chief executive officer of GE Canada.

“It is not necessarily an ask for more, as much as [a request] for leadership [and] some strategic thinking,” she said.

Among the most important things companies are looking for in remote communities is a skilled, local, work force, Ms. Allan said. Investing in good education, particularly for First Nations youth, should be a top priority, she said. “If you can build an educated and skilled labour force in the location, it changes the economics of development.”

The report says that many current education programs are designed to meet national goals, but are not flexible or focused enough for specific communities. Sometimes governments should partner with businesses to make sure training programs meet the needs of employers, it says.

The Chamber of Commerce also wants to see governments cut back on red tape that results from poorly designed regulations, and often delays investments. There is unnecessary overlap and duplication of regulation, it says, offering the example of greenhouse gas reports, which have to be sent separately, and in different forms, to federal, provincial and territorial governments.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Globe and Mail website: