Strong North, strong Canada [Resource development] – by Anne Golden and David STewart-Patterson (Toronto Star – October 2, 2011)

The Toronto Star, has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Anne Golden is president and chief executive officer and David Stewart-Patterson is vice-president of public policy of The Conference Board of Canada.

“At the Diavik diamond mine, for instance, the company
managed to recruit 67 per cent of its operating workforce
from local communities, with almost half being aboriginals.
Resource companies are working with governments and
aboriginal organizations to boost the future capacity of
the northern and aboriginal labour force.” (Anne Golden
and David Stewart-Patterson)

The fact that getting a morning double-double costs about 35 per cent more in Iqaluit than in Mississauga is not exactly top of mind for traffic-bound commuters in the GTA. Canada’s North looms large in our national imagination, but not in the daily lives of most Canadians.

What happens in the North, however, matters to all of us. How our far-flung northern communities develop will have a real impact on the economic future of our country, and all of us need a better understanding of the forces at work.

The galloping growth of emerging economies like China and India has made the economic opportunities obvious. The world is hungry for Canada’s resources, and much of what we have — gold, silver, copper, zinc, diamonds, oil and gas — is to be found in our vast northern spaces.

Northerners face major challenges as they seek to take full advantage of these opportunities. New resource projects in remote areas will require huge investment in infrastructure and a far greater supply of skilled labour than northern communities have available. And while northerners, like all of us, want to see more well-paying and secure jobs, they also value their lifestyle, culture and environment.

The challenges to growth in the North are not uniform. In Nunavut, more than 30 per cent of the population is under age 15. This will generate strong growth in the labour force over the next decade, but makes it essential to boost high-school graduation rates and ensure that young people are able to develop the skills for tomorrow’s jobs. The population of Yukon, by contrast, is aging more quickly than that of Canada as a whole, and the shrinkage of its working-age population will add further strain to an already tight labour market.

Economic development requires energy, and here too the challenge varies by region. The Nunavut capital of Iqaluit, for instance, is entirely reliant on diesel fuel transported from outside the region to fuel an outdated power plant, and has no obvious alternative source of energy. About 90 per cent of Yukon is powered by hydroelectricity, but the territory is nearing the limits of its generating capacity before a string of new and proposed mines begins to come on stream.

To address these complex challenges, the Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for the North (CFN) is bringing together close to 300 Canadian and international thought leaders on northern issues on Oct. 11-13 in Edmonton. On the table will be five key themes: resource development, infrastructure, human capital, community security and governance.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website:–strong-north-strong-canada

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