In northern development, put northerners’ unique realities first – by Adam Fiser ad Brent Dowdall (Globe and Mail – July 13, 2015)

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.

Adam Fiser and Brent Dowdall are senior research associate and senior manager for research and business development, respectively, at the Conference Board of Canada.

Many of Canada’s pressing socio-economic, political and environmental challenges are most intense in the North. Blessed with resource endowments, the North has much potential for economic growth, but resource development doesn’t automatically lead to sustainable development. How we prepare and plan for this growth will determine whether northerners benefit.

Initiating and sustaining a broad-based response to that challenge has been a mission of the Conference Board of Canada since 2009. A recently published compendium report of the Centre for the North affirms that the obstacles are complex, but not insurmountable.

Meeting the challenge requires an acceptance of the North’s unique realities. Not only are northern and southern Canada vastly different, but provincial and territorial northern regions themselves vary in geography and climate, demographics and culture, economic resources and business potential, governance structures and public services.

Like the rest of us, northerners value a secure Canadian Arctic. But the security dimensions that matter to northerners have less to do with sovereignty than with challenges citizens face to meet basic needs, and to anticipate and adapt to adversity. These concerns form the backbone of strategies to create a more resilient North. Such strategies will also do much to advance Canada’s Arctic sovereignty by strengthening the communities on its frontier.

Economic forecasts show that the mining and resource development outlook for northern regions is promising but uncertain. Reaping the benefits will require foresight and planning, and they cannot be fully realized without placing the interests of northerners and aboriginal peoples at the forefront.

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