The federal government needs to set a long-term strategy to truly unlock the economic potential of the region as Russia and China get a head-start
Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s pre-election budget took steps to tackle the gaping infrastructure deficit in Canada’s north, but offered no timeline for when a highly anticipated long-term development strategy for the region will be complete.
In his last budget before the fall election, Morneau earmarked $700 million for Northern and Arctic initiatives, including $18 million for a hydroelectricity project in the Northwest Territories, $75 million for economic development programming and $400 million over eight years for infrastructure projects in the sparsely populated area.
Though Tuesday’s budget also reaffirmed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 2016 commitment to co-develop an “Arctic and Northern Policy Framework” with local residents and stakeholders, it did not set a date for when it will be unveiled.
“There’s money sprinkled here and there but there’s no big strategy,” said Jessica Shadian, president of Arctic 360, an organization studying investment in the region. “Where does Canada want to see itself in 30 or 40 years and how does the Arctic fit into that?”
As Canada drags its feet, Russia, China and other nations are aggressively investing in the Arctic, making Ottawa’s need to decide on a plan and assert itself in the region more urgent, she added. The United States recently renewed its interest in the Arctic and is currently looking at strategies for how to regulate and draw revenue from maritime traffic, she noted.