As climate change continues to impact the globe, and most Canadians cheer for warmer winters, the citizens of Canada’s northern regions are cheering for a different reason. Faced with unprecedented new economic opportunities, Canada’s northern territories are well poised to see new growth in the mining sector like never before. According to the Mining Association of Canada, there are only a handful of mines in operation in the north at the present time. Future prospects for mining, however, show there are literally hundreds of sites that are in the prospecting stage.
Nunavut has major potential for development but is set back by the lack of infrastructure projects that can bring supplies to sites or take product out. Therefore, connecting the north to the south to allow for the free flow of goods and services for the mining industry will benefit more than the mining companies who are investing there. It will open up secondary and tertiary economic development opportunities that spin off from these mines. It will allow Aboriginal communities, whose land these mines are on or near, to be gainfully employed either directly or indirectly in the mining sector. Creating a transportation corridor to the southern communities will also allow Aboriginal peoples to move freely to and from the south, thereby opening up greater opportunities for employment. Creating new employment opportunities for Aboriginal communities will ensure less payment on the social side of the leger and more on the economic side, providing them the opportunity to be in charge of their own destiny.
Nunavut is a very large territory covering some 1.83 million square kilometres, roughly eight times the size of the UK. Building transportation links to this region will be a large undertaking and one that cannot be financed by any one government. Public Private Partnerships (P3) will be a necessary step to make projects in the north happen just due to their sheer cost of building and maintenance of infrastructure. The Nunavut government and Inuit organizations require the federal government at the table to ensure infrastructure projects come to fruition. The federal government needs to commit the funds and show their support for this part of the country by making fundamental investments.
If knowing that Nunavut is the largest settled land claim was not enough reason to seek investment in Nunavut, there is also new federal legislation being created to encourage investors. The federal government is doing its part to encourage investment by developing policies that support the region. Parliament recently tabled Bill C-47 The Northern Jobs and Growth Act aimed at strengthening the planning of resource development in Nunavut. It includes the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act, which will enhance the regulatory process in Nunavut and provide clarity on the role of the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) and the Nunavut Planning Commission (NPC). Both have equal representation from the Inuit and government. This bill will allow for a streamlined process of resource development and thereby, provide certainty for investors. Similarly, the recently proposed C-45 Navigation Protection Act (formerly known as the Navigable Waters Protection Act) serves to reduce the number of infrastructure works and other projects that were in or crossed a wide range of waters. This will improve the process for industry to receive the necessary approvals and permits for a specific project. Streamlining regulatory processes will allow for a more efficient template for conducting the necessary environmental assessments for a given project, which in turn provides greater certainty to investors. The greater the certainty, the greater the likelihood for investment.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made it an annual event to go to the north since he assumed his role in 2006 in an effort to demonstrate the importance of the Arctic. Governments at all levels have made verbal commitments, but now is the time for both public and private sectors to turn those words into actions. Building roads and ports in and out of Nunavut to allow for a sustainable economic future is a means to demonstrate that action.