Our Last Day up North

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On Friday, the interns met with David Alexander and Sarah Robertson of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor), at their Northern Projects Management Office. Established in 2009 as part of the Canada Economic Action Plan, CanNor is an agency of the federal government tasked with the objective of attracting, supporting, and growing economic development in Canada’s northern regions – with jurisdictional reach across the Yukon, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories.

CanNor supports the growth and expansion of northern businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises, through training, advisory services, and through dynamic and flexible contribution programs for businesses and communities that build capacity. The objective of their efforts is to encourage a competitive, diverse northern business sector with a strengthened capacity for innovation.

At our meeting, David and Sarah detailed the ins-and-outs of their ongoing projects, illustrating the challenges around stimulating economic growth in a relatively underdeveloped part of our country. As part of their work, they serve as an advocate for the thoughtful review of regulatory frameworks and also directly support businesses in streamlining clearances related to the completion of environmental assessments, local labour quota requirements, building codes, and more.

In their capacity, CanNor works with businesses, industry, communities, Aboriginal organizations, and territorial governments through its programs and services to help encourage innovation, stimulate entrepreneurship, and create sustainable economic development in sectors such as tourism, geosciences, renewable energy, fisheries, small and medium enterprises, and cultural and traditional sectors.

Thanks again to David and Sarah for the interesting presentation and discussion. Our trip wouldn’t have been the same without you guys!

For more on CanNor, check out their contribution programs that support business development and capacity. They’re doing a lot of great work in the north and deserve our thanks! Links below:

Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development (SINED)

Northern Aboriginal Economic Opportunities Program (NAEOP)

Economic Development Initiative (EDI)

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Our second meeting of the day was with the president of Alternatives North, Craig Yeo. Sometimes referred to as the NWT’s “unofficial opposition”, Alternatives North is a social justice coalition that operates across the Northwest Territories. The organization offers a forum to analyze different policy priorities, grass-roots action, and social change.  Craig was able to speak to us further about some of the issues they have recently been involved in – including devolution, the environment, and poverty reduction. It was really interesting to see the different ways that Alternatives North has been involved in these areas, and to see where they have been able to directly influence policy in the NWT.

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Mid Friday the interns were given an excellent surprise, a trip to visit Buffalo Airways – driven there by none other than the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories himself! There, we were taken on a fascinating tour and were even able to enter the cockpit of one of their planes.

At Buffalo Airways the past and present collide. 71 year old planes that have been retrofitted with modern engines and gear, first built to withstand hard landings on desert terrain now outfitted with landing gear to withstand impact on permafrost and frozen waters – it is a testament to human ingenuity and imagination to see how their business is functioning and thriving there.

Also, for all the history buffs out there, Buffalo features a plane in their collection that was used during Operation Overload in the European Theatre of 1944 (D-Day, essentially). It was used as a paratroop carrier – and yes— it still flies today!

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We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down with the Premier of the Northwest Territories, the Honourable Bob McLeod. Premier McLeod is the 12th Premier of the NWT and has been in this position since 2011.  He spoke to us about the unique issues that the NWT faces as a northern territory that is sparsely populated and covers a very large geographic area. Premier McLeod also answered our questions about some of the differences between the NWT and Ontario governments, including the future of party politics, working with an elected cabinet, and interest group influence.

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To cap off our trip, we had our final meeting late on a Friday afternoon with Adrian Paradis, who explained to us the challenges of the Giant Mine Remediation Project. Long story short, Giant Mine was one of the NWTs greatest gold sites that became (and remains) a local tragedy for the people of Yellowknife and surrounding regions. There, in the early 1990s, Giant underwent a labour dispute and a series of explosions occurred, collapsing sections of the mine and killing several workers.

After decades of court cases, public consultations, involvement from the federal government, and more – Giant Mine is now part of a cutting-edge remediation effort to make the site secure and ecologically stable for future generations. The focus on ecology has been central due to what lies within the mine – namely arsenic trioxide – a poison so potent that a single gram is sufficient to kill an adult human. In Giant Mine, over 300,000 tonnes of this poison lays dormant in water, only a short distance from Great Slave Lake.

Realizing this danger, the remediation project is being carried out with the utmost knowledge of potential risks and how best to manage the responsibility of ensuring public safety and the wellbeing of the regional environment. We were happy to learn about the unique circumstances facing their team at Giant Mine and feel confident that the future there does look bright! Thanks again for the interesting presentation!

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