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Photo credit: Yukon Archives/Claude and Mary Tidd Fond/YA# 7509


Mayo River, Yukon, 1936.

In a time of plenty
f you believe the headlines, the North is entering a time of plenty. Non-renewable resources, such as oil and gas, loom large in both the national consciousness and in the lives of Northerners. New resource projects promise jobs and new revenue streams for cash-strapped governments. As sea ice melts, new opportunities for resource development, trans-Atlantic shipping, and tourism grow. For both business and government, the excitement is palpable for the economic benefits these projects and the dozens of others still in the exploration stage will bring to the region and the country as a whole. In the Canadian imagination, the North has always held the promise of great riches. From the Klondike Gold Rush to Diefenbakers Northern Vision, from the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline to uranium mining in Nunavut, the Norths resources have always attracted a great deal of interest and investment from the federal government, southern Canada, and abroad. Whether this excitement will translate into concrete gains for Northerners remains to be seen. For our current federal government, realizing this economic potential is an important driver of its political and policy program. As Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Northerners this past Summer, we are determined through our sustained and unprecendent focus on the North that you shall see unprecendented Northern economic development over the next five years. And conventional economic measures do paint a picture of plenty in Canadas North. Annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth in Yukon has outpaced Canadas GDP every year since 2004. In Nunavut, GDP growth has outpaced Canadas for four of the last five years (2007-2011). Today, there are eight active mines and over twenty advanced mineral development projects underway across the territories, representing billions of dollars in capital investments and potential profits. By the end of this year, for example, corporate spending on exploration and deposit appraisals in the three territories will be close to $1 billion. The Norths resources have the potential to generate great wealth; the question is when and for whom? Today, the territorial economies remain depend-


Joshua Gladstone, Sheena Kennedy, & Jerald Sabin ent on a handful of projects, just as they have in the past. As such, the territorial economies can expand rapidly in response to new resource projects, or contract as projects near the end of their life cycles. For example, in 2010, real GDP grew by 3.2 per cent nationally, while Nunavuts real GDP increased by 11 per cent. This rapid growth was largely the result of Meadowbank Gold Mine, near Baker Lake, going into production earlier that year. By contrast, GDP growth in the NWT was up only 1.1 per cent in 2010, continuing a long-term trend of less-than-stellar growth, likely reflecting the number of mining projects approaching the end of their productive years. On the ground, these patterns of growth have increased the disparity between the have and have not communities. In some communities, including the territorial capitals, these projects have spurred growth in the housing market, small business, and service and entertainment industries. The rapid growth in the price of housing, the opening of new restaurants and stores, and the relocation of corporate branch offices to the territories all signal a new level of affluence in the larger centres. By contrast, the spoils from new resource sector activities for other communities remain scarce. The communities are either too far removed from these projects or are not organized in ways to benefit from them. Local awareness of these conditions has been amplified by the use of social media, and new protest movements which have emerged around the cost of food, the poor condition of social housing, and the environmental consequences of resource development. In particular, the price of food remains a strong indicator of the disparity between the larger centres and the smaller, predominantly Aboriginal communities of the North. The Northwest Territories Bureau of Statistics, for example, monitors the price of food across the territory using a Food Price Index. The 2010 price of food in Yellowknife is used as a baseline for comparison across all NWT communities. Where Yellowknife is assigned a score of 100 on the index, communities such as Colville Lake (203) and Paulatuk (196) have scores twice that of the capNorthern Public Affairs, Fall 2012 5

Photo credit: Northern Public Affairs.

ital.2 Several regions have seen a large jump in the cost of food in the past year. For example, Fort Smith and Hay River two communities with roads saw percentage increases of 8.5 and 10.2 respectively year-over-year from January 2011 to January 2012. Interestingly, these numbers provide a different perspective on the 8 per cent overall reduction in healthy food prices cited by government officials under the Nutrition North Canada program. Another area that highlights this increasing disparity is housing. Housing in the North is expensive to build and to maintain, and as such, governments have played an important role in subsidizing housing in the territories through a variety of programs. The Government of the Northwest Territories, for example, spends roughly twenty-five percent more on housing than its provincial counterparts.3 Nonetheless, housing remains a critical issue. Over the last couple of years a number of reports on housing and poverty have highlighted the poor condition of housing in the North, particularly social housing. Over 60 per cent of Nunavuts public housing stock is classified as below housing standards, meaning the units are either crowded or in need of major repairs (or both),4 while in the NWT 24 per cent of public housing units require major repairs.5 In Yukon, where there is both social housing and First Nations housing, the disparities tend to be between Whitehorse and the communities outside. For example, 8 per cent of households in Whitehorse are in need of major repairs compared with 15 per cent of households outside Whitehorse.6 In the face of these challenges, the federal government, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has offered a clear vision for Northern Canada, one that
6 Northern Public Affairs, Fall 2012

Windmill, Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, 2011.

is consistent with his governments broader vision for Canadas place in the global economy. Canadas Northern Strategy articulates this vision through four pillars: exercising Canadas arctic sovereignty, promoting social and economic development, protecting Canadas environmental heritage, and improving and devolving Northern governance. Opportunities to advance the Northern Strategy on the international stage will come as Canada takes on the position of Chair of the Arctic Council, a position held by Minister of Health and Minister for the North, the Hon. Leona Aglukkaq. It is a time of plenty in the North, but perhaps not for everyone. New social movements seem poised to challenge not whether resource development will occur, but who will benefit and by how much. The proper allocation of these benefits will remain a pivotal question for Northerners as recent devolution negotiations demonstrate in the Northwest Territories and will for some time. In this issue, we canvass a wide range of issues that highlight the competing visions for Canadas North. In particular, we explore the Conservative governments vision for development in the territories. We have taken excerpts from Prime Minister Stephen Harpers speeches from his seventh annual summer tour, and we are pleased to include an article by the Hon. Leona Aglukkaq. Both of these pieces speak clearly to a vision of Northern prosperity led by resource development and public investments in the military, science and technology, and regulatory efficiency. In a contrasting piece, NDP Member of Parliament for Churchill, Niki Ashton, criticizes this vision for failing to address the daily challenges faced by Northerners, and especially those Northerners liv-

ing in what she calls the provincial mid-North. In addition to articles about the Conservative vision, we have included topical pieces about specific Northern policies. Our selection was driven by our understanding of what is relevant to Northerners, and also by the interests of our authors. In his essay Political Vision and Fiscal Reality in Canadas North, Anthony Speca highlights the role that territorial governments play in achieving the Northern vision, and asks whether Ottawa will use the upcoming renewal of the Territorial Formula Financing program (similar to the provincial Equalization Program) to dispel doubts that its aspirations for the North exceed its willingness to pay for them. We have included four articles on Northern food security and the Conservatives Nutrition North Canada program, beginning with a piece by the Chair of the Nutrition North Canada Advisory Board, Wilf Wilcox. Interviews with Leesee Papatsie and Becky Torretti outline the develoment of the 20,000-person Feeding My Family movement. A photo essay of food security protests in Iqaluit and Ottawa, and a critical piece by Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett, round out Northern Public Affairs Nutrition North Canada coverage. Northern Public Affairs also sat down for a conversation with Arlene Hache, former executive director of the Centre for Northern Families and Frances Wolki, creator of a Facebook group dedicated to housing issues in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. It is an engaging interview where both discuss the conditions and affordability of social housing and Ms. Wolkis decision to establish an online forum for public engagement on housing issues across the North. Terry Fenge has written a timely article about the recent decision by Justice Earl Johnson of the Nunavut Court of Justice to award damages of nearly $15 million to Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated the organization mandated to represent the interests of Inuit beneficiaries under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA) for the Government of Canadas failure to implement an important environmental and socio-economic monitoring plan that was agreed to in the NLCA (Article 12.7.6). This decision is part of a larger suit brought against the federal government for ongoing implementation failures. Fenge argues that this decision is an indictment of the indifference shown by successive federal governments, including the present Conservative one, toward modern treaty implementation. An article by Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox about the Northern Governance and Economy Conference: Pathways to Prosperity, held in Yellowknife October 10-12, 2012,

highlights the efforts of conference organizers to bring together a diversity of Northern perspectives to discuss common interests for the promotion of social and economic wellness. A special issue of Northern Public Affairs featuring conference presentations and highlights will be released in February 2013, giving our readers an opportunity to learn more about those discussions. Finally, Kevin OReilly of Alternatives North recounts his experience before the Mackenzie Valley Review Board. What happens at the Giant Mine site should be of interest to all Northerners as new resource projects are developed and begin production. OReillys provocative piece asks what lessons have been learned from Giant Mine. As a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, Northern Public Affairs is committed to presenting a diversity of voices on issues that matter to Northerners. This edition of the magazine highlights a number of different perspectives on the Conservative vision for Northern Canada; and it raises critical questions about the long-term implications of such a vision for Northerners and for Canada. If you would like to continue the conversation started in these pages, we encourage you to post your comments on our website, or through Facebook and Twitter. We are also keen to receive your feedback through emails or written letters. All feedback is welcome, and we hope to publish the best of it in subsequent issues of the magazine. Finally, we would like to thank all of the contributors to this issue, especially those living in Northern communities, who have given their time and energy to research, speak, and write about the very public challenges facing Northern society.
Footnotes 1. Yukon: $285 million (6.8 per cent GDP); NWT: $124 million (2.9 per cent GDP), Nunavut: $568.6 million (13.5 per cent GDP). Natural Resources Canada. 2012. Exploration and Deposit Appraisal Expenditures by Province and Territory 2007-2012. Available at: 2. Northwest Territories Bureau of Statistics. 2011. Community Price Indexes 2011. Available at: 3. Nick Falvo. 2011. Who Pays, When, and How? Government-Assisted Housing in the Northwest Territories and the Role of the Federal Government. in Bruce Doern and Christopher Stoney, eds How Ottawa Spends 2011-2012 (Mcgill-Queens University Press), 248. 4. Nunavut Bureau of Statistics. 2011. Nunavut Housing Needs Survey- Fact Sheet. (January 25 2011) Available at: 5. Northwest Territories Bureau of Statistics. 2010. 2009 Community Survey Housing Component: Overall Results. Available at: 6. Nick Falvo. 2012. Poverty Among Plenty: Waiting for the Yukon Government to Adopt a Poverty Reduction Strategy (The Homeless Hub Report Series Report #7). Available at:

Northern Public Affairs, Fall 2012