Canada's north presents a unique challenge when it comes to building infrastructure and accessing its resources, so the head of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies - Canada (ACEC) welcomed the measures put forth in Economic Action Plan 2014 to help reach those goals.
The budget provided $40 million over two years, beginning in 2014-15, to renew the Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development (SINED) program, delivered by the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (Can NOR).
The program focuses on enhancing the economic infrastructure of the territories; developing the capacity of Northern organizations and individuals to take advantage of economic opportunities; promoting economic diversification; and increasing dialogue on Northern economic development issues.
“It’s not an easy thing to take on, but it’s certainly welcome news that the government sees this as a priority,” said ACEC president John Gamble.
As a result of investment in resource development projects, population growth and increased demand for ecotourism in the North, the need for a strong network of transportation infrastructure in the territories has intensified.
In the budget, the government committed to working with territorial governments and local municipalities to develop transportation infrastructure in the North.
The reality is, that it is cheaper for some Canadian companies to open a mine in South America than in Canada’s North.
“It’s a double bottom line because by being able to support infrastructure in the North, it’s good for northern communities, it’s good for the quality of life in northern communities and First Nations, but it is also good for the resource sector that creates jobs and prosperity. We need to create a business and regulatory climate that makes a good business case for resource companies and other private industries to invest in the North,” said Gamble.
In order to realize its potential, the government said the North requires efficient regulatory regimes, a skilled local workforce, low taxes, well-developed infrastructure and extensive scientific and geological knowledge.
ACEC is working with the Mining Association of Canada and the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada to develop a white paper to get a sense of what really needs to be done to encourage proper business development in the north.
“What we’d like to do is share that with the government so that we can have some good public policy discussions about the public policy instruments that would encourage infrastructure in the North,” he said.
The government also committed to continuing its efforts to exercise Canada’s sovereign rights.