Public Policy in Canada’s North

Nunavut is the greatest Canadian experiment, according to the Professor Robert Huebert of the University of Calgary. It is a territory in need of investment, without the political power and mechanisms to make that happen. But there is hope, and that hope lies in resource extraction.

Last Friday a group of 17 Action Canada fellows facilitated a dialogue about the development of public policy for northern Canada based on lessons from its history. The dialogue included 3 presentations:

  • Unlocking Nunavut’s Economic Potential: Public & Private Financing for Transportation Infrastructure’s Development
  • Country Food: Improving Food Security in Nunavut through Better Access to Country Food
  • Growing the Golden Egg: The Question of Non-renewable Resource Revenues and the Future Prosperity of Canada’s North

Underlying the dialogue was an assumption that resource extraction was necessary and beneficial not only to Canada’s North but to Canada’s national economy as well. The first panel stressed the astronomical costs of the transportation infrastructure needed to facilitate extraction, as well as the vast potential wealth hidden under Nunavut’s ice and waters. A lack of roads, seaports, docks and airports capable of handling large cargo have stunted development in the North, according to Colonel Pierre LeBlanc. The cost of transporting construction materials and gasoline play a role, as, for example, a 140 km stretch of gravel road was recently built in Nunavut at a cost of $300 million. To put that number in perspective, Nunavut received roughly $1.4 billion in transfer payments in 2013-2014.

Nunavut sits on massive iron-ore concentrations, and potentially one of the largest oil deposits in the world in the Davis Strait between Canada and Greenland. Yet the assumption that resource extraction is Nunavut’s only salvation was juxtaposed with stories of foreign drilling and mining exploration companies given permits in Greenland to extract resources using their own imported labour force, while contributing minimal royalties and taxes to the local economy. There was also a worry among participants about where the financial benefits of extraction would go. Local communities? The federal government? Would any financial benefits be negated by reduced transfer payments from the feds? Adding to this, demand for these resources depend on foreign markets. Public infrastructure investment in resources would have to be substantial and therefore very risky, as a smart investment one day could become a catastrophic waste of public money the next.

Solutions were few. A number of pension fund representatives were in the room were told that investment in the mining industry would benefit the North and provide high returns, but that these investments would certainly be high-risk. The only solution that offered hope in my mind was the possibility of a well-managed Heritage Fund, which leads into the discussion in the third panel, which I will cover in Part 3.

Overall, there was a great discussion and I learned a great deal about Nunavut’s past and present.

Interesting tidbit: Norwegian Hell’s Angels have been using Canadian charts to sail through the Northwest Passage. Several have already been deported.

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Blog Posts I’ve Been Meaning to Write

I have a sticky note on my desktop where I keep blog posts I’ve been meaning to write. Since I’m not sure I’ll get to them anytime soon, I’ll just post the list.

  1. CityPlan: Outdated but not outgrown (critiquing the critiques of Vancouver’s ongoing 4 community plans, which claim that Vancouver’s ongoing Community Plans are ignoring the existing community visions, known as CityPlan)
  2. UBC vs. Surrey transit not about need, but priority
  3. Justifying the Stong rezoning: Why Dunbar needs a boost
  4. The rise of the parklet and what it means for bottom-up planning
  5. The Compass Beta Test: Observations of Vancouver’s new transit card
  6. Is Translink’s TDM strategy in need of an update?
  7. Subsidizing modes, not roads: Are 10-lane bridges necessary for the regional economy?
  8. A critical analysis of major developments in British Columbia
  9. Vancouver’s Greenest City Conversations to shape City’s future public engagement (summary of an event next week)
  10. Cycling and the link between transportation and health: What is the right message?
  11. Why Vancouver’s bikeshare won’t work (or maybe it will)
  12. Vancouver’s latest transit campaign and lessons from – of all places – Toronto
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Provincial Congestion Pricing Strategy Needed


The Ontario Liberal Party launched Common Ground, a new initiative on Saturday to help develop policy. It’s based in IdeaScale, a forum for submitting and up/down voting ideas with some social aspects such as profiles, comments and limited sharing options.

I submitted an idea for a Provincial congestion pricing strategy and recommend you upvote it!

Develop a well-researched congestion pricing strategy at the Provincial level to be implemented locally if, when and where appropriate. Congestion pricing is an efficient and fair method of financing transit, necessary road infrastructure improvements and other alternative modes of transport. It reduces congestion in peak hours, promotes active travel, boosts our economy, our health and promotes sustainability. Leadership must be shown at the Provincial level, and Liberals must be the ones to lead.

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A Case for Rideshare

Pretty good article on why rideshare regulators should ‘tread lightly’.

The image isn’t exactly relevant, but who doesn’t like mayors and mascots?


West End Walking Tour Overview

I know I’m a little late to the game as this is an article from May 2012, but as a recent migrant to Vancouver it was definitely worth a read. The article discusses the various elements that make the area unique – my favourite is Mole Hill – and some of the issues it has faced including, surprise surprise… housing affordability. 


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