The Power of Progress Ã Opportunities North, a Yukon Chamber of Commerce conference held recently in Whitehorse, highlighted game changers that are or will affect our northern economy.
The first game changer is energy. Our territory’s current hydroelectricity capacity is not going to be enough as the Yukon experiences population and industry growth. What seems like a problem is actually an opportunity. First we need to be more energy efficient and secondly, given there are paying customers, Yukoners need to decide on the type of clean energy solutions we want to pay for and leave to future generations. It won’t be diesel. Instead we need to decide on a mix of energy conservation, hydro, natural gas, biomass, wind, waste to energy, and geothermal.
The second game changer is infrastructure. Interestingly, Alaska’s Skagway port is in the process of being refit to receive Yukon’s resources, although, the time is coming when we could develop King Point, a Yukon coastal port, to ship both the Yukon’s and the Northwest Territories’ resources to market. Airports and roads need to be improved to assist both the tourism and mining industries. And, there soon may be scheduled air traffic to Mayo, Faro and Watson Lake as a benefit of regional economic activity.
The third game changer is resource development. A shift is occurring in this industry. Yukon is moving from exploration which is exciting, to production which is real. Not only do we have three operating mines in the Yukon (Capstone, Alexco, Yukon Zinc) more are on their way and one called Casino is so large, it could be a 30- to 50-year operation and thus, a stabilizing economic force for Yukon and First Nation governments and businesses.
The fourth game changer is tourism product development. More is coming on line. Mt. Sima is acquiring a new chairlift and the WildPlay Yukon Element Park which includes the longest free-falling zip line in North America and an amazing adventure course high in the trees called a Monkido.
White Pass continues to benefit from cruise ship traffic and is pleased to see Disney Cruise Lines enter the Alaska market. Carcross/Tagish Development Corporation is actively promoting a downtown Carcross land development project. And Whitehorse is seeing more waterfront development and a new Kwanlin Dun cultural centre.
The fifth game changer is investment attraction. First Nation investment and business ventures are changing the Yukon economy. Business with First Nation investment like Air North, Castle Rock, and Northerm are expanding and becoming stronger. Principles of sustainability and social responsibly are also exercised by First Nations when they invest and do business, thus, demonstrating a high standard for all businesses to match.
A special feature of our conference was the perspectives of three previous Yukon premiers: Dennis Fentie, Pat Duncan, and Piers McDonald. They spoke to the maturity of Yukon’s governance and the economy. In particular, how important devolution and land claims have been for creating our own sense of identity and place within Canada. Moving forward new challenges include finding energy sources and the provision of housing, career-advancing education, and social services.
Thanks to all the game changers who attended the conference. Presentations can be found online at www.opportunitiesnorth.com/conference.
Yukon Chamber of Commerce, chair