Well, for a moment let’s park the politics and talk about the Yukon in the national northern context.
October 14 and 15 I moderated two panels on energy infrastructure at the First Annual Strategic Northern Infrastructure Symposium held in Yellowknife, NWT, hosted by a new pan-northern consultancy, Northern Strategy Group, with which I am pleased to say I am associated (it’s an interesting group with, among others, a former federal minister, former territorial minister, oh, and now me Ã‰ take a look at www.northernstrategygroup.com).
With only a few exceptions, the topics discussed during the two days were of as much interest to Yukon as to our neighbouring territories, NWT and Nunavut. The panel themes focused on infrastructure relating to roads, ports (yes, we have our American friends in Skagway and Haines, not to mention the potential for a deep-water port at King Point on the North Coast), pipelines (Mackenzie and Alaska Highway), air (including ore-transporting airships; yes, that would be a really big balloon!), telecommunications, and, of course, energy; the last speaker of the conference even made the case for small nuclear facilities. A new term was also invented, with the introduction of the concept of “governance infrastructure,” which our territorial and aboriginal/First Nation governments know all aboutÃ‰.
The symposium was well attended with in excess of 250 participants from throughout Canada and the United States, with executives from every major industry: mining, oil and gas, energy, transportation, (oh, and “governance”) and the list goes on.
And, here’s where I “park” the politics, because, as most of you know, I’m kind of a Liberal guy. Yukon was well represented, not in numbers, but in presence. Our premier addressed the assembly as part of a panel that included the premier of the NWT and the deputy premier of Nunavut. Dennis Fentie put Yukon “on the agenda”, reflecting on our successes and continued challenges as a northern territory. Later, Ken McKinnon, a founding father of Yukon’s constitutional presence in Canada, and the chair of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, gave a good overview of our new process, but did not downplay the growing pains that have been part of this implementation of YESA.
I am happy to say (and surprised, perhaps, given the growing pains we’ve faced) that the participants reflected on how the YESA process is so much more effective and efficient than what has been experienced in the NWT.
The Northern Strategy Group has been pressed to come to the Yukon in 2010 for the 2nd Annual Infrastructure Symposium. The challenge is before us, and I am happy to say that our group will give this very careful consideration. We heard from our friends in the pipeline world that next year will be “big” where the Alaska Highway Pipeline process is concerned, so it just makes sense that the Yukon would be a timely venue for “no. 2”. What we will face as we move into the world of an upwards-of-$30-billion pipeline planning and construction window will be immense. Seems only right that a good discussion next year in Yukon about pipelines and all the associated physical and governance infrastructure would be the right thing to do!
This letter would not be complete without a recognition and thank you to two of the best companies in Northern Canada. Canadian North (part of NorTerra Inc.), and Air North (we all know Joe) made it possible for me to join my colleagues at the Yellowknife symposium. It could not have happened without their contribution. We need to thank these northern companies who continue to provide support to all of us; their efforts and support to our communities truly contribute to making the North the best part of Canada in which to live! Thanks, Air North and Canadian North Ã you have my business.