Showing leadership on the future of the North

Those windmills aren’t going to tilt at themselves

Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod’s leadership on the future of the North is starting to get noticed.

After issuing his “red alert” last November that northerners’ hopes for sustainable jobs and economic opportunities were at risk from inattention and misguided policies from the south, he has been repeating his message to every reporter and conference he can find. Over the last few weeks, he has spoken at Simon Fraser University, the Vancouver Board of Trade and an event in Ottawa put on by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

The message is starting to get through to broader Canadian audiences, with the Canadian Press covering his Ottawa messages in a widely syndicated article.

As Martin Luther King said, a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

McLeod hasn’t changed southern Canada’s mindset yet, but he is starting to get the topic on the agenda.

In Vancouver, McLeod said “Other Arctic nations are proceeding with ambitious plans for social and economic development of their northern regions and it is time for Canada to have a plan of its own, developed by and for Northerners in dialogue with all Canadians.” Among other things, he has criticized the federal government for putting a moratorium on oil and gas development off the coasts of the three territories without consulting the three territorial governments or their peoples.

The CIGI event in Ottawa, which also included leaders from Alaska, the Yukon, Nunavut and Greenland, also saw the release of the centre’s new report on Northern development. It provides a fascinating tour of what other northern countries are doing and the growing gap in economic development between many of them and northern Canada.

I’ve written before about Alaska’s and Russia’s efforts to export massive amounts of natural gas to Asia, but the report adds a long list of other initiatives. China recently announced the Arctic component of its global One Belt, One Road infrastructure initiative, which is looking at Chinese involvement in oil, gas, mining, fishing and tourism around the Arctic. China is looking at using shipping routes to Europe through both the Northwest passage off the Yukon’s coast, as well as the parallel route the Russians are pushing on their side of the Arctic Ocean.

Meanwhile, the Nordic countries have a wide range of programs to support economic development in the north, including transport, energy and internet infrastructure. Norway continues to push offshore oil and gas development in the Arctic as it builds up its national savings fund, which grew past the US$1 trillion mark in 2017.

The report calls for, among other things, new north-south transport corridors, marine routes from Alaska through Canada to Greenland, and subsidized air transport both east-west within the north and to southern hubs.

McLeod’s timing is good and his message resonates because of his background. Being a long-time northerner born in Fort Providence and an Indigenous person adds to his credibility, as does the fact (as he points out) that five of seven N.W.T. cabinet members are Indigenous. It doesn’t hurt that he has a business degree from the University of Alberta and studied international affairs at National Defense College.

And his message is timely since it connects to growing concerns that the massive growth in government in the Canadian North, often crowding out or overwhelming private sector activities, is limiting our economic future.

I suspect that some cynical bureaucrats in Ottawa mock McLeod as the Don Quixote of Yellowknife. He is raising his voice against decades of assumptions, institutional arrangements and ways of thinking. He has a lot of windmills to fight.

But I’m glad he’s taken a stand for the people of the N.W.T. His crusade may be a long shot, but what is the point of having leaders who don’t lead?

Keith Halliday is a Yukon economist and author of the MacBride Museum’s Aurore of the Yukon series of historical children’s adventure novels. He is a Ma Murray award-winner for best columnist.

Northwest Territoriesoil and gas

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited internet options beginning Dec. 1. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet for some available Dec. 1

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited… Continue reading

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read