Nunavut’s economic blueprint unveiled

GN, NTI await word on EDA proposal


The Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. unveiled a small stack of paper this week that contains their long-awaited blueprint for Nunavut’s economic future.

It’s no ordinary stack of paper. To attract attention to it, they released the document just as Canada’s northern development ministers, including Indian Affairs Minister Bob Nault, gathered in Iqaluit this Wednesday morning for a three-day conference.

About 20 groups — including Inuit organizations, chambers of commerce, the Nunavut Association of Municipalities, and governments – have signed on to the 80-page document.

“We know for sure that attracting resources and investment in Nunavut’s economy isn’t going to come without a strategy in place, so this strategy is a big step in the right direction,” Cathy Towtongie, the president of NTI, said at a news conference.

It’s intended for use as a tool to lobby Ottawa for an economic development agreement, more training money, and more infrastructure money. It’s also intended to attract more private sector investment, and guide plans for growing Nunavut’s economy.

Olayuk Akesuk, Nunavut’s minister of Sustainable Development, admits that the strategy is ambitious. But he says it must be ambitious “because we have no other choice.”

And finding more money to implement it will be be a big challenge.

“We have to be realistic. We will need to work hard to find the resources to implement the actions we have proposed for econonomic development,” Akesuk said.

Alex Campbell, Akesuk’s deputy minister, said an economic development agreement with the federal government, or “EDA,” is now an immediate priority.

Between 1979 and 1996, EDA deals were key tools for stimulating economic development in the northern territories, funding numerous business loan and grant programs. The last one — with the Northwest Territories — expired in 1996, but was not renewed.

The 20 groups have now organized themselves into a permanent body, called the “Sivummut Economic Development Group.” That’s the same group that gathered in Rankin Inlet in March, 2003 for the “Sivummut II” conference, which produced many recommendations for the strategy.

The Sivummut Economic Development Group presented Ottawa with a proposal last December to work out a new five-year, $66- million EDA with Nunavut.

So far, no deal has been anounced, despite a commitment made back in 1998 by Paul Martin, the federal finance minister, to work with territoral governments on a “modern economic development strategy.”

Canada’s North is the only area of Canada without a federally funded regional economic development agency.

But with its economic strategy in hand, Nunavut officials now believe they have more ammunition to back up their demand for an EDA.

A new EDA, however, is still just one piece of the package laid out in Nunavut’s new economic strategy.

The 80-page document sets out four “guiding principles”: cultural integrity, determination and realism, community control, and cooperation and organization.

It goes on to list four areas where Nunavut must develop its assets — or capital — to find the means of creating more wealth — natural resources, human skills, organizational capacity and infrastructure.

Economic plans would then be directed to four different areas: the land, people, community economies and the territorial economy.

Those plans would be guided by a long list of “strategic priorities” – lists of things that must be done first, such as doing more training, building more infrastructure, getting more out of the Nunavut land claim agreement, creating more small businesses, and doing more community development.

To pay for it all, the strategy would rely on more than just a new EDA with Ottawa, and requires other ways of prying more revenue out of the federal government.

For example, the document says Nunavut must work out a new formula financing agreement with the federal government, as well as a devolution agreement on the sharing of natural resource royalties.

They also want to improve the northern resident income tax deduction, and attract more private investment.

The document is rooted in a process that started two years ago, at cabinet meeting in Repulse Bay, when the Nunavut government announced plans to create an economic development strategy in consultation with a wide range of Nunavummiut.

NTI joined them as full partners in the process.

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