Canada’s North Will Need Up To 70,000 Workers by 2020 – Conference Board of Canada

Yellowknife, the largest city in the Northwest Territories. A report released on Monday projects that, by 2020, up to 70,000 new jobs in the North will be supported by additional mining output in the region.

A report released on Monday by the Conference Board of Canada, one of the country’s most respected public policy research organizations, predicts that mining in Northern Canada will support an additional 43,000 to 70,000 jobs in the region by 2020.

The report estimates that the value of the annual output of mining activity in the North will grow at an annual rate of 7.5 percent – more than three times the projected GDP growth rate – to nearly double from $4.4 billion in 2011–12 to $8.5 billion in 2020.

The 74 page reports focuses most of its recommendations on improving communication and cooperation between mining companies, aboriginal groups, and local, provincial/territorial and federal governments.

It also calls for increased government investment, in the way of government-private partnerships, to build the necessary infrastructure in the North, and a simpler regulatory approval process by integrating environmental assessments made by various levels of government.

If these measures are taken, the report concludes, the people of the North and the rest of Canada, stand to benefit from increased exports as the industrialization of India and China boosts global economic growth and demand for minerals.

Canadian PM Promotes Resource Projects in Country’s North

Prime Minister Harper at a press conference in the Yukon during his annual Northern tour (Government of Canada)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says “tremendous economic opportunity” lies in tapping Canada’s northern resources, describing it as a key to the country’s prosperity. The comments came in a press conference in the Yukon, which he visited as part of his seventh annual Northern Tour.

The tour, which runs from August 20-24, is part of a long-term drive by the federal government to facilitate the development of resource projects in Canada.

The Prime Minister said the Canadian economy can outperform that of the United States, Japan and Europe by continuing to exploit its vast natural resources, much of which lies untapped in the North, and that there are more than 500 new development projects, worth half a trillion dollars, being proposed in the country over the next decade.

The Canadian economy is heavily reliant on natural resources, with $142.5 billion or 11.5 percent of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP), and a staggering $200 billion in export revenue, amounting to over 50 percent of the net worth of all Canadian exports, being produced by the country’s resource sectors each year.

The announcement of a new Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) last week by the Department of Immigration was largely a reaction to the growing demand for skilled workers like welders, boiler makers and heavy equipment operators in resource extraction hubs, particularly in western provinces like Alberta, as the country’s energy and mineral sectors have boomed, and ageing workers in the skilled trades have begun to retire in greater numbers.

Massive Shale Oil Prospect Discovered in Northwest Territories, Could Increase Demand for Foreign Labour

The Canol shale formation ranges from the Mackenzie River, pictured above, in the east, to the MacKenzie Mountains to the West. (David Adamec)

A new shale oil prospect in the Northwest Territories potentially rivals the Bakken formation under Saskatchewan, Montana and North Dakota in its recoverable oil resources.

The Canol shale formation could contain two to three billion barrels of recoverable oil according to David Ramsey, Minister of Industry and Transportation for the Northwest Territories. If the estimates are proven accurate, it would increase Canada’s total proven oil reserves by over one and a half percent, to 182 billion barrels.

The find has the potential to create significant economic opportunity for Northwest Territories communities and those ready to brave Canada’s subarctic north. First Nations communities are hopeful that the development will bring jobs to the region, while also concerned about the damage it could do to the pristine northern wilderness.

Temporary foreign workers could play a big role in the extraction of the new oil find, given oil and gas companies are already not able to meet their labour needs in remote and inhospitable resource basins, ranging from northern Alberta to central Saskatchewan, to oil platforms off the shore of Newfoundland.

Last month, the federal and Alberta provincial governments jointly announced a pilot program to expedite the issuance of work permits to foreign workers skilled in in-demand trades like welding, and the federal government is planning to add a skilled trades stream to the Federal Skilled Workers Program to allow more people with the skills demanded by Canada’s resource sectors to become permanent residents.