An Aboriginal development think-tank says the North has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to the quality of life of its people.
Its answer: more resource development.
The National Aboriginal Economic Development Board (NAEDB) released its report, entitled Recommendations on Northern Infrastructure to Support Economic Development, on Wednesday morning.
NAEDB is an advisory group on Aboriginal economic development for the federal government and is headed by First Nations leader and B.C. businessman Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band.
The report says the North — the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik, and Nunatsiavut — is suffering from an infrastructure deficit. It lays out three main infrastructure areas that need to be developed: communications (internet, telephone service), transportation (all-season roads, ports) and energy.
NAEDB says investment in those three infrastructure areas will make the North more attractive to the resource development industry — and will, in turn, improve the North's economy.
The reason these projects aren't being prioritized, the report says, is that the North also has poor education, healthcare, water and housing infrastructure that also desperately needs updating.
"Significant infrastructure deficits across the North mean that available infrastructure funding is being used to respond to urgent community needs rather than strategic investment in economic infrastructure," the report reads.
"The infrastructure deficit reduces the attractiveness of the investment climate in the region, which results in less development in the region, and the economic potential of the North not being realized."
Every $1 spent = $22 back, says report
NAEDB looked at eight different resource development projects in the North, including the Gahcho Kue Diamond Project in the NWT, the Casino Mine Project in the Yukon, and Nunavut's Mary River Project. It found that for every $1 spent on infrastructure such as roads and energy supplies for those projects, they would return $22 in economic benefit.
The report recommends resource development as a method to get the cash-flow needed to improve both the North's economy and the well being of its residents.
NAEDB estimates the cost of of building infrastructure in the North is 150 times more expensive than building the same infrastructure in Southern Canada.
The report came up with seven recommendations for governments to help the North increase its investment in infrastructure, including offering tax credits for companies looking to operate in the North and creating a new, publicly-funded, Northern infrastructure investment fund.