N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod is heading to China in January. In the past, he's used the visits to promote investment in the territory's furs, diamonds and untapped gas reserves. This year, he also wants to promote the N.W.T. as a place to live.
McLeod believes the N.W.T. has much to offer Chinese immigrants, “and many of those immigrants are focused on investment.”
"We're interested in increasing the population of the Northwest Territories," McLeod says. "Just think: thousands of people coming to the Northwest Territories investing significant amounts of money. That would be quite an improvement to our economy."
Yellowknife business owner and Hong Kong native Angela Law says it's about time the territory and Chinese recognize what the North has to offer. She runs Yellowknife Tours with her husband and daughter. Last year, they offered tours to more than 700 visitors, many of whom came from China.
Law says she doesn't understand why most Chinese immigrants flock to Vancouver.
“Even if they are computer specialist, doctors, highly educated… they have no job,” Law says.
But immigration lawyer Raj Sharma says wealthy Chinese immigrants are looking for big city amenities — something the North doesn't offer.
“If the N.W.T. wants to build its population, it will not need the affluent rich Chinese who will naturally gravitate to mainland Vancouver.”
Sharma says the N.W.T. would be better offer attracting temporary foreign workers and international students who've just graduated from Canadian universities.
Statistics Canada figures show Chinese are one of the territories' smallest immigrant groups, accounting for about five per cent of its immigrant population.
"You have tens of thousands of foreign workers and international students already in Canada. It boggles the imagination why the N.W.T. wouldn't seek out those individuals," Sharma says.
$300K cost worth it
McLeod will travel with about 10 staffers at a total cost to the taxpayer of about $300,000.
He says the cost is worth it.
"These economies are built on trust and getting to know each other," McLeod says. "We certainly recognize that every time we go there we get better reception. People talk much more openly about issues.”
This will be McLeod's fifth visit to China. The group will also visit Japan, marking McLeod`s second visit to that country.
McLeod says the territorial government will finalize its China Strategy on the trip.
They group will fly to Beijing on Jan. 10 then on to Japan on Jan. 17, returning to Canada Jan. 21.