With population shrinking, N.W.T. seeks recruits

The Northwest Territories government wants 2,000 more people to come live and work in the territory over the next five years.
The Northwest Territories government hopes to attract 2,000 people, or five per cent of its population, to live and work in the territory in the next five years. (Daniel Hillert)

The Northwest Territories is one of the few places in Canada that saw its population shrink last year. 

Now the Government of the N.W.T. has a new goal: to increase its population (about 43,000) by five per cent, by recruiting 2,000 people to come live and work in the territory in the next five years.

The stakes are high.

For every person who lives in the territory at census time, the government receives $30,000 in  transfers from the federal government.

"We need people in the territory,” says finance minister Michael Miltenberger. “We have jobs going begging. Not only in government, but in industry."

The need for more people was a highlight of the latest territorial budget, revealed last week in the N.W.T. legislature

The government hopes to see more than 20 per cent of its students who leave the territory for post-secondary education coming back to live and work. It plans to improve its immigrant nominee program and reduce the number of fly-in workers in the territory’s diamond mines.

But the government is also counting on word of mouth to spread the message far and wide: wages are high and jobs are plentiful.

Janna Goodwin got the message. She’s originally from Prince Edward Island.

"I wasn't going to hang around [PEI] waiting and waiting for sub days when I knew I could come here,” she says. "I actually got on the plane myself with my three bags, found an apartment online, found a car online.”

After four months, she landed a full-time contract teaching Grades 3 and 4, and was able to drop her serving job.

Another part of the government’s plan is to work with industry and businesses to reach across the country and beyond to find workers.

But the territory also has to compete with other jurisdictions, such as Alberta, and convince people it offers more than a long winter.

Goodwin says so far, the cold hasn't scared her away.

"Snowmobiling and ice fishing and rabbit snaring…ice roads,” she says. “It's freezing, but you embrace it.”

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