Support for Business in the Northwest Territories (Statement to the Legislative Assembly)
Hon. Bob McLeod
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Mr. Speaker, the impacts of the current economic down turn are being felt worldwide and the Northwest Territories is no exception. We are not immune to global market forces. We cannot control or influence these forces. Now, more than ever, it is critical that the Departments programs and services focus on the needs of our business community and can help them weather this economic storm.The economy is cyclical and eventually the economy will recover. We must look at the key elements of a robust operating environment for our businesses and ensure that these elements are positioned to operate efficiently and effectively when the eventual recovery of the economy occurs. These key elements are: markets, policies and regulations, infrastructure, human resources and access to capital.
Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories is blessed with a tremendous resource base. The Territory has been endowed with an abundance of minerals and petroleum resources and, at the same time, its natural beauty is unparalleled. These are the Northwest Territories’ competitive advantages. As the economy improves, these attributes will once again drive a flourishing economy.
Mr. Speaker, this government and this Department are working to ensure that there is an efficient and effective policy and regulatory regime in place. The government has been engaged in the Northern Regulatory Improvement Initiative. We have negotiated Socio-Economic Agreements with each of the operating diamond mines and the Mackenzie Gas Project to ensure employment, procurement and value-added opportunities for Northwest Territories residents – a good example of leveraging our competitive advantages. These Agreements have resulted in significant contributions to the evolution and growth of our Territory’s business sector.
Mr. Speaker, the physical infrastructure must also be in place. This territory needs a transportation network in place that will facilitate the export of goods and the import of material required to produce those products. The Departments of Transportation and Municipal and Community Affairs will be moving forward with projects under the Build Canada program.
Mr. Speaker, to produce the goods and services requires resources – not just raw materials and land – but people and entrepreneurship. The people of the Northwest Territories are one of our most significant resources but we are aware that there is a significant labour shortage in the Northwest Territories.
We are looking to bring workers into the Northwest Territories. To achieve this, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment and the Department of Education, Culture and Employment have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Diamond Mines. In 2009/10, the Department will be initiating the National Marketing Campaign – a program intended to promote the Northwest Territories as a great place to visit, work and live. The Department of Education, Culture and Employment will be delivering the Provincial Nominee Program.
Last but not least, our entrepreneurs and businesses must have access to capital and information on markets.
To address this the Department has a territorial network of regional Community Economic Development Officers, Business Development Officers, Community transfer Economic Development Officers and Community Futures staff who promote and provide information on funding and development resources available through the Northwest Territories Business Development and Investment Corporation, Community Futures Organizations, the Canada/Northwest Territories Business Service Centre and the Federal Aboriginal Business Canada Program.
As well we have the newly developed Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development – or SEED – Program. This program adds to the support available to small businesses. We have also made a decision to make the Opportunities Fund a more active fund and will work with the Standing Committee to do so.
Finally Mr. Speaker, I would like to highlight to colleagues the ongoing and oft-unheralded work that we do as Government to lobby and leverage federal funding and investment to develop, promote, and sustain small business in the Northwest Territories.
The pending extension of Canada’s highly successful Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development Program funding, a total of $30 million dollars for our territory, was a direct result of this effort. Similarly, the Prime Minister’s commitment to establish and fund a Northern Economic Development Agency in the North is also a reflection of long-established efforts by our Government to secure federal support in the interests of economic and business development in the Northwest Territories.
We remain confident that, in time, the nature and magnitude of our region’s natural resources will allow us to rebound from the economic challenges we now face. In the interim our Government will continue to support and develop the economic conditions and investment climate that allow us to grow and build capacity – in our business – and by doing so, in our people and our communities.
Mr. Speaker, I encourage all businesses to take advantage of the programs and services that are in place to help them move through the challenging times and position themselves for the future.
In closing, I believe we have good people and good programs to assist our business community. I invite all of my colleagues in the House to bring forward new ideas to help us address the needs of the business community in the Northwest Territories.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.