Arctic Policy Framework investment roundtable session: Toronto

This is a summary of the Arctic Policy Framework investment roundtable in Toronto, Ontario, on February 13, 2018.

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Participants

Participants from:

Overarching themes and messages

Comprehensive Arctic infrastructure

  • The importance of policy continuity on the part of governments was emphasized. Participants noted that involving Indigenous people in policy and infrastructure planning can assist in ensuring continuity, even in the face of change at the political level.
  • Participants stressed the need for long-term thinking, noting that multinational corporations and often think in terms of 100 year plans, while Canadian governments were seen as focusing on the immediate term.
  • Participants noted the value in conducting an inventory of existing infrastructure and future expected infrastructure requirements and a subsequent prioritization exercise involving municipal governments to be revised by all partners on a continuous schedule.
  • Participants raised that required changes to existing legislation and regulations can create unexpected delays in infrastructure projects in the north (changes to power purchase agreements to support a reduced reliance on diesel for power was referenced as a notable example in Nunavut).
  • The territorial debt cap, in addition to other regulatory and permitting barriers, can prevent fully-funded/turn-key projects in the north from getting off the ground (the potential hydroelectric project in Iqaluit was provided as an example).
  • The infrastructure challenges particular to municipalities were discussed, including a lack of territorial resources as well as the political considerations that flow from the urban-rural divide in some northern jurisdictions.

Transformative infrastructure

  • Participants noted the opportunity represented by developing regional infrastructure projects in contributing to nation building within Canada.
  • One participant felt that the Government of Canada is failing to show leadership on "nation building" infrastructure projects in Arctic Canada. This participant noted that the federal government has a particular role to play in the North, where the population base is low, and called for increased federal commitment to developing Arctic infrastructure.
  • Participants discussed the benefits of multi-purpose/multi-use infrastructure, including infrastructure at the community/municipal level. Some participants felt that this type of approach is not facilitated by the federal government due to its complexity as well as its requirements for cross-departmental and cross-jurisdictional co-operation.

Infrastructure and the private sector

  • Funding and ownership of Northern and Arctic infrastructure projects is shifting in the sense that Indigenous development corporations are expressing a greater interest in taking a leadership role on infrastructure projects.
  • Participants indicated an interest in "bundling" or "packaging" a number of separate but related infrastructure projects in order to attain a sufficient critical mass to attract major investment. The potential offered by the opening of the Northwest Passage for linking transportation and defence infrastructure projects was cited as an example.
  • Participants noted that bundling projects could assist in addressing the need for a comprehensive, big picture approach to infrastructure while at the same time offering the investment community specific projects to participate in. In addition, a bundling model could help curb the phenomenon of advocates jockeying for resources for individual projects and would facilitate a more strategic approach to Arctic infrastructure.
  • Stronger private-involvement could lead to more attractive rates of return for investors while enabling governments to focus on funding projects that are more socially-oriented but that might not attract private investment.
  • Some participants were critical of the need for a contribution from the territorial government in order to apply for federal funding for local/regional infrastructure projects (the potential hydroelectric project in Iqaluit was also referenced in this context).
  • Participants discussed the role of the new Canada Infrastructure Bank, and its potential application to Northern and Arctic infrastructure challenges.
  • Reducing risk, in particular for investors and the lending community, was seen as a potential role for governments to facilitate enhanced investment in Arctic infrastructure.

Specific infrastructure needs

  • Notable gaps in community-scale infrastructure are needed in the face of homelessness, alcoholism and other substance abuse challenges. Required infrastructure includes transition housing and mental health facilities.
  • On a regional-scale, the concept of multi-use corridors was discussed with much interest in the potential to develop broadband, energy, and transportation corridors in the Canadian Arctic.
  • Significant recent and ongoing broadband/connectivity initiatives were discussed, including major recent investments in broadband capacity in the Northwest Territories through the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link project and fibre optic investments under Quebec's Plan Nord.
  • Participants discussed  the potential to develop broadband and energy links between Churchill and Nunavut's Kivalliq region.

Arctic in a global context

Arctic sovereignty and Canadian Arctic leadership

  • Participants highlighted the ongoing opportunity for Canada to express sovereignty in the Arctic through the framework, including the role that Northerners play in expressing Canada's Arctic sovereignty.
  • Similarities across the Canadian and American Arctic were raised, including: significant Indigenous populations, reliance on diesel for power, economic dependence on natural resource extraction, and purchasing/selling goods on a north-to-south axis (e.g., oil).
  • The significance of the Alaska-Yukon relationship in particular was noted in regards to developing a system of comprehensive infrastructure in the western Arctic.

Trade and investment

  • The opportunity to advance Canada-US relations through the framework was raised, including on the issue of trade, particularly in the context of the ongoing renegotiation of the North America Free Trade Agreement.
  • Some participants expressed interest in deepening commercial ties with Greenland, including in the fishing industry.
  • Participants discussed the role of public-private partnerships in the North, including the potential for new models of public-private partnership. Participants pointed to successful domestic and international examples of public-private partnerships in the Arctic.
  • Officials from Greenland noted the opportunity for collaboration between Greenland and Nunavut on broadband, to highlight an example of possible international collaboration on infrastructure investments.

Multilateral fora

  • The role of the Arctic Council, including the Task Force on Improved Connectivity in the Arctic, in furthering economic development in the Arctic was discussed.

Protecting the environment and conserving Arctic biodiversity

Sustainable resource development

  • Participants discussed Arctic fisheries as well as the moratorium on offshore Arctic oil and gas licensing in the context of the framework.
  • Participants noted that consultations with existing license holders and others on offshore oil and gas current operations and future exploration have been conducted.
  • Disappointment amongst some participants was expressed regarding the impact of the licensing moratorium on Indigenous development corporations looking to diversify into the oil and gas sector.

Evidence-based decision-making

  • Participants discussed the need for an improved understanding of possible impacts associated with offshore oil and gas activity and for an evidence-based approach to licensing.

Strong, sustainable and diversified Arctic economies

Potential opportunities for economic development

  • Participants discussed the significant opportunity to develop sustainable export corridors in the north. In particular, participants pointed to the role of Indigenous communities in Northwest Territories in determining, facilitating and profiting from the creation of export corridors in that territory.
  • Participants suggested that further Arctic trade opportunities with the European Union through Canada-European Union Economic and Trade Agreement be explored, particularly in light of a shifting North American trade landscape.
  • Participants noted their interest in developing commercial fishing operations in a sustainable manner and to the benefit of northerners with a specific interest in trading with neighboring jurisdictions (within the current quota system).

Innovation

  • Participants discussed the importance of increasing investment in Arctic innovation, rather than predominantly focusing on traditional industries.
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