NORTHERN TOUR 2013: Prime Minister Harper’s 2013 Northern tour

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaking in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, August 22, 2013. Photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister.

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper

This past summer marked Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s eighth annual Northern tour and his first ever stop in Nunavik. In all, the PM stopped in four Northern communities between August 19th and 23rd, joined by federal Environment Minister, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council, Leona Aglukkaq, federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Bernard Valcourt, federal Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver, Yukon Member of Parliament Ryan Leef, and Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson. Abridged versions of the Prime Minister’s speeches from Whitehorse, Yukon, Hay River, Northwest Territories, Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, and Nunavik, Quebec are reproduced here.

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Whitehorse, Yukon – August 19, 2013

Thank you for that warm Whitehorse welcome, and I also want to thank Leona for her kind introduction today…

Of course, we have many representatives of local and territorial government as well: Grand Chief Massie, and of course, your own Premier, Darrell Pasloski, so please welcome everybody who’s joined us here today.

I gather, by the way, that this is Yukon College’s 50th anniversary this year. I’m told Karen Barnes, president, is here…Karen, please convey to the board, to all of your colleagues and to the students my congratulations on the achievement of your first half-century.

Thanks also to Quantum Machine Works for graciously hosting us today…I’m going to come back to Quantum in just a moment. But before I do, let me just say how wonderful it is to be back once again in Canada’s true North.

It is my eighth Northern summer tour, ladies and gentlemen, actually my ninth time here in Yukon as Prime Minister, and of course, Whitehorse is my first stop.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen, are greeted by local children upon their arrival in Whitehorse, Yukon, August 18, 2013. Photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen, are greeted by local children upon their arrival in Whitehorse, Yukon, August 18, 2013.
Photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper pauses for a photo with local children on the Hercules upon his arrival in Hay River, Northwest Territories, August 19, 2013. Photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper pauses for a photo with
local children on the Hercules upon his arrival in Hay River, Northwest Territories, August 19, 2013.
Photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister.

Let me begin by wishing everyone a very happy Discovery Day. As was mentioned, each year on this day, Yukoners celebrate the discovery of gold in Bonanza Creek, the discovery that sparked the Klondike gold rush. That seminal moment in Canadian history gave birth to this city and would of course forever transform this territory and our country. Robert Service writes at that time, and let me quote, “Remember the year when the eyes of the world were turned to the North, and the hearts of men were elate.”

Now, friends, although Service drafted those lines more than 100 years ago… The eyes of the world are today once again fixed on Canada’s North. That is in part because of the enormous mineral wealth of Canada’s North and of Yukon, especially.

Yukon, especially, continues to be a magnet for the mining and exploration industry.

In fact, the Fraser Institute ranked Yukon as the eighth most favourable jurisdiction for mining, not just in Canada, by the way, or even the Americas.

Yukon is rated the eighth best place for miners in the entire world. No wonder Canada has been the world’s top destination for exploration spending over the last ten years.

It is no wonder, therefore, that by 2020 Northern metal and mineral output is expected to nearly double, just as it was in the late 1800s: gold, copper, silver, lead, zinc. The demand for Yukon’s resources, for all Canadians’ resources is today very strong, and notwithstanding ups and downs, likely to remain so over the long haul.

And yet, as robust as our resource sector is, we are all aware that it faces the same challenges as its competitors around the world: fluctuating metal prices, unpredictable project financing, labour recruitment, and skills shortages.

Having riches below the ground does not in and of itself guarantee prosperity above.

So here’s the thing. To realize the promise of the North, we must act. Sustained prosperity in the mining industry requires the following things: efficient and effective regulatory regimes, the best technology, the most innovative methods, and a highly skilled workforce.

Indeed, Yukon’s mining firms will need nearly 1,700 new employees, we project conservatively, by 2022. That doesn’t include the multiple spin-off jobs that all of this new activity will generate.

So the need is real, and the need is now.

Therefore to help create the conditions for success in Northern mining, our government has taken action. We’re streamlining duplicative, inefficient and unpredictable regulations. We’re investing in vital infrastructure. We are producing new geological maps of the North. And of course, we have lowered taxes for business, and are keeping them down. And we are addressing the massive demand for labour.

I’m delighted, therefore, to announce that in partnership with the Yukon government, our government will make a substantial investment in Yukon College’s Centre for Northern Innovation and Mining right here. Here, Northerners will take the advanced training they need to fully benefit from the growth that is expected in Yukon’s mining industry.

Funds allocated under Economic Action Plan 2013 will be used to build a state of the art school, to be built at Yukon College’s Ayamdigut campus; the centre will be a one-stop shop. There men and women will learn a range of trades to qualify them for high quality, high paying jobs in the mining industry. As part of this investment, the centre will also develop a mobile trade school, what you might call a training lab on wheels.

Soon this mobile school will be visiting communities in mine sites from Watson Lake to Dawson City and many places in between. It will bring, quite literally, hands-on training to Yukoners everywhere. And that means those living in small remote communities will no longer have the same barriers to sharing in new opportunities.

I should tell you that I already like the way things are going. As part of the new centre’s work, Yukon College wasted no time in launching a mining operations program. Its first class has already graduated, and many of those graduates walked out of the college and right into jobs. That is how it’s supposed to work.

Our government’s investment will allow the Centre for Northern Innovation and Mining to expand quickly to help meet the growing need for labour. But that’s not all. We’re also expecting the centre to go beyond education. It must become a world leader in Northern mine training, in industry-specific research, and innovation.

Upon foundations such as these will be built the strong, sustainable future that we envisage for Northern mining and Northern prosperity.

All of this is actually, friends, part of a virtuous circle: advanced knowledge and a well-trained, highly skilled workforce will attract investment. That means the centre may well attract more of the very businesses that it is now trying to accommodate. And in that way, it will stimulate the jobs and growth that the territory and of course Canada needs.

Now, I did say at the outset I would speak a little bit more about our hosts, Quantum Machine Works. They do very interesting work. They design and manufacture diamond drilling equipment for businesses all over the world, and they have a very goodskills development story. Twenty years ago, Quantum’s owner, Martin Loos – there’s Martin over there – 20 years ago, shortly after purchasing Quantum, Martin hired his first apprentice, a young man, eager to work, keen to learn about machine manufacturing. That young man’s name is Lee Johnson, who’s sitting right at the end there.

Lee started apprenticing here at Quantum when he was 14 years old… Lee worked with Martin until he was old enough to attend trade school. There was one problem. At the time, the program that Lee needed wasn’t offered in Yukon, so he had to leave the territory to learn. But Lee was keen and he knew how to work. He finished his program and was back in Yukon in no time, back at Quantum to once more work beside Martin, his friend, his mentor, and as of 2005, his business partner. So my friends, Lee’s story illustrates just how important the right training is to future success…

All of this shows why we need places like Yukon College’s Centre for Northern Innovation and Mining. With our government’s investment, this centre will train hundreds, maybe even someday thousands of Lee Johnsons right here in Yukon.

That is a truly exciting prospect. It is what Northerners want and deserve.

Everybody, you’ve been very generous with your time and attention, so let me just wrap up with this final thought.

Canada’s North has always attracted the brave, the industrious, and the dreamers.

Even today, adventurous Canadians still come here to seek their fortune, and I am more convinced than ever that the call of the Yukon, the call of the entire North is truly Canada’s call to greatness.

So go forth, young man, young woman, to a place that inspires, a place of infinite promise, the North, where there is no limit to what can be achieved today, tomorrow, and for generations to come.

Thank you.

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Hay River, Northwest Territories – August 20, 2013

I want to thank all of you for that very warm Northern welcome… Great to have members of the Territorial Legislature, of course you, Premier McLeod. Wonderful to have you here. Greetings as well to Mayor Cassidy, to chiefs Martsellos, Fabien, to Elder Sunrise, and everybody who’s been able to join us today. We really appreciate your presence.

Also greetings to our hosts today, our partners, President Jane Archuk of Aurora College, and of course, the chair of the Mine Training Society, Iris Catholique. Also, my greetings to all representatives of industry and academia who have joined us today…

Hay River is the second scheduled stop on my eighth annual summer tour of Canada’s North. Friends, as you know, Laureen and I have a deep affection for the North. This is…my 11th visit to the Northwest Territories since I became Prime Minister.

And we are delighted to be here, in spite of all those other 11 visits, [this is] the first time Laureen and I are here visiting Hay River, the hub of the North…

Ladies and gentlemen, after my eight summer Northern tours, I’m starting to understand what Pierre Burton meant when he wrote, when he said, quote, “There is a saying that after five years in the North, everyone is an expert. After ten years, a novice.”

I haven’t hit ten years yet, but I will admit that whenever I travel across the North and visit Northern communities, spend time with Northerners, I am reminded that there is so much to learn here, and that the North really is a place of infinite promise.

I’m also reminded that as a Northern country, it is the North that truly defines us as Canadians, and it is the North that truly is Canada’s call to greatness. As to answer that call, our government established our Northern Strategy.

Our strategy is based on four pillars. Exercising Canada’s sovereignty, promoting social and economic development, protecting our environmental heritage, and improving and devolving Northern governance.

And ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to report that we’re making good progress on all of these fronts, especially most notably, I should say here, on governance. As many of you know that very recently, and following my last trip to this territory, our government has now signed with the government of the Northwest Territories and Aboriginal governments… a final, historic devolution agreement with the Northwest Territories. Premier, this is a great achievement for both of our governments, but especially for your government. This is a great agreement also for the people of the Northwest Territories, and the beginning of a promising new era in regional governance.

But, my friends, we’re not here today because of devolution. We are here to talk about another pillar of our government’s Northern Strategy, and that is development, and specifically, our government’s plans to ensure that Northerners take full advantage of the new opportunities that responsible resource development will bring.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with members of the Canadian Rangers in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, August 21, 2013. Photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with members of the Canadian Rangers in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, August 21, 2013.
Photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister.

Let me put it this way, or put it in this context. Canada’s 15th Governor General, Lord Tweedsmuir, wrote about his Northern travels more than 80 years ago. He called the North, and I quote, “a great treasure house.”

Our challenge, and our government’s commitment, is to make sure we open the doors of this great treasure house to Northerners, and that all Northerners benefit from this.

Now, as we know, much of the North’s treasure is underground. That’s why our government has already implemented sound practical measures to encourage the mining that creates jobs and that brings prosperity to Northerners, and indeed, to all Canadians.

We also want to specifically encourage Aboriginal peoples with their young, fast-growing populations, often living close to mining areas, to make the most of the great opportunities before them.

How great are these opportunities? The mining sector is already the largest private employer of Aboriginal people in Canada, and current estimates show that by 2017, the mining sector will create thousands of new direct and indirect jobs in this territory alone. So Northern mining has the potential to permanently change many lives for the better.

That said, in order to benefit from Northern opportunities, Aboriginal peoples must have greater access to education and skills training.

That’s why our government is investing in Northern basic education programs.

It’s why we created the Skills and Partnership Fund. It’s why we’ve invested in post-secondary scholarships and bursaries for First Nations and Inuit students. And it’s why our government has supported a Northern success story called the Mine Training Society. The Mine Training Society is a partnership linking the federal government with all the people you see here today, with industry, Aboriginal governments, and the government of the Northwest Territories, and of course with academia.

In the last ten years, through training and recruitment, the society has helped more than 850 trainees find meaningful employment, and we want to see that number grow.

And so today I’m delighted to announce that our government will make a significant investment in the Mining Training Society’s new Mining the Future project.

This project will provide hundreds of Aboriginal people in the Northwest Territories and western Nunavut with the vital skills and experience they need to take advantage of new jobs in their own communities and across the North, and the really exciting thing I know here is this: the Mining the Future project will be delivered right here in Hay River.

This September, in fact.

In a matter of weeks, people from across the territory will come to your community to take Introduction to Underground Mining. Delivered by Aurora College, this program prepares trainees for a successful career in the mining industry.

And, ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you why the Mine Training Society programs have achieved such outstanding results. First, before candidates are accepted to the program, they receive career guidance and counselling from their own Mine Training Society job coach. Second, these programs leverage the power of the strategic partnerships I talked about.

Industry’s role is especially critical. Beyond investing financially in this program, the private sector assists with program development, hosts trainees at their mine sites, and most importantly, they hire graduates.

Now, this brings me to my last point: the Mine Training Society takes a demand driven approach. It connects candidates to real jobs as defined by the marketplace.

This ensures trainees succeed by landing and then keeping high quality, well paying jobs. Mine Training Society graduates often walk out of the classroom and right into a job.

In fact, I’m told that at a recent graduation ceremony, one student was offered a job as he walked across the stage to accept his diploma. That’s market demand!

Indeed, it’s common for graduate testimonials to include the words, “immediately employed.” That was the case for Stacey McSwain… After graduating in 2007 from the Mineral Processing Operator Technician program, Stacey was immediately employed by De Beers. Larone Lafferty… had a similar experience. Larone was immediately employed after he graduated from the Industrial Security Training Program in 2008.

The evidence overwhelmingly shows that the Mine Training Society approach works and it works very well.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I’ve kept you long enough, so let me just close with this final thought. More than 60 years ago, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, as I’ve mentioned repeatedly, the first Prime Minister to travel to the North, said that equality of opportunity in this country was a sacred trust.

He said, quote, “It was handed down to us in the tradition of Macdonald to bring about one Canada for every citizen and equality for every province.”And I would add, every territory.

Our government believes that education and skills training are the foundation of the equality of opportunity that Prime Minister Diefenbaker was referring to. And, friends, for making it happen, I want to congratulate the Northwest Territories Mine Training Society.

Our government’s investment in the Mining the Future program, I believe, will help more people, people like Stacey and Larone, to get the training they need to obtain meaningful jobs, to provide for their families, and to aspire to even better futures for themselves and their children.

This is the future of hope that our government wants for the North, and indeed for all of Canada, and I want to thank all of you for having me, and all of you who are involved in this for making it happen.

Merci.

Masi cho.

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Rankin Inlet, Nunavut – August 22, 2013

You know, the North is a massive part of this country, over 40 percent of our territory; over 20 percent of that is in Nunavut alone, and I think it has never had a stronger presence in Ottawa, and I know that as the new Environment Minister, Leona will continue to work hard not just for Northerners, but all Canadians…

Greetings also to Premier A[a]riak, to Deputy Commissioner Kusugak, and to all representatives of the territorial government who are here today. Also to Deputy Mayor Harry Towtongie, and to Ross Gallinger from the Prospectors and Developers Association. We appreciate everybody’s presence with us today, and also as well, of course, we appreciate the generosity of our hosts, Leo Usaak Elementary School…

As you know, every year I try to visit a few new places, as I travel through, and this is my first trip, as I mentioned last night, to Rankin Inlet, and I certainly hope it won’t be my last.

You all know, ladies and gentlemen, that the pioneering spirit that built our great country very much lives on today in Canada’s North. Our vast Northern frontier has always attracted adventure seekers. Many have had to face tremendous challenges, and yet, even in the presence of the most daunting obstacles, generations of brave men and women have expanded our knowledge of our country from, really from the South to the North, all the way up to the Arctic.

And in doing so, they have over the generations laid the bases, the foundations for our prosperity. Your town is in fact named after such an individual, Lieutenant John Rankin.

Royal Navy Lieutenant John Rankin was one of many who searched for the Northwest Passage. It’s fitting, then, that I’m here in Rankin Inlet to make an important announcement about the future of Arctic exploration and development.

It is, of course, very well known that the North is rich in energy and minerals. It has been estimated that a quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and natural gas lies in the Arctic. Nunavut is now home to the Meadowbank gold mine, which I had the privilege of visiting a few years back, and new projects are step by step moving forward: the Mary River iron ore project, the Chidliak diamond project, and the Meliadine gold project just 22 kilometres north of here.

All this potential development reminds us that, as I said before, the North is Canada’s call to greatness. These developments will bring growth, jobs, and prosperity to this territory across the North, and indeed across the entire country.

In fact, during 2012, due just to mining activity, Nunavut experienced greater economic growth than any other province or territory. Our government believes in reinforcing that success.

That’s why in 2008, as I announced, we began using the latest technology to produce a new generation of geological maps for Canada’s North. More formally known as the geomapping for energy and minerals, this project encourages development by giving prospectors new tools for exploration…

So far, the program has produced more than 700 maps and reports. As a direct consequence, private investors are now looking for nickel on the Melville peninsula, searching for diamonds on Baffin Island, and copper, silver and gold deposits have been found in Yukon. Geomapping also informs land use decisions that help balance responsible resource development with environmental protection.

And it draws on the expertise of an advisory group of Northerners, for, to be clear, Northern expertise is essential. While we expect all Canadians from coast to coast to coast will benefit from the North’s coming mining boom…Northern development must mean jobs and prosperity for Northerners themselves. Prosperity here, jobs now; that is essential.

Now, the first phase of this program is scheduled to end this year, but it has been so successful and so much of the North remains to be mapped that in our judgement, it would be foolish to stop now.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister Leona Aglukkaq visit the Wilfred Laurier coast guard ship to be briefed on the search for Franklin’s lost expedition in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, August 21, 2013. Photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister Leona Aglukkaq visit the Wilfred Laurier coast guard ship to be briefed on the search for Franklin’s lost expedition in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, August 21, 2013.
Photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper participates in a round of target practice with members of the Canadian Rangers in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, August 21, 2013. Photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper participates in a round of target practice with members of the Canadian Rangers in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, August 21, 2013.
Photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister.

Once again, ladies and gentlemen, I’m delighted to announce today that our government will renew funding for Canada’s geomapping program, an investment sufficient to completely finish the job. In other words, an investment sufficient to create modern regional scale geological maps and data sets for Canada’s entire North. I’m also pleased to tell you that on this very day, geomapping for energy and minerals is releasing 32 new sets of data that reveal Nunavut’s geological wealth. Some of these maps show where gold, silver, cobalt, and diamond and other things may be found…

We’re also publishing new findings on the energy potential of Hudson Bay to our east, and we’re uploading geological data for 11,000 square kilometres of the Duggan Lake area in the west of the Kivalliq region. Industry and the public can access all of this information from their own computers with the click of a mouse.

Now, friends, as I’ve said earlier this week, just having riches in the ground will not on its own secure Northern prosperity. Only the mining jurisdictions with the most efficient regulatory regimes, the most skilled workforces and the most complete geoscience information will succeed and thrive. The extension of the geomapping program is one part of ensuring that Nunavut and the entire Canadian North compete successfully in a very tough international marketplace.

Let me conclude with this: we are committed to the sovereignty of this country as a great Northern nation. We will continue to protect our Northern inheritance, to protect the interests of our Northern peoples, and to build prosperity for the Northern generations yet to come.

And that’s why I’m here, and it is why I will keep coming back.

Thank you.

Qujannamiik.

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Nunavik, Quebec – August 23, 2013

Welcome to all of you who are here with us today…

As the Director has mentioned, this mine is celebrating now 15 years in operation and I understand there are folks here today who have been with this operation from the very start doing a great job. So congratulations to everyone for 15 great years here at Raglan.

As my family and my staff will tell you, my annual trip to Canada’s Far North is one of my favourite activities as Prime Minister. Indeed, this is my second visit to Quebec’s Far North, in Nunavik, and I certainly plan to come back.

Nunavik is the last stop on this, my eighth annual Northern tour, and so this visit to the Raglan Mine is a bit bittersweet as these things always are at the end.

Let me just say that Laureen and I have greatly enjoyed this year’s tour and you can be sure that we will be back across the North once again next year, and for many more years to come.

As always my annual Northern tour is an opportunity to meet Canadians who are committed to growing the economy in the North while protecting the environment, Canadians who are living proof that the North is a place of infinite promise, Canadians who are answering the North’s call to greatness.

Friends, our government’s top priority is well known – the economy and supporting Canadian entrepreneurs who are creating jobs, generating prosperity, and keeping our economy strong for all Canadians from coast to coast to coast. To stimulate the economy, our government has developed the responsible resource development plan, under the responsibility of Minister Oliver. That plan is designed to develop the full potential of our vast natural resources throughout the country.

The major principles of the plan are clear: Reviews of job-creating projects must be foreseeable and have clear time frames. We also need to avoid duplication. Only environmentally friendly projects will go ahead. This plan is also designed to enhance consultations with our Aboriginal peoples.

Present and future generations of Canadians throughout the country will reap the benefits of our plan. Canadians also expect that Canadian resources will be developed with future generations in mind, in ways that make use…sensible use of energy and respect the environment.

That’s why last May I announced that our government would support 55 innovative clean energy projects all over Canada, and one of them is right here at the Raglan Mine. The Eco-Energy Innovation Initiative, a program created two years ago, funds projects that improve our energy efficiency.

And that brings me to the reason we are here today. As you can see when you come to the Far North, isolated communities in the regions and their mines depend on diesel-based energy. Diesel, of course, is a fossil fuel. And that dependency on diesel increases the cost of living. And it hurts the environment.

However, geographic reality can be an obstacle that is an incentive to change. Those communities and those mines are often unable to diversify energy sources. Remote communities and mining operations in the North do remain dependent on diesel based energy generation. The good news is that, thanks to innovative thinking, and with the support of our Government, there may be a better way.

It’s no secret that it can get awfully windy around here…

But the wind power is also…a potentially clean and renewable source of energy. And friends, we hope it’s part of the solution. And that ladies and gentlemen is why our government is pleased to support Tuglik Energy Company and Xstrata Nickel in testing the feasibility of harnessing the wind to power, right here, this highly productive mine. A feasibility study was recently completed and I’ve been told that the results are very promising.

Now ladies and gentlemen, if the technology works here in the way that we hope it will, the implications for power generation across the North are enormous… The proposed new system would generate electricity from a turbine when the wind blows. Any surplus is stored as hydrogen, hydrogen that would then run fuel cells to generate electricity when the wind is not blowing…

That new energy source would lower the cost of living in the Far North and improve the environment. If the project pans out, that new energy source produced by the wind could become an option for many other communities in the Far North.

Since taking office in 2006 our government has taken some significant actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in sustainable energy sources. Processes such as this that could reduce or eliminate the need for diesel generation in so many Northern communities are absolutely consistent with what we hope to achieve. And as you go forward we wish you all the best of luck in what is a very exciting project.

Friends, our government will move forward on responsible economic development for all regions of Canada. Isolated communities in the Far North can count on our government to stimulate their economy through major job-creating projects. And we will do so by consulting with Aboriginal people and seriously and completely assessing the environmental impacts, as set out in our responsible resource development plan.

Thank you everyone. ◉


The Right Honourable Stephen Harper is Canada’s 22nd Prime Minister. He toured the Northern Canadian communities of Whitehorse, Hay River, Gjoa Haven, and Rankin Inlet between August 18 and 22, 2013. He visited the Raglan Mine in Nunavik, Quebec on August 23, 2013.