“Start looking at our remote communities differently”

84

Canadian MoneyTHUNDER BAY – It might be difficult for people in what we call southern Ontario to understand, but Thunder Bay while north of Toronto, is south of Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, and Winnipeg.

However the region is rich in natural resources.

Perrin Beatty, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and Elyse Allan, President and Chief Executive Officer, GE Canada, and Chair of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, released: The Business Case for Investing in Canada’s Remote Communities at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Annual General Meeting in St-John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

As Canada seeks to strengthen its position as a competitive nation in an increasingly global economy, GE Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, undertook the initiative to place a business lens on the economic opportunities, challenges, best practices and business investment intentions in remote communities. During the first half of 2011, GE Canada sought the perspectives of businesspeople through roundtables in communities across Canada and an on online survey. At the same time, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce consulted with several of its members and other stakeholders.

“Canadians have to start looking at our remote communities differently”, stated Beatty. “Our collective economic wellbeing and our international competitiveness could well depend upon the public policies adopted today that leverage the economic possibilities of many of these communities and their potential to contribute to our nation’s wealth”.

“Canada’s remote communities can pack a powerful economic punch. There is great optimism. Business investment combined with progressive public policy will unleash significant opportunities for remote communities and for Canada as a nation.” said Elyse Allan.

MAIN FINDINGS
If all Canadians are to fully benefit from the potential of our remote communities, the federal government must take the lead in developing a long-term strategy that paves the way for remote communities to reap the rewards of economic development. While this long-term work is underway, the Canadian Chamber proposes more immediate measures the federal government-working alone, with the provinces/territories and/or with business-can take to create the policy environment needed to encourage private sector investment in remote communities.

This policy environment needs to include the following:

  • skills and training programs flexible enough to accommodate the economic realities of individual communities and the alternate training models that may be required to deliver effective results in partnership with business whenever possible;
  • effective transition support for those leaving remote communities to pursue studies in urban centres;
  • tools to allow Canadian businesses and stakeholders in remote communities to familiarize themselves with each others’ business practices, governments, agencies, laws and regulations;
  • a reduction in business’ regulatory burden by adopting a standardized “one project-one assessment approach” that harmonizes federal and provincial/territorial statutes and regulations;
  • looking to the possibilities associated with extending broadband telecommunications to remote regions-and business models for delivering the services associated with them-as a model for engaging the private sector in other types of infrastructure construction and services delivery. This includes the government acting as a lead user and creator of demand;
  • assisting stakeholders to pool their resources to address infrastructure gaps through using online tools, pilot projects and considering commercial applications for public infrastructure projects; and
  • addressing the “investment vs. subsidy dilemma” for investing in remote communities. There is the perception that public dollars used to improve infrastructure in remote communities are subsidies.