text version - Senate of Canada

Boosting the Northern Economy
Through Small-scale Science and Technology
By Senator Nick Sibbeston
It has always been my belief that the future of the North depends on the economic and social viability of northern communities.
Canadian sovereignty will be best protected, not by military operations and resource mega-projects, but by the people who make the
North their home, both the Aboriginal people who have survived and thrived for thousands of years, and those more recent arrivals
who have chosen to make the North their home over the last fifty or a hundred years.
Viability is not created by government programs or the occasional infusion of short-term jobs and money in a boom-and-bust
economy. It requires local control and strong local economies that will thrive in the good times and sustain us in the bad. We need
to harness our greatest resource – people – and give youth the opportunity to have a good life without moving to Yellowknife or
southern Canada. Better health care, better education systems, more jobs and more opportunities to go into business will not arrive
by magic. But they might be delivered by small-scale science and appropriate local technologies.
This paper describes some of the real success stories that science and technology have or might soon provide to northern
communities and residents, and lays out a vision of where we might go from here. It is far from complete though I hope over time it
will inspire a more inclusive catalogue. More importantly, I hope it will inspire governments at all levels, businesses, both big and
small, and individuals of all ages and backgrounds to develop their own policies and projects that will use science and technology to
build a better economic and sustainable lifestyle for all citizens of the North.
When people think about northern business opportunities, they’re bound to put mining, oil or gas at the top of the list. Construction
might come next, then maybe transportation or tourism. On the other hand, environmental monitoring, market gardening, renewable
energy, or digital technologies are probably way down the list, if they’re considered at all.
But these unsung sectors of the northern economy hold more promise than we may think. This is in part because of the one thing
they all have in common, that, from a business perspective, offers potentially high returns on investment: science and technology that
can be exploited by northern communities and give a boost to their economies.
This paper profiles selected individuals, businesses, and government initiatives - existing or potential “success stories” – that
illustrate the benefits of harnessing science and technology in support of small-scale economic development. Success in this case is
expressed through the generation or replacement of income, the creation of new jobs, and the promotion of genuine sustainability
that embraces the long-term environmental, social, and economic well-being of northern communities.
The paper closes with a vision and key recommendations, drawn from these success stories, on how best to apply small-scale
science and technology to promote community self-reliance in the face of today’s daunting economic challenges.
“In a sense, every northerner who wishes to live in a sustainable way must become an entrepreneur…Entrepreneurial businesses to
encourage sustainable living can be built around virtually all aspects of our lives, including healing, music, crafts, and art as well as
appropriate technologies, energy efficient building, cogeneration facilities, small-scale manufacturing, and food production.”
David Malcolm, Research, Governance, and Policy for Sustainable Living1
Improved digital communication links
Businesses everywhere have come to depend on the Internet to communicate efficiently, exchange information, do online research,
and market their goods and services. For many years, even the most remote northern communities have been able to access the
Internet but with two business-crippling disadvantages – it’s very slow and expensive.
Small northern companies that, up until recently, depended entirely on dial-up Internet, could wait anywhere from an hour to a day to
download information needed to do business. No wonder their resulting Internet bills easily exceeded $1000 per month. Dial-up
internet was also extremely inconvenient since it hogged the telephone line during downloads, blocking other outside communication
and often meriting the purchase of a second phone line – another cost that could further handicap an already marginal business.
What gives large urban areas in southern Canada the edge on Internet access are fibre-optic connections, which are superior to
copper-wire cable or digital subscriber lines (DSL). Such physically connected networks would be too expensive to install in many of
our small, far-flung communities. In these cases, wireless satellite technology is the most cost-effective way to provide high-speed
broadband Internet service. Realizing this, a handful of northern-based Internet service providers have picked up the broadband ball
and run with it, swinging open the door to new and exciting business opportunities in our most remote communities.
“I support the idea of putting attention on small success stories. One small thing may not do much for our local economy but a
thousand small things can make a big difference.”
Dennis Bevington, Member of Parliament, Western Arctic2
• Techno-hunter
Darrell Ohokannoak, Manager, PolarNet, Cambridge Bay
At the turn of this century, as demand for improved Internet access grew across Nunavut, private Internet providers first shied away
from setting up shop there, stymied by its huge distances and high transportation costs. Fuelled by this demand, the Nunavut
Broadband Development Corporation (NBDC) was formed in 2003, a not-for-profit company meant to encourage Nunavut’s own
private sector to provide affordable high-speed Internet to all its communities.
Among the local entrepreneurs who took up this challenge was Darrell Ohokannoak, Manager of PolarNet, a community service
provider located above the grocery store in Cambridge Bay’s Kitikmeot Centre. Now the chairman of NBDC, Darrell was no stranger
to the economic benefits of improved digital communication, having helped start up Nunavut’s first and only Internet provider in1997.
Though his Internet service opened new economic and social networking possibilities across Nunavut, it was based on the day’s best
technology available, dial-up – slow, unreliable, and costly.
Switching from a dial-up to satellite network in 2004, with the launch of the Qiniq satellite, was a great leap forward for Darrell’s
company. But the Qiniq network that served Nunavut communities was quickly swamped and couldn’t meet the demand. “Before it
was installed,” Darrell told Up Here Business, “our studies projected 2,000 users and it’s at least double that today.” In 2008 the
federal government announced a five-year grant of $21.6M that will help NBDC pay for upgraded satellite connections and more
bandwidth capacity.
Qiniq remains the humming core of this network, now offering high-speed wireless broadband service to every home and business in
Nunavut. Qiniq is managed centrally by another northern digital entrepreneur, SSI Micro, which grew from the banks of the
Mackenzie River in Fort Providence into a global leader in remote and rural connectivity.
PolarNet’s continuing success is built on strong partnerships with other northern service providers like SSI Micro and an unrelenting
quest for improved services. Known in the trade as a “techno-hunter”, Darrell Ohokannoak is always looking for better, faster,
cheaper technologies to boost his bandwidth. “Up here we’re reliant on satellite and the bandwidth we need is extremely, extremely
expensive. We are hoping to buy more bandwidth imminently.” The fruits of Darrell’s quest in turn further strengthen the economic
and social networks among the many far-flung communities he serves.
“Information systems sustain community self-reliance and bring immediate economic benefits.”
Ryan Walker, CEO SSI Micro3
“The measurable economic benefits of increased connectivity are at least four times initial capital outlay.”
IDC Canada4
When we run out of phone calling card, we use the Internet to chat. Three of my kids live in Kugluktuk and it costs lots of money to
go by plane. I wouldn’t want to lose my Internet!
Rosa Aaluk, Gjoa Haven5
• Digital Pioneer6
Tom Zubko, President, New North Networks, Inuvik
When you’re making a living in a remote community, it’s best to have a broad array of skills, or at least the willingness to acquire
them. Tom Zubko has mastered the technique, particularly in the field of communications.
His father, Mike Zubko, came to the Beaufort Delta as a bush pilot in the 1940s, when you were lucky if there was Morse code
between the communities. As a child, Zubko’s fascination with “new and wonderful ideas” saw him experimenting with a germanium
crystal, an antennae and a little jolt of power. “You poke around with a needle on it until you get the right frequency shaping and lo
and behold you have radio.”
Zubko has changed as quickly as the technology. His company, New North Networks, brought dial-up Internet to Inuvik in the early
1980s, cable TV in 1990 and the town’s first broadband Internet in 1996. “We put in digital cellphones in 1999 and a lot of the stuff
we’ve done in the oil patch has been digital,” says Zubko. “Now pretty much everything we do is digital or it will be very soon.”
One of the projects that most excites him now is the Inuvik Satellite Station, an initiative of the Swedish Space Corporation. The SSC
has a global network of satellite dishes that download data from satellites in low-earth orbit, all of which pass over the poles. “If you
were at the North Pole you’d see every one of those satellites as they pass overhead,” says Zubko. “If you were at the equator you’d
see about one out of every 14 because the rest of them would be below the horizon. Inuvik is far enough north that it sees about 70
per cent of them.”
So far the Inuvik facility has two 13-metre satellite dishes, but Zubko says if Inuvik could connect to the south on fiber optic cable, the
industry could be a substantial contributor to the regional economy. “I could see 30 or 40 jobs created over the next 15 years, and the
good thing about this industry is that it’s flat-line,” he says. “It doesn’t go up and down. You put a billion dollar satellite in the sky and
just because the economy changes a bit doesn’t change the fact that it needs to download data.”
• Just one click away7
Worldwide Internet marketing of Tlicho arts and crafts
Type the words ‘Tlicho online store’ into your computer web browser and sit back for a visual feast of native arts and crafts –
traditional handmade moccasins, mitts, birch baskets, caribou skin drums, and baby belts. You’ll also see books by Dene authors,
paintings by local artists, CDs of native musicians, and exquisitely beaded moosehide cases designed to hold your credit cards or
These treasures are created by First Nations people across the Northwest Territories, in particular from the Tlicho region, which
encompasses the communities of Bechoko, Gamètì, Wekweètì, and Whatì. Only one of these isolated communities has year round
road access. Yet their mostly handmade products, some with price tags as high as $1000, are delivered via express mail to
customers and collectors around the world thanks to the power and reach of Internet marketing.
Unlike most web-based retailers, the purpose of the Tlicho online store is more than just to sell stuff. It was launched in 2009 by the
Tlicho Investment Corporation with one overriding goal: “to discover, preserve, recreate and celebrate the cultural heritage of the
North, and the Tlicho First Nation in particular.”
On the store’s Facebook page8, beside featured products and new releases, you might find an invitation to a youth handgame
tournament, a training video on how to bead moccasins, or a time-tested recipe for making bannock. In a very real sense, this nativeowned and operated business is successfully marketing a proud people and lifestyle as much as unique and beautiful products.
The hundreds of visitors to the store’s Facebook page include a Swedish shamanic healer, an Inuktitut-speaking graduate student in
Oklahoma, a biotechnologist from Calcutta, India with a hankering for moosehide moccasins, and a woman from Kentucky who
simply wrote, “I love this store!”
The store also has close ties to several world-class institutions that celebrate native arts and culture such as the Smithsonian
National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C., New Mexico’s Indian Arts Research Center, and the Milwaukee Public
Museum, which holds one of the largest collections of Tlicho artifacts in the U.S.
With on-the-ground storefronts in Bechoko and Yellowknife, the Tlicho are offering the best of both worlds to local and global markets
while strengthening their artistic traditions, culture and economy.
“We specialize in products from the Northwest Territories. We state where our products are made and by whom. It benefits people in
the North, it’s promoting people in the North and it’s promoting traditional arts and crafts.”
Giselle Marion, Manager, Tlicho Online Store
• NorthwesTel Modernization Plan
Enhanced broadband services for all northern communities
In the past couple of years, NorthwestTel, the North’s largest telecommunications provider, has taken great strides in bringing highspeed digital services to communities across the North.
In December 2010, the company announced its plan to significantly upgrade bandwidth capacity in the isolated community of Old
Crow. With funding support from the Yukon and federal governments, this upgrade greatly improved Old Crow’s access to distance
learning, tele-health, and online business opportunities. In March 2012, NorthwesTel upgraded satellite capacity to Iqaluit, which
resulted in a 20% increase in bandwidth for high-speed Internet users. In June 2012 the company announced the completion of its
fibre optic line to the south, which now directly connects Yellowknife to Edmonton. This new fibre link allows data transfer across one
uninterrupted cable – which formerly ended on both sides of the Mackenzie River – offering higher speeds, quicker downloads, and
seamless streaming to homes and businesses in Yellowknife, Fort Providence, Bechoko, and Dettah.
For all of these lucky communities, such upgrades strengthen business and social networks while providing residents with better
access to valuable online resources. But what about more far-flung communities like Łutsel K'e, Aklavik, or Ulukhaktok where access
to the Internet is often very slow, unreliable, and costly?
NorthwesTel has upgrade plans for them too. Prompted by the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission, or
CRTC, the company released an ambitious modernization plan in July 2012, calling for a $270 million infrastructure investment that
would bring high-speed Internet and advanced wireless services to all of northern Canada. Under the proposal submitted to the
CRTC, consumers and businesses in 96 communities – from northern BC to Baffin Island – would have received access to next
generation 3G/4G wireless and wireless broadband services, the ability to use the latest handsets, smartphones and tablets, as well
as high-speed Internet even in the smallest hamlet. Such new services and tools could revolutionize the way remote communities do
business. “For the vast majority of Northern communities, these capabilities simply do not exist,” says NorthwesTel president and
CEO, Paul Flaherty.9 A significant portion of this plan was to be funded as part of Bell Canada’s commitments under their bid to
purchase Astral Media. The impact of the CRTC’s refusal to authorize that purchase on NorthwesTel’s plan is as yet unknown.
In small communities, the ultimate measure of success for this kind of upgrade will be the price tag. “[NorthwesTel is] focusing on
building local wireless infrastructure,” says Dean Proctor, chief development officer for SSi Group, a Yellowknife-based Internet
service provider, “but they have not focused on how to make bandwidth affordable.”10
Higher speeds don’t necessarily translate into higher prices, according to NorthwesTel’s communication manager, Emily Younker.
“People are still responsible on how much data they use. [These upgrades] mean what they are downloading will be available more
An approved and affordable upgrade plan could help launch small northern communities into hitherto unimagined or impossible
business opportunities unleashed by faster, more efficient telecommunication among themselves and the wider world.
This represents a tremendous opportunity for Northerners – and indeed for all Canadians who will be connected with the North as
never before.
Paul Flaherty, President and CEO of NorthwesTel12
• Fibre is the Future
Katloddeechee First Nation (KFN) Optical Network
Not everyone is waiting for TeleCom or large government initiatives to improve broadband service in the Northwest Territories. At
KFN, under the leadership of Lyle Fabian, they’ve taken great strides in improving their access to the Internet and taking advantage
of the technologies that improved connectivity brings.
“When I began looking at our system in 2006,” says Fabian, “every workstation had its own printer, its own phone line and its own
Internet account.”13 They were also reliant on external contractors for their network maintenance and website development. By
switching to a central account and linking all the stations through wireless routers, the First Nation was able to dramatically reduce its
hardware and Internet costs – to the tune of $40,000 a year.
Building on that and with the support of a grant from CanNor, between 2009 and 2011 KFN trained their own technicians, linked all
their buildings in a secure wireless network and installed a server to provide back-up. They also developed teleconferencing
capabilities and, most importantly, undertook a feasibility study into creating an optical fibre network.
The results were astounding. Administration travel costs, through the use of teleconferencing and Skype, fell from an average of
more than $120K a year to less than $40k in the first year of use and further to $20K in 2012. “Those resources could now be used
for other priorities,” said Fabian. “Moreover the reduced stress on our leadership from travel means they have more time to address
local concerns while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.”
Dramatically increased information transfer speeds meant more efficient on-reserve operations leading to other cost savings. CanNor
was so excited by these results they agreed to help fund the next step, the construction of community optical fibre network to replace
the wireless system. Working with Keewatin Career Development Corporation and Earth Visions Systems, they designed and built a
fibre network and developed community-based programs for Cisco Certification to train the technicians to build, maintain and utilize
it. With two more servers driving the network, local transfer speeds now reach 1GB/sec, hundreds of times faster than anything else
in the North.
“Our limitation remains the copper-wire based DSL from the community to NorthwestTel’s fibre optic link just 12 kilometres away,”
says Fabian, adding that, if all goes according to plan in 2013, they will run another optical cable to close that gap and obtain true
broadband connections to the rest of the world. The benefits are huge in terms of improved health care, education for people in the
community – both K-12 and post secondary – and improved administration. The most exciting thing for Fabian is the tremendous
economic opportunities fibre brings. KFN could open its own data centre to become an Internet Service Provider (ISP) or to lease to
businesses off-reserve. More importantly it will open up a whole range of entrepreneurial opportunities for the next generation to
build home e-businesses.
But why stop there? Fabian dreams of one day connecting directly to Alberta SuperNet at Meander River to provide real northern
competition in cell and broadband services. If KFN, why not other communities in the Deh Cho or Sahtu? “Fibre is the future,” says
Fabian, “and that future can and should be owned by the Aboriginal people of the North. England, China and South Korea are
spending billions to tap into their greatest renewable resource – their people – and we need to do the same.”
Just as changes in pulse, blood pressure, and body temperature are important indicators of personal health, trends in wildlife, fish,
plants, water, permafrost, and other key parts of the environment express how the land is doing in response to natural or humancaused impacts. Keeping track of these changes, and adjusting how the land is managed, are what environmental monitoring is all
Issues such as altered water quantity and quality, melting terrain, or unhealthy fish are of great importance to residents of small
northern communities. By directly participating in environmental monitoring, they can contribute their traditional and local knowledge
to help understand what’s causing these changes while benefiting from the employment generated by this growing industry.
“Thanks to recent advances in technology, communities can now do a lot more in the field that would have been impossible in the old
days,” says Andrew Applejohn, Science Advisor for GNWT’s Department of Energy and Natural Resources (ENR). These advances
include long-term data loggers, integrated multi-meters, and super-sensitive probes that can detect very specific ions or gases in
solution. “These kinds of tests used to automatically be farmed out to southern consultants and southern labs,” Applejohn says. “A lot
more can now be done by local people right in the field.”14
Besides improved accuracy and sensitivity, this equipment is increasingly portable, durable, and simpler to operate having been
designed exclusively for the field, as opposed to being lab equipment that’s simply been adapted for field use.
The evolution of field monitoring technology is helping to better answer important questions about environmental change in the North
while opening up new opportunities for community capacity-building and local employment.
“The spread of community-based water monitoring through the NWT came about primarily as a result of improvements in technology.
There’s no need to fly in consultants or rush every sample out to some distant lab like we used to. Trained northerners can do a lot
more here.”
Ray Case, Assistant Deputy Minister, ENR15
• Home-grown research & monitoring projects
Cumulative Impacts Monitoring Program (CIMP)
The Cumulative Impacts Monitoring Program, or CIMP, supports scientific research and monitoring programs that address land and
water issues of vital importance to northerners. Guided by a northern-based working group, this federally sponsored initiative
promotes a shared approach to monitoring that puts community priorities in the forefront. Among those priorities, regardless of what
local people feel should be monitored, is the shared desire to be directly involved in the planning and implementation of fieldwork.
One of the stated goals of CIMP is to “encourage and support community-based monitoring, capacity building, and training.”16
Funded through a 25 million dollar federal Action Plan to Improve Northern Regulatory Regime, CIMP has been a significant driver in
expanding the environmental monitoring industry in the NWT.
Since 1999, the program has funded several hundred small-scale projects through an annual competitive process open to regulators,
industry, academics, and communities. No matter who initiates the project, opportunities for community involvement, training, and
employment are key factors in the selection of projects to be funded.
These projects typically cover a range of topics such as aquatic systems, on-the-land training, traditional knowledge, landscape
change, fish and wildlife studies, and climate change. A good example of a CIMP-funded project that directly supported community
capacity-building was the 2009 Little Buffalo River Water Quality Program. Delivered in Fort Resolution and Fort Smith, this program
offered professional hands-on training in the science and techniques of in-field water monitoring.
Similar training courses have been delivered to participants in the Inuvialuit region, focusing on a wide variety of monitoring protocols
related to snow, ice, permafrost, vegetation, aquatic health, animal tracking, and climate change. Some graduates of these courses
are, in turn, employed in the regular checking of community-based monitoring sites established near Aklavik, Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk.
CIMP is planning more monitoring courses for other regions of the NWT. Program staff view the monitoring sites set up in the
Inuvialuit region as a possible template for similar sites across the NWT. Together, such initiatives are helping to create a skilled
cadre of community-based monitors ready to serve the needs of government and industry while giving a boost to local economies.
The information collected through the NWT CIMP is important and relevant to Northerners, therefore the program is largely guided by
the expertise and efforts of northern residents.
NWT Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program17
We notice that science splits things up by topic. Traditional Knowledge can help bring things together.
Douglas Esagok, Inuvik18
• Award-winning team of field experts
Canada North Environmental Services Ltd., La Ronge, Saskatchewan
Canada North Environmental Services – or CanNorth – is 100% owned by the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, located in north-central
Saskatchewan and one of the largest First Nations in Canada. This is a company that prides itself on scientific and technical integrity,
specializing in environmental monitoring, impact assessment, field data collection, fish and wildlife studies and vegetation surveys.
CanNorth’s team includes local employees from the Band’s six communities who are trained in the fields of ecology, hydrology,
toxicology, planning, and community liaison. They work in partnership with industry, government, and other First Nations to ensure
that the best science and traditional knowledge are brought to bear in all their projects, whether sampling fish species in a small
creek or assessing the impacts of uranium mining.
Environmental monitoring is just one of the many business arms of the Kitsaki Management Limited Partnership, a First Nation
development company that serves more than 8,000 members of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band. One of Kitsaki’s core principles is
that profitability and sustainability must go hand-in-hand. Maximizing both job and training opportunities is fundamental to this
company’s long-term vision of building local capacity and independence. Besides CanNorth, it manages a diverse network of other
businesses including Northern Lights Foods which harvests, processes, and markets organic wild rice to kitchens around the world.
One measure of CanNorth’s success is the host of international awards this unique company has won for quality management and
environmental stewardship. CanNorth serves a wide range of clients, from some of the world’s largest mining and energy companies
to local communities and municipalities. The company’s unique blend of scientific expertise, traditional land-based skills, and its
commitment to training and local economic benefits make it the “go-to” company of choice whenever development projects, big or
small, are proposed for this remote but resource-rich region of Saskatchewan.
“CanNorth offers the technical skills and knowledge to deliver solutions for managing environmental risk in ways that benefit the
client, satisfy regulatory requirements, as well as First Nations people and local communities through employment, training,
experience, and economic benefits.”
CanNorth video19
New research centres could push back scientific and economic frontiers
• Fresh hub for Arctic science
Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS), Cambridge Bay
During his seventh annual Northern Tour in August 2012, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced support for the construction and
operation of a multimillion-dollar facility for northern science and technology, the Canadian High Arctic Research Station or CHARS.
To be completed in 2017, this year-round facility is intended to serve as a regional hub for northern research that supports
environmental stewardship and resource development. Harper is touting CHARS as a pivotal piece of his government's Northern
strategy, helping to position Canada as a global leader in Arctic science and technology. Other goals include demonstrating
sovereignty over Canada’s high arctic, and promoting strong, healthy communities throughout the region.
Anticipated economic benefits of the project include between 35 and 50 seasonal, part-time and full-time staff that will work at the
station. Construction of the station alone is expected to generate up to 150 jobs locally, across the North, and in more specialized
sectors in other parts of Canada. When CHARS opens its doors it will receive an annual operating budget of $26.5 million plus $46
million over the next six years to develop its science and research programs.
Harper’s funding announcement came as his government faced criticism from scientists that it is choking support for research
elsewhere in Canada, including the High Arctic. This year’s federal budget cut funding for a leading Arctic research station in Eureka
on the west coast of Ellesmere Island. The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory, or PEARL, depended on an annual
federal grant of $5.5 million to focus on Arctic climate change and sea ice depletion – two research topics of great importance to
Northerners. Harper emphasized that his intent is not to curtail such research but bring it closer to communities that can benefit from
both the increased knowledge and economic benefits.
Will Northerners get a chance to shape CHAR’s science and technology agenda while taking full advantage of new economic
opportunities? Most definitely, according to the federal government’s promise to “continue stakeholder engagement” throughout the
next two years as the station is designed and program priorities are determined. It plans to do this through advisory committees,
technical working groups, and ongoing input from academic, Aboriginal, territorial, and industry representatives.
The federal government has also promised to work closely with the host community of Cambridge Bay and the Nunavut Government
on local issues such as the best way to integrate CHARS into the hamlet’s existing footprint, forge business partnerships, and
maximize employment and training opportunities for the local labour force.
Construction of the facility is to begin in 2013 with the arrival of the first barges into Cambridge Bay, loaded high with building
materials and the promise of new economic prosperity for the region.
"[CHARS was] what we were hoping for and our wish came true. It will mean employment opportunities for our residents and future
employment for our youths in the science and technology program."
Jeannie Ehaloak, Mayor of Cambridge Bay20
“This new station will undertake science and technology (S&T) research that will support the responsible development of Canada’s
North, inform environmental stewardship, and enhance the quality of life of Northerners and all Canadians.”
Steven Harper, Prime Minister of Canada21
"The community is honoured to have been selected as the home of CHARS and impressed with how the project is unfolding. It has
been such an open process dealing with federal representatives from Ottawa, who come up and consult with our local Elders and
businesses and involve us in a meaningful way. It's just been great.”
Jim MacEachern, Economic Development Officer, Cambridge Bay22
• Blending science, education and business under one roof
NWT Science and Technology Park (NSAT), Yellowknife
It would be one of those, “Build it and they will come,” scenarios, or so David Livingstone believes. Former INAC Director of
Renewable Resources and Development, Livingstone is one of the originators of the NWT Science and Technology Park (NSAT)
As conceived in a 2008 study prepared for the City of Yellowknife, the vision first calls for the co-location of government and nongovernment organizations devoted to furthering science and technology in the NWT. This would then serve as a catalyst for a more
fully developed NWT Science and Technology Park. Proposed for the abandoned Miramar-Con mine site in Yellowknife, the park
would include three main buildings:
• NWT Life Sciences Centre – accommodate federal and Territorial bodies responsible for programs related to science and
technology, and environmental stewardship.
• Centre for Innovation & Applied Technology – support businesses and non-governmental organizations offering technology
products and services to the public and industry.
• NWT Research Laboratory – provide laboratory, teaching, and office services to government, academics, and industry undertaking
scientific research or monitoring.
The rationale for such a facility goes like this. Science is a largely untapped growth industry in the North due to a lack of welldeveloped capacity and infrastructure. NSAT would create a nucleus for northern science in Yellowknife to help serve the
educational and technical needs of outlying communities which, in turn, would help them capitalize on related economic
As it is, a lot of these opportunities are lost to the south according to Livingstone. “It’s another case of northerners not benefiting from
the exploitation of their own resources, in this case, science. Scientists come north, they use us as a research platform, then take off.
They’re extracting all the educational and economic spinoffs right out from under us.” The solution to this drain on our knowledge,
brains, and dollars? “It’s time to start manufacturing our science in the North,” Livingstone suggests.23
Former Mayor of Yellowknife, Gordon VanTighem agrees. He was part of the government, non-government, and academic study
team that put the original NSAT concept together. “Just look at our need for mining reclamation alone. We have no home-grown
scientific or technical capacity to deal with it. No training programs. We could be a centre for excellence in mine reclamation. We
could export our expertise elsewhere. I’m a big promoter of the hub and node concept. The whole North could benefit.”24
The 2008 study admits that, based solely on risk/return on investment, NSAT presents “considerable challenges” as a stand-alone
commercial enterprise. It also cites the lack of a shared vision among potential partners, and the limited presence of scientific
institutions or human resources as “strategic risks.”
David Livingstone is convinced that with the right mix of government, academic, and private dollars, along with strong political
leadership, the long-term benefits of this project would far outweigh the costs.
Predicted benefits include capacity building – particularly in small communities – economic diversification, jobs, and direct income.
Other compelling benefits could include reducing dependence on southern scientific technical services, expanding the northern
scientific knowledge base, and strengthening ties with southern organizations that provide training and careers in science.
Livingstone notes that a lot of northern scientific research is funded by federal dollars which usually flow due south. NSAT could go
along way in reversing that flow, he believes, putting those dollars into the hands of northerners. “There is a solid business case for
NSAT if we start small, always keep the big picture in mind, and get the right players to collaborate. Once we build the baseball
stadium, the games will be played.”
A NWT Science and Technology Park in Yellowknife will demonstrate the NWT’s commitment to developing and applying innovative
technological solutions; to using science to address the NWT’s economic, technological and environmental challenges; and to
reinforcing principles of environmental and community stewardship.
NSAT Business Case Analysis25
“Every challenge can be addressed if there’s a political champion who steps forward and says, “Let’s get this done.””
David Livingstone
New approaches to cold climate agriculture
A recent editorial in News/North suggests that complaining about the cost of food is a Northern pastime, sparked by prices that can
be double, even triple what consumers pay in the south. A head of cabbage for $28, one green pepper for $6 – such prices sparked
several food price protests across Nunavut during the summer of 2012. Residents of remote NWT communities are no strangers to
this kind of grocery store sticker shock.
Besides lost income, the high cost of non-local foods contributes to other problems such as diet-related diseases like obesity and
diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, and generally poor levels of health. These conditions in turn draw down already strained health
budgets, which can strike at the very heart of a community’s sustainability.
Some point to government food subsidies as the answer to ever-spiralling prices. But, as the same editorial points out, “we need to
stop looking for government help and start finding more innovative solutions to our food security issues.” 26
As the following case studies show, creative applications of science and technology can point the way to these solutions before it’s
too late.
“Armed with the proper information, a savvy entrepreneur could turn what is currently a green hobby into a thriving business venture.
Add a little technology, such as hydroponics, and the NWT could be growing food all year round.”
News North editorial27
• From forest to farm
Indian Summers Market Garden and Greenhouse, Hay River
What Hay River market gardener, Jackie Milne, manages to grow from our cold, sour, nutrient-poor soils is nothing short of amazing.
But she would be the first to insist that any northern gardener could do the same given a little time, passion, knowledge, and an
appropriate mix of small-scale farming technology.
With the unflagging support from her husband and three children, Jackie has converted approximately one acre of boreal forest and
roadside ditch into a food production operation that could rival small farms much farther south.
Using a small plot intensive – or SPIN – approach to producing food, she grows a wide array of cold-hardy crops in abundance. In
the spring she takes all kinds of salad greens, spinach, and green onions to the weekly market at Fisherman’s Wharf. In summer it’s
radishes, beets, kale, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, turnips, potatoes, leeks, parsnips, and a variety of squashes. By fall she is filling up
her storeroom with produce for winter sales: over a thousand pounds of potatoes, plus hundreds of pounds of carrots, parsnips,
turnips, leeks, and cabbages.
For all her efforts, Jackie takes away about $500 a week from the market at Hay River’s Fisherman’s Wharf. As for saving money,
she tends a separate pizza-shaped garden plot that will soon meet virtually all the needs of her family – about 150 pounds of fresh
vegetables per adult per month. They eat their own vegetables throughout the winter thanks to all the canning, blanching, and
freezing Jackie does plus their climate-controlled cold storage room and root cellar. She plans to push her growing envelope well into
the winter, growing 10 pounds of fresh salad greens a week in her solar greenhouse.
What role does technology have in the success of Jackie’s small farm? It is definitely part of the formula, especially with respect to
minimizing dollars spent on costly fossil fuels and construction materials. But none of this is rocket science.
Every building on site, from the handsome new barn to the greenhouse, is heated by a high-efficiency boiler system that gasifies
wood cut from their own property. Most buildings are wrapped in a unique insulation-vapour barrier system, called Prodex, that is
both economical and thermally efficient. Some outbuildings are insulated with papercrete, a cheap, strong, fire-resistant, construction
material made on site in a simple cement-mixer from pulped paper, cement and soil.
Jackie’s energy-efficient greenhouse, which serves as nursery for her impressive vegetable gardens, is equipped with LED grow
lights and heat-trapping plastic windows that extend Jackie’s growing season by two months. “I can get two crops from the garden
when most people in the North are happy getting one.”28
To ensure safe storage of her root crops, Jackie installed a Coolbot thermal regulator in her storeroom that “tricks” a standard air
conditioner to hold the temperature at around 50C, perfect for long-term preservation of produce. This simple $40 device, designed
by a farmer, saved her thousands of dollars that would otherwise have been spent on a commercial refrigeration unit to do the same
job. In winter Jackie keeps the room above freezing with a simple low wattage food dehydrator.
When it comes to food processing, Jackie supplements her kitchen stove with a solar oven capable of rising to 3500C with only a few
minutes of subarctic sunshine. She also uses this unit as a high efficiency food dehydrator. For processing that requires boiling or
sterilization, she leans on a portable gasification unit that efficiently burns wood at very high temperatures. The resulting biochar
residue is mixed with sand, clay and compost to convert impoverished local soils into a nutrient-rich growing medium for vegetables.
Jackie Milne may be known as a grow-your-own evangelist. But she combines her unbridled passion for food self-sufficiency with a
clear-eyed pragmatism, employing technology that is appropriately scaled to her needs to help realize the goal of feeding her family –
and her wallet – year round.
"The essentials, the absolute essentials. We have to have the ability to produce those where we are and I am completely convinced
that we can 100 per cent feed ourselves.”
Jackie Milne, Market gardener, Hay River29
• Meals on wheels
Mobile community-kitchen, Territorial Farmers Association, Hay River
The Territorial Farmers Association (TFA) is banking on their new mobile community kitchen to help northern farmers stretch their
hard-earned harvest. Set to roll this year, the project aims to help food growers learn how to preserve the goods they produce and
encourage more local food production.
The entire mobile kitchen fits neatly into an 8x24-foot truck trailer and is towable by a three-quarter-ton truck. It is equipped with a
fridge, stove, and all other appliances found in a typical commercial kitchen. Its innovative power system allows it to operate off-grid
with a self-sufficient propane generator or with standard wiring to plug in to an electrical grid when available.
TFA’s executive director Andrew Cassidy has high hopes for this convenient package of culinary technology. "With this kitchen, what
we're hoping to do is be able to travel from community to community doing workshops on food preservation, which is kind of the next
step in becoming more food resilient – how to make your products last throughout the year.”30
As a fully-inspected commercial kitchen, any food processed in the mobile unit will be able to be sold to local stores, restaurants, or
farmer’s market. “The value added benefits of processing food can be enormous,” Cassidy says.31 “For instance an 8 pound head of
home-grown lettuce might fetch $5 to $7 at the Fisherman’s Wharf market, whereas a fancy coleslaw made from it could yield $40.”
Of course not every northern gardener will necessarily want to sell their produce to make money. Many do it to save money on
expensive store-bought produce or simply for the health and lifestyle benefits.
The ability to produce commercial-grade food products in the NWT will showcase the potential for northern agriculture and help ease
residents' reliance on grocery store products, even in winter. "If we can get more people growing food, then figuring out how to make
it last beyond the fall – through canning, blanching and freezing – we're making our communities a lot more self-sufficient, a lot more
TFA received financial help for its mobile kitchen from the GNWT's Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) through an
agricultural infrastructure fund meant to help northerners produce more of their own meats, fruits, and vegetables.
The kitchen’s unique mobility and simple but certified technology will be key to its success as a pilot project. Current plans call for a
series of workshops in Hay River area with the kitchen as a centerpiece. Down the road – literally – it will likely go to other
communities farther afield. Cassidy sees no reason why it could not soon host workshops in the Deh Cho and North Slave regions.
"Being that it's a mobile thing,” says Mike Maher, an economic development officer with ITI, “it can go to any community in the South
Slave. If it's a model that works, then it can be reproduced in other regions as well.”32
"I think any time you can diversify an economy and increase accessibility to fresh fruits and vegetables or just food – locally-grown
food of any sort – that's a huge benefit for the entire territory.”
Mike Maher, Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment33
• AgNorth
Bringing Martian food production technology back to Earth
When it comes to growing food, what do Mars and Canada’s Arctic have in common? Extreme cold, weak sunlight, lack of plant
nutrients, ridiculous fuel costs, and huge distances to reliable food sources. In spite of these daunting challenges, astronauts
spending months camped out on Mars will have to grow all of their own food. Some day, so might we in the North.
A team of engineers and agricultural experts at the University of Guelph’s Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility
(CESRF) has pioneered food production systems designed to meet the challenges of space travel. Their innovative designs for selfcontained, high-efficiency “horticultural growth chambers” have been adopted by space programs around the world including the
Canadian Space Agency, NASA, and the European Space Agency.
Now, imagine bringing that space-age technology back to Earth, allowing remote northern communities to grow most of their own
food all year round. Sound far-fetched? The scientists at CESRF would tell you, “We have the technology.” They call the initiative
The vision, spearheaded in the North by Inuvik’s Aurora Research Institute (ARI), calls for modular food production systems that
would fit into a standard 12 metre shipping container to simplify distribution to northern communities. The system itself would be
similar to food production chambers that use advanced life support technology including soil-less hydroponics, spectrally tuned LED
lights designed to enhance plant photosynthesis, special climate control sensors, and a super-insulated envelope designed for
extreme cold. The total package promises to produce “a full complement of vegetable crops necessary for a balanced nutritional diet
on the Moon or in Northern communities.”
ARI’s proposal aims to move this project from the conceptual to implementation phase. In November 2012 the Canadian Northern
Economic Development Agency (CanNor) in Yellowknife granted funding for further design work plus analysis of market and
economic factors to bring this technology North. The next step will be to build a full-scale made-for-the-North model on the University
of Guelph campus. If successful this model would in turn be used to develop a pilot demonstration facility in a northern community.
The team’s first commercial partner, Bouwa Whee Catering, a subsidiary of the Det’on Cho Corporation, already has plans to
develop modular farms to feed remote mine sites across the North.
Besides helping to reduce Northerners’ dependency on costly imported food, the AgNorth initiative could provide sustainable jobs
associated with food production, processing, and distribution. The best-case scenario envisions over 20 major production sites in
Northern Canada, each generating annual revenues of $2.5 to 5 million. If this initiative really takes off, Northerners may one day be
exporting this technology to other parts of Canada and beyond, where people face similar issues of sustainable food production.
“We have a vision to adapt technologies, initially developed for space exploration, to high efficiency food production systems,
improving food security and community health in the North…. By growing food year round we will be providing a new class of stable
full-time horticultural jobs and food security for isolated communities.”
Aurora Research Institute proposal34
• GNWT energy conversion initiatives
According to the GNWT’s 2009 State of Environment Report, the use of petroleum products in the NWT is increasing by an
astonishing 10 per cent each year, a demand which continues to rise in spite of soaring costs. Northerners are particularly sensitive
to oil pricing since, as it rises, so do our costs for all the essentials shipped from far away including groceries, clothing, building
materials, and fuel itself.
With global oil demand outstripping projected supply, northerners must brace for a turbulent ride as prices inevitably spiral upwards –
and not just for oil, but for all the things it provides us. To renewable energy advocate Bob Bromley, the solution is obvious:
significantly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels through aggressive conservation programs, much greater energy efficiency, and
renewable energy development.
Bromley calls for changing the way northerners create energy, particularly in remote communities where fuelling and maintaining
diesel generators cause increasing strain on local economies. “The solution to high energy costs is the switch to renewable energy –
proven technologies such as hydro, biomass, waste heat recovery and geothermal.” 35
“There’s nothing theoretical about community-based renewable energy solutions,” Bromley says. “They’re commonplace in
Scandinavia, where they provide reliable, cost-efficient heat and power to small markets, as well as creating skilled local employment
and investment opportunities.”36 Citing Scandinavian energy conversion projects, he suggests that northerners could expect
reasonable payback times, increased local employment, substantial investment opportunities, enhanced safety from volatile energy
pricing, and a reduced cost of living.
According to Bromley, two keys are needed – one policy, the other technology – to unlock community-level conversion to renewable
energy. The policy component calls for a government requirement for power corporations to purchase renewable energy at a fixed,
relatively high price, or feed-in tariff. This promotes a move away from a system largely based on maximizing power consumption of
imported expensive fuels, to one focused on more efficient use of power generated from local renewable fuels, for instance from a
simple rooftop solar panel or wind generator.
The technology key is a “smart grid”. This uses digital smartphone technology and software to measure the flow of energy in both
directions – in and out of a building – depending on whether it is being produced or consumed. The software adjusts appliances and
energy sources to use or sell energy at times of day when it is either cheapest or most valuable, whichever gives the greatest
economic benefit to the user.
Though the GNWT still has a way to go before embracing such political and technological advances, it is moving forward on several
fronts to convert to renewable energy systems – while helping northerners realize the associated economic benefits. Some of its
flagship accomplishments include an aggressive conversion of government facilities to biomass (wood pellet) heat, the adoption of a
biomass energy strategy, and ongoing investment and research into solar, wind and geothermal systems that our best suited to our
northern climate and economy.
“When we plan continuing dependence on fossil fuels we are planning for now. When we plan for renewables we are planning for
from now on.”
Bob Bromley, MLA Weledeh37
• Mining as a catalyst for small businesses
How important are multi-billion dollar mining companies like BHP Billiton, De Beers and Diavik Diamond Mines in seeding small
businesses in remote communities? Very important, according to Tom Hoefer, Executive Director of the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of
Mines. He can point to over 50 Aboriginal businesses that have been created as a result of diamond mining alone.
The wide variety of sectors included in these businesses includes security, land and air transportation, drilling, construction,
environmental monitoring, catering, expediting, medical and first aid services, training, and conferencing, to name a few.
Hoefer sees the NWT as moving through an evolutionary process with diamond mines helping to kick off a new era of widespread
employment in jobs that will last around 20 years. “Industry creates jobs and business opportunities, which elevate the standard of
living for communities and provide new skills which they will be able to put to use creatively.”38
Between 1998 and 2010 diamond mining in the NWT created a northern workforce of 17,400 person-years, over half of which went
to Aboriginal residents. Hoefer notes that the number of primary jobs created by mining is in excess of original forecasts for that
same 12-year period – to the tune of over 400 additional jobs. “That’s good news,” he says.
Precise employment data on secondary businesses spawned by the mining industry is less clear. However a good indicator of
dollars flowing into communities can be found in a recent financial overview prepared by the Tlicho Investment Corporation which
manages several community-based companies that have close ties to the mining industry. The Corporation’s numbers show
generally rising annual revenues that reach above $120 million.
Though optimistic about the continued transfer of dollars, skills, and technology from mining to small local businesses, Hoefer
identifies several challenges. Training is one of them. “I personally think some entrepreneurship training in schools and colleges
might be a good next step to get people to believe they can create their own businesses.”
On the technology front, Hoefer sees the current lack of up-to-date mobile phone capability and high-speed broadband links as
hindrances to the local business development in many communities. In some cases, diamond companies, in meeting their own
telecommunication needs, have invested in extending broadband coverage in remote areas such as along the Arctic Coast, which in
turn has benefitted local communities. If Newmont Mining’s Hope Bay gold property is developed, the company has concrete plans to
extend coverage, which could help subsidize an improved broadband link to Cambridge Bay.
Besides such direct spinoffs, the simple routine of having a regular job at a mine can help sow business savvy and an
entrepreneurial spirit that will help sustain communities when the mines close. “This gives many families the first chance at having a
breadwinner going to work regularly and being a mentor for the family. That kind of empowerment is going to help communities
"There's no better role modeling than seeing mom and dad go to work."
Chief Darcy Bear, Whitecap, Saskatchewan, Dakota First Nation39
Change is inevitable though often unpredictable. History is full of examples of smart people unable to see the economic
transformations on the horizon and adapt to new opportunities. As recently as five years ago leaders in communications technology
derided the idea of hand-held devices operating with touch screens instead of keyboards.40 Now they’re scrambling not to be left in
the dust.
Change is coming to the north – changes in our economy and climate, changes in the way we live our lives, or don’t, in the many
small communities scattered across the upper third of Canada. Boom and bust resource development have brought jobs and
opportunities to many while leaving others farther behind. What is true for individuals is also true for communities. Yellowknife and
communities close to major developments prosper while small remote communities suffer 50% or higher unemployment and young
people have few economic options other than migration.
Sustaining viable economic communities is critical to maintaining our social structures, our cultures and, for Canada, our place in the
Arctic. The rapid diminishment of sea ice over the pole is opening the north to all sorts of opportunities for resource development at
the same time as it threatens traditional economies. On the international scale, negotiations and agreements reached through the
Arctic Council and the International Law of the Sea will be an important way to assert Canada’s sovereignty but, ultimately, it will be
the ability of northern communities to thrive that will establish our strongest claim in Arctic territories.
At the moment, the Northwest Territories is stuck in a time warp, relying on technologies and infrastructures that were out-of-date a
decade ago. Many communities rely on diesel for their electricity supply; areas that once could supply most of their own food now
depend on poorly working subsidies to stock the shelves of local stores; digital service is expensive, unreliable and operates at
speeds that southern communities would find laughable and infuriating. Non-renewable resource development remains – as it has
for nearly eight decades – the prime driver of northern GDP. Jobs and businesses come and go at the whim of world commodity
No doubt mining, oil and gas will continue to play a huge role in northern communities because they play a huge role in Canada’s
economy. Things have certainly improved since the days when companies would arrive in the north to exploit a resource, creating
short-term local economic benefits (and often long-term environmental headaches) while exporting the vast majority of wealth. Now,
most developments don’t simply create a few local jobs and spin-offs but result in long-term careers, capacity building and business
growth. Most profits still go south but few could argue northerners don’t receive substantial long-term benefits in the process. Still
when gas fields are depleted and mines close, those benefits may diminish and fade.
What is the alternative? Making use of science and technological advancements which are affordable and community appropriate is
one way. Whether wealth creating – through jobs and business – or cost saving by replacing expensive and often inferior imports,
technology that pays for itself over the short to medium term makes economic sense but often needs a boost through government
policy, investment or both. It also needs northern entrepreneurs who realize that with a little hard work and ingenuity (and well-honed
skills developed through programs such as the new entrepreneurship training program in Fort Simpson41), every community can
increase its self-sufficiency. Technology, which fits the needs of the situation and the community in terms of scale, complexity, and
most important, maintainability, needs to be sought out and exploited. One size, as always, doesn’t fit all.
Most importantly, we need, through education, training and targeted incentives, to create the ability of local people to adapt
technology to their own needs, permitting new uses and improved technology that leads to real wealth creation and benefits for
northern communities.
As the preceding pages have shown, some of the alternatives are already being explored. Creating locally-based environmental
monitoring, for example, using durable and adaptable technology provides opportunities to meet both corporate needs and
government objectives with improved efficiency and tangible local benefits. Local food production is increasing through the use of
off-the shelf technology, local innovation and entrepreneurship and the assistance of joint federal-territorial funding programs42. The
potential to adapt even more advanced technology in farming, particularly suited to high Arctic communities or remote mining sites, is
also being explored. In the future, northern scientists and entrepreneurs may develop hardier plant varieties that thrive in northern
climate and soil conditions. Improved agricultural technologies could be exported to other places, reversing the usual flow of profits
out of the north. As knowledge of northern bio-systems improves, traditional medicines43 and indigenous plants and animals may
prove fertile ground for researchers seeking new pharmaceuticals in surprising places.44
Developing reliable and clean alternatives to energy production for communities and industry are critical, both to reduce costs and
eliminate pollution. Hydro, wind, solar, biomass, perhaps even small-scale nuclear should all be examined as alternatives to the
current reliance on fossil fuels. Current high costs of power generation actually provide an opportunity to develop and refine
technologies that are currently uncompetitive in southern markets. Not only will communities be better off and more self-sustaining,
technologies developed in the NWT could become viable exports to other markets.
The expansion of digital services throughout the north has already generated countless businesses but the real information
revolution is yet to come. The expansion of satellite-based broadband and, more importantly, fibre optic connections will unleash the
real potential of the north. GPS-based prospecting, real-time transmission of environmental information and the creation of local
smart-phone apps by clever young entrepreneurs all become possible in a fully-wired North. Locally, some pioneers, such as Lyle
Fabian of the KFN, are already exploring the possibilities, using a combination of government grants, cost savings and private
outside investment, but dreams of a more comprehensive answer beckon.
Fifty million dollars for a fibre cable down the Mackenzie or $120M for expanded satellite transmission as proposed by Telesat45 may
seem beyond the scope of ‘small-scale’ but compared to the cost of a mine or a pipeline – they look like real bargains. Even the
$600M proposal by Arctic Fibre Inc.46 to build a fibre cable from Europe to Asia (providing high speed service to Arctic communities
as a bonus) seems modest compared to a $16B gas pipeline.
These investments in science and technology both big and small, whether by governments or corporations or individuals, are critical
to create a truly sustainable northern economy where citizens have access to all the health, educational and social benefits of
modern society while retaining their connection to communities and the land that has sustained us for generations. If northern
science can be directly linked to northern economies through such initiatives as CHARS or a northern research science and
technology business hub, the creation of exportable northern knowledge and technology – from mine reclamation to climate change
adaptation – all become possible. The potential is only limited by the human imagination.
A knowledge economy, built on the creativity and entrepreneurship of our greatest renewable resource, our people – unlike one built
on diamonds – truly is forever.
• Go local
Creating a strong local economy is part of the bedrock foundation of sustainable communities. This means, as far as possible,
meeting local needs with local resources and employing local people. In a sustainable future – as in traditional economies of old –
local communities must buffer themselves from the vagaries of global markets and the price of oil by creating stable local
Investing in local skills and resources does not imply that the business ties of northern communities would be severed from wider
national or global markets. On the contrary, the digital information pipeline is tying these communities to the wider world like no oil
pipeline ever could, supporting local businesses across the North. Technology is leveling the playing field allowing northerners to
participate fully in the global economy while reaping the social and environmental benefits from stronger, more self-reliant
• Diversify for stability
Community economies become more diverse and more stable by increasing the variety of their business activities and markets.
Increased diversity contributes to economic health and resilience while reducing a community’s vulnerability to outside economic
turbulence. In contrast, the community with a poorly diversified economy is unstable and especially prone to a boom-bust cycle and
all the social impacts that go with it.
The lesson is clear: the development of diverse, innovative business opportunities using local controlled and adapted science and
technology will help buffer the impacts of the economic roller-coaster that now characterize our northern communities.
• Invest in community-scaled technology
The Fort McPherson Tent and Canvas plant and the Dene Fur Clouds in Fort Providence are classic examples of sustainable
northern businesses that have successfully invested in community-scaled technologies, in this case, industrial grade sewing and
embroidery machines. Examples of other sectors that could benefit from the introduction of small-scale technologies include food,
clothing, building materials, wood pellets and other green technologies, medicine, and electronics.
• Adopt an evolutionary approach
The traditional model of small-scale development provides jobs, money and short-term business opportunities. Where technology is
involved, it basically comes in one door and products go out the other. Both the technology and the products it produces are
relatively static, as are the jobs created. There may some transfer of skills but developing local skills and capacities is not a big part
of the business equation.
The evolutionary model on the other hand brings both technology and know-how to a business venture that embrace positive
change, adaptation, and the generation of new skills and technologies. The sustainability of such a business is enhanced through its
ongoing creativity and responsiveness to changing conditions arising from within and without. This in turn can lead to new job
opportunities, expanded local capacities, and the export of new products – be it software, wind generators, or a new way to grow
• Enable don’t direct
Government controlled programs supporting northern economic development should primarily enable rather than direct initiatives at
the community level to allow full expression of local talents and preferences and to encourage innovation by entrepreneurs.
“Promoting true sustainable development in our communities requires that we encourage entrepreneurs and work with
youth to build leadership.”
David Malcolm, Economic development researcher47
As a first step, create an electronic forum for sharing further success stories from the north and developing best practices in
the use of small-scale science to promote economic development.
Develop tools and processes (e.g. websites, annual conference, task force, innovation awards, speaker series – like TED
talks) that help build a strong network of northern entrepreneurs to learn from each other and raise the profile of science and
technology as key drivers in the northern economy.
Increase federal and territorial government support for the utilization of small-scale science and technology-based in
community economic development and develop policies that move resources away from sunset industry and commerce to
sunrise ones.
In particular, increase government funding support for community food self-sufficiency using a range of technologies.
Design scientific research facilities not as way stations for southern researchers but as hubs that help create and spread
northern-based scientific capacity and technological innovation.
Encourage closer collaboration between Aurora College and the Aurora Science Institute to maximize opportunities for
northern students to learn from and directly work with science and technology professionals.
Improve public access to the results of northern research studies.
Support the expansion of a community-based environmental monitoring industry through continued federal funding of the
Cumulative Effects Monitoring Program (CIMP).
Develop mentorship programs, entrepreneurial training, curriculum materials, and distance education programs for northern
high school and college students specifically aimed at developing science and technology skills.
Support science promotion activities for northern youth and their teachers (e.g. science fairs, science camps, science “road
shows”, clubs, competitions, student conferences, workshops, field trips, career days, online resources, community outreach).
Support the ongoing implementation of the GNWT’s Science Agenda, Building a Path for Northern Science, particularly as it
relates to sustainable communities.
“Science and technology can offer a foundational change in how communities sustain themselves by liberating their entrepreneurial
potential and opening up new economic opportunities.”
Hayden Trenholm, Policy Advisor to Senator Nick Sibbeston48
“We have to stop being an ‘apartment building’ for visiting scientists. Instead we need to build the necessary infrastructure
and programs to keep them in the North so they can help generate both knowledge and wealth.”
Steve Kokelj, Permafrost scientist49
“The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed.”
William Gibson, Science fiction writer50
Malcolm, D., 2010. “Speaking Plainly about Research, Governance, and Policy for Sustainable Living,” in Pimatisiwin – A Journal of Aboriginal and Indigenous
Community Health 8(1): 171.
Roundtable discussion on the role of small-scale science and technology in northern economic development, Yellowknife, November 15, 2012.
3 Frolick, L., 2008. “Wiring the North”, up here business, August 2008: 28.
Cited in: Frolick, L., 2008. “Wiring the North”, up here Business, August 2008: 33. (IDC Canada stands for International Data Corp Canada
5 CBC radio program Spark, episode 123 broadcast October 10 & 13, 2010
6 Adapted from: “The North's Digital Leaders”, up here business, http://www.upherebusiness.ca/node/491
7 onlinestore@tlicho.com
8 http://www.facebook.com/TlichoOnlineStore
9 Flaherty, Paul, 2012. “NorthwesTel plan worth supporting”, Yellowknifer, August 8, 2012: 9.
10 “Competition critical of NorthwesTel plan”, Yukon News, July 27, 2012. http://yukon-news.com/news/29560/
11 “Faster, more reliable Internet,” Yellowknifer, June 1, 2012: 13
12 Flaherty, Paul, 2012. “NorthwesTel plan worth supporting”, Yellowknifer, August 8, 2012: 9.
Fabian, Lyle, 2012. “Northern Economic Prosperity through Fiber Technology” Northern Governance Conference, Yellowknife, October, 2012 (all subsequent
quotes are from the same presentation and private communications)
14 Personal communication, September 5, 2012.
15 Personal communication, September 5, 2012.
16 NWT Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program (CIMP) http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100027498/1100100027499
17 NWT Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program (CIMP) http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100027498/1100100027499
18 Cited in: “Pathway to better monitoring in Canada’s north - A step-by-step guide for designing monitoring programs”, brochure prepared by Aboriginal Affairs and
Northern Development , 2012.
19 http://www.kitsaki.com/cannorth.html
20 “Prime Minister announces funding in Cam Bay,” August 25, 2012. http://www.nnsl.com/frames/newspapers/2012-08/aug27_12harp.html
21 “PM announces Arctic Council chair, funds for northern research,” Aug. 23, 2012. http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/pm-announces-arctic-council-chair-funds-fornorthern-research-1.926887
22 “Canadian High Arctic Research Station: Creating new knowledge brings growth to Northern community,” http://www.aadncaandc.gc.ca/eng/1346271135855/1346271174251
23 Personal communication, August 28, 2012.
24 Personal communication, August 21, 2012.
25 The Nexus Group Ltd., FSC Architects & Engineers, Malcolm & Associates, 2008. NWT Science and Technology Park Yellowknife Facility - Business Case
Analysis, Prepared for the City of Yellowknife.
26 “Buy local”, News/North, Monday, July 30, 2012. http://www.nnsl.com/frames/newspapers/2012-08/aug1_12edit.html
27 “Buy local”, News/North, Monday, July 30, 2012. http://www.nnsl.com/frames/newspapers/2012-08/aug1_12edit.html
28 Personal communication, August 23, 2012.
29 CBC news article, August 28, 2012. “Hay River greenhouse may be model for northern communities”,
Northern News Services, August 13, 2012. Meals on big wheels – New project aims to take locally-grown food processing on the road.
31 Personal communication, August 24, 2012.
32 “Meals on big wheels – New project aims to take locally-grown food processing on the road.” News/North, August 13, 2012.
33 Northern News Services, August 13, 2012. Meals on big wheels – New project aims to take locally-grown food processing on the road.
34 Aurora Research Institute application form submitted to Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, October, 2009.
Bromley, R. 2010. Tracking Weledeh News. Fall 2010 newsletter.
36 Bromley, R. “Budget fails to attack energy cost burden.” NWT Legislative Assembly press release, May 24, 2012.
37 Bob Bromley, “Natural gas conversion in communities”. Member Statement, August 18, 2011.
38 Personal communication, September 18, 2012.
39 “Thriving First Nations Part 3: Overcoming economic barriers” in The Star Phoenix, September 13, 2012.
40 http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/jun/29/rim-chiefs-best-quotes
41 “Lesson for Future Success” in the Deh Cho Drum, October 11, 2012
42 “NWT agriculture dollars growing” in News/North, September 24, 2012
43 http://plants.gwichin.ca/database
44 http://www.starbusinessclub.ca/discussions/sales-discussions/new-brunswicks-soricimed-finds-potential-cancer-cure-in-shrew-venom-needs-cash-infusion-tocontinue-research/
46 http://arcticfibre.com/
Roundtable discussion on the role of small-scale science and technology in northern economic development, Yellowknife, November 15, 2012.
Roundtable discussion on the role of small-scale science and technology in northern economic development, Yellowknife, November 15, 2012.
Roundtable discussion on the role of small-scale science and technology in northern economic development, Yellowknife, November 15, 2012.
Cited in CBC radio program Spark, episode 123 broadcast October 10 & 13, 2010