"The Government has a vision for a new North and is taking action to ensure that vision comes to life – for the benefit of all Canadians."As someone who lives, works, and plays in Northern Canada, my first reaction is to go, "Uh, oh. Here we go again."
You see, there is a loooooong history of Southern Canada doing what it thinks is best for Northern Canada. Sometimes, things work out. Other times, we end up with disasters like residential schools, forced migration, economically destructive and starvation-inducing policies (i.e. beaver hunting restrictions that were based on over-harvesting problems in southern Canada), slaughtered sled dogs, under-resourced and dependency-based programming, ineffective drug and alcohol treatment services, struggling school systems, and so on and so on.
It happens because of ignorance: decisions that are made based on incorrect assumptions about the North, no matter how well-intentioned those decisions may be.
You may be wondering, "How ignorant can people possibly be about the North"? Check this out. The comments in the original CBC articles are downright frightening.
If Canada really wants to roll out a strategy that's going to strengthen Canada's North, it needs to deal with that ignorance first.
In response, I have developed my own Northern Strategy. I call it "Meandering Michael's Northern Pilgrimage Program". Here is what I propose:
- Educate Canadians about Canada's North. Forget the idea of having each province incorporate northern studies into their curriculums; Give every Canadian a free flight from their closest major city to one community of their choice (excluding the capitals) in each of Canada's three territories. Of course, not everyone will take the Northern Pilgrimage, but those who do will return home better informed and can share their experience with their friends. Would the Northern Pilgrimage Program be expensive? Heck yeah, but the government plans to spend $3.1 BILLION on a measly eight Arctic patrol vessels, so why not spend that on a million flights instead?
- Promoting Social and Economic Development. This priority is already part of the federal Northern Strategy, but the federal approach is based almost entirely on natural resource development. The amount of tourism traffic (and tourism spending) flowing through the North as a result of the Northern Pilgrimage Program would be substantial, especially by northern standards. Air transportation links to northern communities would be greatly improved, which would have the following benefits:
- Increased flight frequency and reduced fares, thanks to improved economies of scale;
- Lower cost of living for northern residents (i.e. fresher food at lower cost) because of lower air transportation costs;
- Increased economies of scale and subsequent growth for northern-based tourism ventures (accommodations, restaurants, outfitting, cultural experiences, air transportation services, etc.);
- A higher profile in lucrative overseas markets;
- A greater national understanding of northern issues, which would - hopefully - result in support for northern-led solutions to those problems;
- Attraction of potential new employees to address chronic human resource capacity challenges;
- Attraction of potential new partners for lonely northern singles. Hey, it's a serious problem in some of the smaller, more remote communities.
- Development of economy-driven (as opposed to government-driven) housing to respond to the economic growth within the communities.
- Protecting Northern Sovereignty. The Prime Minister has said "use it or lose it". What better way to use it than to give Canadians an easy and inexpensive way to travel to and visit the North?
If you think that Meandering Michael's Northern Pilgrimage Program should become a reality:
- Comment here and show your support;
- Pass the link to this entry on to your friends; and
- Share it with your MP. Most of them are taking a break to "re-calibrate and focus on the economy" anyway.