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The Next Northern Challenge: The Reality of the Provincial North By Ken Coates and Greg Poelzer

For the last 40 years, Canada has devoted considerable resources and much effort to improving governance in the territorial North, including the creation of Nunavut in 1999, major land claims settlements across much of the region, a new Yukon Act, devolution of many government powers (including administration – but not ownership – of land and non-renewable natural resources to the Yukon and Northwest Territories), Aboriginal self-government agreements, and large-scale fiscal transfer agreements. In contrast, Canada has had a minimal presence in the Provincial North, which has now become the least politically powerful part of Canada.

Canada’s Provincial North is the vast sub-Arctic expanse that shares northern climates, has close to 1.5 million residents, holds enormous resource potential in oil and gas, forestry, mining, and hydro-electric development, is home to dozens of culturally distinct First Nations, Métis, and Inuit groups, and is facing enormous pressures for change.

The provincial North does not belong to any one province. The regions themselves have little autonomy – Labrador and Quebec being partial exceptions – and political power rests in provincial capitals in the South. The Government of Canada has a minimal presence. Experts on Canadian federalism would quickly respond that this is simply the consequence of the division of power between the federal and provincial governments and that the constitutional responsibility lies with the provinces – end stop.

Notwithstanding these constitutional realities, the absence of a national strategy for the provincial North might be reasonable if not for two fundamental problems: the comparative poverty of Aboriginal communities in the region and the centrality of the resource potential of the area for Canada’s medium and long-term prosperity. Given these two problems, it is time that Canadians realize that the country remains substantially unfinished and that the most pressing challenges are to be found in an area that few Canadians give so much as a thought, the provincial Norths.

This region is, as a consequence, the next major public policy frontier for Canadian governments, including the Government of Canada, the seven provinces with significant northern regions, and the Aboriginal governments that are assuming increasingly important roles in the governance and future of the provincial Norths in Canada.

Click on the following link to access the full original report: The Next Northern Challenge: The Reality of the Provincial North.

Greg Poelzer

Greg M. Poelzer

Executive Chair, ICNGD and Fulbright Arctic Initiative Scholar

Greg Poelzer is the Founding Director and Executive Chair
of the University of Saskatchewan International Centre for
Northern Governance and Development (ICNGD) and current Fulbright Arctic Initiative scholar. Greg is also the former Dean of Undergraduate Studies at the University of the Arctic and currently leads the UArctic Thematic Network on Northern Governance. His research focuses on comparative politics and policy as it relates to northern regions and to Aboriginal-state relations.

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