Doug Lauvstad

Manitoba needs a big, bold, brash Northern Development Strategy. There is a confluence of geopolitical and other factors that present an incredible opportunity for increased prosperity for the province, for the North, and for the people; particularly the indigenous people of our province. 

It will take some foresight, some smart leadership, some big thinking, and a lot of hard work. But the benefits, for generations to come, will be worth it. 

Today we are in the midst of a world-changing pandemic; tomorrow, we will step into a new world. World events such as increasing tension between east and west; the breakdown of some traditional alliances; changes to international monetary and power balances; and, of course, supply chain issues; have encouraged North America to “re-shore” manufacturing capability. 

Climate change and the move to a low carbon future have increased the demand for critical minerals, such as nickel, zinc, copper, cobalt, lithium, and others – which Manitoba has in abundance. 

There is also an ethical, moral, and social imperative, driven by the world’s largest companies and investors, for business to run their operations with green, clean, non-carbon emitting energy. 

The pandemic has emphasized that our supply chains and associated infrastructure are precarious, that we cannot rely on countries on the other side of the world to process our raw materials, and that the demand for the commodities Manitoba has in abundance – minerals, wood products, clean energy – is ever increasing. 

We can seize the moment or we can sit on the sidelines and watch other nations and provinces benefit and grow. And let’s not forget, that when we talk resources, we are not talking small. The whole of Canada was built by “hewers of wood and haulers of waters.” Resource projects are measured not in millions of dollars, but in billions; jobs created are counted not in hundreds, but in thousands. And of course, the taxes and revenues these projects provide pay for roads, schools, hospitals, and the social programs we rely upon. 

What needs to be done: A New Northern Development Strategy, like any good strategy, is simply put, is to build on our strengths: an abundance of raw materials, natural resources and clean energy. We also have regional expertise and over a hundred years of experience. 

What else do we need: We need Manitoba’s strong, progressive indigenous leadership to lead the way in developing a prosperity agenda that is compatible with their values but creates wealth and opportunity for their people. The tragic impact of poverty and exclusion must end. 

Our provincial leaders must stand up and say to the world we have resources, expertise, and capacity. They must create a supportive climate for investment and economic development. They must also ensure that the short-sighted, the nay-sayers, and the impeders, are not given room to breathe. 

Our national government must support Manitoba’s efforts and enable a growth agenda. They must provide the tools and capital for First Nations to engage in an equitable and profitable development of the North. 

All of us must embrace a broader vision for Northern Manitoba – one that focuses on jobs and opportunities; and yes, prosperity; for northern and indigenous people and communities. 

A good, sound, Northern Development Strategy is part of a good, sound provincial prosperity agenda. Development in the north means goods and services and jobs are being bought and created in the south as well as the north. In other words, positive action in the north has a positive reaction in the south. The time to move forward is now.