EDITORIAL: Support mines that support Nunavummiut

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Whether you notice it or not in your daily life, all reports show a glittering economic forecast for Nunavut.

Speaking at the Nunavut Mining Symposium, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz noted that the territory is set for the strongest growth among all territories and provinces for 2019, at a rate of nine per cent.

“That’s pretty spectacular stuff,” Poloz said. “That’s not some fiction, that’s real.”

Nunavut’s senior economist Francois Picotte piled on the good news, noting the territory will see very high growth for the next four years.

All of this is thanks to mining, which is becoming such an economic force in Nunavut that it will surpass even government in its weight in the territorial economy.

You read that right, and we expect this is blowing the minds of the local pundits who like to pile on the government for its role as Nunavut’s top employer.

One caveat is that, for the moment, many workers continue to be southern imports. Inuit employment is not where it should be, but at least – compared with the stalled government numbers – Inuit employment is on the rise. That’s because employment with the mines is far more accessible to Inuit than government work is. The mines are located near smaller communities – DeBeers’ Chidliak investment excepted – where Inuit are the bulk of the population, and unlike almost every well-paid government job, the work does not require a degree. Plus on-the-job training is available. Government has a lot of progress to make in this area.

Picotte noted the effect of rising high school graduation rates in the communities near mines. Get a diploma, get a job. There are few better motivators to success than good prospects for decent employment and being surrounded by others so employed.

It’s naive to think there are other industries that could have such a power for change in Nunavut. Other than government and mining, what do you have? Services, tourism, culture? They’re all important but pale in comparison to the economic benefits they can generate.

Therefore we must put in whatever effort we can muster to support responsible mining operations. This means bringing the Nunavut Land Use Plan to completion. As Picotte notes, the Conference Board of Canada’s concern is that progress may be hindered by the uncertainty over land use.

And while we support progress that will bring more Nunavummiut out of a lower economic bracket, we must consider the side effects of a boom.

Just as growth is high, so is inflation. At three per cent, it’s double the national rate, and while workers can bear the increased cost of living, those living week-to-week may be pushed over the edge into destitution.

And with newfound prosperity, so comes the risk of social problems. Managed properly and carefully with the correct supports in place, the risks can be outweighed by the benefits that come from honest, reliable work.

You may have heard that Ontario wants to change the slogan on its licence plates to “A Place to Grow,” but all signs show Nunavut has far more potential. Let’s build on the momentum and stay focused on making sure Nunavummiut are the ones who benefit.