Success in Japan
No deals signed, but many contacts made, says Antoine

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 27/99) - No NWT business deals were signed but NWT Premier Jim Antoine called his week-long Team Canada mission to Japan a success because he made many contacts.

"I wanted to make contacts and connections over there and I think we did that," Antoine said.

Most of those contacts were in the tourism, building material and telemedicine industries, he said.

In addition, one goal of the trade mission was to try to change the image of both the North and Canada as a whole from being a land of natural resources to one with high-tech industries and high quality education.

"We need to find a way of packaging tourism originating in Japan, maybe in connection with other stops along the way," Antoine said.

"The North has to be part of a larger tour package. That's the way to get tourists to come to different parts of Canada."

Antoine said it would be too expensive for the North to have its own office in Japan, but that it is teaming up with other provinces and tour operators and tour destination owners to provide support.

One big part of the trip was mingling among the premiers themselves.

"We had excellent discussions," Antoine said.

"We all travelled in the same bus so we had plenty of time to talk."

One of those discussions was with acting B.C. Premier Dan Miller about signing a memorandum of understanding to work closer together.

"He's the one who mentioned it," Antoine said of Miller.

But more than just an understanding to work together, Antoine said he learned of Miller's intention to invest in Northern roads.

"There is a B.C. Highway 77 that connects the NWT on the western side to the Alaskan Highway....(and Miller) is going to put $1 million into improving the road conditions."

Antoine said those road improvements would really help the North and that he has been trying to get the attention of the B.C. government for a while on the need to improve Northern B.C. roads.

Antoine said the mission also acted as an opportunity to enhance awareness about the North although many of the people he met were aware of the aurora borealis and some had previously made visits.