North's ills and cures spotlighted
Another federal committee slips through town

by P.J. Harston
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 06/96) - Yellowknife's Chamber of Commerce says the North needs a stable political climate and a stronger infrastructure if its economy is expected to develop and grow.

Its president told a group of MPs developing a rural Canadian economic development framework that a well thought-out training and education system must be in place for any framework to succeed.

Gabrielle Decorby said Northern government and community leaders are confused over who has control of natural resources, a situation magnified by an unstable political climate.

"What we are dealing with here is ownership of the resources. Settle the remaining land clams and make it very clear to one and all to whom they belong and under what conditions," said Decorby.

An all season road, and a solid power and communications system bringing the North more in-line with southern rural infrastructures is critical to economic development of primary resources.

"Think of the logistics and costs of accessing these resources without infrastructure," said Decorby.

Consistent environmental regulations, investment-positive fiscal policies and continued levels of funding and support for training and education are also key to Northern development.

"Governments at the territorial and federal level must accept the responsibility of providing a trained and educated workforce," said Decorby.

Mineral development offers the greatest hope of sustained economic development in the North, but if it isn't undertaken responsibly and with the proper tools, it could create a boom and bust situation, which isn't in anyone's best interest.

"Not only is our economy rural but it is also very tenuous," she said. "There is little diversity to our economy -- a feature which gives southern economies strength."

"We need responsible development," said Decorby.

The chamber was one of a few select organizations invited to give presentations to the federal Standing Committee on Natural Resources at a recent public hearing.

This is the second federal committee over the last month to sneak into town with little or no advanced warning. In October the standing committee on justice held one day of hearings on the state of the nation's youth justice system.