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Labour crunch looms for city

David Ryan
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 22/06) - The NWT plans to confront the economic challenges it faces head on, but wants help setting its fiscal priorities.

Last week, officials from the Department of Finance met with business leaders and academics to discuss a long-term economic framework for the territories.
NNSL Photo/graphic

Finance minister Floyd Roland wants help setting budget priorities

"We need to take a step back and put out a road map," said Finance Minister Floyd Roland.

Previous governments have dealt with economic planning on a case-by-case basis, he said, adding the current leaders want to come up with an over-arching plan before the full affect of any pipeline construction or new mines is felt.

While the NWT has enjoyed large gains in the mining and oil and gas sectors, it also faces labour challenges, said Roland.

"With almost full employment, we will not be able to meet the demand for skilled workers from NWT residents alone," states a government report released during the forum titled, Charting the Next Course.

"And perhaps most troubling, much of the available supply of labour in the NWT has less than a high school education."

With potential projects such as the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline and De Beers Canada's Snap Lake and Gahcho Kue diamond mines in the offing, the report predicts double-digit growth in total employment rates.

The Mackenzie Gas Project is expected to employ more than 2,000 residents at the peak of construction in 2009 with 8,000 non-residents expected to be on the job at the same time, according to the document.

Consulting with business, community and academic leaders will help to develop a plan on how to face the labour crunch and other economic challenges, which involve a wide range of interests, said deputy finance minister Margaret Melhorn.

"We want to try to influence economic growth and employment," she said.

Department of Finance representatives continued consulting Northerners this week in Inuvik.

A document summarizing input from the two community sessions will accompany the 2007 budget.