Canadian Manufacturing

Labour a challenge in resource rich Northwest Territories: minister

David Ramsay said territory will need around 3,000 new workers to help start number of projects

YELLOWKNIFE—Finding skilled labour will be a challenge as major resource projects move ahead in the Northwest Territories, said the territorial minister in charge of energy and mining.

The territory will need around 3,000 new workers, with several new mines set to open over the next eight to 10 years, David Ramsay said.

“With our remote location (and) the cold weather, it may be difficult for us to attract people to live in the Northwest Territories, but we are going to put our best effort into that,” he said in Yellowknife.

Some smaller aboriginal communities in the Northwest Territories have a 30 to 40 per cent unemployment rate, so there’s a big need for training programs geared toward the jobs that will be coming, Ramsay said.

“We, today, don’t have all those skills. We don’t have all those workers. We will need to do everything we can to help prepare ourselves for the time those mines open and the jobs become available.”

Ramsay said he’s hopeful recently announced job-training initiatives at the federal level will be helpful on that front.

Energy ministers from across Canada are holding their annual meeting in Yellowknife this week.

Ramsay said he’ll talk to his counterparts about the idea of a “made in the North” pipeline, which could enable crude to be exported on tankers from the Beaufort Sea or from the Alaskan port of Valdez.

With pipeline proposals to connect Alberta crude to coastal waters—Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline through British Columbia and TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline through the United States, for example—facing significant environmental opposition, Ramsay has been promoting a northern route as an alternative to get the oil to international markets.

The Northwest Territories has vast oil potential of its own in the emerging Canol shale in the Central Mackenzie Valley.

“We believe that the Northwest Territories is in a perfect location and a perfect time in its history to be right there, front and centre,” said Ramsay.

“A made-in-the-North solution is not out of the realm of possibilities and I think you have to start somewhere and that discussion has started.”

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