Canadians living in relatively prosperous provinces — like Alberta — have become accustomed to subsidizing people living in less wealthy areas, such as the Maritimes.
Although there is occasionally some grumbling about that, people in have provinces have been remarkably accepting of funding equalization payments for have-not provinces.
It’s like a man earning a healthy income agreeing to send his unemployed brother a few dollars, every now and then.
Sure the more successful fellow might sometimes resent his brother, but deep down he knows that sharing one’s good fortune is the right thing to do.
Now, this week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the federal government is going to give Canada’s North an economic shot in the arm with a new development agency and $50 million in federal seed money.
The new agency will take over responsibility for the basket of federal spending that now happens in the North and eventually implement an “innovative technology-based” approach to the “opportunities and challenges” of the North.
That’s a reasonable thing to do given the huge transportation and skilled labour challenges facing the region.
As well, it’s important to note that a number of the skilled “fly-in” workers who toil in the North take their paycheques with them when they fly out. That means that even though the region has a high per capita productivity — much of the benefit of that is realized elsewhere.
In any case, there’s no question that Canada is a nation of regions and that the North is probably our most overlooked region.
Those of us living in the South rarely give a thought to such communities as Iqaluit, Whitehorse or Yellowknife.
In announcing the new development agency (known as CanNor), Harper rightly pointed out that it’s time to end decision-making in southern office towers on northern development.
No doubt, people in the North are much more capable of guiding their own futures than they were a few decades ago, and it’s about time that Ottawa recognized that fact.
One has to give the federal Conservatives credit for placing special emphasis on the Far North.
“Our government has implemented the most ambitious northern agenda in Canadian history,” the prime minister said.
“Through our northern strategy, we are forcefully asserting and defending Canada’s sovereignty and security in this region. We are protecting the unique and fragile Arctic environment for generations to come.”
Let’s hope this effort will smooth the way for further prosperity and innovation in the region.
In the meanwhile, a news release sent out Monday by the feds repeatedly spelled the capital of Nunavut as “Iqualuit” — rather than Iqaluit.
According to Canadian Press, “The extra ‘u’ transformed the meaning of the word to ‘people with unwiped bums’ from the properly spelled Iqaluit, which means ‘many fish.’ ”
Don’t you just love government?
Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.