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COLUMN: Bad news lurks in rosy forecast

Now don’t get me wrong, we have success stories and each of those people should be darn proud of their accomplishments.
The problem is, we just don’t have enough of them and it’s time we all have a better understanding of just why.

On the surface, the prediction for growth in Nunavut up until at least 2025, as laid out in an economic analysis recently released by the Conference Board of Canada, is pretty rosy news.

The reason behind the upswing is, of course, mining, and the board’s analysis states that gold production in Nunavut will double during the next few years with Agnico Eagle Mines properties at Meliadine and Amaruq, and Sabina Gold and Silver’s Back River project leading the way.

The Conference Board of Canada’s economic forecast sees 1,300 new jobs being created in Nunavut by mining, and 3,750 being created overall by 2025.

Those are numbers to get a little excited about in our territory.

Unfortunately, there is some bad news mixed in with those numbers, as the board sees the vast majority of those mining jobs going to people from other provinces who are flown in for the work, while the vast majority of Nunavummiut earning jobs in that timeframe will find themselves employed in the service-based industries.

Now work is work and all take-home pays resulting from an honest day’s work are to be commended, but it stings more than a little to think that most Nunavummiut not lucky enough to have a government job or to be employed by an Inuit organization will remain at the lower ends of the pay scale.

There has been talk across our region for far more than a decade about increased and better training for Inuit to be ready for all the high paying mining jobs coming their way, but by 2025 we’re still watching planes arriving full of out-of-territory workers?

Have our leaders failed so miserably in providing the necessary training for Inuit – all Nunavummiut in fact – to be ready for these opportunities, or are there simply not enough people here who want to take advantage of them?

When you look at how long some of these mines have been operating now, and you’re still talking about flying in almost another 1,300 workers who will leave next to nothing of their paycheques behind when they fly out for the very last time, things just aren’t adding up the way they should.

Today’s mining is a far cry from the old pick-and-shovel days, but, seriously, how long does it take to train people to hold these positions when you have an entire region to pick from?

Are we slow learners or just not interested?

During the same time frame – as the years tick past to 2025 – the number of Nunavummiut turning 65 years of age and older is expected to grow by an annual rate of 9.7 per cent according to the economic analysis by the Conference Board of Canada.

That’s an awful lot of people who are going to require an awful lot of increased care and services provided by the Government of Nunavut for the territory to still be seeing so much money earned here leave here.

It’s beginning to look like – especially in the Kivalliq region – a very large chunk of this wave of prosperity has been missed and is going to crash upon the provincial shores elsewhere.

We knew it was coming, there was lots of talk of preparedness and yet, somehow, we missed most of it.

Answers as to why must be clear and concise if we are not to do the same thing next time and expect a different result.

That is, if there is a next time!