Michael Den Tandt: Harper sets up the 2015 campaign in the most unlikely spot – by Michael Den Tandt (National Post – August 21, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Hay River, NWT — As campaign launch pads go, it would be difficult to find one less likely than this low-slung, sprawling agglomeration of bungalows and shops clinging to the south shore of Great Slave Lake, on the southern fringe of the northern wilderness.

Hay River’s one sports bar, two grocery stores, hardware store, arena and weathered town hall have not seen the circus of a prime ministerial visit before and, quite likely, never will again.

But there it is: From this isolated outpost, more than a thousand kilometres and 12-hours drive north of Red Deer, Alta., Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s plan to win a fourth term and join the pantheon of Canada’s longest-serving leaders will unfold as night follows day. At least, that must be his hope — as his government places unprecedented emphasis on boosting economic growth in a territory whose entire population would fit inside one small central Ontario city.

Hay River, population 3,648, is, quite literally, the end of the line — the northernmost point in the North American continental rail network and the departure point to all parts northward. The village bills itself “The Hub of the North.” It is also, as of Tuesday, the epicentre of a Conservative plan to train an aboriginal workforce to match the growing need for skilled workers in the burgeoning northern mining industry.

Speaking in the town’s community centre, dolled up for the occasion with the now requisite blue backdrop and massive Canadian flag, Harper unveiled $5.8-million in new federal funding over two years to launch a 25-month mining training program aimed at aboriginal workers. The money, which will flow through Employment and Social Development Canada’s Skills and Partnership Fund, is to be administered by the Northwest Territories Mine Training Society — an agency that, ironically, had its federal funding reduced in 2012. The new program’s goal is to help 400 students from 11 communities across the Northwest Territories and Nunavut acquire “essential mining skills.”

The PM and his wife, Laureen, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkag, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver were on hand to show the flag. Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod spoke after the Prime Minister.

The message: The far North is a vast repository of priceless mineral resources, waiting to be harvested. But Northerners must share in the wealth. Quoting Lord Tweedsmuir, Canada’s 15th governor-general, Harper called the North a “great treasure house.” The challenge, he said, “is to make sure we open the doors … to Northerners, to all Northerners.”

Aboriginal communities, “with their young, fast-growing populations, often living close to mining areas,” are the ideal work force for this burgeoning industry, Harper said. By 2017, he added, “the mining sector will create thousands of direct and indirect jobs in this territory alone.”

For the rest of this article, click here: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/08/20/michael-den-tandt-harper-sets-up-the-2015-campaign-in-the-most-unlikely-spot/

Comments are closed.