The potential for business development and growth in Northern Canada appears to be limitless. The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline seems imminent. It was recently announced that Yukon Energy is selling bonds for expansion of the Mayo dam. The mining industry in Yukon is on such an upswing that the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway Company has announced it wants to bring back freight rail service to the Yukon.

With this continued energy for development, the development of supporting infrastructure seems the next logical step; yet one of the greatest challenges for development is access to the know-how and funding. Previously, infrastructure was predominantly handled by governments who were able to access knowledge base and skill sets from a national pool of talent. Not so for private and public businesses (and municipalities) now having to take over the development of infrastructure as part of their own plans for growth.

Infrastructure projects can be somewhat complex due to their various stages and wide variety of expertise needs along the way. Development of an idea or vision is just the very starting point. From there, a company or municipality must consider financing, regulatory issues, environmental issues, procurement options, and construction and engineering. Often, the development agreement plans for infrastructure include maintenance agreements and dispute resolution mechanisms. As businesses, associations and interest groups become more sophisticated in their ability to make positive changes to the North, many of these skills have been developing regionally. While inevitably, such projects require a broad range of expertise (such as accountants, lawyers, environmental specialists, architects, engineers, builders, etc.), it is preferable to have someone within your organization who can serve as overall coordinator and liaison back to the organization.

Funding will continue to be an issue. For example, Northwestel, recently dealt with the loss of internet service to the Yukon, parts of NWT and Iqaluit as a result of the severing of an underground fibre optic cable by a geotechnical contracting firm which was boring test holes near Coal River. Clearly redundancies and alternative routing capabilities are necessary; however government funding is needed given the lack of population density in the area. Recognizing the need for continued funding, the government of Canada recently announced that six important infrastructure initiatives dedicated to supporting economic and social growth will be underway as a result of joint funding of $18 million from the federal and territorial governments, which is only part of an overall $142.6 million dollar commitment across Nunavut towards initiatives under the Provincial-Territorial Base Fund, part of the Building Canada Plan.

However funding is only one aspect of what is required to support continued infrastructure development. For those entities who believe that development of infrastructure is in their future, you may wish to look into having a representative obtain project management certification. In fact, project management skills are increasingly becoming a key component in securing project financing. Given the realities of the North, project planning requires particular knowledge of the issues, concerns and challenges which one would not normally consider for similar projects in the South. Along with funding solutions, the topic of project management is expected to be front and centre at the upcoming Annual Northern Economic and Sovereignty Infrastructure Conference in Iqaluit.