Mr. Speaker, there are around 100 people in Hay River and Enterprise who are employed in the manufacturing sector. While Hay River is undoubtedly the heart of manufacturing in the Territory, the sector is also growing in Yellowknife and Inuvik. In fact, since the economic crash in 2009, manufacturing has been growing every year and has more than doubled its share of the GDP. It continues to create dozens of new jobs yearly, and sometimes monthly.
In the NWT we manufacture modular homes, modular buildings, windows, doors, cabinetry, trusses, signs, fiberglass tanks, steel tanks, tank stands, screw jacks, bridges, and pretty much any that can be welded together. Do you need a custom designed and fabricated water truck, a picker truck, a winch truck, a plow, deck, vacuum, roll-off, or fuel delivery truck? We do that too. And, Mr. Speaker, the list goes on…I’m told that we even manufacture diamonds.
But, we should all know by now that we can’t continue to be so utterly reliant on the mining industry. The diamond mines all have limited lifespans, and projects that can replace them aren’t even on the horizon. While I’m sure such projects are an inevitability, the fact that we’re at the edge of economic precipice is proof that we need to be more proactive, and aggressive in our development of other industries.
That’s precisely why this Assembly voted unanimously to include in the mandate of this government, the commitment that “the 18th Legislative Assembly will lead economic diversification …. in the NWT by” investing in manufacturing, and a commitment to develop a northern manufacturing strategy.
This will be no small task, Mr. Speaker. There are numerous barriers to growth that we have to overcome. The North is not like the rest of Canada – our climate, energy costs, lack of infrastructure, and skills gap, will require serious investment from this government, and it will require multiple departments to get out of their silos and work together.
I will give credit where it is due, members of this Cabinet have made concerted efforts to advance manufacturing, and those efforts have resulted in dozens and dozens of jobs. Those efforts have also exposed many of the barriers faced by entrepreneurs, many of them bureaucratic. The good news, Mr. Speaker, is that those barriers can be removed. That is one reason why a manufacturing strategy is so important. I look forward to working with the Government in the development of this strategy, to helping put even more people to work.
I will have questions for the Minister of ITI at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, earlier I spoke about manufacturing in the Northwest Territories. I mentioned that there were barriers to growth that needed to be addressed. They were too numerous to mention in detail in my Member’s statement, and too numerous to mention now. They include things outside the government’s control, but there are also bureaucratic issues that the government has the power to address. That is one reason that this manufacturing strategy is so important, and I have learned that when the government announces the development of a strategy, there is no point in asking for changes before that, because nothing changes until that strategy. With the exception of Aurora College, and I do support that foundational review, as an aside. My question is for the Minister of ITI: what is the timeline for beginning the development of the manufacturing strategy? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Masi. Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.
HON. WALLY SCHUMANN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As all Members know, we are mandated in the 18th Legislative Assembly to do this. We spoke about this in the House before. This is something that is very important to me, as I came from the manufacturing sector. The department is doing a bunch of preliminary work on how we are going to bring this strategy forward, and when the time comes, I will inform the House when the strategy will be implemented. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SIMPSON: It almost leads into my second question. I asked when it was going to begin being developed, and he said he would bring it forward when it is being implemented. It is a good lead-in to my second question: will the Minister commit to working with the Standing Committee on Economic Development, in addition to the Manufacturers’ Association, in the development of the draft strategy, in a way that allows for meaningful input from the committee, as opposed to the current method of engagement, which only allows the committee to suggest tweaks to what is virtually a finished product by the time we see it?
HON. WALLY SCHUMANN: ITI will gladly follow the prescribed process of GNWT to develop legislations and strategies moving forward and prior to its public release. I don’t have a problem having a sit down with committee and getting their input and review the document before it’s released.
MR. SIMPSON: We have to follow traditional set-in-stone government policy. I thought this was a changed government. Mr. Speaker, I can help with this strategy. I have ideas. I know the issues. I wish the Minister would just work with us. You know, take some pressure off his department. I’m sure they have a lot to do. That’s something I’ll follow up on. Another big issue has been these giant projects, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars, P3 projects where a company from the south would get it and the money just flows out of the territory. I’d like to ask will the Minister commit to working with Finance with the goal of using the P3 projects to better develop northern manufacturing. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
HON. SCHUMANN: The P3 concept is probably a little more challenging one. I commit to the Member that we could sit down with Finance and figure out a way moving forward, but as all Members know in this House, with federal treasury money, there’s a difference set of rules on procurement around that and we’re going to have to probably sit down not with just myself and the Finance Minister but with the federal government if there’s a way forward to implement this into a possibility with P3 projects.
MR. SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’m still shaken from that second answer. How about this? Will the Minister commit to being an agent of change and working with committee the way I suggested in my second question? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
HON. SCHUMANN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’m always willing to have input from anyone in the Northwest Territories, including Members from the other side or my colleagues along this side of the table. It’s just going to take all of us to make a better territory for everybody, especially around manufacturing.