The provincial government has been hosting consultation sessions aimed at developing a list of specific ways to grow the number of provincially-based businesses offering products and services in the Arctic.
The sessions — being completed in a workshop style, with back and forth discussions on key topics — are also meant to identify how government might create a greater awareness of existing companies, from here, active in the North.
“We know now there’s a number of companies engaged in the Arctic, but as we move forward and what’s happening — in terms of the Arctic opening up — I mean what opportunities exist that we can work with industry on to bring those along,” said Keith Hutchings, minister of innovation, business and rural development, Tuesday.
Hutchings spoke with reporters after opening the latest session, held at Glendenning Golf Club in St. John’s. The first was held in St. Anthony on Sept. 18.
According to information being provided to the attendees, some of the challenges identified for launching in the North to date are high costs (for example, in transportation and labour), harsh environment, logistics, regional competition, global competition and a lack of available infrastructure.
Geographic location and experience with harsh environments offshore are considered assets.
The sessions are expected to produce a single document with recommendations for items the government can act upon to facilitate growth within industries.
One possibility of what might result is a call for improvements to transportation infrastructure in specific locations.
“In some cases, infrastructure would exist. In other cases, capacity would have to be increased. In other cases, maybe there’s no exact infrastructure in place. … So we would look at the full picture in terms of what the recommendation would be coming out (of this) collectively,” Hutchings said of the subject as a whole.
The province has been strained as of late when it comes to fulfilling its own existing commitments to transportation services along the coast of Labrador — a direct result of the loss of the MV Northern Ranger ferry to unplanned maintenance mid-season.
Meanwhile, any calls for new investment in transportation infrastructure would likely be a cross-government discussion, Hutchings said. The federal government would be brought in on major capital projects and Innu and Inuit governments would also have to be brought in — particularly if recommended developments fall within existing or proposed land claim areas.
However, discussing businesses being active in the Arctic long-term is not only about transportation and not only about Northern Labrador.
“This is about, too, identifying companies that may not even know at this stage that they have opportunities or that their business could provide services and supplies to the Arctic,” Hutchings said.