Canada has a wealth of untapped economic potential and it's not where you would expect.
While the latest Royal Bank forecast calls for resource-rich provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan to lead the country in economic growth next year, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce says Canada is selling short two areas that account for 40 per cent of the country's land mass - Yukon and Nunavut.
In a new report called "Developing the Economic Potential of Canada's Territories," the national chamber says the territories are believed to contain much of Canada's untapped natural resources wealth. However, tapping into that potential is hampered by a shortage of skilled workers, a lack of infrastructure and poor access to capital, among other challenges.
"We are selling our territories - and Canada - short," Perrin Beatty, the Canadian chamber's CEO, said in a news release. "The federal government must take the lead in developing an integrated, long-term strategy and business case that create the conditions for full economic participation by the territories and all of their peoples."
There are indications of the territories' economic potential to be found in statistics which show that, while the territories have just over three per cent of Canada's population, Yukon and Nunavut enjoyed the highest and second-highest gross domestic product increases in the country in 2011, at 7.7 and 5.6 per cent respectively.
However, the Chamber of Commerce report notes that some business people say the cost of doing business is five times higher and the operating effort 10 times greater in the territories than in the provinces, which hinders the territories' competitiveness.
If those hurdles can be addressed - and the chamber's report contains recommendations for smoothing the way - then the territories can start to become a bigger player in the Canadian economy. Efforts are already underway to make that happen. The report indicates that the federal government is investing $100 million over five years (2008-2013) in the Geo-mapping for Energy and Minerals (GEM) program to identify energy and mineral resource locations and potential in the territories.
If the vast economic potential of the territories can be unleashed, that will not only be a boon for Yukon and Nunavut, but it will be a benefit to the Canadian economy as a whole.
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