Minister-led Roundtable: The North - Table Setter


July 7, 2016, 2:00PM to 4:00PM | Iqaluit, NU

Table Setter

Discussion Purpose

To hear perspectives on the longer-term agenda for transportation in Canada that supports the Government’s objectives for economic growth, a cleaner economy, and a country that remains well-positioned to compete globally.

Roundtable Objectives

Validate the most pressing transportation concerns and opportunities in Canada’s North associated with transportation connectivity, safety, environmental impacts, and impacts of climate change.

Identify priority areas for federal action (and to potentially inform an integrated federal approach to northern transportation).

Improve/validate understanding of how to better design federal programs and carry out activities to better account for unique northern realities.


  • Due to remoteness, transportation plays a particularly critical role connecting northern communities and facilitating resource developments. While social and economic development opportunities (e.g., through resource development and tourism) rely on effective transportation links, unique northern factors (harsh climatic conditions, small populations, thin supply lines, and limited transport infrastructure) pose particular logistical and commercial challenges to the supply of these services.
  • Transport activities (all modes) in the North are increasing, mainly due to growing economic activity. Further, resource development in the region is expected to lead to more integration of the North with global supply chains while improved access to Canada’s Northwest Passage for longer periods could drive growth in through traffic.
  • Increasing and changing transportation activities and patterns have impacts on community well-being, sensitive and unique northern ecosystems (e.g., air quality, water pollution, wildlife migration patterns), and could give rise to safety and security concerns (e.g., search and rescue incidents). These changes in transportation activities also increase requirements for key support services (e.g., surveillance, automated weather observation systems, regulatory oversight, navigation support, and response capacity).
  • Impacts of climate change are more acute in the North, threatening transportation efficiency, safety, resilience and, consequently, impeding social and economic development opportunities and influencing the need for climate adaptation strategies.

Defining Objectives for the Future

There is a growing imperative to improve transportation assets and practices in Canada’s North to support basic community needs, to unlock resources, as well as to address the challenges associated with sensitive eco-systems, changing climate, small/dispersed populations, and high costs of living and doing business.

Territorial governments are responsible for elements of transportation system and have articulated clear aspirations for the development of the northern transportation system, including along strategic transportation corridors. For example, in 2014, the three northern territories published “A Northern Vision: Building a Better North” which renews a commitment to work together to achieve common goals and engage in partnerships to shape the future of Canada’s North with infrastructure as one of the Vision’s pillars. Addressing existing and emerging transportation challenges will require effective coordination of activities and resources.

Numerous pressing socio-economic issues (e.g., poverty, housing shortage, poor health outcomes) compete with transportation issues for limited resources.

Providing transportation infrastructure that meets both social and economic development objectives as well as leveraging private sector support for transport infrastructure are challenging due to many resource development projects being distant from communities.

Key Index Question

In an evolving context, which includes rapid climate change, growing global interest in the North, and transformative technological change, what improvements should be prioritized to support vital connections to, from and within the North, in order to (further) enable and unlock the economic growth potential of the North, while maintaining transportation safety and protecting the sensitive northern environment?

Roundtable Discussion Questions

  1. What are the key concerns with transportation access (connectivity) to/from/between northern communities that need to be resolved, but which market forces are not able to resolve independently? What actions could be taken to address these concerns? What can be the role of industry, users and others in moving to a more coordinated approach?
  2. What are the transportation challenges that get in the way of economic development potential in the North? What innovative approaches would address these challenges? Is a corridor development approach appropriate for the North?
  3. What are the most pressing concerns with transportation safety in northern conditions and the impact of transportation on the northern environment? What actions could be taken to address these concerns?
  4. What are the most pressing transportation challenges resulting from climate change? In what specific areas can public and private interests work together to improve the situation?