WHITEHORSE—As the classic Canadian poem says, the Yukon is where people moil for gold.
And today Stephen Harper is off to see what a more modern day version of that work looks like.
On his first full day in the North, Harper was to tour Captstone’s copper gold Minto mine, about 240 kilometres north of Whitehorse.
His visit comes after a speech to party faithful last night in the territorial capital where he extolled the development of the North’s resources as the “great national dream.”
The speech reiterated the priority the Conservatives say they’ve placed on the North since being elected in 2006.
“The North’s time has come,” Harper told a crowd of about 300 Conservative supporters at a rally Monday night.
“I tell people starting to see the activity here, you ain’t seen nothing yet in terms of what’s coming in the next decade.”
Natural resources development has also become a renewed focus of the Harper government as countries the world express eagerness to receive a greater share.
The Conservatives have set about redrawing the process for approving natural resources projects, changing regulatory requirements, including environmental assessments to what they say will just help speed the projects up.
The government says there are currently 24 projects in the North representing $38 billion in potential new investment.
Changing the environmental assessment process to require fewer reviews and limiting their scope was one of the more contentious elements of the Conservatives’ recently-passed budget. Others included changes being made to old age security and transfer payments for health care.
“Not every one of these measures is easy or is popular with everybody,” Harper said in a stump-style speech in a riding captured by the Tories in the 2011 federal election.
“But the reason we do them is they are all in the long-term best interests of this country.”
Opposition critics say that’s not the case and that local voices are being left out of the discussion of what measures are in fact in the best interests of Canada when it comes to the development of resources.
“Northerners deserve more than an annual photo op from their prime minister and hollow announcements that never materialize,” said Liberal Aboriginal Affairs Critic Carolyn Bennett in a statement.,
“It is time that the federal government listen to their concerns and serve as a true partner in addressing the serious challenges and opportunities in Canada’s North.”