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Fortune Tellers

Fortune Tellers

It's 2026 and the situation is dire. No more so than in the North.
By Herb Mathisen
Feb 03
From the February 2016 Issue

“It’s been another down year for the mining sector—the 13th in a row. But analysts agree that this is the year that commodity prices finally recover,” reads a business pundit with rote seriousness on a television inside Iqaluit’s vacuous airport, before the TV’s ripped out of the wall by a looter. A newly imposed ban on southbound air travel has sparked violent riots in the three territorial capitals—and across each territory—as highways to the south have also been ordered barricaded.

When the last of the operating mines began scaling down, some saw the writing on the wall and sold their homes, packed up and moved away. With a litre of milk and a loaf of bread equivalent to nearly half a day’s wages to anyone not employed with the public service, and with no solid industries left to replace the lost jobs of the shuttered mines, the territorial governments banded together and resorted to this drastic measure—essentially holding their citizenry hostage—to retain the last vestiges of revenues, in the form of that sweet per capita federal formula transfer. In response, a black market has sprung up to sneak Northerners south by secret overland trail routes and clandestine waterways. 

Okay… so that’s probably not going to happen. But this hyperbolic outcome does highlight the North’s dependency on—some might call it an addiction to—the resource extraction sector and its ties to the vagaries of world markets. Governments know a diversified economy is the surest way to ride out the lows.

But how can Northern economies get the most out of resource projects while they’re producing? How will they develop new industries that reduce the dependency on southern imports? How will they make communities more sustainable and liveable? What can be done right now to avoid this dystopian 2026 future? Those are some, uh, real good questions.

Our State of the Economies feature usually looks back at the year that was for the North’s economies and tries to predict what’s in store for the year to follow. This time, we tried something a little different.

With 2015 essentially a repeat of 2014—a slumping resource sector causing mines to slow or shut down along with a drop in mineral exploration spending—we decided to imagine what the North might look like 10 years from now. Will the three territories still be so closely tied to the fate of the mining sector, its most important industry? And to government transfers? We spoke with political and business leaders in Nunavut, the NWT and Yukon to see what can be done now to avoid disaster in 2026.

Click the links below to check out the predictions in each territory:

Fortune Tellers - NWT

Fortune Tellers - Yukon

Fortune Tellers - Nunavut