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Workforce 'far behind'

John Thompson
Northern News Services

Lloydminster, Alta (May 16/05) - Developing Nunavut's workforce was a priority discussed by Paul Okalik when he visited Lloydminster, Alta., to attend the Western Premiers' Conference in early May.

"We're far behind," he said.

Alberta's initiatives for employing aboriginals could be looked at as a model. As Nunavut's industries in sectors like mining continue to develop, he said there needs to be strategies to ensure Nunavummiut are employed and that the territory isn't dependent on southern specialists.

"When that comes we want to be prepared," he said.

The meeting drew leaders from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, as well as from across the North.

When the Northwest Territories was first formed in 1870, it spanned across much of this geography. These historical ties, as well as a common dependence on natural resources to fuel the economy, created a sympathetic crowd to speak when Okalik spoke about Nunavut's challenges.

"We all used to be part of the Northwest Territories," he said.

Canada's west only became developed after the great railway was built, and Okalik said Nunavut is in a similar position today.

"If you look at Canadian history, the west wasn't developed until investments were made by the federal government."