The International Centre for Governance and Development refocused its mission and mandate to concentrate on the Circumpolar North and its relationship to Northern Saskatchewan in the winter of 2008-09. With an emphasis on innovation, the goal of the newly formed International Centre for Northern Governance and Development (ICNGD) is to further research, graduate training, and capacity building around the issues of governance and development – economy, environment, social and health – in partnership with northern and Aboriginal communities, industry, and government.
The ICNGD draws together an impressive network of researchers from not only the University of Saskatchewan, but also the Circumpolar world, to address questions of governance and development in the North. They examine everything from models of First Nations self-government, to innovation and wealth-generation strategies, to finding new ways to manage resource development and ensure environmental stewardship.
The Centre provides a powerful forum for partnerships among northern communities, including First Nations and municipal; provincial, and federal governments; industry stakeholders, and; the university community. The North has often led the way in developing partnerships, from local to international, that foster mutual understanding, cooperation and capacity building which together seeks prosperity for all.
Why the North Matters
The Provincial North is crucial to Saskatchewan’s economic future. The vast majority of the province’s future energy resources—uranium, oil sands, and hydro—as well as other mineral resources, forest and non-timber resources, and northern tourism lie in Northern Saskatchewan. Given the intersection of increasing global demand for Canada's resources, the transitions in emerging Aboriginal governance structures, and rapidly changing regional dynamics within Canada, Saskatchewan requires an economic development and governance strategy in the Provincial North, driven by innovation and built on community, industry, and global partnerships.
Historically, the province has occasionally focused on the northern half of the province, but usually because the region either offered resource wealth for general use or because of a concern about the conditions of northern and Aboriginal communities. For decades, northern resources have been developed for the benefit of the South, the rest of the country, and major international interests.
Northern Saskatchewan now finds itself in a dramatically different position. The combination of uranium mining, diamond exploration, and the possibility of a major oil sands project have started to offset a prolonged downturn in the forestry sector. Saskatchewan, long-saddled with a reputation as a have-not province, has emerged from its former shadow, with expanding fiscal resources and a determination to pursue northern resource development in an environmentally sustainable way. In addition, the implementation of the Treaty Land Entitlement process, the increasing authority of Aboriginal governments, and greater local engagement with economic and resource use planning have ensured that northerners will have a very different role to play in the development of the region.
21st century developments in Saskatchewan provide an enormous opportunity to develop its northern resources in a way that brings economic prosperity to the province in general and the North in particular. Building economic prosperity will require a comprehensive approach to innovation and development in the North, with new approaches to resource development and northern governance systems. Implementation of an innovation and development strategy in partnership with northern stakeholders holds the promise of a much more substantial return to the North in the form of local reinvestment, regional infrastructure development, and strategic education and job training. This will support increasing resource development, expansion of service sectors, long term environmental stewardship, and growth of new industries such as northern tourism.
The current debate has created the ideal environment for Saskatchewan to rethink its approach, to apply its well-deserved reputation for political innovation and commitment to responsible societal change, and to be a model in Canada of successful northern development. International models provide important lessons for Northern Saskatchewan. The Norwegian model of investing short-term resource revenues to ensure a long-term financial base could endow public services for the North in education, health and culture, and economic infrastructure for generations to come. Other remote northern regions such as Alaska have had high success in the development of a thriving private sector through such investment. Through global partnerships, Northern Finland provides ample examples of centres that have been on a virtuous cycle of investment, innovation and growth. Saskatchewan can do the same, too.
Managing prosperity will require effective governance systems in the North supported by local and First Nations governments who have the skills and capacity to take advantage of the emerging economic opportunities and to manage the rapid social change in communities and existing ways of life that will come with economic growth. Old models do not work. The manifold social and cultural changes will require bold new approaches—ones that are more efficient, effective and sustainable—in the areas such as education and skills training, housing, health, and social services.
The International Centre for Northern Governance and Development focuses on provincial and local strategies to manage prosperity and sustained economic growth and social development in Northern Saskatchewan with a particular attention to public-private partnerships and regional development innovation clusters; regional partnerships to compete in global markets; the evolution of impact benefit agreements, community-industry relations, and transitions in Aboriginal governance and land management; the growing complexity of intergovernmental relations; and innovative approaches to social development that strengthen economic growth. The Centre draws on global industry, community, and university partnerships and on comparative research on innovation and economic development in remote regions, especially in the Nordic countries and Alaska.
This Centre consists of leading researchers, community partners, and industry focused on northern economic and political development that have a track record of excellence in community level engagement in the North and international Circumpolar partnerships. The Centre is committed to developing a sustained, long-term program of research, training, and capacity building in Northern Saskatchewan through global partnership.