Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland believes the NWT’s tourism industry will mount a swift recovery once the Covid-19 pandemic passes and travel begins again.
Tourism has been one of the territory’s hardest-hit industries. As of October, nearly 1,000 full-time and part-time jobs had been lost according to a survey conducted by industry body NWT Tourism.
Around 70 percent of operators said their sales and revenue had halved or worse.
Speaking to Cabin Radio, Freeland said she knows travel restrictions have been tough but believes people will flock to the North once they have the chance.
“We are all going to have, as a country, a tremendous case of cabin fever when the restrictions are finally lifted,” the minister said.
“I think more people than ever are going to want to explore and experience Canada’s amazing North, the Northwest Territories.”
Freeland also insisted the territory’s weakened mining industry has a positive future.
The Ekati mine – one of the NWT’s three diamond mines – has been closed for most of the year and its owner, Dominion, has tried twice in the past six months to sell the mine. The latest such deal is being finalized, which may bring to an end months of uncertainty about hundreds of jobs.
“The mineral resources that the Northwest Territories possesses in such abundance are going to be in great demand in the world economy going forward,” Freeland said.
“I see a bright future for mining in Canada. I think that some of the very scarce resources in the world that Canada possesses in abundance are going to serve us very, very well in the weeks and months and years to come.”
In 2019, the NWT’s real GDP dropped eight percent in large part due to a troubled mining sector, according to Statistics Canada.
As reported by NNSL, the Conference Board of Canada believes the NWT to have the weakest economy of the three territories going into 2021.
The think tank expects the territory’s GDP to have contracted 7.6 percent in 2020 and forecasts only a 4.6-percent rebound in 2021.
The report states: “The steep contraction this year is due largely to the lost year for the territory’s tourism sector, in addition to weakness in its mining sector.”
‘Inspiration for the rest of Canada’
Freeland praised the NWT government’s handling of the pandemic, calling the territory’s comparatively low number of cases to date – 23 have been confirmed – “a testament for sure to political leadership, to a great public health officer.”
“You guys are doing a terrific job, you’re an inspiration for the rest of Canada,” Freeland said.
With vaccination campaigns on the horizon, the deputy prime minister expressed hope that the world is nearing the end of the pandemic and its accompanying restrictions.
The NWT is set to receive enough of the Moderna and National Institutes of Health vaccine – once approved by Health Canada – to cover three quarters of the adult population in early 2021.
How that’ll happen and who gets priority is still being decided by the territory.