Mr. Speaker, last fall I, along with the Member from Hay River North and along with the Minister of ITI, was pleased to attend a policy discussion with the NWT Manufacturers' Association focusing on the development of a NWT manufacturing strategy. This is another one of our mandate commitments for this Assembly, and I was pleased to see that we are moving forward in this area.
In particular, I was pleased to see new energy and ideas being generated from members of the Manufacturers' Association. Giving credit where credit is due, I noted significant interest and responsiveness on behalf of the Department of ITI.
Mr. Speaker, manufacturers in the NWT face a number of challenges, factors that we are all familiar with. Like all of us, they face high energy costs. They face high costs of shipping that hit them twice; first, when they import raw materials, and then again when they try to market finished products.
Recruiting, training, and keeping qualified staff is another challenge. Finding skilled tradespeople is not always easy, but is important when compared to the demands of training and supervising unskilled labour.
Then, when a product is complete, who do they sell it to? Our territory offers a small market for the purchase of manufactured goods. Online selling is a good way to reach a wider market, but then, to send their product elsewhere, they are faced with the shipping costs again.
Facing these challenges, it may seem a difficult task to get a manufacturing initiative off the ground, and certainly it will be. Energy, commitment, and initiative will be needed, but there are ways in which the government can help alleviate those pressures, Mr. Speaker:
- We can support partnerships among manufacturers to achieve economies of scale.
- We can design training and apprenticeship programs to help workers find and match a skilled workforce with demand from employers.
- We can support research and innovation to reward new, made-in-the-North ideas and practices.
- We can assist with marketing to help manufacturers develop new markets for their products.
Mr. Speaker, our greatest strength is the imagination, creativity, and resourcefulness of the people of the North. We can provide them with backing and resources to develop home-grown ideas and support this untapped sector to flourish and grow. Later, Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Minister of ITI. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.