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City’s economic strategy could see economy decline: councillor

The city voted to pass its economic strategy, which outlines the city’s economic priorities for the next four years, despite concerns from councillors it doesn’t look to the future enough.

Councillor Julian Morse, who previously worked as a regulator for the mining industry, says the mineral resources strategy and focusing on supporting mining could see the city’s economy decline in the near future.

“I worked pretty extensively and intimately with that industry for a number of years, and attached applications to explore decline significantly over that time, I don’t think there’s a lot of potential in that industry,” he said during a council meeting on Monday.

“I just don’t think we can wish international markets into existence that are going to make mines viable,” he added. “I’m bringing a realistic view of what happens when other jurisdictions put their eggs in this basket. When the bottom drops out of the basket, their economies don’t look very good if they haven’t planned well for it.”

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Morse, pictured outside the new home of Makerspace YK’s workshop, says the city should focus on the knowledge economy. (Supplied by Pat Kane photo.)

Morse says while he acknowledges the city has benefited a lot from the mining industry and should continue to support it, the city should be focusing on boosting areas like the knowledge economy, which he says will help the city in the future. 

Morse supported an amendment to the strategy, proposed by Councillor Shauna Morgan, which said the mineral resource strategy should have direct benefits to Yellowknife residents. Originally, the strategy said the city would support the mining industry.

That motion was rejected by the city council.

Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty said while the plan may not seem “sexy”, she said it does its job.

“Our job is not to create business, it’s to ensure we’ve got the right regulatory environment that encourages business,” she said.

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Alty added rewriting the zoning bylaw will lead to big changes within the city, noting the requirement would hopefully make it easier for housing developments to start, and for short-term leases — like AirBnB’s — to become more common, which would boost tourism.

A task force focused on rewriting the zoning and business bylaw according to the priorities laid out in the city’s community plan would be formed at the end of 2021.

This economic strategy, which was ultimately passed unanimously by council, is separate from the joint economic strategy with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, which council also approved unanimously.

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