July 7, 2023

Your Weekly Newsletter

Arctic Energy Alliance ED Mark Heyck displays his emcee skills by starting with a joke this week during the three-day Our Energy and Climate Future in a Changing World conference at the Chateau Nova Hotel. Behind Yellowknife's former mayor is Sam Harrison, a senior analyst with Navius Research, Inc and Aurora Marstokk, an analyst at that company, preparing to share the main findings of a major 18-month study commissioned by the GNWT. Photo by James O'Connor

Energy conference a real eye-opener on the NWT's future

Plenty of questions, a few solutions and some deep consternation.

The GNWT’s expertly executed Our Energy and Climate Future in a Changing World conference was held over three days at the Chateau Nova Hotel in Yellowknife. The event drew more than 150 attendees mostly from GNWT departments, community and Indigenous movements, academia, non-profits and private businesses in the energy or renewables sectors, learning about the extreme challenges the North faces trying to follow the current federal government’s Net Zero by 2050 climate change directives.

It’s obvious that any grand public policy scheme can be achieved if there is enough funding to ensure the development, production and installation of the new technology will replace those dirty carbon fuels in a seamless fashion. But, we can’t mess around with power, transportation and heat sources in the arctic.

The federal government’s Net Zero by 2050 — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined a number of countries announcing pledges to achieve net zero emissions — will require billions of dollars in the NWT alone to wean us off diesel and provide shiny new biomass burners, solar panel farms, wind turbines and clean biofuel.

Vancouver-based consulting firm Navius Research was contracted to undertake an 18-month modelling study to analyze the impacts of climate and energy policies in the NWT. It informed much of the debate and discussion at the conference.

“This is a forecast, it's a simulation that describes how the energy economy is likely to evolve in the absence of major new policies,” said Sam Harrison, a senior analyst with Navius Research. “So this captures climate and energy policies that were on the books as of March 2022.”

Aurora Marstokk, an analyst at Navius, told the Chateau Nova conference room on Wednesday that four key technological pathways to reduce emissions in the NWT were identified:

  • Maximizing use of biomass in buildings for space heating.
  • Electrification, with a particular focus on building heat and light-and medium-duty electric vehicles and charging stations.
  • Boosting a low carbon electricity supply with renewables (solar, wind and maybe even small nuclear) as well as storage batteries.
  • Blending biofuels into the liquid fuel supply in the territory. 

Policymakers could also focus on removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it either using nature-based solutions or engineered solutions. There could also be offsets earned for re-forestation. (Perhaps after the trees were chopped down for biomass use?)

Until we have a better idea of how all of this will be paid for and how high a tax burden we will be expected to shoulder (the North might be de-populated if costs increase) these studies and conferences are a good chance to expand and re-shape thinking, but tangibles are still frustratingly far down the road. 

The process, of course, must also include Indigenous governments and fair and transparent process to ensure we continue to advance key partnerships on energy issues. There will be new economic opportunities — and we can’t even get procurement policies figured out at the moment in the NWT.

The NWT’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions in Canada is very low and is a tiny pin-prick in relation to the rest of the world. But there is no doubt the impacts of a rapidly warming climate are being felt in the North and mitigation and adaptation is needed right now.

We should do what we can to reduce pollution in a responsible manner, but there also has to be some serious regard to ensuring we don’t crush the existing economy in the zeal to secure an affordable and sustainable new green energy system.

Of course, keep in mind that a change in governments in Ottawa in the next year could see all this forecasting work get sent back to the drawing board.

The GNWT intends for the outcomes of the engagement process to inform the five-year review of the Energy Strategy and the Climate Change Strategic Framework, which the GNWT committed to initiating in 2023.

Hay River disaster program deadline pushed back

The deadline for residents and businesses to request a Disaster Assistance Advance for those affected by the 2022 flood in Hay River has been extended to July 31.

It is critical that those who intend to apply for a Disaster Assistance Advance have their documentation in by that deadline so their request can be processed.

Residents and businesses in Hay River may apply for a Disaster Assistance Advance for up to 50% of their damage assessment report. If you have any questions, please email [email protected].

The form to request an advance can be found here.

'Embrace the evolving landscape of single-use plastic regulations'

Registration is now open for our upcoming online webinar; Decoding Canada's Plastic Regulations for Foodservice Businesses.

Produced by Restaurants Canada, it's on for Tuesday, July 11, from 11am to noon MST.


Talia Gordner, commercial & regulatory partner of McMillan LLP, breaks down the changes in single-use plastic regulations in Canada and how food service businesses can navigate to ensure compliance with these laws.

Talia will provide the latest updates on federal policies, including the single-use plastics ban that specifically targets six designated products. She'll also provide insights into the proposed plastics labelling framework and registry, making it clearer for you to read.

"Restaurants Canada understands that the phase-out can be daunting and hard to adapt – we want to ensure that we provide our members with practical strategies to align their operations," stated a promo release.

Register now and secure your spot – together we will embrace the evolving landscape of single-use plastic regulations.  


"If we’re serious about tourism ... the weekday-weekend split means nothing to tourists. They’re on vacation. They don’t care if it’s Tuesday, they want to do something interesting in the time they have."

— Inuvik Drum editor Eric Bowling in an editorial this week.

"There should be something happening in Chief Jim Koe Park every day. People are driving up here to see Beaufort Delta culture, so we should give it to them. Inuvialuit Drummers and Dancers could practice under the pavillion during the week and the Gwich’in Tribal Council could sponsor hand game competitions, which would delight anyone who just drove the Dempster."

"Given the integrated nature of ports and rail corridors, a work stoppage can create disruptions that take weeks or even months to correct."

— Canadian National Railway Co. spokesperson Jonathan Abecassis in Financial Post warning about the impact of the B.C. ports strike.

"These workers are dedicated to serving their community, despite demoralizing conditions, extreme fatigue during the pandemic, and years of chronic short staffing."

—Gayla Thunstrom, UNW President, writing in NNSL/Yellowknifer on the situation workers at the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority now face as they try to make progress in collective bargaining with their employer. She continued:

"They have been working on skeleton crews at best, and often with no doctors at all.

"They continued that dedication during the floods and fires that followed the pandemic, but have been forced to use up their leave banks during evacuations. Already exhausted, many don’t have any vacation days left to rest and recharge."


Your ED has a soft spot for our furry friends and couldn't resist 'investing' in the NWT SPCA's Hello Summer Mega Cash 50/50 Lottery Fundraiser. The organization does very important work ensuring the humane treatment of animals across the territory. I hope the draw is a lucrative fundraiser for the non-profit, charitable group.

Friday Futures:

  • It's time to register to play — or pony up to sponsor — the NWT Chamber's golf tournament on Friday, August 18! Just email your ED James O'Connor at [email protected] to indicate your preference and be sent an invoice! After 18 holes, participants will be treated to a reception and a yummy meal. More details here.

  • To celebrate the NWT Chamber's 50th anniversary this year, a major one-day conference and evening reception is being planned for Sept. 29. Please save that date and look for promotional materials (such as the draft below) starting very soon!

The next NWT Chamber Board meeting is July 19 at 11am in-person or Zoom

You can now find the archive of the NWT Chamber's newsletters here


Inquire with the NWT Chamber's Executive Director about sponsorship and newsletter advertising opportunities. We also offer limited numbers of EBlasts to members each month and promoted social media posts can be arranged.

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