Canada’s Next Great Opportunity (and Risk)

Pivoting North, the online conference to discuss Canada’s Next Great Opportunity (Wednesday, November 25th, 11:00 – 13:00 EST) has received a lot of attention from business, government, and Indigenous peoples – especially those with experience in the Arctic. In light of this, we have decided to postpone the conference until sometime in early 2021 to more fully integrate the wisdom and perspectives of additional Indigenous leaders into the discussions.

Canada’s North Pole is magnetic, and compasses point towards it. It’s time for Corporate Canada and our governments to turn in the same direction.

This Discussion Paper is based on the premise that:

  • Climate change is quickly impacting Canada’s North and at the same time, increasing the shipping viability of the Northwest Passage. Maritime shipping will foster other large opportunities.
  • Canada must act as quickly to assert its sovereignty over the region and support the lives of local Indigenous peoples. Russia, the U.S., and even China have their own ambitions.
  • Asserting Canada’s sovereignty over the Northwest Passage and successful economic development are wholly interdependent. Neither can be achieved without the other.
  • Without respect for and collaboration with local Indigenous peoples, neither objective is possible.
  • It will take a coalition of like-minded business leaders to convince the Government of Canada, with some urgency, to develop policies and programs that support economic development of the North, including the commercial operation of the Northwest Passage.

Throughout our history, Canada has never truly leveraged, collectively, three of its most important assets: our geographic position in the world as the largest land mass in the north; the shipping potential of the Northwest Passage and, our international reputation for political and economic stability. Canada’s North is very large in geographic and economic potential, but very small in population, infrastructure, and national focus. It is perhaps best to look at it in bites and compared to other such places in the world:

Over half of Canada’s land mass is north of 60 degrees latitude – including the territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut as well as Northern Quebec. Yet only 70,000 people live along our northern coast, all of them Indigenous to the region (Inuit, First Nations, and Métis). Most live below the poverty line and the near-term impacts of climate change are already threatening their traditional lifestyles.

“The key elements of Canadian survival and success in this great strategic game come together not at the American border, which remains the unique preoccupation of our decision-making class, but instead at our Arctic border.”

Dr. Irvin Studin, Editor in Chief and Publisher
Global Brief Magazine

This is Canada’s next greatest opportunity – and threat.

As the ice melts, the Northwest Passage will become the centre of the world’s new political chessboard. Canada must control it, alone or in partnership, or our sovereignty and long-term economic future will be in jeopardy. Canada must pivot north, away from its traditional focus on the American border. In our opinion, on large issues such as this, the federal government needs motivation from outside of its traditional decisioning processes to act with of sense real urgency and purpose. Canada’s North needs a business strategy behind it. A coalition of like-minded businesses that can embrace, improve, and enable Canada’s Arctic and Northern Policy Framework will not only be able to support the government’s own goals, but also bring real economic gains to the nation, Indigenous peoples, and Canadian business.

If government could have done it alone, it would have done so already.

As it concerns sovereignty and economic development, it’s a bit like chess. Controlling the middle of the board does not guarantee success, but it goes a long way to exerting influence over the outcome. Same with the Northwest Passage. Canadians can – and should – be the main influencers of how, where and when the Northwest Passage is developed. More broadly, Canada’s solution to the critical issues of sovereignty in the North and economic sustainability across the country go hand-in-hand. The opportunity is so large that no government, no single business entity, nor individual group of Indigenous peoples can hope to address this alone.


It will require a robust federal government policy structure supported by investment and operations structures based on such options as public-private-partnerships (P3) and those with Indigenous peoples as partners too. Hard work is needed, by Corporate Canada and Indigenous peoples, so that both groups learn the hard skills as well as the soft skills of how to do business together. We can’t just plant the flag and expect success in a highly competitive and rapidly shifting geo-political context. And the world isn’t waiting for Canada to develop its own northern region. We need to start now, together.

Our goal at Campbell Strategies is to help facilitate the necessary conversations, relationships, and policies that will set the table for Canada’s Pivot North.

The discussion paper we wrote is the first step in that process, followed by an online meeting of interested leaders from Corporate Canada and experts from the North. This event will be held on Wednesday November 25th (11:00am EST).

Following the online meeting, Campbell Strategies will invite interested corporate leaders to establish the CANADIAN ARCTIC INVESTMENT COUNCIL. The Council will:

  1. Monitor the policies, policy development, and discussions concerning Canada’s North with all governments in the region (Federal, Territorial, Provincial, Municipal, and Indigenous).
  2. Monitor the same as above in Arctic nations, including United States, Russia, Norway, Denmark, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Iceland, and China.
  3. Monitor traditional and social media on the relevant themes
  4. Ensure that Canadian business plays a prominent role in delivering Canada’s 2019 Arctic and Northern Policy Framework and influences any future policy developments within it
  5. Provide an environment for collaboration among coalition members eager to discuss and pursue partnerships and shared investments in Canada’s Arctic.
  6. Ensure that the message that sovereignty and economic development are interdependent is embedded in government policy.
  7. Make Canadians at large aware of this interdependence and its importance to the future of the nation’s sovereignty, prosperity, and respect for Indigenous peoples, through a public website, publications, media relations, speeches, and other communications activities.
  8. Invite, encourage, and invest in initiatives that support a better understanding between Indigenous peoples and Corporate Canada on each other needs and establish areas of collaboration.
  9. Ensure the integration of the needs of Indigenous peoples and environmental sustainability in the economic development of Canada’s Arctic, and,
  10. Pursue Canadian leadership and management of the operations of the Northwest Passage along with any partnerships – with other nations or international businesses – that may be required.

We invite your opinions on this critical matter, and we hope that you and your organization will consider joining with us at this critical intersection of government policy and business needs.

Barry Campbell
President & Founder

Ted Griffith