Thursday, 17 July 2014

Practice Makes a Difference: The Northern Canada Transportation Research Experience

By Douglas Baba, 2nd year MDP student

The placement with the Northern Sustainable Prosperity Initiative (NSPI) has not only sharpened my research skills but also afforded me the opportunity to learn from a vast array of researchers from International Institute of Sustainable Development (IISD), Stantec Inc., community development managers, policy and service development advisors, and Northern transportation experts and engineers during our bi-weekly project partners meetings. What is more exciting and challenging to me is the fact that finding a way to work in order to meet the expectations of these varied groups of people by putting theory into practice.

L to R: Lee Fehler (NSPI), Brian Horton (UM), Terry Duguid (NSPI), Erica Vido (Province of Manitoba), Roger Rempel (Stantec), Douglas Baba (MDP), Pauline Gerrard (IISD)

The supply chain between the two regions is critical to growth and development in the Nunavut Territory in general and the Kivalliq region in particular. Resource exploration and development is expanding across Nunavut with mine exploration including uranium, gold, diamond as well as proven and potential oil deposits. The key to successful growth in this challenging region is a strong transportation sector which is able to manage variation in climatic conditions and adapt to the changing needs of northern business and communities. 

Nunavut is the only territory not connected to the rest of Canada by road or rail or to the rest of the world by a deep sea port. The absence of all these modes of transport in the area are essential infrastructure needs if Nunavut is to fully realize its economic potential and support sustainable economic growth. Nunavut is a vast area of land serving a very small population and this makes development of all forms very challenging.

More importantly, climate change, and the resulting fluctuating weather patterns across the North are leading to the exposure of transportation infrastructure conditions it was not originally designed to withstand. There are therefore a number of plans to support transportation connectivity and the supply of needed goods and services in the region.

I am going for four days to Churchill, Manitoba to conduct surveys with key stakeholders in the region on existing transportation infrastructure and the supply chain; the potential climate change and related impacts as well as nature and volume of goods and services that go to each community in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut. My passion for climate change will further be boosted by this exciting, educative and interesting trip to Churchill.

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