By STEVEN CHASE
Stephen Harper trumpeted a federal grant to teach essential mining skills to 400 aboriginal workers in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, an effort to ensure the local population benefits from big resource extraction projects.
The prime minister's annual summer tour of northern Canada coincides with a controversy in neighboring Yukon over a new territorial government effort to import foreign workers for industries such as mining.
The $5.8-million over two years will fund a 25-month program delivered with the Northwest Territories Mine Training Society for participants in the NWT and the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut.
"The North's rapidly growing extractive industry is driving prosperity and creating demand for local skilled workers," said Prime Minister Harper. "The support being provided today will help Aboriginal participants in the North gain the training they need to access the jobs and prosperity being generated by the industry's growth."
The training is taking place in 11 communities and on three mine sites across the Territories and the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut, including Hay River. Following the training, six local employer partners, including three area mines, will place graduates into jobs.
The prime minister announced the funds during a stop in Hay River, NWT, on the third day of his 2013 summer tour of northern Canada.
Mr. Harper began his eighth annual northern tour of Canada Sunday, embarking on a six-day trip that starts in Yukon before crossing the Arctic Circle to promote mining and other resource extraction in this country's most sparsely populated region.
Like Progressive Conservative chief John Diefenbaker, Mr. Harper has a use-it-or-lose it attitude toward northern Canada that in the early years of his government led to high-profile measures to promote Canadian sovereignty in the resource-rich Arctic.
Now in his eighth year in office, the prime minister is focusing more on economic and social development of a region that struggles with unemployment and the challenge of creating durable jobs.
Mr. Harper's other stops include Hay River, NWT, Gjoa Haven and Rankin Inlet in Nunavut as well as Raglan Mine, the location of a massive nickel mining complex in northern Quebec.
Training will also be delivered at three mine sites in the Territories: Diavik Diamond Mine, Snap Lake Mine and Ekati Diamond Mine.