We may not be thinking big enough – Yukon News
Put down your coffee, hold onto something to stabilize yourself, and read this press release from a parallel universe:
WHITEHORSE, November 26, 2021 – Tesla, Green Copper Megacorp and the Government of Yukon have announced an international recruitment drive to attract 10,000 new workers for the Territory’s recently announced massive electric car battery plant, worth € ‘billion dollars, and the major new copper mine, both powered by green hydropower. Both investments were funded in part by the Canadian Green Deal.
The gigafactory will produce batteries for a million cars a year, helping Canadian auto factories thousands of miles away retool for the post-carbon era. Copper will not only replace copper made from fossil fuels, but will also provide the cabling for thousands of miles of cable needed for new offshore solar and wind farms.
As part of its plan to attract newcomers, the Government of Yukon recently completed construction of a new 20-story cultural center, one of the tallest wooden buildings in the world featuring Canadian engineering from the advanced wood. The territory has also sent greeting cards to all those who have left the Yukon in the past decade, encouraging them to relocate to their homes. Its Department of Economic Development also hosts hockey and cultural events in Calgary and Toronto to encourage southerners to consider the north.
The city of Whitehorse offers free curling lessons to newcomers, while locals use their dogs’ Instagram accounts to make friends with newcomers. The Canadian government is changing employment insurance rules in areas of Canada with high unemployment rates to encourage workers to move to the Yukon.
Well, it’s happening. And not in a parallel universe, just parallel Nordic territories: Norrbotten and Västerbotten in northern Sweden. Both are well north of Whitehorse, just south of the Arctic Circle.
According to a breathtaking broadcast in the Guardian Titled “Wanted: 100,000 Pioneers for a Klondike of Green Jobs in the Arctic,” the battery plant is called Northvolt and is expected to be the largest in Europe. It will provide batteries to power one million German cars a year. Instead of copper, northern Sweden has a lot of iron ore, which is why the mining company is called H2 Green Steel and will be the “first industrial scale, fossil-free steel plant”. Funding for the European Union’s Green Deal is a big part of the program.
And yes, they’ve built a 20-story wooden cultural center, send greeting cards to former residents, offer free curling lessons, organize events in Stockholm to attract residents, and locals share dog tips. du Nord on Instagram. The Swedish Minister of Employment has really talked about changing social protection rules to encourage Swedes in the south to move north.
What’s different from the fantastic blurb above is the scale. These two Swedish territories have more than 400,000 inhabitants. The Swedish government estimates that 20,000 workers will be needed for the new factories, plus 20,000 other public sector workers such as nurses and teachers, and another 10,000 workers in support industries. The number of public sector workers is linked to the Swedish comprehensive plan to attract workers to the north. The official says the key is to convince potential workers that “this is the best place on earth to live.”
They are also recruiting all over the world, from Mexico to Russia. Northvolt tells everyone that they don’t need to speak Swedish to work there, just English.
Northern Sweden has a longer and more extensive history of industrial mining than we do, and is closer to global auto factories than we do. They also had surplus housing and infrastructure after population declines following downsizing at some older mines and military bases in recent decades.
What’s remarkable is that they don’t complain about carbon taxes or how climate change policy increases the cost of living.
Instead, they’ve crafted a plan to contribute to the global climate transition and expand economic opportunities while they’re at it. And they’re tackling tough economic challenges like manufacturing profitable batteries and low-carbon steel. This makes it even more remarkable than the success their neighbors in Luleå had in attracting a billion euro Facebook data center, as I wrote a few years ago.
Norrbotten Governor Lotta Finstorp is inspired not only by local economic development, but also how the region can help the world with its climate transition. “If we can’t get people to come here, we won’t be able to be successful with all of these investments that are very necessary for the world,” she told the Guardian.
Until then, it doesn’t matter the Swedes and their obsession with renewables and the future. Get back to reality in our universe and spend our transfer payment to grow the government by 300 people a year.
Keith Halliday is an economist from the Yukon, author of Yukon Aurora children’s adventure novels and co-host of the Klondike Gold Rush History podcast. He won the Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist.