Talent in the Cold? Creative Capital and the Economic Future of the Canadian North


  • Andrey N. Petrov




creative class, creative capital, regional development, periphery, the Canadian North


The concept of the creative economy provides an alternative perspective on regional development in the Canadian North. Most studies in the economic geography of talent and creativity have focused on large metropolitan centres, but from the path-creation perspective, the creative class is no less important in the northern frontier area, where it acts as the agent of economic transformation and revitalization. I used both traditional and newly developed creative class metrics based on the four-sector model of the creative class to analyze creative capital in northern towns. Although the creative class is weak in the Canadian North, I identify a group of six leading communities that constitute the creative core of the North (Yellowknife, NT; Whitehorse, YT; Inuvik, NT; Fort Smith, NT; Smithers, BC; and Iqaluit, NU). These communities have high levels of creative capital and can compete nationally in terms of quality of place to attract the creative labor force. A dozen others could be considered lesser centres of creativity. Not surprisingly, single-industry towns in the Canadian North have the weakest creative class and therefore much less potential for regional reinvention. Some characteristics of the creative class observed in northern communities are similar to those found in metropolitan areas, but others are distinctive. In the periphery, entrepreneurship and leadership appear to be more important elements than formal education. Creativity is found to be positively associated with the aboriginality of the population. Northern communities should consider adopting policies that will stimulate the growth of creative capital by developing the education and business skills, leadership ability, entrepreneurial competency, and artistic talent of their residents.