In responding to the flood of comments I received in response to my Thaw Day post, I came up with an excellent new idea. Canada should have a mandatory one or two-year public service in the north, similar to the military conscription they have in Israel and many European countries. It could have a nominal military facade, such as "defending our arctic sovereignty" (otherwise known as throwing rocks at Finns while the Russians and Americans cruise back and forth between us in their subs and oil tankers), but most of the work would be of a more social and economic nature: teaching, building houses and community structures, maintaining infrastructures.
You would involve the leadership of the territories and the native communities at a very high level, so that their input would really drive the direction of things. There would be barracks and bases, but the conscripts would also spend a certain amount of time billeting with local families and dedicating a certain amount of time helping them with their daily work. This would give both sides an opportunity to get to know each other and create future connections (so if a kid from the North wanted to come to the big city and look for opportunities).
Most importantly, it would train our youth to learn to live and deal in a truly cold environment. This would occur when they are at their most stupid and lazy and annoying and instead of moping around all day or walking around with ripped jeans (like a character I saw today on the way to work; big holes in his now red knees, trying to look like he wasn't freezing his ass off), they would be working hard in a disciplined structure.
However, despite the denial of certain comforts, there would be a huge incentive for the conscripts. It would be a giant partying opportunity. It will be totally co-educational, of course and there would be facilities set up for hanging out. From what I hear, tons of hooking up goes on during the mandatory military services in other countries.
This would of course further cultural cross-pollination and provide great fodder for Canadian cinema. You can already see the star-crossed love between cute Jewish girl from Forest Hills who instead of spending two years at McGill talking on the cell phone goes to the north, learns how to work and live and meets a cute Inuit boy who is struggling against his situation. They fall in love, the families are against it (scenes of each visiting the other's family), laughter and tears ensue. We learn about the meaning of the North.
I got off track. The main social benefit would be generations of winter-trained youth, who would be more open to the idea of living outside the major metropolitan areas and who were ready to deal with a bit of snow. It would be a start on the road to Canadians actually living up to their reputation as being a winter people.