Bob McLeod: Engaging with Canada on Behalf of Northerners

Mr. Speaker, a strong partnership with the Government of Canada is essential to ensuring Northerners can achieve their social, environmental and economic goals. By working with our Federal counterparts, the Government of the Northwest Territories will help create an NWT where all people can thrive and be healthy, where a strong economy provides jobs and opportunities for all our communities, and where a well-managed environment contributes to our economic well-being and quality of life.

Mr. Speaker, this past Friday I met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss some of the issues we face as a territory.  The Prime Minister understands our governments share the same goals of wellness, health and prosperity.

Mr. Speaker, Canada needs a plan for sustainable growth and development in the North that will help give Northerners the certainty that they can live and prosper here at home, now and into the future.  The Prime Minister agrees that we need to unlock the economic opportunities and jobs, not to make money for southern companies, but to keep it here in the North.  We need a two-fold approach to unlock our abundant natural resources to grow and sustain our economic future, to lower the cost of living, and develop training, educational and capacity building opportunities. The Prime Minister agrees that an efficient and effective regulatory system is needed and I look forward to working with him on this. 

While development of our non-renewable resources is important to our economic prosperity, we must ensure that communities have access to local economies, marine and freshwater fisheries, tourism and traditional economies.  All Members agree a diversified economy is an important part of the Northwest Territories’ economic future.  Mr. Speaker, this is what it means to unlock our potential.

The Government of the Northwest Territories’ vision for a sustainable Arctic is founded on balance, Mr. Speaker.  Sustainability will be achieved only by strengthening communities by placing a priority on social, cultural, environmental and economic factors. This is an interest we share with Yukon and Nunavut.

The North is built on partnership and collaboration. For decades, our government has recognized and worked with Aboriginal governments on shared interests that will improve the lives of residents in the Northwest Territories. Collaborative relationships and finding consensus to move forward is what has allowed us to achieve the success and growth we have in the North.

Achieving that balance and creating results for Northerners will require a vision and a plan that take global realities and Northern aspirations into account. Recently, the Government of Canada took a significant potential economic development opportunity off the table when they declared a moratorium on offshore oil and gas development.  The Prime Minister has committed to revisiting the moratorium in five years, and we look forward to playing a productive role in that review.  We understand the reasons for the decision and the Government of Canada is willing to work with us to develop comparable opportunities for our residents.

A shared vision for territorial sustainability and development would help us plan for the kind of future Northerners want, Mr. Speaker.  It would let us assess the opportunities in front of us, foresee global trends and then make deliberate choices about how to invest our time, money and effort on creating a future for our residents. 

Creating jobs and opportunities for Northerners is important to our success, and the Prime Minister acknowledged that they need to open other doors for Northerners when they close one, as with off-shore drilling.  Building a green economy in the North could be one of the doors we open, and our shared commitment to getting remote communities off diesel and expanding our hydro potential to combat climate change will create long-lasting economic opportunities and diversify our economy and job force.

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and my colleagues in Nunavut and Yukon agree that a collaborative approach to creating a vision and strategy for sustainable growth and development is needed, a pan-territorial sustainable development strategy created by Northerners to meet Northern needs.  I look forward to working with Members to get your input on what the vision for our territory’s development should be.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.