Bob McLeod: Max Awards - Welcoming Remarks

Good evening and welcome to the NWT Max Awards. It is an honour to be here to celebrate the NWT & Nunavut’s Chamber of Mines’ 50th anniversary with the inaugural Max Award event that celebrates excellence in mining and exploration.

Before I begin, I would like to take a moment to recognize and welcome my colleagues who have joined us this evening. Seeing this room full of Northern leaders, field experts and residents is a reminder of the unique way that we all live, work and celebrate together in the Northwest Territories in a more integrated way than in other parts of Canada.

Taking the time to recognize achievements and excellence in mining and exploration – the single biggest sector of our economy and major employer for our people – is important for our territory.

The people and businesses that will be honoured this evening have made lasting contributions to our territory; are making strides in areas like environmental and social responsibility and are leaders in an industry that we rely so heavily on.

In the Northwest Territories the land has given us what we need to sustain life. Over the years our relationship to the land has changed but one thing that has remained  the same is the way we rely on the land for our economic survival.  We see this in many areas, but the most significant demonstration can be seen with the discovery of diamonds. Thanks to this discovery, the northern diamond industry has surpassed $50 billion in produced mineral value and has made Canada  a  leader in the international diamond trade.

NWT residents, governments, and businesses across the NWT have benefitted from resource development such as diamond mining for decades, but we cannot take this sector and its contribution to our economic prosperity for granted.  

As Premier of the Northwest Territories, it is my responsibility to advocate on behalf of all the residents of the north and ensure that the needs of northerners are being met. The North is in a time of change and we need to make sure our voices are heard.

For too long now policies have been imposed on us from Ottawa and southern Canada that are threatening our economic potential and we do not see a clear plan from Canada or a commitment to making the significant investments that would lead to transformative development of our territory and its economy. This needs to change. While in Tuktoyaktuk yesterday, Federal Ministers Sohi and Bennett stated the importance of northerners making decisions for northerners.

We know that right now the best jobs in our territories come from resource development and sectors that support it. We understand that we can’t rely on resource development forever and need to diversify our economies but while we are doing that, we need to make sure that Northerners can stay employed in the resource development sector that has contributed so much to the North already.

To do this, we need to ensure people are trained to get and keep jobs; communities are prepared for the social and economic impacts; we maintain and improve the legal and regulatory framework that ensures resources can be developed safely; and the territory has the infrastructure it needs to support responsible development.

Over the last year, you have heard me speak about the need for decisions about the north to be made with the north in mind and by northerners, and this has never been more important. The Northwest Territories and its people deserve an equal opportunity to be valued participants in the Canadian economy and to achieve economic self-determination. We need your support in helping us achieve this.

One thing I have learned over my years in government and politics is that you don’t get what you don’t ask for. I was in Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk yesterday for the opening of the new Inuvik-Tuk Highway. Connecting Tuktoyaktuk and extending Canada’s road system from sea to sea to sea had been a longstanding dream for the people of the region.

But they did not simply dream, they got out there and made sure that decision makers in Yellowknife and Ottawa knew it was a priority. Our government was there with them, making sure that Northern voices were being heard in Ottawa and Northern priorities were getting the attention they deserved.

In this room there are leaders, advocates, scientists, industry leaders and experts, and residents. Decisions about the future of Canada’s North have a direct impact on the lives and economic future of our residents and that is why it is so important to be part of the conversations that will have impacts on our way of life.

The ITH is an example of the good things that happen when Northerners come together and make their voices heard. If we hope to see further economic growth and development here, you need to join us in speaking out. We can no longer rely on the good intentions of others to look out for the needs of our people.

The NWT has a long history with resource development, especially in mining and oil and gas and we have learned a lot over the years. As I look into the crowd tonight and see businesses and leaders who will be honoured for their excellence in innovation and best practices I am reassured that together we can create a stronger, resource rich, sustainable north that all residents can be proud of.  

I’d like to congratulate everyone in the room this evening for your success and contributions to this industry and urge you to use your voice as we continue the discussion about the future of the North.  Together you can use your expertise and knowledge to help guide the GNWT as we ensure resource development follows recognized best practices for both operation and remediation and that the North continues to lead the way in environmentally responsible mining.

Congratulations to all the award recipients  and thank you for allowing me to speak with you tonight. I hope you all enjoy your evening and I look forward to speaking with many of you as the evening progresses.

Thank you.