(October 29, 2013) - Mr. Speaker, shortly after taking office – as we considered the economic opportunities, realities and challenges that lay ahead for our Territory – the 17th Assembly highlighted the need for a comprehensive strategy to guide our economy though this time of unprecedented political and economic change. Today I am pleased to inform Members that the Governance Committee has completed an Economic Opportunities Strategy for the NWT, which I will be tabling later today.
The settlement of land claims, self-government agreements – and especially the pending devolution of governance responsibilities for lands and resources – will soon give our Territory a greater degree of self-reliance and decision making.
Further, the lingering impacts of a world-wide economic recession and the finite nature of our Territory’s diamond mining sector underscore the need for a made-in the-NWT approach to guide and increase economic growth, diversity and certainty. Economic opportunities are the key to getting our people working, freeing them from poverty and helping them to reach their full potential.
This NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy has been created with the direct input of NWT residents, governments, organizations, industries and businesses. The drafting of the final Strategy has been overseen by the Strategy Governance Committee, which is a collaborative partnership with the NWT Association of Communities, the NWT Chamber of Commerce, the Northern Aboriginal Business Association, Canada’s Northern Economic Development Agency, and the GNWT.
The Strategy gives particular attention to tourism, agriculture, fishing, manufacturing and the traditional economy, it provides a plan to grow and diversify the NWT economy, creating an environment in which our residents can envision, pursue, and realize their economic opportunities at the grassroots level. These benefits will carry over into all of our communities and regions, resulting in an enhanced quality of life for our residents.
To build this vibrant economy, we will need to secure its foundation in resource investment and population growth. Our Territory’s people and communities must be prepared to maximize the benefits of the incredible economic opportunities that lay ahead. This will be achieved, in part, by the Mineral Development Strategy that will also be released within a couple of weeks.
The Economic Opportunities Strategy is built on four themes – each a cornerstone for a ten-year approach to building our economy: A Climate for Growth, Building on our Success, Regional Diversification, and ensuring our people are “Opportunity Ready”.
Each theme identifies targets and objectives. From these, the Governance Committee has recommended 117 actions to fulfill the vision of a strategy that will guide the development and realization of economic potential in all regions of the NWT.
Mr. Speaker, as much as this strategy document reflects the completion of a critical planning process, it also marks the beginning of a longer-term plan to address and deliver its actions. We are already working on the GNWT’s implementation plan to get this Strategy in motion.
Federal transfer payments and the resource royalties the Government of the Northwest Territories will receive through devolution depend greatly on the size of the territorial economy.
We need to grow and diversify the economy to help ensure that sustainable resource development benefits our people well into the future and supports long-term prosperity for the entire territory. We have great potential here in the North, but we cannot take that potential for granted. To maximize the opportunities in front of us, we need the kind of vision this plan sets out for creating a robust economy that all residents can benefit from.
I would like to thank the members of the Governance Committee, the project’s Advisory Panel and the many NWT residents who have informed and contributed to the development of the NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy. I look forward to updating this House on its ongoing implementation – and success.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker