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Good evening. On behalf of Premier Cochrane, thank you to the Denendeh Development Corporation for the invitation to address you this evening.
These are early days for our government but I hope you are getting a sense the renewed energy and commitment that we have as an Assembly.
I am happy to say that this government has hit the ground running.
Everyone in this room and our recently elected leaders have a common goal and that is a desire to improve the economic future of our territory.
A strong economy is the key to a strong territory and a sustainable future for all our people. It is essential for the growth and development of business and industry and allows residents to support themselves and their families.
As you all know, our economy is reliant on a resource sector that generates and supports economic development, investment, jobs, opportunities and government revenue across the NWT’s regions and communities.
As the Government of the Northwest Territories continues to finalize our mandate for the 19th Legislative Assembly, the advancement of our economy through mining and exploration is forefront.
Our vision for the economy is centered on a resource sector that generates and supports economic development, investment, jobs, opportunities and government revenue across the NWT’s regions and communities.
It’s of a resource sector which prioritizes respect for the land, water, and wildlife our territory needs and values. And it’s of a resource sector competing at the highest level of the global market – not just in resources, but in our socially-responsible stewardship of those resources.Of course, you can’t achieve a vision without taking actions.
For a long time, our economy took care of itself. We didn’t need to do much as leaders and governments to keep it going. Abundant natural resources and strong commodity prices ensured that there were plenty of jobs and business opportunities to go around. But times have changed and the Northwest Territories economy is not what it used to be. The global context of these commodity-based sectors and investor sentiments have also changed.
The continued growth and evolution of our economy is dependent on our capacity to attract resource exploration.
Diversifying our export mix will also serve to stimulate much needed interest and exploration. We have opportunities to do that with base minerals and green-energy metals of our future – but also, in the Beaufort Delta, with liquid natural gas.
Meanwhile, we are beginning our work to realize the promise of our new Mineral Resources Act.
Our focus on a solid and inclusive engagement process means that we are starting with a solid foundation. As we move forward I am confident that our legislation and our approach will advance the certainty and stability that investors and stakeholders are looking for. We know the importance that is placed on social license.
Investors want to see benefits for Indigenous peoples demonstrated in resource projects. We are the first in Canada to legislate the requirement for some kind of benefit agreement. What these agreements look like is something I look forward to working on together during the next four years.
I hope that – at meetings like this - you are already beginning to think about how we can take IBAs to the next level - to allow for investment, for example, or even ownership in our territory’s future projects.
But, real transformation needs more than just good policy. In our case, infrastructure is one of the biggest barriers to our economic development. We are breaking ground on big infrastructure projects, and setting the stage to build upon the success of the 18th Assembly.
Our ability to leverage continued federal investment for projects like the Taltson Hydro Expansion Project, the Mackenzie Valley Highway, the Slave Geological Province Corridor, and community airport infrastructure projects is critical.
These vital infrastructure investments will connect our communities, transition our territory to a lower carbon economy, stabilize the cost of living and support the advancement of resource projects.
As importantly they, themselves, will be economic drivers to our economy and offer opportunity to realize services, jobs and economic opportunities in the communities they impact.
This approach reflects another priority the GNWT has set – to seek a regional and community focused approach to retaining the benefits of all economic development in the NWT.
The GNWT realizes that strong partnerships and collaboration are required in order for large-scale projects to take shape in the Northwest Territories.
Central to our economic vision is the participation and leadership of Indigenous governments, organizations, and businesses. It goes hand in hand with our priority to formally implement the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I believe we’ve already come a long way on that front. In fact, we’re in a position where we can pride ourselves as world leaders when it comes to Indigenous participation in our resource sector.
The Government of the Northwest Territories has a history of leading the way with Indigenous participation and this government is equally as committed to this. With a balanced and meaningful approach to partnerships, resource investment and local economic development our government believes that it can realize the economic strength and diversity our territory needs to improve and sustain the quality of life that its residents expect and deserve.
Events such as these provide each of us all with opportunities speak frankly about the challenges facing the Northwest Territories and explore creative solutions for addressing them.
By working in partnership, ideas and large development projects can begin to take shape and will result in shared prosperity across our territory.
I want to leave with you this thought tonight:
These are changing and uncertain times – in the mineral sector and in the federal government. Funds are limited – and there are more jurisdictions than ever competing for those funds. It only takes one dissenting voice to create investment uncertainty across the entire territory – one media story to paint our relationships as strained or divided and to sway the federal funding our territory desperately needs elsewhere.
We need to be committed, united, and vigilant as we work to build a strong, empowered, Indigenous-led resource industry.
I have faith that we can bring our territory to a place of economic health and prosperity, and I look forward to working together to realize our shared goal.
I’d like to thank you again for the opportunity to speak here this evening. I hope everyone has a lovely night and I look forward to speaking with many of you tonight and in the days and months to come.