(November 19, 2013) - Good afternoon everyone and welcome to Yellowknife and to the 41st Geoscience Forum. First of all, I would like to thank the Dettah drummers for their traditional welcome. I would also like to recognize the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines and the NWT Geoscience Office for their continued good work and commitment in hosting and organizing this annual event. And thank you for the invitation and opportunity to speak this afternoon.
As you begin the Forum, I want to talk to you about potential: the Northwest Territories is a treasure trove of resource potential – and it is an exciting time for our territory’s development, both economically and politically.
The mining and petroleum industries have been, and will continue to be, the most important economic driver in the Northwest Territories. And if resource development is the future of the NWT’s economy – then solid geoscience information is the foundation on which it is built. No one knows better than the people here in this room that a good geoscience knowledge-base represents a key competitive advantage for jurisdictions that want to attract mineral and petroleum resource investment.
Geoscience knowledge is our ally in advancing the development of our mineral and oil and gas resources. Comprehensive, accurate identification of where these resources might be found is essential to making new discoveries and fostering new development. It is through the kind of work you will take part in over the course of this Forum – that is crucial to the future social and economic health of the entire territory.
We all know it has been a challenging couple of years for the mining and oil and gas industries. But the tide is turning and there are a lot of good things happening in our territory.
The Northwest Territories Geoscience Office is wrapping up a three-year funding partnership with the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency through their Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development program – or SINED. This commitment has played an instrumental role in enabling “made in the north” geoscience initiatives. CanNor has shown a strong commitment to advancing geoscience research here in the Northwest Territories, and I want to thank them for their ongoing support.
Also, I am happy to announce that the long-awaited NWT Mineral Development Strategy is now complete and will be made public tomorrow. We know we need to address our investment challenges and take advantage of the opportunities for mining and mineral development in the territory. This Strategy lays the groundwork to do that. We need to create a competitive edge – and enhancing geoscience programs and information is one way we are going to do that.
But geoscience knowledge – whether public or private – is only one piece of the puzzle. Many factors come into play to ensure economic growth in the resource industry: a modern geoscience knowledge base, having prospectors out on the ground, junior companies attracting investment to our world class prospects, large developers moving resources into the production stage, and global demand for the natural resources our Territory is blessed with.
It also takes government support – through an efficient and effective regulatory regime, ensuring that land is available for exploration and development, and appropriate training programs that prepare our people for the opportunities that these development brings. And it is Devolution that will allow the Government of the Northwest Territories to make these issues a priority and address them.
April 1, 2014 marks a hallmark date for us – the day we officially gain management control of public lands, waters and mineral and petroleum resources in the territory. Yes, it is an agreement about the administration of land and resources, but it is so much more than this.
At its core, Devolution is about prosperity and partnerships. It is about the Government of the Northwest Territories and regional Aboriginal governments working together to turn the enormous resource potential of this territory into jobs and economic opportunities for the people of the North and the people of Canada.
On April 1, the people of the Northwest Territories – the people who live here and know this territory the best – will make the decisions about how we protect our environment and develop our resources sustainably and responsibly, according to Northern priorities and values.
With responsibility for lands and resources, Devolution will mean that Northerners will take on new abilities to direct the economy of the territory and ensure that its residents benefit from development here. It will also mean access to new revenues and a new measure of fiscal independence that our Government can use to invest in the people of this territory, the economy and the environment. Devolution is a key component to unlocking the resource potential in our territory…and the key to a new era of prosperity.
The GNWT and our Aboriginal government partners in this process will work together to ensure that development moves forward sustainably and that the people of the NWT benefit from this development. We are ready to do business and are going to take concrete steps to demonstrate that to the world.
Backed by geoscience knowledge, exploration and resource development has been the cornerstone of the NWT’s economy. Where there is exploration, there is discovery. Discovery leads to development and development to more exploration.
NWT’s diamond history provides an excellent example of this. Along the way, there are jobs, business opportunities and economic growth.
I strongly support a balanced approach to developing and advancing economic growth. Resource development must not only be environmentally and socially responsible and sustainable, it also needs to yield real economic benefits to NWT residents, communities, and businesses.
Ultimately, it is the people attending this Forum and the people on the ground doing the work who are behind the billions of dollars’ worth of investment identified by industry for development in the Northwest Territories. It is you who will be behind the discoveries that are yet to come.
Thank you and enjoy the Geoscience Forum.