Wally Schumann: NWT Economic Partners' Collaboration Symposium

Yellowknife — June 19, 2019
Ministers' Statements and Speeches

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Good morning everyone.

Before I begin, I’d like to take a moment to echo Premier McLeod’s sentiment about the importance of these types of meetings and having an opportunity to get together to discuss common challenges and goals, and find concrete ways to work together to find solutions.

Last week, I was in Inuvik for the Arctic Development Expo where I spoke a lot about some of the items we’ll discuss today.

The difference I noted there though was that these conversations were happening in silos. Instead of having all the representatives needed in one room, they were being done with smaller groups.

The disadvantages of that are that it takes a lot longer, commitments and/or decisions can’t be made, and it is not reflective of our northern commitment to work in partnership.

I am pleased to see so many familiar faces in the room, each representing a unique perspective and set of interests.

I am particularly pleased to see Indigenous governments and industry representatives here today.

The GNWT has a strong history of fostering relationships between Indigenous and public governments and industry players to ensure that NWT residents and their communities benefit from the resource development that is happening - and today is no exception.

Collaboration between Indigenous governments and industry is essential. United – the possibilities are vast. Though the GNWT stills has an important role to play in the NWT economy, the role of Indigenous governments and industry and that relationship, is greater.

By working in partnership, ideas and large development projects can begin to take shape and will result in shared prosperity across our territory.  

I know the discussions had today will be valuable, relationships will be strengthened and we’ll get a lot accomplished.

To that, I will start us off with the first agenda item. As our facilitator Andy has explained, the theme for the first agenda item is Supporting and Facilitating Resource Development: The GNWT’s Strategy and Commitment.

As many of you know, the GNWT is actively working to promote investment opportunities in the NWT and share information about the realities of doing business in our territory.

The Northwest Territories has renewable and non-renewable resource potential that could position it as a primary economic driver for our country.

Alongside our known mineral resources, our territory has some of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas and oil, both onshore and offshore and these resources, developed safely and responsibly, will result in significant long-lasting benefits and returns for NWT residents.

Responsible resource development is at the core of who we are. It drives our economy, has generated billions in opportunities for northern and Indigenous-owned businesses and provides thousands of jobs to residents. 

And, while we continue to explore ways to diversify our economy by looking at sectors like agriculture and tourism, we know that the responsible development of our natural resources has, and will continue to be the single biggest sector of our economy for the foreseeable future.

We have a wealth of economic resources and potential and those who invest in our future will benefit from our prosperity and development.

These investments will provide greater access to our resources, stabilize or lower the cost of living, provide skills and training to our residents and generate economic opportunities for the people and businesses in the North.

Looking to the future, we’d like to see investments provide benefits for the whole of Canada and eventually globally, but most importantly, we need to find ways to use OUR resources, for the benefit of our people.

The Mackenzie Delta for instance, is a region of potential, where trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are already defined — and ultimately could be Canada’s first highway to the Arctic coast without crossing other jurisdictions.

We want to harness our resources not just for the future potential, but for the benefit of our residents and provide lower-cost, cleaner heating and electricity as we find export markets for our gas over the long-term.

As the GNWT introduces new Bills to the House, pushes through changes to legislation and makes plans for the future – we continue to do so with the important notion in mind that we need to be working together to build a future where our resource industries are competitive, and managed in the best interest of our territory and to ensure that we have the right tools in place to achieve these goals.

That is why made-in-the-North legislation and strategies like the Mineral Development Strategy and the Petroleum Resources Strategy are so important.

The petroleum resources strategy is part of our government’s overarching vision for addressing energy and climate change in the NWT.

The strategy also recognizes some possible opportunities for developing our gas locally to reduce the cost of living, displace diesel for a cleaner environment, and create sound long-term jobs.

Our government’s Mineral Development Strategy is another way we’re representing our commitment that the NWT is serious about addressing our investment challenges and unlocking the mineral potential of our territory.

The true economic value of the North is only now being realized.  We’re playing catch-up, but I am confident that the payoff on investing in the North will be tremendous.

A couple months ago a report came out from the Fraser Institute that ranked the 3 northern territories as the most attractive jurisdictions in the world to mining companies. The NWT alone jumped from 21st place in 2017 to 10th place in 2018.

This is proof that industry players hear what we’re saying and recognize the potential of the North.

One thing we all know too well, and you’ve heard myself and the Premier speak about before is our infrastructure deficit. We believe that is a large part of what’s preventing us from moving even further up the list of attractive places to invest.

In the NWT, we continue to actively work with our partners to address our infrastructure challenges to improve the viability of resource development in our territory.

With support from the federal government, the GNWT is investing in road and energy infrastructure, like the Taltson expansion project, Inuvik Wind, McKenzie Valley Highway and Slave Geological Province Corridor. 

In the NWT, we have a long history of building strong partnerships with all levels of government and industry stakeholders to responsibly develop resources and we’ve demonstrated just how well that works on some of these projects and in our mining sector.

The NWT model is at the forefront of Indigenous participation in mining, exploration and development. It is empowering and shaping Indigenous governments, businesses and communities and allowing our people to take control of their future.

Our government’s commitment to working in partnership with Indigenous governments is also helping to secure social license for resource development.

As we continue to work to improve the investment climate and support the responsible development of the NWT’s natural resources, our continued partnerships and discussions like the ones we’ll have today will prove to be key.

Together, we can reach our full economic potential and improve the investment climate across the Northwest Territories.

I am pleased to be part of the solution and these discussions today with each of you and look forward to the rest of the day and presentations that will follow.

Thank you.