David Ramsay – Building Capacity: Preparing for the Oil and Gas Industry (Aboriginal Oil and Gas Forum)

27 novembre 2014
Déclarations et discours de ministres

Distinguished guests, Chiefs, honoured colleagues, thank you for the invitation to join you today.  It is an exciting time in Canada’s oil and gas sector and in particular, in the Northwest Territories.  I am honoured to be here representing Government of the Northwest Territories and participating in this panel.

Building capacity to ensure our residents and communities are prepared for development and the effects of that is a major priority for our government.

Experience has shown us that when development occurs, having the capacity to deal with this and make the most of it – is crucial. And more importantly, our people, communities and businesses must be positioned to seize the opportunities that will come.

To set the stage before our panel discussion, I would like to take the few minutes I have to give you some background on the North’s tremendous petroleum potential and the importance of responsible development. Then I would like to highlight the partnership approach our government has taken with our Aboriginal partners and communities that is central to successful development, and also share some of our government’s strategic initiatives that we are undertaking to help build capacity. 

I just want to take a moment to note the major governance change for the Government of the Northwest Territories that just recently took effect – and what that means for resource development. On April 1st of this year, our territorial government took over administrative control and management of public lands, resources and waters from the Government of Canada.  This transfer of authorities is referred to as ‘Devolution’ and essentially means that we now have the authority for managing the land and environment, and to manage our natural resources effectively and efficiently for the benefit of our residents – all according to Northern needs and priorities.

A portion of resource revenues will now flow directly to the
Government of the Northwest Territories. Our government has committed to share up to 25% of its resource revenues with Aboriginal governments who are signatories to the Devolution agreement – this is an unprecedented sharing arrangement in Canada.

Devolution gives us the necessary tools and authorities to develop the territory’s significant natural resource potential in a responsible way and to promote investment and economic development. We can also focus on building and strengthening the capacity our territory so desperately needs to make the most of our resource potential.

One thing is certain at this time in our political evolution:  our government will continue to work with industry, the regulatory authorities and Aboriginal governments to help ensure the successful, long-term development of our Arctic reserves.

These resource reserves have helped our economy, our people, and our communities grow and prosper. Though small in population, the Northwest Territories is a potential energy giant.  Just yesterday, the National Energy Board released an Assessment of Discovered Conventional Petroleum Resources in the Northwest Territories and Beaufort Sea and the results are encouraging.  The overall resources assessment for our territory is larger than previously thought and our natural gas estimates are up 40 percent over previous National Energy Board assessments.

We are home to world-class oil and gas reserves in the Dehcho, Central Mackenzie, Mackenzie Delta and Beaufort Sea. Our territory is sitting on 80 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and seven billion barrels of oil.

The potential undiscovered nearshore reserves in the Mackenzie Delta include an additional 10.5 billion barrels of oil, 87 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 4 billion barrels of natural gas liquids.

What is really drawing attention is our untapped petroleum reserves.  Estimates conclude that Canada’s Arctic contains one-fifth of the world’s untapped oil and gas reserves.  The United States Geological Survey estimates that the area north of the Arctic Circle has an estimated 90 billion barrels of undiscovered recoverable oil, 1,670 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas and 44 billion barrels of recoverable natural gas liquids in 25 geologically defined areas thought to have potential for petroleum.

Our untapped energy resources is a large reason why we are experiencing a renewed interest in the Arctic and in Canada’s North.

However, these resource reserves will remain untapped without the proper capacity to responsibly and sustainably develop them.

Our territory is resource rich – but as you all know, without the right capacity – transportation capacity, human resource capacity, business capacity – resource development cannot happen.

Let’s take transportation capacity. We know a comprehensive transportation network is needed to better connect our communities and provide easier access for resource companies. We are working with the Federal government to ensure our territory is connected from coast to coast.

For instance, the second construction season of the Inuvik-to-Tuktoyaktuk Highway is well underway, with as many as 600 people back at work at the peak of construction – 70 per cent of whom are Northwest Territories residents.

The new highway is the most northern section of the envisioned Mackenzie Valley Highway, which will eventually connect Canada’s road network from coast to coast to coast. When this road is built, it will decrease the cost of living by enabling goods to be shipped to communities year-round by road, increase opportunities for business development, reduce the cost of onshore oil and gas exploration, and strengthen Canada’s sovereignty in the North.

Although the capacity for improved transportation infrastructure is very much on our radar, so too is building of our labour force capacity.

Enhancing resident training, education and skill levels to meet industry employment standards are priorities we are always looking to do more of, and to do it better.

A key way we do this is our emphasis on collaboration. We operate under a consensus government system, and this approach to working together translates to how we work with industry, communities, and Aboriginal governments and groups to create effective programs, services and initiatives that are made-in-the-North and will benefit our economy and its people.

Gathering input at the community level is of paramount importance to hear from residents what they need. Our government just completed a community Needs Assessment. We canvassed our communities to identify the employment potential.  We consulted with local governments and businesses to identify the challenges before us to prepare our people to qualify for jobs.  We are working in partnership to ensure capacity building starts from the ground up.

Another example of how we are collaborating with Aboriginal governments is through the Intergovernmental Council.  This Council provides mechanisms for cooperation with respect to the management of lands and resources in the territory.

It also explores ways for parties on the Council to harmonize their respective land and resource management practices, share capacity, and avoid duplication.

Another effective partnership model is the Sahtu Partnership.  This working group was created in 2012 and provides the Aboriginal parties, the federal and territorial governments, and industry, with an opportunity to examine and discuss potential impacts and benefits associated with unconventional oil and gas development, including hydraulic fracturing.

Collaboration is the name of the game in the Northwest Territories.  You cannot build capacity without it.  As a government, we have some strategic initiatives in the works to increase and enhance capacity. A major key to building capacity at the community level is our territorial Economic Opportunities Strategy, released just last year.

History tells us that when we look for common solutions to existing challenges, we benefit from collective insights and wisdom.   As we developed this Strategy, we drew in the expertise and experience from Aboriginal business, community representatives, and regional and territorial organizations to create a solid plan to expand and diversify our economy for the next three years.  We will be following a similar approach this year as we embark on the development of an Oil and Gas Strategy that reflects northern values and northern perspectives.

This collaborative approach used to develop both of these strategies will help to ensure that our people and communities have the capacity to handle increased resource development activity.  And it will help to ensure that we are able to respond to the needs of residents and businesses when this development happens.

Our efforts to build capacity are paying off.  For example, the number of Aboriginal-owned businesses in Tulita – a small town in the Sahtu Region of the territory where exploration companies have been active for the past several years – rose from six businesses in 2010 to 34 in 2014. We are also seeing an increase in the number of residents enrolling in the GNWT’s Apprenticeship Program, with impressive results.

Over the last ten years, registration in apprenticeships increased by 21 percent.  Moreover, our apprenticeship completion rates are higher and completion times are faster than the rest of country.

These are some examples of how our government is building capacity at the community, regional and territorial level.  They fall into three major areas of focus, or ‘The Three C’s’: Collaboration, Community-level consultation, and Consensus. We will continue to work with our Aboriginal partners, industry, the public and private sector, and our residents to ensure we have the capacity to make the most of the opportunities that responsible resource development will bring to the Northwest Territories.

Thank you and I look forward to our panel discussion this morning and welcome any questions you may have.