Mr. Speaker, as part of devolution, the Government of the Northwest Territories took over responsibility for the management of environmental liabilities and securities for resource development projects in our territory.
The regulatory system in the Northwest Territories provides for environmental protection, including terms and conditions within various authorizations. Security provides additional protection to ensure that there are funds to address environmental liabilities if proponents fail to take remedial action.
Several departments are responsible for managing financial securities under individual licences, leases and permits. Our government recognizes that these responsibilities must be closely coordinated and effectively managed on a whole-of-project and territory-wide basis in order to have a full picture to reduce financial risk to the GNWT and to protect our land for generations to come.
On September 12, 2014, I announced the establishment of a dedicated division in the Department of Lands to oversee the management of financial securities. The Liabilities and Financial Assurances Division will provide for strong and effective collaboration between departments with legislated responsibilities for security deposits, as well as central agencies such as the Departments of Finance and Justice. This Division will also lead and coordinate short and longer-term policy development concerning the government’s management of securities.
Mr. Speaker, the establishment of this new Division is well underway and it has already taken steps towards providing support to other departments managing environmental liabilities and financial securities.
Our government has reviewed the Fall 2012 Report of the Commissioner on Sustainable Development and the Environment, which considered the federal government’s management of securities that were transferred to us under devolution. The audit provided practical recommendations on improving governance, risk management approaches and controls. The Report provides a useful starting point where we can learn from federal experience and build approaches to improve securities management and protect the GNWT from financial risks.
Mr. Speaker, the Department of Lands has already initiated the development of a securities information management system for the GNWT. This system will address the handling and processing of securities, and support departments’ analysis of ongoing reviews of financial security. This analysis is necessary for evidence-based policy development and securities interventions which will balance the needs of government, taxpayers and proponents.
In the interim, the Department is leading and coordinating the establishment of a cross-departmental interim protocol for security management addressing the operational handling requirements for securities.
Mr. Speaker, it is essential that our government also have the right tools to support informed decision-making. To this end, the Division has started the necessary baseline policy reviews to inform both short and long-term policy development.
Although individual GNWT departments continue to develop interventions and review proposals with significant reclamation obligations, the Department of Lands is taking on the additional responsibility related to security management and assessment for individual projects. By doing so, Mr. Speaker, it is gaining valuable insight that will lead to an informed policy baseline that considers both operational realities and the needs of our government.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, we are developing important partnerships with our industry, academic and public sector counterparts, including resource management boards. These partnerships will also help support a broad-based and informed policy basis for our government moving forward.
We also need to make sure our investment climate is attractive, while our environment is protected. The GNWT has noted industry’s concerns about the risk of double bonding if there are potentially overlapping securities requirements. Our new Division will help ensure we can address this concern, while managing any potential environmental liabilities and, at the same time, encourage sustainable land use to ensure strong economic development in our territory.
Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to protecting the land and environment of the Northwest Territories while supporting responsible, sustainable development consistent with our Land Use and Sustainability Framework. Consistently assessing appropriate securities for developments is one of the ways we will do that. The creation of the Liabilities and Financial Assurances Division will support us in this goal and ensure that potential environmental liabilities can be remediated so the northern environment is protected.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.