Mr. Speaker, there is immense oil and gas potential in our territory and this government is committed to establishing the tools and resources with which it can be developed in a balanced and responsible way. We are also committed to ensuring that Members of the Legislative Assembly, the public, Aboriginal leaders, and other stakeholders have a role to play in the development of those tools and resources.
Like our mineral resources have in the past, we believe that oil and gas resources can provide needed economic opportunities for our communities, residents and businesses, while still respecting and sustaining the lands, water and environment to which we are intrinsically tied.
The GNWT has inherited, through devolution, a well-established, and proven, regulatory system that ensures resource development decisions in the NWT are made in the public interest and are informed by appropriate scientific and technical information, traditional knowledge and public input.
As we move our territory forward, we will continue to improve this legislative framework to reflect the needs and priorities of our residents. We are supportive of an open and transparent approach to advancing resource development in the NWT and of incorporating best practices for industry reporting and public disclosure as they emerge.
To this end, our decision and policy making will continue to be guided by what we learn and determine from our many dialogues, debates, engagements and formal consultations.
The input sought and received this summer on proposed regulations governing hydraulic fracturing and the development of a made-for-the-NWT Oil and Gas Strategy are examples of that.
In keeping with our government’s commitment to strengthen and refine regulatory processes following devolution, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, together with the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources and Lands, sought feedback on draft Hydraulic Fracturing Filing Regulations. We held 14 public engagement sessions in 12 communities in the Northwest Territories and received input by mail and email as well.
Our work to develop an NWT Oil and Gas Strategy is also being guided by engagement with communities, territorial stakeholders, leaders, subject-matter experts, Aboriginal groups, industry and the public. Once a strategy is drafted we will again seek input from these key groups and incorporate their comments and feedback.
I would like to thank all of the individuals, organizations and businesses who have contributed their input into both of these initiatives.
Through our discussions, NWT residents have told us that they want, and deserve, a greater level of understanding regarding their government’s plans for the management and realization of our territory's oil and gas resources.
We agree, that is why I announced earlier this month that the important dialogue that we have begun regarding the safe and responsible management of oil and gas development in the Northwest Territories will not conclude with our government. Rather than implement proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations at this time, we are now taking the necessary steps to continue the public engagement, education and discussion into the 18th Assembly. In this way, we can provide both the time and information that our people have asked for.
Mr. Speaker, the Finance Minister told us in his fiscal update that the NWT is experiencing an economic slowdown. This is a serious challenge to creating the jobs and opportunities Northerners want, and will also reduce the revenues our government collects to fund the programs and services our people expect. The only long-term way to address this issue is to reverse that trend and grow a strong and diverse economy, starting with the tremendous natural advantages this territory already enjoys, including our oil and gas resources.
It is the role of government to take the lead in creating the conditions needed to attract and sustain oil and gas activity, and to do so in a way that ensures that residents and communities of this territory benefit fully, from exploration, to development, to production and the transportation of our resources to market. This government is committed to resource development in a manner that is balanced, sustainable and responsible. By keeping both the environment and the economy top of mind, we can continue to build a bright future for this territory.
The public engagement that we undertake is always an important step in our work – and we will not rush it.
This government will continue resource development dialogue with the public, Aboriginal governments and industry stakeholders so the future of this territory is guided through collaboration and mutual respect.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.