Bob McLeod - Vision for Sustainable Development

Check Against Delivery

Delivered Saturday, October 14, 2017

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today on the achievements, opportunities and challenges of Canada’s North from the perspective of its people. Not only am I Premier of the NWT, I am also a proud Indigenous northerner who was born in raised within its borders.

The message I hear most from NWT residents is that they want to have access to the same opportunities as people who live in what we refer to as “the south”. This means access to good jobs, a strong community, infrastructure and the wellness that helps to create health.

The reality is that outside of the capitol city, this is not the case in the Northwest Territories.  Our government is working to change this. We are working to lower the cost of living and increase community wellness and quality of life in each of our communities.

Today I am going to focus on infrastructure and the sustainable development of our natural resources as important tools to achieving wellness.  A strong economy, including having local good paying jobs, is critical to health people and healthy communities.

Indigenous people in every community must have opportunities to build self-reliance, live in healthy, vibrant, prosperous communities, and reach their full potential. And in the Northwest Territories we are focused on building the foundation required to make this a reality.

Our achievements have paved the way for our future, including a long history of negotiating and implementing ground-breaking land claims and self-government agreements.   Indigenous ownership, investment and participation in all aspects of the economy, including the resource industry are key to our success.

Resource development must be both sustainable and responsible. This links to another achievement in the NWT, our regulatory system that has equal representation from the GNWT and Indigenous governments. Together we assess projects and make recommendations on not only whether or not they proceed, but the conditions under which they proceed. We ensure that social and environmental responsibilities are integrated into our territorial regulatory regimes.

Indigenous governments and communities work closely with developers to influence project designs and minimize environmental impacts.  They also negotiate and sign Impact Benefit Agreement to ensure the partnership created during project development is fulfilled throughout the lifecycle of a project.

This is because, Indigenous governments and organizations are integral to the economic future of the territories and we have a responsibility to uphold treaty and claims obligations.

Partnerships with Indigenous governments, industry and the federal and territorial governments strengthen territorial economic diversification, balance interests and ensure benefits are dispersed more broadly across the territory.

So how do we deal with our challenges, including the high cost of living, the lack of  infrastructure and the lack of good jobs? Learning from other Arctic regions we focus on the basics. In partnership with Canada we need to build territorial and community infrastructure to support healthy communities. That includes roads, which most of our communities do not have access to.

Resource development can create the jobs that communities need and become a foundation for diversification. The NWT is home to many of the minerals that will fuel the global green economy, including cobalt, gold, lithium, bismuth, and rare earth elements.

The makers of batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, hand held electronics and computers rely on these minerals to make their products more efficient.

As this progress continues, these technologies, and the raw materials inside them will push innovation in every sector and move the world towards the green economy we are all working towards.

Accessing these minerals means the chance for resources from our territory to help solve the most pressing environmental and energy issues we face across the globe.

And because of the way we do business, we will be able to take advantage of this opportunity to use these resources sustainably and responsibly, so that we can meet our goal of creating strong, vibrant communities with healthy people.