Bob McLeod: AME Roundup - Network Luncheon Opening Remarks

Delivered on January 23, 2018

Thank you all for joining us today.  And, thank you for your interest in the Northwest Territories.

To begin with, I’d like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

It’s a pleasure for me to be back at the Mineral Exploration Round Up – and to be joined by my Cabinet colleagues, Members of the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment and Indigenous leaders.

When Cabinet decided to come to Round Up last year, we thought it would be a good opportunity for all Ministers to spend some time hearing directly from people with experience in mining in the Northwest Territories.

It is one thing for us to discuss mining around the Cabinet table and what we can do   to support it. It is another thing entirely to listen and learn from the people our decisions affect.

Of course, conversation is a two-way street, and we also hope that creating a venue for an informal exchange between politicians and stakeholders helps to create a better understanding of the hard choices we face as we try to balance the interests of the whole territory.

It’s no secret that the health of the economy in the Northwest Territories rests with resource development. It creates jobs, and economic opportunities that allow our residents and businesses to thrive. In 2016, Resource development contributed almost $1 billion to the economy of the Northwest Territories, with over $650 million of that coming from mining.

While that’s good news, we can’t take the health of our economy or the strength of the resource development sector for granted.

The Northwest Territories does not exist in isolation. We have a small open economy that is subject to external pressures like the global financial crisis ten years ago and weak commodity prices. Between 2007 and 2016, the territorial economy declined from $4.5 billion to $3.7 billion.

A smaller economy means fewer jobs and lower incomes in virtually every sector, including mining and resource development. We need to reverse that trend.

That is one of the reasons I issued a red alert last November. We need to grow and diversify the territorial economy – especially in communities and regions – so more people can have good middle class jobs and incomes.

But economies don’t grow themselves and we can’t simply carry on in the hopes that it will manage itself to success.

We need a plan for growing the Northwest Territories economy, a plan developed by Northerners for Northerners, and which includes the best ideas from our government, Indigenous governments and industry.

Today, we’d like to talk about what we can do – together – to better support mining and a strong, responsible resource development sector.

To help organize our discussion and come up with practical ideas that we can take action on, we’ve proposed three themes for today:

  • Strengthening partnerships and sharing the benefits of mining throughout the territory – how can we better engage Indigenous governments and communities to ensure that they have a meaningful role in decision making and a fair chance to participate in the economic opportunities resource development brings?
  • Innovative solutions to ongoing challenges – how can industry, the Government of the Northwest Territories and Indigenous governments work together more effectively to find shared solutions for challenges like lack of infrastructure, access to land and regulatory certainty?
  • A strong voice for mining – how can the Government of the Northwest Territories, industry  and  Indigenous governments work together so people inside and outside of the Northwest Territories better understand how much it contributes to the NWT economy and the NWT’s commitment to safe and responsible resource development?

We’ve printed out these themes and left them at your tables. I encourage you to think about them as Ministers are circulating around the room for their discussions with you.

We all have a stake, and we all stand to benefit, from creating a strong mining sector in the Northwest Territories. It is in our collective interest that we figure out ways to create a supportive environment for it. Even more, we all have a responsibility for taking steps to implement those solutions; it shouldn’t be down to government, industry or Indigenous communities alone.

Today is an opportunity to exchange some ideas on the future of mining in the NWT. This may make for some candid conversation – and that is fine.   Like many of you, we watch the stock market. We know it can’t be ignored.  And, we will all benefit from engaging directly on the challenges that we are facing.  

Thank you for coming – and I look forward to putting the ideas and perspectives that we hear today to work in support of the industry that plays such an important role in our economy.