Premier Bob McLeod’s remarks at NATA 2013

Apr 10 2013

(Check against delivery)

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you for inviting me here this evening.  I trust you are having a productive conference.  It is a pleasure to join you at your annual banquet.

Aviation is a cornerstone industry of the North, essential to the prosperity and well-being of our people.  You bring people and goods to and from the remote reaches of northern Canada and support business ventures across the North, particularly the mineral, oil and gas sector that is such an important part of our economy. For many of our communities, you are the only means of reliable transportation day after day, week after week, month after month.

The northern aviation industry has a strength and purpose that is essential to the growth and prosperity of all northerners, and we look forward to seeing that continue far into the future.

Let me take a few moments to reflect on what the future holds.  The Government of the Northwest Territories has recently signed a devolution agreement with the federal government.  Beginning in 2014, we will be able to make choices that are better aligned with our values and priorities.  Working with our Aboriginal governments and industry partners, we will have the ability to more effectively plan and implement responsible and sustainable development far into the future. Devolution will help unlock the full economic potential of the Northwest Territories and create jobs and opportunities for our people.   Northern aviation will be an important part of that future.

The future is also a product of the past.  Today’s Northwest Territories is a land of opportunity, in no small part because of the hard work and dedication of aviation pioneers.  In March of 1921, George Gorman and Elmer Fullerton became the first to fly aircraft across the 60th parallel, beginning an era of aerial exploration and expansion.

They were followed by Punch Dickins, who brought the first airmail to the North and flew more than a million miles across our vast expanse.  History records the contributions of other aviation pioneers such as Wop May, Max Ward, Willie Laserich and his “bandits”, and our own Buffalo Joe McBryan.

What a legacy they have left, and what a future they inspire.

I applaud initiatives such as Girls Fly Too, the Aviation Career Development Program and the Kenn Borek Scholarship that will be awarded tonight.  These programs encourage and help northerners to enter the aviation industry as our next generation of pilots, technicians, planners, and airport managers.  What an opportunity as many of our young people will choose to stay in the North to help deliver aviation services in our northern communities.

I welcome the expansion of a number of northern airlines, with new aircraft and equipment, positioning them to grow stronger and expand further to more effectively serve our residents, communities and industry.  The Government of the Northwest Territories and our territorial counterparts has also invested in airports and aviation infrastructure.

I believe the key to the future of the North rests in partnerships.  It is good to see you gathered here to collaborate on future directions for your industry, and I encourage you to continue those efforts.  I also challenge you to look around you, in the communities and among the people you serve, to look for additional opportunities to collaborate and partner with other northerners in common purpose, as we seek to grow and prosper together.

As someone who spends a great deal of time in the air, I appreciate your commitment to an efficient, responsive and safe aviation industry here in the North.

I wish you the best for the remainder of the conference and I look forward to working together to fulfill the promise of a prosperous future.