Premier McLeod’s address at the Prime Minister’s Northern Tour in Hay River

Aug 20 2013

Thank you, I am pleased to be here today with Prime Minister Harper and Ministers Aglukkaq, Valcourt and Oliver for this announcement. We appreciate the Government of Canada’s ongoing interest in the Northwest Territories and its commitment to supporting the aspirations of Northern Canadians.

Our government has a vision of a strong and prosperous Northwest Territories that provides opportunities and jobs for all the people who live here. As a territory, we have great potential. We have an abundance of natural resources that can grow not only the economy here in the North, but in the whole of Canada as well.

The Northwest Territories has metals and minerals that are in demand worldwide, including tungsten, gold, rare earths and diamonds. We export two billion dollars of diamonds a year from our three operating diamond mines and have a fourth mine expected to go into production in 2015. We have the largest deposits of rare earth elements outside China, a resource that is critical to today’s high-tech and communications industries. Just last month, Avalon Rare Metals’ Nechalacho rare earth elements project received regulatory approval and we look forward to this project going ahead.

The Northwest Territories is home to world-class oil and gas reserves in the Dehcho, Central Mackenzie, Mackenzie Delta and Beaufort Sea. Discovered and recoverable potential for the Northwest Territories and the Arctic offshore is estimated to be 1.2 billion barrels of oil and 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Ultimate potential is estimated to be around seven billion barrels of oil and 81 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The hydro potential of the Northwest Territories’ rivers has been estimated at 11,500 megawatts, an amount to rival James Bay and more than that produced by BC Hydro.

Mining continues to be the most important driver of the Northwest Territories’ economy, a fact underlined by the Prime Minister’s announcement here today. Today’s announcement also acknowledges another important fact about the mining sector in the Northwest Territories – there is great potential for growth and development here. There are seven mining projects currently in the works that could attract more than two billion dollars in new investment and add over 2000 new jobs in our territory.

But economic development is not just about resources, it is also about people. It is the ideas, hard work and ingenuity of everyday Canadians that turns economic potential into national and territorial prosperity. To keep our economy growing, we need to invest in our people. We need to make sure that Canadians everywhere have the skills and training to take advantage of the opportunities available to them.

The Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to ensuring that the people of this territory benefit from the development taking place here. That is why we continue to support organizations like the Mine Training Society, which plays an important role in preparing Northerners for jobs in the mining sector. We welcome their partnership and welcome the Government of Canada’s support for them – and for the people of the Northwest Territories – with today’s announcement.

I know the Prime Minister has a great interest in the North and its people. I want to thank him for that and for his ongoing commitment to our region. His personal support for projects like the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway and initiatives like Devolution has been crucial.

If we want to realize the full potential of the Northwest Territories, we will need continued investments in infrastructure that can help to grow our economy, like the Highway, like the Mackenzie Valley Fibreoptic Line, and like hydro transmission lines. We also need to ensure that Northerners – those of us that know this land and its potential – are the ones making decisions about how we protect our environment and develop our resources in a way that is consistent with Northern priorities and values. That is the goal of Devolution, and I am pleased that, with the help and support of Prime Minister Harper and Minister Valcourt, we will achieve that goal on April 1, 2014.

Partnership is a longstanding tradition here in the North. We have to rely on each other and work together to be successful at whatever we do. The people of the Northwest Territories have benefited from their partnership with the Government of Canada and look forward to continuing to work together to realize the North’s great potential.

Thank you.