Premier McLeod’s speech at the NWT Days North Star Gala in Ottawa
Honourable ministers; excellencies – honourable representatives of foreign missions; honourable senators; members of parliament; Aboriginal leaders, distinguished members of the press; ladies and gentlemen
My name is Bob McLeod, and I am the Premier of the Northwest Territories. It is my pleasure to welcome you this evening.
Please let me to start by noting how warm a welcome our delegation has received here in the capital. (And I mean “warm” both figuratively and literally! Plus-nine in January?! It was somewhere around minus-thirty-five when we left Yellowknife!)
But I mean this sincerely. On behalf of our government, on behalf of our members of the Legislative Assembly, of our Aboriginal government leaders, and leaders of our territorial business community who are here with us: a heartfelt thank-you to all of you for welcoming and receiving us so graciously.
A special thank-you also to our friends in the Prime Minister’s Office, in the Privy Council Office, and in Speaker Scheer’s office for their assistance in coordinating our various meetings and events for the three days we are here in Ottawa.
So, why are we here? Why have we come with such a varied delegation to Ottawa? I am told it might even be unprecedented for an entire provincial or territorial cabinet to travel to Ottawa for working meetings. It may very well be. I’m not as concerned about the history and precedents as I am about the future and what we achieve.
I have been in public life for quite a while, and one thing I know is that there are three critical ingredients to getting things done: respect, communication, and relationships. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we are here.
Ours is a territory built on consensus, collaboration and partnership. We’re here to get to know you better, to share some of what makes our territory unique, and to strengthen our partnership with you.
And just as we are here to bring the Northwest Territories to Ottawa, I also encourage all of you to come visit us and to get to know us better.
Ladies and gentlemen, as our prime minister has said many times, The North is Canada’s future. Gone are the days when Canada’s wealth and prosperity was a creation of cities, with rural and remote communities often an economic afterthought. Today, it is Canada’s so-called “remote communities” that are fueling our national economy – increasingly producing energy, and extracting the precious metals and minerals for which the entire globe is hungry.
Today’s Northwest Territories is indeed a land of opportunity. We are blessed with resources, and we are blessed with a talented, innovative, and hard-working people.
We are not only a land of economic opportunity. We are also Canada’s ambassadors and stewards on a number of increasingly important fronts. We are on the front lines of Canada’s Arctic sovereignty, just as we are on the front lines of climate change.
But to fully realize the opportunity of the Northwest Territories, to unlock our resource wealth, and move our territory even further, we need to address some challenges we face. We need investment in resource development projects, from hydro to oil and natural gas. We need infrastructure like highways to support and grow our Northern economy, an economy that will be increasingly important to Canada’s economy.
Critical to this is another project we have been working on with the federal government: devolution of land and resources. The full potential of the Northwest Territories will only be fully realized once a final devolution agreement is implemented, giving our government decision-making authority over natural resource development in our territory and access to resource revenues we can invest in our economy and our people.
We have had productive discussions with our federal partners on this, and I believe that we will finalize an agreement in the very near future.
So what is our message here in Ottawa? What are we here to say? It’s simple. We are here to say this: the North is the future of Canada. We are a part of the national dialogue and a part of national solutions.
The Northwest Territories has the potential to lead the nation, not just economically, but in our commitment to balanced development and responsible stewardship. We live close to the land in the North, and we know how to create jobs and prosperity while conserving our natural heritage.
We can also lead the nation when it comes to working with Aboriginal governments. We have seven regional Aboriginal governments in the Northwest Territories and we work closely with all of them. They are a part of our planning and decision making and sit with us as partners in devolution negotiations and on wildlife and land management boards. We have worked hard to negotiate and implement land claims and self-government agreements. We know first-hand what we can achieve in cooperation with Aboriginal governments and this is something that we can show the rest of Canada.
Ladies and gentlemen, by partnering, by working together, all of us: territorial and federal leaders, Aboriginal leaders, business leaders, the investment community, and civil society, we can fully realize the Northwest Territories’ promise and potential as Canada’s North Star.
Thank you very much. I encourage all of you to stay, meet, and mingle. We have some great northern leaders here with us tonight who represent every part of the territory. They all believe passionately in their communities and in the great potential of the territory and will be only too happy to share their enthusiasm for the Northwest Territories with you tonight.