Premier Speaks on Devolution to the House
Premier Floyd Roland address the House with an update on the work that the GNWT has been undertaking in relation to Devolution.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to provide Members of this Assembly with an update on the work our government has been undertaking related to the devolution of public lands and resources from the Government of Canada to the Government of the Northwest Territories.
Following a delay caused by the federal election, the GNWT recommenced Main Table negotiations with Canada and the Aboriginal governments that are signatories to the Devolution Agreement-in-Principle: the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and the Northwest Territory Métis Nation.
Detailed work has also begun on many issues, including the categorization of Waste Sites; determining where the boundary between the NWT’s onshore jurisdiction and Canada’s offshore jurisdiction should be; and on cooperating and collaborating on transboundary oil and gas administration and regulation. There is also important work to do on information technology systems; assignment of contracts, licences and copyrights; and the transfer of assets and records.
Our Human Resources professionals are working with Canada on preparing for the eventual transfer of employees and positions to the GNWT. We are committed to ensuring federal and territorial employees stay informed of the progress being made. I am confident that federal employees that join us in the future will find an employer where their careers can grow and they can feel the satisfaction of making real, visible contributions to their communities and neighbours.
I want to stress, Mr. Speaker that we will continue to be mindful of the interests of Aboriginal governments and will update them on our progress as negotiations proceed, consult them as required, and encourage them to be as involved as they wish to be, all in keeping with the duty and honour of the Crown.
We would prefer all Aboriginal governments to be directly involved in devolution negotiations and continue to encourage them to join us at the table. This is important work that all NWT residents have a stake in and I have extended an invitation both in person and through correspondence to all regional Aboriginal governments that are not yet part of this process.
This past spring and summer I attended many regular meetings and assemblies, including the Dene National Assembly, the Akaitcho Assembly, and the Gwich’in Assembly. I provided updates on the devolution process and repeated my invitation to all those who have not yet joined us.
I’m encouraged by some of what I hear, Mr. Speaker. I have heard from some people that there is an interest in coming back to negotiations. I know there are leaders who feel their governments should be at the table – they want to engage constructively in building the future of the public government that serves all Northerners. I am confident that we’ll see more participation in the devolution process, from more parties, as we continue to move forward.
We respect that not everyone will share the same views. There are some leaders who do not accept that responsibility for public lands should be transferred to the public government of the Northwest Territories. There are those who feel that they must finish their own processes first – before engaging in this important initiative with us.
The GNWT is the public government of our Territory. It is our duty and responsibility to represent the collective interests of all Northern residents, whose hard-earned and legitimate rights our government continues to respect and honour.
Mr. Speaker, devolution has been an objective of NWT public government for decades. The luxury of time is not something that we can afford. Every day we delay, we lose over $165,000 of resource revenues, based on this past year’s projections, to the federal government.
That is money we could put toward our hospitals or our children’s education, money that could directly benefit all people of the Northwest Territories. Every day we delay means more decisions being made in Ottawa – not in the North. That is not what we want and that is not what successive Legislative Assemblies of the Northwest Territories have wanted.
Mr. Speaker, this is the last devolution update that I will be providing to this Assembly. For years we’ve been talking about what great potential the North has. We can’t keep talking about that potential forever. The time has come for us to make decisions that will allow us to realize that potential. The future is in our hands, but we need to get to the table and make decisions that will give the future a chance to become a reality. We could wait until all our historic grievances are addressed, but waiting only means that somebody else is making the decisions that affect us and our people. The people of the Northwest Territories are capable of making those decisions and taking control of our own destiny. As their elected representatives – responsive and accountable to all people of the NWT – it is the responsibility of this Assembly to make the choices that will create the greatest benefits for all our people and our territory.
I would like to close with some words of advice for the future decision makers that will soon fill this Assembly. Leadership is about making decisions, it is about doing what is right for the population, not what is right for popularity. Consensus government doesn’t mean avoiding the tough decisions, but it can mean that we have to work harder to find the common ground we need to move forward. I hope future leaders will choose wisely, and will provide their support to their new leader to give him or her the strength to make the hard choices and the wise decisions that will guide our great territory toward a prosperous future for all of us, our children, and our grandchildren.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.