MLAs defeated a motion last Thursday that would have created regional offices to take the place of those that will be lost when the federal government eliminates regional land and water boards to create one superboard.
The motion, put forward by MLA Bob Bromley and seconded by Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadli, asked the GNWT to work with Aboriginal governments to establish and staff regional offices “as a basis for ensuring meaningful input into land and water management structures.”
Bromley said the motion was put forward in response to the “crystal clear and unanimous voices of our Aboriginal partners,” numerous non-Aboriginal residents and the admission of industry that the regional boards are working well.
With attempts to stop the federal legislation in Ottawa unsuccessful, Bromley thought it was imperative to take mitigative strides at the territorial level.
“We have a situation where we need to try and do something to make the best of a bad situation, keeping the regional capacity in places that allow the boards to keep a finger on the pulse of each region and allow for direct engagement with people in each region,” he told the assembly.
“Really this motion…urges Cabinet to sit down with our Aboriginal partners and discuss with them what mitigation can be taken, what specific actions can be put in place and structures to address the gap that this will be leaving.”
Seven in favour, 11 against
Seven MLAs were in favour of the motion, particularly its premise of more consultation.
“This motion asks the government of the Northwest Territories towork with our regional government partners. If you’re doing it already, why should we not continue on and work with them on something which they think is so terribly important?” commented Frame Lake MLA Wendy Bisaro.
Though Range Lake MLA Daryl Dolynny agreed that the devolution bill is not perfect, he voted against Bromley’s motion, stating he believes the included regulatory changes are needed to modernize the NWT.
“I believe we are striving for a territory of greater efficiency putting us, in my humble opinion, at the same level playing field as other jurisdictions such as our sister territory of the Yukon,” Dolynny said. “This new concept should allow us to focus on more efficiency and all the while hopeful that we are able to concentrate and further develop our land use plans and have strong, continued negotiations for our unsettled land claims.”
Dolynny, along with three other regular MLAs and cabinet, voted against the motion.
New board will represent regions
Premier Bob McLeod argued there will be no lack of regional representation on the new superboard, which is an amalgamation of the existing regional boards.
“With respect to representation on the amalgamated board, there is a provision in Bill C-15 to allow three people to be appointed to review the application, including at least one member appointed from an Aboriginal government. This provides for representation similar in proportion to the current representation on regional boards,” he said.
“There is also a provision to allow the chairperson to designate additional board members to deal with the application in addition to the three people designated. This provides continued real representation.”
McLeod said the intergovernmental council to be established with Aboriginal governments through devolution will provide the forum for collaboration proposed in the motion.
“In this way, the views of Aboriginal governments will continue to be articulated and heard by the government of the Northwest Territories,” he said.
He added that members of the review boards are not meant to represent regions, but to take an impartial stance during assessments, as they do now.