The NWT government and business community’s relationship status has switched to “it’s complicated” now that the government is responsible for not only promotion of industry, but regulation, according to the premier.
Premier Bob McLeod briefed members of the business community last Wednesday evening during the NWT Chamber of Commerce’s annual general meeting in Yellowknife on the future of decision making in the territory now that devolution has occurred.
Sticking with his mantra of “devolve, then evolve,” McLeod said the change in relationship would be a work in progress, but unavoidable nonetheless.
“One of the things we – and you – will have to learn is how to manage the relationship between government and industry,” he told the audience. “For many years, the government of the Northwest Territories has been an active and visible promoter of development in our territory. That has often included lending our voices in support of particular projects that we believed to be of potential benefit to the territory and its people.
“That was an appropriate role for a government that did not carry the responsibility of decision making and regulatory authority. With devolution, our responsibilities have changed and so has our duty to the people of the Northwest Territories. As decision makers, we are now the stewards of the land and its resources, called upon to uphold the public interest in the development decisions we will be making.”
McLeod said the government will have to respect that new role and ensure the public has confidence that its decisions are fair and unbiased, which could mean changes to the way industry and the GNWT work together.
“We continue to support responsible balanced development,” he assured. “We understand that resource development will continue to be a major component of our GDP and we will continue to support and encourage it and all sectors of our economy.”
The NWT Chamber has been a proponent of devolution from the outset, claiming the transfer – along with changes to the regulatory system – would bring more economic opportunities to the territory.
“The devolution of control over lands and resources to the government of the Northwest Territories has been a long time coming, but has the potential to have a transformative effect on the territorial economy,” stated a recent press release from Chamber executive director Mike Bradshaw.