Despite relegating Apr. 1 to the status of just another day at the office, the territorial government found ways to mark the arrival of devolution and the transfer of power from Ottawa to politicians in the Northwest Territories afterall.
Resource royalties loom large in the government’s reasons for pushing devolution forward, and Dave Ramsay, minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, turned the first mineral claim into a media event.
“Today is a coming of age for the territory,” Ramsay proclaimed, as Lou Covello, past-president of the NWT and Yukon Chamber of Mines, turned over a cheque for $937.50 for three mineral claims on 3,758 hectares, about 350 km north of Yellowknife.
“We have our hands, today, firmly on the controls of environment and resource development in the Territories,” said Ramsay, who will head the new regulator replacing the land and water boards that have overseen resource extraction projects in the Northwest Territories.
Premier Bob McLeod marked Apr. 1 with a press release extolling the virtues of devolution, which he said “makes Northerners responsible for decisions that were previously made in Ottawa.”
Despite expressions of discontent with devolution among Aboriginal leaders, McLeod said the new “Intergovernmental Council will ensure our environment is protected, (and) our economy is strong.”
“New territorial legislation that came into effect today gives the GNWT the authority for inspections, enforcement and leasing on territorial lands. The GNWT will now manage and regulate the development of minerals, oil and gas,” McLeod said, declaring: “We are now in control of our own future.”
Last Wednesday, McLeod welcomed 130 new territorial government employees at a brief ceremony in the Great Hall of the Legislative Assembly.
“You have an opportunity to become part of our coming success,” said McLeod, who served in the federal and territorial public service before entering political life.
“Our government worked hard for devolution. We wanted to make sure there was a seamless transition; we needed to transfer the corporate knowledge that made programs work. That meant making sure as many staff as possible came over to our government.”
Almost 100 per cent of former Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada employees who received job offers from the territorial government accepted them, McLeod said.
“This speaks to our government’s preparation and your commitment to serving the people of the Northwest Territories,” he said at the welcoming ceremony.