Bill C-15: The Northwest Territories Devolution Act

Senator Doug Black with NWT Premier Bob McLeod

A picture with NWT Premier Bob McLeod

Last month, Bill C-15, the Northwest Territories Devolution Act was introduced into Parliament. The bill was drafted to give the people of Northern Canada more say over their lands and resources.

The bill is currently being studied by the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, one of the two committees on which I serve.

If you would like to learn more about this important bill, I encourage you to read a recent op-ed by my colleague, Senator Dennis Patterson. You can read the piece below.

Bill C-15 to transfer onshore resource management to N.W.T.

By Conservative Senator Dennis Patterson
Published: The Hill Times, Monday, 01/27/2014 12:00 am EST

The 2013 year-end media accounts of the mining industry’s experience in Canada and internationally were, by and large, not very encouraging.

In Canada, cautious investors and market uncertainty; complex, costly, and time-consuming government regulations; aboriginal and environmental opposition; and, the high cost of operation in remote regions of our country all contributed to a less than stellar year for the industry.

However, while it was not entirely immune from some of these challenging circumstances, one region of our country continued to experience positive developments in mining exploration and bringing properties into production.

I am referring to Nunavut, which received a most encouraging review in the N.W.T. and Nunavut Chamber of Mines 2013 account of exploration and mining in the two territories. For example, the chamber provided the following positive account for Nunavut:

Agnico Eagle’s Meadowbank gold mine experienced a strong performance even though there was a downturn in gold prices and its $800-million Meliadine gold project is currently undergoing an environmental review;

Baffinland’s $4-billion Mary River iron ore mine’s 12-year water licence was approved and construction is now underway on an early phase iron mine;

Areva Canada’s $2.1-billion uranium project in the Kivalliq region is currently completing final environmental impact statements scheduled for submission in 2014; and TMAC Resources has revived the Hope Bay gold project in the Kitikmeot region after mining giant Newmont decided to put the project in care and maintenance.

Gold, diamonds, uranium, iron, and base metals—all the focus of billions of dollars spent or projected to be invested in Nunavut, the most remote and high cost region of our country. What accounts for this intense interest and investment when other regions of Canada, like Ontario’s Ring of Fire, offer fewer geographical challenges?

Let’s start with huge and untapped mineral potential which, with a few exceptions like the Polaris and Nanisivik mines long since closed, has until recently never been subject to rigorous exploration let alone considered for production.

Credit also needs to be given to regulatory regimes created under the 1993 Nunavut Comprehensive Land Claims agreement to conduct environmental impact reviews; prepare land use plans; and, regulate the use of water and access to wildlife. Nunavut’s Inuit and their land claims institutions are fully represented on these agencies that make decisions or recommendations on the terms and conditions for resource development.

Next, Inuit land claims beneficiaries will receive substantial benefits from resource development, including a guaranteed share of royalties from developments. This is in addition to regional employment, training and business opportunities resulting from impact and benefit agreements which industry is required to negotiate with regional Inuit associations in the region where they operate. Nunavut Tunngavik, which represents all Nunavut Inuit, has also developed a mining policy, which demonstrates that Inuit look on mining as an economic opportunity.

Furthermore, I am encouraged by the profile, which the newly-elected Nunavut Government and Legislative Assembly will give to their role in promoting resource development in the Territory. In particular, Nunavut’s new premier, Peter Taptuna, is not only a strong supporter of resource development, but also has on the ground experience, having worked as a driller in the Mackenzie Delta/Beaufort Sea oil patch in the 1970s and a mechanic at the Lupin gold mine.

Finally, credit is due to our Conservative government, which has been a strong supporter of responsible northern resource development since 2006. With leadership coming from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Nunavut MP and Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit has been extended during our terms of office to encourage investment in exploration. Moreover, NRCAN’s Geo-Mapping for Energy and Minerals Program has also been instrumental in providing much needed baseline geological mapping information for northern exploration.

In closing, the N.W.T. and Nunavut Chamber’s 2013 report also provides an encouraging account of N.W.T. mineral exploration and potential for new mines in the territory. The N.W.T.’s future can only improve when Parliament passes Bill C-15, the N.W.T. Devolution Act, which will transfer onshore resource management and development jurisdiction to the N.W.T. Government. Our Prime Minister and N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod deserve credit for their vision and commitment to this important step in the evolution of government the N.W.T. If only we could count on the N.W.T.’s NDP MP Dennis Bevington to demonstrate similar strong leadership and express his unqualified support for C-15.