A key feature of Canadian history has been the evolution of our nation’s vast northern regions into self governing territories with resource development as the mainstay of their economies.
For example, Prime Minister Dienfenbaker’s 1958 “Roads to Resources” platform was the beginning of a concentrated effort to build the infrastructure necessary to unlock the North’s resource potential.
In 1979, the Conservative Government of Prime Minister Clark instructed the Yukon Commissioner to take direction from the Yukon Cabinet, thereby bringing responsible government to the territory.
The Mulroney Government was instrumental in securing agreement for the 1993 Nunavut Comprehensive Land Claims Agreement which was also the basis for the creation of the Nunavut territory and government on April 1, 1999.
The Mulroney era also saw the transfer of the Northern Canada Power Commission and responsibility for health to the Northwest Territories government.
This proud record of achievements can be attributed to the long standing and fundamental belief of our Conservative Party and successive Conservative governments that the people and governments of this country’s northern territories should govern themselves, including making decisions on the management and development of their natural resources.
Honourable Senators, on March 11, Prime Minister Harper continued this nation building tradition when he announced in Yellowknife that negotiators have reached consensus on the terms for the devolution of lands and resource management from the Government of Canada to the Government of the Northwest Territories.
He stated that
“Our Government recognizes that Northerners are best placed to make the important decisions about how to run their economies and how to maximize use of their resources…Once finalized, this historic agreement will provide the Northwest Territories with greater decision-making powers over a range of new responsibilities which will lead to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity across the Territory.”
Under devolution, NWT government will become responsible for the management of onshore lands; the issuance of rights and interests for onshore minerals and oil and gas; and, collecting and sharing in resource revenues generated in the territory
Once again, Prime Minister Harper has demonstrated a strong commitment to our government’s northern strategy which includes strengthening northern governance as one of its four pillars.
I note that this commitment also applies to Nunavut where a mandate is being developed to begin devolution negotiations and to Yukon where the federal and territorial governments have agreed to revise the 2001 revenue sharing agreement.
Hon. Senators, our Conservative government’s proud record stands in marked contrast to federal Liberal governments which for decades treated northern territories as colonies and northern resources as an exclusive federal treasure chest.