In his keynote speech at the Arctic Oil and Gas Symposium in Calgary, Canadian Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod said his "patience is wearing thin" over the slow rate of investment in northern oil and gas. He spoke to his frustration, at times taking aim at the media, the federal government and "southern, urban Canadians" saying, "You'd think that the relationship between resource development, and socioeconomic well-being would be well known in this country."
In 2016, the federal government introduced a moratorium on new offshore oil and gas licenses in the Arctic, restricting the opportunities for drilling in the North. Premier McLeod said "all too often … Indigenous people … are only valued as responsible stewards of their land if they choose not to touch it.” He called this "eco-colonialism" and said "It is oppressive and irresponsible to assume that Indigenous northerners do not support resource development.”
Premier McLeod said past investments in infrastructure, such as the Mackenzie gas pipeline, moved too slowly for industry, which "had every right to move on" and "This was a waste of an opportunity that the whole country could be benefitting from today." In a challenge to Ottawa’s bureaucracy, he called the process a "cautionary tale" about "overly complicated management regimes."
He remarked that the "social license" for resource development was greater in the N.W.T. than anywhere else in Canada, thanks to "one of the richest revenue sharing agreements of its kind in Canada." In a blow to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he added, "This is what real reconciliation looks like."
Premier McLeod identified three "priority projects" for resource development in the territory: a year-round access corridor in the Slave Geological Province, an expansion of the Taltson hydroelectric system, and an all-season Mackenzie Valley Highway. "There is no question that provinces in this country have each, at some point in time, benefitted from federal government investment. Now is the time for that same promise to be fulfilled in the Northwest Territories," he said.
According to the NWT Bureau of Statistics, oil and gas contributed a mere CAD $7.9 million to the Northwest Territories economy in 2017, an amount Premier McLeod said was "on par" with agriculture and arts and entertainment. He said he would "keep pushing to see these projects realized … now, and not in another 30 years."
The NWT Premier also pointed to three pieces of legislation as indications his government is modernizing regulations around resource exploration: The Oil and Gas Operations Act, the Mineral Resources Act and the Petroleum Resources Act. However, without changes, northern industry will continue to "feel left out from the national economic equation." The Premier added, "These fears are not just my own. They are shared by families who are struggling with high costs of living and fewer prospects for good paying jobs."