Premier Bob McLeod has to come up with a better word.

Last week, the premier called for a national debate on the NWT’s future, and blasted the federal government for “colonialism” towards Northerners.

Hmmm, colonialism?

That’s an interesting – and loaded – way of describing the federal government’s treatment of the NWT. It’s just a small step away from accusing the federal government of racism.

In certain ways, it may be true that Ottawa has a somewhat colonial master’s point of view towards the NWT, but not in the way that McLeod is using the word “colonialism.”

Here’s part of what the premier’s statement on Nov. 1 says:

“The promise of the North is fading and the dreams of Northerners are dying as we see a re-emergence of colonialism. For too long now policies have been imposed on us from Ottawa and southern Canada that, despite good intentions sometimes, and ignorance other times, are threatening our economic potential and the decades long work that we as a government have taken on Indigenous reconciliation.”

Later, there appears the specific issue that has raised the premier’s ire.

“The unilateral decision by the federal government, made without consultation, to impose a moratorium on Arctic offshore oil and gas development is but one example of our economic self-determination being thwarted by Ottawa,” the statement reads.

So according to the premier’s argument, decisions in one part of Canada that impact another part of the country – especially when hindering the oil and gas sector – are tantamount to colonialism.

If you follow that logic, strict conditions on the abandoned Energy East oil pipeline by the National Energy Board and opposition in Quebec (and by some First Nations, we should note) is colonialism against Alberta.

We’re not so sure about British Columbia opposition to pipelines carrying Alberta energy. Perhaps that is an inter-colonial spat.

And how about opposition in the United States to the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast? Is that colonialism?

It seems Premier McLeod has gotten his ‘isms’ mixed up.

The decision by Canada and the United States, in the long-ago days of President Barack Obama, to place Arctic waters off limits to new oil and gas leasing was framed as environmentalism.

Here’s a snippet of a joint statement in December: “Today, President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau are proud to launch actions ensuring a strong, sustainable and viable Arctic economy and ecosystem, with low-impact shipping, science-based management of marine resources, and free from the future risks of offshore oil and gas activity.”

Look at all those nice, family-friendly words: strong, sustainable, viable, ecocystem and low-impact.

How is a premier to argue against that? Well, by launching a ‘colonialism’ counterattack, of course. As words go, that is admittedly a powerful one, although we doubt it will be effective in this case.

However, McLeod has an ally against the Arctic waters being off-limits to oil and gas. That is none other than President Donald Trump.

Perhaps McLeod can ask the Donald for some help with his vocabulary.

After all, Trump claims to know all the best words.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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