One year after Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod issued a red alert to Ottawa about the economic situation in the territory, the territorial government, the federal government and all of the territory’s Indigenous governments came together for an Economic Development Symposium in Inuvik October 1-3.
The symposium was not open to the public or media.
McLeod said he was concerned about the territory’s economy for some time before he issued the red alert right after the federal government issued its moratorium on offshore drilling.
“We need a very serious discussion about the economic future of the Northwest Territories,” said McLeod.
He said he hopes that the symposium will ensure that all of the territory’s leaders are on the same page about how to move forward economically in a way that benefits everyone while still respecting the rights, authorities and priorities of each government.
Duane Smith, chair of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation said the meeting is overdue.
“It is long overdue that this sort of a meeting took place, with that type of leadership and the GNWT in the room as well. Everybody is wanting to work with each other, but it’s just a matter of … how do we go about this,” he said. “Each region has its own potential and opportunity, but then how do we support each other moving forward that would continue to benefit the whole territory – that’s the issue that needs to be figured out.”
Deputy Premier Robert C. McLeod said he would also like to see all Indigenous governments in the territory commit to working together after the symposium.
“It’s important because, I think for Canada, if they look to the Northwest Territories and they see that all the groups in the territory are united and singing form the same song sheet, that carries a lot more weight than if groups are disagreeing about what we’re asking for,” the deputy premier said. “You can’t operate in silos.”
McLeod said he is optimistic that economic development will pick up again in the future, and hopefully the symposium will be the start.
“To hold it in Inuvik is symbolic because Inuvik used to be a very busy place,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that the best social program is a job. Our challenge is to provide people with those jobs.”