As debate brews over natural resource rules, NWT MP Michael McLeod says he was “surprised” by the “odd” letter his brother Premier Bob McLeod sent to Prime Minister Trudeau warning of a threat to national unity, he told News/North. 

Premier McLeod’s letter, signed with his counterparts from Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, takes aim at bills federal bills C-69 and C-48, saying the laws would chill investment and make resource projects “virtually impossible.”

Michael McLeod, who voted for both bills, said he was surprised to see the GNWT as one of the letter’s signatories. According to him, the legislation would better incorporate local input on development projects, protect waterways, build public trust, and respect Indigenous rights while strengthening the economy.

NWT MP Michael McLeod.
NNSL file photo.

“We want better rules based on science, based on good evidence, based on traditional knowledge, to move projects forward in the right way,’ he said.

Bill C-69 updates federal rules on major national resource projects, affecting government evaluation of initiatives like pipelines. Ottawa mostly rejected amendments the senate proposed last week in response to the bill, which the premiers said should be rejected without changes.

“(The bill) upsets the balance struck by the constitutional division of powers by ignoring the exclusive provincial powers over projects relating to these resources,” the premiers wrote.

“The federal government must recognize the exclusive role provinces and territories have over the management of our non-renewable natural resource development or risk creating a constitutional crisis,” the premiers’ letter says.

Bill C-48, meanwhile, creates official rules for the informally observed practice of denying oil tankers passage off British Columbia’s north coast. It would also bar pipelines to deepwater ports necessary for vessels to travel further north. Tankers could still access the Trans Mountain Pipeline in Burnaby on the south B.C. coast, however.

Noting his brother’s letter was addressing policy largely concerned with environmental evaluation, MP McLeod said it never used the word  “environment,” outside of an official senate committee’s name. “It’s no surprise that protecting the environment’s not on their radar at all,” he said.

He also stated the letter didn’t adequately address Indigenous issues. “It’s a surprise to me that the Government of Northwest Territories would put their name on there (when) the Northwest Territories is 50 per cent Indigenous,” he said, adding the letter failed to include the word, “Indigenous.”

Request for comment was sent to Premier McLeod, who was travelling and did not respond by press time.




Nick Pearce

Nick Pearce is a writer and reporter in Yellowknife, looking for unique stories on the environment and people that make up the North. He's a graduate of Queen's University, where he studied Global Development...

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