Premier Bob McLeod and his government get taken to task quite often in this space.
And generally for good reason. Pickings are lean for anyone to find much of substance with the political talent, or the public policies, of the 18th Legislative Assembly.
The premier has presided over this malaise, even after signing a pretty significant deal with Ottawa that gave the territory more control over its land and resources.
While control over health, education and social services was ceded to the NWT in the 1970s and ’80s, wrangling the transfer the ability to regulate resources – such as gold and diamond mining, as well as oil and gas extraction – took years and years.
While speaking on the completion of a devolution agreement in 2013, Premier McLeod said: “It will be Northerners making the decisions about the things that affect them the most. We have a special attachment to the land and water, so we’ll make sure we have balanced development.”
Then Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper said, “It is time for the people of the Northwest Territories to take control of their destiny.”
However, since being elected in 2015, the Trudeau Liberals have ignored that deal and continued on with its southern comfort approach to the North. That being if everything is fine and fancy in the Windsor-Quebec City corridor – chiefly in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal – then the people living in the North can freeze in the dark for all they care.
Too often Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems enamored with his own celebrity and the decisions he makes reflect that, such as his tag-team moratorium with former U.S. President Barack Obama on Arctic offshore oil and gas development. Climate change is a serious issue for the North but time and again, the Trudeau Liberals decree major policy changes, whether it be the moratorium or curbing carbon emissions with no plan on how help the North cope with the consequences.
The NWT needed a loud, barking bullhorn that can penetrate the smugness of southern Canada.
And we just might have one, finally, in the form of our browbeaten and berated Premier McLeod.
After enduring an embarrassing – and in the end, meaningless – mid-term review, McLeod on Nov. 1 threw down the gloves in a splendid statement which garnered national headlines.
This was not a provincial or territorial leader grandstanding. This was pent-up anger that was a long time in coming.
“Today I am issuing a red alert and calling for an urgent national debate on the future of the Northwest Territories,” stated McLeod while in Ottawa. “The promise of the North is fading and the dreams of Northerners are dying as we see a re-emergence of colonialism.”
You can read more about the statement and the reaction it received elsewhere in this edition.
Suffice to say, it caught Liberal NWT MP Michael McLeod – yes, Premier Bob’s brother – flat-footed and sounding flabbergasted in media interviews.
And then another well-known Liberal, MLA Kieron Testart went to Twitter Nov. 2 to toe the party line.
“I do not agree with Premier McLeod and he does not speak for all MLAs,” stated the Yellowknife rep. “Ottawa has been a strong partner in supporting the NWT.”
Testart, often a spark of intellect and imagination among the regular MLAs, is tone deaf on this issue.
Premier McLeod, we believe, has struck the right chord with average folks.
We are sick and tired and just won’t take it any longer.