It probably goes without saying that politics is often a balancing act where politicians must, from time to time, mitigate their personal and emotional ties to issues for the greater good of their constituents.
In many ways, the NWT is at a crossroads when considering its economic and social future, and last week we saw this play out among two powerful politicians, united by blood but not necessarily by politics.
Premier McLeod has made it clear over the past term that he is quite concerned about jobs and the economy, particularly around natural resource development. The economic forecast in the NWT — based on last year’s Conference Board of Canada economic outlook — appears bleak in the coming years, mainly due to a lack of new natural resource development, aging mines and limited mineral exploration.
So it only makes sense for him to have signed onto a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with five other Conservative premiers advising of their disagreement with two federal bills — C-69, a bill that amends environmental assessments that critics claim will stifle future resource development, and C-48, which would formally ban oil tankers from traversing the northern coast of B.C.
To these premiers, the legislation will add more red tape, make outside investment for natural resource development less attractive and risk agitating natural resource-based economies – i.e. Western Canada.
This Liberal government has certainly not done much to dispel its anti-resource development reputation. A year after coming to power, Trudeau slapped a five-year moratorium on drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic without bothering to consult anybody living there who might stand to benefit.
That said, unchecked development (Giant Mine, Colomac, etc.) in previous years has greatly damaged the resource sector’s reputation in the North, particularly among Indigenous groups who rely on the land for putting food on the table.
Trudeau’s shrill demand for opposition leader Andrew Scheer to condemn the premiers’ letter as “absolutely irresponsible” was unhinged and over the top but MP McLeod’s observation that governments need to do a better job listening to Indigenous voices in this debate is reasonable and underlines the necessity for better oversight of resource development.
Both bills were passed in the House of Commons on June 20. Ultimately, it will be up to voters to decide who is right and wrong in this debate.
The federal election is Oct. 21. It’s unclear whether Premier McLeod will stand for re-election this year but if he does seek a fourth term as MLA for Yellowknife South, voters will have their say Oct. 7.
We know where these two politicians stand on these very important issues for the North.
Soon we will know where voters stand too.