Aariak promotes devolution at Nunavut Trade Show

“This will strengthen Nunavut’s position as a driver for Canada’s economic growth and a generator of wealth for all Canadians”


Premier Eva Aariak came out swinging in favour of devolution when she delivered her Sept. 27 keynote address to Nunavut Trade show delegates in Iqaluit.

“Devolution will be good for business by bringing the spin-off benefits of the resource management regime to local businesses here in Nunavut,” Aariak said.

Devolution would see Ottawa giving the Government of Nunavut more control over its lands and resources.

Aariak said the GN wants to get the details of devolution nailed down now, “ahead of this wave of development that is coming our way.”

That could include 10 new resource development projects over the next decade, 8,000 jobs and $8 billion worth of annual production.

“We need the time to build in a smooth and seamless transition. We need to ramp up the Government of Nunavut’s capacity — starting now — so that we are running efficiently when it’s our time to act,” she said.

Aariak praised Nunavut’s regulatory system, which recently completed its review of the Mary River iron mine project, for its its “simplicity and clarity.”

But she said “one piece of the puzzle is missing”

“Nunavummiut still aren’t making the final decisions about our lands and resources,” she said.

The decision about whether the Mary River project will go ahead “now sits on the desk of the federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in distant Ottawa,” she said.

Meanwhile, the GN trying to build self-sufficiency, she said, citing the success of the Pangnirtung fish plant.

The goal remains lowering the cost of doing business in the territory — “the biggest hurdle on our path to greater economic development” — with new infrastructure such as airport renovations in Iqaluit and more training to “build up a made-in-Nunavut workforce and reduce the need for costly fly-in, fly-out labour.”

“All of this will strengthen Nunavut’s position as a driver for Canada’s economic growth and a generator of wealth for all Canadians,” Aariak said.

Last May, the federal and Nunavut governments each named negotiators who will lead talks on the transfer of province-like control over public lands and resources from Ottawa to the Nunavut government.

On Dec. 14, 2004, Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin had promised, as part of his northern strategy scheme, to start devolution negotiations with Nunavut in 2005, with a final agreement in 2008.

But formal devolution talks between Ottawa and Nunavut never got started.

In September 2008, the GN, NTI and the federal government signed a protocol to guide negotiations once they start.

In January 2009, Ottawa named a new ministerial representative for devolution, Bruce Rawson.

But the issue languished, even after Aariak launched a campaign in November 2010 to get talks going again.

Ottawa completed a devolution deal with Yukon in 2003 and in December 2010 reached an agreement-in-principle with the Northwest Territories.

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