Autonomy 'not going to happen overnight.'

Ottawa names Nunavut devolution representative

By CHRIS WINDEYER

Ottawa may have a new point man for devolution, but Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak says she's not optimistic a deal with the federal government will be done soon.

Bruce Rawson, a career civil servant, former federal representative for Metis issues, and officer of the Order of Canada, was named the new chief federal representative for Nunavut devolution Jan. 15.

"We are improving and devolving governance to give Northerners more control over their own destinies," said Chuck Strahl, the Indian and Northern affairs minister, in a news release. "The appointment of Mr. Rawson is real progress toward fulfilling this commitment."

But in an interview Tuesday, Aariak admitted "devolution is not going to happen overnight."

A devolution deal would give Nunavut a cut of any revenues from mineral, oil, and gas production that happens on its territory. That doesn't amount to much money now, but could be lucrative in the future, if offshore oil and gas production ever begins.

It also means the Government of Nunavut would take on regulatory roles currently filled by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

But Rawson's predecessor, Paul Mayer, was not convinced that Nunavut is ready to take on more responsibilities. Those responsibilities mean more jobs that must be filled, and in a 2007 report, Mayer wrote that Nunavut may not be ready to fill those jobs.

Aariak said the federal government could get that process started by starting training and mentorship programs to get Nunavummiut ready to take on those federal jobs.

The process did take a step forward this past September, when Nunavut and Ottawa signed a protocol that lays out the terms of a future devolution deal, and promises a labour strategy that would ensure the GN gets the staff it needs when it takes over federal responsibilities.

What Aariak won't do is set a timeline for a full devolution deal in place. In 2004, then-premier Paul Okalik said he wanted a deal in place before the 2008 election.

Aariak noted that Nunavut has assigned a devolution negotiator, while Ottawa has not. But she called Rawson's appointment "a good start."

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