NWT celebrates ‘day of dreams’ with deal for province-like powers by Josh Wingrove (Globe and Mail – March 12, 2013)

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Ottawa and the Northwest Territories have reached a deal to hand the territory province-like power over its land, a move aimed at empowering local leaders to unlock more of their resource riches.

More than a decade in the making, the agreement celebrated by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and NWT Premier Bob McLeod in Yellowknife on Monday will hand the territory an additional $130-million a year and give it greater independence in approving resource projects.

The hope of both parties to the historic agreement is that it will spur development and reshape the economy of Canada’s North at a time when its output of oil and diamonds has declined, while low commodity prices have stalled other projects.

“This is a big day for the Northwest Territories. It is a day of hopes, a day of dreams and a day of transformation,” Mr. McLeod said.

The deal is the latest move by Mr. Harper’s government to reduce Ottawa’s role in provincial and territorial affairs.

“Our government believes that opportunities and challenges here would be better handled by the people who understand them best. That is to say, you who live here in the Northwest Territories,” Mr. Harper said.

The agreement unveiled on Monday is not in its final form, and two of seven regional aboriginal governments have yet to agree, but the “consensus” is a landmark on a long road of talks.

Negotiations date back 12 years. The financial terms were mostly settled in 2005, when Ottawa was still running surpluses. One NWT official said he doesn’t think such a generous offer would be possible these days. An agreement-in-principle was reached in early 2011, and regional aboriginal governments have slowly been signing on. Officials hope to implement a final deal by April 1, 2014.

The financial terms include an extra $67.3-million in annual base funding to the territory, largely for programs and about 175 staff positions it will take on. In addition, the territory will retain a portion of resource royalties that the federal government previously gathered – half of those revenues, up to a total of five per cent of NWT’s entire budget. Based on last year’s figures, that’s about another $65-million. Regional aboriginal governments that have approved the deal will also get extra federal funds.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Globe and Mail website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/nwt-celebrates-day-of-dreams-with-deal-for-province-like-powers/article9603374/

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