A federal bill to stop the amalgamation of the NWT’s regulatory boards into one ‘superboard’ is currently on track to pass before this fall’s election.
The many components of Bill C-88 contain both provisions that would bring about more clarity to the territory’s mineral industry and a few that deeply concern mining proponents.
“The implications of not passing Bill C-88 and maintaining the status quo are significant,” said Premier Bob McLeod, who is lobbying for its passage, in his presentation to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs on May 16 in Ottawa.
NWT MP Michael McLeod told News/North the committee will go through the bill clause-by-clause within the next two weeks, after which it will go to the House of Commons for third reading, and then to the Senate.
“How long it takes to get through the Senate may be a little more challenging,” the federal member said. “They’ve got a lot of legislation in front of them. We’re going to try to encourage them to put some priority on this.”
The devolution agreement introduced by the previous federal government legislated that the Gwich’in, Sahtu and Wek’èezhii land and water boards be combined into one.
The Tlicho Government challenged this in court, winning an injunction that halted this provision.
It also halted several others in the agreement related to regulatory affairs that are viewed as positive across partisan lines, which would finally come into force if this bill passes.
Provisions in Bill C-88 related to cost recovery for mining reviews, paid by the mining companies, however, raised concerns from the industry.
Joe Campbell spoke on behalf of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, of which he is vice-president for the NWT.
He said the industry is not opposed to the spirit of the bill, nor is it arguing for a single board to replace the regional ones, but that cost recovery could cripple an already struggling industry.
“Please do not enact cost recovery on Bill C-88,” he said.
“This industry is expected to shoulder those costs yet we are given no control over them.
“The federal government empowers the boards and they control the activity and the clock.
“After pulling all the levers they both turn around and put out their hand for the recovery of costs of the process they are entirely responsible for.”
He also argued that responsibility for the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act should be devolved to the GNWT.
“This will co-ordinate the process and rid us of the lack of accountability and the
ambivalence that now infests it,” he said.
Also presenting were Tlicho Grand Chief George Mackenzie, Dehcho Grand Chief Gladys Norwegian, Tuktoyaktuk Mayor Merven Gruben and councillor Jackie Jacobson, and Neil McCrank, among others.