GUEST COMMENT: Comment failed to consider bad side of mining

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Tom Hoefer’s comment on MLA Kevin O’Reilly’s critique of the Premier’s Red Alert II (Yellowknifer 20 March 2019, page 9) deserves a response.

Hoefer shared thoughts on the good that mining has brought the NWT, but for a full analysis, why did he fail to mention other considerations? Considerations such as the steep cost of mine site clean-ups to taxpayers (in the billions of dollars with loss of water and traditional food); the fact that most mine employees reside, take their Territorial income from our minerals and pay taxes outside the NWT; that leading researchers have termed our resource revenue and royalty rates as being so low that they are considered “charitable” to the global corporations mining our resources; that all the infrastructure mentioned was largely paid for by taxpayer subsidies; that all these costs and subsidies have meant a failure to diversify our Northern economy, resulting in a vulnerable economy susceptible to the volatile commodities market?

Mr. Hoefer, like the Premier, fails to even mention climate change, the biggest challenge facing humankind and every NWT resident today and one that has been caused by the excessive use of oil and gas. As one of the causes of our caribou decline, loss of important infrastructure and other impacts, how can changing climate not be a key and automatic consideration for everyone in development policy decisions today?

The claim that natural gas is a helpful response to climate change is patently false, as most of our natural gas today derives from fracking, now proven to have methane emissions 70 to more than 100 per cent more than reported by the fossil fuel industry in B.C., Alberta and elsewhere, making it almost equivalent to the worst source of emissions, coal.

Hoefer did correctly mention wind as a positive. A reference to Diavik’s 9.3 MW wind installation that we all agree is a great, albeit extremely rare, example of what now must be required for non-renewable resource development. However, when citing diamond mines as our economic answer, it’s important to note that the GNWT receives less in royalty revenue from them than from alcohol and tobacco taxes.

O’Reilly is in fact nationally recognized, with a sterling reputation of supporting responsible non-renewable resource development. In recognition of this, he was the 2018 recipient of the University of Waterloo Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. His 30-plus years of contributions to resource development policies that protect the economic, social and environmental public interest for all residents are clear, and widely acknowledged (Diamond Jubilee Medal 2012), as is his public service both on Yellowknife City Council and within the Legislative Assembly of the NWT.

His presence in governments has filled a knowledge gap that we have all benefited from. With the upcoming election, I will be seeking informed, hard-working representatives, those willing to be constructively critical for the public good as the job requires and less of the “same old same old”.

People like MLA O’Reilly will be at the front of my mind.