If you could design the Northwest Territories of the future, what would it look like?
That’s the question NWT Premier Floyd Roland posed to residents July 7 as he launched the “Creating Our Future Together” initiative in an effort to develop a common vision for the future of the territory in 20 to 30 years time. The need for a common vision came from a meeting of the Northern Leaders’ Forum, which features the NWT’s seven regional Aboriginal governments, two regular MLAs, the NWT Association of Communities (NWTAC) and Roland. The Forum was established last year in an effort to unify all levels of government to work towards a common goal.
“(We) saw a need to reach out to the people across the North and engage them in some discussion,” Roland said. “(We) decided this avenue would be the most appropriate to pull together what we hear from the people and businesses, from organizations, about what they think the North should be.”
As part of the launch, the GNWT has released a brochure that will be mailed out to all NWT residents, as well as a website, www.creatingourfuture.ca, designed to encourage participation. A number of roundtable discussions are also planned – beginning in Yellowknife last week, and concluding with community roundtables in Dettah on Aug. 12 at the Aboriginal Youth Economic Development Workshop; Inuvik on Aug. 31; and Hay River on Sept. 8. Radio roundtable discussions are also planned for later this summer. Roland also met with long-term media representatives on July 7 to get their ideas.
The brochure asks residents to answer six different questions including their long-term vision for the NWT, how they would achieve this vision, their view of consensus government and whether they believe it is sustainable, what legacy the current generation should leave behind, what is needed to generate new jobs, and what are the best, and worst, features of the NWT. The questions are meant to foster debate and get residents asking questions, Roland stated.
“How do will make the opportunities that lie within our grasp a reality so that they benefit the families in the future and businesses of the future in the Northwest Territories?” he asked.
Roland said it will be imperative to bring Northern youth between the ages of 15 and 25 into the discussion. A roundtable with NWT post-secondary students and GNWT interns is planned for Aug. 19 – one week after the meeting with youth in Dettah. Roland said he will ask the youth the same question he asked himself while growing up in Inuvik.
“Do I want to stand on the outside and look in and complain? Or do I want to go inside and try to influence the change? I made the choice of getting involved,” he said. “This is in a sense a call, in fact maybe even a challenge, to the younger population in the North. Do you want to get involved, or are you happy with the decisions and practices held by the government today?”
Roland said the discussion will inevitably turn to whether or not it’s time to move on from consensus government.
“Is it time to look at that? Is it time to look at what the future holds in that area?” he said. “Do we need to tweak it, strengthen it? Do we need to look at, of all things, party politics, as a possibility for the North? Is that the road we go down?”
Residents will be able to have their say until October. Roland will then take the information back to the Northern Leaders Forum.