Northwest Territories Premier Floyd Roland was in town last week to wrap up the roundtable portion of the “Creating our Future Together” initiative.
Roland met with representatives from the Hamlet of Enterprise, the Territorial Farmers Association (TFA), the Hay River Ministerial Association, the K’atlo’deeche First Nation, the Yamozha Kue Society, the Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre, the Hay River Metis Association, the Town of Hay River, the Hay River Chamber of Commerce, and the NWT Fishermen’s Federation, during a meeting on Sept. 8.
The initiative, which was launched by Roland in July as a way to develop a long-term strategy for the NWT, came out of the Northern Leaders Forum – a group comprised of the NWT’s seven regional Aboriginal governments, and representatives from the Northwest Territories Association of Communities (NWTAC) and the Government of the Northwest Territories. Previous roundtable discussions have taken place in Yellowknife, Inuvik and Dettah as well as with northern media representatives, post-secondary students, and Aboriginal youth at an economic development workshop in Dettah.
“I think for the most part it has stayed on track,” Roland said of the process. “The outcome, I guess, will be proof in the pudding on just how far we’ve adjusted and moved and come together, because there are different levels of government here that we’ll need to work with and come up with joint recommendations on where we share similar interests.”
Much of the discussion centred around striking a balance between economy and environment. Roland said there were discussions on developing the recycling industry to help communities save on landfill costs, developing new biomass technologies and creating local economies.
“Some decisions we make today, or don’t make today, will affect how our lives will function – how we will function as people – 20 to 30 years from now,” Roland told those in attendance in his opening remarks. “Those are important around the table. How do we make it a better system than it is today?”
Roland said the group discussed consensus government and confirmed his belief that it is the best form of government for the NWT.
“The majority of people feel that is the best system we have for our size of population,” Roland said. “(There was) talk of needing more control of our own destiny – devolution and resource revenue sharing.”
TFA president Jackie Milne said she was pleased with the discussion.
“We have an opportunity here because the North isn’t really developed,” she said. “The southern model is coming in on us, but we have a choice. We can say, ok, we want to create a different model. We can create this more sustainable society … we have this opportunity because we have the abundance. We have the water, we have the soil, we have the soil but we have to educate ourselves.”
Milne also displayed a work by local artist Franzusja Ulbricht during the meeting. The piece features images of renewable industries including farming, fishing and hunting, as well as the slogan, “Together we can harvest all we need.”
“The idea was to try to capture everything that we can have in a renewable, sustainable way, because this is the part that will always be here if we care for it.”
Roland said he plans to meet with the Northern Leaders Forum in November to discuss the ideas brought up in the meetings, mail out and website.
“They’ll be bringing their work, and we’ll discuss what we’ve found and see if there are some recommendations we can take out of this work,” he said.
The recommendations would then be taken to the territorial and Aboriginal governments, Roland said.
A town hall-type forum is already in the planning stages, and will include representatives from across the NWT, who will be asked to discuss the recommendations made by the Northern Leaders Forum.
“That will go to a very public process next spring,” he said.
“It’s good to hear directly from the people.”
NWT residents have until October to have their say through the initiative’s website, www.creatingourfuture.ca.