NWT cabinet invades Ottawa

photo by Adam Scotti / Courtesy of Prime Minister's Office Premier Bob McLeod, left, met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Nov. 22 during a visit by the NWT cabinet to Ottawa.

photo by Adam Scotti / Courtesy of Prime Minister’s Office
Premier Bob McLeod, left, met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Nov. 22 during a visit by the NWT cabinet to Ottawa.

Premier Bob McLeod and his whole cabinet dropped into Ottawa last week for a visit.

And McLeod described the trip as a success in making the NWT’s concerns known at the highest levels of the federal government.

“We felt this was timely for the premier and cabinet to travel to Ottawa to meet with federal ministers, parliamentary committees and others as part of our federal engagement strategy,” he said, noting the ministers focused on priorities such as climate change.

“We also chose meetings with ministers that sit on the most influential federal cabinet committee, the Cabinet Committee on Agenda, Results and Communications, and Treasury Board,” the premier added in a Nov. 24 conference call with members of the NWT media. “We wanted to improve federal awareness of the unique needs and circumstances of the Northwest Territories, and also we were promoting federal investment in selected Northwest Territories infrastructure projects.”

McLeod also said he had a “very good” meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

At that meeting, the premier said they talked about infrastructure, the cost of living in the NWT, the federal government’s proposed carbon pricing and other issues.

“We reinforced the fact that the Northwest Territories is a very expensive place to live, that for a long time our population is declining,” said McLeod. “It’s only recently that we’ve seen a very modest increase in our population.”

The premier said he expressed concern that carbon pricing might unduly impact the cost of living in the NWT.

Mentioning a Nova Scotia agreement with the federal government on an extension to deal with coal, McLeod said the NWT would be looking for more time to help develop its hydro potential and other infrastructure, and develop alternatives to diesel.

“I’m sure that we could work out a similar agreement and certainly that was reinforced by not only the ministers but by the prime minister,” he said. “We’re looking forward to working together in the best interests of the Northwest Territories and Canada on those things.”

Along with the premier, the cabinet ministers on the Nov. 20 to 25 trip to Ottawa were Robert C. McLeod, Alfred Moses, Caroline Cochrane, Louis Sebert, Wally Schumann and Glen Abernethy.

They were also accompanied by government officials for a total delegation of close to 20 people.

“I believe it was very beneficial to come as a cabinet and also it raised the profile, and it certainly made the federal government understand that we were here and we were going to do business,” said McLeod.

The premier also said it is not unusual for the whole cabinet to visit Ottawa.

“In the past, previous governments have taken the whole cabinet, and in some cases the whole legislative assembly,” he said. “Ourselves, previously we’ve held what we call NWT Days where the whole cabinet was there and all of the MLAs.”

As for the benefits of visiting as a group, McLeod said it is to make sure that the NWT’s priorities and realities are known and factored into federal decision-making.

–Paul Bickford