Nunavut not even close to devolution agreement: Premier
“No one can say when the negotiations will start"
Devolution — that’s what MLAs wanted to know more about March 12 when Premier Eva Aariak, Nunavut’s chief negotiator for devolution David Akeeagok, and Dan Vandermeulen, deputy minister of Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs, appeared before committee of the whole.
The three responded to many questions and comments on devolution from MLAs during the committee’s review of intergovernmental affairs’ $4.2 million operations request for 2013-14.
Devolution, they told MLAs, won’t happen soon.
In fact, Aariak told them that Nunavut is still in the “beginning stages” of working towards devolution. No negotiations on devolution have taken place since the appointment of Akeeagok and the chief federal negotiator last May.
For now, the parties are still deciding on the framework of future negotiations, she said.
“No one can say when the negotiations will start,” Aariak said.
Aariak said it could be a while, citing the example of the Northwest Territories, whose leaders worked for 10 years before Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived March 11 in Yellowknife to mark the conclusion of negotiations between Canada and the NWT.
Devolution in the NWT would mean the transfer of decision-making and administration for land and resource management from the Government of Canada to Government of the NWT.
The territorial government would also become responsible for the management of lands and the issuance of rights and interests for minerals and oil and gas.
And it would also give the GNWT the power to collect and share in resource revenues generated in the territory.
Nunavut MLAs were eager for more details about the impact of devolution in Nunavut.
MLAs also said they want to see a devolution agreement that deals with Arctic sovereignty.
They also said devolution should give Nunavut more than 50 per cent of the royalties from oil, gas or mineral development as well a road joining Nunavut with Manitoba, a project that comes with a $1.3 billion price tag.
The request for the road comes after Harper also promised March 11 to give the NWT $50 million more for the construction of an all-season road between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk.
The federal government had previously promised $150 million to the road project, which NWT Premier Bob McLeod said “will further Canada’s sovereignity interests, improve capabilities for search and recue and enhance economic opportunities.”
Aariak promised to hold a meeting with MLAs before the end of the session to talk more with them about devolution.
MLAs also wanted to know more about the ongoing negotiations with Dene in Saskatchewan and Mantioba, wondering if these could slowing down progress on the Nunavut-Manitoba road.
But Aariak and Vandermeulen said they couldn’t say much about the state of the negotiations because they are bound by confidentiality agreements.
The cost of the road is the main obstacle to the project, they said.
On March 12, the committee of the whole approved the EIA budget of $26 million. They now move to discussions on the remaining departments, which include Justice, Finance and Economic Development and Transportation.