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Touring to promote the territory

Sara Wilson
Northern News Services
Published Monday, January 23, 2012

The newly-elected vice president of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region and NWT Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment Dave Ramsay talked to his Northern counterparts about issues concerning Northern growth last week.

During his trips to Juneau, Alaska and Calgary, Ramsay discussed his position on the Mackenzie Valley gas project, fracking and potential employment opportunities.

"We had some great meetings and there's a great deal of optimism from the proponents on the Mackenzie gas project," Ramsay said. "We're at a critical junction right now, the federal government will need to come up with a fiscal framework and a scenario that will allow the proponents to move forward with the project. We're very optimistic that the project will move forward."

The controversial pipeline project, which could see a pipeline run through Inuvik, Fort Good Hope, Tulita, Wrigley and Fort Simpson, will create huge economic opportunities, according to Ramsay.

"Our federal government has a real chance to get this right," Ramsay said. "Not only will it transform the economy in the Northwest Territories, it's a huge boom for provinces like Ontario and Alberta, where they will see a great deal of spin offs. It means that the whole Beaufort delta will be opened up for exploration and development, which will mean more jobs and opportunities for people."

While the environmental effects are of concern, finding a solution to suit both parties is the main goal, according to Ramsay.

"We need jobs in the smaller communities where we have a great deal of unemployment and people need to be put to work," Ramsay said.

In addition to the mega gas project, tight oil - oil deep below the surface, surrounded by rock bed, and requires a penetrating drill to capture reserves - in the Sahtu region across the river from Norman Wells and fracking were also on the agenda.

The issue of fracking has received some criticism from members of the industry and regulators over concerns about safety and environmental regulations.

"Fracking is nothing new, it's been happening in wells in North America since the 1940s," Ramsay said. "There's thousands of wells all over Alberta now, in fact it's the flavour of the day. We really have to balance the economic prosperity with environmental concerns and we always will do that. This is an issue that our government will take seriously. It's going to work its way through and at the end of the day it will work its way through."

Oil interest in the Sahtu region is also generating excitement for the minister.

"There's a great deal of interest on tight oil, there's so much excitement in the Sahtu ... and what it could potentially mean to not only the Sahtu but the entire territory." Ramsay said.

"There's some pretty big things happening and as the minister of industry, tourism and investment, I'm happy to be out their waving the flag, telling people what's happening."

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