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MP slams feds for trying to 'steamroller' pipeline

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 15/06) - Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington accused the minister of Indian and Northern Affairs of ignoring the wishes of Northerners (DIAND) and trying "to steamroller approval of the (Mackenzie Gas pipeline) project."
NNSL Photo/graphic
Dennis Bevington

Bevington, the New Democratic Party's Northern development critic, made the comments Monday during a press conference aimed at highlighting what he perceives as Jim Prentice's failure to make "vital" appointments to environmental regulatory boards.

"Mr. Prentice has done nothing to turn the department around since he's had the reins there," said Bevington. "If anything he's made it worse...the colonial paradigm that Indian and Northern Affairs is shaped on went out 200 years ago... We need something new."

While striking a devolution deal with Ottawa - the transferring of federal jurisdiction and powers to territorial and aboriginal governments - has been touted as the means by which to achieve Northern control over resource development, Bevington said where the Conservative government stands on devolution is unclear.

"Future development in the North is in jeopardy (and) we need the Conservatives to be honest and forthright because without progress on devolution we will not have assurances we need," he said. "This situation wouldn't be tolerated by other provinces, in fact it wouldn't happen in other provinces."

Last summer the Harper government appointed Harvie Andre, one of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's cabinet ministers, as chief negotiator on the devolution file. As for the territory's land and water board vacancies, several of which need DIAND approval to be filled, Bevington said the department is stalling. Not so, according to Prentice's press secretary Deirdra McCracken.

"The minister is taking time he feels necessary and I think Northerners would appreciate the fact he'd like a choice in the matter," she told Yellowknifer. Prentice has asked Premier Joe Handley for more candidates for the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board.

"If we weren't taking the North seriously, we would've taken the first person that was put on the minister's desk (but) we are taking the time to appoint the appropriate people and that's taking the concerns of Northerners to heart and putting them first," McCracken said.

Jack Van Camp, a two-term Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board (MVLWB) member who was the first name on the minister's desk, dismisses Prentice's office's due diligence argument.

Van Camp said because the territory's land and water boards, including the MVLWB, came about through land-claim processes, by turning down appointees from the territory's aboriginal and legislative governments, the Conservatives are not following the letter of the law.

"I was interested in being reappointed and expressed it to the minister of environment (GNWT) and my name was put forward," Van Camp said. He said INAC never provided a reason for rejecting him, something that is required under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.

"These boards are under the laws of Canada and not something we can ignore because it's inconvenient," he said.

Van Camp added that to enable land claim groups to "wrest control from DIAND," this system was created to provide an inclusive style that gets representation and input from all the communities with respect to resource development.

"That's what was negotiated and that's what people got in exchange for giving up vast regions of lands and resources," Van Camp said. "The reason that style was chosen was because people don't trust DIAND to make decisions for them and that's because it's made some really bad decisions and Northerners know these; there's a litany that starts with Giant Mine, and just about every other resource decision that's been made for the North ended up with bad consequences."