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Devolution open for discussion
Questions raised during public meeting in Fort Simpson

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 23, 2013

Clean up of future waste sites, job creation and aboriginal governments were the main concerns raised by Fort Simpson residents who attended a meeting on devolution in Fort Simpson.

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Martin Goldney, the territorial government's chief negotiator on devolution, fielded questions on the devolution agreement while leading a public meeting on the topic in Fort Simpson on May 15. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

Fifteen gathered to hear from Martin Goldney, the territorial government's chief negotiator for devolution, on May 15. Goldney led the group through a power point presentation that explained some of the main aspects of devolution, stopping along the way to answer questions.

"I'm here because I'm very concerned about devolution," said Mavis Cli-Michaud, a Fort Simpson resident.

Cli-Michaud said she's seen the previous devolution agreements the territorial government has been part of and doesn't think they've done a good job with them. Chapter 7, which describes how some federal government employees who work on land and resource management will be offered jobs with the GNWT, was one of the areas Cli-Michaud questioned.

"It's a fact that devolution is primarily in Yellowknife," said Cli-Michaud, who asked if there will be an even transfer between Canada and the GNWT.

There are expected to be more jobs created in the territory as a result of devolution than people to fill them, said Goldney. He also said he supports the view that there needs to be more positions based in the regions.

Jerry Antoine, another Fort Simpson resident, raised a concern about Chapter 6, which describes the responsibilities for waste site clean up. Waste sites created on public land before devolution will remain the responsibility of Canada. Any waste sites created on public land after devolution will be the responsibility of the GNWT, said Goldney.

Antoine asked where the money will come from for the GNWT to clean up sites. The GNWT will have modern rules and tools in place to make sure money is set aside by companies for cleanup and that companies remain compliant, said Goldney.

"We did recognize this is something important to the people of the NWT," he said, referring to better land and resource management.

Cli-Michaud also asked if devolution is a good deal because not all of the regional aboriginal governments in the territory, such as the Dehcho First Nations, are in agreement with it.

Regional aboriginal groups will have up to a year after the transfer date, April 1, 2014, to sign onto devolution, said Goldney. After that point it would require the consent of both the federal and territorial governments for a group to sign on.

The money that aboriginal governments will receive as a part of devolution is important, but "this is really about working more cooperatively between public government and participating aboriginal governments,"said Goldney.

Aboriginal governments that are part of devolution will receive up to $3 million shared annually to ensure they have the capacity to participate in things such as the intergovernmental council, up to $4 million shared in a one-time payout to prepare for devolution and $200,000 each annually to participate in a waste sites management committee. The GNWT realized that aboriginal governments couldn't participate in the features of devolution from their already strained resources, Goldney said. If groups don't sign on they won't receive that money because they aren't incurring the costs of participating in devolution, he said.

As part of devolution, the GNWT will also share up to 25 per cent of its resource revenue with participating aboriginal governments.

Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche was one of the people in attendance at the meeting in Fort Simpson. He also participated in the devolution meeting in Trout Lake.

"I'm happy about the interest; people are curious," he said.

Walking a fine line

Menicoche said he is walking a fine line to balance his position on devolution. He said he understands Dehcho First Nations' current position, but at the same time wants to make sure the region gets the benefits of the jobs related to devolution.

The territorial government plans to hold public hearings on devolution in all the communities in the NWT.

"The GNWT really wants residents to be as informed as they can be," Goldney said.

The meetings held to date have had between four and 40 people in attendance.

There have been common areas of interest including questions about the adequacy of the financial components of the agreement and about the management and clean up of waste sites, he said.

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