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McLeod wants to retain Premier’s job, sets out priorities

Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod has set out his priorities if he remains the territory’s leader following this fall’s election.

McLeod, first elected in 2011, wants to become the first politician to earn a second term as Premier of the NWT. No Premier before McLeod has completed more than four full years as leader.

To earn another term, McLeod will first have to win re-election as the MLA for Yellowknife South. If he is successful in that bid, the decision to return McLeod to the office of the Premier then rests with his fellow MLAs.

“I’ve announced I will be seeking re-election as MLA for Yellowknife South,” said McLeod late last week.

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He told Moose FM that the territory’s energy policy and furthering relations with Aboriginal governments would be among his priorities if handed a second term.

“Work with the Aboriginal governments is important and certainly the Canadian energy strategy is very important,’ said McLeod.

The energy strategy was agreed at a meeting of Canadian premiers in Newfoundland last week. While some of the strategy’s climate change commitments were weakened during negotiations, the strategy contains a commitment to develop more renewable energy options; a promise to enhance networks for energy delivery (such as pipelines and other forms of transportation); and a demand for inclusion of the provinces and territories in international energy negotiations.

McLeod believes the strategy – which pledges to improve access to energy sector jobs for Aboriginal Canadians, while supporting better renewable energy generation for remote communities – will benefit the Northwest Territories. In particular, the Premier’s focus is on the NWT’s oil and gas resources.

“We felt that we were in a situation where we could not develop our tremendous oil and gas potential because of the fact nobody was prepared to allow pipelines to go through their territory or their land,” said McLeod.

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“Through this energy strategy, that will no longer be the case – so we can have the ability to look at all options. With the lower price of oil and reduced oil and gas activity, we’re well positioned to do the planning to develop our oil and gas potential and find new markets.”

McLeod’s government has advocated the development of an “Arctic Gateway” pipeline heading north to the Arctic Ocean from Canada’s oilsands. One action listed in the energy strategy document notes: “Provinces and territories will collaborate to identify opportunities to increase development of electricity transmission between jurisdictions.”

In full: Canadian Energy Strategy (pdf)

McLeod dismissed concerns that Prime Minister Stephen Harper had turned down an invite to last week’s meeting of premiers, saying the provinces and territories could commit to meaningful action without federal help.

“The Prime Minister obviously was invited to attend. He chose not to attend,” said McLeod. “The formal response was that he meets with all of the premiers on a bilateral basis regularly.

“We obviously had the option, especially with murdered and missing Aboriginal women, to do nothing and say, ‘This is the responsibility of the federal government.’ But all of the provinces and territories felt that this work was very important and it’s scandalous what is happening with missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

“We’ll continue to work with national Aboriginal governments to continue that work. We’ll work together to find the resources to go forward.”

The Northwest Territories presented a report on Aboriginal children in care at last week’s meeting, and signed on to an apprenticeship mobility scheme which McLeod believes will help to “attract new, skilled workers” to the territory.

Wildfires were also discussed. McLeod said the provinces and territories “are starting an initiative to have a cache of forest firefighting equipment we can use when the situation warrants”.

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