What we are negotiating
Devolution will involve the transfer of substantial legislative authorities and control over public land, water and resources from the Government of Canada to the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT). It will also involve the transfer of federal programs related to the administration of land, water and resources – including staff, records, assets and funding – to the GNWT. As may be expected, a transfer of this magnitude requires the parties to work out many details about what will be transferred and when and how the transfers will be made. Identifying those details and coming to an agreement on them is at the heart of the devolution negotiations.
Some of the subjects being discussed include:
- Transfer of public lands and rights in respect of water
- Enacting NWT legislation regulating public land, water and resources
- How waste sites on public lands will be identified and dealt with
- Administration of on-shore and off-shore oil and gas resources
- Protection of existing rights holders (e.g., current mining leaseholders)
- Transfer of federal staff to the GNWT
- Transfer of federal buildings and records
- Funding for transferred programs
Net fiscal benefit
Ensuring that the GNWT – and, by extension, NWT residents – get a Net Fiscal Benefit (NFB) from devolution is another important subject for negotiations. The NFB is the share or amount that the GNWT gains from the land and resource development revenues. These revenues are usually referred to as royalties. Right now, these royalties are paid directly to Ottawa, but would be collected by the GNWT under devolution.
As set out in the AiP, the GNWT will get to keep 50% of these revenues, while the federal government would get the other 50%. The total amount of resource revenues the GNWT could keep each year would have a maximum. Once this maximum or cap was reached, the federal government would get 100% of any additional royalties earned on NWT resources. This approach is consistent to the way provinces are treated as well.
While the cap would set an upper limit on the NFB, it will increase annually along with our Gross Expenditure Base (GEB) and is actually high enough that we would rarely reach it. Looking at the ten years from 1999-00 to 2008-09 for example, we would have reached or exceeded the proposed maximum cap in only two of those years.
Because we don’t have devolution yet, we did not get any resource revenues during these years. In fact, our estimate is that we have missed out on over $200 million in resource revenues during the past five years and we continue to forego the 50% each year until devolution is achieved.
Post-devolution resource management
Establishing a process for coordinating resource management between the GNWT and NWT Aboriginal governments after devolution is also an important subject for negotiations. Several regional Aboriginal governments own and control substantial amounts of land in the NWT as part of their settled land claims. Other Aboriginal governments are currently in negotiations on agreements of their own.
Aboriginal governments have, or will have, the right to control development on their own settlement lands. It will be in the interests of all NWT governments to have as much coordination and consistency as possible in their management regimes. The GNWT and regional Aboriginal governments intend to negotiate a bilateral agreement as part of devolution to foster cooperation and coordination among themselves.
- Minister's Statement: Devolution Agreement-in-Principle: Net Fiscal Benefit
- News Release: Devolution Agreement-in-Principle – Net Fiscal Benefit
- Minister's Statement: Devolution of Lands and Resources: Environment and Legislation
- News Release: Devolution of Lands and Resources