An Analysis of Land and Resource Management Devolution in the Northwest Territories

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On April 1st 2014 in the most recent round of Devolution, the Federal Crown transferred jurisdictional responsibility, management and decision-making power to the government of the Northwest Territories (NWT). Under this Devolution, the NWT now controls its onshore public lands, water and natural resources. This is a significant moment in the Territory’s history, analogous in some respects to the grant of provincehood to Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1905. This transfer gives the NWT greater financial and political autonomy and new access to revenues through royalty payments. Ultimately, the Territory is given the potential to become a “have jurisdiction” in Canada, instead of a “handout”. In anticipation of future resource development, this paper identifies and analyzes challenges that create barriers to oil and gas development, and provides recommendations to inform future policymakers. Although there has been a major initiative by the Federal Government in recent years to promote prosperity and autonomy in the North, the challenges that face this jurisdiction are substantial. Roadblocks to development range from public backlash to Bill C-15—the Northwest Territories Devolution Act, to significant economic, social, aboriginal, and geographic challenges in the region. Through extensive analysis of scholarly articles and government publications, short and long-term solutions are recommended to the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT), Industry proponents, and residents of the NWT. These include: Greater investment in legacy infrastructure, Decrease the cost of energy for citizens, as well as proponents of new businesses, Grant greater flexibility to complete secondary education in the Territory, Promote financial partnerships and job-training opportunities between private companies and aboriginal governments, Restore public engagement through Land Use Planning Initiatives. The future success of the Territory as well as the industry will depend on addressing the challenges as a coordinated strategy, instead of individual problems and solutions. However, the question remains whether the administration and citizens of the Northwest Territories are adequately prepared and willing to accept sustained resource development, now that they maintain the jurisdictional authority to control it. Future potential in the Northwest Territories is high, but the resources and subsequent prosperity for the region will “stay in the ground” if public support for oil and gas development is not implemented into the solution.
McLauhclan, Sydney. (2014). An Analysis of Land and Resource Management Devolution in the Northwest Territories ( Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from