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Federal government waits on pipeline

Premier expects gas producers to hand in proposals soon

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 22/01) - The federal government says it will play the waiting game until proposals from oil and gas developers are submitted before any commitments are made towards building the Mackenzie Valley pipeline.

Premier Stephen Kakfwi met with Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Stephane Dion and Prime Minister Jean Chretien, on Monday and Tuesday respectively to discuss ways to ensure the Mackenzie Valley pipeline gets rolling before it stalls in the starting gate.

Both Chretien and Dion were insistent that no deal could be reached until oil and gas producers are on board and applications for development are submitted.

Kakfwi, meanwhile, assured them that the territorial government is expecting proposals by the end of the year, if not next month.

"The premier is very optimistic that before the end of the year the producers will come up with a proposal for the Mackenzie Valley," Dion announced on Monday.

"It is very important because the National Energy Board will have to review the proposal, and if there is no proposal they will not have any review, and not any decision to make about it."

For his part, Chretien reiterated the need to act quickly in order to take advantage of energy demands from the United States.

"I want to make sure the natural gas of the Delta gets access to the markets," the prime minister said.

"The sooner the better because there is a demand for gas in the U.S. and it's time to be ready."

Before any development takes place, however, the federal and territorial governments will have to coddle some NWT aboriginal groups who have since soured on building a pipeline after signing an agreement in January 2000.

Land claim agreements, particularly with the Deh Cho, remain unsettled -- a process that could take another four years or more.

It is a point of contention the premier said he sees all too clearly.

"A year and a half later, some of them have lost confidence," said Kakfwi.

"In my view it's because there's not enough significant indications from my government and the federal government that they're prepared to support the communities and the regions to get ready. If you're not ready, you lose confidence."