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Federal NDP leadership candidate visits

Laura Busch
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, February 8, 2012

An NDP leadership hopeful visited Yellowknife last week as part of his campaign to become leader of the official opposition.

NNSL photo/graphic

Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington, left, welcomed federal NDP leadership hopeful Nathan Cullen of B.C. to Yellowknife last week. To vote in the leadership convention on March 24, New Democrats must sign up for memberships by Feb. 18. - Laura Busch/NNSL photo

Dennis Bevington, Member of Parliament for the Western Arctic, escorted Nathan Cullen around the city Friday, meeting with politicians, party members and interested members of the public to talk about issues that affect the Northwest Territories.

His first trip to the NWT was "long overdue," said Cullen, MP for Skeena-Buckley Valley in northern British Columbia.

"I like the conversations. They're ones I understand. They're different but familiar," he said as he drew comparisons between his riding and the North.

Similarities between the Western Arctic and northern B.C. include the role of aboriginal groups in how governments make decisions, said Cullen. There are also a lot of similar frustrations among people in both ridings toward what goes on in Ottawa, he said.

"There is a lot of frustration with government toward western and rural Canada and Northern Canada," said Cullen. "I think that the prime minister sees (Northerners) as a chess piece in some global war game he wants to play in the Arctic."

Bevington and Cullen met with media at Twist Resto-Lounge following a public meet and greet at the downtown venue.

Bevington, who said he's not endorsing a leadership candidate yet, weighed in on the debate forming around regulatory reform in the territory.

Bevington, who was one of the first members of the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board in 1999, said the regulatory system has slowed recently due to a lack of staff available for the boards, but did not support the idea that at least some of the regional boards should be removed.

"The system seems to have suffered in the last while," said Bevington. "And I think that the boards, the government of the Northwest Territories and the First Nations have all identified certain things that they'd like to see improved."

Bevington emphasized three parts of the regulatory system that could use improvement most. One is the length of time it takes to appoint new board members, a process that sometimes takes years and wastes valuable time when a nominated person could be contributing to the board.

Another involves the capacity and resources available to the boards, which are sometimes under-equipped to handle the regulatory work that falls under their mandate.

"We need to get the land use plans in place," he said. "That's a significant part of the regulatory system that just simply hasn't been done yet."

These topics are likely to get Ottawa's attention over the next few months, as the federal government is looking to create two new pieces of legislation that will affect the NWT sometime this spring.

One of these expected new bills is the Surface Rights Act, which will establish a surface rights board that will mediate disputes between landowners and those holding subsurface rights for mining and drilling, said Bevington.

The other will add amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. This bill will create changes to the regulatory system, and may cut some of the regional boards, said Bevington.

It is not Northerners but the federal government that is fueling the talk about getting rid of regulatory boards in the NWT, said Bevington. "No one in the North is talking about getting rid of the regional boards," said Bevington. "That's what the federal government is talking about." Over the next month-and-a-half, Bevington plans to survey the different groups in the Northwest Territories and consolidate their opinions to get a good idea of what Northerners want to see happen in the regulatory system.

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