Northwest Territories Premier Stephen Kakfwi said continued foot dragging by the Canadian government on removing the greatest obstacle to future growth in the Arctic could endanger the C$4 billion plan for developing Mackenzie Delta gas.
He told industry executives in Calgary Sept. 27 there is growing frustration among northern residents that the government has yet to strike a deal on revenue sharing with the Northwest Territories and aboriginals or to offer federal assistance to complete infrastructure in support of the energy project.
Kakfwi said that unless the demands are taken seriously, popular northern backing for the venture could start to evaporate to the point where it stalls or even stops progress at a time when Imperial Oil Ltd. is endeavoring to fast track the scheme. He said the lack of support, investment and action from the federal government is undermining efforts to speed up progress.
"Many of the aboriginal leaders have said we have to start seeing some investment and benefits from this pretty soon ... or the enthusiasm is going to start to disappear,": he warned.
Kakfwi pointed out that 25 years ago the failure of stakeholders to acknowledge the aspirations of the aboriginal community was effectively the undoing of the project and unless the entire northern community can realize some real benefits from development of the Mackenzie Delta there is still no reason to proceed.
He said the territories, which has said it needs C$133 million over four years to build the necessary roads, was told in late September that it would get C$20 million in federal money to facilitate construction of a Mackenzie Valley pipeline. Kakfwi said C$20 million would not even build 15 miles of highway in the territories, which has only 1,300 miles of all-weather road.
The Northwest Territories government has estimated that over the next 20 years existing and proposed oil and gas development and diamond mines could pump C$65 billion into Canada's Gross Domestic Product, creating 270,000 person-years of employment and generating about C$17 billion in royalties and taxes, provided it gets infrastructure improvements.
"If we don't fix the roads, there will be no oil and gas exploration in the future," Kakfwi has said.
A spokesman for Indian Affairs and Northern Development Minister Robert Nault said the issues raised by the Northwest Territories will soon be dealt with by newly appointed federal negotiator on the matter, former Ontario premier David Peterson.