Northwest Territories MLAs have voted down a motion to establish and staff regional offices to replace those that will be lost when the four regional land and water boards are merged into one superboard.
Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley brought forward the motion as a way to ensure “meaningful input into land and water management structures” after Bill C-15 comes into effect. He says the motion was a response to “the crystal clear and unanimous voices of our Aboriginal partners” who have vocally opposed the idea of a superboard.
"We need to try to do something to make the best of a bad situation,” Bromley said. “Keeping regional capacity in place would allow us to keep the finger on the pulse and allow for direct engagement with people of each region."
The motion also asked for a commitment for the territory to work with future federal governments to try to re-establish regional land and water boards.
Put to a vote, the motion was defeated 11 to 7. Cabinet ministers and four regular MLAs voted against it, including Mackenzie Delta MLA Sonny Blake.
He says he couldn't vote in favour when aboriginal groups in his riding support devolution.
“Anyone that’s familiar with negotiations knows that there's deal breakers in any agreement and this is one of them,” Blake says. “There’s a good chance that our devolution agreement will not go forward if this motion is passed here today.”
Premier Bob McLeod responded to the motion by defending the superboard.
McLeod says after devolution, there will be government staff working in the regions to oversee the territory's lands, water and resources, so there's no need for additional offices.
And while he admitted that the administration of the board will be based in Yellowknife, McLeod said board members will come from across the territory.