New devolution boss bullish on settling issue

Ottawa's new point man on its team negotiating devolution for the N.W.T. is confident a deal can be reached with little delay.

Ottawa's new man at the N.W.T.'s devolution table is confident he can get the issue settled.

"I just don't see any huge obstacles that have to be overcome," Harvie Andre told CBC Radio Thursday. "So unless I'm told otherwise I will be trying to make progress as quickly as possible."

In an advertisement posted on a government website last week, Indian Affairs revealed its intention to hire Andre, 66, to lead the federal government team negotiating devolution, the transfer of control over land and resources from the federal to the territorial government.

Devolutionhas been talked about in the territory for20 years, but little has been accomplished as far as settling the issue.

Yukon settled a devolution agreement with Ottawa that took effect April 1, 2003.

"I can't claim to have any magic wand, but I do know that the current government in Ottawa is quite interested in progress in this regard," said Andre. "You know, it's where the government comes from philosophically."

Andre, who held portfolios such as National Defence and minister responsible for Canada Post in the Mulroney government, may be a familiar name to many northerners.

In 2002 he tried, unsuccessfully, to rally support for a Texas-based organization that was competing with the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline.

Handley: ready to shelve devolution

Premier Joe Handley says he's prepared to give the Conservative government a chance to show it's serious about transferring new power to the N.W.T..

But he said the territorial government is not going to wait much longer.

"If we can't resolve this, if we can't show good progress by late fall, early spring, then we really have to shelve this thing," he said. "It's not going to move us anywhere."

Andre doesn't have the job yet. Under government contracting rules, he can't be hired until others have been given a chance to apply.

Closing date for applications is Aug. 11.