The federal government has undergone an 11th hour change of heart and is withdrawing from its legal defense of the so-called superboard, opening the way for continuation of the current regulatory system in the Northwest Territories.
The Sahtu Land and Water Board and the Wek’eezhii Land and Water Board that were to be dissolved today, April 1, will continue and Ottawa will scrap the plan outlined by Conservative apparatchik Neil McCrank.
A leopard can’t change its spots and the Harper government never changes its mind. It will continue to use its financial muscle in the courts against the Tlicho and the Sahtu, demonstrating the power of lobbyists to have their way with self-important and weak-willed politicians.
There was a time when the GNWT defended the regional boards, but as part of the Faustian bargain it made to secure devolution during the term of the current government, it switched rather than fight for the rights of the people it purports to represent.
Now the GNWT is siding with the multinational extraction companies and the Harper government, but promising that everything can be restored once it takes control and we all sit down together in a big happy circle and decide what we really want.
If that scenario is to be believed, the slow-motion trainwreck that started in 2007 with the Harper government’s Northern Regulatory Reform Initiative and ended with McCrank’s shabby little “report” should be seen as a mere bagatelle.
McCrank, then INAC minister Chuck Strahl’s special representative, served as chair of the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board and never saw a tar sands project that he did not immediately rubber-stamp. He is as responsible as any one person for the over-development of Alberta’s tar sands.
The report was a scant five pages, contained no analysis or case studies; there was no bibliography and McCrank took note only of submissions from industry, the Fraser Institute and the Conference Boards of Canada, is if he was deaf to the pleadings of groups like Alternatives North.
Alternatives North got it exactly right in its analysis of McCrank’s work. The report was called Road to Improvement, but it really wasn’t a report at all – just a statement of McCrank’s interpretation of Ottawa’s agenda.
If the GNWT is to be believed, everyone who has accepted an appointment to Harper’s new superboard should stay home and wait for instructions that will come sometime after the territorial election and a new premier and cabinet ministers find their offices.
And if you believe that, you truly are an April Fool.