The Conservative Party is offering to let Nunavut keep all of its resource royalties, but political adversaries argue such a move wouldn’t provide a windfall for the territorial government.

Baffinland’s Mary River iron mine is one of three operating mines in Nunavut that contribute resource royalties. More mines are on the way. The federal Conservatives are promising to give Nunavut 100 per cent of resource royalties if elected, but political opponents say Inuit organizations are already positioned to capture much of that money.
photo courtesy of Baffinland Iron Mines

Much of Nunavut’s minerals and metals are located on Inuit-owned lands, so Inuit – through land claim and regional organizations – are already poised to receive the royalties wealth.

“This proposal by the Conservative Party of Canada is misleading. It will have no impact on Nunavut and limited impact in the other territories who have substantial Indigenous populations with their own land regimes,” reads a statement from the Nunavut NDP Electoral District Association.

Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo expressed similar sentiment.

“Where it might be of benefit is the oil and gas and offshore resources, but we would have to see if the Conservatives would really give up this future source of revenue,” Tootoo stated. “Both the current government and the previous government have said that the oil and gas and offshore resources are off the table as far as devolution talks are concerned.”

Tootoo, a former Liberal who sits as an independent MP, agrees with the second part of the Conservatives’ resolution, which was endorsed at the party’s national convention in Halifax during the last weekend of August.
“Decisions about the North should be made in the North,” the section reads, “by empowering Northerners through the devolution of responsibilities from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to the three democratically elected territorial and Indigenous governments. We support strategic investments in nation-building power, communication, defence, and transportation infrastructure and scientific research and technological innovation to enable Northern solutions to employment, educational, health and social challenges.”

Former MP and Harper cabinet minister Leona Aglukkaq, Conservative national councillor for Nunavut, said she and her Northern delegation colleagues spent close to nine months conceiving of and refining the motion. She said the North needs new sources of revenue for infrastructure investments, based on priorities identified in the North.

The Conservative Party recognizes that the Northern territories are “moving toward provincial-like status and … a lot of development is occurring in the mining sector and the royalties are going directly to the federal coffers,” said Aglukkaq.

“We have a Liberal government that wants to turn our Arctic into a park. There will be no resource royalty regime if you turn most of the Arctic into protected areas,” Aglukkaq said. “The Northern people want opportunities like southerners. We don’t have manufacturing jobs. We don’t have farming. We don’t have forestry in the Arctic. What we have is the mining sector, but Northerners are not seeing that reinvestment to address their priorities and their aspirations.”

Tootoo noted that there’s no guarantee the Conservatives will make the royalty policy an official part of the party platform because leader Andrew Scheer ultimately decides what goes into the election platform.

With the 2019 federal election looming, Aglukkaq wouldn’t yet commit to once again representing the Conservatives in Nunavut, but she acknowledged that “my heart’s in it.”

Fact file
Resource royalties collected from Nunavut and the NWT
2013 – $57,387,289
2014 – $26,083,626
2015 – $59,931,213
2016 – $17,319,572
Source: Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada

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