ATCO president brings heat to cabinet over Hay River biz loss to Power Corporation

'Particularly for the Deputy Premier, and the GNWT ... I don't think it sends the best of messages to future investors,' ATCO's Nancy Southern

Nancy Southern, ATCO chair and CEO, listens as Denendeh Investment speaks at a reception April 11 at Yellowknife's Explorer Hotel to mark the launch of Northland Utilities new name, NAKA Power. (Photo by James O'Connor)

ATCO CEO and president Nancy Southern turned a social occasion into a public dressing down of senior GNWT cabinet officials over the loss of Hay River’s franchise.

The NWT Power Corporation is a GNWT subsidiary and in 2016 Hay River’s town council chose to pull the plug on ATCO/Northland Utilities contract to distribute power locally.

Despite years of back and forth, the Public Utilities Board just announced that the transfer is a go.

Southern took direct aim at the senior levels of GNWT political leadership, mentioning Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek, who is also responsible for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation.

“Two years ago, when we gathered in this room to announce our equal partnership, I had great hope! I had great hope as Darryl and all of our board members and all of the people of our companies, that we would have the opportunity to prosper in this wonderful territory to find that a very cherished part of our assets would be expropriated by NTPC.

“Now, I think for those of you … particularly for the Deputy Premier, and all of you in the government of the Northwest Territories, for the last two days, we talked about incenting investment, getting it right with the investors to build a prosperous mining future, to build security and the opportunity to invest in the Northwest Territories.

“And our investment. Your investment, as Dene people was taken away. I don’t think it sends the best of messages to future investors. And it certainly doesn’t send the message that we heard for the last two days from the Dene chiefs and investors, about both their opportunity to control their future and invest in their own future.”

Wawzonek declined to speak with media looking for reaction to Southern’s comments.

Southern was in Yellowknife to attend the two-day Denendeh Investment Inc. economic conference, which attracted Indigenous business and community leaders and potential investors to the Explorer Hotel.

The conference wrapped up with a packed VIP reception Thursday night, which saw cabinet ministers, MLAs, Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty and several city councilors mingling and even participating in a drum dance.

The longstanding equal partners in Northland were to announce a name change to NAKA, which means northern lights in many Dene dialects.

“We are honoured to be part of this historic moment as we transition to our new brand, NAKA Power,” said Denendeh Investment CEO Darrell Beaulieu. “Our partnership represents a shared commitment to sustainability and economic prosperity for our communities.

“Naka Power embodies both partners’ business values, and we are excited for the opportunities our partnership will continue to bring, allowing for more wide-spread Indigenous participation in the energy sector.”

Also at the conference, NWT MP Michael McLeod $5 million to Denendeh Exploration and Mining Company.

“The fact is, there will be no energy transition, no clean economy, and no net-zero by 2050 without far more critical minerals, including Canadian critical minerals.

“Seizing these economic opportunities in Canada will require the active engagement and partnerships with Indigenous communities.

“It is indeed critical that Indigenous communities see sustained, long-term benefits flow from the responsible development of Canada’s resources. This is important as a matter of social justice, but it is also required if we are to better align interests with respect to project development moving forward.”

McLeod’s office stated there will be more details available about the funding for Denendeh Exploration and Mining Company following the release of the April 16 federal budget.

Invitees to a reception April 11 to mark the launch of Northland Utilities new name, Naka Power, take part in a drum dance to the beats of the Yellowknives Dene Drummers. (Photo by James O’Connor)

About the Author

James O'Connor
James O’Connor joined CKLB 101.9 FM at the start of 2024, after working as a journalist, photo editor and managing editor at newspapers in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. James also has experience in politics, arts, service clubs and the NWT’s non-profit sector. At this point in his lengthy career, James is thrilled to be working at such a unique media outlet and always welcomes notes from listeners at: