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A Question of Future Prosperity: Transforming Natural Resource Wealth into Citizen Well Being Through the Northwest Territories Heritage Fund

The Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada’s largest territory, holds significant natural resource potential, most of which is undeveloped. Facing a potential resource boom in minerals, oil and gas, the territory’s government is considering how this finite source of wealth can be harnessed as an engine for development and prosperity. In 2012, new legislation created a Heritage Fund for the territory, establishing the world’s newest sub-national sovereign wealth fund. This fund aims to bank part of new resource revenues for future generations – but, what governance measures and regulations will be required to ensure the Fund benefits citizens? In February 2014, several authors of this paper co-published a policy report, A Question of Future Prosperity: Developing a Heritage Fund in the Northwest Territories (Briones et al. 2014) outlining key recommendations for the Fund’s implementation. Members of the Legislative Assembly tabled this report in the NWT Legislature, pressing the NWT Finance Minister to commit a higher proportion of revenues to the Fund, and to establish rules for fund management and governance. This paper presents the next phase of an ongoing case study in a public policy research initiative – one that supports regional citizen decision-making on resource governance in Canada’s North. The next steps of effective fund governance, oversight, and accountability require analysis, discussion and meaningful public engagement to ensure the retention of resource wealth in the public’s interest.

Published in peer-reviewed journal, Arctic Yearbook