Western Arctic NDP candidate Dennis Bevington is accusing the federal Conservatives of including deep funding cuts for northern programs in its most recent budget.

Bevington, the incumbent in the Northwest Territories riding, criticized the budget that the Conservative government had put forward on March 22, days before the government fell in a non-confidence vote.

The proposed budget pledged $150 million in federal money for the construction of an all-weather highway between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.

But Bevington said the NDP's analysis of the budget revealed over $311 million in funding cuts, such as:

  • Nearly $220 million slashed from the Indian and Northern Affairs Department's northern land, resources and environmental management programs.
  • A $57-million funding cut for programs that promote the conservation of northern natural resources.
  • $17 million in community development funds cut from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor), a federal agency established in 2009 to promote economic development in the territories.
  • $15.6 million cut from programs that promote regional development in the territories.
  • $1.3 million cut from programs that promote political, social and scientific development in the territories.

"These are serious issues for northerners," Bevington told reporters Tuesday in Yellowknife.

"These are serious amounts of money that would be used in programs around the North in communities to foster a whole variety of activities … for employment, for economic development, for environmental protection."

Opposed road investment, Tory argues

In response, Conservative candidate Sandy Lee emailed a statement that blamed Bevington for opposing the budget's promise of a northern highway.

"Budget 2011 included $150 million for the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk highway. Dennis Bevington and his NDP colleagues opposed funding this important infrastructure project," Lee stated.

While the New Democrats did oppose the budget for various reasons, Bevington maintained that he did not vote against the budget, but rather on a non-confidence motion that dealt with contempt of Parliament.

Bevington said the NDP's election platform, which has yet to be released, will include specific measures for Canada's North.

He could not say if NDP Leader Jack Layton will be making a campaign stop in the North before voters to go the polls on May 2.