North

Leaders call for 'robust' federal funding for North at premiers' summit

The three territories got a request for 'robust investment in infrastructure that will improve the lives of northerners, and greater support for climate action' inserted into a communiqué co-signed by all 13 premiers.

Territorial governments get item included in larger list of premiers' demands

Canadian Premiers speak to the media during a meeting of the Council of the Federation, which comprises all 13 provincial and territorial leaders, in Mississauga, Ont., Monday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

If the word "robust" sounds vague, that's by design, says Yukon Premier Sandy Silver.

The three territories got a request for "robust investment in infrastructure that will improve the lives of northerners, and greater support for climate action" inserted into a four-point communiqué co-signed by all 13 premiers.

Silver said the language of that demand is designed to recognize that funding that qualifies as sufficient in one territory might not work in another.

"In the Northwest Territories and Nunavut there are different circumstances ... so we did some wordsmithing among the three territorial leaders and came up with 'robust' as a catch-all for relaying the three unique, different circumstances that all three territories are in."  

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver speaks to reporters on the last day of the day of the legislative assembly's fall sitting, Nov. 27, 2019. (Chris WIndeyer/CBC)

Silver said that for Yukon, federal funds for clean power generation, and for getting northern and Indigenous communities off of diesel power are of particular interest.

That's because the territorial government's proposed climate change strategy aims to slash emissions by 30 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030. To do that, the government plans to generate more electricity with renewables and use that power to electrify the transportation and home heating sectors.

List of demands

The premiers's statement calls for the federal government to act on economic competitiveness and the fiscal relationship between the provinces and Ottawa (the territories are covered by a separate financing agreement).

The premiers also want more funding for healthcare, and the provinces want Ottawa to put up more money for infrastructure.

"In the North, critically important, the premiers made it abundantly clear that when we talk about infrastructure in the south, we have no idea of the challenges, the vast distances, small populations, and inadequate infrastructure," said B.C. Premier John Horgan.

But larger conflicts could make it more difficult for the territories to be heard. At the Council of the Federation news conference in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, there were more questions from national media about what wasn't in the final communiqué (Quebec's controversial religious symbols law and a new federal law on Indigenous child welfare), than on territorial needs.

Meeting with PM planned

Silver said he's not worried about what questions got asked at Monday's news conference. "[The communiqué] is not written for the media, it's written for the federal government," he said.

"Having a specific pillar that is focused not on northern communities, but on the three territories, I believe we did get a very good job of representing a large geographical area with a small population."

Silver will get a change to make his case to federal officials this week. He's scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday. Officials from the territorial government and Yukon First Nations are also scheduled to meet with federal cabinet ministers this week.

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