Liberals 2019 federal budget promises $700M for Canada's North over next decade

The federal government has promised to spend $700 million over the next 10 years for Canada’s North, with money coming for post-secondary education in the North, new infrastructure and Arctic research.

Pre-election budget features few big ticket items, opting for programs targeting key electoral constituencies

Finance Minister Bill Morneau rises to deliver the federal budget in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Tuesday. It's the final budget the Liberal government will release before this fall's election. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press )

The federal government has promised to spend $700 million over the next 10 years for Canada's North, with money coming for post-secondary education in the North, new infrastructure and Arctic research.

The budget, released Tuesday by Finance Minister Bill Morneau, is the fourth and last the Liberal government will table before the next federal election, set for October.

Overall, the budget delivers few big-ticket, signature programs but offers several programs targeting key electoral constituencies heading into the election campaign.

Across the North, the budget recommits to develop a new Arctic and Northern Policy Framework in consultations with Indigenous people and the Northern territories. But it doesn't include a timeline for when that will be complete.

Here's a breakdown with some of the other highlights for the territories.

Northwest Territories

The budget promises $13 million for the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning to develop a 'culturally appropriate and community-developed curriculum.' (Submitted by Pat Kane)

One of the biggest individual spending promises for the Northwest Territories is $18 million over the next three years to start paying to expand the Taltson hydroelectric system.

That project is a key plank in the territory's climate change plan, but the territory has long said it cannot pay for it without Ottawa's help. Though there is not an up-to-date cost estimate, a 2014 business case priced the expansion at $1.2 billion.

Another $13 million has been promised for the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning starting this year and continuing over five years to deliver a "culturally appropriate and community-developed curriculum."

In addition, the government also recommitted to amending the Canada National Parks Act to legally establish the Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve.

In February, members of the Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation voted 89 per cent in favour of establishing the national park reserve.


Natan Obed, President of ITK, speaks during a press conference in Iqaluit. The $50 million commitment over 10 years for ITK's Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy was part of ITK's pre-budget submissions. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

An addictions treatment facility has been promised for Nunavut, which has not had one in the territory for more than 20 years, according to budget documents.

Though the budget did not include a specific figure, that facility would be paid for through spending from the Nunavut government and other Inuit organizations.

The federal government also pledges to continue funding programs with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, such as $50 million over 10 years for the Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy, which was first announced in 2016. That is the exact figure Inuit Tapiriit Tanatami asked for in its pre-budget submissions. 

Overall, the budget lays out $286.2 million over five years in spending for Inuit-specific programs. That includes:

  • $125.5 million over 10 years for an Inuit-led post-secondary education strategy.

  • $50 million over 10 years to continue the National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy.

  • $220 million over five years for health and social services for Inuit children.

Environment and Climate Change Canada has also been promised $21.8 million over five years for the Eureka Weather Station on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, for much-needed repairs at the Arctic research facility.

The federal government is also exploring creating a marine conservation area in the High Arctic Basin or Tuvaijuttuq, which is the last portion of the Arctic expected to retain summer sea ice until at least 2050. 

In October, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the federal government signed an agreement in principle for a marine protected area for Tallurutiup Imanga, also referred to as Lancaster Sound.  


Yukon College has been promised $26 million over the next five years for a new science building on campus. This money is supposed to support the college's transformation as "Canada's first university in the North."

The budget also recommits to return all direct proceeds from the federal carbon tax back to the Yukon and Nunavut governments. The Northwest Territories has already released its carbon pricing plan.