Northern premiers call for infrastructure funding at Dawson City meeting

Canada's three territorial premiers are calling for more infrastructure funding from the federal government as they converge in Yukon for the annual Northern Premiers' Forum.

Premiers next head to Old Crow as part of annual meeting

Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna, Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski, and N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod met Thursday in Dawson City as part of the annual premiers' forum. On Friday, they'll head to Old Crow, Yukon. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

Canada's three territorial premiers are calling for more infrastructure funding from the federal government as they converge in Yukon for the annual Northern Premiers' Forum. 

On Thursday, Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski, N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod, and Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna spoke with media in Dawson City, outlining their agenda for the forum. Next, they'll head to the fly-in community of Old Crow, where they're expected to make a science-related announcement.

Pasloski, who is chairing this week's meetings, noted several issues that were on the table for discussion, including climate change, housing, and health care — but top of mind was infrastructure, both for attracting industry and reducing the cost of living in the North.

McLeod touted infrastructure funding on a base plus basis — meaning that each province and territory receives the same base amount and then additional funding based on population — rather than using population as the sole factor in deciding how money is distributed.

"If we build strategic infrastructure, it'll attract investment," said McLeod. "Our biggest concern, though, is the fact that we're a very small population.

"We can't see all of the infrastructure money being allocated on a per capita basis, and have all the funding infrastructure go to larger provinces like Ontario and Quebec."

Pasloski added that because the natural resources of the territories are owned by the federal government, attracting investment through infrastructure represents "a great opportunity for Canada, as a net beneficiary in a resource industry in the North."

Premiers decry carbon tax

The premiers also reiterated their stance against a carbon tax, saying it will disproportionately affect Northern residents. In March, all three premiers took part in a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and their provincial counterparts, which resulted in an agreement in principle for a carbon-pricing mechanism, though no specifics were offered at the time.

"For Nunavut, our goods and services come from Ontario, Quebec, and the Southern jurisdictions," said Taptuna. "We're already paying a carbon tax. 

"We don't want to put our communities into a situation where it becomes a real issue to keep our businesses. We already pay our share of the taxes for goods and services, because in Nunavut, that's where our goods and services come from. Southern jurisdictions."

McLeod advocated for alternative methods to combating climate change, saying that the Northwest Territories was able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent in the last 11 years without carbon pricing. 

"We're the three territories most affected by climate change. We see it every day. We say there's different ways.

"We already have a very expensive place to live, the cost of energy is very high, and we need the provinces... to recognize that."

The premiers are expected to make their announcement from Old Crow Friday afternoon. 

with files from Cheryl Kawaja