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Nunavut premier using 'scare tactics' to avoid questions on caribou says MLA

MLA Paul Okalik is calling out Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna for using 'scare tactics' to avoid questions on a controversial decision that could open caribou breeding grounds to development.

'I'm just appalled that our own government will try and scare us from trying to protect caribou habitat'

Caribou from the Bathurst herd in August. A Nunavut government policy reversal threatens to expose caribou calving grounds to development. (GNWT)

A Nunavut MLA is calling out Premier Peter Taptuna for using "scare tactics" to avoid questions on a controversial decision that could lead to development on caribou breeding grounds.

Taptuna used his minister's address during Wednesday's legislative assembly sitting to defend the decision, saying the Nunavut government "does not and will not support projects that have a negative impact on our wildlife that cannot be mitigated."

Taptuna referenced a proposed project that would build a transmission line bringing hydro power from Manitoba into the Kivalliq region as an example of how a complete ban could restrict future development in the territory.

"The Hudson's Bay Roundtable has stated that they would like to move forward on feasibility studies for an electrical transmission line in the Kivalliq Region. If, for example, this project were to fall within calving or post calving grounds and corridors, we'd expect a full regulatory review of the project and sound decisions on restrictions in order to protect the natural habitat. That process would include public consultations," Taptuna said. 

"There would be input from affected communities. If the concerns of the regulatory agencies are not met by the developer, then there would be no transmission line permit and the project as proposed would not be approved."

'Scare tactics'

MLA Paul Okalik said the premier is bringing up the project as a way to scare MLAs from questioning the decision made by cabinet to change its position on caribou calving grounds.

"The premier did not show any proof that this will be the case. It's just a very common scare tactic that should not be acceptable to anyone," said the former cabinet minister who left cabinet last week.

"I'm just appalled that our own government will try and scare us from trying to protect caribou habitat." 

Okalik said caribou calving grounds make up a small fraction of the territory's land mass and exceptions have been made in the past.

He said he hopes the premier will reconsider the decision.

"It's unfortunate that a backroom deal that we don't know anything about took place to just open up caribou calving grounds for development."

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