North·Audio

Premier Bob McLeod on N.W.T. days, borrowing, and the election

Premier Bob McLeod is in Ottawa to promote the territory at N.W.T. Days, a side event of Ottawa's Winterlude Festival. He spoke with The Trailbreaker about the event, and his recent meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

McLeod spoke with Loren McGinnis of The Trailbreaker from Ottawa this morning

'Obviously their preference would be to have the northern territories all blue and for the N.W.T. to have a Conservative MP,' says N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod of the federal government. 'It's been mentioned on many occasions by a number of existing ministers.'

Premier Bob McLeod is in Ottawa to promote the territory at N.W.T. Days, a side event of Ottawa's Winterlude Festival.

With an estimated budget of more than $600,000, this year's event includes a sizeable display of northern arts and crafts. N.W.T. Days also brings several northern politicians to Ottawa for nearly a week of meetings with their federal counterparts.

On Tuesday, McLeod sat down with Prime Minister Stephen Harper for about 30 minutes in what he describes as a "cordial" meeting.

"Our principal objective was to promote sustainable northern development," McLeod told the CBC's Loren McGinnis on The Trailbreaker morning show today, "and also talk about our infrastructure deficit, primarily highways."

McLeod also pressed Harper on the territory's borrowing limit. It's currently set at $800 million. The premier would like to see that raised to $1.8 billion to help pay for an estimated $3 billion in needed infrastructure. So far, the Prime Minister hasn't given a definite answer, but McLeod says he did indicate there would be an answer before the next federal budget.

"For us it's very important that he didn't come out and say no," McLeod says.

McLeod says he also discussed access to the territory's stranded resources and the idea of a northern corridor.

He says low oil and gas prices make this an ideal time "to make sure we're ready when the time comes."

A Conservative MP?

Right now, the N.W.T. is the only northern territory without a Conservative MP. Asked whether these conversations would be any different if the N.W.T. had a Conservative member of Parliament, McLeod said yes.

"That certainly has been outlined to us on quite a number of occasions," he said. "I think obviously their preference would be to have the northern territories all blue and for the N.W.T. to have a Conservative MP. It's been mentioned on many occasions by a number of existing ministers."

Devolution was also a topic of conversation. McLeod he was able to convey to the Prime Minister that things were going well, and that industry appears to be pleased with the results: in particular, the amount of time projects are taking for approval.

"I don't think we've had any projects that were recommended that have been sitting for long periods of time on any of our ministers' desks."

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