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Yukon premier talks ANWR, NAFTA in Washington, D.C.

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver says he's been bending the ears of U.S. politicians this week, talking about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), the Shakwak Agreement, and NAFTA.

'It was just really important for us to come down and to make sure that we shared our voice'

'We reached out to every single ear that we could,' said Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, in Washington D.C. this week. (Government of Yukon)

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver says he's been bending the ears of U.S. representatives and senators in Washington, D.C. this week, talking about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), the Shakwak Agreement, and NAFTA.

But it's not clear whether he'll be coming home with anything more concrete than a collection of business cards.

"We reached out to every single ear that we could," he said. "It was just really important for us to come down and to make sure that we shared our voice and our concerns for the people of the Yukon."

Silver said he met with Republican Representative Don Young and Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, to talk about ANWR and stress the importance on the Porcupine caribou herd to Yukon.

He also spoke about the Shakwak Agreement, which in the past has seen the U.S. provide funding to maintain a portion of the Alaska Highway in western Yukon. That funding is uncertain — but the need for ongoing highway maintenance is not.

"We've done our job of making sure they know how important this road is," Silver said. "Without American funding, we're going to have to look at alternatives."

The opposition Yukon Party, however, says Silver simply fell short in his first U.S. trip as premier. In a news release, the party turned the tables on Silver who, as opposition leader, once criticized then-Premier Darrell Pasloski for failing to secure Shakwak funding in Washington.

Silver "failed his own standard of success," the release says.

MLA Scott Kent is also quoted saying Silver's trip "produced nothing more than hotel bills and photo-ops" — a jab similar to one Silver had once leveled against Pasloski.

A 'modernized' NAFTA

Silver, along with N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod and other Western Canadian premiers, were also in the U.S. capitol to talk about NAFTA — and assert the importance of the agreement to Canada.   

The U.S. has decided to re-open talks on the deal and Silver said the premiers were there to show "a united voice". He agrees that the deal needs to be "modernized", but not scrapped.

It's about "making sure that we don't throw out the baby with the bath water, and also 'if it ain't broke don't fix it', and also 'be careful what you wish for', because you don't know what you have 'til its gone," Silver said.

With files from Nancy Thomson

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