One-size-fits-all climate change approach won’t work, western premiers say

‘The North is different’ and needs special consideration, says N.W.T. premier

By Jorge Antunes, Nunatsiaq News - June 29, 2023
Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok speaks Tuesday during a meeting of Canada’s western territorial and provincial premiers in British Columbia. (Photo courtesy Nunavut government)

A “one-size-fits-all” approach to equity and fighting climate change does not take into account the unique circumstances of Canada’s North, territorial premiers say.

Leaders of Canada’s western provinces and territories met in Whistler, B.C., on Tuesday to discuss wide-ranging subjects including climate change, economic development, energy policy and Arctic sovereignty.

“The infrastructure deficit we see in the North has made Canada vulnerable” globally, Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok said during a press conference after the premiers’ meeting.

Some of the premiers said federal funding is unevenly distributed across the provinces and called for funding to be distributed on a per-person basis, said conference host Premier David Eby, of B.C.

The territories need special arrangements so they can receive the federal funding support they need, said Alberta Premier Danielle Smith.

“The North is different, and when you talk about equity and equitable services” special consideration needs to be given to it, Premier Caroline Cochrane of the Northwest Territories said.

The North, while containing close to 40 per cent of Canada’s land mass only contains a little more than 0.3 per cent of its population, according to the 2021 census.

Smith highlighted the federal government’s recent investments in Ontario. Noting the government provided $13 billion in subsidies to Volkswagen so they would build an electric car factory in the province.

Alberta would like to see those investments in western Canada, she said.

“I do think that there needs to be a redistribution of the wealth,” Cochrane said. The federal government should not give “most funding to the eastern provinces.”

The territories are far behind the provinces when it comes to economic development and infrastructure.

“We have infrastructure gaps that are huge” and many communities don’t have roads connecting them, Cochrane said.

“Energy sources are not there where we might have. We don’t have the telecommunications that people take for granted here,” she said.

“So when we talk about equities, we need to make sure that the people in the [North] have the same level of services that people in the south take for granted.”

The North is heavily dependent on diesel fuel, said Cochrane, and does not have any other option at this point.

“You can’t make one policy to fit all of Canada. The carbon tax is a huge example of that.”

It’s a great incentive to help decarbonize the economy — except when you don’t have any choice, like it is in the North, Cochrane added.

Smith also believes the federal approach is not correct.

“We don’t accept that oil and natural gas should be phased out,” she said.

“I think all the premiers at this conference have agreed,” Cochrane added. “We [the North] are at the forefront of climate change. We are at the forefront of security and safety.”

“We need Canadians to understand that investment in the North is a triple threat in the opportunities [garnered],” Premier Ranj Pillai of Yukon said.

Opening up the North will support Canada’s transition into a green economy by providing access to critical minerals in that new economy. Developing infrastructure, improving electrical grids and telecommunications networks will provide opportunities for economic development. This will bolster Arctic sovereignty, he said.

“I think they need to take care of the west, and the North. We are all Canadians, and we all deserve to prosper,” Cochrane said.

Located in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada, Nunatsiaq News is dedicated to covering affairs in Nunavut and the Nunavik territory of Quebec since 1973. It has been a partner to ArcticToday and its predecessors since 2016.

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