EDITORIAL: Pay interest – and attention – at Canada’s bank

Candidates gloss over the North at their own peril

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Jagmeet Singh, the leader of Canada’s New Democrats, has said some nice things about the North.

He implied a question from a reporter in Kenora about addressing drinking water in Indigenous communities was racist, arguing he wouldn’t be concerned about writing a “blank cheque” if the affected locale was Toronto or Montreal.

The NDP generally seems to be a friend of the North, but they’re unlikely to form government, or even the opposition.

With the exception of the Orange Crush half a dog’s age ago, Canada’s perennial bronze medal finisher has had the luxury of being able to say whatever they want and contradict whomever they choose for decades.

The Greens have a platform that could be from a science fiction novel, and their chances of forming government are not much better than those of the People’s Party of Canada, which makes them a non-entity.

A Northerner’s energy is better spent focusing on what the Liberals and Conservatives are proposing.

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives had interest in the North, but they alienated Indigenous groups with a heavy-handed approach. To be taken seriously North of 60, they’ll have to prove they’re capable of rebuilding those bridges and working with Indigenous governments. This might include a re-evaluation of their definition of “consultation.”

The Liberal Arctic plan is surrounded by whispers of money for the much-needed twinning of the Taltson and Snare power complex, for the Mackenzie Highway and maybe even the Slave Geological Province road.

But it was released a day before the election was called, and drew criticism for being vague, and not much different than the bill of goods they were selling four years ago.
Justin Trudeau pledged to get Nunavut off diesel by 2030 during a stop in Iqaluit Oct. 8, but had nothing to say on how that would happen. He iced the cake with another vague promise to make Canada completely net-zero on carbon emissions by 2050. Maybe his daughter Ella-Grace, who tagged along, can follow through on that one.

Or maybe Baffin Island will be underwater. What Northerners need now is for the federal parties to have a focused and costed plan for Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon for the coming decade, not “if” and “when” charts set a generation in the future.

Going net-zero will have to include getting Nunavut and the NWT off diesel generators sooner than later. There will be no energy independence in the North while B-trains are hauling fuel over winter roads, and no truly green electricity without twinned Taltson and Snare.

There may be just three seats in the Northern territories – less than one per cent of the House of Commons – but the fuel for Canada’s GDP comes out of the ground here. The Northwest Territories has three national parks with a fourth on the way, and two national park reserves.

Whether you bleed green and feel for the birds and the trees or lean right and see the natural gas underneath them, the North is Canada’s bank, and at the bank, you have to pay interest. Canada should be paying attention, too.

That means looking after the people looking after the vault. That means Northerners need to be a part of Canada. That means unlimited data. Cheap power, including home heating oil. Reasonable prices at the grocery store.

These are things we don’t have yet. What we do have is low educational achievement, high unemployment and inadequate housing. Plus limited infrastructure connecting it all, and those boil water advisories.

Addressing these issues could be described as Canada’s obligation to the North.
Our obligation to Canada is to keep the feet of our elected leaders to the fire.

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