NWT should get more agricultural funding

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Percentages can be annoying things.

Just when something sounds not too bad, you work out the percentages and things look completely different.

That goes for many things – sports, for example. If someone who knows nothing about baseball is told the Toronto Blue Jays won 50 games in a year, that might sound impressive without the percentage. In a 162-game schedule, that is a pathetic 30 per cent of wins out of games played.

You get the point, so we’ll get right to the real world.

On May 18, the GNWT and the federal government officially – and quite proudly – announced $5.6 million in joint funding for the agricultural sector in the NWT under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. (For every $1 invested by the GNWT, the feds will contribute $1.50 to the same investments.)

Now there is no arguing that $5.6 million is a lot of money, but it is not a lot of money when compared to how much is being spent across the country under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. That is $3 billion.

That means the NWT is getting 0.0187 per cent of the country-wide spending. We had to calculate that a few times to make sure it is correct, but we’re still doubtful.

At the May 18 announcement in Hay River, we asked Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Wally Schumann if $5.6 million over five years for the NWT is a reasonable amount from a $3-billion national initiative.

Schumann noted there is farming right across the whole country, and the NWT by comparison is just a small start-up.

That is, of course, a very good argument by Schumann. It would seem to make sense that more money would go to jurisdictions with larger agricultural sectors.

And surprisingly to us at least, when you go back to percentages, our question was misplaced. The NWT is getting more than it should if funding was based simply on population. According to 2016 numbers, the NWT had 41,786 people out of a national population of 35,151,728. That works out to 0.0119 per cent of the country’s population being in the NWT.

So we guess we’re doing pretty good in funding when you look at it like that, even if we really hate it when percentages contradict our own arguments.

However, despite the percentages, we believe a case can still be made that the NWT as a start-up area for agriculture should get even more than more than its share.

There are a number of reasons for that, beginning obviously with the fact that Northerners, especially in isolated communities, pay more for food than southern Canadians.

Changing climate may also make the North a new land of agricultural opportunity in Canada.

And it just seems to us that agriculturally-developed parts of Canada do not need as much government assistance as a ‘start-up’ area like the NWT.

So while $5.6 million is a lot of money, we believe more of the $3-billion Canadian Agricultural Partnership should be coming North.

There’s no denying that $3 billion is a lot of money, and you don’t even have to work out the percentages.