GNWT finance minister Caroline Wawzonek took part in the provincial and territorial finance ministers’ meeting hosted by the federal government in Ottawa on Dec. 16 and 17.
Bill Morneau, finance minister was in attendance as was Mona Fortier, minister of middle class prosperity.
Wawzonek told reporters late in the day Dec. 17 that it was the first opportunity the new NWT administration had to discuss its “fiscal priorities and development priorities” with the feds since elected in October.
[Wawzonek’s address to reporters can be seen at 55:30 of this video]
She said that the GNWT was not looking for any firm funding commitments from the federal conference but indicated some topics that she said are important to the NWT.
“We are looking at an opportunity where we say if we don’t invest in, for example, basic transportation, we can’t actually access opportunities for economy or economic growth because some of the mineral resources are in places that you can’t even get to when communities aren’t linked,” she said.
“We do not have the last mile of Internet connectivity. Our housing stock is not just in need of being somewhat improved, we are actually quite far behind.”
Wawzonek said with “creative” and “flexible” means of federal investment, the NWT “can contribute to the nation’s whole economy in a meaningful way” or what she called “nation-building.”
The NWT finance minister also took a question on whether she raised “the fiscal cost of climate change” and replied that other provinces had raised it and it was an important part of ensuring proper federal investment in northern infrastructure.
Prior to the conference, Wawzonek stated in an email to News/North the GNWT was looking to develop relationships with other finance ministers across the country, particularly for economic growth, and to “maximize opportunities for the Northwest Territories to access areas of federal funding.”
Wawzonek stated the GNWT Department of Finance is unaware of any dates scheduled for federal cabinet ministers or the prime minister to visit Yellowknife or the Northwest Territories.
A list of questions were submitted to the federal finance minister to get a reaction on the NWT’s priorities, however they could not respond by press time.