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N.W.T. finance minister, premier pleased with federal budget 

Northwest Territories ‘politicians are still looking at what the 700-page proposed budget will provide for the territories’ communities, and the prime minister so far says she’s happy that federal money is going toward social and economic pandemic recovery.

Prime Minister Caroline Cochrane said this week that there are “significant and specific” commitments to the NWT, such as $ 25 million for Arctic science and $ 8 million to turn Aurora College into a polytechnic university.

The budget also sets aside $ 25 million for housing in the area and $ 14 million for NWT health care, which will come from the Territorial Health Investment Fund.

On Monday, the federal government released its first budget in two years, including pledges for major childcare reforms and spending on recovery from COVID-19. This week, the Prime Minister of the NWT and the Treasury Secretary weighed in on the federal liberals’ tax plan.

Cochrane said her government will seek its own share of the $ 500 million tourism fund designed to help operators hard hit by the pandemic, while money spent on Arctic security and science will create jobs and training opportunities. for indigenous peoples and northerners.

Need flexible spending for childcare

Cochrane said historic investments in feminist economic policies, such as affordable childcare, are welcome, but in an interview with federal officials on Monday, Cochrane said the money should be used to build physical daycare centers.

“We have 33 communities here in the Northwest Territories and not all of them have childcare centers,” Cochrane said.

The federal government plans to allocate $ 30 billion for childcare nationwide over the next five years. Over a three-year period beginning in 2023, it plans to invest $ 420 million in the construction and maintenance of new childcare centers that will benefit the early learning of indigenous peoples.

Housing money and much more

The NWT government asked for $ 100 million over four years for housing, and it got $ 25 million for the following year, on top of the $ 60 million co-investment fund that was set up to build affordable housing.

The National Housing Co-Investment Fund has donated $ 750 million to create and repair units across the country.

Under that same fund, there is $ 250 million to build, repair and pay for the running costs of an estimated 560 units of temporary housing and shelter across Canada for women and children fleeing violence.

The budget includes $ 300 million to convert vacant commercial real estate into residential properties. It also includes a $ 1.5 billion Rapid Housing Initiative that aims to move towards adequate, affordable housing. Of this, 25 percent will be spent on housing projects aimed at women.

“Every community in the Northwest Territories is in dire need of housing,” Cochrane said.

Funding isn’t the only obstacle to building new housing units, however, she said, adding that some communities may be reluctant to admit workers during COVID-19.

The speed at which units can be built and where they will be placed also depends on how much construction capacity there is within the NWT and how quickly the area can bring in all the necessary construction work.

Infrastructure budget

The prime minister said she hopes the Mackenzie Valley Highway and Slave Geological Province road will benefit from a $ 285 million injection into the northern infrastructure.

Infrastructure Minister Caroline Wawzonek said that while there are no details in the budget, she is seeing improvements to the Frank Canal Bridge near Behchokǫ̀, through the National Trade Corridors Fund.

“Knowing that that fund in particular has gone up, I think that’s good news for us,” she said.

NWT Infrastructure Minister Caroline Wawzonek said that while there are no details in the budget, she is seeing improvements to the Frank Channel Bridge at Behchokǫ̀, through the National Trade Corridors Fund. (Mario De Ciccio / Radio-Canada)

Wawzonek said she was pleased to see $ 44 million set aside to study the feasibility of expanding the hydroelectric plant.

The area has several potential hydroelectric projects on the horizon, including the Taltson Hydroelectric Project, which would expand the existing generating station and connect the NWT’s power grid to a mineral-rich area in the eastern NWT, where the area’s three working diamond mines are located.

Minister of Finance ‘content’ with budget

As Treasury Secretary, Wawzonek said the Territorial Health Investment Fund saw a “modest” increase in funding that expired on March 31.

The transfer fund supports medical travel, oral health and cultural competence training for NWT health professionals, she said.

Wawzonek said money coming from the federal gas tax fund could be used to create new temporary housing units and homeless shelters.

The federal government uses the Gas Tax Fund to build infrastructure in municipalities and First Nations communities across the country.

Continuing pressure on all federal parties

Cochrane said that while she is happy with the budget, she would never wait until an election to announce the NWT’s priorities.

Commenting on the budget, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said he has little interest in plunging Canada into election mode during a third wave of COVID-19.

Cochrane said she continues to put pressure on all federal parties, regardless of which one has the power.

“The Liberal government has been in power for a number of years. They understand our needs. However, the NDP understands the social needs, the Conservative government understands the infrastructure needs,” she said.

“You don’t start discussions about the needs of your jurisdiction after the election. You start them earlier. You are hopeful that when the elections are called, all parties will have a share for the North. ‘

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