'There is really no alternative for us to get away from diesel generation.'

Northern premiers demand money from Ottawa


Ottawa needs to come up with more money for housing, transportation infrastructure and alternative energy, while taking steps to cut the cost of living, the three northern premiers said last week.

And the federal government should forget any notion of a carbon tax, like the one proposed recently by federal Liberal leader Stéphane Dion and instead cut the GST on home heating fuel.

The Liberal “Green Shift” plan proposes $15.4 billion in new taxes on fossil fuels that would be offset by big cuts personal and corporate tax rates.

The proposal would also increase the northern residents tax deduction from $6,000 to $7,000 and index it to the rate of inflation.

But Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik said he can’t support new taxes on diesel and jet fuel when Nunavut relies so heavily on them.

The GN spent $138 million on fuel products last year and this year could spend as much as $218 million.

“In the North there is really no alternative for us to get away from diesel generation for power and for heat,” Okalik said, during a news conference in Yellowknife June 28. “It’s just not an option for us right now.”

“We hope all parties in southern Canada realize that some things just don’t work up here.”

Okalik said the premiers agree on the need to pursue alternative energy sources. In Nunavut, there are hydroelectric projects on the drawing board for Iqaluit and the Kivalliq, but it will likely be years before construction on any of those projects actually begins.

NWT premier Floyd Roland said Ottawa needs to eliminate the GST on home heating fuel, electricity generation and “essential goods” coming into the North.

He echoed Okalik’s calls for Ottawa to spend money developing alternative energy sources in the North.

Roland also called on the federal government to spend more on transportation infrastructure, especially on north-south links that would help the territories grow their economies.

The premiers also renewed calls on the federal government to appoint a negotiator and get to work on devolution agreements with Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

Such a deal would give the two territories province-like powers over resource management on public lands and a deal on non-renewable resource revenue sharing.

“We believe that northerners should make decisions about northern lands and resources,” Roland said.

Okalik promised in 2004 Nunavut would have such a deal in place before the 2008 territorial election.

Iqaluit will be the site of next year’s northern premiers conference.

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