True North Strong – O’Toole’s Vision for Northern Canada

Justin Trudeau has turned his back on Northern Canada. He has no Northerners in his cabinet. He made several unilateral decisions impacting the land, sea and well-being on Northerners without allowing territories to have a say and without any meaningful consultation with Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous residents. So much for “a new relationship.”

Despite his globe-trotting travel schedule, Prime Minister Trudeau also sadly skipped participating in the Canadian Armed Forces Operation Nanook northern exercise, thereby breaking a long-standing tradition of political support for our northern sovereignty established by Prime Minister Harper. This has shown the people of our north that while the Liberals like to talk about the breadth and beauty of Northern Canada, they do nothing to maintain, support, and secure it. This reminded many of how the Reserve Forces in Yukon were disbanded under the watch of the first Trudeau Government in 1968. Hardly sunny ways for the people of our north who already persevere with less sunshine during the winter.

The Indigenous peoples and the people who live, explore, invest and work in the North are dedicated to its protection and sustainability. With climate change, the waterways of our Arctic region are becoming more accessible and passenger and military transit is becoming more commonplace.

Russia and other nations lay claim to vast portions of our arctic region and Canada’s inability to constantly maintain and exert our sovereignty across these vast regions is an ongoing problem. We owe it to our northern population to ensure that Canada is present across its land and seas. Further, any hopes for meaningful economic development and population growth in the north will need to be supported through infrastructure and making the territories full partners in Confederation.

From John Diefenbaker to Brian Mulroney to Stephen Harper, it has only been Conservative governments that have built, supported, and protected our north and its people. An O’Toole government will continue in this positive direction by:

Governance:

  • Ensuring that the territories get a say in national decisions such as changes to the Canada Pension Plan;
  • Committing that the Territorial Formula Financing transfers to the territories are predictable and not unexpectedly reduced due to a unilateral federal decision as they were in 2016;
  • Working with Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated to advance and finalize negotiations for the devolution of province like powers to Nunavut;
  • Given that Yukon has the 3rd longest border with the United States of any Canadian province or territory, and recognizing that Yukon and Alaska have strong trade and intergovernmental relationships, ensure that Yukoners have a voice in trade negotiations;

Resources:

  • Unless northerners choose to keep it, scrap the northern drilling ban. This issue should not be decreed by politicians in the south. Northerners need to be involved in every step of decision-making on natural resources;
  • Offering the territories control over their resources similar to what the Atlantic Accords gave to Atlantic Canada and be the primary beneficiaries of the development of their resources;

Infrastructure:

  • Recognize the inadequacy of per capita based funding for the North and commit to a base-plus funding model.
  • Work with the territories to identify and invest in infrastructure critical to unlocking and accessing resources, facilitating economic growth, and creating job opportunities for northerners. For example, Yukon has proposed investing in resource roads to facilitate growth in the mining sector.
  • In discussions with the United States, bring forward the importance of funding infrastructure upgrades along the Shakwak portion of the Alaska Highway through Yukon with the United States to ensure this critical piece of economic and trade infrastructure connecting our two countries is upgraded and maintained;
  • Invest in upgrades and improvements to the Robert Campbell Highway, a critical trade corridor, so that it can continue to be reliably used.
  • Scrap the national carbon tax which will make life more expensive in the North and instead work with the territories to identify and invest in clean energy solutions to reduce the dependence of their communities on diesel. For example, NWT has proposed to connect the community of Fort Providence to their hydroelectric grid.
  • Recognizing the infrastructure deficit of Nunavut, work with the territory to identify transportation infrastructure needs.
  • Support the territories as they upgrade and enhance internet and cellphone connectivity in their remote and rural communities.

Economy:

  • Work with the Territories, local Indigenous communities and Parks Canada to find opportunities to build the eco-tourism economy at our Northern parks with strategic infrastructure investments. For example, Denali National Park in Alaska has demonstrated that hundreds of thousands of people can be attracted to the unparalleled beauty of the North every year with the right balance of infrastructure and preservation. In 2016, almost 600,000 people visited Denali National Park in Alaska (home to Mt. McKinley), but only 26,000 visited Kluane National Park in Yukon (home to Mt. Logan), despite many of those who visited Alaska driving past Kluane on their way. Tremendous opportunities exist in Canada’s northern National Parks for eco-tourism and research.
  • Complete the creation of the Thaidene Nene (Land of our Ancestors) National Park Reserve, to protect important ecosystem and create an eco-tourism gateway in the community of Lutsel K’e Dene, NWT.
  • Recommit to reducing the Small Business tax rate to 9%, fixing Trudeau’s broken promise.

Defense:

  • Complete the Nanisivik Naval Facility on Baffin Island, Nunavut;
  • Assert Canadian sovereignty over much of our un-surveilled northern expanse using drone overflights as that technology improves, Aurora patrol aircraft and targeted training by the Canadian Rangers;
  • Enhance our North Warning System in the Arctic by upgrading our radars and satellites coverage.
  • Equip and augment the Canadian Rangers to ensure maximum effectiveness and to support their important work, and provide them with additional employment;
  • Re-establish a Yukon-based Reserve Force to better assert Canadian sovereignty and ensure that the Canadian Forces are well equipped and trained to deploy and operate in inhospitable Arctic conditions;
  • Utilize the Resolute Bay CAF Arctic Training Centre, the future deployment of the Harry de Wolfe Class of Arctic Off-Shore Patrol Ships and the operations of the Nanisivik Naval Facility, to allow Canada to specialize in Arctic operations within NATO; and
  • Create a specialized northern drone unit within the RCAF and conduct pilot programs in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut with unarmed surveillance drones to assess the feasibility of longer term security and environmental monitoring.

Health:

  • Require provinces and territories to report back on improvements made to healthcare access for rural and northern communities (including Northern Ontario).
  • Double the Medical Expense Tax Credit maximum to $2,500 for residents in rural communities (defined as 100km or more from the hospital providing their care) and up to $3,500 for those living in the extended northern zones;
  • Incentivize medical practitioners to open practices in northern and rural communities, reduce the Small Business Tax Rate (currently 10.5%) to 5% for medical professionals operating within the extended northern zones.
  • Work with the provinces and First Nations to undertake new approaches to health care for First Nations that meet the requirement of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations.

 

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