– Hill Times (Ottawa, ON) June 8, 2016
Canada is a Northern nation. The North is a fundamental part of our heritage and our national identity. Now more than ever, the Liberal government must recognize the tremendous opportunities – as well as the many challenges – that exist in the North today.
The North is central to the Canadian national identity; and our Northern policy must be first and foremost about the people. The Inuit and other Aboriginal peoples, including the Dene, Gwich’in, Cree and Métis who have occupied Canada’s northern lands and waterways for millennia, are central to our shared heritage and our destiny as a nation. Canada’s strong and proud presence in the North is due in large part to the contributions of Inuit and other Aboriginal people.
Northerners, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal alike, are at the heart of Northern policy making. Northern development is a partnership between the federal government, territorial governments and Aboriginal people. We continue to work towards greater political maturity and certainty in the North. The federal and territorial governments are working together as the territories take on jurisdictional powers and responsibilities similar to those of the provinces. The previous Conservative government worked closely with Aboriginal people throughout the North to negotiate land claim and self-government agreements that have given them the institutions and resources to achieve greater self-sufficiency.
Unlocking the potential in Canada’s North takes strong leadership and vision. That is why the previous Conservative government took the challenges facing many northern communities seriously. When the Conservative Party formed government in 2006, it took steps to improve the social conditions for many Northerners. In Nunavut for example, the previous Conservative government invested more than $100 million in affordable housing initiatives to address the fact that almost half the population lived in overcrowded housing, in part due to the decision by the previous Liberal government to cut federal spending on social housing.
Today, Northerners can point to new housing initiatives and other major infrastructure projects, like the small craft harbour in Pangnitung, deep water ports at Nanisivik and Iqaluit, and the Mayo B hydroelectric dam in Yukon, that were supported by our Conservative government. In addition, millions of dollars have been invested in Northern communities through the Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development Program (SINED), including $8 million for geoscience data collection and $2.1 million in a Pooled Capital Fund for Community Futures Development Corporations in the Northwest Territories. This investment is helping to improve their ability to provide local businesses and entrepreneurs with lines of credit, business loans, and loan guarantees.
Infrastructure development in the North was a key part of our Conservative government’s Northern Strategy. The Conservative Party believes in a strong and sovereign Canada; federal investment in an all-season road between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk that completes the Dempster Highway realizes the vision of Canadians connected from coast to coast to coast. The Northern Strategy also created the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor), which was a key step towards unlocking the potential of Northerners. The formation of CanNor and the introduction of measures that will bring jobs to northern Canadians is part of our Conservative vision to encourage resource development, bring jobs, growth and long term prosperity to Canada’s North.
Northern development is about respecting the traditional way of life in the North, including taking action to protect and conserve the unique environment and wildlife that Northerners rely on. This is why the previous Conservative government invested $8 million in the ecoENERGY for Aboriginal and Northern Communities Program, which promotes the development of clean energy technologies in Aboriginal and northern communities; $7.6 million to fund the development of community-relevant information and tools for Aboriginal and northern communities to assess climate change vulnerabilities and to develop adaption plans; and $60 million to protect Canadian waterways from shipping pollution.
Canadians can be proud of a Conservative Government that, for a decade, made the North a priority. Our commitment to creating good paying jobs, investing in affordable housing, lowering barriers to education, supporting key infrastructure projects, and promoting smart investment in northern communities helped unlock the potential of Canada’s North. Canada is a world leader in the North; if the new Liberal government is committed to making northern people a priority, then we will continue to stand proudly as a Northern nation.