Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad
Wait and see budget

Handley: 'I don't see much in it for the North'

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 12/01) - Most Northern budget-watchers are reserving judgment on the federal budget until they find out how new money announced in it will be shared.

Joe Handley: a budget to serve Americans not Canadians.

For Northern business and political leaders, the most attractive pool of new money announced by federal Finance Minister Paul Martin Monday is a $2 billion infrastructure development fund.

The territorial government has been lobbying hard for infrastructure funding, particularly for roads, to support natural resource development. But the NWT's share of a $600 million infrastructure program announced by Martin last year has so far amounted to only $4 million.

"We just have to correct the little problem of the existing formula, which is a per capita one, which doesn't work for us," said Western Arctic MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew Monday.

It is more than a little problem for territorial politicians.

Finance Minister Joe Handley said the budget appears more of a response to U.S. demands than the needs of Canadians. Most of the $8 billion in security spending over the next five years will be spent along the Canada-U.S. border, he said.

"I don't see much in it for the North," Handley said. "It's disappointing, but not surprising.

Yellowknife Mayor Gord Van Tighem said new security spending could have an impact on the city, "if it involves the third coast and the Canadian Forces Northern Area."

But Van Tighem agreed with Handley. "There's nothing really big that stands out and makes us all quivery in the knees."

Public Service Alliance of Canada regional vice president Jean Francois Des Lauriers called the budget "reactive, not visionary." He said he was pleased to hear the government has reversed its trend of reducing security and customs staff, but was hoping for a package that offered more economic stimulus.

Handley said he was hoping for a mention of the North and its aspiration to become self-sufficient through resource development.

Any calls for resource development money for the North would have amounted to "screeching into a hollow process," said Blondin-Andrew, because no pipeline proposal has been submitted and the work of a cabinet energy committee is not complete.

Alternatives North member Ben McDonald said the best news for the NWT will likely be the $185 million Martin announced to improve the well-being of aboriginal children.

Because of the high proportion of aboriginals here, McDonald said the North should get a fair share of the money, aimed at enhancing existing child care programs and reduce the incidence of fetal alcohol syndrome.

"Last year 700,000 Canadians used food banks," said McDonald.

"If you asked those people whether they want beefed up security on planes or beefed up food security, I'm sure they're going to be looking for food."

Van Tighem and McDonald said the doubling of funding for environmental initiatives for municipalities is also a move that could benefit the North.